Scientists against Trump

As a follow-up to my previous post, Biologists against Trump, I give you this:

70 Nobel Laureates Endorse Hillary Clinton

Here’s the text of the letter:

The coming Presidential election will have profound consequences for the future of our country and the world. To preserve our freedoms. protect our constitutional government and safeguard our national security. and ensure that all members of our nation will be able to work together for a better future, it is imperative that Hillary Clinton be elected as the next President of the United States. Some of the most pressing problems that the new President will face – the devastating effects of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, the need for alternative sources of energy, and climate change and its consequences – require vigorous support for science and technology and the assurance that scientific knowledge will inform public policy. Such support is essential to this country’s economic future, its health, its security, and its prestige. Strong advocacy for science agencies, initiatives to promote innovation, and sensible immigration and education policies are crucial to the continued preeminence of the U.S. scientific work force. We need a President who will support and advance policies that will enable science and technology to flourish in our country and to provide the basis of important policy decisions. For these reasons and others. we. as U.S. Nobel Laureates concerned about the future of our nation, strongly and fully support Hillary Clinton to be the President of the United States.

Chemists, physicists, doctors, and even (gasp!) economists are all signatories to this document declaring support for Clinton in favor of, um, whoever the other person is currently running for president. Once again, naked appeal to authority? Once again, the answer is “hell, yes!” You don’t get much better authorities than these, and science matters.

Biologists against Trump

So I’ve seen these two stories recently and they looked like great things to show your science-minded pals or associates who may, for some weird reason, still be on the fence about the 2016 presidential election (yes, this is a naked appeal to authority):

Trump’s Behavior Similar to Male Chimpanzee, Says Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is the world’s preeminent primatologist; while this is a bit of a cheesy story, the fact that Goodall actually chose to comment on a forthcoming election shows where she’s leaning.

The ‘Father of Biodiversity’ Fears Trump and Nuclear War More Than Climate Change

“Father of Biodiversity” is the sort of moniker that the mainstream media would slap on somebody because it sounds good. It doesn’t really make any sense. However, the article does go into some detail about Wilson’s remarkable career and why he is viewed as a luminary in the field of conservation biology if not sociobiology.

While Phil Plait is not a biologist, he is a well-known science evangelist (in his words), and this post is also worth a read: To Beat Trump, Clinton Needs to Bring Science to the Debates.

People who feel that science and rational thought should be a major driver of American and global politics face a pretty clear choice at the polls in November between a person with little experience on the world stage and who doesn’t seem to believe in anything in particular if you take his numerous self-contradictory statements at face value and a person who is a serious politician with a long CV and all of the good and bad that that entails. The former has pandered to climate change denialists and anti-vaccine activists because it suits his business interests and gains some votes in the process, while the latter has taken a strong pro-science stand on many fronts. Which one do you want in charge of America?

 

 

Why Republican science isn’t the same as regular science

Why Republican science isn’t the same as regular science

Science is a way of learning things about the world around us. Over the millennia, it’s done some pretty great things for us. It’s taught us how to control the flow of water, how to construct permanent dwellings, how to safely dispose of our own wastes (mostly), what the lights are in the sky, and that was just the beginning. In the last century-and-a-half, we’ve learned about how life evolved on this planet over the course of 4.5 billion years. In the last 50 years, we’ve learned about the greenhouse effect and how rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, particularly as a result of human activities are wreaking havoc on the world’s climate. Over a slightly-longer interval, roughly the last 80 years, essentially one human lifetime, we’ve developed many of the medicines that treat the afflictions that plague us as a species.

Among those medicines are the vaccines that we’ve used to treat everything from measles to HPV to hepatitis to polio. Many of these diseases have been essentially eradicated from the Western world, thanks to the pervasive use of vaccines to effectively immunize populations and prevent their constituents from getting sick and dying from the illnesses. Well, that was true until recently, anyway. By now, everyone’s heard about the measles outbreak linked to Disney World in Anaheim and believed to be the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children with the standard MMR triple vaccine according to the prescribed schedule. Vaccine denialists, people who have convinced themselves despite all evidence to the contrary, that vaccines are harmful and cause diseases, are a bipartisan group: liberals who don’t trust “big pharma” and have been duped by listening to anecdotal evidence provided by parents of people with autism spectrum disorder make for strange bedfellows with conservatives who espouse small government and “parental choice” (a phrase which, from what I can tell, pretty much means whatever you want it to mean). However, it is uniquely right-wing Republican politicians who have made bold stands against the idea of mandatory vaccination: presidential hopefuls Chris Christie and Rand Paul have made statements, which they’ve made floundering efforts to walk back to some extent, regarding the need to vaccinate children against deadly threats. Presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and current president Barack Obama, on the other hand, have made unequivocal statements in favor of vaccinations for all. What are we to make of this?

As I said earlier, science is a tool that teaches us about the world around us. It’s a fact-finding construct so its insights are inherently descriptive but not prescriptive. As citizens we have to take the information science provides to us and make a simple calculus: do we accept its truth and adjust our policies accordingly or do we reject it (or cherry-pick it) in the hope of short-term gains despite what science is telling us? The far left and the far right have this in common: for different reasons, they don’t trust science or scientific consensus and are more comfortable with what their religious or alternative-medicine or celebrity authorities tell them. However, the far left is rarely represented in mainstream politics these days (despite what Rush Limbaugh would have you believe), while the far right has gotten louder and more accepted by mainstream right-wing politicians as the old GOP “big tent” seems to get ever tinier.

We are seeing tangible and concrete evidence now of the consequences of cherry-picking science. People are getting sick and dying because they don’t understand the concept of herd immunity and how everyone getting vaccinated who physically is able to be vaccinated protects the entire population of those who may be exposed to a pathogen. Or perhaps they’ve listened to Jenny McCarthy, who insists that vaccines cause autism and that she was able to use a natural remedy to “cure” her child’s autism (if you’re wondering, there is no “cure” for autism). Or maybe they just feel that mandatory vaccinations are a “government overreach,” an intrusion into their private lives and personal choices–and they don’t want Obama telling them how to raise their kids. Ultimately, there are lots of rationales for making bad decisions, but it is a peculiarly Republican trait of prominent politicians to declare their solidarity with what most normal people consider to be fringe lunatics: vaccine denialists, climate change denialists, and creationists.

Lest we forget, one of the newly-Republican-controlled Senate’s first official acts was to pass two resolutions: one that supported the idea that climate change is real and a companion piece expressing doubt that it is anthropogenic. These resolutions have no real meaning other than to give us a sense of the direction that Congress is heading on this issue: nowhere. With prominent climate-change denier James Inhofe (R-OK) now heading the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, there is little to no chance that we will see any significant action from this august body on this grave threat to humanity’s continued survival. The impact of continuing to seek out new sources of fossil fuels in lieu of seriously promoting renewable energy sources that do not boost atmospheric carbon levels won’t be seen in a few days, months, or years like the impact of lots of paranoiacs refusing to vaccinate their children, but the effects will be even more dramatic: mass extinctions, rising sea levels, melting polar sea ice, diseases and pests appearing and thriving further north than ever before are just some of the consequences of inaction that we can look forward to.

Aside from looking like a bit of a relic from the Middle Ages, there aren’t many dire repercussions for not accepting biological evolution. The array of evidence for evolutionary theory is so diverse and compelling that you pretty much have to  toss out all of science as a whole if you choose to dispute it. Nevertheless there is a certain small demographic of true believers that Republicans feel they must cater to in order to get enough votes to get elected. It’s disheartening that in the 21st century we are still standing people for the highest office in the land who reject the scientific foundations upon which our modern society is built.

This story from NPR shows how the Republican candidates in the presidential primary responded to questions about climate change and evolution in 2012. Among this entire crop of presidential wannabes, only Jon Huntsman took the controversial position that evolution and climate change are real phenomena. It seems increasingly likely that we can expect a repeat performance for 2016. While many moderate Republicans have been quick to repudiate the more bizarre and unfounded assertions made in recent weeks regarding the safety of routine vaccinations, these two touchstones of conservative Christian outrage are not so easily dismissed by those who wish to survive the crucible of Iowa and New Hampshire. And so they will try to have it both ways, like our esteemed Governor Jindal, who took a break from releasing self-aggrandizing press releases critical of the president long enough to declare his support for the science behind vaccines; this is of course, the same Jindal who has long supported the Louisiana Science Education Act, which attempts to muddy the waters in public education surrounding the topics of evolution, climate change, and, for some odd reason probably known only to his puppet masters in the Louisiana Family Forum, human cloning.

Indeed, Paul at least appears to be trying to make political hay from his irresponsible statement that he knew of “walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” He later tweeted a picture of himself receiving a booster shot and remarked snarkily that he wondered “how the liberal media will misreport this,” implying that that eternal Republican boogeyman, the Liberal Media aka The Main Stream Media aka The Lame Stream Media, had somehow mischaracterized his own words. Paul, who loves to tout his credentials as a physician (ophthalmologist) on the campaign trail, knows damn well that his statement above was intended to imply causation not merely correlation and that the average layperson would interpret those remarks in just that way. It’s as cynical and naked a political ploy as anything I’ve seen in some time: he scores points with the vaccine denialists by throwing them a bone about autism and quickly disavows his own remarks by blaming those “misreporting” ne’er-do-wells, the Media, thereby currying favor with the more moderate elements of his party who are all for vaccines but definitely don’t trust reporters.

So all of this brings me to my point: how is Republican science different from science? Well, it’s necessarily incomplete because they hold science hostage to the interests of various factions from whom they are relying on some kind of largesse, be it votes or the money with which to buy more votes. Acceptance of anthropogenic climate change would displease the oil and gas companies that funnel billions of dollars of campaign contributions into the cesspit that is our political system. Acceptance of the fact of evolution would displease the voting bloc of archconservative Christians still convinced that a bearded man in the sky individually crafted them and brought the world into being ex nihilo 6,000 years ago. Acceptance of the fact that vaccines prevent outbreaks of highly-preventable but highly-contagious diseases. . . well, no matter what the shrill vaccine denialists screech about thimerosal and Big Pharma’s price-fixing, it’s getting harder and harder to justify that position in light of recent events.

Here’s the bombshell, once and future kings of America: science isn’t a country buffet, where you can pick what you’re comfortable with and fits with your preconceived notions or those to whom you owe some manner of allegiance. Governor Jindal, how do you think we understand that vaccines work? Use that Brown education. The answer is that we learned about the way that viruses and bacteria evolve in response to changes in their environments (yes, I said two “e” words in one sentence). I agree with one thing you said not that long ago: the Republican Party needs to stop being the “party of stupid.” Perhaps you could start leading by example. It would make a refreshing change.

 

Why Romney lost and why the Republicans still don’t get it

A lot has been written and said about the spectacular electoral failure of the Republican Party in the November election, and much of it misses the point. CNN and other broadcasters pontificated on their tables and interactive maps and talked about how the GOP lost women and blacks and Hispanics and young people, and all of these things are undoubtedly true but not all that interesting in and of themselves. The more salient part of this is why the Party of No not only flopped in its efforts to unseat an admittedly-divisive sitting president (just why he is so divisive is probably worth its own article), but lost seats in both houses of Congress, including races that were considered easy victories like Todd Akin’s challenge to Claire McAskill.

Ask 10 Republicans why this happened and you may get 10 different answers. Mitt Romney, suffering from an apparent bout of Aesop’s fox syndrome, sulkily declared that Obama must have “paid off the electorate.” He didn’t mean that literally–he meant that the president had promised those constituencies that didn’t vote red money or some other form of government largesse in exchange for his reelection. Slightly smarter or less bitter observers like Louisiana’s own Bobby Jindal or Wisconsin’s Scott Walker hastened to say that Romney’s reaction to his loss was a bit stupid and suggested that the true problem with the Party lay in its failure to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters. Both of these men are, of course, playing to a national audience with these statements and it’s probably the worst-kept secret in politics that they have ambitions beyond governing a single state.

As others have pointed out, it’s worth paying attention to deeds as well as words. At home, Jindal has promoted an extreme social-conservative agenda that plays well to his base–and particularly the religious right–in this most crimson of states but which has been met with suspicion by moderates and independents. His recent push to put public funds in the hands of charter and private schools aligns perfectly with his previous efforts to dilute science education in the state with his Orwellian Louisiana Science Education Act. This is an important context in which to examine Jindal’s public proclamations, wherein he pays lip service to the idea of creating a more inclusive political party that embraces many groups–the so-called “big tent.”

The reality is that this is more empty rhetoric, because the GOP has continued to push an extremist agenda, even while giving the appearance of holding its more extreme elements at arm’s length. During the election, in a case of belated damage control, the national party stumbled over itself to distance itself from comments made by numerous Senate candidates who made abortion a central issue in the campaign by stating in various ways that their god had a hand in many terrible crimes against women; meanwhile, a similar policy statement is to be found on the official party platform and on the lips of its vice-presidential candidate (Paul Ryan is basically Sarah Palin, except that he actually did read all of the newspapers).  On the economic front, fiscal hawks like Speaker Boehner are taking a hard line against raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and are pushing the vague and ultimately meaningless trope of “tax code reform” that Romney was promoting as his “economic plan” during the election. This self-imposed “fiscal cliff” nonsense is the last gasp of the absurd “trickle-down economics” that  Republicans have been shoving down our throats for the last 30 years, and I hope they choke on it. The only thing that trickles down on the poor and the middle class when the rich get richer is the excrement that always rolls downhill.

Intellectual luminaries within the party suggested an alternate reason for why young people didn’t vote Republican. Bill Bennett suggested that liberals have taken over the public schools and indoctrinated America’s youth with pinko propaganda. He’s actually serious about this and it gets better. The prescription is to not to get rid of onerous and intolerant policies that drive people away the party in droves; it’s to take over schools and insert their own propaganda. It’s well worth taking a look at this film to see what Bennett and his followers have in mind.

This particular piece of idiocy just got cranked up to 11 this week in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Connecticut. Congressmen Louie Gohmert of Texas and Dennis Baxley of Florida have actually suggested that the answer to mass shootings in this country is for people to have more guns. Perpetual carnival acts James Dobson and Bryan Fischer declared that their god had once again intervened to “allow judgment to fall upon us” because of abortion and gay marriage and because there is no state-sponsored prayer in schools. Sure, you can always count on fringe loonies to say things like this after children are gunned down at school, but here’s the kicker: Mike Huckabee, the guy who was almost the GOP’s candidate for president in 2012, was saying the same things. If the party leaders really want to know how they’ve gone so astray and why Americans don’t trust them anymore, nothing sums it up quite so succinctly as this.

Here’s a pro tip for Mr. Huckabee and the rest: your god doesn’t belong in public schools and your religion is not the only one in America. The amendment that goes at the top of the Constitution–# 1–declares that Congress shall make no law respecting religion. That’s the “establishment clause” and it means that government, including public institutions (like schools), are to be religiously neutral. I don’t suppose you’d be too thrilled if the kids were facing Mecca and praying to Allah on prayer mats in the public schools under the imam’s watchful eye. So go ahead and blame those of us who want to take guns off the streets, who want to protect women, who are gay, who believe you can be moral without gods; Democrats will continue to clean your clocks at the polls as we all vote against you.

And on a personal note, fuck you, you self-righteous assholes.

People are assholes

I realize that’s a pretty broad stroke, but let’s look at the evidence. Leaving aside all of the stupid and horrible things humans tend to do to each other, as we could fill up pretty much the whole Internet with that, we’ll take two case studies I like to call rattlesnake roundups and Snapperfest.

If you don’t already know–and I find it hard to believe that in 2012 no one has heard of rattlesnake roundups–these are events held in a number of states on an annual basis wherein people catch rattlesnakes in the wild, frequently by pouring gasoline into their dens, and take them back to a central location where they can be examined, measured, milked for venom, beheaded, and cooked for the viewing and culinary pleasure of massive crowds of spectators. I’m not quite sure why so many people hate snakes but there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that this is yet another thing I can blame on organized religion. Christians, thanks to their holy text, associate snakes with the Devil.

I can’t think of a single redeeming aspect of this exercise. The venom collected has no medicinal value. The hunts can and do involve wanton habitat destruction. Many of the roundups still purport to provide some kind of public service by reducing exploding numbers of wild snakes that could be dangerous to humans, although the demographic data to support these claims don’t exist. The whole thing sounds a bit like something Jeff Foxworthy made up for a monologue, but instead it’s a real-life travesty.

It’s true that rattlesnakes have a potent hemotoxic venom that is potentially fatal to humans, if they’re clumsy enough to stumble over one and have ignored its auditory warnings. Turtles, on the other hand, are on record for having caused zero human fatalities (and very few injuries). Nevertheless, a barbaric tradition that I’ve only recently become aware of in Indiana is based on the exploitation of chelonians. These wonderful activities include things like running around with an Apalone to see who drops it on its carapace the least number of times and yanking on the heads of some Chelydra to see how many cervical vertebrae can be dislocated. Watch the video below if you have the stomach for it:

I don’t understand why we as a society revel in these kinds of events which only serve to denigrate these animals. Why are we pulling snakes from dens and turtles from rivers just so we can teach kids how to injure or kill them? From sulphur bacteria in deep-ocean thermal vents to blind salamanders in cave systems to the wingless insects that eat the glue in your book bindings, our planet is filled with a staggering array of life in myriad forms that are a magnificent testament to the power of a story that began three billion years ago and (unless Man has something to say about it) will continue on long after we are all reclaimed by the soil. Would it not be better to have festivals that celebrate the diversity and complexity of life on Earth? This sort of thing is a step in the right direction.

Breathtaking inanity in the Louisiana Legislature: May 26 Edition

The Senate Education Committee–or should I say “Education” Committee–strikes another blow for theocrats and Discovery Institute fellows everywhere with its “deferral” of Senate Bill 70 yesterday. A veritable host of speakers in favor of repealing the shameful Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 were given their say, apparently because Chairman Nevers recognized that the bill was dead in the water. Zack Kopplin and several of his fellow students, retired science teacher and Louisiana Association of Biology Teachers President Patsye Peebles, a representative of the Sierra Club, LSUnited member Steven Rushing, education professor Dr. Ian Binns and many others voiced their displeasure with the LSEA and explained how it undermined science education and specifically biology education in the state of Louisiana. Senator Julie Quinn of Metairie badgered the bill’s author and the proponents of SB 70, asking whether there was evidence that creationism had been taught in science classes and whether the SB 70’s proponents would be in favor of legislation banning any discussion of religion in public schools. Quinn flouted her credentials as an attorney and when several of the speakers stated that they would be opposed to banning the discussion of religion in classes such as history, English, and social studies courses, crowed as though she had achieved some grand rhetorical triumph–all the while she insisted that people were refusing to answer her questions and that she was losing her patience. It was quite the obscene spectacle.

After the advocates of SB 70 had spoken, the chairman turned the floor over to advocates of LSEA, mostly proxies for Gene Mills like Darrell White and Dr. Wade Warren, Baptist and biologist extraordinaire (whose previous testimony in favor of the LSEA is dicussed here). I take back the benefit of the doubt I gave these guys in a previous article: they’re liars, plain and simple. There is no other explanation for their consistent repetition of statements that have been demonstrated to be false. White talked about how the bill clearly hadn’t harmed anyone and that there was so much controversy over evolutionary theory as demonstrated by Behe’s irreducible complexity. Never mind that he didn’t mention Behe by name and couldn’t even explain the concept cogently (referring rather than to Behe’s favorite flagellar example instead to “cells” as being overly complex). The rest of White’s discussion revolved around the same legal arguments he is fond of using in his all-too-frequent letters to the editor, as though he is somehow unable to comprehend that standards of evidence in the legal profession are not at all equivalent to standards of evidence in science. Warren spouted some ridiculous “academic freedom” argument, which is spectacularly irrelevant to a discussion about teaching at the elementary and secondary levels. As a student, kids don’t decide what goes into a science curriculum any more than they would have input into a math curriculum. Frankly, neither do teachers–they teach what is listed in the K-12 standards set up by each state. Why is “academic freedom” needed in public schools? It’s probably the goofiest of DI’s long list of ridiculous non sequiturs. The Louisiana Family Forum (which should just go ahead and change its name to the Right-Wing Theocratic and Fundamentalist Christian Agenda Pushing At All Costs Forum) speakers kept insisting that it wasn’t possible for someone to teach religion in science classes because of the LSEA’s language ostensibly prohibiting this (conveniently ignoring the fact that their Discovery Institute puppetmasters are trying to dress up their Christianity as science by claiming that IDC is not, in fact, a religious belief system).

To close out the testimony, author Senator Karen Carter Peterson gave an impassioned plea for her fellow senators to vote for the bill and against the dilution of science education in the state. Senator Peterson pointed out that in all areas except the ones where it appears to be convenient, legislators consult and side with experts in their fields: engineers are consulted on matters relating to roads and bridges, economists on monetary policy, but not scientists on proper approaches to science instruction. Then the chair opened the floor for motions and Senator Long of Winnfield promptly moved to “defer” (kill) the bill. Senator Dorsey of Baton Rouge objected to Senator Long’s motion and proposed a substitute motion to report the bill favorably (meaning that it is passed to the full Senate for a vote with the comment that the committee endorses the bill). Chairman Nevers then called for a vote and in less time than it takes for me to type these words, SB 70 was dead. The vote was 5-1 with only Senator Dorsey voting in favor of SB 70.

Reverend Mills and the Creationist Lie Machine

I’m putting the text of my response to the most recent complaint published in the op-ed pages of The Advocate today by the good Reverend Gene Mills, head of the Louisiana Family Forum and Defender of the Right (Wing). Here’s a link to the letter.

Here’s a link to the version of my rant below that was published in The Advocate on May 12.

Well, I do enjoy a good rant every now and then, and nothing is quite as entertaining as listening to a member of a majority group complain about conspiracies and oppression, which is why I took such delight in reading Reverend Mills’s diatriabe published on May 7. It appears those evilutionists are at it again, trying to keep the “good word” from students in
public-school science classrooms.

Let’s see what has Mr. Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum up in arms. He states that the Louisiana Science Education Act was passed by an overwhelming majority in the Legislature of 2008. As anyone who has observed politics in
this state for more than five seconds can tell you, a legislative majority does not imply that a statute is correct or appropriate. He further decries the mistreatment of his pet legislation in the media; see, he says, right here there is language that precludes the advancement of religion. Curiously, the Livingston Parish School Board has already brought up teaching actual old-school creationism in their science classes, using this law as a justification (see here: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/99705064.html). Even if we didn’t have this bald-faced application of the intent, we know that the Discovery Institute, which has been shopping this model statute to any state legislature that will bite, exists to promote intelligent design creationism (which it claims is scientific). So, yes, if we redefine the terms
“science” and “religion,” I guess I could agree with Mr. Mills that the LSEA is clearly not “designed” to promote a religious
agenda in public school science classes.

I’m particularly fascinated by his next paragraph, wherein he mockingly refers to the “settled science” of anthropogenic climate change and something he refers to as “human embryo experimentation for research purposes.” Apparently, he is attempting to link the BP oil leak to what? Climate change? I’m pretty sure the investigative panels have concluded that corruption, collusion, shoddy oversight, and poor management practices were ultimately to blame for the accident which wrought untold damage to Louisiana’s coastal environment and killed 11 men. I’m guessing this must be one of the Right’s “blame Obama” strategies–stir people up against the repeal of LSEA by getting them worked up about the temporary deepwater drilling moratorium. It’s lame and obviously unrelated to the topic at hand. As far as “human embryo experimentation for research purposes,” I know of no such research underway. I believe Mr. Mills means “embryonic stem-cell research.” Is that what you and the DI mean by “human cloning”? Yes, it’s true that the federal government can now once again fund research into life-saving cures for genetic disorders of all kinds using embryonic stem-cells. Whenever I see religious people get worked up over a blastula I start to wonder why they don’t protest outside of fertility clinics, where unimplanted embryos are routinely destroyed.

Finally, he discusses the State-Times (defunct now for many years) as being on the side of the evilutionists trying to censor his ideas. Nobody’s censoring you, Mr. Mills. Obviously The Advocate publishes your many ill-conceived jeremiads. You’re perfectly free to shout about your Christian beliefs in your house of worship every week. But don’t try to sneak your back-door creationism into science classes, because people who care about the future of Louisiana will stand against you and you will lose.

I will add in this forum a few other things on this topic. We have seen editorials time and again by Mr. Mills and Mr. Darrell White of the LFF on this topic and one thing is abundantly clear: either these men have severe issues with a cognitive dissonance around the notion that they are promoting religion in science classes and that America is not a “Christian nation” or they are simply liars. The fact of evolution is not in dispute within the scientific community. Period. Many controversies may erupt in the primary literature (little if any of which I expect that Mr. Mills and his like could even understand, but maybe that’s being unkind) over the tempo and mode of evolution, philosophies of species concepts, appropriate methods of reconstructing biogeographical histories, the significance of neutral mutations, et cetera. But no one questions that life evolved, except in the context of a religious discussion. This fact has been illustrated on numerous occasions and in a variety of forums for the benefit of these men, frequently by Zack Kopplin and Dr. Barbara Forrest.

I find it particularly disingenuous of Mr. Mills to declare in his letter that the LSEA does not promote a religious doctrine. The statute was written with the express purpose of allowing discussion of intelligent design creationism in science classes, and intelligent design creationism is most assuredly not science. It’s nothing more than a belief system that if you can find something that you think is too complex to have evolved by mechanisms currently understood by science it must have been the work of a supernatural agent. But that’s a lie. Maybe you didn’t look hard enough, like Michael Behe, whose irreducibly-complex bacterial flagellum was easily shown to be functional with fewer parts that he described. Or maybe you just figured if you defined your terms to mean things unique to your discussion and used enough symbolic logic in your papers, like William Dembski, no one would notice that your “research program” is still just the attempt to poke holes in evolution that has been around since the days of Duane Gish and Henry Morris. The simple truth is that if there is a supernatural cause for a phenomenon that we can observe directly or indirectly, then it isn’t–it’s a natural cause that we hadn’t heretofore known.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in biology just as there are in all of the other scientific disciplines. If Mr. Mills and Mr. White really cared about the scientific education of the kids in this state, they would be encouraging those children to try to answer those questions, not to take the DI route of plugging any unknowns with the mystical G-factor. Intelligent design creationism, just like old-fashioned creationism, doesn’t do anything to advance human knowledge, and it’s time we put this absurd debate to bed, if only people like Mr. Mills would permit it.