When I first started studying for the Texas Social Studies Textbook hearings last week to testify with Aron on Tuesday, I expected to find the most egregious historical misrepresentations by non-mainstream publishers like Worldview Software. And of course they didn’t fail to disappoint. Here is a quote from a Texas Freedom Network briefing to give you the flavor of the worldview they are promoting…
“The spread of international terrorism is an
outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western
political and cultural influences and Western ideology.”
Is that a fact? Are Islamic fundamentalists the only terrorists? Just in case you aren’t sure whether this publisher is being incidentally bigoted, their worldview on the origin of the inhabitants of Africa is straight out of 19th Century racist theories. I quote from here on out from the Washington Post‘s article on the hearing.
WorldView Software – World History A: Early Civilizations to the Mid-1800s
The text states: “South of the Sahara Desert most of the people before the Age of Explorations were black Africans of the Negro race.”
Elsewhere, the text states: “The first known inhabitants of Africa north of the Sahara in prehistory were Caucasoid Hamitic people of uncertain origin.”
“Hamitic” pseudo-scientific theories of the origins of Africans originated in the 19th century’s attempt to explain white supremacist assumptions. They believed that Northern Africans like Egyptians originated from the Biblical story of Noah’s cursed son Ham. They thought that the “Negroid” race as they called it was incapable of building civilizations such as Egypt. They sought to misappropriate their accomplishments to “Caucasoids” such as themselves.
As a teacher, I know that non-mainstream publishers don’t normally make their way into classrooms. No matter how much a crank publisher matches the ideas the right wing ideologues on the State Board of Education want to promote. So at first I wasn’t as worried.
Now that I have reviewed more of what is being published, it is worse than I thought. I am genuinely surprised and disappointed. Even mainstream publishers already on the bookshelves in many Texas classrooms are submitting new texts for adoption that revise history in such a way to emphasize Judeo-Christian influence over the Enlightenment secular ideals that our government is founded on.
McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government
Text mentions Moses and claims that the “biblical idea of a
covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of
agreement between the people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and contributed to our constitutional structure.”
Let me get this straight our government is based on the covenant god gave to Moses in The Torah? The one most American’s break when they have pork ribs at Chili’s or shellfish at Red Lobster? We’re all going to Hell then for breaking the covenant kiddos!
But wait there is more, I feel like a sadist for the face-palming that results from reading quotes from proposed history books in 2014! Just a little break here to make you feel better.
Join Texas Freedom Networks “Just Educate!” campaign to reform the Texas Board of Education.
Sign TFN’s petition for accurate textbooks.
Vote for reality based education in the school board. Voter’s Guide
Are you ready for more totally serious inanity from our national publishers?
This publisher goes even further than Biblical times with revising out the Enlightenment…
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – United States Government: Principles in Practice
Text has a section on “Judeo-Christian Influences” that reads: “The Framers’ political thinking was influenced by a Judeo-Christian religious heritage, which includes traditions common to both Judaism and Christianity. These religions see the law and individual rights as being of divine origin. Moreover, the Framers benefited from the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century Christian reform movement whose leaders developed ideas about individual responsibility, the freedom to worship as one chooses, and self-government.”
Cuz yeah Protestant settlers like the Puritans were all about the “freedom to worship as one chooses”. As long as you agreed with them, and conformed to their ideas of how to worship. If you were a Quaker though, not so much! Quakers were banished, branded, and had their ears cropped.
But what about separation of church and state you say? According to this national publisher…
McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government
The text states: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to the establishment clause as a ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That phrase is not used in the Constitution, however.’”
Fixed your wagon didn’t they?
If you think it can’t get more ridiculous, I have barely scratched the surface of what these textbooks are counterfeiting as history. Read the entire Washington Post article if you have a high pain threshold.
Since Aron launched his Patreon, he has been overwhelmed by the by all of the support he has gotten. The support has given him more time for new projects. These are a few of the new things he has been up to in the last 2 months. Like Dan Arel wrote, he has already put 4 podcasts together with his co-host Mark Nebo. This is the latest one with Deb Biennan and Vic Gettman, volunteer Humanist celebrants acting as chaplains at an American Air Force base. They talked about being persistent in providing support for Humanist airmen in the face of the opposition they get on base. The next episode will be live from Apostacon on Sept. 19th. There is an Evening of Scientific Inquiry with Neils Degrasse Tyson during the event also. Hope to see you there in costume! People think Aron is wearing one even when he doesn’t dress up.
Aron has also made a new series called Living Science Videos with my help. The mission is to provide teachers and students an introduction to biology based on the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards are opposed by Intelligent Design Creationist Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute and the Heartland Institute. In a nutshell, their opposition is based on the standards including evolution and climate change. (so accurate science basically) Aron and I are often asked about alternative science curriculum for home schoolers, as it is currently dominated by propaganda mills like The Discovery Institute.
Science advocates often focus on textbook wars and standards adoptions, and these are worthy battles to keep pseudoscience out of classrooms. However, as a teacher, I know a good science teacher doesn’t just use a textbook. In fact, Texas skipped their obligation in 2010 to update textbooks, and is only now starting to update outdated books. Most of the books, I’ve been issued still had Pluto as a planet. That is why we are producing science educational supplements, to aid teachers and students, who want accurate science and promote science literacy. The last video we made was about how hypotheses are formed and what a scientific theory is. It answers the question that a lot of people ask, “How do we know?”
He is also finally able to go testify at a textbook hearing even if it is during the weekday now that he is a full time activist. According to the Texas Freedom Network…
There are numerous issues spread across the dozens of social studies textbooks submitted by publishers this year. These include problems with the way religions are portrayed; endorsement of anti-government, Tea-Party ideology; denigration of affirmative action — to name just a few.
This is the link to find out more about the hearing on Sept 16th. Other projects are in the works, and we’ll update you when they bear fruit.
It is often difficult and awkward to move disagreements forward to where they become productive in the insular, organized atheist community. Especially for a family that is as actively involved as the Ra family, because a lot of times we know and like and often respect the people involved on a personal level. And to make matters more awkward so do our other atheists friends. So basically, we all collectively cringed about Dave Silverman’s comment to conservatives about abortion rights, because we really like him and we respect his professional accomplishments in the secular realm. Of course, many of us were also chagrined because we are part of the super-progressive reproductive rights community. This is the comment for reference although you mostly likely already know what he said…
“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”
There have already been many criticisms from the fiercely, liberal secular types including PZ Myers, Sarah Moglia, Steve Ahlquist, Ophelia Benson, and Jason Thibeault. And too, there has been support for Silverman from no less liberal sources such as JT Eberhard and my personal friend, who I can testify is actually a ray of Secular Sunshine Shanon Nebo. Silverman clarified his comment on her blog.
I was talking to a lot of press this week – I mean a LOT of press, and most of it hostile. When I was talking to Raw Story I gave them the same pitch I’d given so many times before: Conservatism is basically divided into two parts, fiscal conservatism, which is real conservatism, and Social conservatism, which is Christian theocracy masquerading as conservatism, with the latter holding down the former. Is the fiscals dropped the Christian social bullshit, I said, real conservatism would benefit from the influx of conservative atheists who avoid the movement due to the theocratic aspects.
I said that all of the social conservative agenda was religious in nature, to which the reporter eagerly countered that there was a secular argument for abortion. He clearly knew he was right, and so did I – there is a secular argument (one with which I firmly disagree) whose existence I cannot deny.
Rather than take the road to discussing abortion, I acquiesced to his correct counterpoint, returned to my point, and said that school prayer, LGBT equality, and Death with dignity were better examples of purely Christian positions (“it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage”), and we went on with the discussion on why American Atheists was there.
There’s my scandal. The rest of what you may have read is reckless “positing” by people who didn’t do what you did – ask me. Thank you for being responsible.
So there it is, Silverman says that even though he disagrees with secular anti-choice arguments, he couldn’t deny that they exist. As many of you already know there are secular arguments against gay marriage and euthanasia that are just as bad as the ones against a woman’s right to choose. You really don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface of all of these supposedly secular arguments to smell the stink of repressive Christian culture.
In fact, I just did a presentation in February for the Secular Humanists of Southern California on how thinly veiled secular anti-choice arguments are. I don’t want to belabor the point but here is a photo from Secular Pro-life‘s website to just show you how they basically just spin religious arguments into secular ones.
I have seen this group tabling at atheist conventions. If the Discovery Institute were to table at an atheist convention with their supposedly secular arguments like aliens seeded life on this planet; it would be a sideshow. Yet secular arguments against a woman’s right to choose are not self evident to some of us that they don’t have some sort of merit. We scoff at canards like “Teach both sides of the controversy” and try to be more than fair to religious based arguments like the one in that poster.
I first became aware of Secular Pro-Life through the work of Godless Bitches Beth Presswood and her husband Matt Dillahunty. Matt debated one of their members at a Texas Freethought Convention.
In the debate, she had the audience sit through a graphic video of abortions.. Nobody in our community puts reproductive rights on the secular agenda more than Matt and Beth do.
And even though Silverman didn’t intend to be dismissive to all of us, who are fighting the Religious Right’s relentless efforts to deny access of a safe and legal abortion. Groups like Secular Pro-Life, that openly cooperate with and have members from the Religious Right, can rightly claim that he said there is a secular argument for their cause. One already has. (As Jason Thibeault predicted, so it has come to pass) I appreciate his clarification that they are bad arguments, but secular pro-choicers can’t catch a break especially here in the South. We need help and are just as under fire as science advocates are from creationists down here.
This is what really matters. It is now virtually impossible for rural Texans to get a safe and legal abortion here, because religious crackpots like Rick Perry run the government and have passed unnecessarily draconian restrictions on abortion clinics that only 6 clinics in Texas are currently up to speed on. Two more clinics have shut down just last week. How is passing more restrictions on clinics and on women’s reproductive choices fiscally conservative? Legislating the hell out of women’s uteruses and fighting tooth and nail regulations on guns and other businesses doesn’t make sense.
Most importantly, where are rural Texas women going to go when they have a crisis pregnancy when the nearest clinic is 6 hours way. And there will be more of those because Planned Parenthood clinics that provide access to contraception have been shut down by the Texas government too.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where Planned Parenthood was stigmatized. As a young woman, who didn’t yet have the resource to raise a child, I avoided the Planned Parenthood clinic that was in walking distance from my apartment. I didn’t even own a car and walked or took the city bus everywhere. I still had more privileges than millions of rural women have right now.
I wound up raising a child as a single parent because poor women often have relationships with poor men and the economic stresses that go along with that. Most of the girls in my youth group had unplanned pregnancies due to the stigma of seeking contraception and impractical Christian advice about staying a virgin until you are married. In every state that advocates abstinence only sex education even though it is in a secular manner, the teen pregnancy rate is the highest. The funny thing is that advice is do as I say not as I do because 85 percent of evangelicals have sex before they are married. Our culture still has Christian hang ups about sex, and they are largely unnecessary due to low cost contraception, which would reduce the number of abortions.
Maybe reproductive rights is not a battle that American Atheists has the resources to fight like school prayer and the cross at the Ground Zero museum. However, religious-based regressive social policies including anti-choice are hurting millions of families nonetheless. And I think it has already been shown that if you advocate for women that more women will join your community. That is more volunteers and donors to help fight religious policies that restrict the freedom of women to choose what is best for their families not the government. Most certainly not pro-life groups of any stripe that don’t have to live with the consequences of another woman’s unplanned pregnancy. My hope is that Silverman will use the opportunity this has created to show strong support for reproductive rights and to denounce religious regressive policies.
[notice] If anyone reading this would like to help maintain access to a safe and legal abortion, especially for low income women please support The Lilith Fund and Planned Parenthood. I also will be talking about secular arguments for abortion to do my part on making pro-choice a more self evident secular position on The Magic Sandwich Show on March 23. I may see if I can enlist a fire breathing pro-choice friend too.[/notice]
I have been pleasantly surprised that the youtube comments on my speech on The Heart of Humanism at The Southern California Secular Humanism Conference are mainly addressing the topic.
Especially because I addressed how secularists need to examine where their beliefs about love in particular may be influenced by Christian culture such as ideas about purity. I used a rather pointed example by looking at the Secular Pro-Life Movement. Their stance is not categorically different from Cathy Ruse of The Family Research Council’s advice on making secular anti-choice arguments. Ruse’s Christian influence is clearly seen in her advocacy for state’s rights on marriage equality as discussed in my speech and her advocacy against buying Girl Scout cookies on the basis of their support of Planned Parenthood. Cuz unplanned parenthood is so much better, right?
One commenter though accepted the challenge to produce a secular anti-choice argument.
My concern isn’t from a Christian purity standpoint, it’s an issue of the meaning of human rights. We used to believe that people of different skin colors didn’t deserve legal protection because the ‘rights’ of rich white people were more important. I worry that abortion is not dissimilar.
So Ken Ham won’t debate Aron Ra and PZ Myers because… reasons!
He complained that the debate invitation was rude, but look how rude he was to Bill Nye…
“Bill Nye still doesn’t understand the difference between historical science and observational science — so he may be known as ‘Bill Nye the science guy’ — but he doesn’t understand science correctly,” Ken Ham wrote on Facebook. “[Bill Maher and Nye] don’t want the truth — they continue to ‘suppress the truth’ as the Bible states in Romans 1 about such people in rebellion against God.”
And incidentally he was rude to me too. But he will debate Bill Nye on his own turf the Creation Museum. What is Bill Nye thinking? Ham will have his own built in cheering section gasping at totally plausible stuff that Nye says about evolution and applauding dubious crap like this…
Ham added, “I hope to show Mr. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution.”
How does he still say this stuff with a straight face given the amount of evidence for evolution people keep showing him? For the people, who already want to believe in the Genesis account, his pseudoscience will sound totally plausible given that they can’t discern pseudoscience from real science.
So that is Ham’s game plan.
Give Nye some credit though, at least he agreed to a debate topic that is narrow and focused enough, so that Ham doesn’t spend the whole time riffing on how nasty atheists like Hitler are, or other emotional appeals that aren’t evidenced. That is a common creationist debate diversionary tactic if you watched the Dembski/Hitchens debate, Dembski dropped the whole Intelligent Design facade and basically talked about evangelizing Jesus and how good it made him feel. The debate question is focused on science so it should be child’s play for Nye…
“Is creation a viable model of origins?”
I know a lot of people are thinking that why should Nye give Ham this honor? Especially because of galling stuff that Ham will do with the publicity like this…
… Dr. [Georgia] Purdom stated to the Christian Post, [an evolution-creation debate] “could be held at a public university, using an impartial moderator. I would think that someone as polished and charismatic as Mr. Nye would relish the opportunity to debate a creationist. In addition, since Nye will soon be hosting a new science program, I would think he would like to see the publicity generated by his participation in a major public debate.”
So he projects his reasoning for seeking publicity for his new “science” program. Reprehensible! You know already he will be lying to children and adults, and undermining science education based on what he does at the Creation Museum.
[notice]And Ham is already dragging on Nye’s lab coat-tails. This is a quote from a site aimed at young Christians called “Relevant”(I know) titled “Bill Nye VS. Ken Ham: Welcome to the Thunderdome”…
“It’ll be a battle for the ages, as the two noted brainiacs take on the question: “Is Creation a viable model of origins?”.
Do they have a snort out loud emoticon? [/notice]
Personally, I gotta see if me and Aron can make this debate out of mostly morbid curiosity. Also, someone has to cheer for Nye, right?
While there may be places on Earth that equal the darkness of Mordor of Middle Earth in terms of the very real evil of ignorance more than Texas this year; that won’t be from a lack of effort on the part of the Texas Legislature. Secularists here are already beleaguered trying to stamp out the encroachments on the separation of church and state and the religious-based war on women and science.
The amount of ignorance that sees the light of day all over the country’s state legislatures is a bit daunting. The real trolls are becoming quite bold. They have been sighted organizing even in overwhelmingly progressive states like Oregon.
New Mexico: House Bill 206 was introduced by Republican lawmaker Cathrynn Brown. The bill would make rape victims and the doctors, who help them obtain an abortion, felons for tampering with evidence.
Arizona: Rebecca Watson notes that Arizona Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, Jeff Dial, David Livingston, Chester Crandell, and Steve Smith were each a bit hasty in including the phrase “So help me God” in a mandatory oath recited by graduating high school students. I disagree a bit with Watson over whether the bill as is can be characterized as simply stupid. As a teacher, I have seen these types of pledges turn into litmus tests to ferret out non-christians Rep Thorpe will be giving it a second look for revisions perhaps at the suggestion of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
The last bit of news from Arizona is a bit encouraging that shining the light of reason on figurative trolls like the Arizona Tea Party reps will stop them dead in their tracks.
On that note, I have a bit of encouragement for those of you who posted your opposition to the “Merry Christmas” bill on Texas Senator Dwayne Bohac Facebook page. The bill would allow religious symbols such as mangers scenes and menorahs to be displayed in public schools by religious minded school authorities. Before some of you posted on his wall in defense of the minority religious views that would be crowded out by the Christian majority in this state; Bohac was getting unopposed comments like these…
Thank you for standing up for our freedom and our children’s rights to talk about Jesus publicly. If more politicians would stand for what is right the way you have, our country would not be in a mess the way that it is right now. Thank you for your heart for God and for this country
Now that excellent comments like this one are also posted…
Fiona Albini Jallings I feel sorry for my relatives and friends in Texas. We’re not Christians, and it sounds like you’ll be forcing them to participate in religious events that aren’t part of their own tradition or religion. It doesn’t matter if you have the majority, you’ll still be trampling on others’ right to free expression of religion by forcing them to express yours. Please rethink this bill.
This bill all of a sudden may not sound as much like a great idea as previously thought by this representative. In fact, it may not make it out of committee to see daylight on the house floor. However, in a more sobering bit of news there are two initiatives founded in religious ignorance that have stronger support that have already been taking a grievous toll on public education and women’s health and reproductive rights.
In order to do these two important pieces of legislation justice, I have decided to put them in a second post. Also, if you have been wondering about my metaphorical references to The Hobbit, if you indulge me a bit further I will wrap that up in the conclusion of Part II.
In the meantime I appreciate your comments on Part I, and if you are so inclined you can follow me on Twitter. Perhaps, it will improve my writing’s succinctness to work within a word limit.
The Girl Shot by the Taliban, Becomes a Global Icon
Not what the Taliban had in mind.
The unfolding story of Malala Yousafzai comes with an inspirational quote:
“If Pakistan has a future, it is embodied in Malala Yousafzai,” the editorial reads. “Malala has shown more courage in facing down the Taliban than Pakistan’s government and its military leaders …. The murderous violence against one girl was committed against the whole Pakistani society. The Taliban cannot be allowed to win this vicious campaign against girls, learning and tolerance. Otherwise, there is no future for that nation.”
And this quote:
“the global struggle for gender equality is the paramount moral struggle of this century, equivalent to the campaigns against slavery in the 19th century and against totalitarianism in the 20th century.”
You’d think religious extremists would understand martyrdom. :-/
I love this girl. How could you not? And her story evoked my favorite quote from any media source this whole year:
Religious extremists all make the same mistake. They all fail to understand that all of the foundational holy books of major religions -all of them- have really really crazy dangerous stuff in them; stuff that was written by men, men who were not just fallible, but men who were wrong.
There is also this gem:
There is not one follower of the holy Bible left on Earth who believes there should be a death penalty for not observing the sabbath.