Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is the word "Spirituality" just lies and empty noise?

Jon Winsor, over at "The Intersection" blog, posted this comment in the thread called "The Ebb And Flow Of Traffic Tides":

[I had written]: "It's certainly not true of PZ, though there have been a few sneers, but he's not passing them off as anything else."

I'm not so sure. This is a good example of a sneer. I don't see what it accomplishes. It's just trash talk. I mean, here's a page from one of Taylor's books: Is the right response to that a three paragraph sneer like PZ wrote?

People can disagree with Taylor, but what does it say when someone purports to dismiss it with a three paragraph sneer? There are some books that other scholars discuss Taylor's works. A good majority of them secular and atheist. Are all the people who are taking him seriously just talking about "lies and empty noise"?

I think I get the point of populist rhetoric--you get people on board and enthusiastic. But at a certain point it's like people bringing the police whistle to the campus lecture. It just gets mindless and dialog never happens.

Okay, I agree that's a "sneer" (from over a year ago - March 15, 2007), but it's one I agree with in part. PZ doesn't take on Taylor's writing directly, just the use of the word "Spirituality," calling it lies and empty noise.

I think PZ asks a valid question:
... [Taylor] blathers on and on about "spiritual thinking" and a "spiritual domain" without ever telling us what the heck it is, although it does seem to be all tied up in believing in a religion, any religion. So, someone tell me, how am I supposed to hear this "spiritual dimension"? What is it supposed to mean?

Can anyone answer it? Is the word "Spiritual" not a "glittering generality"?

Someone in the comments on PZ's post noted that claiming spirituality appeared to be a way for religious people to put themselves above atheists and others of differing religions because of their "connection" to "something greater." An unquestionable and unknowable connection. If you don't understand it then, hey, that's your loss, you're spiritually blind, we'll look down on you.

Another person quoted Taylor:
"It is probable that the unremitting struggle to desacralize the world in the name of an undivided devotion to God waged by Calvin and his followers helped to destroy the sense that the creation was a locus of meanings in relation to which man had to define himself."

And that kind of writing just has little relevance to me.

On the other hand, I have a post here on my blog where I say it's a mistake to focus on the most freakish and stupid of our opponents and ignore the more reasonable and science friendly theists. Some of these people are effective political allies.

Since Jon Winsor has brought up a topic that's a little off-topic for the Intersection thread I've decided to invite him to my blog to comment more on Charles Taylor and the word "Spirituality."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And the never ending freak show just goes on and on and on...

PZ is the ring-master under the circus big top with his top-hat, tails and cane and he directs our attention to ring number one where an "American-style ministry" (our country is now an adjective for theological idiocy) pretends to offer medical treatment and psychiatric care, but instead tells their patients that they're not good enough Christians to rid themselves of their demons. And after being locked away from society for so long, the patients start to believe them. You can hear the old familiar chant off in the echoing distance; "one of us, one of us, one of us..."

Then PZ directs our attention to another ring where the odious Sally Kern, the Oklahoma legislator who babbles about gay conspiracies while her gay son is essentially deleted from her public life because he's not... "one of us, one of us, one of us, one of us..."

Then, dramatic music and a drum roll, and then PZ unveils, in the center ring, the main attraction, the makers of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” And boy did this monster freak draw in the crowds! The news is all over the internet. Even the New York Times has taken note.

You probably know the story by now, and if you don't, you won't have any problems finding information if you follow the links in the above paragraph. However, to make the flow of this post at least slightly coherent, here's a brief recap: PZ and Richard Dawkins (among others) were interviewed under false pretenses for the "Expelled" film. PZ noted this on his blog. The film is supposed to be about a lack of academic freedom for people who hold to the Intelligent Design "theory." The film even thanks PZ and Dawkins in the credits. Then the film makers started screening their opus for selective audiences -- you know, they wanted viewers to be "one of us, one of us, one of us..." And when PZ and Dawkins tried to attend one of the screenings, PZ was expelled, he wasn't allowed to see a film he was in (yet Dawkins got in).

You can sure tell who is one of us, one of us, one of us and who is one of them by their reaction to this movie. ID proponents and creationists loved it. Science defenders were appalled by it.

I haven't seen the film myself, but from the reviews it seems like all its "rational," supposedly fact based, arguments can be easily defeated. The idea that Darwinism and atheism lead to Hitler is an old lie I've already dealt with here and here.

However, the film isn't about rational arguments, it sounds more like its about psychological manipulation and it exploits how we judge the thoughts of others. It will probably be effective, in a limited way, in increasing the divisiveness of the theist/atheist debate and push a certain group of theists deeper into a delusional interpretation of science, history and the nature of the current culture war. Atheists will be provoked into becoming more insulting and dismissive of all theists.

There's something very Rovian about this movie:

It may work to the advantage of the Republican think tanks that want to prevent the political compromises some evangelicals might want to make with the Democratic side.

It wasn't too long ago that this debate seemed to take place at a higher level. When people argued about why irreducible complexity wasn't a valid biological concept and the arguments were academic. But after the Dover trial things started to get nasty.

Knowing now that they can't win either a legal or scientific battle the proponents of ID and creationism have shifted into a new strategy. I'm not exactly sure what they are trying to do with this Expelled movie (I haven't even seen it) but it wouldn't surprise me if increasing divisiveness and pushing the argument down to lower levels is exactly what they want. Their reasons are probably political and have little to do with either science or academic freedom. This is, rather, a Swift-boating of science and academy.


1) Greg Wright claims to have discovered that one of the three publicity firms now handling Expelled is CRC Public Relations, the firm employed by the Swift Boat veterans. They crafted press releases about the Myers flap and Stein’s visit to Missouri.

2) Tyler DiPietro left a comment here saying he thinks "Expelled!" goes farther than identity politics and fear-mongering. He thinks the film-maker's real goal are aimed at getting Horowitz-style bills through local legislatures that hamstring the academy. He left a link to his blog, here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A pox on Vox, I say

PZ Myers asks the question, "Why do we even stoop to mentioning Vox Day?" and then, of course, he answers his own question this way:

because he is an appallingly freakish idiot, and always a reliable source for the most amazingly inane claims.

Thus, PZ is giving away one of the secrets of many of us "unfriendly" atheist bloggers; we focus on the most freakish and stupid of our opponents and ignore the more reasonable and science friendly theists. For example, Michael Heller, the Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest who was recently awarded the Templeton Prize, or perhaps someone like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a geologist and paleontologist who was also a Jesuit priest who came up with some ideas about a noosphere and a vision of the Omega Point. He was a proponent of orthogenesis, the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal driven way. That's where the lines between neo-Darwinian evolution and ID get blurred and complex.

But even when dealing with conventional evangelicals we don't take on a fair sampling of the less well known blogs like "Thinking Christian"or "Reasonable Christian," that also set themselves up as defenders of the faith. And they even defend faith from the attacks of reason:

...attacks on the doctrine of sola scriptura have weakened the church and placed reason and experience above holy scripture as the final authority in matters of faith and practice.

Instead, we follow PZ's lead and devote our posts to Ben Stein, Vox Day, Mike Huckabee, Rev. Ted Haggard, and we might even get taken in by fake evangelicals like Tristan J. Shuddery. I suspect that doing so could lead to missing out on the real attitude and political shifts that are happening among the fundies and evangelicals.

Are the targets we take on a fair representation of fundy, evangelical or Christian thought? To some extent PZ's blog has documented the large amounts of ignorance, delusion, foolishness and oppression he finds in the news. But how much of that is cherry picking of the evidence? Polls do reveal that there's more than PZ's cherry picked evidence to go on. Large majorities believe in a personal God, an afterlife, Bible stories, the Devil, Hell, Heaven and miracles and there is a very low level of scientific literacy and acceptance of human evolution in America when compared to other developed nations. But that still doesn't make Vox Day and Ben Stein the sample representatives of this group.

Of course, Vox Day goes out of his way to invite our attention by making his attacks personal and insulting. There's an old saying that goes "no publicity is bad publicity." To some extent that's true; any time you can get your name out in front of the public you will generate name recognition and possible interest in your work. It might be bad for politicians, but for actors, writers, and other artists a bit of a dark and crazy side helps sell your art. Just getting people to know you exist is the first hurdle in marketing.

Vox Day has at least figured out how to get over that hurdle even if he's figured out little else. He knows how to manipulate people to get name recognition. His name is frequently popping up on atheistic blogs. It's getting increasingly obvious that Vox is consciously trying to manipulate atheist bloggers by insulting them and daring them to read his book. For example in a recent post on Vox's blog, "PZ whines about Expelled," Vox complains about Ben Stein getting more attention from PZ than he does. He complains that, "Not even a woman scorned is as upset as the would-be scientific expert who is ignored as irrelevant." And that line might be projection with Vox being the real scorned woman:

Because, PZ, as we've already seen with TIA, whenever someone does make a strong case against secular scientists or atheists, these self-proclaimed champions of intellectual discourse suddenly go silent and try to pretend they've never heard of it.

See how Vox Day tries to provoke PZ into reading and commenting on his book? He claims that the book, TIA, is a strong case against secular scientists and atheists based only on his own insistence and the echo chamber of reviews he's gotten. So far, if we ignore for the moment Brent Rasmussen's review, the bulk of atheist reviews have been pointing out that Vox's book is really just a rehash of his old blog posts and World Nut Daily articles and that the book doesn't really accomplish what it claims to.

Certainly none of the positive reviews Vox has gotten have pointed to his quote mines, lies, straw men and distortions. For example, John M. Lynch at Stranger Fruit has noted Vox Day abusing Darwin with a quote mine. In chapter 1 there's the epigraph "Vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science" attributed to Charles Darwin. But Darwin doesn't actually say that Vox Dei (meaning the "voice of God") is not to be trusted. The quote in full context says:

When it was first said that the sun stood still and world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science.

And that's not a comment about God, it's about the fact that popular opinion, taken as if it were the voice of God, cannot be trusted. And that is quite different from the words Vox puts in Darwin’s mouth. It's an obvious quote-mine used to create a straw man argument, a tactic often used by creationists and ID proponents. Darwin was more agnostic than atheist and wouldn't make such a direct judgment.

And of course, I caught Vox in a rather bald faced lie here.

Mark Chu-Carroll's evisceration of Vox's recent World Nut Daily article, "The real assault on science," pretty solidly deflates Vox's bogus claims that "women are intellectual inferiors who can't teach biology or calculus and are incapable of practicing computer science or art." However, by way of example, I just want to pick up a side issue where Vox claims that; "secular scientists have concocted a narrative that postulates themselves as a noble collective of Galileos in peril of persecution from the God-addled, anti-science religious masses" by noting that, first, we're not just "in peril of persecution" because the threat to education and separation of church and state will have more dire consequences than that. Also, here is another lie from Vox:

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the empirical data shows that the predominantly Christian United States produces more science per capita than any of the many more secular nations, and Western military leaders are forced to rattle their sabers to prevent the scientists of the Islamic Republic of Iran from developing the latest in nuclear weapons technology.

Empirical data? What empirical data? And what exactly does it mean to "produce more science per capita than any of the many more secular nations"? If it's empirical, then how do you measure it? And wait another minute... Vox claims the USA produces large amounts of science either in spite of or maybe even because it is Christian. And yet even Vox admits that most of those scientists are "evil atheists." Aren't most of those scientists "producing" all that American science "secular scientists"? What about those surveys that show scientists are a very atheistic and agnostic bunch. It contradict Vox's earlier claims that science is a bad thing.

The first problem with that sentence is what does it mean to produce more science per capita than another group? I can think of a couple metrics; number of Nobel prizes won per capita, number of journal articles written per capita and possibly the number of patents granted might be considered a "production of science." And when we look up that data we find that Vox's claim that "the predominantly Christian United States produces more science per capita than any of the many more secular nations" is just Vox talking out of his ass, as usual.

So, who does produce the most journal articles per capita? Here's the most recent data I could find, thanks to a comment on PZ's blog: Per capita output of S&E articles, by country/economy: 1999–2001. It turns out that several of those European, secular countries Vox assumes we beat are ahead of the U.S., Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

As for Nobel prize laureates per capita, well, the U.S. comes in at number 11, again behind a bunch of those more secular nations; Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Even Austria, Ireland and Germany beat us.

As for patents per capita, the United States is number 12 on this list, again, those secular Europeans, Norway and Sweden beat us. Japan is number 8 there, but Japan leads the world in patents per million people on another list.

Switzerland, which is fairly religious for Europe, does well but other religious countries don't do so well, Israel is #20 on the list, just behind Australia and just ahead of Belgium, with 74 patents granted per million residents. Morocco is the only Arab county to crack the top 60, at #49, with 3 patents granted per million. There are some other Muslim countries in the top 60, but none are ethnically Arab.

And even when you get into the states within the United States, its the democratic ones that beat the Republican ones.

And I think that shoots down Vox's delusions about empirical data. It also ties into another post I wrote: "Religion as a force for ignorance and delusion," where I have some other charts showing that religiosity and denial of evolution seem to hurt a country's economy.

Still, all that was a side track. All I did was take apart an easy to take apart bad argument, I just questioned one of Vox's assumptions and found out where it lead. I began, and PZ began, by questioning whether we should focus much energy on people like Vox Day, (and Ben Stein). I would suggest that the only reason to do so is because he's such an easy target. Go ahead and have fun with ripping into him, but you probably shouldn't consider him as representative of the Christian community out there. If you're looking for more than easy exercises in taking apart bad arguments you'll need to widen your sources of information and stop following PZ's lead. And that's my advice to me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why Obama's Christianity doesn't bother me

Jacques Berlinerblau's post, "Huckobama," on the god-blog might be an example of projected bigotry. Jacques Berlinerblau is some sort of program director and associate professor of Jewish Civilization and the author of "The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously" which sounds rather condescending. I'm not yet sure if he himself is one of those Jewish atheists or a believing Jew. But in this post he doesn't seem to know the difference between secularism and atheism, a common and dangerous confusion. He uses the terms "non-believer" and "Secular America" interchangeably.

First he writes:

Admit it, Secular America. If Mike Huckabee had said something like this on the campaign trail you’d be locking and loading faster than you could hum John Lennon’s lyric “Imagine all the people, Living life in peace”:

"And during the course of that sermon, I was introduced to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed and that if I placed my trust in Christ, He could set me on the path to eternal life."

Later he replaces Secular America with "nonbelievers and Church-State separatists" and wonders why:

These pious musings have not aroused as much as a peep of protest from nonbelievers and Church-State separatists. (Compare this to the former governor of Arkansas who enraged Secular America when he suggested that we amend the Constitution to God’s standards).

They don't compare. What Berlinerblau doesn't seem to grasp is that Obama is both a believer and a secularist. Believing in God, even in Jesus, doesn't preclude one from being a secularist and supporting separation of Church and state. And, in fact, because Obama has said other things we can know he is a secularist. For example, this speech, the "Call to Renewal Keynote Address":

... they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. That during our founding, it was not the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of this separation; it was the persecuted religious minorities, Baptists like John Leland, who were most concerned that any state-sponsored religion might hinder their ability to practice their faith.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who’s Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Levitacus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

That speech clearly defines Obama as a secularist if not a non-believer. And, yes, if Huckabee had said what Berlinerblau quoted from Obama then that would add to my negative feelings about Huckabee. That's because Huckabee also said:

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

Claiming that the constitution must reflect God's standards is clearly the view of someone who doesn't even grasp the concept of separation of church and state much less believe in it.

This doesn't mean that I do not find some of what Obama says disturbing, but I find it disturbing as an atheist, not a secularist. Berlinerblau catches some of those Obama quotes:

And whenever I hear stories about Americans who feel like no one’s looking out for them, like they’ve been left behind, I’m reminded that God has a plan for his people. . . . But it’s a plan He’s left to us to fulfill.


I’d like to begin with a prayer. It comes to us from Jeremiah 29, when the prophet sent out a letter to those exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was a time of uncertainty, and a time of despair. But the prophet Jeremiah told them to banish their fear – that though they were scattered, and though they felt lost, God had not left them. “For I know the plans I have for you,” the Lord revealed to Jeremiah, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God had a plan for His people. That was the truth that Jeremiah grasped – the creed that brought comfort to the exiles – that faith is not just a pathway to personal redemption, but a force that can bind us together and lift us up as a community.

But even here my worries about Obama's sanity would be eased if some journalist would ask him this question: "You have said that you think God has a plan for his people and that it’s a plan He’s left to us to fulfill. Do you really know God's plans?"

If he answers "yes," then worry. If he answers "no," you can worry much less. Thinking you know God's plans is what makes Farrakhan, Hagee, Huckabee, Bush and bin Laden dangerous nutjobs.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ben Stein admits he has only a "little pea brain."

Ben Stein wrote this article, "Florida's Darwinian Interlude," for The American Spectator. He begins by asking a few "tiny, insignificant little questions" such as "How did the universe start? Where did matter come from? Where did energy come from? Where did the laws of motion, thermodynamics, physics, chemistry, come from? Where did gravity come from? How did inorganic matter, that is, lifeless matter such as dirt and rocks, become living beings? Has anyone ever observed beyond doubt the evolution of a new mammalian or aviary species, as opposed to changes within a species?" He then claims that Darwinism has no verifiable answers to them and then he admits to having only a "little pea brain" this way:

To my little pea brain, these are some pretty big issues about evolution, the origins of life, and genetics that Darwinism cannot answer. Now, to be fair, does anyone else have verifiable answers either? Not as far as I know.

Alas, what Ben Stein's little pea brain isn't able to grasp is that Darwin's theory doesn't need to answer most of those questions any more than Einstein's theory of relativity does, or Newton's theory on planetary motion, or Galileo's and Copernicus' theory of heliocentrism answers them. Those are still successful scientific theories in spite of the fact that none of them tell us how the universe started or where matter and energy came from? Would Ben Stein throw out Einstein, Newton and Galileo along with Darwin because they didn't provide answers? Would he insist that a Bible based "theory" about a flat earth and an earth centered universe be taught along with heliocentrism because none of the questions about where the matter, energy and the universe came from are answered?

Scientific theories have limited scope. The only questions Stein asks that are appropriate to Darwin's theory are "How did inorganic matter, that is, lifeless matter such as dirt and rocks, become living beings?" and "has anyone ever observed beyond doubt the evolution of a new mammalian or aviary species, as opposed to changes within a species?" And note that he only asks about mammalian and avian species. This is a clue that Ben Stein knows he is full of bullshit. He knows that we have observed the evolution of new plant species, insect species, amphibian species, and new "bacterial species."

Even though not directly observed by scientists we can be fairly certain that mammals like domestic cows and sheep, which probably descends from the wild mouflon of south-central and south-west Asia, are a result of humans using artificial speciation and selecting existing genetic variants within species or hybridizing different subspecies or breeds to create new species that are more suited to human use. We can be pretty sure that cows are descended from the extinct species of wild cattle Bos primigenius.

Also, the evolution of new species has also been observed in the fossil record numerous times which includes the fossil bird Archaeopteryx.

Now turn that question around and ask Ben Stein if anyone has ever observed beyond doubt the divine creation of new plant, insect, or bacterial species?

Ben Stein asks:
... if there are no answers that can be reproduced in the laboratory, isn't any theory about them a hypothesis or a guess? Isn't any hypothesis worth thinking about?

No. Evolution is not just a hypothesis or a guess, it is a theory. It's a theory where certain answers can be reproduced in the laboratory and in the field. It has lines of evidence no other theory about the diversity of life can touch. And no, not all hypothesis are worth thinking about and more importantly, they are not all science.

Florida did not (as Ben Stein was told) consider "legislation that would make it illegal to allow teachers or students in public schools to discuss any hypothesis about origins of life or the universe except that it all happened by accident without any prime mover or first cause or designer -- allowing only, again, the hypothesis, which is considered Darwinian, that it all started by, well, by, something that Darwin never even mentioned." Going farther Stein says:

... we know now that Darwin was wildly wrong about some subjects such as genetics, and, again, although he wrote about the evolution of species, never observed an entirely new species evolve.

That's partly true, Darwin was wrong about a few things, but not "wildly" wrong. He didn't directly observe an entirely new species evolve either, but he found significant evidence for his theory. Remember, Einstein never observed time slowing down and he only followed a beam of light in his imagination.

However, Darwin didn't write a Bible that's the supposedly infallible Word of God, so he's allowed to make a few wrong guesses. The theory of evolution has grown and expanded a lot since Darwin wrote that very old book. Yet after more than a hundred years of testing and challenges, Darwin's basic theory has held up with only minor corrections. What we've learned since then has only confirmed most of what Darwin theorized. For example, we now know that human beings and apes are genetically similar with human beings and chimpanzees sharing about 99% of their DNA. This genetic similarity is a confirmation of one of Darwin's basic ideas: that human beings and apes have a common ancestor. And Darwin created his theory before we knew about DNA. Darwin had no mechanism for evolution and he predicted one. That is the way science works. Theories are created to explain observations; theories generate predictions; predictions are confirmed or refuted. Our ability to read and compare DNA provided further confirmation of Darwin's theory far beyond comparing men and chimps.

We know that thousands of separate species are descended from a few common ancestors, which are descended in their turn from an even smaller number of common ancestors, you would expect that these ancestral relationships are reflected in DNA, and they are.

To Stein the proposed Florida school standards were "beyond Stalinism":

Stalinism decreed that only Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin knew all the answers, but it did not say that subjects they never mentioned could only be studied if the student guessed at what they might have said. The proposed law in the state of Florida was an anti-knowledge, anti-freedom of inquiry law on a scale such as has rarely been encountered. Maybe in Pol Pot's Kampuchea there were such laws, but they have been unknown in the USA until now.

Good grief! What a load of steaming, stinking bullshit. This guy is actually worse than Vox Day when it comes to psychotic hyperbole. Nothing in that above bit of quoted paragraph is true. Stalinism never decreed that only Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin knew all the answers. Florida's school board only established that evolution was a fundamental concept that every student should understand. And what the hell does "subjects they never mentioned could only be studied if the student guessed at what they might have said" even mean exactly?

... at the last minute, the state of Florida changed the proposed regulations. They backed off powerfully saying that only Darwinism could possibly make sense and said they would allow discussion of differing theories about the origins of life. That's the current proposal as I write this on the afternoon of the 19th of February.

Allowing discussion of differing theories about the origins of life may not be a bad idea because they need to teach kids why arguments like Ben Stein's are so utterly fraudulent. The fact that some people actually find Stein's claims convincing is solid evidence that we have failed to educate too many Americans.

I suspect the now omitted proposals would have been unconstitutional in any event (although this always depends on the court you ask). Freedom of inquiry is part of freedom of speech. That is basic. That is what America is all about. Whatever the proposed -- now discarded -- regulations were, they have nothing to do with freedom, very little to do with science, and not even much to do with Darwin, who had a lot more respect for freedom of thought than his henchmen in Florida apparently do.

Ben Stein thinks the omitted proposals would have been unconstitutional even though he doesn't seem to know exactly what they were, saying: "Whatever the proposed -- now discarded -- regulations were." If such regulations are so bad one has to wonder why it's the Intelligent Design advocates that tend to loose in court cases like Dover's Kitzmiller case.

Dr. Debra Walker of the Monroe County School Board noted in an Orlando Sentinel article that those counties passing anti-evolution resolutions are the ones where the students have the lowest scores in the state on the science portion of the FCAT.

The graph below compares the average raw FCAT scores of the counties that have indicated support for or rejection of teaching evolution with the statewide FCAT scores:

In those counties where evolution is strongly supported, FCAT science scores are significantly higher. In the counties where evolution education is strongly opposed, science literacy is below the state average. That ties in with my earlier post, "Religion as a force for ignorance and delusion," where I point out the inverse correlation between a country's religiosity and its per capita GDP.