Keep your eyes on Ohio today

There could be some new developments. They are reviewing the Intelligent Design creationism nonsense that was inoculated into their curricula a few years ago, and all signs indicate that they are planning to cut the infection out.

A majority of members on the Board of Education of Ohio, the first state to single out evolution for “critical analysis” in science classes more than three years ago, are expected on Tuesday to challenge a model biology lesson plan they consider an excuse to teach the tenets of the disputed theory of intelligent design.

A reversal in Ohio would be the most significant in a series of developments signaling a sea change across the country against intelligent design — which posits that life is too complex to be explained by evolution alone — since a federal judge’s ruling in December that teaching the theory in the public schools of Dover, Pa., was unconstitutional.

The article mentions the usual polls that say the uninformed public favor teaching creationism, but is also notable for including the scathing opinions of scientists and educators.

Besides the Dover decision, the disclosure in December of documents detailing internal discussions of the lesson plan helped revive debate here. Obtained by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a group considering a suit on the plan, the documents show that department scientists and outside experts condemned the lesson as “a lie,” “crackpot,” “religious,” “creationism” and “an insult to science.”

Asked whether the lesson connects skills to the real world, an external reviewer wrote: “Not the real scientific world. The real religious world, yes, the real world based on faith, yes, the real world of fringe thinking, yes!”

Patricia Princehouse, an evolutionary biologist and historian of science who has led the charge against the lesson plan, said, “Basically critical analysis is intelligent design relabeled, just as intelligent design was creationism relabeled.”

Let’s look forward to seeing this new label tossed in the trash bin.

Poor Mikey spent the day under his bed

Michael Behe wasn’t too happy yesterday.

One man who says he isn’t planning to join in the fun on Darwin Day is Michael Behe, the 54-year-old author of “Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution,” a critique whose 10th anniversary edition will be published in March by Simon & Schuster’s Free Press division. Molecular biology is “irreducibly complex,” confounding Darwinism, according to the author.

Of course, the author is wrong. IC is no problem for evolution at all.

“I probably won’t attend” any Darwin Day event anywhere, says Behe, a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “It’s not simply meant to celebrate science or Darwin. It’s an in-your-face exhibition, saying, ‘Look what we have on our side, and you guys who aren’t with us are a bunch of dopes.'”

One more thing he got wrong: it was a celebration of science and Darwin. The one I attended was all about the science.

He was right, though, that the ID crowd is “a bunch of dopes.” I’ve got to give him credit for that.

Mangling science and history to the benefit of religion

Chris Clarke brought this strangely twisted article to my attention. It starts out just fine, pointing out that the Intelligent Design assault on science is based on nothing but incredulity, and has the sweeping goal of destroying naturalism—not just one theory in biology, but the whole scientific shebang. The author is against all that, which is good…thanks, Cynthia, we appreciate your support. Now if only she’d just ended it there at the two-thirds mark.

The last third is peculiar. She seems to be less interested in strong science than in strengthening religion, and the reason she’s arguing against ID is purely on the Augustinian principle that backing foolish statements about the natural world makes the religious look foolish.

A more effective way to bolster religious belief than attacking Darwin is to remember that religion addresses questions that are completely beyond the range of science. The meaning of life, the nature of good conduct, the nature of the human soul: Science is not set up to deal with any of these.

Is religion?

Science isn’t set up to deal with the Great Ju-Ju, the lares and penates, or Atlantean spirit-guides, either—because they don’t exist. The religious are free to invent non-existent phenomena all they want, but saying that science doesn’t deal in imaginary nonsense isn’t exactly a flaw.

As for the nature of good conduct, we don’t need religion to support that idea, and I see no reason why non-supernatural processes require metaphysical rationalizations.

This is why religion remains so potent — and, I think, so positive — a force in modern America. It alone provides answers to the hardest questions we all face. In a health crisis, we want help from a doctor who practices medicine in a completely rational and scientific manner. But our prayers that this medicine helps go to a supernatural being, not to the doctor.

Urk. That casual equation of medicine with prayer is simply creepy. In a health crisis, we need help from a doctor; prayer is superfluous and useless. Religion remains potent because so many refuse to acknowledge its impotence.

The essay is about to hit bottom. The author decides to compare Darwin to that other fellow who shares a birthday with him, and starts praising Lincoln’s spirituality.

Lincoln could never have accomplished the great tasks before him, nor inspired others to stay the course through so many defeats, disappointment and death, without recourse to ideas imbued with the deepest spirituality. Whether he declared that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom” or called on his fellow Northerners to press on to victory “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” he clearly saw the unique wisdom and power embodied in the great truths of religion — wisdom certainly different from scientific wisdom, but equally certainly, just as valuable.

This, most of us would agree, is religion at its best: providing spiritual comfort, psychological strength, moral direction and righteous inspiration.

In this realm, evolution — wonderful job that it does in explaining the natural world — cannot compete with religion. In its own “ballpark,” religion, as Lincoln knew, wins every time. It’s only when it strays into the other guy’s stadium that it sets itself up for inevitable loss and disappointment.

Uh-oh. Somebody needs to look up the actual beliefs of Lincoln, rather than just making them up as she goes along.

Lincoln was a deist and freethinker. He paid token deference to religion because he was well aware that he could not win office as a man who rejected Christianity. That puts that last paragraph in a different light: he knew that religion’s “ballpark” was bigotry and intolerance, and that he had to avoid challenging it.

It’s the 21st century. I think it’s about time we started challenging.

Chris Clarke in the Twin Cities???

That was my first thought when I read this entry, but then I noticed that the clotted, precious style didn’t quite fit. My next though was a horrific one: Lileks is guest posting on Creek Running North? Say it isn’t so! It’s bad enough that he’s there every time I open the Star Tribune!

Ah, but no, fortunately it’s just a pitch-perfect satire.

If you don’t like Lileks’ cutesie dribblings, you must read this.


For those wondering who the heck Lileks is, he’s a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, famous for two qualities: 1) he’s one of those pissed-pants conservatives who totally lost it after 9/11, and 2) he’s very twee.

An entirely optional request

A little reminder: a look at Technorati shows me that a lot of people still haven’t updated those blogrolls. I’ve stuck an automatic redirect on the old page, and I’ve also tweaked the .htaccess file to remap all the requests for rss and xml files to the new syndication file here, so it’s easy to forget—going to the old site will still get you right here. Still, it would be nice if you adjusted the links, and changed “http://pharyngula.org/” to “http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/“.

It’s not a major problem since either address will eventually get you to the same place, but I’m sure the Seed people would like to see more links going straight to the ScienceBlogs empire.

Who will clean the litter box after you’ve been raptured?

This has got to be a spoof site, but then I would have had to think Rapture Ready was a joke, too. Anyway, when the Rapture comes and you are ascended into heaven, you need to make sure your beloved pets are cared for, so the JesusPets service is recruiting non-Christians to take care of pets during the Tribulation or whatever.

It’s a bit bizarre. One thing they have to make sure of is that the godless atheist isn’t signing up just so he can get his hands on Mr Tinkles to rape and eat, so we have to sign a promise that we aren’t just scheming to ravish everyone’s abandoned pets.

Make hard CA$H from home while the world is in flames!

Are you an animal lover; and also an atheist, agnostic, jew, muslim, or other non-Christian? If so, you might qualify for the JesusPets Partner Program!

JesusPets will pay YOU to take care of dogs, cats, and other pets. To qualify, you must agree with this statement:

The JesusPets Partner Program Statement

  • I love animals, and am willing to care for pets after the Christian Rapture.
  • I am not, and never have been a born-again Christian.
  • I believe it is immoral to have sex with animals, and have no desire to do so.
  • I believe it is immoral to consume common domesticated pets (note: this includes goldfish!), and have no desire to do so.

If you agree with, then please contact JesusPets to join our international community of JesusPets Partners!

Hmmm. If I were a cat-raper, I don’t think I’d be too troubled about breaking an electronic pledge.

These guys at the top are despicable characters, aren’t they?

I know, everyone’s making a big deal of this, but I honestly don’t care that Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter. People do make mistakes, and hunting is a risky sport with dangerous devices—I simply don’t see it as saying much about his character or capability that he made a potentially tragic error on a hunting trip. At best, it says that maybe he’s getting too old and careless to be armed and in public.

On the other hand, this says volumes about Cheney’s character.

Monday’s hunting trip to Pennsylvania by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he reportedly shot more than 70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks at an exclusive private club places a spotlight on an increasingly popular and deplorable form of hunting, in which birds are pen-reared and released to be shot in large numbers by patrons. The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat and do not shoot confined or pen-raised animals that cannot escape.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that 500 farm-raised pheasants were released yesterday morning at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township for the benefit of Cheney’s 10-person hunting party. The group killed at least 417 of the birds, illustrating the unsporting nature of canned hunts. The party also shot an unknown number of captive mallards in the afternoon.

What the hell…?

I’m not some knee-jerk bleeding-heart animal lover; I think living things should be respected and treated honorably, but that killing is part of the pattern of life. I don’t hunt myself, and I don’t think it is an unquestionable privilege, but I can respect the skill and intentions of someone who does a little game hunting.

But this…it’s simply sickening. Blowing away a horde of pen-raised animals, released in front of you to scurry into your gunsights, is not a sport. It’s disgusting bloody-mindedness, a lazy, cowardly, vicious sort of abuse.

They say that torturing and killing helpless animals is one of the signs of a sadistic sociopath. Somehow, it’s fitting that our vice-president is the kind of guy who takes glee in unfeeling butchery.


Since people are commenting on it, I have to clarify that I don’t think shooting a fellow hunter is excusable—but it’s more a matter of incompetence than malicious intent. We already know this administration is incompetent.

Gary Farber has mentioned the strange lag in reporting the accident (and he has a darned thorough roundup of stories on the matter). That’s also troubling, and it really means they’ve hit a triple on this one: dumb bloody-minded malice, incompetence, and disregard for the law. That’s our Dick.