A GOOD Republican

So I was way too depressing in that last post. Here’s one of those little notes of hope that we hear too rarely—an Ohio Republican using her reason to back the best candidate for a job, even if he is a Democrat.

Republican Martha Wise is backing Democrat John Bender in the race to replace her on the state school board.

Wise, who is running against Democrat Sue Morano for the state senate, said Bender is the only one of the four candidates in the school board race who agrees with her on keeping intelligent design out of science classrooms.

“I’ve spent five years of my life keeping intelligent design, or what you might call teaching religion, out of science classes,” she said. “He’s the only one who agrees with me.”

You know, if the Republicans were stocked with Martha Wises and the Democrats were a mob of Deepak Chopras, I’d be proudly calling myself a Republican. Now if only we could get both parties to nominate intelligent people, I’d be overjoyed to have to make a difficult decision at every election.

I have to wonder about this other candidate, though.

Roland Hansen, another candidate in the race, said he wasn’t surprised by Wise’s decision to endorse Bender, but didn’t think Wise should be basing her decision solely on his beliefs about intelligent design.

“It’s a terrible reason to endorse someone on one issue,” he said.

I think it’s an excellent reason. If someone were a paragon of experience and rationality on all the economic and political issues, but was utterly convinced that the Venusian mind-control rays were the paramount crisis of our times, wouldn’t that be reason enough to think that just maybe he’d be a poor choice for political office? It’s the same here: when someone is running for school board, they darn well ought to be competent on educational issues, including science, or they should be rejected.

Cynicism in the face of Idiot America

I have to disagree with Red State Rabble and his announcement of the demise of Intelligent Design. We’re seeing signs of a shifting of strategies, the fading of a few personalities, and a little confusion on the part of our enemies, but it is a colossal mistake to be predicting their end at this time. Intelligent Design was nothing but the mask worn by one of the blank faces of ignorant creationism, and all we’ve accomplished with victories like the Dover trial is to take a slap at the façade. We’ve made them briefly recoil, and at best what we can expect is a brief respite while they try to change slogans. Nothing has happened to weaken the foundations of creationism.

I guarantee you that there have been meetings at the Discovery Institute where they try to strategize and rethink how to apply their resources and work their way around the temporary setback of the Dover decision. If nothing else, they’ll evaporate away, and the same people will re-emerge in a ‘new’ and ‘different’ think-tank, shedding bad baggage and expressing a new version of the same old story. Is there one person who changed their mind about Intelligent Design because of a court case? Take a look at the ID blogs, and you don’t find the proponents shrugging their shoulders and saying, “well, I guess we were wrong after all”…they’re going to try re-branding and re-tooling and they’re going to be peddling the same old piss in new bottles.

The supporting base is untouched. Megachurches are growing—and they aren’t preaching skepticism and the appropriate evaluation of the evidence. Talk to your average small-town good old boy, and they won’t have even heard of Dover or Behe or Dawkins or Johnson or Miller…but they sure as hell know they didn’t come from no monkey. There has been no dramatic change in our schools, so that they are now proudly teaching solid, uncensored biology; teachers still know that if they mention the scary “e” word, there will be parents who come down hard on them, and administrators know that if they don’t kowtow to the fundies, they’ll yank their kids out of school and hurt their funding base.

I see little, hopeful touches now and then. But no one takes on the root of the problem.

Read Tristero and wake up to what we face.

The megachurches thus become part church, part shopping mall and part country club. One in Tacoma, Washington, even has its own Starbucks. Brentwood Baptist Church in Houston has a McDonald’s on its 111 acres. The Prestonwood Baptist Church, near Dallas, boasts 15 baseball fields, a Fifties-style diner and a food court. New Birth Baptist Church, also in Texas, offers web links to “antiques”, “dining” and “health and fitness”.

In addition to the megachurches, there are 31 “gigachurches” in the US, which are defined as those that at least 10,000 people attend every Sunday; 73 per cent of all these are in Bush-Cheney territory in the South or West. Some offer bookstores and health clubs on their premises. The Lakewood Church, yet another in Houston, describes itself as a “non-denominational charismatic church” and has a congregation of 25,000 every Sunday. It says it will soon have more than 30,000 people attending the remodelled, $73m former “Compaq Centre” that was previously home to the Houston Rockets, a basketball team.

What the opposition has been doing is building institutions. They’ve been consolidating huge pieces of the social structure and making them their own. Imagine living in a town where, if you want to buy a cup of coffee or get a hamburger, you have to go to a church. We’re becoming Walmartized and Christianified—you are a commodity to destructive, stupefying, self-sustaining cultural monopoly. You want to oppose that by crying to the courts? Go ahead. A little defiance from on high just mobilizes and infuriates them. You aren’t touching them where it hurts, at the community and belief level. You aren’t building your own institutions to oppose them.

Red State Rabble is right, that some of the trappings of the Intelligent Design excrescence are showing signs of going off the rails…but Uncommon Descent and Intelligent Design News and Views and the Discovery Institute (and Pharyngula and The Panda’s Thumb, for that matter) are irrelevant, superficial phenomena. What counts is that millions of people sit quietly watching the stupidity grow, and millions more actively contribute to it.

I haven’t seen any reliable sign that the idiotification of America is receding, or even slowing down. I do see signs that some of us are trying to reassure ourselves that the worst has passed, and I think that’s a dangerous delusion.

Vote for Retrospectacle

Wow. Our very own Shelly Batts is a finalist in competition for a blog scholarship. Help out a promising young neuroscientist and Vote Shelly!

It is also an interesting turn to make blog popularity, as measured by a poll, the deciding factor in awarding a fairly substantial sum of money. I hope they’ve made the voting fairly secure.

Dang, I’ve also been contacted by one of the other nominees—you should actually look over the field of candidates and make an informed decision about which one you favor. Vote for the best blogger!


In the ongoing Hovind trial, no new revelations except for more details about how rich the creationist con artist and tax evader is. He makes $50,000/year in speaking fees, and with his wife, sells $1.8 million/year in “Christian merchandise” (tell me, you devout and faithful believers who also read Pharyngula: do those two words in conjunction make you cringe a little bit, deep down?).

They still deny that they earn salaries, and claim that they have no income at all.

Bible science

If you’re a fan of mangled philosophy and patent falsehoods, you really must read the Biblical view of science. It’s crazily disconnected from anything close to describing how science actually works.

What then is the Biblical view of science? Science enables us to fulfill the mandate of Genesis 1:28: “Then God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.’ ” Science gives us directions for doing things, or “operating,” in this world. It does not explain how the laws of nature work, nor does it accurately define or describe things. Science does not discover truth; it is a method for dominating and utilizing nature; it is merely a practical discipline that helps us live in God’s universe and subdue it.

What follows are a set of explanations that contain a kernel of truth, based on scientists’ own recognition of difficulties in science, but they’re all turned up to 11. The problem of induction becomes the fallacy of induction, for instance, and he asserts that science can never give true statements. The unreliability of observation becomes a suggestion that one should never trust observations. There’s a blanket statement that all scientific laws are based on fallacious arguments. Reasonable reservations taken from poorly understood philosophy of science articles become absolutist declarations, all with the intent of showing science to be completely bogus.

Basically, the author has taken valid concerns about the degree of certainty we can have about the world around us and amplified them into absolute rejections of scientific knowledge. It’s a caricature gone so far overboard that it has become a completely dishonest representation of that which it seeks to describe—there is no vestige of science visible in this concatenation of foolishness.

Well, you might wonder, if science is all wrong, if it’s just a tool for increasing crop yields and building tanks, if we’re not even supposed to believe the evidence of the world around us, how are we supposed to obtain knowledge?

Did you even have to ask?

Science has its place in a Christian philosophy, an important place. But science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”

Ah, yes. We must replace the uncertainties and difficulties of science with the Absolute Truth of an old and confusing book jobbed together by committees of priests…and questioning it is not allowed! It’s always true! Always, always, always!

Be afraid. There are millions of Americans who believe that, who would like to see that open, skeptical, continually tested model of scientific endeavor replaced with the complete certainty of their interpretation of the Bible. There are millions more who think we shouldn’t argue with these lies, because it annoys moderate Christians.

No guts, no glory

Matt Yglesias comments on one of Amy Sullivan’s usual complaints about “secular liberal intolerance” in the most cynical, hypocritical way possible:

Now Amy’s right. It would be useful, for the purposes of electoral politics, for liberals in the media to avoid expressing the view that the belief — adhered to by millions of Americans — that failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is daft. On the other hand, the evangelical view of this matter is, in fact, completely absurd.

What prompted this was Sullivan getting her back up because a writer called Pat Robertson insane for believing that the Jews were going to burn in hell—to Sullivan, that’s not insane, that’s just an ordinary article of faith for millions of Christians, and not to be questioned. And she’s right?

Look, this is a simple issue. Doing a little dance and trying to pretend you don’t believe what you believe because you think it’s good tactics, especially when you readily admit that you are doing some political maneuvering, is stupid. What’s far better is to simply be what you are: be sincere and honest and go ahead and state your mind. No one is fooled by the act.

Sweet Jesus, Pat Robertson is insane. Wouldn’t the whole country be immensely better off if crazy grandpas like Robertson were left to just putter about in their gardens instead of peddling voting blocs and being sucked up to by people who ought to know better? The only way we’re going to get to that much-desired situation is if more people speak up against lunacy. And I count moderates who accommodate insanity, like Amy Sullivan, as part of the problem.

(via Atrios. Am I damned for citing one A-lister citing another A-lister?)