Somebody explain Colorado to me

I’ve visited Boulder, Colorado a few times—it’s a wonderful place, and at least so far it’s got Gary—but usually when I hear about the state it’s all about lunatics like Dobson and Coors and about megachurches and our air war for Jesus, and now…some overendowed Christian charity based in Colorado plunks ONE MILLION DOLLARS into Ken Ham’s collection plate, donating all that money to his fake museum.

One million dollars to fund disinformation and fraud, and this from a charitable institution that claims their “vision is to glorify Jesus Christ by inspiring and enabling personal commitment of time, talent, and treasure to the expansion of the Kingdom of God.” Glorious lies, inspiring fraud, well-funded delusions…that’s the gift this Christianity brings to us.


  1. says

    PLEASE! Don’t confuse Colorado Springs with Colorado. The nicest thing I can say about Colo Springs is at least we know where all our demented fuckwits are.

  2. Stephen says

    I went to college in Boulder. That is one helluva place. Ex-hippies, health nuts and scientists living side-by-side. Unfortunately, it’s surrounded by the rest of Colorado (not to say the state isn’t beautiful, but it’s the people). Fundies own Colorado Springs, and the Air Force Academy just north. There’s a small enclave of wiccans nearby in Manitou Springs, which really gets their goat! But the Front Range has grown very recently, when master-planned developments and shopping malls were already an established necessity. The homogenaity of the neighborhoods, the strip malls, etc. drive people to the homogenaity of the mega-church. Weeping Willow Lane intersects with Weeping Willow Road and Weeping Willow Court, and South Denver becomes mind-numbing. This contributes to the alienation and insecurities of students who then become violent…
    I wish I were a better writer. The people I met and the things that I witnessed coming out of those Dobson areas of town would boggle the mind.

    But Boulder’s awesome.

  3. Kyle says

    I actually went to school in Colorado Springs for a while, and it’s not as bad as you might think. It’s a fairly large city (population ~370k), and so there’s a lot of room for wackos and rational people both.

    But yeah, it seems to be where the wackos in Colorado congregate.

  4. says

    I was raised by liberal parents in Colorado Springs. Honestly, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I have no idea why my parents are still there. I have always lived in “red states” but I have never been anywhere besides Colorado Springs and see the anger in people when they discover that I did not go to church. My mother used to have a pro-choice bumpersticker, but eventually got tired of all the key-scratching and spraypaint on her car.

    I found Colorado Springs to be a pretty hateful place and it is honestly difficult for me to go back to visit my parents. However, that being said, there are many wonderful, beautiful and welcoming places in Colorado. I hope that you do not judge the entire state because of one city.

  5. makhita says

    Actually, “Colorado” makes me think of David Grinspoon, and then I tend to think that people around there must be smart, science-oriented and atheist. Don’t you burst my bubble PZ!!

  6. Scott Hatfield says


    At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, this relates very much to a recent post of yours that urged caution against any sense of triumphalism over the various setbacks DI has experienced in the last year.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I think the DI is on the decline. This kind of a donation (a large chunk of change, no strings attached) was just the kind of thing that DI was getting monthly in its heyday when all of its ‘Fellows’ were receiving large stipends. They can expect much of that support to dry up since they’ve had so many public defeats.

    My opinion is that the money which they used to receive from the Religious Right is going start flowing directly to creationist outfits, and to YEC like Ken Ham especially, since the latter were never all that confortable with the ‘big tent’. That single gift is nearly the entire annual operating budget of NCSE!

    Now, I’m in the pews myself. That’s where the battle is going to be fought in the next ten years. To paraphrase the Nazarene, ‘what profit is there in saving government through the courts if the governed should lose their minds?’ How is the battle going to be fought without an investment of resources? Can the scientific establishment engage the churches, and if so, how?


  7. Ian H Spedding says

    Hmmm, as I understand it, Stargate Command is located in Cheyenne Mountain which is near Colorado Springs. Any of these fundies have glowing eyes and voices with extra bass and reverb?

  8. says

    That single gift is nearly the entire annual operating budget of NCSE!

    What??? A million bucks is about three years of operation for NCSE! When you add up all the millions the creationism advocacy groups like the DI, AiG, ICR and the rest of them rake in (not to mention Ken Ham’s cool 200K a year salary), you realize just what NCSE is up against.

  9. says

    I still live in the general area (in a town just north of Colorado Springs, anyway), and you have my horrified apologies.

    If it’s any consolation, I’ve finally begun to find a rather vibrant liberal community here, and unlike Boulder, it doesn’t rely quite so much on New Age wackiness.

  10. Molly, NYC says

    When you add up all the millions the creationism advocacy groups like the DI, AiG, ICR and the rest of them rake in (not to mention Ken Ham’s cool 200K a year salary), you realize just what NCSE is up against.

    Yet the NCSE still kicks their asses.

    This is because (a) they aren’t burdened by having to prove utter crap is true–which is a lot more trouble and expense than trying to prove true stuff is true; and (b) they’re an actual educational organization and not a scam to siphon money from the wallets of the gullible–which, again, lends itself to a leaner budget.

  11. Hyperion says

    My first thought upon reading of that gift was:

    “Wow, one million dollars could have funded a lot of soup kitchens.”

    I could’ve sworn I read something about feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and healing the sick in the Bible somewhere. Don’t recall reading anything about spending vast amounts of money building large towers as monuments to….oh wait, here it is….oh wow. No wonder all Ken Ham does is babble.

  12. says

    Colorado? It always brings to mind Alferd Packer. No, I spelled it correctly.

    Dobson and the rest of the Colorado Springs crazies are Packer’s direct descendants, philosophically, if not literally. But maybe literally, too.

  13. enki23 says

    And, likely, more than offset by secular tax dollars funneled through “faith based” federal grants by their their fellow nutjobs currently charge of the federal government.

  14. Jim Lund says

    Colorado is like California–a state with a huge immigrant influx from other states. It’s just that Colorado got the religious nutters.

  15. says

    Can the scientific establishment engage the churches, and if so, how?

    You raise a most interesting question, and I certainly don’t claim to know the answer. Medicine–which of course draws on science, but not exclusively on it–has had some success in tailoring cervical and breast cancer screening outreach efforts to the religious community. As someone who doesn’t really get faith, I have to say that findings such as:

    Key findings included (a) the acceptability of receiving cancer education within the context of a faith community, (b) the importance of pastoral input, (c) the effectiveness of personal testimonies and lay health advocates, (d) the saliency of biblical scripture in reinforcing health messages, (e) the effectiveness of multimodal learning aids, and (f) the relationship between cervical cancer and social stigma.[1]

    don’t actually resonate all that much with me. But–if borne out–outcomes such as “a 79% improvement in the number of women who mastered the didactic information”[2] and “[a 72%] study participation rate”[2] are positive ones, and to be encouraged if they actually work.

    To bring it back to your question, I honestly don’t know whether something so much more theoretical and less clinical as basic science is could succeed with a similar approach. Perhaps holding teaching clinics in science in churches in order to help the congregation’s kids have more success in school might be an analogy. It would be an interesting question to investigate, at any rate.

    [1] Matthews AK, Berrios N, Darnell JS, Calhoun E. A Qualitative Evaluation of a Faith-Based Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Intervention for African American Women.
    Health Educ Behav. 2006 Jul 21; [Epub ahead of print]

    [2] Hurd TC, Muti P, Erwin DO, Womack S. An evaluation of the integration of non-traditional learning tools into a community based breast and cervical cancer education program: the Witness Project of Buffalo. BMC Cancer. 2003 May 29;3:18.

  16. dichosa says

    I too have lived in COS. It was in fact the many hateful and judgemental xtians there that led me to finally spend the time and resolve whether I was really and agnostic as I’d been claiming since I was 17 or an atheist. So I owe the xtians of COS some thanks for pushing me to the much greater sense of peace and happiness that I’ve found in understanding myself better as an atheist.
    COS has been largely conservative since they begin importing military installations and jobs at the time of WWII. It has a nice highly regarded liberal, liberal art college downtown and the usual state university with a good selection of liberals in the city, but it is a city divided and made much less pleasent to live in by the polorization brought about the xtian right.
    It really began with the El Pomar foundation, which was founded by Spencer Penrose . El Pomar is a very wealthy foundation dedicated to the good of Colorado and Colorado Springs in particular. A few more comments can be found here
    Penrose’s partner Tutt (deceased) and the later family run El Pomar to this day. The Tutt family have become more and more right-wing xtain over the past 80 years. As such they decided to give James Dobson and his sect $4 million to re-locate to COS. Ostensibly to bring jobs and building, etc. COS has never been the same town. The charlatans continue to move in, build their mega-churches, wield their influence and generally make life in COS less pleasant for non-sect members. And that explains in large part why COS is the place it is today and why liberal Denver (Colorado went for Kerry in 04) gets branded with the kooks.
    In reference to my earlier Mormon posts, if you think it would be hard to live in Mormon Utah, you should try living in COS with the KKK (Kolorado Kristian Kooks).

  17. says

    I agree with Scott here, it seems that we’re going to have some more of that good ol’ time creationism back again. An easier foe, because they actually make baseless positive claims, instead of empty negative claims.

  18. George Cauldron says

    (Looks impatiently at watch, waiting for Jason to stomp in and start saying stupid things…)

    “And that explains in large part why COS is the place it is today and why liberal Denver (Colorado went for Kerry in 04)”

    You mean DENVER went for Kerry in ’04? Colorado went for Bush both in ’00 & ’04, tho admittedly not by too much.

    “Colorado is like California–a state with a huge immigrant influx from other states. It’s just that Colorado got the religious nutters.’

    CA’s immigrant influx from other states is from all over, but it also gets huge nos. from Latin America and Asia. My sister-in-law in CO claims it used to be a blue state until it got hit with a huge influx of Texans in the 80’s and 90’s. Now it’s red, tho not by a huge margin, in almost every statewide or national election. Whether this is an oversimplification I couldn’t say.

  19. BlueIndependent says

    C.Springs raises itself up as the anti-Boulder. I’ve heard people from there call Boulder the “Peoples’ Republic of Boulder”, as a slight against that quite liberal city. Anymore I can only think that these conservative malcontents are just pissed other places are probably better places to live. They obviously seem to have a problem with democracy, and not letting others live as they choose.

    As a state, I heard Colorado swung blue rather recently because its state house was filled with reddies, and they enacted a plan (some tax/budgetary thing with an acronym I’m forgetting) that cost the state money and did essentially nothing. The voters kicked them out and replaced them with Democrats.

  20. Fedaykin says

    PZ, I’m a Colorado native. Colorado is a fairly polarized state, with a population split between a few major urban centers and rural populations which house the expectes ultra conservatives. Colorado Springs is the only major urban center that is full of fuckwit fundies and I think thats in large part due to the Air Force Academy. Denver (and its suburban surroundings), Boulder, Greely, Fort Collins, and Grand Junction are all pretty well balanced places, with Boulder and Fort Collins having large liberal swing (mostly because those two cities house the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, which means large portions of the populations are young and usually liberal. Native Coloradoans are familiar with the phrases “Boulder Free State” and “The Republic of Boulder”.

    Also, if you travel along I-70 through the mountains you will find a swath of small mountain towns (Vail, Copper Mountain, Glenwood Springs, etc.) that are also well balanced bordering on liberally leaning because they rely nearly 100% on tourism (skiing, jeeping, etc.) to sustain themselves.

  21. Scott Hatfield says

    Inoculated Mind:

    I agree that within academia and the courts empty negative claims are more difficult to attack than baseless positive claims. But that is no reason for confidence or congratulations, because my concern is not what arguments are made, but where they are made and where the money and energy will go to promote them.

    The Dover version of ID may be DOA in the courts, but other versions of creationism (including ID-type arguments) are alive and well in the pews, and as a believer my sense is that the monies that used to go to the DI will now be plowed back into the churches, such that if left unchecked the percentage of the population that accepts creationism uncritically will increase and both the churches (and this country) will become increasingly polarized.

    That’s my concern. It is not enough to win in the courts because, as PZ rightly says, you only have to lose big once. The battle for quality science education is now being fought elsewhere. Can we, as scientists and educators, press our advantage and engage the public or will we sit back and wait for the next generation of scoundrels to manifest themselves?

    In other words, I think the best defense is a good offense.


  22. the pro from dover says

    Alferd (alfred ) Packer was illiterate and spelled his name interchangeably. He ate all the democrats in Hinsdale county and it’s been downhill ever since. You can divide Colorado into a few sections. Conservative (protestant fundamentalist) Colorado is headed by James Dobson, headquartered in Colorado Springs and consists of the bulk of the state area-wise. Liberal Colorado has no single figure head but Pat Schroeder and Dick Lamm still loom large. Denver (but not the suburbs), Boulder, to some degree Ft. Collins, and some of the resort areas (Summit Pitkin and Eagle counties) have liberal leanings. Mormon Colorado would seem to be aligned with conservative colorado but in fact the
    church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints is considered to be a false religion by protestant fundamentalists. This is located in Grand county (Grand Junction) and nearby farming ranching and interstingly enough wine growing areas. So far Colorado has shown little interest in getting involved in Intelligent Design controversy at the school board level probably because James Dobsonfly’s focus on the hellgrammite organization exists currently to focus on domestic partnership legislation (to get a ballot issue to prevent it). The intense “redness” of the state is fading and a megachurch fully supporting a liberal outlook to social issues as well as the full teaching of evolution and no ID has sprung up in Douglas county (motto: “more crimson than Bear Bryant, George Wallace and Lynyrd Skynyrd combined”). This is St. Andrew UMC. Even you PZ are welcome there. Colorado is easy to explain. The answer is “it’s a privilege to live in Colorado.”

  23. says

    The Coors info is out-of-date. As it mentions, Joe Coors is dead. Pete Coors, who runs the company these days, is a Republican, and something of a conservative Republican, but not a wacko. This is why he was opposed by the real conservative Republicans here for the U.S. Senate nomination when he ran in the last campaign, and a good part of why he lost to Democrat Ken Salazar: because the conservatives wouldn’t come out in major numbers to support him, since he supports gay rights, had had Mary Cheney work for years as a representative to the gay community, donated to gay organizations, and so on.

    He’s not a guy I’d ever vote for, but he’s nothing like Joe Coors or Adolph Coors, and it’s not fair to treat the company as if it were still in the bad old days of the Eighties. (It’s still crappy beer, though.)

    Dobson is still as big an asshole as ever, of course. Colorado Springs is the HQ for most of those fundamentalist organizations (although they have a significant number of liberals there, too). Boulder, on the other hand hand, is the opposite, and is famed throughout the state as the People’s Republic of Boulder, home of the main campus of the University of Colorado, and the state’s equivalent of Berkely. (On the down side, it’s got a lot of New Age stuff, from book stores filled with crystals and the like, to Naropa University, which is one big Newage campus, which I’m pretty much surrounded by; the number of people into “spirituality” and whatnot gets rather tiresome.)

    On the plus side, I’d be going on for a very long time if I started listing all the scientific institutes and agencies headquartered here. A very long time.

    Someone above mentions Packer. The cafeteria in the student union is named after him. :-)

  24. quork says

    Somebody explain Colorado to me

    Think of it this way: the Mormons passed on Colorado, and after leaving it behind, the Great Salt Lake valley apeared in comparison to be a land of milk and honey.

  25. says

    I live near Boulder and it’s a very different place. Besides being the Land O’ Hotties (man, everyone’s MOM there is hot even!), it’s politically disparate from the rest of the state it seems. Hell, I’ve seen bumper stickers that say “Don’t Boulderize Longmont!” (Longmont is about 15 minutes East of Boulder and has a population of 80,000.)

    It drives me nuts listening to some of the political talk shows because they pull crap like, “Why are we even talking about gay rights? We have MORE IMPORTANT things to worry about! How about those farmers?!” Right. Like I can’t give a fuck about ALL THE PEOPLE, just the ones I agree with, huh?

  26. j says

    I drove through Colorado today. It was my first time in Colorado. Yesterday I drove through Kansas. It was my first time in Kansas. And I will never be the same.

    Signs I saw on the highway:
    “It’s not a choice; it’s a child.”
    “Jesus, we trust in you.”
    “Adoption, not abortion.”

  27. Gray Lensman says

    We’ve lived in Denver since ’85 (from Texas). It’s a fine town, mostly liberal and not anything like Colorado Springs. Lots of young people, with good educations and jobs. Living expenses, like housing, are expensive. Texans have sticker shock when they try to buy a house.

    Colorado has a Democratic legislature and it’s getting more progressive all the time. The Repubs are clowns and everyone is beginning to realize it.

    Don’t tell anyone, but we have the best weather of all. It’s the Disneyland of weather: even when it’s “bad” it’s fun. Come ski!

  28. CL says

    Nobel laureate Carl Wieman is leaving CU for the University of British Columbia and taking a pay cut to do so. That says just about all I need to know about Colorado.

  29. says

    I’ll reiterate, with my own spin, the “divides” in Colorado.

    You have Denver metro area — the population center, fairly mixed, with more liberal middle and more conservative suburbs (Tom Tancredo is my Representative – ’nuff said). The majority in the state, esp. in the metro area, are immigrants from other places — most famously California (see folks protesting the “Californication of Colorado”), but actually more from Texas.

    The further south you get along the Front Range, the more conservative, until you get the Springs, where a combination of old-time conservative military types was infiltrated by organized conservative religious types (I remember when Focus on the Family was California-based), until it’s become the … unique area it is today. Alas.

    To the northwest of Denver is Boulder — a typical college town with a well-deserved liberal reputation — though it’s a moneyed and autogratic liberalism, one willing to both treat pet owners as “pet guardians” and artificially block any sort of affordable housing, until a goodly percentage of those who work in Boulder have to commute in from the hinterlands.

    As someone noted, you also have the tourist areas, ski resorts and the like. More liberal in many ways because that’s what attracts visitors (and because much of the ownership is from out-of-state, along with the “ski bums” and the like), but, again, much of it’s a monied liberalism to a large degree. Most of the folks who live in Aspen would be appalled at creationism being taught in the local schools, but wouldn’t worry much about what the kids of the day labor are being taught off in their little towns.

    The rest of the state is Small Town America, farmland or mountain communities. It’s conservative, though more in the older sense, a “leave me alone / don’t tread on me” kind of conservatism. It’s been politically coopted to some degree by the Religious Right, but only to the degree that it reacts against the “leftist” agenda more than the “rightist” agenda.

    The result of all of this is a state with a mixed political heritage. It’s been in play for presidential campaigns. It has a Democratic state legislature and a relitively moderate Republican governor. There’s lots of incendiary rhetoric, and populist politics can get kind of nasty (the big issues coming up this fall are ballot propositions on gay marriage nad civil unions), and the voices from the Springs can get particularly shrill — but neither the Springs nor Boulder speak for the state (thank God).

  30. RedMolly says

    Western Colorado is just like Colorado Springs, only with more oil/gas rigs.

    I’m currently writing a murder mystery set in a smallish, freakishly conservative Colorado town. The victim? A TV preacher and professional hatemonger, who’s gunned down while protesting outside a hospice where a liberal (UU) minister is performing a commitment ceremony for a Gulf War veteran and his partner who’s dying of AIDS.

    But I’m going to be sure and stick the intellectual morass that is Creationism in there somewhere too.

    (I hate this town, I hate this state…)

  31. says

    So, like PA and many other states, CO sounds very purple …

    Of course, the choice is a ridiculous false dicotomy in the total space of political options, but each year it seems the US political elite gets further and further right and narrower and narrower. (In spite of the much further left position of a majority of the population on many issues.)

  32. Steve_C says

    Guess where my mom moved to from New Hampshire.

    I hope the fundies don’t get to her. She was only ever mildly religious.

  33. Patrick says

    I’m a Colorado native, lived here all my life and can’t really imagine living any where else. I’ve been to all the lower 48 states and always love coming home.

    I think the state is fairly split between liberals and conservatives. I think you’d have to call it an independant state, but currently we lean to the right.

    As everyone has mentioned, we have the bastion of fucktardary in Colorado Springs with a very vocal population of morons headed up by Dobson and friends. Boulder tends to be liberal due to the college. Denver is a mismash, and the suburbs are as well. My district is currently held by Democrat, though just south of me is headed up by good ole boy Tom Tancredo(who’s a total idiot and runs on immigration and immigration only) though hopefully that will change in November. Our Senate seats are split, Allard is a republican and Salazar (who beat Coors in the last election) is a democrat. Our current govenor is a republican. The two state legislative branches are currently controlled by democrats.

    As someone else mentioned, the state did see a large influx of texans in the 80’s and 90’s and they brought their politics with them. Our current govenor is from Texas.

    Another thing we see here, I think, is that the religous right is very good at turning out the vote. You get what really is a minority calling the shots. The youth in this state dont turn out for shit when it’s time to vote. A lot of the ones that do are in the colleges and probably vote in their home elections, not Colorado.

    Dont let this one incident skew your view of Colorado. It’s a great state, and a nice place to live. We certainly have our share of idiots like any state (though not as much, as say, Kansas)but we keep them in check.

  34. Rey Fox says

    “Don’t Boulderize Longmont!”

    So in other words, don’t add art, culture, higher learning, bike paths, and such? I can see how those things are anathema to conservatives.

    (Never been to Boulder or Longmont or even any of Colorado, but am struck by how most of the pretty, highly-rated-by-magazine places to live tend to lean leftwards)

  35. says

    As for the bitching about “don’t boulderize Longmont”
    It most certainly is NOT about art culture or bike lanes in particular (Longmont has been voted one of the countries BEST communities for bicycling”
    But more about shopping malls and high end expensive shit like that which abounds in Boulder while Longmont stays hometownish while still being cool and artsy. My wife has a shirt she made that says “I love Longmont just the way it is” which pretty much sums up the way most people here feel. Sure there are a few rednecks about but even Cali has those (I know because I have lived in both) and they aren’t really all that bad. Hopefully we can keep all the Texas-style rednecks out and Longmont/Boulder/Denver will stay great