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March 03, 2008

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Don't forget...McCain has pandered to the religious right on intelligent design in the curriculum.

"I have criticized Jake Tapper, who wrote the ABC new piece,"

"...news piece," probably.

Although it's actually a blog post, FWIW.

Might also want to be clear that you're referring to past criticism, not criticism of this piece. Something like "I've criticized Jake Tapper, writer of this ABC News blog post, in the past, but he did the...."

Or not; just a suggestion, of course.

Thimerosal is a hobbyhorse of the homeschooling movement. McCain is signaling the religious right that he agrees with them about how awful public schools are, and thus will support vouchers and other government financial support of religious education. He's also reaching out to libertarians generally.

In some ways, I admire that he's trying to court both sides of the divide, because it shows that he actually does want to be President, something I doubted after he fell to pieces with the South Carolina primary in 2004.

The scary part, though, is how confusing he's really made his candidacy over the last few months. It's like he's adopted the resolution to be a change-driven rock, or an immovable progression, or some other type of oxymoron.

Is anybody else reminded of Ike with this? And no, I'm not old enough to remember Ike, but this sounds a lot like Eisenhower to me: war hero with questionable knowledge of economics running on semi-scare tactics, not really pleasing to any members of his party, and (knock on wood) running against a relatively inexperienced intellectual with a message of change from Illinois.

Ahhh, the irony.

I've been a homeschooler for fourteen years. I have many friends who are homeschoolers, I run a mailing list for homeschoolers, I read homeschooling mailing lists and blogs.

In my experience, the thimerosal/autism link is *not* a hobbyhorse of homeschoolers in general. Some homeschoolers oppose vaccination, but those homeschoolers were already opposing vaccination before the thimerosal controversy erupted.

Moreover, please do not equate the homeschooling movement and the religious right. Despite all the efforts of the loathsome Homeschool Legal Defense Association(HSLDA) to claim that all homeschoolers support their far-right agenda, nothing could be further from the truth. If I mention HSLDA in a gathering of my homeschooling friends, hissing and bared teeth are likely to ensue.

And no, I'm not old enough to remember Ike, but this sounds a lot like Eisenhower to me....

Ike's claim to wartime fame was that he managed an enormously complex operation which involved (amongst other things) managing some extremely awkward people, both above and below him in the pecking-order: FDR, Churchill, Monty, Patton and De Gaulle. McCain's claim to fame AFAIK is that he got shot down and tortured. All credit to him for his courage, but as work experience goes I think Ike comes out ahead.

You forget, hilzoy, that in the world of the national republican party today, ignorance is strength. Look for McCain to declare tomorrow that the Earth is flat and for his approval ratings among the hard right to shoot up 20%.

Please, this isn't "code for vouchers"--he can simply say that. He's just too mentally fatigued and out of the loop to understand anything but his one or two areas of expertise.

Don't blame the homeschoolers for McCain just not having a freaking clue about current scientific data on anyting, including Autism.

Please, this isn't "code for vouchers"--he can simply say that. He's just too mentally fatigued and out of the loop to understand anything but his one or two areas of expertise.

Don't blame the homeschoolers for McCain just not having a freaking clue about current scientific data on anyting, including Autism.

I move that any candidate for Federal, State, or local office who pledges to never raise taxes, regardless of circumstances, is unfit to manage anything more complicated than a lemonade stand, and I wouldn't put them in charge of procuring the lemonades at that, because they obviously have no intention of making lemonade.

Pledge cards endorsing my motion will be mailed soon, if I can get someone to deliver the mail for free, because of some ill-advised pledges I made here on the home front.

McCain won the primaries because the other Republican candidates were suckitude in aspic. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he then wraps himself in suckitude, the putz.

If the Republican Party wins the Presidency in 2008, I'm going to want all of my lemons back, in arrears, because the American people are obviously unfit to be governed.

But wait till they get a load of me.

Moreover, please do not equate the homeschooling movement and the religious right. Despite all the efforts of the loathsome Homeschool Legal Defense Association(HSLDA) to claim that all homeschoolers support their far-right agenda, nothing could be further from the truth. If I mention HSLDA in a gathering of my homeschooling friends, hissing and bared teeth are likely to ensue.

I'm quite aware that not all home schoolers are part of the religious right. However, I'm not at all aware of the numbers. Nor am I aware of how closely the religious right home schoolers work with the non-religious right. Any clarification on that?

Regardless of whether there is a huge homeschooling-antivaccine-Republican lobby, it makes sense to me that Republicans would like there to be one. The ideological overlap is supposed to be: "homeschooling = parental authority vs. evil state interference" and "antivaccinationism = parental authority vs. evil state interference". Similarly, when it comes to language education, many right-wingers have adopted phonics as a cause celebre not just in terms of its merits (on which there's a pretty broad consensus) but because it can be framed as "back to basics" and "put those elitist progressive meddlers in their place". (Bush's embrace of that cause may have more to do with lobbying by the textbook industry, but I think the ideological movement came first.)

And denouncing a pharmaceutical product may seem like an oddly anti-big-business gesture, but since thimerosal has already been pretty much eliminated, McCain's not really alienating any money by doing this.

@ Christian Sorenson:

And another major difference between John McCain and Dwight Eisenhower was that Ike was not -ever- interested much in politics per se; or running for public office. He was "drafted" by the Republicans into running in 1952 from academia (he was then President of Columbia University IIRC) - and the "semi-scare" tactics he had to deal with in his campaign (not so "semi", actually) were basically NOT Ike's doing. John McCain, by contrast, has been in the Senate for decades, and seems (as hilzoy points out) positively eager to pander to whatever is the wingnut talking-point of the day. No comparison.

@ Christian Sorenson:

And another major difference between John McCain and Dwight Eisenhower was that Ike was not -ever- interested much in politics per se; or running for public office. He was "drafted" by the Republicans into running in 1952 from academia (he was then President of Columbia University IIRC) - and the "semi-scare" tactics he had to deal with in his campaign (not so "semi", actually) were basically NOT Ike's doing. John McCain, by contrast, has been in the Senate for decades, and seems (as hilzoy points out) positively eager to pander to whatever is the wingnut talking-point of the day. No comparison.

HRC doesn’t think McCain is so bad. She just endorsed him. Over Obama anyway…

"I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. Sen. John McCain has a lifetime of experience that he'd bring to the White House. And Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."

I've seen this McCain character before.

I don't mean the John McCain who has been walking around the past 30 years in the public eye.

I mean the John McCain since his nomination, the one who looks like John McCain but seems merely a husk of himself with movements a little off and odd opinions coming out of his mouth.

Do you remember Edgar in "Men In Black", played by the wonderful Vincent D'Onofrio ..... the dirt farmer on whose land the spacecraft crashes with the big ugly bug inside that hollows out our homely but friendly Edgar and uses his body as a husk, a subterfuge to make his way in the everyday world of people.

Our Edgar doesn't seem himself. His movements are herky-jerky, he's just a little more irascible and impatient than usual and sometimes when he opens his mouth, smaller bugs crawl out, or they skitter out from his sleeves.

His eyes go off in opposite directions and he leans in and licks his dry lips with great buggy munching noises.

He has a kind of garbled, cockroachy Tourette's syndrome, wherein cockaroachiemamie opinions spew forth without prompting, as he rips the door off the campaign bus.

It must be that time of year when the bugs infest and put on the costume of people we thought we knew so they can lay waste.

The Republican base has landed and they've eaten John McCain's insides.

Hillary Clinton bears watching too.

I saw brown juice drip out her mouth the other day and I could hear her carapace creaking underneath the lumpy pantsuit.

And another major difference between John McCain and Dwight Eisenhower was that Ike was not -ever- interested much in politics per se; or running for public office.
This is true.
He was "drafted" by the Republicans into running in 1952 from academia (he was then President of Columbia University IIRC)
Yes and no.

Trivially, although he was technically President of Columbia from '48-'52, he was in Europe as Supreme Commander of NATO from '50 through May of '52.

Otherwise I'd just note that while he had no desire to campaign, nor in politics for its own sake, he certainly had decided that he was a lot better qualified to be president of the U.S. than Robert Taft, or Tom Dewey, were, and spent 1951-52 taking the necessary steps to get the nomination.

Although Eisenhower was still in Europe for the New Hampshire primary, and the following Minnesota primary, and thus couldn't campaign, he agreed to be a write-in candidate, and won New Hampshire, as well as getting nearly as many votes in Minnesota as Harold Stassen, whose favorite son candidacy was regarded as a stand-in for Ike, anyway.

Bottom line is that the "draft" of Eisenhower didn't exactly drag him kicking and screaming to the nomination. I just wanted to be clear about that.

Also, he allowed all sorts of scummy campaigning on his behalf; most notably he let McCarthy and Nixon and the rest of the loony right smear his mentor, the great George C. Marshall, as a "communist" and "traitor," and "a man steeped in falsehood," without response.

Ike even prepared a defense of Marshall for a campaign speech in '52 in Wisconsin, McCarthy's state, and chickened out.

Lastly, Ike was the guy who hired Richard Nixon to be his attack dog.

Although Ike looks good by comparison with modern Republicans, he was hardly free and unassociated with sleaze, corruption, or the Republican attack machine, little different than from now, save that Democrats were all traitors and communists, then, rather than traitors and Muslim-sympathizers, now.

HRC doesn’t think McCain is so bad. She just endorsed him. Over Obama anyway…

So, assuming that's accurate, she's just ensured I'll vote for whatever third-party nominee appears first on my ballot. And she has also likely ensured I will not give her any $$ for the general election campaign, which I was planning to do for Obama.

Although I can imagine Obama's response, "A lifetime of experience that led her to make the wrong call [ed: at 3am!] on the most important issue of the past decade."

HRC doesn’t think McCain is so bad. She just endorsed him. Over Obama anyway.

So much for "standing together against the Republicans", I guess. I hope this bites her, big time. (And if Obama had said anything like this, I'd feel the same.)

assuming that's accurate

True ‘dat.

It’s a blog true, but supposedly it was reporters (plural) and at a minimum Louise Roug from the LAT. I’d expect confirmation by the morning.

Handy to bookmark (assuming it proves to be accurate) to share with the next supporter who does not agree that she puts her own ambition ahead of her party…

Gary:

" ...rather than traitors and Muslim sympathizers, now."

Hold the phone, I'm adding something to a Gary Farber comment.

No, Obama is fast developing into a Communist, too, to go with the rest.

FOX will have footage of Mugabe ranting soon with a crawler underneath pointing out some Obama plan to rename Iowa the Ukraine.

We haven't hit bottom yet and the McCain/Clinton gravediggers haven't run out of spades.

Yes, that was on purpose.

This might only amuse me, but:

Mark Penn: Any attack made by [Obama] against this [campaign] would be a useless gesture, no matter what [speechifying Obama's] obtained. This [campaign] is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it!

Obama: Don't be too proud of this [campaign] you've constructed. The ability to destroy [New Hampshire] is insignificant next to the power of [Obamania].

Mark Penn: Don't try to frighten us with your [speechifying] ways, [Obama].
Your sad devotion to [the power of words] has not helped you conjure up the [magical unity ponies], or given you clairvoyance enough to find the R[epublican's] hidden fort...

Obama: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Lifting up Mark Penn with the power of The Force is going to be a lot tougher than doing it to that skinny guy in the movie...

Totally OT, but I was thinking about the usage of "Democrat Party" instead of "Democratic Party" and I could see some [small] validity in it. We refer to the "democratic process" and to those who are "democratically elected" and so on. To say that one party is "democratic" is to suggest, perhaps, that the others aren't.

"Republican" is also more than just a party name, but it doesn't have the connotations of "democratic".

I'm not sure if that's what McCain, et al are thinking, or even if it's a subconscious thing, but it is possible.

Regardless, the Republicans lost when it came to name their party, and the Democratic Party has been around long enough that it should be obvious that the name includes the "ic" (if they were smart, Republicans would refer to the "Democrat [pause] ic Party". But if they were smart, they probably wouldn't be Republicans. [grin]

But, Ugh, there are always two: a master, and an apprentice.

Also, there's a whole good guys/bad guys problem here.

Besides, we know what the Master looks like.

(Incidentally.)

But I'm sure that Obama has the highest midichlorian count of any contemporary U.S. politician. The Force is strong with this one.

"Lifting up Mark Penn with the power of The Force is going to be a lot tougher than doing it to that skinny guy in the movie..."

Size matters not.

Neil has already told us who the Master is, Gary.

"Neil has already told us who the Master is, Gary."

The Master was a pretty lame villain, anyway. All he did was lounge around his lair, complaining, and yelling at the meddling vampire slayer kids to get off of his lawn. Not very threatening, really.

A pretty accurate analogy.

The Master was a pretty lame villain, anyway.

He's the only one who killed Buffy (she got better). That puts him a step above lame in my book.

He's the only one who killed Buffy

Twice, if you count the Wishverse.

Anyone who channels Joe McCarthy by referring pejoratively to the "Democrat Party" self-identifies as an ungrammatical ignoramus. (BTW, what is the plural of ignoramus? Ignoramuses? Ignorami?)

I have often wondered: why do Republicans use that nasty rhetorical trick?

Thimerosal is a hobbyhorse of the homeschooling movement.

Really? All Dems loathed Big Pharma and the thimerosal cover-up just a few years ago (or loved trial lawyers... this may be over-determined).

Let's see, in late 2002 the Admin wanted to amend a Homeland Security bill to protect Eli Lily from thimerosal lawsuits. Almost all Dems opposed this, but a few crossed over and Evil BushCo prevailed.

The one Republican to cross over and side with the Dems? John McCain, who was a minor hero to Mark Kleiman back then.

But McCain has not kept up with the science (Kleiman flipped in 2006), so now he is a bum. And libs are telling me the right always believed in thimerosal, and Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Whatever. To be fair, Burton in the House seemed sympathetic to thimerosal-bashers back whenb he was chairman, but Robert Kennedy was a big booster of the thimerosal-Big Pharma-BushCo cover-up in 2005. Also a home-schooler?

In that post, Kleiman's objection to the amendment has nothing to do with whether thimerosal causes autism.

"Really? All Dems loathed Big Pharma and the thimerosal cover-up just a few years ago (or loved trial lawyers... this may be over-determined)."

I'm assuming you mean to assert "all Democratic congressional representatives," since there is no issue that all Democrats agree about.

I'm not remotely expert or even more than glancingly familiar with the thiomersal issue, but as I recalled, the big fuss came:

[...] n July 1999, following a review of mercury-containing food and drugs, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked vaccine makers to remove thiomersal from vaccines as quickly as possible, and it was rapidly phased out of most U.S. and European vaccines.[5] The precautionary principle assumes that there is no harm in exercising caution even if it later turns out to be unwarranted, but this 1999 action sparked confusion and controversy that has diverted attention and resources away from other efforts to find the causes of autism.[2]
So, while it might be interesting to see cites to exactly which votes you have in mind, Tom, and the specifics thereof, it seems unsurprising that around 1999, and for some years afterwards, being on the safe side seemed like the only prudent idea to lots of people.

Then:

[...] Due to continued public concern, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the National Academy of Science's (NAS) Institute of Medicine (IOM) to establish an independent expert committee to review hypotheses about existing and emerging immunization safety concerns. In 2001 the committee reported [...]
... essentially that concern was overblown.

Thus:

[...] The FDA actions prompted autism advocates to consider the possibility of thiomersal as a cause of autism.
More such studies followed, particularly the 2004 Institute of Medicine report.

That people change their minds when new facts come to light seems uncontroversial to me, but YMMV.

But McCain has not kept up with the science

I dunno about you, but for me...THAT is the relevant point. Shouldn't that generally be the point?

Or, since you're blabbing about "All Dems loathed Big Pharma and the thimerosal cover-up just a few years ago" you're saying that science is secondary to ideology (timing of research CAN play a role in what position you take, no?)

Not keeping up with the science, as well as not keeping his mouth shut when he didn't know what he was talking about, on a matter that could endanger children, is what bothered me about what McCain said.

I have precisely no knowledge of the home school movement, and therefore no wish to talk about it.

I would have opposed any attempt to shield anyone from Thimerosal lawsuits, but I would have done it not because of any views about Thimerosal, but because I don't really think it's for the Congress to decide, antecedently, that lawsuits in a given case should not go forward. Judges can throw them out if there's no good evidence. Juries can fail to convict if the evidence is not sufficient. We don't need the Congress deciding these things.

In the spirit of comity, I have no hesitation in saying that Robert Kennedy was wrong in 2005, and likely was rather dopey in not knowing better.

And I shouldn't have left out:

2006 - In the latest review by the WHO committee, the conclusion previously reached was reaffirmed that there is no evidence of toxicity in infants, children or adults exposed to thiomersal in vaccines.
It was after that that the kibosh was really put on the thiomersal-autism alleged connection, and not so much before 2004. The 2001 Institute of Medicine report said that a connection was "biologically plausible," so the theory was still viable then. Sorry for confusing this a bit in my prior comment.

I was reading

I was reading

I was reading this thread over at Firedoglake and I was depressed by the number of commenters who were utterly convinced that thimerosal was the True Major Cause of The Autism Epidemic Amen.

I'd imagine that FDL commenters are unlikely to be Religious Righters, so that can't be the only sub-group that has adopted this meme as their own.

Though the thimerosal/autism connection has been debunked, there is still AFAIK good reason to have eliminated thimerosal from vaccines. Thimerosal contains mercury-- quite a hefty amount of mercury, considering the small size of the babies and toddlers getting vaccinated and the large number of vaccinations they get. Mercury apparently doesn't cause autism, but it is toxic.

I would also be quite uncomfortable to be vaccinated with something that contains a preservative based on mercury, especially any mercury-organic compound. This has nothing to do with me possibly being against vaccination. Usually the doc sends me away with "come back next year at the earliest. You got all vaccinations, you'd possibly wish for and the minimum refreshing period is not over yet for any of those."
So, I do not see objection to thimerosal as being anti-vaccination (coded or not).
This shall also not be construed as an endorsement of the Son of Cain.

Thimerasol is clearly not the best possible preservative for vaccines and I am glad that it is gone. Still, there are anti-science folks on the left as well as on the right. Some are motivated for religious or political reasons, some because they hate not knowing or understanding a problem.

It's may be an easy, false comfort to the parents of a child with autism to tell them that someone else is responsible for their child's autism, but it is one that many such parents will be willing to latch onto, particularly since this allows them to disclaim all responsibility, nature or nurture.

Autism is a serious problem and a frustrating one. Until it is better understood, the snake-oil salesmen of unjustified beliefs will continue to have a field day.

We had a long discussion about mercury based vaccines and the thread is here. It's all fine and well to claim that there was nothing at all to the thimerasol-autism link, but the fact is that autism symptoms are very similar to mercury poisoning symptoms, which led to the hypothesis in the first place. Anyway, there are a lot of interesting links in the thread if you want to look back over them and figure out who went wrong where.

A little-mentioned benefit of singlepayer national health insurance, which appeals to me in my geekery, is that it makes it much easier to evaluate correlations. Wonder if a certain vaccine is connected to autism? Let's check the records, which we have for everyone....Nope.
This is what they did in Europe, disproving the vaccine theory. Same for abortion causing breast cancer: Looking at China and Europe, there was no correlation. Asking women here, what you find is that women often lie about having had an abortion, but evidently are less likely to if they're looking for an explanation for why they got sick. (Having had a miscarriage, which is similar in terms of changes to hormone levels, etc, this rightwing canard really teed me off.)

Nor am I aware of how closely the religious right home schoolers work with the non-religious right. Any clarification on that?

Good grief. The "movement" has plenty on both sides of the political spectrum in my personal experience in two different states. Home school parent(s) are far more likely to be absolutely normal people than tree huggers or right wing creationist-spouting neocons etc.

We worked side by side with people of all political stripes. Political viewpoints weren't important. The education of children was important. The first charter school in Alaska was formed with public school teachers and a large dose of homeschoolers and those thinking about homeschooling. It was an inclusive group and has been a tremendous success.

We homeschooled our kids upon arrival in California not because we wanted to teach them the sins of thimerosal (of which I was even more ignorant than McCain, not having heard of it) but because school where we are is just not that great. Parental autonomy and a good education are the common factors among home school parents. Although it is clear to me that many other parents do not share my political viewpoint, it isn't an issue.

My kids are in public school now. We get to deal with swearing, sexualized atmosphere, drugs, disrespect and low expectations that have become the norm in public education. We spend more time "educating" our kids now trying to help the school than we did homeschooling them.

...rather than traitors and Muslim sympathizers, now.

Thullen beat me to it. Who said we on the right were going to drop the communist angle? :)

We homeschooled our older kid for a few months this year, until she made it into a charter school. He disabilities practically guaranteed that she'd be fairly well screwed-over in the giant middle school we're districted to, and that we'd be putting in a homeschool-parent's worth of time fighting the system to get her the things she needs, even when required by law.

But now, she's doing fine.

So, that's me, not exactly a firm homeschool advocate, for homeschooling, when appropriate. Public schools do fail, sometimes, and responsible parents won't want their kid to fail just because their kid's school is failing to deliver. How wacky of an idea is that?

And then, there's Tim Tebow. I mean, if Superman was homeschooled, how could it be a bad thing?

responsible parents won't want their kid to fail just because their kid's school is failing to deliver

OTOH there's also a great deal to be said for not lying back and expecting the school to do all of the work, education- and discipline-wise, even while your kids are in attendance. And there's a great deal to be said for speaking up where you see things going wrong in your school. We do that all the time: if one of our kids comes home and relates something bad like kids using inappropriate language, we shoot the teacher an email. Nearly all of the teachers we've ever had dealings with (and I admit: we've been extraordinarily fortunate) are actively interested in such things, and appreciate heads-ups of that nature.

Good grief. The "movement" has plenty on both sides of the political spectrum in my personal experience in two different states. Home school parent(s) are far more likely to be absolutely normal people than tree huggers or right wing creationist-spouting neocons etc.

The concerns I have with religious right home schoolers is not in their politics but in their anti science indoctrination in biological sciences. (Anyone doubting the anti-science influence in high school education should remember the evisceration of high school biology texts thanks to creationist pressures).

And then, there's Tim Tebow. I mean, if Superman was homeschooled, how could it be a bad thing?

Ah, but he was reared by Christian missionary parents. No doubt that they taught him that awful creationist stuff. But all that can be overlooked as we worship the true god of this world, College Football!

(BTW did the game of college football evolve, or was there an intelligence behind its current design?)

The concerns I have with religious right home schoolers is not in their politics but in their anti science indoctrination in biological sciences.

Although I consider myself religious, I am not as up on the text book issue as I probably should. Personally, I believe in creation but also believe God can work through natural processes. I think science is a worthy endeavor, contains truth, and have no problem with schools teaching evolution. I don't have to reconcile everything, nor do I think I have to completely walk by faith and simply ignore contradictions. I believe (simply an opinion here) that many on the so-called religious right share in general my POV.

The reaction of the militant creationists is to the quasi-religious incantations of some scientists that all truth is contained in science. Religious belief is equated with mental illness. I read a blog a few years back about intelligent design by a biology professor that extremely condescending in its tone. I'll try to link to it if I can find it.

Now, I never experienced that in school. It never came up, but I'm sure my high school biology teachers and I would have had a nice, respectful discussion of creationism had I so chosen. It probably never came up because my view of creation is not inherently contradictory to science.

I have no problem with a small disclaimer in a textbook that there are other POVs out there. I also don't have a problem with no disclaimer. I can teach religion in my home to my heart's content. But I don't like the black/white debate that is currently going on. I have just as much problem with a dogmatic insistence that creationism be taught in school as I do with a dogmatic insistence that even a small disclaimer has no place as some sort of breach in the wall of "scientific truth."

"scientific truth" is somewhat of an oxymoron. If one has some difficulty with the notion that theories can be questioned, science is probably not the subject one should be teaching.

In no way should the above be taken as a testimonial for Creation Science, which isn't science at all.

The reaction of the militant creationists is to the quasi-religious incantations of some scientists that all truth is contained in science.

This is not my experience with them.

For one thing, historically, it's been the creationists who have played offense. They have been the ones in Texas and California to eviscerate the textbooks. And they are the ones who have been claiming that creationism has a scientific basis. And they are the ones that have bee trying to force their views into science classes. This is despite the lack of actual scientific research done by them.

Second, there is a distinction between creationism as a religious and sociological phenomena and evolution as a scientific phenomena. Scientists who are Christian (a sizable number) believe that there are no inherent contradictions, but they are totally ignored by creationists, whether they are militant or not. And scientists as a whole would be content if creationism was taught in philosophy classes--it's when it's been forced into science classes that have them angry.

Third, the way creationists have chosen to fight their battle has been to weaken and distort the basic methodology of science. To get their way taught as science, they are trying to change the definition of science as it is taught in high schools. I think scientists get rightly angry at this.

Fourth, creationists (and there's no other way to put it) outright lie to get their way. You can see this in the Dover trial, where the creationists lied time and time again on where the money came from and what their motive were.

Sorry, but this is a real bugaboo with me. I don't care what they believe for themselves, but when they try to drag other people down with them, using falsehoods and ignorance, I cannot allow that to happen. If you're sick of the black and white debate, you will have to blame the creationists--they've been trying for the last 50 years to get their way, and they've been far more successful than people think in gutting the intellectual content of biology.

it's when it's been forced into science classes that have them angry.

I'm not sure that having a statement read to high school students on the first day of school is really forcing anything. I doubt most students would even pay attention! The statement in Dover could have been cut back a bit and been just fine with me, perhaps even including a line that for other theories on the origin of life, go and take comparative religion or a philosophy class, or something to that effect. And take out the "not fact" language.

I can't respond to the issue of lies by the creationist movement since I am uninformed. I assume it was born out of an attempt to avoid invoking religion as the source of ID thought. As you, I don't like people being disengenous regardless of motive. Such is the crazy state of First Amendment jurisprudence.

I cannot, however, see how such a statement constitutes "establishment" of religion, especially if it were amended to include references to other religious thought

And I think trying to argue that ID is "scientific" and belongs in science class is a loser argument. It's one thing to point out current deficiencies in Darwinism. However, any overt reference to religion is met with such hostility I can see why they went that path. Not that I agree.

but when they try to drag other people down with them, using falsehoods and ignorance . . .

I think that is exactly what motivates the creationists. They don't want to stand idly by and have their children "drug down using falsehoods and ignorance." I still don't see the harm in reading a simple statement that there are other schools of thought, whether or not they are scientific.

"'scientific truth' is somewhat of an oxymoron. If one has some difficulty with the notion that theories can be questioned, science is probably not the subject one should be teaching."

This is rather tangential, so I beg forgiveness, but about an hour ago I made the mistake, in the course of picking up the mail, and conversing with my neighbor in the apartment next to me, of getting onto politics -- with Obama coming up, due presumably to the bumper sticker in my window, sticker on my door, and button on my shirt (;-)) -- and I ended up hearing a lot about his beliefs that Obama, like other visible politicians, is a "trained" and "guided" "tool" that They prepared as part of the Usual Front Job. You know, it's a mystery what Obama did at Columbia University! Why can't you tell me what courses he took!?! Why can't you name his professors?

Do you know where he comes from?

Kenya, I reply. He looks startled. Well, you know that, but hardly anyone does!

We digress into a completely unfruitful attempt by me to get him to say something, anything, about who "they" are who do all this planning and guiding and planting of hidden agents, and running of the vast hoax front of politics, and so on, but he steadfastly claimed only "I don't know."

Which makes no sense, and he overtly stated that if he said, I'd just dismiss it, but he was a stone wall on the issue.

So we got back to there are reports of Obama's homosexual activity, along with his coke use! And there are all these other rumors! Rezko! Corruption! Evilevilevil!

Etc. We shortly moved on to epistemology, and my point that believing things for which there is no evidence makes no sense. He asserted that everyone believes all sorts of things with no evidence, so of course we should believe things with no evidence. Obviously!

No, really, that was his argument.

Don't I believe in god?

No.

He's startled again. Okay, do I believe in evolution?

Yes.

Why?

Because biology and medicine couldn't work without it, sez me.

And at that point I left, one reason being that this was on balcony/stairs outside our apartments, and I was in a tee-shirt, and freezing in 41 degree temperature.

I really should know better than to talk about more than the weather and the squirrels with the guy.

Thanks for indulging my digression, and apologies for any ensuing boredom.

"I still don't see the harm in reading a simple statement that there are other schools of thought, whether or not they are scientific."

The only harm is that science classess need to teach science. If it's not science, it shouldn't be taught in science class, but in whatever other class is appropriate.

That's all. It's not a matter of "harm," but a matter of there being no justification for trying to insert something having nothing to do with science into a science class, any more than churches and synagogues and mosques and the like should be required to start with a disclaimer that their beliefs are unproven, unprovable, and in many cases factually wrong as proven by falsifiable experimentation.

I will agree with you that there are certainly people who are hostile and mocking and rude to religious people. Personally, if it's in response to religious people first being hostile or mocking or rude, I'll call it regrettable all around. If it's in response to polite and responsive conversation from religious people, I think it's rude and inappropriate.

But any way about it, I don't think "extremely condescending" words or behavior by anyone particularly justifies trying to insert anyone's religious opinions into public schools. It's not as if there's a lack of churches, or freedom to build more.

Gary and Gwangung:

It's not a matter of "harm," but a matter of there being no justification for trying to insert something having nothing to do with science into a science class,

I appreciate your thoughtful replies. I'm not advocating teaching creationism side by side in the same class. To be clear, I see problems with the creationist argument. Perhaps that's just a difference in theology. I don't find any problem with, for example, the Earth being 4.5 billion years old, or with evolution in general. I'm not here to refute the evolution of infectious diseases or the centrality of evolution to biology.

However, the simple disclaimer on the first day of class is not teaching creationism alongside science (unless it was read forcefully at the beginning of every class).

Further, public education in this country is virtually mandatory for most. Unless your parents have time for home school or can afford private school, you are going to learn what the government wants you to learn. A little respect for religion wouldn't hurt or constitute teaching religion in a science class. It's not exactly the same as requiring a "scientific disclaimer" in church because church is not mandated by the state.

I read some of the statements like this one and largely agree with it. Looks like a great thing to read along with a simple statement saying there are other, non-scientific explanations for the origin of the universe.


Looks like a great thing to read along with a simple statement saying there are other, non-scientific explanations for the origin of the universe.

If they're non-scientific, why do they need to be brought up in science class at all, even momentarily?

Should we also have a disclaimer in HS-level economics classes -- which will almost invariably concentrate on basic theories of supply and demand, the US monetary system and the Fed, etc. -- that there are other, non-capitalist theories of economics out there?

Should we have a disclaimer before history class about Fumenko's New Chronology?

Should we have a disclaimer before health class about homeopathy and alternatives to the germ theory of disease?

If not, why not?

"However, the simple disclaimer on the first day of class is not teaching creationism alongside science (unless it was read forcefully at the beginning of every class)."

For what reason should such a disclaimer be inserted? Why would the concept of evolutionary theory require a disclaimer that any other scientific explanation of how a biological or physical function works doesn't require?

I'm not saying anything about what anyone should teach anyone's kids outside of science class, but why should should your non-science disclaimer be introduced into a science class?

It's a pretty basic point. The default isn't "why not, what's the harm?" On that basis, we could fill up 5000 hours with disclaimers that have nothing to do with the existing curriculum.

This has nothing whatever to do with "respect for religion." Kids take a few hours of science classes per week for a couple, or couple of couple, of years, and that's it. The whole rest of their waking lives are free to be devoted to religion every remaining minute of the day, if they or their parents like.

If their faith is so weak, or so contradictory, that it can't withstand the challenge of facts and science classes, tough noogies. I'm perfectly respectful of people's many beliefs, and I insist precisely no one stop believing anything they wish to believe.

But nobody gets a right to use the power of government, including in public schools, to push their religious views on anyone in any way.

This is as much to protect the varied religous views of everyone as for any of the other reasons.

Demanding that religion -- whose religion, by the way? Can we do Satanic worship next week? Wicca? Animism? Native American beliefs? Shinto? Hasidism? Scientology? -- be inserted into science classes as a "sign of respect" just doesn't fly as a reasonable demand. It isn't science, and isn't a part of teaching science. That's all that science classes should do: teach science. Period. Sorry.

That is, unless you're suggesting that public school curriculums should be changed from having science classes to having "science and religion classes." Then it would be perfectly reasonable.

I read a blog a few years back about intelligent design by a biology professor that extremely condescending in its tone.

My guess is that it was either http://www.pandasthumb.org/>The Panda's Thumb or http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/>Pharyngula.

The reason they mock "Intelligent Design" (which is neither) is because it deserves to be mocked. The authors of the textbooks are lying, and they know they're lying. Dover pointed out to anyone who would listen that ID is a scam.

Phil and Gary:

I really don't find myself disagreeing with you. I could make the same arguments. I'm not exactly advocating anything, just that I don't see a big problem with the disclaimer. Just as Gary asks whether kids' faith is so weak as to not withstand a few hours in school, I ask whether science is so weak that it cannot withstand a two minute disclaimer per year?

Religion occupies a position in our society that is not comparable to homeopathy or Milton Friedman, IMHO. It misses the mark to imply that we would open the floodgates to hundreds of disclaimer request.

And I don't see a need to be specific about any religion, which answers Gary's question re Wicca/Native American, etc.

Really, I don't have a problem with no disclaimer. I just don't have a problem with a disclaimer either.

Religion occupies a position in our society that is not comparable to homeopathy or Milton Friedman, IMHO.

You don't think that capitalism occupies an approximately equal place in our society as religion? You don't think the same characters pushing for a "disclaimer" in science classes would be furious at a disclaimer that stated that communism and socialism were viable alternate explanations for how economics worked? Because I think they'd go berserk.

"I ask whether science is so weak that it cannot withstand a two minute disclaimer per year?"

It isn't, but that's not the relevant question. Science either "withstands" people going to their place of worship, with whatever frequency they do, and people engaging in whatever degree of faith in whatever they believe in to whatever they do however many minutes of every day, or it doesn't.

The relevant question is whether some people's religious beliefs should entitle them to use the power of the state to allow them to insert a religiously-based opinion into science classes.

"Religiously-based opinions" includes disclaimers for religious reasons.

If we agree that the state shouldn't be telling kids what to think because of someone's religious beliefs, we don't disagree.

If you believe that the state should enforce someone's, anyone's, religious opinions as regards the content of science education (or any other kind or subject of public education), we don't agree.

"Just a little" isn't an argument. Not a winning one, anyway.

"I just don't have a problem with a disclaimer either."

What you're saying is that you don't have a problem with your religious opinions being forced with the power of law on all kids in public schools.

I can see why you might not have a problem with that, but I'm unclear why you feel that others should agree. And I'm unclear why you feel a few hours of science classes in a lifetime are so unfair to religion that religion should get a say in the content of science classes, given that we don't live in a theocratic state.

"And I don't see a need to be specific about any religion, which answers Gary's question re Wicca/Native American, etc."

Sorry, you're claiming that all religions, religious views, and religious people, object to evolutionary theory?

That isn't so. Not remotely.

And even if it were, again, why would religion be justified in having a say in science education?

It's not a question about "just a little won't hurt."

It's a question about "why should religious opinions be inserted into science courses any more than we should mandate that outdoor survival training be included?" What the heck does one have to do with the other? What possible justification is there for letting people's random religious opinions get a say in science curriculums? Science isn't religion. It doesn't teach religion. Religion has no place whatever in science because it has nothing whatever to do with science.

And I don't see a need to be specific about any religion, which answers Gary's question re Wicca/Native American, etc.

Well, that's not a true comparison, you know, since objections to evolution isn't a feature of Wicca, Buddhism, or even actually major portions of Christianity.

We're just talking about a minority of a major religion.

"Well, that's not a true comparison, you know, since objections to evolution isn't a feature of Wicca, Buddhism, or even actually major portions of Christianity."

Reform Jews, Reconstructionists, and most Conservatives, and most Modern Orthodox -- though not Hasids or ultra-Orthodox/Haredi -- generally are fine with evolution. Maimonides said the creation story wasn't literal, after all.

The official Orthodox line is:

[...] The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has "maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis."[4]
Only a very small minority of Jews or Jewish religious authorities object to evolution.

(See here and here, if interested.)

A fair number of Muslim schools of thought object to evolution.

But you can't claim to be speaking for my religion, rather than yours, bc, if you claim that you're not arguing for a specific set of religious views in objecting to evolution, or saying it needs to be treated differently from any other bit of science.

In 2005 when the RFK Jr. article came out, the supposed thimerosal/autism link was all over liberal blogs like the Huffington Post, and the main blogosphere debunker (who made a lot more sense to me) was the self-identified conservative Orac of Respectful Insolence. This embarrassed me at the time. Orac did point out then that there was a sizable right wing to the antivaccination movement, though at that time the public buzz was more on the left.

Fortunately, I can now breathe easy, since this controversy has realigned to confirm my political prejudices.

If they're non-scientific, why do they need to be brought up in science class at all, even momentarily?

Because it's viewed as a condradiction of their religious beliefs. There are branches of Christianity that insist that the Bible is the Word of God, and therefore literally true. One of those branches is (and this may seem odd, given the direction of my comments in this thread) mine. I'm still considering how to best resolve this disagreement, and whether I'm going to have to leave the church, or (possibly) bring the disagreement up for discussion. If, when religion is in direct disagreement with observations, and it takes a great deal of adding-in of wild explanations (such as how the Grand Canyon was magically carved by receding Flood waters, and how there could possibly be a couple of thousand-meter-thick layer of dead critter (crinoid) skeletons, more than a mile underground; tens of thousands of cubic miles in volume) to make things fit, there's an active denial of reality going on. If your religion says that God made the world, and your religion simultaneously is in denial of the world, that to me signals a denial of God.

And don't tell me Satan put that stuff there, or I'm going to have to spin up some Alice's Restaurant in reply. Yes, Officer Obie, I put that envelope under that half a ton of garbage.

But you can't claim to be speaking for my religion, rather than yours, bc, if you claim that you're not arguing for a specific set of religious views in objecting to evolution, or saying it needs to be treated differently from any other bit of science.

I'm not claiming to speak for any religion. I never said that. I am also not advocating the teaching of creationism in school. I never said that. Look at my first post above. I said I have a problem with both sides of the debate at the extremes.

My personal belief is kind of like the RCA (thanks for the link, Gary). Not that that is all that relevant here.

If we agree that the state shouldn't be telling kids what to think because of someone's religious beliefs, we don't disagree.

We then agree.

What you're saying is that you don't have a problem with your religious opinions being forced with the power of law on all kids in public schools.

No. Maybe I wasn't clear on the content of the disclaimer. I would have a problem with a statement that told kids what to believe in any fashion. Acknowledging that there are other beliefs out there (whether or not true) isn't the same to me as "forcing religious beliefs with the power of law on all kids."

I would think having the ten commandments posted all over the Supreme Court, having a paid chaplain for Congress, or opening congressional sessions with a prayer would be more offensive than a simple disclaimer (one that simply says there are other non-scientific beliefs out there).

Sorry, you're claiming that all religions, religious views, and religious people, object to evolutionary theory?

Actually, I intended no such thing. I think it is problematic to have a disclaimer religion specific. Easier to simply say there are other views. I'm not thinking that the cobra and lotus flower story would be in there, for example.

why should religious opinions be inserted into science courses any more than we should mandate that outdoor survival training be included?

I don't equate a simple disclaimer with inserting religion into science. And religion does occupy a position in our society a bit different that outdoor survival training. Go ask the pilgrims.

We live in a society that makes special accomodations for many religious interests. We'll build footbaths for Muslims at public universities, but a simple disclaimer read once at the beginning of science class offends us?

Again, I'm not advocating the Abekah home school text book on biology. I don't buy into that. But when a devout Christian who believes in divine creation and thinks the literal interpretation of the Bible rules out evolution sends their kid to school, what real harm is there reading aloud ONCE a modest disclaimer?

I think that reading such a disclaimer has NOTHING to do with mixing religion and science. The whole rest of the class the kids will learn regular old biology and the theory of evolution. Fine.

Millions of Americans were taught a different version of science for the better part of a century before Darwin. They seemed to come out just fine. Not that I want to go back to bloodletting and leeches; it's just an observation. I'm glad that evolutionary study exists so that we can fight, for example, infectious diseases.

I appreciate the comments. But what I haven't read from any of you is a response to the point that public school curriculum is foisted upon us all. It's more or less mandatory. Most of the teaching is non-objectionable (except for the stupid new "grade level" standards. What kid reads at level "3.4" I ask?). And see, e.g., the problem with Christopher Columbus and history and the American Indians. Removing all religion from public school can be viewed as advocating literally no religion. Creationists take issue with that. Maybe they ask too much in return.

My first point, and my last point, is that the vehemence with which a disclaimer is fought is, IMHO, akin to the vehemence the creationists fight to have ID taught in school. In making my first comment, I never really intended to make a defense of the disclaimer. I simply was noting there was something ironic about how offended some people seem to be about the disclaimer and how I personally didn't see the harm. I'm probably not the best person to engage in this debate because it's really not my debate.

Maybe Gwangung is right and I haven't paid enough attention to see the deceitfulness on the creationist side. I'm open to that.

"Because it's viewed as a condradiction of their religious beliefs."

And this is relevant to a science class on biology or physics or chemistry, how?

Classes are for educating students in their topics.

bc: "Acknowledging that there are other beliefs out there (whether or not true) isn't the same to me as 'forcing religious beliefs with the power of law on all kids.'"

But it is, if you're asking for beliefs unrelated to science to be introduced into a science class by changing the law.

There's no other reason to ask for a disclaimer about evolution aside from specific religious beliefs by specific religious groups. Ain't no one else asking. It is what it is.

"Removing all religion from public school can be viewed as advocating literally no religion."

Making sure no one's religion is advocated isn't the same as advocating against religion.

Last I looked, colleges and brave high schools still offered comparative religion courses and studies.

I'm fine with plenty of objective study of comparative religion in high school, or junior high, or elementary school, so long as no one uses it to advocate for, or against, any religious belief.

"It's more or less mandatory."

The problem is the need for public education to, as best possible, reflect consensus reality.

Unfortunately, there are some major divisions in society about some aspects of consensus reality.

One, not controversial to the degree religion is, would be the whole set of beliefs that encompass believing in astrology, auras, spirit guides, contact with the dead, reincarnation regression hypnosis, and the like.

Now, the fact is that these are factually provable to be crap. Unviable hypotheses that provably do not reflect reality.

But endless numbers of people believe otherwise. They get understandably offended if it's pointed out that their beliefs are verifiably false in many cases.

Should we let them all teach courses at public schools on these topics in proportion to how many people in society believe in what they have to sell?

Maybe you do, in which case we'll have to agree to disagree.

I agree that there's a problem, but it's the larger problem of divisions in society over some beliefs.

All public schools can do is teach that which is as close to checkable as possible, and otherwise rely on good teachers teaching kids how to think, and test hypotheses, and to use logic, not emotion, and to distinguish between the rational and irrational, and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, the churches and mosques and religious schools, etc., remain open and popular.

And this is relevant to a science class on biology or physics or chemistry, how?

In no way at all, other than it tends to have some parents want to screw with the curriculum, or put their kids in a private school that teaches a curriculum that's more agreeable.

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