Saturday, May 31, 2014



Joshua Youngkin at the Discovery [sic] Institute wants "clarity" in South Carolina.

Apparently, one candidate in the Republican primary for South Carolina's superintendent of education, Sheri Few, said "There is no reason why the scientific theory of intelligent design should not be taught in the classroom alongside the theory of evolution."

No, no, no!

Heaven forfend that there be another Dover Disaster!
For many reasons, Discovery Institute opposes government insertion of intelligent design into K-12 public schools.
Like having their asses handed to them on a silver judicial platter.

Instead, they want "Academic Standards" that permit teachers to require students to "Construct scientific arguments that seem to support and scientific arguments that seem to discredit Darwinian natural selection."

Or, in other words, they want teachers to allow students to import all the old, totally discredited "creation science" arguments, that the DI has adopted as arguments against evolution, into science classes. Because, after all, K-12 public school students are in the best position to be the final arbiters of what science is or should be! Next up, the evidence that supports and scientific arguments that seem to discredit the "germ theory" of disease, rather than that "sin" is the cause of all human woes!

What the DI wants is not clarity but fog that will allow Christian kids to pretend that science has not shown beyond all reasonable doubt, that life, and humans, in particular, have evolved.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Mapping Progress

Via PZ Myearshertz, here is a handy (though temporary) map of the state of same-sex marriage in the US.

The dark blue bits are where marriage equality is in full force and effect. As Al Mohler notes, "though only 19 of the 50 states currently have legal same-sex marriage, it is certainly true that a majority of Americans now live in those states that have legal same-sex marriage."

A majority of Americans live in places where equality counts! Savor that!

The brown and tan stripey bits are where men and women of good will have assaulted the bigotry and spite of the (ever-lessening) resistance to equality but are awaiting further court action to join the 21st Century.

The rest of the colors represent benighted areas of the country that will soon (dog willing) change.


Al Mohler Didn't Know ...

... that tweets might not be "nuanced":

Concerning the recent decision of Judge Jones striking down Pennsylvania's anti-gay-marriage law, which the Democratic State Attorney General refused to defend, Mohler said:
[A] very interesting and revealing statement came from Pennsylvania's attorney general, that is, Attorney General Kathleen Kane. She previously had announcement [sic] she wouldn't seek to defend the ban on same-sex marriage in court, and yet on Tuesday, she tweeted, "Today in Pennsylvania the Constitution prevailed. Inequality in any form is unacceptable and it has never stood the test of time." Let's just note something very carefully. This is a very un-nuanced statement. ... the attorney general of Pennsylvania can't possibly mean what she wrote. When she says, "Inequality in any form is unacceptable," does she means then that any romantic relationship is to have an equal status with heterosexual marriage? Of course she doesn't mean that, but that's exactly what she stated. And furthermore, it just may be that the logic that is set loose in terms of the legalization of same-sex marriage means that the logic that she certainly did not mean to imply may nonetheless be inevitable given the kind of revolution and morality that she, along with so many others, have helped to bring to pass. They have opened Pandora's Box. Once opened, it is very hard to see how it can ever be closed.
This is, of course, the tired Religious Right argument that, if you allow same-sex marriage, that will invariably lead to marriages of pedophiles to children, people to animals, fathers/mothers to sons/daughters or (gasp!) the kind of polygamy that Abraham, David and Solomon, "godly" people all, practiced in the Bible.

The operative word in the tweet was "inequality." Neither pedophiles nor practitioners of bestiality are dealing with equals.

As to incest, which is not the same thing as child sex abuse, the main argument against it is the genetic damage to offspring. Since we can now (mostly) control procreation, incest is a more nuanced issue but still not an equivalent argument to same-sex marriage.

Polygamy is even a more doubtful case. Again, we are (or should be) talking about relationships between equals. But later in the Mohler's post, he says, of an article in the New York Times by Charles M. Blow (arguing that poverty is relieved by all sorts of "loving families" and not just what is laughingly known as "traditional families"):
Well I don't think Charles Blow is going to make an argument for those who are practicing polygamy in the American Southwest.
No doubt Mohler is referring to Warren Jeffs who was convicted not of the "crime" of polygamy but of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of children! No rational person equates relationships between multiple consenting adults with child molestation ... do they?

I apologize for my seeming obsession with Mohler but he presents me with an interesting case study. He is generally articulate (compared to other Religious Right wingnuts, at least) and sometimes makes (at least tenuous) sense.

He seems to me to be betwixt and between and, therefore, worth watching.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


And the Beat Goes On

I have been remiss in keeping up with the developments in marriage equality.

Since I last discussed it, a state judge in Arkansas and Federal judges in Idaho and Oregon have overturned bans on same-sex marriages as well.

But now it's the turn of an old friend: Federal District Court Judge John E. Jones III of Kitzmiller v. Dover fame.

As I've said before, the stories of the plaintiffs in these cases are far more compelling than the legal arguments. Here's some of what Judge Jones described. It's long, but everyone should read it:
As a group, they represent the great diversity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They hail from across the state ... They come from all walks of life; they include a nurse, state employees, lawyers, doctors, an artist, a newspaper delivery person, a corporate executive, a dog trainer, university professors, and a stay-at-home parent. They have served our country in the Army and Navy. Plaintiffs' personal backgrounds reflect a richness and diversity: they are African-American, Caucasian, Latino, and Asian; they are Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Quaker, Buddhist, and secular. In terms of age, they range from a couple in their 30s with young children, to retirees in their 60s. Many of the couples have been together for decades.

As plainly reflected in the way they live their lives, the plaintiff couples are spouses in every sense, except that the laws of the Commonwealth prevent them from being recognized as such. ...

The plaintiff couples have shared in life's joys. They have purchased homes together and blended their property and finances. They have started families, welcoming children through birth and adoption. Some of them have celebrated their commitment to each other through marriage in other states, sharing their wedding day with family and friends.

Yet, with each of these joys there has been concomitant hardship resulting from the Marriage Laws. In terms of property ownership, all of the couples face the payment of Pennsylvania's inheritance tax – including on half of the value of jointly-owned homes and bank accounts ...

For those couples who have had children ... the non-biological parent has had to apply for a second-parent adoption. Dawn expresses that she and Diana are presently saving money so that she can legally adopt their second son, J.P. Until the adoption is complete, she has no legal ties to J.P. ...

For the children of these couples, it can be difficult to understand why their parents are not married or recognized as married. ...

In addition, for the couples who have chosen to marry out-of-state, they are acutely sensitive that their marital status changes when they cross state lines. Edwin Hill describes driving home to Pennsylvania after wedding David Palmer in Maine in 2013, elated to be traveling through all of the northeastern states that recognize their marriage. "And then we crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania," he recalls, "and we looked at each other and said, 'We're not married anymore.' And that hurt." ...

The plaintiff couples share their resources and support each other financially. But Plaintiffs commonly echo a sense of legal and economic vulnerability because of Pennsylvania's Marriage Laws. Many of them have paid lawyers to draft protective documents, like wills and powers of attorney, in efforts to emulate some of the protections afforded to couples recognized as married. Susan Whitewood estimates that her family has spent over $10,000 in legal fees for the preparation and maintenance of such documents, which would not have been necessary if the Commonwealth acknowledged their marriage.

Angela Gillem and Gail Lloyd describe feeling particularly insecure. Angela is a clinical psychologist and the primary bread-winner, while Gail is an artist who does not draw a steady paycheck or contribute to Social Security. Angela expresses that she has "taken every step [she] can to ensure [Gail's] financial security" but that they still cannot duplicate all of the protections married couples receive, and she "live[s] every day with the fear that the steps [she has] taken will not be enough to protect Gail if something should happen to [her]." ...

The plaintiff couples have supported each other through illness and medical emergencies. Yet, because Pennsylvania considers them legal strangers, they may be left vulnerable in times of crisis. ... Lynn Hurdle remembers feelings of fear and helplessness when her partner, Fredia, was admitted to the hospital for unexpected surgery. Doctors began operating earlier than planned, and when Lynn discovered Fredia's hospital room to be empty, staff would not tell her why Fredia had been taken early or where she was.

The plaintiff couples demonstrate an intention to live out their lives together. Plaintiff Maureen Hennessey and her partner of 29 years, Mary Beth McIntyre, present a powerful example. When Mary Beth was diagnosed with inoperable Stage 4 lung cancer, Maureen left her job to care for her and to help run Mary Beth's business until her death. ... They were married in Massachusetts after Mary Beth fell ill, but because Pennsylvania does not recognize their marriage, the line for "surviving spouse" was left blank and Mary Beth was identified as "never married" on her death certificate. Maureen was listed as the "informant."

Wishing to have their relationships recognized for what they are in the state they call home, and by doing so to transcend the pain, uncertainty, and injustice visited by the Marriage Laws, Plaintiffs brought this suit.
Shorter version: these people have loving relationships, commitments, aspirations and a will to overcome the slings and arrows of life just like the rest of us do. All they want is to have the same support heterosexuals have under our law and to be free of the fear that the law, enacted in spite and bigotry, will actively seek to destroy those relationships, commitments and aspirations.

Judge Jones ended his opinion well:
The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the rightfully discarded doctrine of "separate but equal." ... In the sixty years since Brown [v. Board of Education] was decided, "separate" has thankfully faded into history, and only "equal" remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

Update: Both Oregon and Pennsylvania have decided not to appeal the court decisions and have become the 18th and 19th states in which there is marriage equality.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Al Mohler Can't Think Except In Absolutes ...

... ergo neither should you!

Al has decided that the "transgender challenge will present evangelicals in this generation with a lifetime challenge."

Frankly, I'm grateful for that.

The greatest weapon in the arsenal of those who want to see sexual preference and gender identity equality is the stupidity of their opponents.

Al points to Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky, where a brave principal, Thomas Aberli (kudos, sir!), and school counsel, added "gender identity" to its anti-discrimination policy to permit a "biologically" male student who identifies as female to use the girls' bathroom.

After seriously clutching his pearls, Al says:
One of the things that becomes very apparent, in terms of the cultural controversies over the transgender movement, is that the secular worldview can't handle its own convictions on this issue. It can't hold to a consistent argument. As a matter of fact, if you hold to a secular worldview, the transgender movement presents you with conflicting moral absolutes. For instance, you claim that it's an absolute that the individual gets to decide at any moment in time what his or her gender identity is, and then you claim, on the other hand, that sexual orientation is something that is biologically or genetically fixed and something that is unchangeable. And so you have two contradictory arguments and, furthermore, in terms of any policy decisions, you have trouble on the left, the right; you have trouble in the North, South, East, and West. There is nowhere you can go where there is not trouble.
Gee Al, if you weren't a moron, you'd be able to see that no one is claiming that anyone can just decide at any moment in time what his or her gender identity is. In fact, we adults are talking about situations where there has been a medically-based diagnosis of gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria (not that I am in love with either term). Both sexual preference and gender identity are biologically or genetically (or otherwise naturally) fixed and things that are unchangeable and crude attempts to change them inevitably result in great harm to the individual.

But Al, it gets even scarier for anyone who can only think in absolutes! Remember the "B" in LGBT? Sometimes people's sexual preference is "both"! And sometimes people's gender identity is "neither"! Isn't it a shame that reality can't always accommodate your imagined "absolutes"?

Al is unspecific as to how "no worldview except for biblical Christianity can handle this question" but you can bet that it involves some variation of "YOU HAVE A PENIS, THEREFORE YOU'RE A BOY; YOU HAVE A VAGINA, THEREFORE YOU'RE A GIRL!"

I cannot imagine anything more harmful to someone who is actually gender dysphoric or even just a boy or girl who isn't quite what their parents expect behavior-wise.

But why should we expect Al to actually consider evidence, given that he is a young-Earth creationist? He has mightily practiced the ability to ignore evidence and, unfortunately, succeeded.

Friday, May 09, 2014


Half a Loaf

You remember Eric Hedin, the physics professor at Ball State University, who was told by the university president, Jo Ann Gora, to knock off teaching a course, entitled "Boundaries of Science," that was, apparently, heavily weighted in favor of Intelligent Design Creationism?

Well, he has been promoted to "associate professor," which all but guarantees that he will receive tenure.

From the beginning, Hedin refused to play martyr to the tune of the Discovery [sic] Institute's playbook. The DI chivvied a couple of state legislators into questioning the university's policy, which also seems to have gone nowhere. Shortly after the Hedin flap broke, the university hired Guillermo Gonzalez, he of the great Iowa State tenure dispute, and one of the DI's Expelled. Gonzalez, too, has been keeping his head down, saying he planned to continue his research on astrobiology and stellar astrophysics at Ball State and would not be discussing intelligent design in the classroom.

Needless to say, the DI is less than pleased.

So much propaganda and nowhere to go!

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