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Religion Last Updated: Dec 31st, 2005 - 13:52:10

Dover and Pat Robertson, Topeka and the Wizards of ID
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 11, 2005, 20:34

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Although it should have no direct effect on the decision in the federal court case, the decision of the voters in Dover, PA may well signal Intelligent Design�s devolution back to the pleasant poetry of Genesis from whence it came:

All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board [in Dover, PA] that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday [November 8, 2005] by a slate of challengers who campaigned against the intelligent design policy.

Another item in The New York Times report bears repeating. Two members of the Dover school board testified in the trial: chairwoman Sheila Harkins and Alan Bonsell.

The vote counts were close, but of the 16 candidates the one with the fewest votes was Mr. Bonsell, the driving force behind the intelligent design policy. Testimony at the trial revealed that Mr. Bonsell had initially insisted that creationism get equal time in the classroom with evolution.

And they had the nerve to say ID was not an attempt to get religion into the science classroom? As if to confirm ID is creationism in disguise, Pat Robertson chimed in with his usual fire and brimstone threats. Robertson, who claims to speak with �God� periodically, once said Orlando might get hit by a meteor as payback for allowing gay pride flags to fly on its streets. Last August the televangelist called for the assassination of Venezuela�s president. Following the vote in Dover, PA, Robertson had this to say on his 700 Club broadcast:

I�d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don�t turn to God; you just rejected him from your city. And don�t wonder why he hasn�t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that�s the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there.

Following questions from the media, Robertson clarified:

I was simply stating that our spiritual actions have consequences and it�s high time we started recognizing it. God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin . . . Maybe he can help them.

As Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, put it, �What better evidence do we need that intelligent design is religion?�

The dumping of Mr. Bonsell and the other Dover school board members who wanted to remake science in their own image is not without precedent. A similar voter reaction occurred several years ago in Kansas, a state once again attempting to make science �supernatural.� The Seattle Times summarized that earlier attempt:

In 1999, the state approved standards that eliminated all references to evolution. Kansas became the butt of jokes on late-night television, the conservative majority on the board was swept out of office in the 2000 elections, and the anti-evolution standards were repealed. But religious conservatives recaptured control of the education board last fall amid a statewide campaign against gay marriage.

By a vote of 6-4 on November 8, 2005--the same day voters ousted the IDers on the Dover school board--the Kansas State Board of Education again moved to alter the public schools� science curriculum. The board does not dictate curricula. That�s left to local school boards. But by determining what students are expected to know for state assessment tests, the state standards typically influence what students are taught.

Although evolution was left in the recommended science curriculum, �teaching the controversy� was added. Problem is, there is no �scientific� controversy. That aside, as The New York Times noted the most significant result of the Kansas decision is that �the definition of science is changed so it is not limited to natural explanations.� In other words, science is no longer science.

In defending the board�s decision, its chairman made what might well be one of the most absurd statements ever made:

�This is a great day for education. . . . This absolutely teaches more about science,� said Steve Abrams, the Republican Kansas board chairman who shepherded the majority that overruled a 26-member science committee and turned aside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association.

Opposing board members accused Abrams and his colleagues of hiding behind a fiction of scientific inquiry to inject religion into public schools. They said the decision would be bad for education, bad for business and bad for the state�s reputation.

Some of the comments making the rounds on the web confirm that last sentence:

A year from now, they�ll be singing the new Kansas state anthem (a little tune from the �Wizard of Oz�): If I only had a brain.�--Henry Cruz, a writer on The Bosh, an Internet gossip and entertainment news site.

My wife and I were planning on traveling from our home in North Carolina to Yellowstone for next year�s vacation; however, we will now be diverting our trip so as to avoid having to travel through Kansas at all. Your state has a real problem.--e-mail to the Kansas Department of Commerce. The agency declined to release the writer's name, citing privacy concerns.

The Discovery Institute, the principal organization pushing Intelligent Design, was quick to applaud the Kansas decision and equally quick to point out that the new standards �do not include intelligent design at all.� By name, they don�t. By message, they certainly do.

The new Kansas standards allege a �lack of adequate natural explanations for the genetic code.� A �lack of adequate natural explanations� strongly suggests science should embrace supernatural explanations contrary to the very definition of �science.� The other obvious fallacy in such thinking is the unspoken assumption that all the evidence for evolution--all the fossils and other hard evidence--has been found. That�s a nonsensical, childish assumption for anyone even remotely familiar with the sciences involved. Like the universe and life on planet Earth, science is constantly evolving, unlike fundamentalists� stagnate dogma:

The Bible is the inerrant . . . word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.--Jerry Falwell

The new Kansas �science� standards contend that several aspects of evolution which most scientists consider facts--such as the concept that all living things are biologically related--have been �challenged.� But that �challenge� comes almost exclusively from IDers and from Young Earth Creationists. The latter insists Tyrannosaurus Rex was a passenger on Noah�s ark. Should �challenges� from those who believe T. Rex, all other dinosaurs and, presumably, all marine life threatened by desalinization from all that rain water were passengers on �Noah�s ark�--a vessel for which there is no scientific evidence--be taken as legitimate �scientific� challenges?

As The New York Times noted, �religious conservatives recaptured control of the [Kansas] education board last fall amid a statewide campaign against gay marriage.� Evangelicals and other sanctimonious �Christians� have used their politicized perversion of religion to argue against the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans, even though doing so is at odds with the basic teachings of their messiah, as one astute true Christian recently noted:

Jesus said that the greatest commandment, after loving God, is to love your neighbor as yourself. As a person who has had the opportunity and privilege of marrying the person I love, the best way I can love my gay and lesbian neighbors is to desire for them the opportunity and privilege of marrying the person they love. To be an advocate for sexual minorities, to promote gay marriage, is, for me, a way to live the gospel that Jesus taught.

The perversion of religion for political purposes has as its goal a theocratic state, plain and simple. Doesn�t matter if it�s Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. Religious fundamentalism and politics are a lethal mix.

Also plain and simple is the fact that �intelligent design� is little more than regurgitated Genesis-based creationism. It�s not science. Indeed, it�s anti-science in its call for �supernatural explanations.� Can there be any more convincing case for keeping religion out of politics and out of science and out of the classroom?

Intelligent design �does not provide any natural explanation that can be tested,� said Francisco Ayala, an expert in evolutionary genetics and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He said the Kansas standards �are an insult to science, an insult to education and an insult to the American Constitution.�

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