Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Fundamentalists, Indeed In yesterday's postings I mentioned that sometimes you can tell just from the title of a book or an essay that you are about to read the ravings of a right-wing hack. Here's one more such title: “Who are the real fundamentalist, extremist zealots?”

This is the title of a recent column by Joseph Farah at the right-wing website WorldNetDaily. He's all up in arms about the recent decision of the shcool board in Roseville, California not to contaminate their science curriculum with creationist bullshit. Here's an article, from the Sacramento Bee, describing what actually happened.

Farah's column is unusually bad, even when judged by the standards of pro-ID hackery. He manages to hit all the usual talking points, but never gets around to saying anything specific. Here are some excerpts:

Parent Larry Caldwell had an idea to bring more diversity into the education of his child and fellow students of the Roseville, Calif., Joint Union High School District.

Months ago, he observed, the district's biology textbook failed to point out any of the weaknesses of the theory of evolution – teaching it instead as a matter of fact.

Saying he was not interested in injecting religious views of creation into the curriculum, only providing more objectivity and balance when it comes to teaching about Charles Darwin and his theory, Caldwell added: “There's mainstream science that's been systematically censored from the classroom from my perspective.”

Yawn. The biology textbook did not mention the weaknesses of the theory of evolution because there are none. I've never met Caldwell, but I say with confidence that he is very interested in injecting religious views of creation into the classroom. There's no such mainstream science as Caldwell describes.

Note, though, that Farah is using a popular ID debating tactic. Specifically, he is setting the courageous and decent, free-thinking individual against the cold, unfeeling powers of the state. Who really wants to be on the side of the state in such a situation?

The school board came up with a compromise plan to retain the textbooks, but to encourage teachers to present the scientific information that challenges the theory of evolution. Resource centers in the school libraries would be started to provide other points of view. Parents would have received letters stating “a growing minority of scientists question the ability of Darwin's theory to provide an adequate scientific explanation for the origin and diversity of life on Earth.”

Would Farah support a similar compromise to make students aware of rival theories concerning the shape of the Earth? Such a compromise would be about as reasonable.

Actually, this is all preamble. Farah is just warming up:

The plan seemed eminently reasonable and accommodating to all viewpoints – which is why the real intolerant, fundamentalist, extremist, Taliban-like, religious zealots shot it down.

By a 3-2 vote, the school board decided there would be no dissent permitted on an article of faith like evolution.

Ahem. A while back I gave a public lecture about evolution and creationism to an audience of college students at Kansas State University. Towards the end of the lecture I was discussing the creationist propensity for presenting evolution not merely as wrong, but as an evil theory promoted by evil scientists (or at least, scientists serving as the unwitting dupes of evil). I asked the audience, “When you think of really evil people througout history, what group comes to mind first?” Some audience member obligingly offered the Nazis for that honor. I immediately whipped out a quote (one out of many I could have chosen) in which a prominent creationist writer compared evolutionists to Nazis. Then I asked for another group of people commonly depicted as evil. The audience served up Communists. I immediately produced a quote in which evolutionists were likened to Communists.

Of course, ever since 9/11 we have a new face for evil. So it is unsurprising that creationists would immediately seek to liken evolutionists to Islamic terrorists.

As far as I know, the first person to use this tactic was Ken Cumming, the dean of the graduate school at the Institute for Creation Research (!!!). He wrote the following in a review of the PBS special on evolution released in 2001:

Only 13 days after the act of terrorism on NewYork, Public Broadcasting Stations delivered a different, but another event of grave importance that was witnessed by millions of Americans—a seven-part, eight hour special entitled “Evolution.” PBS, with the aid of WGBH in Boston and Clear Blue Sky Productions televised one of the boldest assaults yet upon both our public schools with the millions of innocent school children and the foundational worldview on which our nation was built.

These two “assaults” have similar histories and goals. The public was unaware of the deliberate preparation that was schemed over the past few years leading up to these events. And while the public now understands from President Bush that, “We're at War” with militant Islamics around the world, they don't have a clue that America is being attacked from within through its public schools by a militant religious movement of philosophical naturalists (i.e., atheists) under the guise of secular Darwinism. Both desire to alter the life and thinking of our nation.

Later, Farah says:

When people accept the theory of evolution as an article of faith and teach it as a matter of fact and permit no dissent whatsoever from their doctrine, let me tell you: Those are religious people pushing religious views.

Whatever. No one holds evolution as an article of faith and students or anyone else can dissent from it all they want. Does Farah strike you as someone who cares overmuch about the facts of the matter?

The theory of evolution is now being treated like Holy Writ. That's not science, it's religion.

If something in science suddenly becomes so sacrosanct that you can't question it, then it ceases to be science. It's actually a contradiction of the principles of science and the scientific method, which requires testing, evidence, proof.

And that's what is happening all over the country – not just in Roseville, Calif. There's a new wave of sweeping intolerance and rigid conformity being required of teachers and students.

Now Farah is simply repeating himself. His article continues in this vain for quite a while. Go have a look at the whole thing, and then decide which side is interested in science, and which side is interested in self-righteous bloviating.


At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's what I wrote to Mr. Farah. I hope he replies.

Dear Mr. Farah,
if some school board would come up with a compromise plan to encourage teachers to present the scientific and historical information that challenges the historicity of the Holocaust, would you embrace it as one "eminently reasonable and accommodating to all viewpoints"? If not, would that make you a "real intolerant, fundamentalist, extremist, Taliban-like, religious zealot"? If not, why not? I really hope to see your answer.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Drunken Proletariat said...

Firstly, I'm glad I stumbled across your blog. Although the questions you deal with have been decided, at least for me, I still like to read up on this topic. I really hope that your efforts help penetrate the fog of near total ignorance, superstition, and false conceptions about the history of America. For example, why is it that fundamentalist christians everywhere believe that democracy, political freedom, freedoms of expression, religion, the press, etc. have anything at all to do with the bible or even christianity? Where in the bible is freedom of religion preached? How could you derive a concept like democracy from any biblical teaching? Where in the bible is tolerance for other points of views or races or religions taught? Why is it that every major advance in politics, science, freedoms, etc. made in the last 600 years by our Western Civilization has been has been made by freeing our minds of religious teaching, influence, doctrine, and practice? How could the minds of religious fanatics have composed a document like the American Constitution? Or the Bill of Rights? Fundamentalists arrogate to themselves the best of what secular humanism has achieved in modern history, while trying to tear it down at the same time. It shows an astonishing level of brainwashing, and the capacity of the human mind to believe absolutley anything.

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