Posts Tagged “intelligent design”

Cry BabyEven a century and a half after the emergence of evolutionary science, Christians are still incensed and even outraged that there are so many insolent people who dare talk about it as though it’s valid. In their eyes, it’s intolerable … a wicked, profane plot to separate humanity from God. Why, that kind of thing simply must be outlawed (or so they think). Marvin Olasky, editor of WORLD Magazine, vented his rage at this unacceptable chatter, labelling it “propaganda” (WebCite cached article):

The center of the front page of today’s New York Times proclaims, “Rat-Size Ancestor Said to Link Man and Beast.” [cached] Accompanying a cute illustration … is this lead: “Humankind’s common ancestor with other mammals may have been a roughly rat-size animal that weighed no more than a half a pound, had a long furry tail and lived on insects.” …

But wait a minute—what exactly is the evidence for the rat-size animal being our ancestor? “The animal had several anatomical characteristics for live births that anticipated all placental mammals and led to some 5,400 living species, from shrews to elephants, bats to whales, cats to dogs and, not least, humans.”

So because the animal apparently gave birth a bit like mammals and humans give birth, that’s proof of ancestry? Hmm. Couldn’t it be evidence for intelligent design, with God having a group of His creatures giving birth in similar ways?

Oh the outrage! How dare these so-called “scientists” arrive at a conclusion that Mr Olasky personally disapproves of, merely because it violates his own metaphysics! It can’t be allowed! It’s horrible Left-wing “propaganda” from the Times, which — quite obviously, in his mind — is trying to abolish religion and destroy all devout believers!

Let me clear up a few facts for Mr Olasky and other militant Christianists:

  1. Evolution is valid science. Don’t like it? Tough. You don’t have to like it. But you do have to grow up and live with it.
  2. We have something called “freedom of the press” in the US, meaning the Times is free to print whatever it wants to, whenever it wants to. Don’t like it? Too bad. But you do have to grow up and live with it.
  3. It’s true that “freedom of the press” also means Mr Olasky is free to whine about the evil evolutionist “propaganda,” too. But the rest of us are, furthermore, free to conclude he’s a sniveling little crybaby.

Petulant, childish gripes about “propaganda” cannot and will never change the veracity of evolution. It truly is both a theory and a fact. Dour Christianists like Mr Olasky can’t prevent people from accepting it as valid, nor can they stop scientists from pursuing it, nor can they prevent media outlets from reporting on it. What’s more, they cannot and will never change the fact that Creationism is a religion, not a science. Nor can they change the fact that referring to it as “intelligent design,” as Olasky does in his whine, is itself a lie, intended to make it seem scientific when it’s not. For Olasky to accuse the Times of publishing “propaganda,” while he uses the propaganda trick of calling Creationism “intelligent design,” makes him a hypocrite … in spite of the fact that his own Jesus clearly and unambiguously ordered him never to be hypocritical.

Photo credit: TheGiantVermin, via Flickr.

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Evolution & Darwinism in Schools: Teaching Evolution & Darwinism Encourages Immoral, Bestial Behavior (Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress)The drums of the vast armies of Christofascism in the US are beating incessantly, and their forces are on the march. In skirmish after skirmish, they’re gaining victories around the country. The latest of these came in the Tennessee legislature, whose House approved a law that would teach religion in that state’s science classes. CBS News reports on this religionist debacle (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would protect teachers who want to challenge the theory of human evolution.

Thursday’s 70-28 passage of HB 368 [cached] was hailed by sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who said the proposal was designed to promote “critical thinking” in science classes.

It will be a cold day in hell before any Religious Rightist like Dunn ever truly gives a flying fuck about “critical thinking.” His promotion of this bill shows he has no comprehension of what “critical thinking” is.

The truth of the matter is this: TN HB 368 is NOT — and never was — about “critical thinking” at all. Religiofascists don’t like or want “critical thinking.” They demand, instead, “rigid dogmatic thinking,” and unwavering thralldom to their unbending, irrational metaphysics.

Rep. Dunn’s claim to be concerned about “critical thinking” is a lie, and that places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

For anyone who’s not yet clear on this, “intelligent design” and its various relatives are all just variations on Creationism. It was none other than an evangelical Christian federal appellate judge — appointed by George W. Bush himself — who declared “intelligent design” a sham, a transparent cover for Creationism, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). Prior to that, the US Supreme Court had ruled that Creationism was effectively a religion and is therefore forbidden in public schools, in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), and subsequently that evolution by contrast is not a religion, in Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994).

It’s time for America’s religionists to grow up and get over the fact that science is not theirs to control. Evolution is science, at the moment, so that’s what should be taught in science classes. Period. End of discussion.

One final note for any other religiofascists out there who think they can force their religion on public school kids in the name of promoting “critical thinking”: To paraphrase V.P. candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s famous quip, I know Critical Thinking; Critical Thinking is a friend of mine. You don’t know what Critical Thinking is.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About.Com.

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Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over AmericaIf a Florida state senator gets his way, the religious notion known as Creationism (and as “intelligent design”) may be forced into public-school science classrooms in that state. The Tampa Tribune reports on this transparent attempt at yet another end-run around federal court decisions forbidding this practice (WebCite cached article):

As lawmakers wrestle with financial and policy challenges that could affect the quality of education in the state, one influential legislator is also hoping to change the way evolution is taught in Florida public schools. …

Stephen Wise, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has resurrected legislation he authored in 2009 that calls for a “thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” Wise’s bill failed to pass in 2009. …

Wise, R-Jacksonville, thinks his evolution bill may have a better chance this year because there are more conservatives in the Legislature and because he chairs a substantive committee.

“Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?” Wise said, referring to evolution and what he called “nonevolution.”

I assume Wise (whose name is most certainly not an aptonym!) is using the label “nonevolution” in order to get around the aforementioned court prohibitions on both “Creationism” and “intelligent design.” His bill is otherwise the same as countless other Discovery Institute-inspired bills that have been tossed around in legislatures around the country for the last 15 years or so.

The idea is to use public-school science classrooms in order to proselytize to children. Really, it’s just more of the same old Christofascism we’ve all come to expect from Republicans. Not a single one of them has had an original thought in over 10 years, and it doesn’t look as though any of them are going to have any, for a long time yet to come. Just a steady stream of mindless militant Christianism.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: About.Com / Austin Cline & National Archives.

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Oliver Cromwell, by Samuel Cooper (died 1672)This is the third in my series on “Great Christians” in history. Oliver Cromwell was a warrior-Calvinist who, during the course of the English Civil War, rose to prominence among the Parliamentarians who fought the royal faction; he later led the country in place of the king.

His career began quietly enough with his election to the House of Commons in the late 1620s, after which he seems to have gone through a personal crisis — perhaps a bout of depression. He emerged from it, in the early 1630s, a fervent Calvinist. Like most others of that sect in England, he was convinced the Anglican Church hadn’t sufficiently jettisoned the trappings of Roman Catholicism, and agitated for a “second Reformation” of sorts. At the outbreak of hostilities between Parliament and the Crown in 1642, this supposedly pious man and faithful Christian collected up a cavalry troop of his own, and happily marched to war. Despite having no military training or background to speak of, he scored enough victories that he rose up through the ranks of the Parliamentarian forces. By 1645 he was second-in-command.

As the war continued, Cromwell viewed his military success as a sign that God had “chosen” him to smash the Crown.

The Parliamentarians won in early 1649 with the execution of King Charles I and the creation of the Commonwealth in place of the monarchy. Contention among the anti-royal partisans cropped up almost immediately thereafter. Cromwell had tried to end this infighting, however, it proved too much for him. Seeking another venue in which to express his violent piety, later that year, Cromwell took his army into Ireland. The latter was a Catholic country, and Cromwell hated Catholics even more than he’d hated the king or any of his royal supporters. His campaign in Ireland — which for him lasted only about a year — was as vicious as any of the other campaigns of his career (since it included massacres of civilians) and left a mark on Ireland which is still recalled to this day.

Cromwell ventured into Scotland to fight off Charles II, who hoped to take back the Crown. That campaign, too, was marked by vicious massacres. When the so-called “Rump Parliament” which ruled the Commonwealth proved insufficient for him, Cromwell took matters into his own hands, disbanded that body, and in 1653 essentially forced the creation of a new state, with himself at its head, with the title “Lord Protector.”

That’s when he really went to town with his hyperreligiosity. He set up a mechanism by which the state — rather than the Church — approved and dismissed clergy. Both the Anglican and Catholic churches were outlawed, their hierarchs dispossessed and their property seized.

Over the years of his rule, Cromwell increasingly tried to force dour Calvinistic behavior on the people. Church attendance became mandatory; holidays were outlawed (especially Christmas, but others beside); and so too were gambling and most public entertainments, such as plays and races. And the good, “godly” Cromwell continued to send military forces abroad, not only in Ireland, but in other colonies too, particularly in the Caribbean. This pious, dutiful, obedient Christian remained — contrary to the teachings of Christ himself — a man of war to the end of his days.

Within a couple years after Cromwell’s death, the once-hated monarchy was restored. And never again would Calvinists be permitted to run Britain … that kingdom had learned her lesson, where they were concerned.

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Creationism - You can get away with believing anything as long as you say God wants you to.The basic premise of Ben Stein’s movie Expelled, released a couple of years ago, is that mainstream scientific institutions have conspired wickedly against a minority of scientists and others, whose conscience tells them that the science behind evolution (which is both a theory and a fact) must be ignored in favor of “intelligent design” (aka creationism). The movie claims these vile institutions have mercilessly and relentlessly oppressed sincere but innocent people whose only crime is that they fervently believe that the theory of evolution led to fascism, Nazism, communism, Satanism, pedophilia, necrophilia, split ends, and pretty much everything they see as “bad.”

All of this, of course, is 100% pure, grade-A, unfiltered bullshit. However, that hasn’t prevented proponents of creationism from cloaking their desire to proselytize public school children behind the supposed veil of “academic freedom.” (That cloak is necessary, now, because their previous facade, “intelligent design,” was ruled by federal courts as a fraudulent cover for their religion, in 2005 in the Kitzmiller decision. So these people have had to jump from one fraud to another. Nice.)

At any rate, their weeping and wailing about “academic freedom” — and “freedom of conscience” and any number of other similar euphemisms — has not, apparently, been something they’ve been willing to extend, themselves. An example of this very phenomenon was reported recently by USA Today (WebCite cached article):

When it comes to incriminating videos these days, the one of Bruce K. Waltke might seem pretty tame. It shows the noted evangelical scholar of the Old Testament talking about scholarship, faith and evolution. What was incriminating? He not only endorsed evolution, but said that evangelical Christianity could face a crisis for not coming to accept science.

“If the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult … some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness,” he says, according to several accounts by those who have seen the video. Those words set off a furor at the Reformed Theological Seminary, where Waltke was — until this week — a professor. (The seminary is evangelical, with ties to several denominations.)

The statements so upset officials of the seminary that Waltke had to ask the BioLogos Foundation, a group that promotes the idea that science and faith need not be incompatible, to remove it from its website (which the foundation did) and to post a clarification. The video was shot during a BioLogos workshop. But even those steps weren’t enough for the seminary, which announced that it had accepted his resignation.

The Reformed Theological Seminary is not making any excuses and is not conceding any wrongdoing:

Michael Milton, president of the seminary’s Charlotte campus and interim president of its Orlando campus, where Waltke taught, confirmed that the scholar had lost his job over the video. Milton said that Waltke would “undoubtedly” be considered one of the world’s great Christian scholars of the Old Testament and that he was “much beloved here,” with his departure causing “heartache.” But he said that there was no choice. …

Asked if this limits academic freedom, Milton said: “We are a confessional seminary. I’m a professor myself, but I do not have a freedom that would go past the boundaries of the confession. Nor do I have a freedom that would allow me to express my views in such a way to hurt or impugn someone who holds another view.”

In other words, Milton is asserting that it is fine for a religious educational institution to restrict academic freedom among its faculty. This stands in opposition to the Religious Right’s claim that “academic freedom” must be rigidly enforced in secular institutions.

Folks, if this isn’t hypocrisy … which was unambiguously and explicitly forbidden to all Christians by Jesus himself … I don’t know what is.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum.

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Religiofascism … particularly Christian religiofascism, or Christofascism … is alive and well in the Lone Star state. The Texas Board of Education recently reviewed curriculum guidelines, with an eye toward turning public school social-studies classrooms into proselytization venues. The New York Times Magazine provides a lengthy explanation of the process and what lay behind it: (WebCite cached article):

Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years. Gail Lowe — who publishes a twice-a-week newspaper when she is not grappling with divisive education issues — is the official chairwoman, but the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming. …

The cultural roots of the Texas showdown may be said to date to the late 1980s, when, in the wake of his failed presidential effort, the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition partly on the logic that conservative Christians should focus their energies at the grass-roots level. One strategy was to put candidates forward for state and local school-board elections — Robertson’s protégé, Ralph Reed, once said, “I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members” — and Texas was a beachhead. Since the election of two Christian conservatives in 2006, there are now seven on the Texas state board who are quite open about the fact that they vote in concert to advance a Christian agenda. “They do vote as a bloc,” Pat Hardy, a board member who considers herself a conservative Republican but who stands apart from the Christian faction, told me. “They work consciously to pull one more vote in with them on an issue so they’ll have a majority.” …

These folks quite frankly admit their agenda, which is to fashion a specifically Christian government, some time in the future, by turning today’s children into tomorrow’s militant political soldiers for Jesus:

The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

A lot of their reasoning is predicated on faulty logic, of course:

For McLeroy, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberals. “There are two basic facts about man,” he said. “He was created in the image of God, and he is fallen. You can’t appreciate the founding of our country without realizing that the founders understood that. For our kids to not know our history, that could kill a society. That’s why to me this is a huge thing.”

It’s also “a huge thing” to me, too. The truth about the Founders is that they did, in fact, want religion and state to be severed from one another. The author of the First Amendment, James Madison, said so, rather clearly and unambiguously. Don’t just take my word for that … read it for yourself, from his own pen (WebCite cached version).

The Christofascists’ reasoning is also based on more than a little paranoia and conspiratorial thinking:

The idea behind standing up to experts is that the scientific establishment has been withholding information from the public that would show flaws in the theory of evolution and that it is guilty of what McLeroy called an “intentional neglect of other scientific possibilities.” Similarly, the Christian bloc’s notion this year to bring Christianity into the coverage of American history is not, from their perspective, revisionism but rather an uncovering of truths that have been suppressed. “I don’t know that what we’re doing is redefining the role of religion in America,” says Gail Lowe, who became chairwoman of the board after McLeroy was ousted and who is one of the seven conservative Christians. “Many of us recognize that Judeo-Christian principles were the basis of our country and that many of our founding documents had a basis in Scripture. As we try to promote a better understanding of the Constitution, federalism, the separation of the branches of government, the basic rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, I think it will become evident to students that the founders had a religious motivation.”

There is much more to this New York Times Magazine article, which includes tracking out the history of the notion of “separation of church and state.” Sadly, the article leaves out the contribution of Roger Williams, Baptist minister and founder of the Rhode Island colony, which was established with religious freedom as its core. The Founding Fathers a century after him, certainly knew about him and had been influenced by his ideas. The Times adopts and relays the inaccurate claim that the phrase “separation of church and state” originated in Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. The truth is that Williams had come up with the phrase over a century before Jefferson. One can debate whether or not Jefferson knew about it particular, but there’s no doubt he knew about Williams’s ideas and career.

In spite of this and other flaws, though, I invite you all to read the Times Magazine article in full. It does accurately relate the duplicity, dishonesty, and the subtle manipulation of the Christofascists in Texas who are trying to raise a new generation of soldiers for Jesus who will — they hope — establish a new Christian theocracy in the United States.

P.S. I contributed an article to Freethoughtpedia some time ago, which goes over the pros and cons of the issue of whether or not the U.S. was founded as “a Christian nation.” Please have a look.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics forum on Delphi Forums.

Update: Religion Dispatches explores in greater detail the relationship between this particular movement and the larger national “intelligent design” movement.

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Kirk Cameron and his mentor, preacher Ray Comfort, have come up with a roundabout way to condemn the teaching of evolution. They’re distributing copies of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, but with their own introduction, which essentially says that the rest of the book is evil, racist, sexist, Holocaust-promoting crap.

CNN filed this video report on their strange propaganda campaign:

Given that Darwin himself died many decades before the Holocaust, Comfort and Cameron’s position that Darwin somehow supported it, is absurd on its face. It’s safe to say that pretty much no one living in Darwin’s time could even have dreamed of such a thing ever happening.

As for Darwin being a “racist,” that’s an anachronistic interpretation.

And I’m not sure that Biblical literalists such as Comfort and Cameron should even be going anywhere near the issue of Darwin — or anyone else for that matter! — being “sexist.” The Bible itself is chock-full of outrageous sexism, as anyone can find out just by opening it up. (Here’s a fairly comprehensive catalog of scriptural passages which clearly call for women to be treated as inferior. So on that score we have yet another example of the pot calling the kettle black — which is hypocritical, of course, but then, fundamentalist Christians like being hypocritical, in spite of Jesus’ clear injunctions against it.

These lies about Darwin and evolution quite naturally place Cameron and Comfort in my lying liars for Jesus club.

Update: The Primate Diaries blog lists several specific lies that Comfort told in his “introduction” to On the Origin of Species.

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