Sunday, August 21, 2005

Jeebus Rode A Dinosaur

Only in the rarefied, oxygen-free cubicles of the media could scientific fact ever be characterized as being "on the defensive". Perhaps the so-called "scientific community" (note gratuitous use of fingered "sneer quotes", as well as "thumb commas" and "cupped-hand parentheses of scorn") should pay heed to this burbling nonsense, and realize that just because you're right doesn't mean impressionable rubes will care.

A viewing of The Simpsons episode where Lisa finds an "angel skeleton" may be in order. ID believers don't want facts or science, they want comfort. They need their warm pink blanky.

This really is too bad, because faith and science are not incompatible. Indeed, in a rational universe that truly was deliberately designed by an orderly intelligence, they would be somewhat complementary. However, this is not about religion, this is about politics; this is about whipping the believers into a frenzy so that they will trudge to the polls once again next year and vote for the people who are robbing them blind and condemning them to lives of penury and bankruptcy and perpetual war for perpetual peace.

Meantime, these goofballs continue to maintain their stupidity that their codified belief in their invisible friend should be mandatory for all.

When President Bush plunged into the debate over the teaching of evolution this month, saying, "both sides ought to be properly taught," he seemed to be reading from the playbook of the Discovery Institute, the conservative think tank here that is at the helm of this newly volatile frontier in the nation's culture wars.

After toiling in obscurity for nearly a decade, the institute's Center for Science and Culture has emerged in recent months as the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science in school districts and state capitals across the country. Pushing a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution, the institute has in many ways transformed the debate into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.

Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists. But Mr. Bush embraced the institute's talking points by suggesting that alternative theories and criticism should be included in biology curriculums "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Notice how Jodi Wilgoren (who may indeed have been driven by Fred Flintstone to work) portrays this in the usual namby-pamby "even-handed" fashion we've been talking about. Two sides to every story, right? Wrong. This is a story where there is science, which is evolutionary theory -- which, like most scientific theories, is a process, which means it gets continuously updated as more facts are discovered and assimilated into the process -- and then there is not science, which is ID, creationism, whatever label they want to dress it up in this week.

Now, the problem here is that every religion has a creation myth. Many ancient cultures also had creation myths which were more or less intertwined with whatever tribal religion was in vogue at the moment. Same principle here, the tribes are just much larger. Worse yet, they have money, and want more of it. This is the key. If they want to "teach the controversy", then I guess we also should have sections about Vedic mythology and Norse eschatology in there as well.

Who wouldn't want a biology degree with a minor in Ragnarok? It's all about being well-rounded and learning all sides of the story, right?

Together, they have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive.

Like a well-tooled electoral campaign, the Discovery Institute has a carefully crafted, poll-tested message, lively Web logs - and millions of dollars from foundations run by prominent conservatives like Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Philip F. Anschutz and Richard Mellon Scaife. The institute opened an office in Washington last fall and in January hired the same Beltway public relations firm that promoted the Contract With America in 1994.

"We are in the very initial stages of a scientific revolution," said the center's director, Stephen C. Meyer, 47, a historian and philosopher of science recruited by Discovery after he protested a professor's being punished for criticizing Darwin in class. "We want to have an effect on the dominant view of our culture."

It's not "like a well-tooled electoral campaign", that's exactly what it is. Goddammit, that's what people like Phil Anschutz and Richard Cougar Melloncamp Scaife do -- they own media properties and sports teams and publishing houses. They own their own very effective means of getting the message out (and if you don't think professional sports functions as a propaganda mechanism on certain levels, then you've either internalized it already, or all the holy invocations and discreet militarism are going right past you).

Whatever the case, these people and their faux-science organizations are nakedly, overtly political. If not, then Jodi Wilgoren needs to go take a look at the "labs" and "scientific methods" employed by the "Discovery Institute". I bet there's not a single lab on the premises; I have no doubt that it's a set of offices at the corner of an industrial park outside Houston, with a P.O. box and a bank of phones.

It's her fucking job to find out one way or the other, not to just regurgitate their talking points and provide a laundry list of members and "donors" (meaning owners).

Then again, maybe that's exactly her job. I really don't know what these fucking people do anymore, but this is not reportage, it's a PR memo.

For the institute's president, Bruce K. Chapman, a Rockefeller Republican turned Reagan conservative, intelligent design appealed to his contrarian, futuristic sensibilities - and attracted wealthy, religious philanthropists like the Ahmansons at a time when his organization was surviving on a shoestring. More student of politics than science geek, Mr. Chapman embraced the evolution controversy as the institute's signature issue precisely because of its unpopularity in the establishment.

"When someone says there's one thing you can't talk about, that's what I want to talk about," said Mr. Chapman, 64.

Wow. I'm guessing that fourth grade was the hardest three years of this asshole's life. Look, asshole, religion has no place in science class. Neither, for that matter, does economics, or history. It's a completely different discipline. Deal with it.

This "rebel without a clue" shit carelessly employed by these button-down douchebags -- I'm sure it resonates with the Stars n' Bars crowd, but they can kiss my pasty white Irish ass anyway.

From its nondescript office suites here, the institute has provided an institutional home for the dissident thinkers, pumping $3.6 million in fellowships of $5,000 to $60,000 per year to 50 researchers since the science center's founding in 1996. Among the fruits are 50 books on intelligent design, many published by religious presses like InterVarsity or Crossway, and two documentaries that were broadcast briefly on public television. But even as the institute spearheads the intellectual development of intelligent design, it has staked out safer turf in the public policy sphere, urging states and school boards simply to include criticism in evolution lessons rather than actually teach intelligent design.

Heh, I knew it. No "institute", no labs for "discovery" or "research" -- just a bland collection of office suites cranking out intellectual chum for people who haven't got the sense to critically analyze what they're reading.

Let's turn this thing on its head for a minute, and walk it back. Much of what tumbles out of the holy pieholes of these self-styled cultural conservatives tends to revolve around their distaste at having the mainstream culture of decadence rubbed in their faces. That's bullshit, of course -- turn your TV off, or keep it on Veggie Tales, or whatever floats your boat. Keep an eye on what your kids are listening to. Pretty much common sense.

Well, I've given this a lot of serious thought too. There are things in the culture I find ugly and distasteful -- contrived "reality TV" shows based on cruelty and humiliation; sensationalized nonsense and celebrity gossip passing for news; forensic-porn and crime shows which highlight the bizarre fact that you can show eyeballs and gore and mayhem and violence during prime time, but God forbid you see a nipple (one of God's wondrous creations) or hear a "dirty" word.

As I have mentioned before, I have a young daughter. Since she was born, I have very carefully considered what sort of spiritual upbringing I want for her. I was raised in a mish-mash of ideas -- mostly lapsed-Catholic family (is there any adjective you see in front of "Catholic" nearly as often as "lapsed"?); Jehovah's Witness grandmother; a few years in the neighborhood Assembly of God church. And I gave up on all of it when I was ten; I simply got tired of hearing the same circular answers to my questions.

Still, I felt and still feel that it did at least lend a sense of perspective. Human beings are naturally vain, and religion can serve as a useful (if limited) mechanism to remind them of their place in the universe. Man needs to be reminded sometimes that it's not all about him. Of course, the inherent contradiction of ascribing supremacy to a humanocentric sky-god tends to obviate even this simple notion of living humbly on the earth and respecting other lives.

So my wife and I have considered whether we want at least a little Sunday school for our daughter. Since she is 4½, she is nearing the age where that would be a conventional option.

And I just don't see the value in it anymore. Even small-town churches, thanks to generous strides in technology, are hard-wired to the movers and shakers, who are not concerned with the nurturing of the soul, but the lining of the pockets. So basically, I don't want these fucking people anywhere near my daughter until she's old enough to see through their grift -- say, college or later.

And that includes them infesting public schools with their bullshit, and inflicting it on everybody's kids. A plurality of us were raised in at least a Judeo-Christian ethos, yes, but many of us are not Christians -- and even many who are simply prefer their spirituality to be their business, and theirs alone. As it should be.

And that's what this stupid cow doesn't get with her stupid article -- this is not a topic that merits "even-handedness". There is a sharp divide, as in the political realm, because one side is just flat fucking wrong, and they have the goddamned nerve to lie about it. The "Discovery Institute" is as Orwellian a name as you could ask for; it is neither an institute, nor is it concerned with discovering anything. It is merely a bankrolled clearing house for every quack and huckster out there with a marketable scam.

I expect the Anschutzes and the Melloncamp Scaifes to do what they've been doing all along; I expect Jodi Wilgoren to do her goddamned job and understand that words actually mean something, that science is a true discipline, not something to be cynically co-opted by a bunch of mind-control freaks in time for the next election cycle.

These successes follow a path laid in a 1999 Discovery manifesto known as the Wedge Document, which sought "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies" in favor of a "broadly theistic understanding of nature."

President Bush's signature education law, known as No Child Left Behind, also helped, as mandatory testing prompted states to rewrite curriculum standards. Ohio, New Mexico and Minnesota have embraced the institute's "teach the controversy" approach; Kansas is expected to follow suit in the fall.

Detractors dismiss Discovery as a fundamentalist front and intelligent design as a clever rhetorical detour around the 1987 Supreme Court ruling banning creationism from curriculums. But the institute's approach is more nuanced, scholarly and politically adept than its Bible-based predecessors in the century-long battle over biology.

A closer look shows a multidimensional organization, financed by missionary and mainstream groups - the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides $1 million a year, including $50,000 of Mr. Chapman's $141,000 annual salary - and asserting itself on questions on issues as varied as local transportation and foreign affairs.

So in just a couple of paragraphs, Wilgoren jumps from the fact that these people have a written manifesto to disrupt scientific progress in the name of their particular vision of what American culture should encompass, to the implication that they're not necessarily wingnuts just because Bill Gates drops a million a year on them.

I don't know what Bill Gates' belief system is, and I'd actually like to know why his foundation donates to these jerks. I have a feeling that, since the Microsoft monopoly scandals of the past decade, Gates has learned the political -- if not the "principled" -- value of dropping a few coins in the tins of all the panhandlers. Congress mellowed out on him once he lined pockets on both sides of the aisle; so too can he keep these inbred political wolves from his door, since they are by nature politically connected to begin with. What's a million bucks to Bill Gates? He probably has that stuck between his couch cushions.

Read the rest of it. These people are on glue, and Wilgoren is merely an enabler. I could spend the next month fisking every word of the article, but by the time I wrote it and you read it, we'd all have lost our vestigial organs and small toes as a result of -- wait for it -- evolution.


pbg said...

If we're going to 'teach the controversy' when are we going to see third graders taught about Robert Graves's thesis that Jesus was the bastard son of King Herod by Mary, one of the Temple Virgins?

I'd love to see that.

I really, really wish that kids in this country were taught basic logic and rhetoric--you know, rules of thought and how to lie with language.
Of course, that would start kids thinking for themselves.

pseudolus said...

Or how about language scholar and Dead Sea Scroll expert John Allegro's THEORY expressed in _The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross_ that Christianity was EVOLVED from a prehistoric shamanic mystery religion revolving around Amanita Muscaria mushrooms?

I would love to see that covered in red state classrooms!

All I can say is, the Christians can teach ID/Creationism in our secular schools when we can teach evolution in their Sunday schools.

Error 404 said...

The irony of hearing "teach the controversy" from people who were all "three Rs" so recently, and who are so bothered by any curriculum that encourages confronting authority in any way whatsoever.

Craig Heath said...

Heywood - a great post and thank you for "hammerin" away at them what's trying to supplant schooling with religious indoctrination. pbg, pseudolus and Mike add great points to the argument you began long ago by asking why Norse mythology is not included in the "curriculum" if the Bible (which one, BTW?) is part of science class stuck somewhere between biology and anatomy.

Forgive the following, but your title to this post just had the ring of "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow/Nanook Rubs it" and it took off from there. Just my $0.02 tossed in to the kitty...

Sorry, Frank...
Jebus rode a dinosaur,
monkey's ain't my kin no more.
Jebus rode a dinosaur,
monkey's ain't my kin no more!

Well right about that time people,
a God-Preacher, who was strictly from commercial...
Strict-ly Com-mer-cial!
Had the unmitigated audacity to jump up from behind my issue,
Peek a boooooo - oooooo, ooooooo!
And he started in to whippin' on my favorite Bill of Rights
(whap! whap! whap! whap!)
with a lead-filled taboo.

I said with a lead....
Lead Filled!
...with a lead filled taboo...
...he said screw the true...
Screw the True!
...with a lead..
Lead Filled!
...with a lead-filled taboo...
...he said screw the true...
Screw the True!

He went right upside the head of my favorite Bill of Rights
he went Whap! with a lead filled taboo,
and he, he hit it on the first and he hit it on the fourth amendments and he....

That got me just about as evil as rational boy can be.
So I bent down and I reached down and I scooped down
and I gathered up a generous mitten full of the deadly...
Reasoned Thought!
The deadly Reasoned Thought
from right there where your thinkers ought.
Whereupon I proceeded to take
that mitten full of the deadly Reasoned Thought crystals
and rub it all into his beady little brain
with a vigorous cognitive motion
hitherto unknown to the people of America, but destined to take the place
of the reality show in your mythology,
here it goes now, the cognitive motion,
Think it!

(Here Fido! Here Fido!)

And then in a fit of anger I...
I proved! (Wham!)
And I proved again! (Wham, Wham!)
Great Googley-Moogley!
I jumped up and down on the ideas of..
I stymied (braap!) the God-Preacher.

Well he was very upset,
as you can understand,
and rightly so,
because the deadly Reasoned Thought crystals
had deprived him of his faith.
And he stood up, and he looked around and he said...

I can't believe!
(do-de-do-do-do-do!) - Yeah!
I can't believe!
(do-de-do-do-do-do!) - Yeah!
Oh, woe is me!
(do-de-do-do-do-do!) - Yeah!
I can't believe!

Well! Well! Well! Well!
Oh, no!
I can't believe!
What? (What!) What? (What!) What? (What!) What? (What!) What? (What!) What? (What!) What? (What!)
I - I - I - I - I - I - I - I - I

He took a Genesis taboo
and he stuffed in my right lobe (Wham!).
He took a Mathew taboo
and he stuffed it in my other lobe (Wham!).
And the Bible wee-wee
I mean the Good News wee-wee has blinded me.
And I can't see.

Well the God-preacher stood there
with his thoughts outstretched
across his frozen brain wasteland,
trying to figure out what he's gonna do about his deflicted faith.
And it was at that precise moment
that he remembered an ancient Evangelist legend
wherein it is written -
on whatever it was that they wrote it on back then -
that if anything bad ever happens to your faith
as a result of some sort of conflict
with anyone questioning God,
the only way you can get it fixed up,
is to go trudging across the courtrooms -
case after case -
trudging across the courtrooms,
right down, to the Parish of Politics as Usual.

(Ha, ha, ha!)

I stop there out of deference to Zappa's genius and recognizing that this is your blog, not mine. Sorry if I intruded....

Thanks again!

Heywood J. said...

pbg & pseudolus:

Feel free to post links to those "controversies"; I think the kids would quite like them. I know I was intrigued enough to do some googling.


It's never ever an intrusion; I'm thrilled that you choose to do a Zappa parody, of all things, in here. Love the substitution of "reality show" for the traditional "mud shark". I woke up the kid with my guffawing. Great stuff.

Recently, a poster on Atrios challenged fellow Atriots to guess which FZ song popped into his brain whenever Rick Santorum slithered on to his television.

Of course, it was just fun coming up with so many obvious apropos titles. It's not like there was any prize involved. But as I found myself mentally plumbing through great titles (and hence great songs) like Duke of Prunes and The Idiot Bastard Son, I couldn't help but wonder what the great man himself would have made of this mess today.

After all, Zappa characterized himself as a "practical conservative", which category I suppose I would fall under as well. I prefer low taxes and a motivated workforce; I am both pro-choice and pro-death penalty (though the number of "errors" has led me to reconsider the latter; still, in principle....)

I think the first and foremost thing FZ would hasten to point out is that these people are not conservatives. Shills, hucksters, grifters, call 'em what you want, they're not earning an honest living, they're not honest people, and they employ governmental mechanisms to proactively exert control over their fellow citizens' lives.

Wish I'd thought of it. I'd buy a Caribbean island and name it after myself, while youse chumps languished under the boy-king's belated adolescence. Wait till Himself spots that first hair on his pee-pee. Then we're really screwed.

Craig Heath said...

Heywood - many thanks.

RE: a poster on Atrios challenged fellow Atriots to guess which FZ song popped into his brain whenever Rick Santorum slithered on to his television.

Could that be...

"I'm the best you can get,
Have you guessed me yet?"

Your characterization of FZ is right on the money, from what I've picked up. And I also believe he would say, as some responsible conservatives have said, that those we call "conservative" today are anything but.

When did a derivative of the root word "conserve" come to mean "squander for ideological reaons"?

Just want to state it clearly,

"There is no blog but The Hammer, and Heywood is it's editor".

Heywood J. said...


Yeah, a lot of people guessed I'm The Slime, but strangely, it turned out to be Zomby Woof. I think it had something to do with the unnatural lacquer of Sanctum Santorum's helmet of hair.

If you've never read The Real Frank Zappa book, you should. It's a very fast read, mostly biographical, but the last several chapters were more of a political manifesto of sorts.

That's exactly what I was getting at, regarding conservatism -- it used to mean to conserve. Obviously it doesn't for these people. They call themselves "movement conservatives", but clearly it's more about the "movement" than the conservativism. I think even their hero Reagan would blanch at this crew's sheer disregard for preparation for full-scale invasion and occupation. For starters.

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