Waco Tribune gets it: Science is golden

December 31, 2007

The Waco Tribune offered its editorial support to science, and evolution theory, today.

Texas education officials should be wary of efforts to insert faith-based religious beliefs into science classrooms.

* * * * *

Neither science nor evolution precludes a belief in God, but religion is not science and should not be taught in science classrooms.

Those are the opening and closing paragraphs. In between, the authors scold the Texas Education Agency for firing its science curriculum director rather than stand up for science, and cautions the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board against approving a course granting graduate degrees in creationism education.

Support for evolution and good science scoreboard so far: Over a hundred Texas biology professors, Texas Citizens for Science, Dallas Morning News, Waco Tribune . . . it’s a cinch more support will come from newspapers and scientists. I wonder whether the local chambers of commerce will catch on?


Death penalty: Cruel and unusual punishment?

December 31, 2007

A note today from the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell University’s Law Library notes that a big death penalty case is set for argument on Monday, January 7.

The issue in Baze v. Rees is whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore prohibited under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Plaintiffs Thomas Baze and Thomas K. Bowling argue that there is an impermissible chance of pain from the execution process.

Two lower courts ruled against the plaintiffs. In a rather surprise move, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari on September 25 to hear the case, which some interpret as the Court’s willingness to review the cruel and unusual argument in the light of a majority of the states now refusing to use the death penalty, while others think it means the more conservative Roberts Court is willing to quash death penalty appeals with a ruling that injection is not cruel and unusual.

This highlights the 8th Amendment. Discussion of this topic may help students cement their knowledge of the amendment and Bill of Rights. News on this case generally highlights court procedures, procedures, legal and constitutional principles that students in government classes need to understand.

News on the arguments in this case should go into teacher scrapbooks for later classroom exercises. Teachers may want to note that the decision will come down before the Court adjourns in June, but it may come down before the end of the school year. Teachers may want to have students review information about the case and make predictions, which predictions can be checked with the decision issues.

Below the fold I copy LII’s introduction to the case in their Oral Argument Previews, with the links to the full discussion, which you may use in your classes.

LII operates off of contributions. I usually give $10 or so when I think of it — these resources are provided free. You should be using at least $10 worth of stuff in your classrooms — look for the donation link, and feel free to use it in the support of excellent legal library materials provided free of cost to teachers and students.

Read the rest of this entry »


December 30, 1924, Hubble Day: Bigger universe than you can imagine

December 30, 2007

Edwin Hubble

December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced the results of his observations of distant objects in space.

In 1924, he announced the discovery of a Cepheid, or variable star, in the Andromeda Nebulae. Since the work of Henrietta Leavitt had made it possible to calculate the distance to Cepheids, he calculated that this Cepheid was much further away than anyone had thought and that therefore the nebulae was not a gaseous cloud inside our galaxy, like so many nebulae, but in fact, a galaxy of stars just like the Milky Way. Only much further away. Until now, people believed that the only thing existing outside the Milky Way were the Magellanic Clouds. The Universe was much bigger than had been previously presumed.

Later Hubble noted that the universe demonstrates a “red-shift phenomenon.” The universe is expanding. This led to the idea of an initial expansion event, and the theory eventually known as Big Bang.

Hubble’s life offered several surprises, and firsts:

Hubble was a tall, elegant, athletic, man who at age 30 had an undergraduate degree in astronomy and mathematics, a legal degree as a Rhodes scholar, followed by a PhD in astronomy. He was an attorney in Kentucky (joined its bar in 1913), and had served in WWI, rising to the rank of major. He was bored with law and decided to go back to his studies in astronomy.

In 1919 he began to work at Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, where he would work for the rest of his life. . . .
Hubble wanted to classify the galaxies according to their content, distance, shape, and brightness patterns, and in his observations he made another momentous discovery: By observing redshifts in the light wavelengths emitted by the galaxies, he saw that galaxies were moving away from each other at a rate constant to the distance between them (Hubble’s Law). The further away they were, the faster they receded. This led to the calculation of the point where the expansion began, and confirmation of the big bang theory. Hubble calculated it to be about 2 billion years ago, but more recent estimates have revised that to 20 billion years ago.

An active anti-fascist, Hubble wanted to joined the armed forces again during World War II, but was convinced he could contribute more as a scientist on the homefront. When the 200-inch telescope was completed on Mt. Palomar, Hubble was given the honor of first use. He died in 1953.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

That news on December 30, 1924, didn’t make the first page of the New York Times. The Times carried a small note on February 25, 1925, that Hubble won a $1,000 prize from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

Update, December 31: CBS’s Sunday Morning has an “Almanac” feature weekly; Hubble was featured on December 30. Unfortunately CBS has not posted the video. However, I did find a description of Hubble’s work on YouTube — in true, irritating internet fashion, stripped of citations. The video is below. If you know details — who made the video, where good copies might be available — please note it in comments.

Update:  See the 2009, improved  Hubble Day post here.

See the 2010 post here.


Flag burning suspect arrested

December 30, 2007

CBS-3 News in Springfield, Massachusetts, reports a man has been arrested and arraigned for the burning of three U.S. flags in the area.  He entered a “not guilty” plea.


Can we keep up with the Russians Indians, Chinese, Europeans, Japanese, Saudis?

December 29, 2007

Sputnik’s launch by the Soviet Union just over 50 years ago prompted a review of American science, foreign policy, technology and industry. It also prompted a review of the foundations of those practices — education.

Over the next four years, with the leadership of the National Science Foundation, Americans revamped education in each locality, beefing up academic standards, adding new arts classes, new science classes, new humanities classes especially in history and geography (1957-58 was the International Geophysical Year) and bringing up to date course curricula and textbooks, especially in sciences.

On the wave of those higher standards, higher expectations and updated information, America entered an era of achievement in science and technology whose benefits we continue to enjoy today.

We were in the worst of the Cold War in 1957. We had an enemy that, though not really formal in a declared war sense, was well known: The Soviet Union and “godless communism.” Some of the activities our nation engaged in were silly — adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance smoked out no atheists or communists, but did produce renewed harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses and anyone else opposed to such oaths — and some of the activities were destructive — Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s excessive and ultimately phony zeal in exposing communists led to detractive hearings, misplaced fears of fellow citizens and serious political discussion, and violations of Americans’ civil rights that finally prompted even conservative Republicans to censure his action. The challenges were real. As Winston Churchill pointed out, the Soviet Union had drawn an “Iron Curtain” across eastern Europe. They had maintained a large army, gained leadership in military aviation capabilities, stolen our atomic and H-bomb secrets, and on October 4, 1957, beaten the U.S. into space with a successful launch of an artificial satellite. The roots of destruction of the Soviet Empire were sown much earlier, but they had barely rooted by this time, and no one in 1957 could see that the U.S. would ultimately triumph in the Cold War.

That was important. Because though the seeds of the destruction of Soviet communism were germinating, to grow, they would need nourishment from the actions of the U.S. over the next 30 years.

Sen. John F. Kennedy and Counsel Robert F. Kennedy, McClellan Committee hearing, 1957

Sen. John F. Kennedy and Counsel Robert F. Kennedy, McClellan Committee hearing, 1957; photo by Douglas Jones for LOOK Magazine, in Library of Congress collections

Photo from the Kennedy Library: “PX 65-105:185 Hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate Improper Activities in Labor-Management Relations (“McClellan Commitee”). Chief Counsel Robert F. Kennedy and Senator John F. Kennedy question a witness, May, 1957. Washington, D. C., United States Capitol. Photograph by Douglas Jones for LOOK Magazine, in the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LOOK Magazine Collection.”

Fourteen days after the Soviet Union orbited Sputnik, a young veteran of World War II, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy, spoke at the University of Florida. Read the rest of this entry »


Horace Mann schools – how many?

December 29, 2007

Education majors know he had something to do with creating modern public education. Ed.D.s probably know more about Horace Mann‘s actual life, actions and philosophy. Local school boards know enough to name a school after him from time to time.

But has anyone actually kept count? How many schools in the U.S. — or anywhere else — are named after Horace Mann? Is there a registry somewhere? We know of a few:

Antioch College continues to operate in accordance with the egalitarian and humanitarian values of Horace Mann. A monument including his statue stands in lands belonging to the college in Yellow Springs, Ohio with his quote and college motto “Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity.”

There are a number of schools in the U.S. named for Mann, including ones in Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Boston, Charleston, West Virginia, Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, Salem, Massachusetts, Redmond, Washington, Fargo, North Dakota, St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, North Bergen, New Jersey and the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York. The University of Northern Colorado named the gates to their campus in his dedication, a gift of the Class of 1910.[9]

Horace Mann Arts & Science Magnet Middle School, Little Rock, Ark

Horace Mann Arts & Science Magnet Middle School, Little Rock, Arkansas

If you know of a Horace Mann school, would you comment? Tell us about it, where it is, and how long it’s been there.

And if you know of a list of the schools, let us know.


151st Carnival of Education

December 28, 2007

Two good reasons to check out the 151st Carnival of Education:

  1. There are several important posts, a couple that are fun — I’ll wager you find no fewer than five relevant to your job as a teacher.
  2. Hosting the venerated carnival this week is Elementary Historyteacher at History is Elementary — a blog you should be reading regularly apart from the carnivals.

Horace Mann School, Winnetka, Ill (1899-1940) - Winnetka Historical Soc


Texas’ creationism controversy begins to pinch

December 28, 2007

Ouch!

From the Philadelphia Daily News, an opinion article by a Temple University staff member who teaches math and science education:

Textbook lesson in creationism

JUST mentioning a controversial name in an office e-mail can cost you your job in a narrow-minded place like Texas. The Texas Education Agency oversees instructional material and textbooks for the state’s public schools. Recently, Christine Comer, director of science curriculums for the agency, dared to forward an e-mail to colleagues informing them that author and activist Barbara Forrest was to give a talk on her book “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.”

For this simple communication, Comer was rebuked in a way that forced her to resign. According to the TEA, she had committed, among other fatuous charges, the unforgivable transgression of taking sides in the creation science/ evolution debate.

Score one for the flat-earthers.

Score one for building a reputation for Texas, TEA!

Is that the reputation we want?


Houston Chronicle against creationism, period

December 28, 2007

Today the Houston Chronicle’s editorial page spoke up. They don’t like creationism in any form.

Texas schools must have the best science and technology instruction possible to make the state competitive in a 21st century economy. A science class that teaches children that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that species did not evolve from species now extinct is not worthy of the name.

Churches and other private institutions are proper places for the discussion of religious beliefs. Public school science classes are not.

Where are the Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Lubbock, Abilene, Beaumont and Waco papers? Is anyone tracking?


Dallas Morning News against creationism program

December 28, 2007

The lead editorial in Thursday’s edition of The Dallas Morning News endorsed science and questioned why a graduate program in creation science should be tolerated by Texas, and specifically by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). It’s an issue discussed here earlier.

In the first part, “Be vigilant on how they intersect in our schools,” the paper’s editorial board is clear that the application from the Institute for Creation Research to teach graduate education courses in creationism is vexing, and should be rejected:

It’s troubling, then, that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which professes Genesis as scientifically reliable, recently won a state advisory panel’s approval for its online master’s degree program in science education. Investigators found that despite its creationism component – which is not the same thing as “intelligent design” – the institute’s graduate program offered enough real science to pass academic muster. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will vote on the recommendation in January.

We hate to second-guess the three academic investigators – including Gloria White, managing director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Dana Research Center for Mathematics and Science Education – but, still, the coordinating board had better give this case a long, hard look.

The board’s job is to certify institutions as competent to teach science in Texas schools. Despite the institute including mainstream science in its programs, it’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.

Keven Ann Willey, the editorial page editor at the News, herds a lot of conservative cats on a strong editorial board that probably reflects the business community in Dallas; several members of that board probably argued that there must be recognition and condemnation of the “persecution of Christians” who are required to learn evolution and other science ideas that conflict with various Christian cults. And so the editorial has an odd, second part, “Faith is, by nature, based on the unprovable,” which calls for respect for religious views by science — without saying how that might possibly apply to a science class in a public school.

Faith maintains its unique quality because it is based on things we cannot prove in this life. By reducing it to an empirical science, it ceases to be faith. Yet, no matter how many linkages scientists uncover to show that man evolved from pond slime, they will never do better than those who rely on faith in answering the ultimate question about a greater being behind our existence.

As the debate rages, it’s worth noting that the world’s great religions agree on the need for science. And even the agnostic Albert Einstein conceded that science can’t answer everything: “My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.”

It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

So, the Dallas Morning News supports the rational view that the ICR’s application to train teachers to violate the Constitution is a bad idea. But they warn scientists to play nice.

Remember, scientists in Texas this year published great research and supported a bond issue to put $3 billion into research to fight cancer. In contrast, IDists and creationists tried to sneak a creationist graduate school into existence, fired the science curriculum director at the state agency charged by law with defending evolution in the curriculum for defending evolution in the curriculum (Gov. Perry is still missing in action, so no word from any Republican to slow this war on science), tried to sneak Baylor University’s name onto an intelligence design public relations site (in the engineering school, of course, not in biology), and tried to pass off a religious rally at Southern Methodist University as a science conference.

Play nice? Sure. But this is politics, not playground, and since the game is hardball, we’re going to play hardball. DMN, you are right in the first half of your editorial: When you’re right, don’t back down. Our children and our economy need your support.

Read the rest of this entry »


Whales, and understanding evolution

December 27, 2007

Partly because Kenneth Miller in his recent Dallas appearance made such a big deal about his “aha!” moment with whale evolution and the charts in Carl Zimmer’s stuff, and partly because of several conversations I’ve had, including in blog comments and e-mail, whale evolution is on my mind. (Must write about what Miller said, soon.)

To the chagrin of Dr. McLeroy and all other anti-science creationists, whale evolution offers some outstanding evidence of evolution, and the stories about whale evolution offer great chances to students of the science to understand what’s going on.

Carl Zimmer at the Loom has a great, short post answering questions he’s gotten about the recent publication of the discovery of another whale ancestor that both offers information about evolution, and also shows how such knowledge fits into the puzzles that need to solve about the diversity of life. The new find, indohyus, is dated at about 47 million years ago (MYA), about the same time as whale ancestor ambulocetus. How can two ancestors be contemporaries? some people asked.

Chart showing key events in whale evolution, and in which genera

Of course, this is a scientific hypothesis that needs to be tested. And the way to test it is to find more species like Indohyus. If paleontologists are lucky, they’ll be able to draw more branches at the base of the whale tree. And if the current hypothesis is right, a lot of the species belonging to those deep lineages will be a lot like Indohyus. They may turn out to have lived before the oldest whales, or they may have lived millions of years later. But that’s not the heart of the matter. What matters is kinship.

In the annals of misleading science reporting, this may be pretty small potatoes. But mistaking relatives for ancestors does lead to confusion, and it gets in the way of appreciating some very elegant research. And, of course, some people pretend that the fact that relatives are not direct ancestors means that evolution is false. So it’s worth getting right–not just for whales, but for humans, flowers, or any other organism.

Zimmer is the calm, collected end of evolution advocates. Never any heated language, no heated exchanges with Discovery Institute stalking horses — just the science, in lay terms. Always.

And good illustrations. Are those drawings of indohyus out of Carl Buell‘s studio?


Quote of the moment: Peter Drucker, on leadership

December 27, 2007

I will never forget when [Franklin D.] Roosevelt announced that we would build thirty thousand fighter planes. I was on the task force that worked on our economic strength, and we had just reached the conclusion that we could build, at most, four thousand. We thought, “For goodness sake — he’s senile!” Two years later we built fifty thousand. I don’t know whether he knew, or if he just realized that unless you set objectives very high, you don’t achieve anything at all.

BusinessWeek cover, Drucker still matters

–Peter R. Drucker (November 19, 1909–November 11, 2005), in interview with Bill Moyers, 1988


Christians choking morality and optimism

December 26, 2007

(Warning: Rant follows, below the fold. It’s a well justified, well-deserved rant; but stand back a bit so the wind doesn’t blow you away.)

WordPress doesn’t do well with music accompanying posts. But if I could put some music on for you to hear right now, it would be the late Madeleine Kahn singing that tune from Blazing Saddles, “I’m Tired.” I can almost appreciate Orrin Hatch’s flogging of the phrase over the last 31 years, “I’m sick and tired of . . .”

What has made so many Christians so irritatingly, depressingly crabby — and can we get them to just shut up about how great achievements are somehow sins instead?

Al Gore won a Noble Prize — for peace, not for science. Get over it. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a great accomplishment, a pinnacle of human acheivement. It’s a cause for great celebration for Americans — Christians, too. It should be a great plum for Christians when Gore, a lifelong, nearly-every-Sunday-in-church Southern Baptist who followed James Madison’s example of leaving study for the clergy in order to answer a clearly much higher calling, gets the call to collect the Nobel medal in Oslo. Instead, Groothuis says (in comments), it makes his head hurt.

Hillary Clinton may not be your choice for president, but that hardly makes her evil. And like Orrin Hatch, I’m sick and tired, of people ignoring Clinton’s 40-years of advocacy for children, and suggesting instead she has no moral roots. Methodists do have moral roots, and the critics should be ashamed of such attempted character assassination. If there is something wrong with Clinton’s advocacy for children, state it clearly. But don’t pretend to be “in the know” about some imagined sins of leadership you think you know she might have committed.

Same for John Edwards, whose “ambulance chasing” established that swimming pool manufacturers and installers can’t suck the guts out of children (literally — I’m not kidding) without paying medical costs. Trial lawyers who help crippled kids don’t deserve to be kicked for doing it. Barack Obama is a remarkable man, especially considering his absentee father. His story is no less inspiring than the rise of Justice Clarence Thomas, except Obama has managed to stay well grounded in manners and keep a sense of humor, necessary to fend off some of the arrows his position and candidacy invite.

Mitt Romney is a religious man, successful businessman and faithful husband. Quit carping that he’s Mormon — it’s not much more odd than Southern Baptist, and they smile a lot more, sing a lot better, and abolished slavery sooner. Romney’s religion won’t make him any worse or better as president than Marie Osmond’s Mormonism makes her a better or worse entertainer. It’s not an issue, and talking about Romney’s faith as if it were an issue detracts from the discussion of the real issues: Romney has no solution for Iraq, either.

We can kick about any of the candidates, but the field in both major parties is as strong as it has ever been, and almost all of the candidates offer significant advantages over the current White House — none of them is running to “restore respect and morality,” which is a good sign they might actually do it. If you’re not out there advocating for one of these outstanding people, you’re a major part of the problem. You’re advocating against quality in politics. Shame on you.

Get a grip on reality, Christians (if you really are Christians), and pay attention to what’s going on in the world.

2007 was not a great year for mankind. Genocide in Darfur continued. Nero-like fiddling while the planet warms continued in Washington and other capitals. Thousands of Americans had their economic futures put at risk while the Federal Reserve Board, President, and others failed to act to fix a mortgage crisis they created. One and a half million people, mostly pregnant women and children, died of malaria, while western governments including the U.S. failed to spend the money they promised to fight the disease.

There was a war between Israel and Lebanon. The Bush administration got the North Koreans back to the position Bill Clinton had the North Koreans in during 1994, which may make South Korea and Japan safer, but we lost 13 years. China has taken over production of a majority of America’s products, it seems, and sells us lead-tainted toys that poison our children. Not that anyone would notice — Bush’s EPA isn’t doing much to eliminate lead paint in U.S. cities, that poisons more children than the Chinese ever could.

Hunger in America is rising. More Americans are homeless. At least 4 million more Americans are without health insurance this year, shortening average lifespans, but certainly killing more poor people, sooner.

Osama bin Laden is still at large. The United States is known more for executing prisoners and torturing people than any other nation.

But Douglas Groothuis, a philosophy prof in a Denver, ivory tower, fundamentalist Christian seminary, is blind to all of that. He’s crabby instead about trivialities. Al Gore got an award. Hillary Clinton is taken seriously as a candidate for president. People, tired of such hypocrisy among the religious, are actually reading atheists’ books. The courts won’t let woo into science classes to make American kids stupider.

That’s what makes Douglas Groothuis grumpy.

Groothuis makes me grumpy.

No kidding; here’s his list, verbatim, from his blog — there is nary a mention of Darfur, nor Guantanamo, nor Bosnia, nor bin Laden (terrorism has to share an angst point with abortion); no mention of our failure to eradicate hunger, or our failure to provide even decent health care to all Americans:

Top Ten Bad Events of 2007

Near the end of the year, we are assaulted with a number of lists concerning noteworthy events of 2007. Here is my curmudgeonly list of obnoxious realities from 2007. These items by no means are meant to exhaust the list of “bad events,” nor are they the most evil things that happened in 2007. They are simply things that really ticked me off. Since my sensibilities are not perfectly calibrated to objective reality, I cannot claim too much for the list. Please add a few of your own.

1. Hilary Clinton running for president. She is the quintessentially unprincipled politico: all political machine, no character, no vision.
2. Bill Clinton writing a book on giving. This beggars belief. It is like the Marquis de Sade writing a book on abstinence. Clinton has no shame, but plays a mean game of narcissism.
3. The on going media fascination with stupid, sex-crazed, and drug-addled celebrities. Don’t expect this to change any time before the millennium.
4. The baseball steriod scandals. “Take me out to the drug game, take me out to the show…” Here is another evidence of the death of character in America.
5. Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record. I don’t like tatoos, but an asterisk on Barry’s head would be just fine.
6. The growth of “the new atheism” perpetuated by writers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. They don’t give the best arguments for atheism, but they have raised the volume, sharpened the knives, and gone for the heart of religion–all religion. There errors are legion, their books best-sellers. (I have reviewd recent books by Harris and Dawkins in The Christian Research Journal. I have a review of Hitchen’s God is Not Great forthcoming there as well.)
7. The continued ideologically rich, but intellectually poor, pummelling of Intelligent Design by the established media and educational mandarins, particularly Iowa State University’s denial of tenure to the stellar scholar, Guarmo Gonzalez. Read about this at: http://www.discovery.org/.
8. The major television networks air the video of the evil ramblings of a mass killer, who devestated his university. He became the postmorten celebrity he desired. The national addiction to video continues–without shame, without knowledge of the truth, without respite.
9. There seems to be no presidential candidate who is both pro-life and has a realistic view of international terrorism–the two greatest issues facing the country.
10. Of lesser consequence: I was given a free Kenny G CD when I ordered a Jack Bruce recording on line. It remains unopened in my office–an object suitable for hurling across the room during a lecture on aesthetics.

(Al Gore doesn’t really get it until the comments.)

Wake up, Groothuis! Wake up, Christians. Trim your wicks and oil your lamps.

  • Like her or not, Hillary Clinton has more guts and a more consistent application of high morality than carping Christians. She held her family together and crusaded to help abused children when the churches were still denying abused children are a problem. There may be good reasons not to vote for her. Claiming she is unprincipled, however, only shows your own lack of moral compass. Don’t like her? Vote for somebody else. But you’d better be out there, at the caucus meetings, at the county and state conventions. You’ve sat on your hands long enough.
  • Bill Clinton was right about giving. Listen to him. Quit withholding, and get out there and give.
  • Don’t carp about a fascination with celebrity culture while you campaign against PBS and NPR, against Huck Finn as a key book kids need to read, and while you argue that the problem with the lack of quality television is that Democrats over-regulated it, when the Democrats haven’t regulated it in 40 years. It’s your votes for people who claim to be moral that bring us the celebrity culture. Your guys work to kill libraries, and you blame in on liberals. Satan, get thee behind me (and out of my library and city council).
  • Barry Bonds and steroids? When Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich ran Congress, Congress didn’t care. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid got action; Congress held hearings, steroids were outed. It was not an accident that it was a Democratic former senator who headed the commission that spotlighted the trouble. You called him “immoral” when he was in the Senate. Need a recipe for crow?
  • Don’t worry about Dawkins and Hitchens — they are just celebrities (your own fascination with celebrity gets you in trouble). You rail against the social gospel as evil, forgetting that it brought us an end to child labor, safe food and drug laws and regulation of addicting drugs for the first time, a Federal Reserve Board and a 40-hour, family-friendly work week. Of course, you complain about each one of those miracles, now. You don’t smell the brimstone? The question is, when do we return to Christians ministering in neighborhood churches, instead of in mega-media auditoriums? Its in your hands, and you’re applauding a celebrity culture in another way. Thousands of Americans follow their noses on Sunday to the biggest congregations with the most Starbucks coffee brewing, and you applaud it. You didn’t notice the dust devil where you sowed those seeds?
  • Don’t tell me you want to lie about science to innocent children, and ever, ever claim to be a moral man again. Intelligent design is a scam; it’s fruitless, as science. (Jesus had something to say about fruitless trees, remember? No, I didn’t think so.) It’s hollow as theology. America’s leadership in science and technology are critical if this 218-year-old republic is to go for another 100 years (no republic has ever made it much past 300); your advocacy of intelligent design over evolution hammers at both our science and moral foundations. Woo is not equal to science, and your claims that it is show how much you’ve adopted moral relativism. Never mention “firm standards of morality” again, you hypocrites. Moral relativists have no more right to teach our children than anybody else. If they don’t teach, and at the university level, if they don’t practice their discipline, they don’t get tenure. That’s called “high academic standards.” High academic standards means no creationism or intelligent design, but it’s the moral way to maintain our education system.
  • Don’t complain about post-modernism as the villain when a mentally-ill man kills innocents. Where was our mental health care system? Where were the churches? It wasn’t philosophy that killed kids at Virginia Tech. It was a massive failure of our social safety nets, private and public. You’ve hammered at the mental health care system for years, and the churches couldn’t compensate. All we had left was television, and all it can do is expose the problem. This failure is no orphan, even if the father doesn’t want to admit paternity.
  • Nobody knows what to do about international terrorism . Torturing nationals from other countries has been proven to aggravate the problem. Join us in calling for a closure of Guantanamo? No? There’s a story about this in Genesis; you interpret it to mean a loving relationship between two members of the same gender is wrong; Ezekial tells us it means Abu Ghraib is wrong. There is a moral divide here, and you’re on the wrong side. Also, we know how to reduce abortion: Eradicate poverty, make meaningful work, provide people of child-bearing age with accurate information about family planning, meaning birth control. Seven years of “abstinence only” and the teen birth rate and STD rates all rise. You’re asleep with your lamps out of oil. No presidential candidate agrees with you? That’s why the rest of us are hopeful.
  • You wouldn’t have to order your music on-line if your president didn’t let Clear Channel ruin the radio waves as an outlet to sell music — then the neighborhood record shops might still be in business, selling little on vinyl, but catering to local tastes. The spy software that your president uses to track down the trysts of your preachers also tells the CD people that someone who likes Jack Bruce, also likes Kenny G. If you needed a reason to oppose the PATRIOT Act, that would be one more clue. You’ve taken none of the others, and you’ll probably blame this one on Kenny G. I hope you wake up in a cold sweat some night, and ask this question: If the software claims you need a free shot of Kenny G, what does it tell our U.S. KGB about who to arrest to stop terrorism? Either you’re a great fan of Kenny G and don’t know it, or you just realized one more benefit of defending civil rights.

Dr. Groothuis, Ezekiel told us why God smoked Sodom and Gomorrah. It had nothing to do with homosexuality. Sodom failed to look after the widows and orphans, and it tolerated sexual humiliation of people who should have been guests. Look at our present social safety net, review the circumstances of Abu Ghraib, and tell me why we shouldn’t be bracing to run and not look back, will you?

Millions are hungry, you worry about celebrity. Millions are unclothed, you want to teach children woo instead of good science. America’s moral leadership has been surrendered, and you worry when people read books by atheists that talk about moral leadership.

It’s a tired whine. I’m tired of it, anyway.

2008 can be a great year. We’re electing leadership — new leadership — in federal, state and local elections. We’ve got a foreign policy that recognizes there is a problem in Palestine, and that the North Koreans will be a bigger threat with nuclear weapons than without them. We still need an international solution in Darfur, to make the “never” in “never again,” now.

I don’t need a crabby Pharisaic look at 2007; I need someone with realism in their veins and brain to look to 2008 and pledge to make it better. Refusing to engage, whining about great acheivements, yammering about the old dividing lines, will not get us to 2009 in good shape.

Christians, now is the time to practice your faith, hard.


Three U.S. flag burnings around Northampton, Massachusetts

December 26, 2007

An Associated Press story in the Boston Herald notes three recent incidents in which U.S. flags were burned, in what appears to be a protest of some sort.

Police say a flag-burning incident in Northampton may be the work of an anti-American anarchist group.

The 5-by-9 foot American flag that hung from a birch tree outside of Eamon Mohan’s house on Bridge Street was reduced to ashes in the Friday night blaze.

A typewritten note left at the home and signed by the “American Patriot Liberation Front” claimed the United States was oppressing millions of people around the world. But police say they are unfamiliar with the group.

Police are investigating whether the flag burning is linked to two other incidents in western Massachusetts this month. A post office flag was thrown in a Dumpster and burned in Greenfield earlier this month and an American flag was stolen last week from outside a home in Amherst.

Notes similar to the one in Northampton were found in both cases.

U.S. flags should not be displayed at night, unless lighted, or unless the site is specifically exempted from that condition of flag display by an Act of Congress.

The Boston Globe reported the family harmed in the latest incident was honoring a child in the military:

Mohan’s family did not appear to be targeted, police said.

Mohan’s daughter, Megan, 19, is a US Marine, currently in training, and his son, Eamonn, 17, plans to join after his 18th birthday next month.

“I’m extremely proud of their serving this fine country,” said Mohan, 43. “No country is perfect, but we do a lot of good around the world that isn’t publicized.”

The note was signed by the “American Patriot Liberation Front.” Police said they were unfamiliar with the group. The group is not listed in the telephone directory, and no contact information could be found for it on the Web.

The protesters appear able to write: Why not a letter to the editor of the local newspaper? Such protests, to the point and to a greater audience, are part of what the flag stands for. The flag burners probably don’t note the irony.

Stupid protests give a bad name to protest.

More information:


Uganda health ministry slows use of DDT against malaria

December 26, 2007

All Africa.com reports local councils in Uganda approve the use of DDT in a carefully managed integrated pest managment program where DDT is used for some indoor locations — but the Uganda health ministry slows the program.

Want to bet the Chronically-Obsessed With Rachel Carson (COWRC) will blame “environmentalists?” Three . . . two . . . one . . .


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