Are you ready for Coulter?

Here’s a description of the contents of her newest book:

Though liberalism rejects the idea of God and reviles people of faith, it bears all the attributes of a religion itself. In Godless, Ann Coulter throws open the doors of the Church of Liberalism, showing us:

  • Its sacraments (abortion)
  • Its holy writ (Roe v. Wade)
  • Its martyrs (from Soviet spy Alger Hiss to cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal)
  • Its clergy (public school teachers)
  • Its churches (government schools, where prayer is prohibited but condoms are free)
  • Its doctrine of infallibility (as manifest in the "absolute moral authority" of spokesmen from Cindy Sheehan to Max Cleland)
  • And its cosmology (in which mankind is an inconsequential accident)

Then, of course, there’s the liberal creation myth: Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

For liberals, evolution is the touchstone that separates the enlightened from the benighted. But Coulter neatly refutes the charade that liberals are rationalists guided by the ideals of free inquiry and the scientific method. She exposes the essential truth about Darwinian evolution that liberals refuse to confront: it is bogus science.

How many lies can you count in that?

Now here’s the best part: guess who is her source on matters of evolution?

William Dembski.

I’m happy to report that I was in constant correspondence with Ann regarding her chapters on Darwinism.

That is so typical of Coulter’s research: find the most wrong-headed fool around and parrot his ill-informed opinions. This is going to be world-class suckage. This book is going to be a black hole of reason—reading it is going be like sticking your brain in a Cuisanart. What we’re going to find in there is all the lies and nonsense we can expect to hear echoed back at us for the next decade, the dishonest crap that every clueless wingnut bozo is going to absorb instead of real science.

And I’m going to have to read it. For I so love the world that I will sacrifice my neurons to bring my people rebuttals.

The Discovery Institute is bleeding credibility

More than once, I’ve said that I think the Discovery Institute is on the wane; Dover dealt a serious blow to their credibility, and demonstrated that their strategy was not an effective one for helping creationists get their way. That’s really all they had, was the promise that their pseudo-secular approach would give anti-evolutionists an inroad into the public school system, and it is clear now that that is not true.

I’ve also noticed that people give me a leery look when I say that—the DI has been a recent but ubiquitous feature in the Creation Wars—but now I can just tell you all to read this article.

“Dover is a disaster in a sense, as a public-relations matter,” said Bruce Chapman, a former Seattle city councilman and founder of the Discovery Institute, the country’s primary supporter of intelligent design. “It has given a rhetorical weapon to the Darwinists to say a judge has settled this,” he said.

Even some critics of evolution have taken the ruling as a sign that the fight to bring intelligent design into public schools may be over.

Judge Jones voiced it authoritatively, but I think we knew it all along: the backers of ID were almost all creationists of the old school, who saw this as nothing but a loophole they could exploit. Even the Fellows of the DI were readily admitting, outside of their official pontifications and press releases, that they believed their Designer was a God, and the Christian deity no less. The article does a nice job of documenting these beliefs, and here’s something I never thought I would say…I agree with Rush Limbaugh.

“Let’s make no mistake,” Limbaugh said on his radio show. “The people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum and make it less offensive to the liberals.”

Fortunately, that last clause is all wrong (we still found it offensive), so I can still say Limbaugh is a pompous gasbag who derives his authority from oxycontin-fueled bluster rather than evidence, and my world isn’t totally shaken.

Oh, but wait…I also agree with Cal Thomas! My aching brain.

Columnist Thomas, a former spokesman for the conservative Christian political group Moral Majority, said the court decision shows that academic debates, lawsuits and alternate explanations are not the way to fight the secularization of the United States.

“It should awaken religious conservatives to the futility of trying to make a secular state reflect their beliefs,” Thomas wrote.

Now that statement has more ominous overtones coming from Thomas—I think he’s implying that we need to get rid of the secular nature of the state altogether—but in general I think he’s right. Right now we have a body of precedent on the separation of church and state (and enough religious people who also appreciate the protection that separation gives them) that makes it difficult for even the ignorant wingnuts with which the Republicans are trying to stock the courts to ignore, and it is so unambiguously clear that all forms of creationism are religiously motivated, that barring even more radical destruction of the institutions of our government, creationism is just not going to fly overtly in the public schools. The frontal assault on the education system has been rebuffed, and among the severely wounded still moaning on the glacis are the followers of the Discovery Institute, and their generals have also been exposed as comic opera buffoons.

Does this mean I think we’re winning the Creation Wars? Not at all. I think one fairly recent player has been knocked out of contention, at least temporarily, nothing more. The more insidious creationist strategy of sapping the educational system by stocking school boards with anti-intellectual cretins and applying pressure to suppress scientific education and increase scientific ignorance is ongoing and is painfully effective…and we haven’t mustered a strong response to it yet. We flail at individual instances, but don’t have a more permanent institutional strategy for promoting and maintaining good science teaching at the pre-college level. We’re holding the top of the wall while they undermine our foundations, and we know where that is going to lead.

I also think that while we must win court cases like Kitzmiller v. the Dover School Board, we’re fooling ourselves if we think legal decisions are anything more substantial than stopgap measures. Losing a case like that would be catastrophic, but winning has its own costs. It solidifies opposition by feeding resentment. Every court case in this struggle, from Dayton to Dover, has failed to change a single mind, and while they have told us much about creationists and creationism, they’ve done nothing to educate people about science and evolution. And that’s the only place where this war can be won, in public education, both in the schools and among the general public.

RtB on Tiktaalik

There are a number of creationist organizations flourishing in America. One I’ve criticized many times is the Discovery Institute, which I suspect is now waning in influence after the Dover debacle; another is Answers in Genesis, which is a Mecca for the Young Earth Creationists; and one other is Reasons to Believe, which is an Old Earth Creationist haven for crackpots. Despite their doctrinal differences, though, it’s amazing how uniformly they respond to evolutionary discovers with denial. The recent discovery of Tiktaalik has been instructive: all three organizations have now weighed in, and all three trivialize it as meaningless, non-transitional, or even “piddling”. We’ve heard from The Discovery Institute, AiG, and now Zenoferox hacks apart RtB’s response. They’re like mindless clones of each other.

Treating students as people is awfully inefficient, after all

Oh, my. Inside Higher Ed has an article that has to be read to be believed: the problem with universities are their faculties, we need to get rid of tenure, hire more part-time, untenured faculty on short term contracts, cut back on those expensive bits of infrastructure like libraries and theaters, increase teaching loads across the board…in other words, turn education into a commodity with universities as the assembly lines that crank out graduates, while letting all those over-educated professors know that they too can be replaced by some yahoo with a mail-order degree. It’s a recipe for the complete demolition of higher education in this country, replacing it with some cookie cutter B-school model.

Fortunately, I don’t have to blow a gasket over it, because that guy Bérubé has already turned it into a colossal joke. It seems to be the only appropriate way to deal with these unrealistic libertarian fantasies.

Evo-Devo in NYR Books!

This really is an excellent review of three books in the field of evo-devo

From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll),

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and

The Plausibility of Life:Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll)—all highly recommended by me and the NY Times. The nice thing about this review, too, is that it gives a short summary of the field and its growing importance.