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What happened to those fiscal priorities?

Well, different things come to the fore in state houses, Creationism Makes a Comeback:

The irony is that in the past, creationist institutions and advocates used to be allies of laws and reforms which would give a stronger role for a parents choice in their child’s education, whether through voucher programs, charter schools, or even homeschooling. There is a logic to this approach: rather than tear towns and communities apart over protracted and agonizing legal battles, simply give parents the power to choose what education their child can have.

Laws such as HB 368, and other “academic freedom” bills are not about giving parents more options about where they can get their children educated. They are about empowering and protecting those creationists who are already in the public education system and are waiting to be given the legal cover to evangelize and teach bad science.

I’m a conservative who is passionate about science. I can tell you from personal experience that the American right-wing’s periodic love affair with Creationism, whether through genuine sincere belief or political opportunism, is a major reason for the alienation of scientists from any engagement with American conservatism. I do not believe that scientist are by their nature lovers of the Leviathan, nor are they often died-in-the-wool cultural relativists. But often they have a hard time taking seriously a movement whose stated aim is to replace established science with science-inflected religion. I don’t know if it is amusing or sad, but many of my scientist acquaintances are very skeptical that I really can be a conservative. I don’t fit their image of a right-winger, and I am of course pro-science. Now, there are obviously orders of magnitude more American evangelicals than scientists. For politicians they are a substantial voting block which needs to be wooed. But for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?



Against Evolution

Via the Independent:

A prominent British imam has been forced to retract his claims that Islam is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution after receiving death threats from fundamentalists.

Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was intending yesterday to return to Masjid al-Tawhid, a mosque in Leyton, East London, for the first time since he delivered a lecture there entitled “Islam and the theory of evolution”.

But according to his sister, police advised him not to attend after becoming concerned for his safety. Instead his father, Suhaib, head of the mosque’s committee of trustees, posted a notice on his behalf expressing regret over his comments. “I seek Allah’s forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused,” the statement read.

The campaign is part of a growing movement by a small but vocal group of largely Saudi-influenced orthodox Muslims who use evolution as a way of discrediting imams whom they deem to be overly progressive or “western orientated”.

Masjid Tawhid is a prominent mosque which also runs one of the country’s largest sharia courts, the Islamic Sharia Council. In January, Dr Hasan delivered a lecture there detailing why he felt the theory of evolution and Islam were compatible – a position that is not unusual among many Islamic scholars with scientific backgrounds. But the lecture was interrupted by men he described as “fanatics” who distributed leaflets claiming that “Darwin is blasphemy”…

…Most Islamic scholars have little problem with evolution as long as Muslims accept the supremacy of God in the process. But in recent years a small number of orthodox scholars, mainly from Saudi Arabia – where many clerics still preach that the Sun revolves around the Earth – have ruled against evolution, declaring that belief in the concept goes against the Koran’s statement that Adam and Eve were the first humans.

Note also the line about police advice. Over at the Corner, Mark Steyn explains its significance:

As I’ve written before, “security concerns” are the new black(out) – the means by which those who are meant to enforce the law equally instead pre-emptively reward bullying mobsters who have total contempt for it. In this case, it may even be that this helpful advice was provided by Muslim police officers, who in Britain, Canada and Europe are often happy to serve as state enforcers for Islamic intimidation.

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Via the New York Times:

Teaching creationism in public schools has consistently been ruled unconstitutional in federal courts, but according to a national survey of more than 900 public high school biology teachers, it continues to flourish in the nation’s classrooms.
Researchers found that only 28 percent of biology teachers consistently follow the recommendations of the National Research Council to describe straightforwardly the evidence for evolution and explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology. At the other extreme, 13 percent explicitly advocate creationism, and spend at least an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light. That leaves what the authors call “the cautious 60 percent,” who avoid controversy by endorsing neither evolution nor its unscientific alternatives. In various ways, they compromise.

The survey, published in the Jan. 28 issue of Science, found that some avoid intellectual commitment by explaining that they teach evolution only because state examinations require it, and that students do not need to “believe” in it. Others treat evolution as if it applied only on a molecular level, avoiding any discussion of the evolution of species. And a large number claim that students are free to choose evolution or creationism based on their own beliefs.

John Scopes was a teacher. That was then.



Monkey Business

The self-righteousness oozing out of Bill Maher on the clip from his show linked to here by the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen was neither a new phenomenon nor pleasant to watch. On the other hand, the comments from Republican congressman Jack Kingston were low comedy:

“I believe I came from God, not from a monkey….If it happened over millions and millions of years, there should be lots of fossil evidence.”

Good lord (so to speak).

Possibly more revealing than Kingston’s difficulties with science are the difficulties that he has in expressing them, particularly his insistence that he believes in “adaptation”. There was also his (faulty) assumption that the National Review writer on the panel would bail him out.

The former might suggest (yes, I’m being an optimist) that the congressman does sort-of-believe in evolution after all, the latter that he believes anti-evolutionism has now become part of the standard right-wing package. That could explain why he might defend creationism in terms traditionalist enough (the monkey business) to satisfy any litmus test, while preserving enough intellectual honesty to seem a little hesitant about doing so.

Then again maybe he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That wouldn’t be a first for the political class – and it won’t be the last.

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The cultural problem

At FrumForum, I’m a Reformist Conservative – and I Doubt Darwin. Arguments about evolution don’t have immediate proximate policy applications, so why is this even being mooted? Mike Huckabee was pointing to a real issue in 2007 when asked about this. That being said, FrumForum is not WorldNetDaily. Heck, it’s not even National Review. It’s not even The Weekly Standard! It’s a website which reports positively on the resurgence of GOP moderates.

I’m aware that most Americans are divided on evolution. I’m aware that a large minority of highly educated people are Creationists. I’m aware that most people who believe in the theory of evolution don’t know much about it, or its implications. But this is the sort of thing which serves as a cultural black flag for the intellectual elite.



Albert Mohler!

Albert Mohler serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world—and he blogs. It’s worth taking a look there from time to time.

Here he is ruminating on the question of whether “science trumps the Bible” (in some ways, a false dichotomy, but that’s a discussion for another day):

“[C]ount me in as being lost to the assertion that science trumps the Bible “about the natural world” or about anything else. In his original response to Jerry Coyne, Giberson made the argument in more striking words: “Empirical science does indeed trump revealed truth about the world as Galileo and Darwin showed only too clearly.” That statement, with its reference to “revealed truth,” is even more shocking than the first.

In the economy of a few words, Giberson throws the Bible under the scientific bus. We should be thankful that his argument is so clear, for it puts the case for theistic evolution in its proper light — as a direct attack upon biblical authority.

What’s interesting about this is not Mohler’s biblical literalism, but the intensity of his assault on “Giberson”, a professor at East Nazarene College, and, clearly, no atheist. To make a public exhibition of your faith by attacking those somewhat further along the dial is a classic sectarian trait whether political or religious. And it’s not going away.

New Mexico, January 1999 (photo: AS)

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DeMint’s Choice

One reason that Delaware’s best-known GOP candidate will have such a mountain to climb in the general election is the emergence of fresh embarrassments like these comments (via New York magazine today) from a 1996 debate on whether creationism should be taught alongside evolution:

CHRISTINE O’DONNELL, Concerned Women for America: Well, as the senator from Tennessee mentioned, evolution is a theory and it’s exactly that. There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact, and I say that because for theory to become a fact, it needs to consistently have the same results after it goes through a series of tests. The tests that they put — that they use to support evolution do not have consistent results. Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. But when you get down to the hard evidence, it’s merely a theory.

Yes, but…Oh, never mind. Well, how about creationism, then?

CHRISTINE O’DONNELL: Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that.

Okey dokey.

You can bet your bottom taxpayer dollar that O’Donnell’s Democratic opponent will do everything that he can to keep voters focussed on the Republican candidate’s more exotic, uh, issues. After all, it sure beats talking about government bloat, rising taxation, a faltering recovery and all the rest of those topics that the Democrats would much rather avoid.

And we can also be sure that O’Donnell’s triumph has made it easier to portray Republicans elsehere in a similar light.

As I said, DeMint’s choice.

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Okey Dokey

From the London Times

In normally liberal Connecticut,voters recently returned a creationist to the state school board for the first time. In Illinois, the Republican candidate for governor will be a Darwin doubter. In Christian universities in Virginia and Colorado, students study the “myth of evolution” as part of degree courses. Last month some of them took part in an annual trip to Washington to view — and debunk — fossils on display at the Museum of Natural History. Lauren Dunn, 19, from Liberty University, dismissed as arbitrary the age of 210 million years given to the Morganucodon rat. “They put that time to make up for what they don’t know…”

The Smithsonian's Morganucodon Rat




It must come back into balance…eventually

Conservatives in Texas won a curriculum change battle. But another event also occurred which was of note:

The Religious Right suffered a surprise setback in Texas when incumbent Don McLeroy—a creationist and critic of church-state separation—narrowly lost his re-election bid for the powerful State Board of Education to challenger Thomas Ratliff in the March 2 Republican primary.

McLeroy, a dentist from Bryan, lost by fewer than 900 votes. Since no Democrat filed for the race, Ratliff will assume the seat next year. Ratliff, a legislative consultant and lobbyist from Mt. Pleasant, is the son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.

I have pointed out before that Republican elites are split on evolution. One dynamic which has played out repeatedly since the 1980s is that the Religious Right has taken over school boards and attempted to push Creationism, which usually results in a successful reaction by those in the Republican establishment who mobilize to “take back their schools” and the like. Eventually with the victory the motivation for turnout and organization for these generally low publicity positions declines, at which point the Religious Right can move back in again. And so the cycle begins anew.

It might seem strange that Republicans who aren’t core members of the Religious Right would repeatedly rise up and work to oust fellow partisans based around such academic topics. But I recall in 1999 when Kansas was dominated by Religious Right school board members who were attempting to push Creationism there were loud complaints from businesses. When engineering firms were trying to recruit talent apparently one issue which came up from prospective employees was school quality, in particular the science curriculum. This is a classic case where business and social conservatism will always be at cross-purposes periodically. Resolution can only come if the Religious Right manages to capture the cultural commanding heights and make their beliefs normative, at which point they would be good for business. I am skeptical that this will happen.

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Creationism in the Muslim world

A ScienceBlogs I have a post on Muslim Creationism data up. The paper, On being religious : patterns of religious commitment in muslim societies, has lots of information. You can download it at the link. Here are the topline results for evolution:

It isn’t a representative sample:

About 45% of American Muslims exhibit some level of belief in evolution according to the Religious Landscape Survey. Also, the sample above only includes self-identified Muslims (so the non-Muslim minorities in Malaysia and Kazakhstan are not included).


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