Science

More De-Evolution in Texas

Last month we noted the oddly creative creationism views being put forth by Don McLeroy, Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. Now it looks like McLeroy will be getting some company on the Board:

Social conservatives on the State Board of Education have appointed three evolution critics to a six-member committee that will review proposed curriculum standards for science courses in Texas schools.

Two of the appointees are authors of a book that questions many of the tenets of Charles Darwin's theory of how humans and other life forms evolved. One of them, Stephen Meyer, is also vice president of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes an explanation of the origin of life similar to creationism. The other author is Ralph Seelke, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Also on the panel is Baylor University chemistry professor Charles Garner, who, like the other two, signed the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwinism" statement that sharply questions key aspects of the theory of evolution.

The Texas Freedom Network's President Kathy Miller notes that the Texas Board of Education is now staffed with out-of-state ideologues, but the right-wing Free Market Foundation notes that it is necessary to keep the Board "balanced"

Jonathan Saenz of the conservative Free Market Foundation said the panel is "balanced" because two of the other three members, UT-Austin biology Professor David Hillis and Texas Tech Professor Gerald Skoog, have joined a group of science educators wanting to eliminate a current requirement that weaknesses of the theory of evolution be taught.

"If the theory of evolution is so strong and without weaknesses, why are the evolutionists so afraid to let students have a discussion about it?" he asked.

"Close-minded efforts to ban students from [hearing both sides] is dangerous and a clear detriment to students."

The Free Market Foundation is sister organization to the Liberty Legal Institute, the organization that was recently active up in Alaska trying to quash the "Troopergate" probe.  Both are run by Kelly Shackelford whom was recently on James Dobson's radio program crowing about how Sarah Palin was the answer to the right-wing movements prayers and explaining his efforts as part of the GOP's platform committee in drafting “the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the [Republican] party."

And We Would Have Gotten Away With It Too …

Former Concerned Women for America president Sandy Rios diligently explains how the communists and radicals of the 1950s and 1960s have quietly been plotting for the last half century to destroy America from the inside.  

You see, while the communists committed treason in the 50s and the radicals used sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll to undermine American values in the 60s, they eventually realized that their plot would only succeed if they could take over the levers of power in our society and so they infiltrated the system, weakened it, and eventually co-opted it. And now are set to unleash their ultimate weapon and the culmination of their years of devious scheming – Barack Obama

As those frustrated radicals came of age, they realized they would have to game the system, and improve their plans to accomplish their goals. They got advanced degrees and begin to fill colleges and universities. They slowly infiltrated the professional organizations of almost every major field of endeavor—education, medicine, retired citizens and unions. Gradually, these professional associations began to use their members’ money to fund leftist causes. Leftist leaders spoke for their membership as if they had the right. And perception became reality for the members. Then they did what all socialist regimes have done … they radicalized public school. They virtually eliminated the American story from history, removed civics, dumbed down math and science and English with outcome-based education. It became more important that kids had the right “thinking” on social and environmental issues than that they understood the academic disciplines. They took over law school faculties, co-opted many mainline Christian denominations—like Methodists and Presbyterians—and subtly replaced the teachings of scripture on man’s need for redemption with emphases on social justice and helping the poor. Man could now obtain his own redemption without any inconvenient mention of sin or moral behavior.

Once again they infiltrated Hollywood and news media, this time without consequence. In fact they managed to turn the consequences upon those opposing leftist views. They produced movies and reported news designed to support their view of the country—and it wasn’t a good one.

As with the communist agitators in Western Europe and later China, they learned to agitate, to find trouble and make it worse. Natural disasters, strikes, environmental concerns, the method was the same. Agitate. Stir up. Scare people and make things worse than they were so that people would look to their movement for “change.”

For nearly four decades, while we were living our lives and enjoying our freedoms, they were working diligently to destroy them. And now their plans have found the perfect personification in the handsome and charismatic Senator Barack Obama.

A Most Novel Creationism Argument

It’s not everyday that you come across an erudite argument such as this one that claims that it is not only wise, but fundamentally necessary to teach creationism in science class:

If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth — not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.

Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.

In essence, the argument is that some things might have supernatural causes and if we don’t look to the supernatural to explain and understand them, then that is just bad science.  

If this sort of nonsense were written by some right-wing blogger, it could be mocked and dismissed as the ramblings of an ill-informed creationism advocate.  Unfortunately, as the Texas Freedom Network reports, it was actually written by Don McLeroy  who, last year, was named Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education by Gov. Rick Perry and whose credentials regarding evolutionary biology are limited to whatever he happed to pick up while attending dental school.

Perkins Admits Palin Pick Purely Political

As we've been saying from the moment John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the decision was made for purely political reasons as part of an effort to appease the Religious Right.  In fact, it is a point that is so glaringly obvious that even Tony Perkins admits it:

Tony Perkins, an influential conservative leader, said Wednesday that he viewed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's (R) selection as a "political" pick designed to win over the conservative base and appease social conservatives who had concerns about John McCain.

Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said that most conservatives he knew expressed "relief" that Republican presidential candidate McCain did not pick an abortion-rights supporter like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as his running mate.

Palin, on the other hand, was a "brilliant pick from a political standpoint" that helped McCain win over social conservatives.

Perkins, speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, said the McCain he knows was more likely to pick someone he has known for a while and trusts, like Lieberman or Ridge.

When asked directly then if Perkins viewed Palin as a purely political pick, the religious right leader said, "Yeah, I think so.

"I think it was a very strategic and, in the end, political pick," Perkins said.

The Swamp has more on the breakfast, including Perkins' assessment that while it was the Right's pressure on McCain that caused him to cave, they are not completely satisfied and are warning him that he had better not try to distance himself or his campaign from Palin's right-wing views:

"He has presented Sarah,'' Perkins said this morning, at a breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "I think he has shown through this process that he is listening. Maybe he is not looking, but he is listening, and I think that selection is a reflection of that.

"This process of politics is not a clean-cut process,'' Perkins suggests. "It is a pushing and shove. There is the external pressure that is applied... In the end, you see if you make advancement. I think in this case, the (McCain) campaign has clearly responded to what so many have been saying... He has been silent on the issues (most important to social conservatives)... He clearly has selected a running mate who is comfortable with those issues...

"That's not to say that the election is over,'' says Perkins, maintaining that conservatives will be looking closely at Palin's record and how it influences McCain's agenda as well as what the candidates say to these voters. "We've got 60 days... It's not just the talk, it has to be followed up by action.''

Perkins says he joined those who told the McCain campaign that it should steer clear of picking a running such as Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman who supports abortion-rights.

"We were very active in communicating that message both privately and publicly,'' Perkins said. "and to be very honest, very pleased with the decision the campaign made in the end.

...

And, as people examine Palin's record and discover any fundamentalist positions that may prove distasteful to a broader voting public, Perkins suggests, the McCain campaign will have to be careful to support its running mate. McCain already has distanced himself from people such as the Rev. John Hagee, a conservative preacher whose views trouble many moderates.

As people are examining Palin's record, Perkins maintains, and if she encounters "attacks on her religion that, because she is Pentecostal she is somehow different, if the campaign tries to run from that or is in retreat, - because they have a history of that -- they threw two pastors off the bus earlier this year - if they do that, that would be a fatal error.''

The Many Sides of Sarah Palin

Ever since John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, the central question has been “Who is Sarah Palin?”  The fact of that matter is that nobody really seems to know, especially Palin herself.

When the announcement came down, politicos of every stripe began scrambling to examine her thin record in an attempt to figure out just what McCain thought that she could bring to the ticket beyond crass electoral benefits.    Everyone, that is, except the Religious Right, which hailed the decision with a staggeringly over-the-top fervor considering that McCain had just named a one-term, relative unknown to fill out his ticket.

But as more becomes known about Palin, it is becoming increasingly clear just why the Right was so overjoyed.

Her militant opposition to abortion, going so far as to even refuse to support her own mother-in-law’s candidacy for Mayor because she was pro-choice; her efforts to oppose equality for gays and lesbians; her apparent affiliation with the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party; her support for teaching Intelligent Design; her reported efforts to censor library books and fire the town librarian – on and on it goes, with new details seemingly emerging by the hour, all suggesting that Palin is indeed the dream candidate the Right has been praying for.

Lost in all of this is Palin’s apparent willingness to utilize right-wing wedge issues when they suit her political needs and then downplay them when they don’t.

As John Stein, whom Palin defeated to become mayor of Wasilla, Alaska in 1996, recently told KCAW, Palin worked to inject the issue of abortion into the traditionally non-partisan mayor’s race and helped her pave the way for her own political aspirations: “The fundamental Christian values were very much a part of her background and the election, interestingly enough, tended to turn around the abortion issue.  John Stein: pro-choice.  Sarah Palin: anti-abortion.  That was heavily promoted by local, state, and I think even national anti-choice groups.”

When she ran for Governor in 2006, Palin was only one of two candidate to respond to the Eagle Forum of Alaska’s Questionnaire – a questionnaire that the organization is now trying to hide by taking it off of their website – in which she explained her opposition to abortion, providing benefits to same-sex couples, to sex-ed and contraception distribution in schools, to hate crimes legislation, and declaring that “Preserving the definition of ‘marriage’ as defined in our constitution” would be among her top priorities if elected.

So while Palin is clearly willing to exploit wedge issues when they serve her needs, she seems to prefer to do so on the down-low and somewhat away from the public eye.  When her opponent for Governor in 2006 tried to make an issue of her staunch anti-abortion views, Palin dismissed the issue, saying “I think it's a shame ... that anyone would try to make this issue a headline, banner issue in the campaign when it's not” and saying that she wouldn’t push for state constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion because “there is no law that I could sign in office that could ever supersede the Supreme Court's ruling.”  While standing by her militant views, she insisted that "I am not one to be out there preaching and forcing my views on anyone else."

When she was criticized for her views that creationism should be taught in science class, she backed off, saying that she wouldn’t "have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism" for members of the state school board.

In fact, it seems that when ever anyone tried to actually pin Palin down on her right-wing positions, her response was to dismiss the efforts as divisive and hypothetical:

A significant part of Palin’s base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).

Palin and her staff complained that efforts to raise these issues in public were divisive and hypothetical. The normally unflappable candidate seemed put-upon when she faced a string of such questions in the last debate, on public television and radio Thursday night.

“It’s interesting that so many questions do resolve around that centeredness that I have,” she said with a half-smile.

Palin said her reading of the Bible would not “bleed over into policy.”

In fact, Time Magazine suggests that central operating principle of Palin’s political career is the willingness to adopt a “new political identity” that suits her needs at any given moment:

By the time Sarah Palin was entering state politics, the hottest issue in Alaska wasn't gay marriage or even abortion. It was corruption and cronyism. … She needed a new political identity to make it to the next level, so ethics reform became her calling card. "She's a very savvy politician," says Halcro. "So wedge issues were not part of the portfolio."

"If anything," he says, "she got tired of answering questions about them." Halcro recalls one debate in October 2006 in which, after repeated questions about her opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest, she looked at the moderator with exasperation and asked if they were going to talk about anything besides abortion. It was detracting from her new message: cleaning up the capitol.

In the end, her political journey from banner-waving GOP social conservative to maverick reformer may simply be about good timing. It's what former journalist Bill McAllister, who now works for Palin's press staff, used to call "Sarah-dipity" — that uncanny gift of knowing exactly what voters are looking for at a particular moment. And, of course, the political will to give them what they want.

This ploy might have worked on the state-level, but Palin is now in the national spotlight and her “I’m-a-right-winger/I’m-a-moderate-independent-maverick” shtick is no longer going to fly.

While the McCain campaign is obviously pushing the narrative that Palin is a “co-maverick”, the GOP’s right-wing base is screaming that she is their dream come true and, it goes without saying, that both of those things cannot be true.  And considering that Palin had been scheduled to be honored by Phyllis Schlafly and Republican National Coalition for Life today at the convention but cancelled at the last minute, it looks like the McCain campaign hasn’t quite been able to figure out which way it wants to go.

Jesus Saves [The Planet]

Fighting the tide of science and public opinion on climate change has been tiring for the Right lately, which is why they have recently been setting up phony environmental front-groups in an attempt to conceal their right-wing agenda by pretending to care about the environment.  

And in case that doesn’t work, they’ve also been trotting out a new talking point that, even if catastrophic climate change does eventually plague the earth, it is really nothing to worry about because is it just a sign of the Second Coming:

And just in case that doesn’t work either, Rep. Michele Bachmann has decided to try out a new argument claiming that we don’t really need to worry about saving the planet at all because Jesus already did that:

"[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she's just trying to save the planet. We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet -- we didn't need Nancy Pelosi to do that," says Bachmann.

 

Via The Carpetbagger

Hatch Joins Phony "Stop the War on the Poor" Effort

For the past few weeks, we’ve been reporting on the “Stop the War on the Poor” campaign, an effort to label “extreme environmentalists” who oppose increased domestic oil drilling as enemies of the poor.  The campaign counts among its leaders a group called Americans for American Energy, which describes itself as “a non-profit, grassroots-based organization dedicated to educating the public about the importance of greater energy independence for America and promoting public policies that support that goal.” 

As we wrote last week, Americans for American Energy was created by Pac/West Communications, a firm with considerable Republican ties, and shares a location with the consulting firm of Jim Sims, communications director for Vice President Cheney’s energy task force.  In 2007, fresh off helping to defeat attempts “to ban bear baiting in Alaska and impose new taxes on cruise ships,” Pac/West received a $3 million grant from the state of Alaska to “educate” the American public about ANWR drilling, that was later stopped by Gov. Sarah Palin because the PAC/West-Americans for American Energy efforts were “not part of an open and transparent process.”  But that was not the end for Americans for American Energy. 

Although its profile has risen along with the “Stop the War on the Poor” campaign, Americans for American Energy has been engaging in suspicious activities in western states for the last several years.  In Colorado, it released a report claiming $1.2 billion in first-year profits for natural gas drilling on the Roan Plateau, an estimate that critics, such as the Wilderness Society, claimed were based on “junk science”

Credible economic studies need to stand up to independent review, list data sources and methods, and at the very least include the names of economists who authored the report. Unbelievably, this industry-backed study does none of this.

In Wyoming, its leaders falsely claimed that Gov. Dave Freudenthal was a supporter of their “powerful new oil and gas campaign,” leading the governor to write a letter disavowing the group.  In Utah, they launched an email attack on Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) that compared him to Hugo Chavez and Osama Bin Laden:

Last week, over 160,000 Utah residents received an e-mail letter indirectly comparing a New York congressman to some of the most infamous men in the world.

Along with mug shots of Osama bin Laden, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared a photo of Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.).

Hinchey's crime? Sponsoring the Red Rock Wilderness Act, a bill that would set aside 9.4 million acres of public land in Utah as wilderness.

The letter was attributed to Utah state GOP Reps. Aaron Tilton and Mike Noel, but it was the brainchild of Americans for American Energy, a Colorado-based industry group that has accepted money from, among others, the state of Alaska.

The Red Rock Wilderness Act will "WEAKEN America," the letter states. "How? Because it will hamstring our ability to produce American energy right here in Utah. That leads America to become more dependent on energy from hostile foreign nations -- some of whom fund terrorist organizations that are right now targeting our American men and women in uniform."

An online version of the letter and corresponding Web site go further, for instance with a picture of bin Laden, Chavez and Ahmadinejad. "These terror leaders also want America to continue its foreign oil dependence," reads the caption underneath the graphic.

Now, Americans for American Energy has turned from accusing its opponents of being in league with terrorists to accusing them of fighting a “war on the poor,” and this message seems to have resonated with Republicans on Capitol Hill.  A number of rank and file Congressional Republicans showed up on-message at the kick-off press conference, including Rep. Bill Sali of Idaho, co-sponsor of a bill suspiciously entitled the “Americans for American Energy Act,” which “would open ANWR and the OCS to increase production of American crude oil and give the right incentives to boost conservation, improved efficiency and bring alternative energy online sooner.”

But they’ve gained a much higher-profile ally in Senator Orrin Hatch, who mentioned the campaign, quoted one of its leaders, Bishop Harry Jackson, and plugged its website, all on the Senate floor:

Unfortunately for the Democrat party, the poor are beginning to wake up that the liberals they have always looked to are behind the War on the Poor. By War on the Poor, I refer to the movement by the anti-oil extremists to close off every good domestic oil resource, which is a direct cause of the high energy prices Americans face.

Democrats in Congress have been forced to choose between the very well funded extreme anti-oil interests and the poor, because on energy prices there is no compromise between the two. The Democrats have begun to recognize the position they are in, and are trying to have it both ways with today’s vote.

Earlier this month, a group of protesters came to Capitol Hill calling on Congress to Stop the War on the Poor by groups and congressmen who are closing off America's energy resources.

Included in the group were pastors and civil rights leaders calling on this body to unlock America's oil resources for the benefit of Americans, and especially for the benefit of lower income Americans.

One of the Participants was Bishop Harry Jackson. I would like to quote some of his remarks for the record. These are his words:

"I am a registered Democrat, but this has nothing to do with partisan politics. Unless the public understands that there are specific people and organizations that are fueling this war against the poor, nothing will change and the poor will continue to suffer. We will unmask those behind this war regardless of their political party or ideology. Party labels and partisan ideologies are meaningless when it comes to protecting the lives of America's most vulnerable citizens,"

By the way, Mr. President, you can see more about the stop the war on the poor movement on the web at www.stopwaronpoor.org.

Ironically, Niger Innis, co-chair of the Stop the War on the Poor effort, says that U. S. politicians are "being cowered by a very powerful, well-funded environmental extremist lobby that has a great deal of influence over them, and a great deal of influence over policy” and that their primary mission is "’outing’ the extremist groups and the politicians it says are doing their bidding.”

Bold words for a man heading an effort that is itself a phony Astroturf campaign on behalf of energy interests. 

Texas Bible Class Push Returns; 'Anti-Faith Fringe' Remains Skeptical

It was only last year that People For the American Way Foundation helped represent parents in Odessa, Texas against a school board determined to use public schools to promote a particular religious doctrine. “HA! Take that you dang heathens!” the school district’s curriculum director wrote triumphantly after the board voted to use the Religious Right-backed National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools program. The board settled the lawsuit by dropping NCBCPS.

So it’s natural that advocates of church-state separation would be skeptical of the Texas State Board of Education’s decision last week to approve Bible courses statewide, without providing specific educational or constitutional guidelines.

Mark Chancey, associate professor in religious studies at Southern Methodist University, has studied Bible classes already offered in about 25 districts for the Texas Freedom Network.

The study found most of the courses were explicitly devotional with almost exclusively Christian, usually Protestant, perspectives.

It also found that most were taught by teachers with no academic training in biblical, religious or theological studies and who were not familiar with the issues of separation of church and state.

"Some classes promote creation science. Some classes denigrate Judaism. Some classes explicitly encourage students to convert to Christianity or to adopt Christian devotional practices," Chancey said. "This is all well documented, and the board knows it."

On the other hand, the Religious Right is gung-ho about the move. Decrying “[e]nemies of the First Amendment,” Rod Parsley’s Center for Moral Clarity (a supporter of the unconstitutional NCBCPS curriculum) wrote, “We’re glad legislative and educational leaders in Texas have ignored the shrill arguments of the anti-faith fringe, and we hope other states follow suit.”

Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Legal Institute and the Free Market Foundation similar predicted that “Texas is going to be seen as a leader on this issue,” and also characterized skeptics as fanatical opponents of religious freedom:

"There are enemies of religious freedom all across our state of Texas and across the country, and they'll do anything and stop at nothing to restrict academic freedom and restrict the religious rights of students," Saenz contends. "They simply do not want kids, even on their own choice, to be able to look at the Bible." The State Board of Education is discussing this week how to develop the proposed new courses.

And Gordon Robertson, Pat Robertson’s normally soft-spoken son, compared efforts to prevent the government from proselytizing in the classroom to outlawing Christmas and Thanksgiving:

Given the Religious Right’s steady efforts over the years to push campaigns like NCBCPS, Robertson shouldn’t be surprised that advocates of church-state separation insist on a distinction between teaching about the Bible objectively and promoting a particular brand of faith.

Perkins Blue Over Congress's Green Focus

In his “Washington Update,” Tony Perkins expresses his frustration that “Congress returned to work--not on judges, marriage, or the war supplemental bill--but on changing the weather” and outlines his strong opposition to the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill: “The bill's 500 pages are a complicated mess of distorted science, pork projects, and a tax-and-trade solution that will send U.S. jobs overseas and result in the most massive expansion of the federal government since the New Deal.” Perkins is particularly stunned that lawmakers are concerned with the “inconclusive” evidence of global warming rather than what’s really going to make the country melt: “If anything is heating up, it's marriage. This Congress is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the real crises facing this nation as they refuse to intervene.”

The Conservative Way of Knowing

The rise in popularity of the online, collaborative reference Wikipedia has posed a challenge to librarians and teachers who are trying to teach rigorous research methods to high school students. But while these educators have directed their students to use more traditional sources or, at least, to read Wikipedia with skepticism, one teacher decided the solution was to let his students write their own encyclopedia.

That teacher was Andy Schlafly—son of the famous culture warrior Phyllis Schlafly—the class was a group of home-school students, and the result, Conservapedia, immediately become the Internet equivalent of a laughingstock. The problem according to Schlafly was not Wikipedia’s fundamental unreliability—by design, there is no authoritative editing and factual inaccuracies may creep in despite a vigilant volunteer base—but its supposed bias against America and Christianity. Thus, Conservapedia’s obsession with right-wing politics, evolution, and homosexuality.

In spite of the ridicule, Schlafly and his young followers soldiered on, and they are still at it today. Eagle Forum just released a video promoting Conservapedia as an affirming alternative to the Wikipedia world:

STUDENT: They have an article about evolution, and when conservative or Christian editors tried to add information to that about the other side of the argument and the argument for creationism or Intelligent Design, it was censored or taken out of there.

SCHLAFLY: On Conservapedia, you’re going to get the other side of that. You’re going to get evidence against evolution. Same thing for homosexuality. We bring in all the health harm that’s caused by homosexuality, all the biblical quotes against it—you get that on Conservapedia. You’re not going to get that sort of fair treatment on the Wikipedia entries.

“I don’t have to live with what’s printed in the newspaper. I don’t have to take what’s written in Wikipedia,” said Schlafly. “We’ve got our own way to express knowledge.” Whether it’s the use of “A.D.” instead of “A.C.E.” to mark dates, or anti-gay propaganda instead of science, Schlafly’s “way of knowing” offers the Religious Right familiarity, and a respite from the oppressive world of newspapers and reference works. Or, as Stephen Colbert termed it, their own Wikiality.

'Expelled' Inspires Anti-Evolution Legislation

After a month, “Expelled”—the anti-evolution film starring Ben Stein—is fading from the scene with disappointing sales (although associate producer Mark Mathis says he’s pleased). The movie’s efforts to portray Intelligent Design creationism as a valid scientific field being persecuted by the authorities probably never had a chance with academics familiar with these dubious creationist arguments, but then again, it probably wasn’t the movie’s intention to convince scientists that ID was a legitimate scientific theory. Instead, “Expelled” took its battle against evolution to the political arena.

This was apparent in the film’s marketing strategy of reaching out to right-wing media outlets and activists, who embraced the half-baked Darwin-Hitler connection at the center of “Expelled.”

And—regarding the strange subplot of Yoko Ono suing over the film’s use of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” without getting the rights—a lawyer for the movie recently argued that the film’s message is pegged toward influencing this year’s presidential election, according to the AP:

A lawyer for the movie's distributors has warned that the litigation could wreck the movie's political message by preventing it from impacting viewers in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential campaign.

While it’s too early to say how creationism will figure into the presidential race, the political impact of “Expelled” can be seen more directly in state legislatures, with a rash of new legislation challenging science education in public high schools. “I think Expelled definitely has played a role,” said ID-advocate Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute.

According to the National Center for Science Education, anti-evolution bills were recently introduced in Florida, Missouri, and Alabama, but the legislative sessions in those states ended before the bills could pass. Versions in South Carolina and Michigan also appear to be stalled for now. But a bill in Louisiana to undermine classroom teaching on the topics of “evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” was passed unanimously in the state Senate and has already passed through a committee in the House.

The major claim of “Expelled” is that scientists working to provide some—any—legitimacy to Intelligent Design are facing persecution. The stories told in the movie don’t seem to pan out, but as Stein and company are surely aware, the debate over creationism is not taking place at research universities but at school boards, state legislatures, and public high school science classes. A newly published survey of high school teachers found that 25 percent address creationism or Intelligent Design in the classroom, and 12 percent call creationism a “valid scientific alternative” to evolution. Ben Stein’s rants about Nazis seem unlikely to chance the basic course of scientific inquiry into the natural world, but the legacy of “Expelled” may be bills, like Louisiana’s, to put the supernatural world into the science classroom.

More Phony Right-Wing Environmentalism

It seems as if the Right is finally realizing that they are losing the battle over the issue of the environment and have decided, rather than to change their tune, to instead adopt a posture of appearing to care about global warming and climate issues in order to push their own agendas.

For instance, a few weeks ago we wrote about the American Environmental Coalition, a group founded by right-wing stalwarts like Pat Robertson, Paul Weyrich, and Gary Bauer which was created to “bring balance to the debate” about climate change by essentially denying the existence of global warming and fighting against efforts to address it.

Right off the bat, they found a champion in militant global-warming skeptic Sen. Jim Inhofe … but apparently one phony right-wing environmental group just wasn’t getting the job done and now Inhofe is back with another:

Christian leaders have joined with pastors and legislators to put forth a new initiative on caring for the environment. Today marks the launch of www.WeGetIt.org, a website offering visitors the opportunity to sign up and be a part of an historic movement.

The reaction to climate change has reached deep into prevailing culture. Knee-jerk reactions with good intentions can harm more than help. The recent increase in the cost of food is one example of the consequence of diverting crops such as corn to the production of ethanol as a fuel source. The impact that steep corn price increases have had on food distribution to third-world countries has been profoundly negative. Keeping in mind this difficult lesson, the "We Get It" coalition offers recommendations by which we can honor and care for the environment along with the poor.

The "We Get It" campaign coalition includes Senator James Inhofe, Cornwall Alliance, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Wallbuilders. Janet Parshall, Joel Belz of World Magazine, Acton Institute and Dr. Richard Land have also joined this monumental movement.

That’ll fly, because when one thinks of those protecting the environment and assisting third-world countries, one automatically thinks of the tireless efforts historically put forth by the likes of the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and Wallbuilders.

The effort appears to be designed to try and piggyback off of Al Gore's "We Can Solve It" campaign, with the notable exception that their position is that “our stewardship of creation must be based on Biblical principles” and the demand that any efforts to protect the environment must be guided by “principles of His Word to care for the poor and tend His creation.”   As the video on their website explains, efforts to protect the environment and fight global warming will only end up making food more expensive and less available, which will ultimately hurt the poor in places like Africa and cause children to go hungry.  As they see it, “contrary to popular belief, the science is not settled on whether the Earth’s recent, slightly warming was caused by man or nature.

If you didn’t know better, you might initially mistake this video for a plea for donations to help those suffering around the world, at least until right-wing icon Janet Parshall shows up and explains that “it won’t cost you a dime” because what will really help those in need is “faithful environmental stewardship” and a right-wing pledge to “rally together on behalf of our neighbors in poor and developing countries, to speak up for them and protect them from the effects of well-meaning, but flawed policies."

FRC's Tony Perkins says they are trying to show that you can be "green without being gullible," which is a distinct change from his earlier view that believers should welcome the consequences of climate change as a sign of the End Times.

Expulsion: Far Right Loves Ben Stein

Ben Stein’s anti-evolution attack film, “Expelled,” has finally arrived, grossing $3 million over the weekend, thanks to a church-based roll-out by the marketers that brought you “The Passion of the Christ.” Critics have savaged the documentary—which claims widespread persecution of creationists in academia and warns of a direct link between the theory of evolution and the Holocaust—as a dishonest work of propaganda, but, not surprisingly, the movie has a lot of fans among the Religious Right.

“Expelled” has been promoted heavily in right-wing media this month. Stein appeared on Focus on the Family radio, where the movie received the “enthusiastic” endorsement of James Dobson. Producer Mark Mathis appeared on WallBuilders Live, the radio show of premier church-state integrationist David Barton, to discuss “the persecution of the many by an elite few.” Rush Limbaugh exuberantly promoted it on his show; apparently, the movie taught him that “Darwinism, of course, does not permit for the existence of a supreme being, a higher power, or a God.”

Stein was also interviewed by the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, while executive producer Logan Craft hit WorldNetDaily. Baptist Press, the official outlet of the Southern Baptist Convention, featured an op-ed by Stein and a series of articles pushing the film. The producers gave a private screening to Brent Bozell of the far-right Media Research Center. (He loved it.)

“Expelled” is also featured by the late D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, which offers its own product line equating Darwin and Hitler. While some “Expelled” cheerleaders express sympathy for the “Intelligent Design” advocates who have been “persecuted” supposedly (the National Center for Science Education has their realistic back-stories here), most on the Right seem to be especially enchanted by the film’s reliance on a half-baked linking of evolution to Nazism and Stalinism.

Expelled,” wrote World magazine editor and faith-based initiatives architect Marvin Olasky, “rightly equates Darwinian stifling of free speech with the Communist attempt to enslave millions behind the Berlin Wall.”

The real question is: Did Darwinism bulwark Hitlerian hatred by providing a scientific rationale for killing those considered less fit in the struggle for survival?

The answer to that question is an unambiguous yes.

Richard Weikart of the “Intelligent Design” group, the Discovery Institute, defended the Darwin-Hitler connection as critical: “[W]hat is most objectionable about the Nazis' worldview? Isn't it that they had no respect for human life?” Weikart, who wrote a book entitled “From Darwin to Hitler,” added, “the Nazis' devaluing of human life derived from Darwinian ideology....”

Gary DeMar of American Vision was so inspired he branched out on his own, linking evolution to the fundamentalist polygamist cult that’s been in the news recently.

Given the worldview shift that has taken place in America, none of this is of any consequence. Evolutionary and atheistic assumptions are standard worldview thinking in every public school classroom in America. So then, why is it wrong with having forced sex with young girls? It’s evolution in action. …

The secularists should be proud of what these polygamists are doing. They are confirming the evolutionary thesis of Dawkins and his selfish gene hypothesis.

McCain’s “Committee of 50”

Today, the New York Times (finally) got around to running an article about John McCain’s courting of John Hagee which suggested that the McCain campaign was essentially unaware of Hagee’s record and unprepared for the controversy that ensued:

The controversy surrounding Mr. Hagee seemed to take the McCain campaign by surprise, said David C. Leege, an expert on Catholic voters and an emeritus professor of political science at Notre Dame.

Mr. McCain began seeking Mr. Hagee’s endorsement more than a year ago, trying to bolster the campaign’s support among evangelical voters. Republican leaders are concerned that evangelicals will sit out the election in November, depriving Mr. McCain of votes that may be crucial to beating the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Hagee has a large following and a vast reach on radio and television. But he has also been criticized by Catholics for comments about the church and, recently, by some Jews for his views on Israel.

After Mr. Hagee endorsed Mr. McCain, the criticism was fierce and Mr. McCain soon distanced himself, issuing a series of statements until he announced he was “repudiating” those of Mr. Hagee’s views that might be considered anti-Catholic.

A McCain adviser acknowledged on Monday that the campaign had failed to look into Mr. Hagee’s background adequately and said that as a result the campaign’s procedures for vetting endorsers had improved.

It is imperative that the McCain campaign ensure that its vetting procedure has improved, because The Brody File reports that it is hard at work putting together a “Committee of 50” Religious Right leaders that McCain intends to try and win over:

The Brody File has been accumulating information about how John McCain is planning to reach out to Evangelicals.

An informed source tells me there's a plan developing to come up with something called a "Committee of 50."

Basically this will be a key list of 50 religious and opinion leaders that the McCain camp will target when it comes to their outreach. It will be made up of "new guard" and "old guard" figures.

The list is still in development, but the bottom line here is that the McCain camp has no desire to start a dialogue with folks who want to beat up the senator over some of his views. They're looking for people who are open to listening to him, convinced that they will like what they hear.

Don't expect the McCain team to set their sights just on national leaders. The team that is currently being assembled will really be active on the local level, going pastor to pastor, church to church.

Whether McCain and his staff actually bother to thoroughly vet  this list remains to be seen.  Not that it matters really, because if it turns out to cause him problems, he can just do what he has done in the past by either flip-flopping, offering a politically expedient, after-the-fact repudiation, and simply claiming that his outreach to the Right is all just for show.

Stein to Show "Expelled" to FL Lawmakers

From the Miami Herald: "In the latest evolution battle, pop-culture figure Ben Stein will show his new documentary challenging mainstream science to Florida lawmakers Wednesday as they consider legislation that makes it easier for teachers to question Darwin's theory in science classes. The legislation, like Stein's documentary called 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,' has been bashed by critics as a front for advancing the agenda of biblical creationists who want to sneak religious teachings into the classrooms."

Animatronic Humans, Dinos Cohabitating: A Recipe for Success at Creationism Museum

USA Today reports that the $27 million Creation Museum, which Answers in Genesis opened last May in Petersburg, Kentucky, is exceeding its attendance expectations:

Halfway into its first year, it is on the verge of surpassing its projected year-long attendance goal of 250,000. Officials now expect nearly 400,000 people to pass through the doors by year's end.

"It's been a surprise," said spokeswoman Melany Ethridge, who attributed it to the dramatic exhibits and ongoing media interest from Europe and elsewhere.

While much of that attendance is likely comprised of Christian schools and church groups showing support for young-Earth creationism, the museum has also benefited from wide publicity. In May, Answers in Genesis distributed an elaborate press kit, including a “video news release.” VNRs are pre-produced news segments, complete with fake reporters, that many cash-strapped local TV stations will air with little or no editing or attribution.

Also included in the press kit was this sample science video, a recreation of the deluge:

You can hear screams in the background, but we are hopeful that no scientists were actually harmed in the making of that exhibit.

Creationist Film Crew Not 'Honest' in Landing Interviews

Crossroads promoAs we noted earlier this month, Ben Stein—of Richard Nixon and “Ferris Bueller” fame—is starring in an anti-evolution documentary called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” While the movie isn’t set to be released until February, scientists are already accusing its producers of dishonesty—and not for claiming that “Intelligent Design” creationism is a valid scientific theory. As various outlets are reporting, several scientists well known for refuting anti-evolution activists say the producers for the film hid their agenda, portraying the project innocently as “Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion” (still listed on the web site of the supposed production company).

From the New York Times:

If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” he said.

Eugenie C. Scott, a physical anthropologist who heads the National Center for Science Education, said she agreed to be filmed after receiving what she described as a deceptive invitation.

“I have certainly been taped by people and appeared in productions where people’s views are different than mine, and that’s fine,” Dr. Scott said, adding that she would have appeared in the film anyway. “I just expect people to be honest with me, and they weren’t.” …

Walt Ruloff, a producer and partner in Premise Media [producer of “Expelled”], also denied that there was any deception. Mr. Ruloff said in a telephone interview that Rampant Films [which approached the scientists as producers of “Crossroads”] was a Premise subsidiary, and that the movie’s title was changed on the advice of marketing experts, something he said was routine in filmmaking. …

Another scientist who was, P. Z. Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, said the film’s producers had misrepresented its purpose, but said he would have agreed to an interview anyway. But, he said in a posting on The Panda’s Thumb Web site, he would have made a “more aggressive” attack on the claims of the movie.

As for Stein, who rails in the movie against the scientific establishment’s supposed unsavory suppression of creationism, he claims innocence, adding that if he had his druthers, the movie would be called “From Darwin to Hitler”—an homage, perhaps, to the late televangelist D. James Kennedy.

Federal Funds Earmarked for Far-Right Group to 'Combat Evolution'

Over the weekend, the New Orleans Times-Picayune revealed that a federal spending bill contains a substantial sum of money budgeted for the Louisiana Family Forum, apparently for the purpose of combating the teaching of evolution and global warming in public schools. The earmark, inserted by Republican Sen. David Vitter, provides $100,000 to the group for the purpose of “develop[ing] a plan to promote better science education,” but as the newspaper points out, LFF has been a leading advocate of creationism in the state:

The group's stated mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking." Until recently, its Web site contained a "battle plan to combat evolution," which called the theory a "dangerous" concept that "has no place in the classroom." The document was removed after a reporter's inquiry. …

In 2002, the Louisiana Family Forum unsuccessfully sought to persuade the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to insert a five-paragraph disclaimer in all of its science texts challenging the natural science view that life came about by accident and has evolved through the process of natural selection.

The group notched a victory last year when the Ouachita School Board adopted a policy that, without mentioning the Bible or creationism, gave teachers leeway to introduce other views besides those contained in traditional science texts.

LFF, a “family policy council” affiliated with Focus on the Family, was founded in 1999 by Tony Perkins, before he became president of the Family Research Council and gained national prominence.

Vitter defended the earmark as an “important program” that “helps supplement and support educators and school systems that would like to offer all of the explanations in the study of controversial science topics such as global warming and the life sciences.”

The money in the earmark will pay for a report suggesting "improvements" in science education in Louisiana, the development and distribution of educational materials and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Ouachita Parish School Board's 2006 policy that opened the door to biblically inspired teachings in science classes.

Vitter made news this summer when phone records from the “D.C. Madam” showed him to be a customer of a prostitution ring while he served in Congress. While Rev. Gene Mills, director of Louisiana Family Forum, said the $100,000 earmark is “a bit of a surprise,” it’s hard not to notice that Mills has been one of the few voices coming to Vitter's defense. In this interview, which LFF posted online two weeks, ago, Mills claimed that comparisons with this summer’s other Republican senator involved in a sex scandal—Idaho’s Larry Craig, who was caught in a bathroom solicitation sting—were a matter of the media doing “what it can to smear any of the family values guys.”

Anyone? Anyone? Hitler?

SteinBen Stein, the Nixon speechwriter immortalized by his acting role as a boring schoolteacher in the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” is returning to movie academia in a documentary about “Intelligent Design” creationism. “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” sets out to expose what Stein calls “widespread suppression and entrenched discrimination that is spreading in our institutions, laboratories and most importantly, in our classrooms” in the form of the general rejection of ID—an outgrowth of creation science based on the premise that life is so complex it must have been created by God directly rather than through an evolutionary process—as a valid scientific theory.

“Expelled” paints ID advocates as the “rebels” of a “new scientific movement” doing battle against atheists and a world without morality. Like an earlier video produced by the late D. James Kennedy, “Expelled” attempts to link Darwin’s theory of evolution with Hitler and Nazi Germany; the film will feature shots of concentration camps to make that point.

While “Expelled” isn’t likely to advance acceptance of “scientific” study of the supernatural or move ID from the scholarly fringe, it will probably find a welcome audience among anti-evolution activists who look to ID as a back-door way to put creationism back in schools. The marketer who helped make “The Passion of the Christ” a blockbuster by promoting directly through churches is hoping to work the same magic on “Expelled,” so the film’s makers can hope for a constituency reenergized to engage the political debate, if not the scientific debate. That, after all, is the point of ID.

The Passing of D. James Kennedy

D. James Kennedy, the longtime leader of the Coral Ridge megachurch in Florida has died at the age of 76.

Since suffering a heart attack late last year, Kennedy’s health had steadily declined, leading to the shuttering of his Center for Reclaiming America for Christ in April and his official retirement from Coral Ridge Ministries last week, after which we put together a profile of his lengthy and influential career.

PFAW has long monitored Kennedy and his affiliate organizations, leading him, at one point, to claim that “the diabolical mission” of People For the American Way was “to crush the influence of the Christian religion in American society.”  

Below are some other memorable quotes from his years as a leading right-wing figure: 

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Science Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Wednesday 03/16/2011, 10:41am
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Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/16/2011, 5:21pm
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Brian Tashman, Wednesday 02/09/2011, 10:54am
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Brian Tashman, Wednesday 02/09/2011, 10:54am
After calling for conservative writer William Kristol to apologize for “demonizing Glenn Beck, who has done more to educate Americans about the unholy alliance between the secular left and the Islamic jihadists than anyone else,” David Horowitz is now railing against the purported “infiltration of Islamic Jihadist doctrines” in public schools. Horowitz was reacting to the latest right-wing outrage over a school district in Texas that “wanted students at selected schools to take Arabic language and culture classes as part of a federally funded grant,” a... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 01/25/2011, 10:59am
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