Florida: Land of the Delusional

Donna Callaway, a member of the Florida Board of Education, has an editorial that has to be read to be believed. This is a woman who has drunk deep of the Kool-Aid.

First, she’s babbles about how surprised she was that the revision of the science standards included major elements, such as evolution, of which she disapproved. This seems to be hard for many people to grasp, especially some of those who are appointed to education boards, but the board members are administrators, not scientists. To write the science standards, they actually recruit knowledgeable, qualified people to put together a document that reflects the current state of science: it doesn’t matter if the bureaucrat in charge of implementing the standards doesn’t know the science. Problems arise when one of these paper pushers decides to impose her brand of ignorance and attempt to override the efforts of the standards writing team (a situation that arose right here in Minnesota several years ago, with Cheri Yecke’s efforts to sabotage our state science standards.)

Callaway is alarmed at one of the Florida standards: “Diversity and Evolution of Living Organisms. A. Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology.” Your alarm is irrelevant, Donna. You aren’t a biologist. That standard is accurate and properly represents the opinion of the scientific community. If instruction in the state of Florida is to prepare students for understanding the reality of biology rather than the errors of your ideology, then that is what should be taught.

Not only does she not have a clue about what her job entails, but she’s swaddled in meters-thick layers of delusion.

If there is a victory for those who oppose the evolution standard as written or amended, it is that they stood shoulder to shoulder, not in a fanatical, demanding way as many may have expected. Rather, they stood kindly with a sense of calm assurance, with open and transparent reasoning that confused their opponents who expected a religious battle. This was never that battle; it was a battle over student rights. Those rights were not recognized.

Well, they might have confused their opponents, but it wasn’t because they were open and transparent and reasonable — it was because they were batshit insane. Have they already forgotten the orange man?

As for whether there was no religious battle, note that this editorial was published in the Florida Baptist Witness and, well, read on.

I left the SBOE meeting emotionally drained but reaffirmed by the love for children and the respect for others that I saw in those who hold beliefs with which I can identify. And, speaking of identity, I began my comments to the SBOE with an acknowledgement that I have a religious identity. That identity urges me to use the Master Teacher as my example.

(Trust me, I don’t think she’s talking about Richard Feynman here.)

The model He set for us 2,000 years ago is so appropriate for today. He allowed Himself to be questioned. He never thrust his belief on anyone. He allowed both Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman to question Him, each from an opposite end of the human spectrum. It was as if He said, “Ask me questions. I will answer. It may not be what you want to hear, but there is more. I invite you to come and see. Decide for yourself.” Learning took place under those circumstances.

We very much want that kind of learning experience to occur for our children. When they are not just allowed, but encouraged to debate issues, they explore them, search for evidence, think critically, and then have an ownership of the knowledge they gain. Adults have a right to do this. How can we deny that to our children?

In the immortal words of that masterful tactician, Bill Buckingham, “Two thousand years ago someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?” Oh, right, we’re supposed to believe these bozos are promoting Intelligent Design with purely secular intent. If there is a god, why does he keep promoting his most stupid followers to school boards?

Is this going to be the major creationist strategy?

It seems to be all over the place, with both the Discovery Institute and the various overtly (as opposed to the DI’s stealthy) religious creationists. It’s the one message they are all pounding out consistently.

It, of course, is the argumentum ad consequentiam, the Great Godwinization of the debate, the constant claim that Charles Darwin was the evil monster responsible for the Holocaust, all modern racism and oppression, anti-semitism, whites-only seating on buses, slavery, eugenics, abortion, man-on-pig sex, gun control, job discrimination, illegal aliens, feminism, the birth control pill, hedonism, Mexicans, atheism, hippies, and anything other than the average social mores of 1950s America, and therefore evolution is false.

Anyone with half a brain can see right through this argument: Darwin could have been a baby-raping cannibal and it wouldn’t have affected the validity of his arguments one whit. That Darwin was actually a fairly conservative British gentleman who was also an abolitionist and advocate for fair treatment of all races (although, admittedly, not equality of all races) similarly doesn’t affect the status of his theory, but does allow us to comfortably celebrate the man, and not just the work.

Furthermore, it is ahistorical nonsense. Darwin’s ideas were a relatively late addition to Western culture, arising in the last half of the 19th century. Many of the evils Darwin is blamed for, like slavery and anti-semitism, preceded his birth, and many are even literally endorsed by by a book the liars for Jesus revere, the Bible.

This is an argument that relies entirely on a deep and all encompassing ignorance on the part of the listener to be accepted — they have to be oblivious to the rules of basic logic, they have to be complete blanks on even the roughest outline of history, and they have to be willing to allow visceral reactions to the key words the creationists are spitting out to be tied to unrelated concepts. They have to be stupid and uneducated. This is the state the creationists must perpetuate if their argument is to succeed.

Who is making these transparently idiotic claims? John West, Ken Ham, Geoffrey Simmons, D. James Kennedy, and Tom DeRosa to name just a few. These are people leading a campaign to keep your children stupid.

The latest to jump on the Darwin-caused-Hitler bandwagon is — and I dislike linking to her bad prose and pathetically transparent inbred link-farm — is Denyse O’Leary. Watch how quickly she spirals into lunacy in a single paragraph.

Darwin was instrumental in discrediting the traditional way of looking at human beings. This is a fact that everyone admits and many celebrate. How often have you heard that Darwin’s great achievement was to knock humanity off its pedestal and show that we are merely evolved animals, accidentally evolved at that? And that had everything to do with the Holocaust.

It is true that one thing Darwin accomplished was to challenge the traditional exceptionalist view of human beings as somehow privileged — a hierarchical view that was also used to rank races within the human species — and this was a good thing. While he didn’t always meet his own standard to “never speak of higher and lower,” it was a commendable goal.

But notice how O’Leary twists it: we are merely evolved animals, as if our status as animals somehow excuses our abuses of our fellows. I always wonder if people who make this argument also pull the wings off flies. Darwin did not demote humanity, he elevated it and all life on earth to the exalted position of equal products of long eras of evolutionary history.

This had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

The idea of making Jews extinct in the sense that the dinosaurs are extinct – as the Nazis tried to do – was derived culturally from Darwin, not from the Church. Also derived from Darwin and his supporters – rather than the Church – was the view of Jews as simply a gene pool rather than a race/religion/culture/Jesus’s family/God’s chosen people/essential part of history/essential part of our neighbourhood/people we know. The stew of traditional issues sometimes overflows into violence, but not into a eugenics program.

Look right there, in O’Leary’s preferred view: Jews are “God’s chosen people.” Some people, apparently, are better than other people; we are therefore justified in exterminating those other people if they get in the way of the chosen ones. And who gets to say who are the chosen ones? Why, the chosen ones themselves.

The biological view that arose from Darwinian thought is that there are no specially preferred groups. Jews are as unique and valuable as Palestinians, Chinese, Basque, Germans, Italians, Swedes, New Guineans, Inuit, or Canadians. “Simply a gene pool”? What nonsense. If the other is “simply a gene pool,” then so are we, and none of us have grounds for demanding privileged status.

As for the claim that the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jews was derived from Darwin, all we have to do is look at Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies to see how false that claim is. Luther published in 1543, 316 years before Darwin, and in that little pamphlet lays down an 8-point plan for destroying the Jews.

  1. “First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. …”
  2. “Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. …”
  3. “Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. …”
  4. “Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. …”
  5. “Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. …”
  6. “Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them. … Such money should now be used in … the following [way]… Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed [a certain amount]…”
  7. “Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”
  8. “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country” and “we must drive them out like mad dogs.”

In the blinkered, shuttered, moldy attic of O’Leary’s mind, the fact that Darwin used the word “race” in the title of his book is far more evil than the fact that an influential leader of the church ranted openly about hating the Jews and published specific plans for their destruction.

Here’s what’s really appalling. This whole argument on their part is so blatantly stupid and false, yet somehow the diverse group of leaders of creationism in this country have all informally reached a consensus that their followers are ignorant enough that they will actually accept it. Sense, reason, history, logic, the plain and documented facts can all be ignored — they can delude themselves and lie, lie, lie, and the state of the creationist mind is so abysmally benighted that they can reliably expect a large following to believe them.

Talking animals with more sense

The German Family Ministry (does anyone know if inclusion of the word “family” in an organization title is as ominous auf Deutsch as it is in English?) wants to ban a children’s book. The book is about two little animals on a pilgrimage to find god, and in the end they don’t find him anywhere, and conclude that they haven’t been missing anything. There’s a good reason to ban it, I’m sure…

“The three large religions of the world, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, are slurred in the book,” the ministry wrote in a December memo. “The distinctive characteristics of each religion are made ridiculous.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. If that were grounds for banning, the Bible has to be the next book on their hit list.

A little further on, they do hit on a more legitimate reason, if it were true: the argument that the illustrations of the book are hateful stereotypes, of the sort that Germany has good reason to be sensitive about: you know, the old anti-semitic caricatures of Jews as hook-nosed and greedy. If they’d taken that ugly shortcut, yeah, I’d agree — it would be just more hate literature. However, they include several images from the book, and they don’t look like that: the rabbi looks like any of the ordinary orthodox Jews you’d see walking around New York, so it’s a bit of a stretch.

Maybe it’s badly written. Maybe other illustrations are more overtly hateful. Just don’t try to tell me it’s a bad book because it makes ridiculous religions look ridiculous.

I have my suspicions about the source of the problem, though. The book is titled “How Do I Get to God, Asked the Small Piglet” — Ken Ham must be trying to suppress it.

Somebody, quick — snatch that fruit out of creationist hands before they speak again!

I suppose it’s good that I have an opportunity to take a chop at the third big branch of the Abrahamic tree, but I really take no joy in being so thorough. Enjoy the spectacle of a delusion Jewish ‘teacher’ misleading his students and lying out of ignorance.

What is it with creationists and fruit? I really don’t get it. This guy is just rehashing Paley, though, claiming that finding a seed in an apple is a more miraculous event than finding a silver dollar in one. Guess what, guy: we can describe the developmental events that produce seeds in fruit, and they don’t involve angels flying in and inserting them. We have entirely natural mechanisms, making the supernatural superfluous.

(via Atheist Media Blog)

Reclaiming design?

Ken Miller makes an interesting proposal to James Randerson: he thinks we ought to reclaim the word “design,” and apply it to evolution. Not in the sense that the Intelligent Designists use it, as a proxy to imply a divine being, but because he says “design” is an emergent property of evolution. It’s an interesting idea, but I have a couple of objections.

One is brought up by Randerson: doesn’t “design” imply a “designer”? It’s a problem that we might possibly overcome someday — I can say the word “thunder” now, without an audience immediately thinking of Thor — but language associations are a really tough nut to crack. Look at all the flailings about over the word “theory”; lay people will hear that word being used by scientists and conclude that the creationists must have been right all along long before they get around to remapping their mental connections to design.

Another problem is of even greater concern. The word “design” carries other implications: purpose, planning, calculation. These are not present in evolution! Miller isn’t even trying to propose purposefulness in evolution — design, he is saying, is a consequence of the natural mechanism.

I don’t think it can work. The creationists know PR and rhetoric, even if they are ignorant of biology, and they picked the word “design” by design — they know full well all the baggage the term hauls, and it’s exactly the freight they want it to carry. They even use the word in the name of their rebranded creationism. Miller may be an excellent rhetorician in his own right, but I don’t think he’s good enough to pull off this switcheroo, which I suspect would be immediately spun by the creationist noise machine as a capitulation.

It could be worse

Taner Edis has written a short summary of Islamic creationism. It’s not a pleasant picture.

Muslims hold a variety of views on evolution; Yahya-style creationists do not speak for all. Some Muslim thinkers accept evolution in the sense of descent with modification, provided that this evolution is explicitly divinely guided. Even such comparative liberals, however, almost always reject the Darwinian, naturalistic view of evolution that is current in natural science. Human evolution meets with particularly strong rejection. Indeed, it is safe to say that most committed Muslims take naturalistic evolution to be religiously unacceptable. Most would consider the evolution of complex life forms through natural mechanisms alone, without the visible direction of a divine intelligence, to be an intellectual absurdity. The Harun Yahya material has no scholarly standing whatsoever. But more sophisticated anti-evolution views have wide currency among serious Muslim intellectuals, including very well-known Western-based scholars of Islam such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

That’s really a shame, that an entire culture has closed itself off to a significant and well-tested scientific concept. I wonder what the Christian creationists here would think of the idea that the Islamic world has achieved the anti-evolution ideal?