It was religion all along

November 17, 2007

The Discovery Institute implicitly admitted that their concern about evolution is religious today. They named Michael Medved a fellow.

No, Bill Dembski cited the press release, Medved was not invited because of his acumen in urban planning, or even his experience fighting traffic in California. No, no one even thought Medved has any science chops.

It’s the religion, stupid!

“Michael Medved is an intellectual entrepreneur, a political and cultural polymath with great insights, judgment and wit. We are delighted to have this new relationship with him,” said Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman.

“Intellectual entrepreneur?”

The Seattle prayer tank suffered serious blows in 2005, 2006 and 2007, when their fellows abruptly dropped defense of intelligent design as presented by the Dover, Pennsylvania school board, a federal court ruled that ID is not science but is religion-based, and the respected science production NOVA produced a two-hour program highlighting and explaining that court decision.

So, the DI poobahs figured, what better to do than hire a nationally-syndicated culture-lamenting talk radio guy to front for the band? One wonders if Rush Limbaugh turned them down.

The research agenda for the intelligent design movement could have used the money, and appointing a research fellow would have helped establish that science remains a focus of Discovery Institute work.

Science won’t fill the pews, though. So they hired Medved.

See more comments at Panda’s Thumb. (Did I mention Bigfoot?) And a tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers, who will probably not much like my post on Ken Miller coming up, who pointed me to Amused Muse.

Analyses of proposed changes to Texas science standards

November 17, 2007

Before new science textbooks will be approved by the Texas State Board of Education, the Board is engaging in a review and possible rewriting of science standards. In the wake of the Board’s voting to require Texas high school graduates to get an additional year of science education, this should be a good sign of concern for tough standards and high quality education.

Science standard rewrites in other states have been seen as open season on evolution in biology, however. Ohio and Kansas experiences in the since 1999 suggest advocates of science and education should be wary. Texas is not known for strong support of evolution by education officials (a reputation that serious education officials should think hard about changing).

Texas Citizens for Science, a group assembled in 2003 to defend good science and especially evolution, is watching the SBOE actions. TCS President Steven Schafersman has shared his views on actions in the past month, in an e-mail to TCS members and supporters of good textbooks. For the record, I reproduce his e-mail text completely below the fold. This material is also available in different form at the TCS website.

Citizens still carry a lot of clout in government in this nation. Good science standards in textbooks require vigilance of such people. We thank them.

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Pete Seeger → banjo → Steve Martin

November 17, 2007

Comedian Steve Martin has a couple of new books out, and the New York Times tracked him down for an interview. One may learn a lot from these interviews. In this case, we learn how far is the reach of Pete Seeger’s banjo, and the reach of instruction:

His [Steve Martin’s] early acts were a hodgepodge — some juggling, some magic, some balloon tricks, some banjo-playing — and to a great extent his style remained eclectic, with the crucial addition of irony; the act became in some ways the parody of an act, with no punch lines, and audiences found it even funnier.

“It was a great discovery,” Mr. Martin said. “There I was making fun of what I was doing, and yet I was still getting to do it.”

The only relic Mr. Martin keeps from those days is his banjo, which he taught himself to play as a teenager from a Pete Seeger instruction book, practicing alone in his car with windows rolled up even on hot summer nights. Waiting for the knock on the trailer door, and the summons to don his epaulets and marry again, he picked up the banjo and played a bluegrass song he had been learning. “When I play music, it’s like an alternate form of living,” he said.

Sticking by the error

November 17, 2007

Neil Boortz has a bottomless well of venom. Boortz appears to be the chief source of the mean-spirited, cut-from-whole-cloth fables about Hillary Clinton being next to Marx.

Checking to see whether he had run a correction of those errors* (he did not), I found this little spittle of acid in that same post from October 8: Boortz wonders about former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger advising Hillary Clinton’s campaign, citing Berger’s admission that he took documents out of the National Archives as a basis for some conspiracy about a cover-up of Bill Clinton’s actions prior to September 11, 2001.

Berger pled to misdemeanor charges. He had the right to view the documents, especially since many of the documents he was reviewing were his own. NARA staff said he took copies of documents only. He was working to prepare a report to the 9-11 Commission at the time.

Neil, here are the facts: Berger was right about Osama bin Laden, years before you ever thought about it. Berger was the guy who was left standing at the White House door, ready to brief President George W. Bush on the need to continue chasing Osama bin Laden and the threat al Quaeda posed to America when Condoleeza Rice informed him that the Bush administration would not continue the chase. Berger was the guy who first got the news that Bush was letting al Quaeda off the hook.

There is great value in getting advice from people who seem to have an ability to see the future, or at least get the present right. Boortz can’t even bring himself to admit error for a silly quiz. We shouldn’t expect him to admit the larger error: Sandy Berger was right about Osama bin Laden and al Quaeda, and it was a nasty, damaging error for the Bush group to brush him off and ignore his warnings. Now we are involved in a great, perhaps misguided war that could have been avoided had Bush listened to Sandy Berger in January 2001.

It must be painful for Boortz to even imagine such things.

It’s a great idea for Berger to advise Clinton, or anyone else, because George W. Bush didn’t allow it, would not listen. Nearly 10,000 Americans are dead, 100,000 to more than a million Iraqis and Afghanis are dead, the U.S. has a multi-trillion-dollar debt, and the entire planet is a lot less safe because of Bush’s error. Let’s not compound the error.

(Boortz’s radio show is carried on a backwater AM station here in Dallas — oddly on KSL’s old clear channel frequency. I’ve never heard it. Is he this reckless with facts on all things? If the FCC were alive today, such inaccuracies might endanger a license, back when broadcasters had to broadcast in the public interest. Nostalgia is appropriate here. Too bad such broadcasters are not required to be licensed like history teachers; worse that Boortz doesn’t work for accuracy himself.)

* No, I don’t really believe Boortz simply erred; but it’s polite to pretend so, so that he may more gracefully make corrections.

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