Evolution And Climate Education Update: February 24, 2012

I receive this free newsletter from the National Center for Science Education weekly. Glenn Branch writes it, and it provides timely news on the happenings in the world of creationism and (more recently) climate science denial. Information for obtaining your own free subscription and for joining and donating to the NCSE is provided by the links at the end of the post. Please read and enjoy.


Glenn Branch

Friday, February 24, 2012 9:12 AM

The end of the road for C. F. v. Corbett. A second bill in Oklahoma
attacks evolution and climate change. Documents reveal a conservative
think tank’s plans to undermine the teaching of global warming in
public schools — and the source of the leak steps forward. The two
antievolution bills in New Hampshire are editorially denounced, and
the impetus behind the credit-for-creationism scheme in Alabama is


“The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal Tuesday from a
former high school student who sued his history teacher, saying he
disparaged Christianity in class in violation of the student’s First
Amendment rights,” the Orange County Register (February 21, 2012)
reported. The case in question is C. F. et al. v. Capistrano Unified
School District et al.
, which began in 2007.

The case originated when Corbett, a twenty-year veteran history
teacher at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, California,
was accused by a student, Chad Farnan, of “repeatedly promoting
hostility toward Christians in class and advocating ‘irreligion over
religion’ in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause,”
according to the Orange County Register (May 1, 2009). Farnan cited
more than twenty offending statements of Corbett’s in his complaint.

In the district court’s decision, however, only one of the statements
was identified as constitutionally impermissible. In 2007, while
describing to his class his involvement in the 1994 case Peloza v.
Capistrano Unified School District — in which a teacher
unsuccessfully contended that it was unconstitutional for the school
district to require him to teach evolution — Corbett characterized
creationism as “superstitious nonsense.”

The district court wrote, “The Court cannot discern a legitimate
secular purpose in this statement, even when considered in context.
The statement therefore constitutes improper disapproval of religion
in violation of the Establishment Clause.” But the district court also
ruled that because there was no clear precedent establishing that
Corbett’s comment would have been unconstitutional, Corbett was
entitled to qualified immunity, shielding him from liability.

Both Farnan and Corbett then appealed the decision to the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals. In a decision issued on August 19, 2011, the
Ninth Circuit overturned the district court’s decision “to the extent
it decided the constitutionality of any of Corbett’s statements” while
upholding its grant of qualified immunity to Corbett. Corbett told the
Orange County Register (August 19, 2011) that it “was a victory for
free thought and academic freedom.”

Farnan then appealed the Ninth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme
Court. With its decision not to hear the appeal, the case is now
definitely over. Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar at the
University of California, Irvine, School of Law who represented
Corbett in the appeal, told the Orange County Register that “Corbett’s
victory is a really important victory for teachers … it could have
opened the door for other teachers to be held liable.”

But the Register also quoted Douglas Laycock, a constitutional scholar
at the University of Virginia School of Law, as identifying the case
as “an example of a systemic problem in constitutional litigation”:
“They can’t hold the teacher liable because the law was not clearly
settled. Because they can’t hold him liable, the law will never become
clear on what teachers can say in class.”

For the 2/21/2012 story in the Orange County Register, visit:


For the 5/1/2009 and the 8/19/2011 stories in the Orange County Register, visit:


For information about Peloza v. Capistrano, visit:


And for NCSE’s collection of documents from C. F. v. Corbett, visit:



A bill in Oklahoma that would, if enacted, encourage teachers to
present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of
“controversial” topics such as “biological evolution” and “global
warming” is back from the dead. Entitled the “Scientific Education and
Academic Freedom Act,” House Bill 1551 was introduced in the Oklahoma
House of Representatives in 2011 by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a
persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in the Sooner State,
and referred to the House Common Education Committee. It was rejected
there on February 22, 2011, on a 7-9 vote. But, as The Oklahoman
(February 23, 2011) reported, the vote was not final, since a sponsor
“could ask the committee to bring it up again this session or next
year.” And indeed, on February 20, 2012, Gus Blackwell (R-District 61)
resurrected the bill in the House Common Education Committee.

The only significant difference is that where the original version
specified, “The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some
scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical
origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause
controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations
concerning how they should present information on such subjects,” the
new version specifies, “the Legislature further finds that the
teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to
premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics
and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be
unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present
information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological
evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human

On February 21, 2012, just a day after HB 1551 was resurrected, the
House Common Education Committee voted 9-7 to accept it, hearing no
testimony from the public. One amendment, providing, “Nothing in this
subsection shall be construed to exempt students from learning,
understanding, and being tested on curriculum as prescribed by state
and local education standards,” was accepted; while that language was
not present in the original version of HB 1551, it was added by
amendment by the House Common Education Committee in 2011 before the
bill was rejected, suggesting that Blackwell was working from the
original rather than the amended version of Kern’s bill. The bill will
now presumably proceed to the House of Representatives for a floor
vote; it will have to be accepted by the House by March 15, 2012, in
order to proceed to the Senate.

In its current incarnation, HB 1551 differs only slightly from
Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 320 from 2009, which a member of the Senate
Education Committee described to the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009)
as one of the worst bills that he had ever seen. In its critique (PDF)
of SB 320, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education argued,
“Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is
just plain dishonest … Evolution as a process is supported by an
enormous and continually growing body of evidence. Evolutionary theory
has advanced substantially since Darwin’s time and, despite 150 years
of direct research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever
been found.” With respect to the supposed “weaknesses” of evolution,
OESE added, “they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by
people who don’t like evolution.”

For information about Oklahoma’s House Bill 1551, visit:


For the stories from The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World, visit:



For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education’s critique of
Senate Bill 320 (PDF), visit:


And for NCSE’s previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit:



“Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking
climate science is planning a new push to undermine the teaching of
global warming in public schools, the latest indication that climate
change is becoming a part of the nation’s culture wars,” reported The
New York Times
(February 15, 2012). The documents in question were
obtained from the Heartland Institute, a non-profit organization best
known for its attacks on climate science, and posted at DeSmogBlog
(February 14, 2012), which “exists to clear the PR pollution that is
clouding the science on climate change.”

The documents detailed a plan to invest at least $100,000 to produce
and distribute curriculum material propounding climate change denial.
“Many people lament the absence of educational material suitable for
K-12 students on global warming that isn’t alarmist or overtly
political. Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers,
but has had only limited success.” The proposed remedy was to produce
“modules” on climate change with such claims as “whether CO2 is a
pollutant is controversial” and “whether humans are changing the
climate is a major scientific controversy.”

“It is in fact not a scientific controversy,” the Times explained with
regard to the latter claim. “The vast majority of climate scientists
[97-98%, according to Anderegg et al., “Expert credibility in climate
change,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2010)]
say that emissions generated by humans are changing the climate and
putting the planet at long-term risk, although they are uncertain
about the exact magnitude of that risk. Whether and how to rein in
emissions of greenhouse gases has become a major political controversy
in the United States, however.”

The Heartland Institute explicitly denied the authenticity of one of
the documents, which included a startling description of the proposed
curriculum as showing “that the topic of climate change is
controversial and uncertain — two key points that are effective at
dissuading teachers from teaching science.” The author of the
curriculum confirmed to the Associated Press (February 18, 2012) that
the description of his curriculum throughout the documents was
otherwise accurate, however, explaining that his goal for schools was
“teaching both sides of the science, more science, not less.”

The article in the Times observed, “The National Center for Science
Education, a group that has had notable success in fighting for
accurate teaching of evolution in the public schools, has recently
added climate change to its agenda in response to pleas from teachers
who say they feel pressure to water down the science,” and quoted Mark
McCaffrey, who is spearheading NCSE’s climate initiative, as saying
that the Heartland documents show that climate change deniers
“continue to promote confusion, doubt and debate where there really is

The Los Angeles Times (February 20, 2012) offered its editorial
opinion: “On one side of the ‘controversy’ are credentialed
climatologists around the globe who publish in reputable,
peer-reviewed scientific journals and agree that the planet is warming
and that humans are to blame; on the other are
fossil-fuel-industry-funded ‘experts’ who tend to have little
background in climatology and who publish non-peer-reviewed papers in
junk magazines disputing established truths. … It’s bad enough that
we’re gambling our children’s futures by doing so little to fight this
problem; let’s not ask their teachers to lie to them about it too.”

For the article in The New York Times, visit:


For the post at DeSmogBlog, visit:


For Anderegg et al. (2010), visit:


For the Associated Press story (via Education Week), visit:


For the editorial in the Los Angeles Times, visit:



The source of the documents revealing the strategy of the Heartland
Institute’s campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of
climate science — including by producing and distributing K-12
curriculum materials propounding climate change denial — revealed
himself to be Dr. Peter Gleick, the hydroclimatologist who heads the
Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and

In a February 20, 2012, statement posted at the Huffington Post,
Gleick explained that at the beginning of the year, he received a
document “describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland
Institute’s climate program strategy.” Attempting to confirm the
accuracy of the information, he continued, “I solicited and received
additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under
someone else’s name.”

Gleick expressed regret for his actions, writing, “My judgment was
blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous,
well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and
scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of
the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own
actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those

As part of NCSE’s expansion to defend the teaching of climate science,
Gleick had agreed to join NCSE’s board of directors. On the same day
as he posted his statement, however, he apologized to NCSE for his
behavior with regard to the Heartland Institute documents and offered
to withdraw from the board, on which he was scheduled to begin serving
as of February 25, 2012. His offer was accepted.

“Gleick obtained and disseminated these documents without the
knowledge of anyone here,” NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott
commented, “and we do not condone his doing so.” But, she added, “they
show that NCSE was right to broaden its scope to include the teaching
of climate science. There really are coordinated attempts to undermine
the teaching of climate science, and NCSE is needed to help to thwart

For Gleick’s statement at the Huffington Post, visit:



The two antievolution bills in New Hampshire’s House of
Representatives were editorially denounced by the Concord Monitor
(February 20, 2012), which wrote, “The House should spare the state
further embarrassment and kill both bills.” Both bills were dismissed
by the House Education Committee on February 16, 2012, but
nevertheless proceed to a floor vote in the House on February 22,
2012. According to a primer on legislative process posted on the state
legislature’s website, “It is rare for the full Senate or House to
overturn a Committee’s decision.”

With regard to House Bill 1148, which would have charged the state
board of education to “[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public
schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political
and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of
atheism,” the Monitor commented, “But we fear that [the bill’s sponsor
Jerry] Bergevin is not referring to Darwin with his use of the words
‘the theorist’ in his bill but to today’s science teachers. If so, it
is a McCarthy-esque proposition that’s odious on multiple levels.”

With regard to House Bill 1457, which would have charged the state
board of education to “[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils
that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to
any one theory or hypothesis,” the Monitor commented that its
description of science, insofar as it was accurate, “is the opposite
of efforts to espouse positions like the creationist theories of
life’s origin promoted by … a representative from the Discovery
Institute who came to New Hampshire from the state of Washington to
testify in favor of the bills.”

For the editorial in the Concord Monitor, visit:


For the primer on legislative process, visit:


And for NCSE’s previous coverage of events in New Hampshire, visit:



Alabama’s House Bill 133 — which would, if enacted, “authorize local
boards of education to include released time religious instruction as
an elective course for high school students” — was introduced at the
behest of a former teacher who was “fired in 1980 for reading the
Bible and teaching creationism at Spring Garden Elementary School when
parents of the public school sixth-grade students objected and he
refused to stop,” the Birmingham News (February 17, 2012) reports. Now
84, Joseph Kennedy “still has a dream of teaching public school
students about creationism,” and he and his supporters are poised to
offer a course on creationism if the bill passes.

The sponsor of HB 133, Blaine Galliher (R-District 30), told the News
that he introduced the bill — which he described elsewhere as a
“vehicle” for creationism — at Kennedy’s request. Describing his
plans to the newspaper, Kennedy explained, “All the school board needs
to do is set it up. They can give the students credit. We’re going to
major on creation science. Since creation involved science, then
certainly we can study it. We want to give students good sound
scientific reasons to support their faith in the seven-day creation
and the young Earth,” adding, “The textbook will be ‘The Defender
Study Bible,’ with notes by Henry Morris, author of ‘The Genesis
Flood,’ who started the creationist movement.”

Mary Sue McClurkin (R-District 43), who chairs the House Education
Policy Committee, told the News that the bill would be debated in
committee during the week of February 28, 2012, commenting, “It looks
like it’s a very viable way to offer some elective courses for kids
that have many opportunities for electives.” But Thomas Berg, a
professor of law formerly at Samford University in Birmingham,
expressed doubt about the bill’s constitutionality, asking, “Is the
religious teacher going to certify that the student passed? Would the
school do any review of that? Would they monitor the class for quality
to ensure it would warrant a public school credit? All those things
would entangle the school.”

For the article in the Birmingham News, visit:


And for NCSE’s previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit:


Thanks for reading. And don’t forget to visit NCSE’s website —
http://ncse.com — where you can always find the latest news on
evolution and climate education and threats to them.


Glenn Branch

Deputy Director

National Center for Science Education, Inc.

420 40th Street, Suite 2

Oakland, CA 94609-2509

510-601-7203 x305

fax: 510-601-7204




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Faith To Faith

It’s Santorum time again. Praise the Lord.

The former senator from Pennsylvania previously rebuked a speech made prior to the election in 1960 by Catholic candidate John Kennedy. In a presentation last year Santorum denounced a particular part of the speech in which Kennedy said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” At the time Kennedy was defending the acceptability of a Catholic for the highest office. No Catholic had ever been elected president of the majority Protestant Christian United States. Santorum said about reading this line, “I almost threw up.”

I was hoping the future President of the United States would have a stronger stomach. History has shown us that presidents typically have to deal with calamities far worse than separation of church and state.

Fast forward to the current time, and Santorum is defending last year’s remarks. The Boston Globe reports:

Santorum said he understood the speech as being opposed to the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which bans government from making laws regarding religion or limiting its practice. “That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square,” Santorum said. “Kennedy for the first time articulated a vision saying ‘no, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’”

Hopefully Santorum does not misconstrue everything he observes as much as he does this.

Santorum went on , “To say that people of faith have no role in the public square, you bet that makes you throw up,” Santorum said. “What kind of country do we live in that says only people of non-faith can come in the public square and make their case?”

Regardless of how wrong Santorum got this interpretation, a hard fact seems to have escaped him. I will state it now: People of all faiths are allowed in the government. However, the government is based on sound fiscal and materialistic principles and will not yield these principles to concerns of mere faith. In time of war it might be nice and tolerable if some people have faith that “God is on our side,” but when it gets down to business we set God aside and build aircraft carriers. Extending that a little further, it is tolerable if some people in government hold to the faith that the world will come to an end in the next ten years, so it is not necessary to plan for the following ten years, but the rest of us who are forced to live in the real world are not required to sign up to such foolishness, and we will not allow the government to be run on such a basis. If some people have the sincere religious faith that illness will be cured by prayer alone, that might be fine and dandy, but the government is not required shirk its responsibilities and allow parents to deny sick children life-saving medical treatment. This is what separation of church and state is all about.

You can set an egg timer for somebody to chime in with “Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the words ‘separation of church and state,’ or “The Constitution does not mention a wall of separation between church and state.” Correct on all counts. The Constitution (First Amendment) states simply, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..” This is simply a restatement of what I said above. The government, while agreeing not to suppress religious practice, will also not bend to the religious whims of the majority.

The last part is significant. I have run out of fingers counting the number of times people have told me that the majority should not have to bow to the needs of the minority. If the people want to enforce prayers in public school, that is their right as the majority. The majority rules.

That is exactly what the First Amendment says will not happen. The First Amendment is the first of the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was put in place to protect people from the government. The government is run by the majority of voters (not originally, but it is now). The government is the majority. The Bill of Rights protects all of us from excessive government power, and that excessive government power would be manifest in the form of government mandated prayer and government mandates to adhere to purely religious doctrine (prohibition of the sale of contraceptives).

Rick Santorum is not and to my knowledge has never been circumspect in his support for government coercion in religious matters. Over ten years ago he became famous for his support of the notorious Santorum Amendment to the No Child Left Behind education act. In proposing his amendment he stated:

‘‘It is the sense of the Senate that—
‘‘(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of
science; and
‘‘(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.

It simply says there are disagreements in scientific theories out there that are continually tested. Our knowledge of science is not absolute, obviously. We continue to test theories. Over the centuries, there were theories that were once assumed to be true and have been proven, through further revelation of scientific investigation and testing, to be not true.
One of the things I thought was important in putting this forward was to make sure the Senate of this country, obviously one of the greatest, if not the greatest, deliberative bodies on the face of the Earth, was on record saying we are for this kind of intellectual freedom; we are for this kind of discussion going on; it will enhance the quality of science education for our students.
I will read three points made by one of the advocates of this thought, a man named David DeWolf, as to the advantages of teaching this controversy that exists. He says:
Several benefits will accrue from a more open discussion of biological origins in the science classroom. First, this approach will do a better job of teaching the issue itself, both because it presents more accurate information about the state of scientific thinking and evidence, and because it presents the subject in a more lively and less dogmatic way. Second, this approach gives students greater appreciation for how science is actually practiced. Science necessarily involves the interpretation of data; yet scientists often disagree about how to interpret their data. By presenting this scientific controversy realistically, students will learn how to evaluate competing interpretations in light of evidence—a skill they will need as citizens, whether they choose careers in science or other fields. Third, this approach will model for students how to address differences of opinion through reasoned discussion within the context of a pluralistic society.

Nowhere in his presentation did Rick Santorum mention Intelligent Design, but Intelligent Design is what he was talking about. David DeWolf was then associated with the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture (CSC) and is now a Senior Fellow of same. The CSC is the major proponent of Intelligent Design, a religiously-driven concept meant to supersede the current scientific theories of biological evolution. What is being proposed is the advocacy of a religious concept at government expense. This is something expressly forbidden by the First Amendment.

Rick Santorum has publicly advocated the teaching of Intelligent Design. In a 2002 comment made apparently to address opposition to inclusion of Intelligent Design in the Ohio public school curriculum he said, among other things: “Therefore, intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.”

It is not clear to me that Rich Santorum understands that Intelligent Design has no scientific basis, but he clearly believes it to be in alignment with his religious principles. And to Hell with John Kennedy.

The Heat Of Darkness

I will try to keep the introduction brief. It’s a little bit of physics that I was supposed to have learned a long time ago but retained only a little.

The planet Earth reflects about 30% of the light it gets from the sun. One way of saying this is the albedo of the Earth is 30%. Wikipedia says 30% to 35%, but I was only guessing. The remaining 65% to 70% the Earth gets to keep, and this warms the Earth.

Keep this in mind. The Earth does not keep this energy forever. If it did, then the Earth would keep getting hotter and hotter until it melted, and we know that has not happened recently. When the surface of the Earth is warm it radiates invisible infra-red energy out into space. The hotter the surface becomes the more intensely it radiates energy. After a time the Earth’s surface reaches a temperature at which the combined reflected and radiated energy exactly equal the energy received from the sun. This is a system in equilibrium.

OK, that’s not strictly true. One problem we poor students had to solve was to calculate this average surface temperature. The solution was about 20 degrees F cooler than what we actually measure. What was wrong? What was wrong, and we knew this going in, is that the sun is not the sole source of heating for the Earth. The Earth contains within it a vast nuclear reactor, large quantities of uranium and thorium undergoing radioactive decay and releasing heat. Enough heat to keep the Earth’s average surface temperature where it is now. Which some would say is just about right.

Electromagnetic energy (including visible light and infra-red) must pass through the Earth’s atmosphere coming in and going out. The atmosphere intercepts some of that energy passing through in both directions. To get to the point, the Earth’s surface reflects some visible light and some infra-red, but it (mostly) only emits energy in the form of infra-red radiation. Without consulting any charts I am going to say a large amount of infra-red energy passes through the atmosphere on the way out into infinite space, never to return again. But some of this infra-red making the trip out gets absorbed by the atmosphere.

This illustration from Wikipedia shows what goes on with energy and radiation in this circumstance. The plots for an idealized absorber/emitter show that as surface temperature increases, the body emits more energy and preferentially in the short wavelengths (for example, visible light). When the surface temperature is lower the total emission is less, and the distribution is concentrated in the longer wavelengths (infra-red). At ordinary surface temperatures on Earth (especially not the glowing lava from a volcano) the emission is entirely in the infra-red and longer wavelengths.

So, what would happen if the amount of energy getting absorbed on the way out were to increase? To answer my own question, more energy would be retained by the Earth as a whole (atmosphere plus ground plus water). The temperature of the Earth’s surface would rise until it reached a point that the amount of energy starting the trip out would be enough so that enough would make it out, and the inward and outward flows would balance again.

What would cause the atmosphere to increase its infra-red absorption rate (absorb a greater fraction of the infra-red passing through)? The answer is “some change in the nature of the atmosphere.”

The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and oxygen gas. Water vapor makes up some, and argon gas and carbon dioxide make up even less. Due to some well-known principles of quantum mechanics, water molecules interact readily with photons in the infra-red part of the spectrum. Water molecules have a number of energy levels at which to store energy, and certain wavelengths of infra-red have just the right energy to raise the energy of a water molecule by the amount of the difference of two of the molecule’s well-defined energy levels. A water molecule readily interacts with a photon of the proper wavelength and absorbs all of its energy. This kind of interaction likes to be all or nothing. That’s why they call it quantum mechanics.

So, water vapor in the atmosphere is an excellent absorber of infra-red energy and contributes greatly to keeping the Earth’s surface warm. What about carbon dioxide? The same is true with carbon dioxide, but not so much, because, for one thing, there is much less of it. Water accounts for 36% to 72% of the I-R absorption, and CO2 accounts for 9% to 26%. CO2 makes up 0.039% of the atmosphere, while water makes up about 0.4%. It’s apparent that of the two major “greenhouse” gasses in the air, CO2 is pound for pound more absorbent of infra-red than water.

People who doubt the effect that something like water has on heat retention need to visit a desert climate. In Tucson, Arizona, the relative humidity may linger around 10%, and in the day time the temperature regularly exceeds 110F. When the sun goes down you look up, and you see nothing between you and the cold void of outer space but a layer of dry air. The temperature rapidly drops as energy radiates into space. The sky “feels” cold. A demonstration with CO2 uses an IR imaging system and a CO2 fire extinguisher. On the imaging view screen you can see all manner of objects in a completely dark room, because they emit IR. Spray a cloud of CO2 in front of these objects, and they disappear, because the CO2 has absorbed the IR.

Even so, water has a greater over-all effect on heat retention in the atmosphere, so what’s all the fuss about CO2? We regularly put a lot of water in the air and never give it a thought. The difference is that water has a transport mechanism called “rain” that removes it from the atmosphere as fast on average as it goes in. CO2 has no such mechanism. CO2 is removed mainly by the process of photosynthesis by plants, and it takes a long time to remove a large slug of CO2 from the air. The average life of a water molecule in the air is about 9 days. The average life of a CO2 molecule in the air is 20 years. That large slug of CO2 will show effects for about 200 years.

That was my brief introduction, and I now get down to the business of what has come to be called global warming. The CO2 concentration in the air has gone up 35% since the advent of the industrial revolution, and it appears that much of this has been due to the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests.

Carbon dioxide is just carbon and oxygen joined into a molecule. The atmosphere contains a lot of oxygen (about 21%) but no carbon except in carbon dioxide, methane and some other minor gasses. If you can manage the carbon, you can keep the CO2 out of the atmosphere. Fossil fuels (coal-almost pure carbon and hydrocarbons-petroleum and natural gas) transport carbon, that has been sequestered underground for millions of years, back to the atmosphere. Trees store a lot of carbon, as well, and removing them without growing new ones to replace them returns their carbon content of the atmosphere.

None of that would matter if there were not detrimental effects of global warming. Nobody has yet projected more than a two to five degrees rise in atmospheric temperature in the next 100 years. However, even that small amount will have a very noticeable effect. If the oceans warm by that amount they will expand, and the sea level will rise. If the water locked in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melts and flows into the oceans, the sea level will rise by several feet. There are some places that cannot tolerate such a rise in sea level. The Republic of Maldives is a collection of islands in the Indian Ocean on average less than five feet above sea level. The state of Florida is not much better, and the city of New Orleans is right at sea level with some parts lower than the surface of the Gulf of Mexico just a few miles away.

Also, there is concern with runaway warming. If warming melts the northern snow belts, then the darkened landscape will absorb more heat from the sun, and warming will increase, causing more snow and ice to melt. It’s called positive feedback.

Again, none of this would be controversial, except that some people do not want to take responsibility for what we are all doing to contribute to global warming. People do not want to stop burning gasoline in their cars. They do not want to stop burning coal in their power plants. They want to cut down forests to plant annual crops. And so on.

So, what do people do? They do what people always do. They shoot the messenger who brings the bad news. It’s as though if the message goes away then the problem will go away. As with all problems there is a profit to be made solving the problem. Which brings us to the matter of Heartland Institute.

A quick trip to their home page reveals their message in a circulating marquee:


Left-wing groups commit fraud, but we’re fighting back! Join our legal defense fund and remove false and defamatory materials and prosecute the true criminals.

The site also mentions a number of these “left-wing” groups:

NCSE (National Center for Science Education)
Huffington Post
Pacific Institute

Some of these groups I am familiar with, others not so much. The Huffington Post I read often, and I can swear to you it has a liberal slant. Also, let’s call Greenpeace a given, although I am not sure why. When did protecting the environment become a liberal idea? How come conservatives have not picked up on this and marched with it? This is what I sometimes wonder when I consider the original meaning of the word conservative.

The NCSE promotes the teaching of science-based concepts in public schools. What conservative organization would be against this idea? It’s possible that because creationism has become the foster child of conservative politicians the NCSE is now on Heartland’s radar. The NCSE has been for the past 30 years a champion of teaching the science of biological evolution, and this science is now targeted by conservative groups. The NCSE strongly opposes teaching creationism, including the story of Genesis and the modern Intelligent Design form, in public science classes. Let’s make matters even worse. Recently the NCSE put “global warming” denial alongside creationism as one of the pseudo sciences it will oppose.

A little reading of Thinkprogress gives the impression of a liberal attitude, and Desmogblog is obviously liberal due to its stance against climate science denial. That brings us to Pacific Institute.

Pacific Institute was founded by Peter Gleick, an American scientist specializing in environmental issues. More recently he stepped down as head of the organization after revealing he had obtained confidential documents from Heartland using a faked identity. He created a bogus Gmail account and sent e-mails to Heartland claiming they were from a named board member and asking that duplicate notices from Heartland be sent to the new address, as well. He received confidential documents from Heartland and released these documents to various outlets, including Desmogblog, which has posted them on the Internet.

Gleick has clearly stepped beyond the bounds of legitimate science and into the realm of advocacy. In addition to his disconnection from the Pacific Institute, the San Francisco Chronicle has dropped his on-line blog.

Gleick was apparently motivated to tap into Heartland materials by an anonymous correspondence he received containing a memo that Heartland now says was forged. Heartland acknowledges the other published documents obtained by Gleick but contends the forged document has harmed its reputation. They are threatening legal action.

It is impossible to reconcile Gleick’s actions as those of a serious scientist. Particularly his release of unsubstantiated evidence is outside accepted practice. Regarding the materials Gleick obtained from Heartland, it was not his job to do this kind of thing. This is best left up to others, such as Desmogblog and this blog. The Skeptical Analysis blog makes no claim for political neutrality, but there will always be an advocacy for real science and for doing the right thing.

I have reviewed the purloined materials, and I am happy to report they confirm what everybody knew all along. It brings me to wonder why Gleick went to all the trouble to expose the obvious. Did anybody think for a moment that Heartland has a legitimate agenda that caters to the public interest? Any difference between Heartland and a for-profit propaganda mill is difficult to discern. Here is part of an item posted on Desmogblog regarding the materials from Gleick:

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.

Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. [Update: Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute’s climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all. A statement released on KochFacts.com and the charleskochfoundationfacts.org states that “…the Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.”]

The allusion is apparently to an item in Heartland’s 2012 fundraising plan. It shows an anticipated $25,000 expected for this year from Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. For those who do not watch the news, the Koch (coke) brothers are politically conservative billionaires whose family fortune originated with the petroleum industry.

Particularly telling is a Heartland memo titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” and dated January 2012. The contents appear to be no longer confidential, so a bit of disclosure is in order.

One paragraph speaks of the development of a “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms.” This is being developed by David Wojick, who has a long history of working for industrial organizations opposed to climate science. According to Sourcewatch, “He has a Ph.D. in philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh, and a BS in civil engineering from Carnegie Tech. He has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon and the staffs of the US Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Lab.” Also “Wojick has been described as a journalist and policy analyst. According to a search of 22,000 academic journals, Wojick has not published any research in a peer-reviewed journal on the subject of climate change.” The Heartland memo states that Wojick will be paid $100,000 to develop 20 educational modules with the funds coming from “The Anonymous Donor.”

The memo also states that Heartland funds “high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message.” These include Craig Idso at $11,600 per month, Fred Singer at $5000 per month (plus expenses) and Robert Carter, at $1667 per month.

About Idso, Sourcewatch has this to say:

Craig D. Idso is Chairman, founder and former President of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a contrarian Arizona-based group funded in part by ExxonMobil. He is the son of its president, Sherwood B. Idso[1], and the brother of its vice president, Keith E. Idso.

According to Sourcewatch, Fred Singer “runs the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).., which publicizes his own views on various topics, primarily climate change, ozone depletion, risks of chemical pollution (from DDT and others), nuclear power, and space policy.” He has a long history of advocacy for concerns who have behaved badly in the public arena. Again from Sourcewatch:

In 1993, Singer collaborated with Tom Hockaday of Apco Associates to draft an article on “junk science” intended for publication. Apco Associates was the PR firm hired to organize and direct The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition for Philip Morris. Hockaday reported on his work with Singer to Ellen Merlo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Philip Morris.

Sourcewatch has this to say about Robert Carter:

According to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, Carter was “on the research committee at the Institute of Public Affairs, a think tank that has received funding from oil and tobacco companies, and whose directors sit on the boards of companies in the fossil fuel sector” and believed, SMH said, that “the role of peer review in scientific literature was overstressed.”

If you have been reading along with me you have noticed one peculiar consistency. None of the people just mentioned are serious scientists working in the field of atmospheric science, environmental issues or any of the topics they are being paid to speak on. The word propaganda has a long history of various implications, but this case best illustrates the modern English usage.

When a dedicated cadre of serious scientists develops an idea that many in our society find objectionable, the only recourse for those who oppose this idea is to out-talk the scientists and call them liars and fools. The irony of this approach is that the accuser must take on the role of a liar or a fool. Another course of action would be to do real scientific research and develop opposing conclusions. The various industrial and political groups could take that route if they chose. Obviously they have not, and the reason they have not is because they cannot. If they could, they would. But they cannot, and they do not.

The Devil Is In The Details

Thank God for Rick Santorum.

Some people think I do not believe in God, but they are wrong. If there is no God, then who is it that brought me Rick Santorum to brighten my days and to keep me chuckling long after I should have gone to sleep. Thank you, Lord.

Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Tuesday that Rick Santorum will have to explain his warning that “Satan has his sights on the United States of America.”

Rush has been good enough to provide the transcript of his show, including highlights of Santorum’s 2008 speech at Ave Maria University.

The Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies, Satan, would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country — the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States, and that’s been the case for now almost 200 years, once America’s preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers.

I think I have this straight now. The United States is under attack from a fictional character. Someone like Count Dracula or The Phantom of the Opera.

Ordinarily I would be concerned, but I know something that Rick Santorum has failed to consider. We have our own fictional friends to take care of fictional villains. We will see your Count Dracula and raise you Superman and Batman, keeping in reserve The Lone Ranger and Tonto.

Satan has done so by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of these strong plants that have so deeply rooted in American tradition. He was successful. The place where he was, in my mind, the most successful and first successful was in academia. He understood pride of “smart” people. He attacked them at their weakest, that they were in fact smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different, pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it, “because we’re smart;” and so academia a long time ago fell.

Now, I know this part is true, because I was there when it happened, and I watched as Satan quietly invaded science and pushed the Earth out from the center of the universe so that it became a speck of matter among many in the outer reaches of a nothing galaxy out of hundreds of billions. I watched as our faithful Earth turned from a flat, four-cornered billiard table into a glistening blue ball in the blackness of empty space. I nearly cried when I was told that I was biologically equal to all those other people of different skin color. Satan, I hate you. Or was it the evil Professor Moriarty? I keep getting the two confused. Anyhow, Sherlock Holmes will come along soon and get it all straighten out.

But the former Senator Santorum had more to say.

The next was the church. Now, you say, “Well, wait. The Catholic Church?” No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic, but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic. Sure, the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country, and the Protestant ethic. Mainstream, mainline Protestantism. And of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country, and it is a shambles.

Yes, the Church has also been ravaged by the evil Satan (or Mister Hyde) as we watched. We watched as pedophile priests were shuttled from location to location when the supply of young and vulnerable boys dried up at each location. It was Satan (or Darth Vader) who contrived for the church to excommunicate politicians who condoned contraception, all the while keeping on the payroll priests who buggered choir boys. Yes, the Church has fallen to a new low.

Wait, what am I thinking? Rick Santorum is a Catholic. How can this be. Obviously there is one thing that Satan (or Black Bart) has failed to corrupt, and that is Rick Santorum.

God love him. I know Obama does, because he prays every night that Rick Santorum will win the nomination. I do, too.

Holier Than Thou

This is rich:

Franklin Graham: ‘Assume’ Obama is Christian
By TIM MAK | 2/21/12 9:01 AM EST Updated: 2/21/12 4:34 PM EST
Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, gave sharply different answers Tuesday when asked whether he believed Rick Santorum and Barack Obama were Christians.

Graham said he must assume the president is Christian. Assume? Does the world so quickly forget? Who is Jeremiah Wright?

About the president Graham said: “You have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody.”

Anybody but Rick Santorum. On this Graham is very emphatic: “I think so,” he replied to the question. He thinks so? He thinks the most blatant crucifix-waving stumper in the  campaign trail might be a Christian?

I wonder what he thinks of me?

Graham also thinks Newt Gingrich is a Christian. He says Newt told him so.

Maybe not Romney. Remember, Romney is a M….n.

Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith,” said Graham. “They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.

Graham artfully dodged discussing some of the things Christians do believe.

So. Christians of America, get thee to Sunday mass, or better yet go tonight. It’s Wednesday, bingo night. Don’t allow your true faith to be questioned, even if you have to wear a five-pound cross around your neck.

Remember, if it can happen to the president (or Mitt Romney), it can happen to you.

Show Me The Money

Here is an interesting news item:

MADRID —  Spain said Monday it will soon send hulking military transport planes to Florida to retrieve 17 tons of treasure that U.S. undersea explorers found but ultimately lost in American courts, a find experts have speculated could be the richest shipwreck treasure in history.

So, let me get this straight:

On 5 October 1804 the Brits intercepted the Spanish ship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes off the coast of Portugal, and, after a confrontation, the Spanish ship blew up and went down with seventeen tons of silver coins “and other artifacts.” That there’s treasure, mate.

A Florida salvage company located the wreck a few years back and recovered the loot, but the Spaniards have laid claim and are coming to collect the booty.

While I believe in returning lost goods to their rightful owner, I also believe in returning lost goods to their rightful owner. Specifically, Spain needs to consider how they came by all this swag in the first place.

To be sure, this was not Francisco Pizarro, conquering the Incas and killing their king by strangulation while stealing their gold. No, this was more than two hundred years later after Spain had seized most of Central and South America and systematically trucked back home all that which was worth taking. The news does not mention any plans by Spain to ship any small portion of the purloined wealth back to the descendents of the people who produced it in the first place.

Also, the news has not much to say of the salvage company that has spent millions retrieving the salvage from the bottom of the ocean. Thinking that Spain will compensate them in any way is a stretch.

The Third Degree

The following first appeared in two installments in October and November 2009 in The North Texas Skeptic.

In August I was pleased to receive an e-mail from Jared McCormick. I wrote him a short response, and asked his permission to reprint the mail in our September newsletter. Please refer to Jared’s remarks in our on-line newsletter.

In brief, Jared took me to task for my attempts at “trying to find a way to prove DR. Patton’s credentials have been falsified.” The “DR Patton” in question is Don R. Patton, a local creationist, who has for years claimed to have a Ph.D. degree. Jared also mentioned my accusations that Don Patton has incorrectly quoted main stream scientists and science writers. In his letter Jared said, in part:1

It has come to my attention that one of your staff members, namely John Blanton has been trying to find a way to prove DR. Patton’s credentials have been falsified. The problem is, there is overwhelming evidence (to include the official records) and several witnesses that prove the contrary.

The remarks and the wording tugged at my memory. I searched back into our records and pulled up some correspondence from creationist Steve Rudd. He has a Web site, which contains this material of interest:2

John Blanton, head slanderer for the North Texas Skeptics

Atheist, evolutionist, humanist, Bible hater, North Texas Skeptics staff.

John Blanton is on staff for the North Texas Skeptics and through this organization is directly associated with: [names of many NTS members]

There is absolutely no question about it that this organization as a whole, is either ignorant of what their organization publishes and the facts that underlie, or is deliberately slanderously dishonest and a promoter of lies.

Although John Blanton falsely accused Patton of misquoting most of his scientific references, Blanton has never supplied any shred of evidence to support this claim. Countless challenges have been made to him and his organization to come clean. Yet his organization continues to make this false unsubstantiated claim. Such is as evil as it is slanderous. We have had many different groups preen through these very quotes and in the end are satisfied Blanton’s claims are as unscholarly as they are vacuous.

Although John Blanton falsely accused Patton of having a phony college degree. Blanton also stated that Patton has no formal training in geology and accused Patton of having a fake degree. When he was later directed to our page that details Dr. Patton’s credentials, he called Patton a lair. When Key authentic original documents were presented to Blanton, he accused Patton of forging these documents to support, “his phony degree”. Blanton actually contacted Jan Williamson, believing this person to be as fictitious as the letter. To Blanton’s horror, Jan Williamson was not only a VERY REAL PERSON, but also verified the letter was authentic. When Jan Williamson told John Blanton directly that the accreditation of the school where Patton earned his Ph. D. was valid, like Satan himself, Blanton continued speaking these lies against Patton. Rather than withdraw the charge as false and unsubstantiated, John Blanton, continues to this day with his slanderous accusations.

Blanton and the North Texas Skeptics live by the rule, “If you say something false enough times, people will begin to believe it.” Or “throw enough mud and people will look dirty.” To this day, the North Texas Skeptics publishes documents that accuse Patton of having a phony degree, yet other than the 5 word title, there is no other information supplied. This is a well known internet scam trick to get the slanderous headlines into web crawler search engines. Such illustrates just how black a heart Blanton and his organization must really have to allow such things to exist at all!

While openly slandering the name of Patton around the world, John Blanton cleverly keeps his name out of sight. John Blanton likes to cower in the dark caves of anonymity only surfacing to make slanderous, evil, unsubstantiated claims he knows, for sure are false. We know he knows they are false, because we have directly shown them to be false. But truth is not something he values. So in addition to being a dishonest liar, John Blanton is a coward. The North Texas Skeptics has no credibility or integrity because of it.

Black heart? Now that is cruel.

OK, there is more here than I can manage in a few pages, but I will make a few points.

First of all, if I have ever in the past accused Don Patton of having no formal training in geology, I sincerely apologize. I have known Don for 20 years, and in this time I have observed he has considerable knowledge of geology. It is more knowledge he could have gotten from watching The History Channel on TV. Furthermore, Rudd’s Web site lays out Don’s academic record:3

Four years, Florida College, Temple Terrace, FL (Bible)
Two years, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN (Geology)
Two years, Indiana Univ./Purdue Univ., Indianapolis, IN (Geology)
Two years, Pacific School of Graduate Studies, Melbourne, Australia (Education)
Ph.D. in Education granted 12/10/1993

To be sure, the four years of Bible study doesn’t count much for geology, but any courses at Austin Peay or Purdue should be worth something. However, Don’s Ph.D. degree from Australia (1993) is in education, not geology. Also, a little assistance to Steve Rudd: The actual name is Pacific College of Graduate Studies (PCGS).

In years past Don has discussed his education with me, and here is what he has had to say: He does not claim to have either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. He stated he decided to skip the usual route and to go straight for the Ph.D.

This brings us to Don Patton’s Ph.D. in education from PCGS.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like to obtain a Ph.D. from grand old PCGS, and I thought about my own academic experience.

I went to Austin, where I spent four years and obtained a B.S. in engineering science. Later, while otherwise employed full time, I attended night classes at the University of Texas at Dallas and obtained master’s degrees in math and physics. At no time was any of this easy.

I considered a Ph.D., as well. In the basement of the physics building at UT Dallas were offices for some of the Ph.D. candidates. I stopped by and talked to some of them, just to get a feel of what it would be like to go for a Ph.D. The facts were like cold water. Six years minimum, I was told. It’s a full time job. And these are some really smart people.

When I discussed his Ph.D. program with Don Patton, he did not mention any such hardships, but I am sure he was being too modest. It should be an interesting story, and Don must be eager to share his experiences. His e-mail address is on the Steve Rudd Web site.

So, what about the grand old PCGS? Is or was this a real institute of higher learning, accredited to bestow advanced college degrees? Steve Rudd provided me with an interesting letter. It says:4


Policy and Planning Division
Level 22
Rialto South Tower, 525 Collins Street
Melbourne, 3000 Victoria
Postal Address
PO Box 266D
Melbourne, 3001 Victoria
Telephone (03) 628 2600 Facsimile (03) 628 3337

17 December 1993

Mr. David Chambers
Pacific College of Graduate Studies
P.O. Box 475
Glenroy 3046

Dear Mr. Chambers


Under the Tertiary Education Act 1993, recently passed by the Victorian Parliament, provision is made for the recognition of defined higher education courses of study of private providers as well as recognized universities. Under the Act, recognized universities are those institutions that are established or recognized as a university under a Victorian Act of Parliament or established as a university under an Act of the Commonwealth of Australia, another State or a Territory. Following proclamation of the Act on 1 July 1993, providers of higher education courses of study other than these require the specific approval of the Minister for Tertiary Education and Training.

In view of the fact that some institutions have students currently enrolled in courses of study leading to a higher education award, it was considered necessary to clarify the status of these students from the date of proclamation. The approvals indicated below relate to courses currently offered and are subject to the conditions identified. They are provided without prejudice to the outcome of consideration by the Review Panels of your application under Section 11 of the Tertiary Education Act 1993.

In relation to the following courses of study offered by the Pacific College of Graduate Studies each course of study is accredited under Section 11(e)(i) of the Tertiary Education Act 1993.

The accreditation shall remain in force until 30 June 1994 under the conditions detailed below.

Master of Arts
Doctor of Ministry
Bachelor of Arts
Doctor of Biblical Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Christian Education
Bachelor of Ministry
Master of Divinity
Doctor of Theology

Under Section 11, authorization is granted from 1 July 1993 to the Pacific College of Graduate Studies to conduct each of the courses specified above until 30 June 1994.


This is enlightening. It seems to say that the PCGS was given just twelve months to grant the listed degrees. Presumably PCGS no longer has this privilege, else I expect Steve Rudd or others would have remarked on the fact. Also, what does this have to say about the prospects for a 1993 PCGS cricket season?

There is additional irony. The letter bears a stamp: “RECEIVED 24 DEC 1993.” According to Rudd (see above), grand old PCGS awarded Patton’s degree two weeks prior.

Excerpt from the Victoria (Australia) Board of Education letter, showing the date stamp for 24 December 1993

But wait. There must be more to all this PCGS business. George Brown has written a review of dubious educational institutions. He has this to say:5

Pacific International University (Victoria) http://www.pacificuniversity.com

Pacific International University had its roots in Melbourne, Australia, and in 1993 obtained accreditation from the Higher Education Division of Victoria to offer Masters and PhD level qualifications. This accreditation was short lived though, and the university relocated to Missouri, USA. For a period of time it still maintained a Victorian address for correspondence and delivery; however, this was removed due to pressure from the Victorian Office of Tertiary Education and Training. In the USA, where it still operates today, it claims accreditation from the ‘American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions Inc.’, an unrecognised accrediting agency.

It’s hard to get past the idea that Pacific College of Graduate Studies and Pacific International University are strongly linked. Wikipedia has the following entry for Pacific International:6

Pacific International University was an unaccredited, conservative, Christian university and seminary located in Springfield, Missouri. 1989 alumnus of Pacific International University Carl Baugh was the university president.[1] The school has been referred to as a diploma mill.[2][3] Pacific International University is not accredited by any accreditation body recognized by its country. As such, its degrees and credits might not be acceptable to employers or other institutions, and use of degree titles may be restricted or illegal in some jurisdictions.

Carl Baugh is the famous creationist promoter of the Paluxy River “mantracks.” This newsletter has previously treated Baugh’s own inflated resume.7

An entry on the TalkOrigins by Brett Vickers has more to say about PCGS and Carl Baugh. It lends additional support for the idea that PCGS and Pacific International share the same bedroom.8

Baugh has also claimed Ph.D. degrees in education and anthropology from the Pacific College of Graduate Studies in Melbourne, Australia and the College of Advanced Education in Irving, Texas. According to Glen Kuban, who has thoroughly researched Baugh’s Paluxy “man-track” claims and his credentials, neither Pacific College nor the College of Advanced Education is accredited or authorized by any regional or national body to grant degrees [4]. Pacific College is a small religious school run by Australian creationist Clifford Wilson, a close associate of Baugh’s. The College of Advanced Education is a division of the International Baptist College, of which Baugh himself is president.

The reference in the above quote cites a source from Glen Kuban.9

So, how does grand old PCGS stack up against your grandfather’s alma mater? It’s time for a reality check.

My engineering degree is from the University of Texas at Austin. The University is supported by state funds, and it opened for classes in 1883. The main campus comprises 350 acres north of the Texas state capitol building. Wikipedia has this description:10

The university is home to 7 museums and 17 libraries, which hold over eight million volumes. The holdings of the university’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center include one of only 21 remaining complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible and the first permanent photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras, taken by Nicéphore Niépce. The newest museum, the Blanton Museum of Art, opened in April 2006 and hosts approximately 17,000 works from Europe, the United States, and Latin America.


The university has an endowment of $7.2 billion, out of the $16.11 billion (according to 2008 estimates) available to the University of Texas. This figure reflects the fact that UT Austin has the largest endowment of any public university in the nation.

Famous students have included Jayne Mansfield and Farrah Fawcett. The University also has a football team.

I received my master’s degrees at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas). In 1969 the Texas government formed UT Dallas from the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies, which had been donated to the University of Texas system by its Texas Instruments founders.11

Due to its strong academic programs and advanced research, it has earned the reputation of a premier institute for advanced study in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Its individual faculty, which includes members of the United States National Academies of Science and Engineering and winners of the Nobel Prize, are well known in industry circles as authorities in their respective disciplines, especially in the STEM fields. UTD is located in the heart of Telecom Corridor, and has its roots in the development of the Metroplex’s high tech industry.

Notable faculty members have included Wolfgang Rindler and Stephen D. Levene. Professor Rindler is a leading astrophysicist who specializes in general relativity. I am pleased to have completed (and passed) two of his courses in relativity and also his courses in electromagnetism and classical mechanics. He coined the term event horizon. Professor Levene is a prominent biophysicist notable for studies in DNA-Protein Interactions.

UT Dallas has a lacrosse team and a national championship chess team.

I have worked with a number of people who have earned Ph.D. degrees, and their experiences are worth noting.

Prasad Golla is a member of the NTS Board of Directors, and he earned his Ph.D. in computer engineering from Southern Methodist University (SMU).12

Southern Methodist University (SMU) is a private, coeducational university in University Park, Texas (an enclave of Dallas). Founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, SMU currently operates campuses in University Park, Plano, and Taos, New Mexico. SMU is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

SMU has a first rate engineering school and has a total enrollment of 11,000. The main campus is the home of the future George W. Bush Presidential Library. SMU is rumored to have a football team.

In comparison, grand old PCGS seems to have a post office box. How many different ways do you have to spell diploma mill?

When I responded to Jared McCormick I told him I was not trying to prove Don Patton’s degree is phony. In the legal world there is a Latin term: res ipsa loquitur. It is usually translated: “The thing speaks for itself.” The term is used in instances where the facts are so apparent and manifest that there is no need for the claimant to prove anything more. The burden of proof then falls on the accused. We have such a situation here.

There is nothing left for me to prove. The entire academic community will come to the same conclusion I have. What would the faculty at UT Austin, UT Dallas and SMU have to say about this “degree?” For that matter, ask the same from the faculty at any number of reputable universities or colleges in the U.S. and in the entire world. Ask at Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Oklahoma State University, Brigham Young University, Texas Christian University and Baylor. Or, you can save yourself the trouble.

I will state without additional proof that creationist Don Patton does not have a legitimate Ph.D. degree of any kind.

In his letter to us Jared McCormick took up our coverage of Don Patton’s misuse of quotes from real scientists.13

Whether or not you accept Dr. Patton’s theories and science, you cannot say that he has twisted information, or misquoted any other scientist. He has been honest, upfront, and forward with all the information he has represented. I have personally checked references of where he has quoted very reputable evolutionists, thinking myself that he must have misquoted, or used ellipses to take away from what the scientist was actually saying, thereby twisting their words. It astounded me to find out that these evolutionists actually have stated these comments in the context Dr. Patton quoted them.

Whether or not you accept Dr. Patton’s theories and science, you cannot say that he has twisted information, or misquoted any other scientist. He has been honest, upfront, and forward with all the information he has represented. I have personally checked references of where he has quoted very reputable evolutionists, thinking myself that he must have misquoted, or used ellipses to take away from what the scientist was actually saying, thereby twisting there words. It astounded me to find out that these evolutionists actually have stated these comments in the context Dr. Patton quoted them.

I contacted Jared McCormick for clarification on the above remarks. He was not able to provide additional details, but he wrote, in part:14

It has been a while since I have looked in to this matter, and I didn’t take any notes while I researching Don’s use of quotes. I am on a full boat with my schedule and find it hard to even check my inbox. If I get some time I will try and give you further details, but to be honest, all I did was just go to the library and look up the evolutionist quotes he used and see if he did or did not in fact use them out of context. In my opinion he did not. In a nutshell, The scientists were obviously speaking on evolution, but did mension some things that could possibly point to a creator, but also in some cases laid out a rebuttle to say this is why and how the subject matter really relates to evolution…

I have a full plate, as well, but I did take some time to review what we have written about creationists’ misuse of quotes and misuse by Don Patton in particular. Here is a short review.

First of all, creationists are forced to work at a disadvantage. Without a basket of truth to fall back on they often need to spin their stories and tweak the truth a bit. A couple of devices at their disposal are quote mining and out of context quotes.

Quote mining consists of searching about for quotes from real scientists and scholars that seem to support a point of view, all the while disregarding existing quotes that conflict.

Out-of-context quotes are words from a legitimate source that are used to imply a meaning contrary to the author’s intended meaning. Out-of-context means quoting sections of the original text without providing the full context. What gets put into the quote are phrases and even paragraphs that tell the story the creationist wants to tell. What gets left out are the parts that complete the real explanation of what the original author meant to say.

Don Patton has used both. I will illustrate with a few examples, and I will leave it to the reader to decide what these examples reveal.

In 1992 Jeff Umbarger and I attended a lecture by Don Patton. Don provided handouts of his presentation, and the text proved helpful and ultimately entertaining. We covered this presentation before, and I will recapitulate.

As a young-Earth creationist, Don wanted to demonstrate that scientific evidence for the age of the Earth is seriously flawed. To do so he presented a number of quotes from legitimate sources, and the way the quotes were presented is illustrative. Here is the background:

Radiometric dating that employs decay or uranium isotopes is often use to establish the age of ancient rocks. Don wanted to demonstrate that even real scientists are dissatisfied with the method. In 1992 I discussed a number of Patton’s abuse of quotes. Here is a clip that had the heading “DATING OF MOON SAMPLES: PITFALLS AND PARADOXES.”15

What complicates things for the uranium-lead method is that non-radiogenic lead 204, 206, 207 and 208 also exist naturally, and scientists are not sure what ratios of non-radiogenic to radiogenic lead were early in the moon’s history. … The problem of how much lead was around to begin with still remains. … If all of the age-dating methods (rubidium-strontium, uranium-lead and potassium-argon) had yielded the same ages, the picture would be neat. But they haven’t.

My take is: This is supposed to emphasize that radiometric dating methods are trouble prone (and should not be trusted). The problem is, this quote has been distorted in a bizarre manner.

Note the ellipses-these represent breaks in the quote. Ellipses are a legitimate device that writers use. They are supposed to stand in place of superfluous material the writer has left out. Don had a better idea.

In Patton’s text ellipses break the quote into three pieces. Apparently two sections of the quote have been omitted. Think again. Examine the original quote, which Jeff retrieved from a back issue of Science News.

The first section (What complicates things for the uranium-lead method) in Patton’s quote actually appears second in sequence in the original text.

The second section (The problem of how much lead was around to begin with still remains) in Patton’s quote actually appears last in sequence in the original text.

What Patton has done is to take a piece of original material consisting of more than 678 words, pare it down to 75 words, and then rearrange the word order to make his argument.

In the original text author Everly Driscoll makes his point in the final paragraph:16

The problem of how much lead was around to begin with still remains. This could be partially solved by dating all of the soil samples from the moon, determining the over-all effects on each soil sample and getting a convergence point.

Driscoll does not seem to have a real issue with radiometric dating. In his article he merely outlines how to handle problems that often come up with radiometric dating. This is not the point Don Patton wanted to make, and he came very close to rewriting Driscoll’s text to argue his case.

A few years back Don Patton and I debated geological history, and creationism on the side. I recorded some of the Don’s juiciest use of quotes in the April 2002 issue of this rag.17

Here is a quote from The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins:

And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. …the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation…

The full quote from Dawkins reads as follows. I put Don’s text in bold:

Before we come to the sort of sudden bursts that they had in mind, there are some conceivable meanings of ‘sudden bursts’ that they most definitely did not have in mind. These must be cleared out of the way because they have been the subject of serious misunderstandings. Eldredge and Gould certainly would agree that some very important gaps really are due to imperfections in the fossil record. Very big gaps, too. For example the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this really does represent a very large gap in the fossil record, a gap that is simply due to the fact, for some reason, very few fossils have lasted from periods before about 600 million years ago. One good reason might be that many of these animals had only soft parts to their bodies: no shells or bones to fossilize. If you are a creationist you may think that this is special pleading. My point here is that, when we are talking about gaps of this magnitude, there is no difference whatever in the interpretations of ‘punctuationists’ and ‘gradualists’. Both schools of thought agree that the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animals types in the Cambrian era is divine creation, and both would reject this alternative.

Back in 2002 I wrote “Don presented this in the context of explaining that Dawkins, a real scientist, thinks the fossil record does not support evolution (so why should creationists or anybody else). I am sure Don had some reason for leaving out Dawkins’ ‘Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this really does represent a very large gap in the fossil record, a gap that is simply due to the fact, for some reason, very few fossils have lasted from periods before about 600 million years ago.’ I am sure the reader can guess why.”

Don used this quote by Charles Darwin from his The Origin of Species.

…innumerable transitional forms must have existed but why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? …why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain, and this perhaps is the greatest objection which can be urged against my theory.

Again from 2002: “The first part of the quote is on page 125 of my copy of Origin. Don’s quote picks up after the ellipsis on page 234. I love it! That’s not a typo. That’s a 109-page gap, big enough to fit punctuated equilibria inside with room to spare for Lamarckism and cold fusion, too.”

Go back to Jared’s statement: “I have personally checked references of where he has quoted very reputable evolutionists…” Since McCormick didn’t give any examples, it’s hard to tell if he is talking about anything we printed in our newsletter or if he is talking about some stuff he read elsewhere.

Creationists provide all of us a lot of entertainment, much of it humorous. We can thank Jared McCormick for bringing back these fond memories. We will have more of these discussions in the future.

1 http://ntskeptics.org/2009/2009september/september2009.htm#letters
2 http://www.bible.ca/tracks/john-blanton-north-texas-skeptics-debater-athiest-bible-hater.htm
3 http://www.bible.ca/tracks/ask-creationist.htm
4 A copy of the letter is available for view on Steve Rudd’s Web site at the following URL:
5 George Brown, “Protecting Australia’s Higher Education System: A Proactive Versus Reactive Approach in Review,” (1999-2004), Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality Forum 2004
6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_International_University.
The references are:
[1] “Distance learning”. Pacific International University. January 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060128095313/http://paciu.edu/index/distance-learning.shtml. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
[2] George Brown. Protecting Australia’s Higher Education System from Australian Universities Quality Agency
[3] A Matter of Degree-Carl Baugh’s Alleged Credentials from TalkOrigins Archive(Originally published in NCSE Reports Vol 9, No. 6, Nov-Dec. 1989.)
7 http://ntskeptics.org/1989/1989julyaugust/julyaugust1989.htm#baugh
8 http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/credentials.html
9 Glen Kuban, The Texas Dinosaur/”Man Track” Controversy(1986), available at , las accessed on June 24, 1998.
10 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Texas_at_Austin
11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Texas_at_Dallas
12 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Methodist_University
13 September 2009 op. cit.
14 Personal correspondence received 5 October 2009
15 http://ntskeptics.org/1992/1992may/may1992.htm#ageless
See also http://ntskeptics.org/1992/1992april/april1992.htm#ageless
16 E. Driscoll, Science News 101, 12.
17 http://www.ntskeptics.org/2002/2002april/april2002.htm#debate

Unnatural Reasoning

Phillip Johnson said it. Others, as well, but Johnson is most famous.

Phillip Johnson is the acknowledged godfather of the modern Intelligent Design movement. He is also the supposed author or major inspiration for the so-called Wedge Document, which spells out the agenda and the goals of the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture (CSC). Johnson and other fellows of the CSC are the prime advocates of Intelligent Design, a dressed up version of creationism. The two major goals are stated as:

To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

More specifically what Johnson said and what other creationists are saying is that the study of science should not exclude the supernatural. A broad reading of modern creationist literature reveals the recurring plea for inclusion of supernatural processes in modern science. The same theme comes up in many activities promoting creationism, as well. That theme is many issues in modern science cannot be resolved by relying on purely natural explanations. Creationist Walter Bradley made a statement to that effect at a symposium held at Southern Methodist University in 1992. The title of the program was “Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference?” It was the first major appearance of Intelligent Design at a public meeting, and many of the famous creationists we have come to know so well made their first appearance at this symposium.

Bradley at the time headed up the Mechanical Engineering Department at Texas A&M University, and he said something to the effect that supernatural or non-materialistic approaches should be included in the study of science. I was amazed and confused and asked for an example. In his reply, Professor Bradley mentioned the divinity and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If I was amazed and confused before, then I was even more amazed and confused afterward. I felt I had met my match and no clever response came to my foggy brain at the time.

Creationist Michael Behe makes a similar argument for inclusion of non-natural (i.e., supernatural) processes in science. He conceded in his testimony at the Kitzmiller trial in 2005 that his definition of acceptable science would include astrology. At the same trial the testimony of creationist Scott Minnich “acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces.”

Michael Denton’s book Evolution, a Theory in Crisis was one of two that originally got Phillip Johnson interested in taking on the iron grip that naturalism holds on the study of science. The other book was Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. Johnson picked up both books while in London about 25 years ago and became intrigued by the idea of challenging the natural basis of modern science. Dawkins is a noted scientist, author, atheist and fierce opponent of creation in all forms. The Denton book is the polar opposite of Dawkins’ philosophy, and it provides a remarkable view into the creationists’ argument for the supernatural.

For example, Denton repeatedly points out unexplained (at least to him) matters such as the origin of life on Earth and the evolutionary development of incredibly complex biological structures and processes. The Darwinian theory of evolution involves the process of natural selection to retain beneficial features that occur in succeeding generations while eliminating detrimental characteristics or even those that are viable but do not compete well with the novel features. The natural process of random gene mutations is seen as the origin of novel features from one generation to the next. The problem is we know well the structure and workings of existing life forms, but we have no similar, direct knowledge of their antecedents. It is very hard to work out a scenario that could lead from a life form known only in the fossil record to its present day descendent. Crucial to the problem is that every intervening generation must be biologically viable. Each generation must comprise organism that can survive, thrive and reproduce.

Denton asserts that no natural explanation has been put forward to explain any such sequence that involves major changes in body plan of a living organisms, and he leaves the implication that some supernatural process is the only reasonable explanation remaining. Why, then, do not scientist accept the possibility of the supernatural? Why does science continue to look only for natural explanations?

There are a number of ways to answer that question, and one of them is this: Several hundred years ago scientists gave up looking for supernatural solutions to problems because the approach just did not work. Using magic spells and incantations to facilitate turning base metals into gold led nowhere. Assigning imaginary properties to different metals and combining based on these supposed properties to produce the property of gold was a fruitless endeavor. Only a rigid and pragmatic approach to the problem at hand paid back for the effort invested. Establishing a base of real-world knowledge and using that as a starting point for future exploration turned out to be immensely productive and satisfying to the mind, as well.

Another reason science and the practical world came to reject the supernatural was that it was finally absent from people’s lives. While people may have heard stories of miracles and may even have wished for miraculous answers to their problems, nobody could ever demonstrate that there was such a thing as the supernatural. Whenever we discovered a new and marvelous phenomenon or object, ultimately there was always an explanation for it in the natural world.

For over twenty years I, along with some friends, have underwritten a monetary prize for anybody who can demonstrate the supernatural (or the paranormal). The prize is part of a program called The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge and is currently at $12,000. We receive about a half dozen applicants every year, and so far nobody has ever gotten past the preliminary demonstration stage. We always ask claimants to show us something before we will take them seriously, and nobody has ever showed up with anything to demonstrate. To me the inability of anybody to demonstrate (or show) evidence of the supernatural is a strong argument that it does not exist.

I have been hoping somebody would ask me why scientists reject the supernatural, because I have in mind an answer that should illustrate the idea. It only takes a minute or so to explain by example:

The gold was locked in the vault, and when the vault was later opened, the gold was gone. How did this happen?

It is not possible that somebody cracked the combination lock, because the lock is the most modern and sophisticated design and has been deemed impossible to compromise without the combination.

It is not possible that somebody revealed the combination, because the combination is known to only one person, and that person is of impeccable character and would never participate in such a scheme.

Nobody surreptitiously obtained the combination to the vault and proceeded to use it to open the vault, because the combination was never written down.

Neither could the person holding the combination have stolen gold, because [1] his character is impeccable character (see above) and [2] he was closely watched all the time by other people of impeccable character and never went near the vault during the time the gold went missing.

The vault was not drilled out or blown open, because that would have left marks that could not be repaired, and the vault shows no sign of being attacked.

And so on.

The remaining possibility is that some supernatural process was involved:

1. A magic hand reached through the steel wall of the vault and withdrew the gold back through the steel wall.

2. The gold was dematerialized and then rematerialized outside the vault and into the hands of the thief.

3. A thief with amazing mental powers read the mind of the person with the combination and used the combination to open the vault.

Needless to say, all of these solutions to the puzzle will be rejected by any right-thinking detective, and other avenues will be investigated:

1. The person with the combination is not so honest as supposed, and he gave the combination to the thief.

2. The gold was never put into the vault. Those who said they put it there are lying.

3. The vault with the gold was taken away, and an identical vault was substituted, without the gold.

4. The vault design is not so impregnable, after all, and a clever thief cracked the combination and opened the vault.

Most rational people will agree with the argument I have put forward here, but an amazing portion of otherwise sensible people will argue that biological science must be treated differently. Whenever the matter has gone to legal arbitration, as in the court cases McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education and Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, it has been easy to demonstrate a religious motivation behind the actionable offense. (There seem to be a few with no apparent religious ax to grind, and David Berlinski stands out. With no outward religious leanings, Berlinski seems to be chiefly of a contrarian nature.) Also, the writings and actions of various proponents of creationism demonstrate a religious agenda. It quickly becomes apparent that advocates of supernatural explanations, especially with respect to areas that touch on religious beliefs, are allowing religious conviction to trump objectivity in these matters.

Some religious adherents and mainly creationists denounce scientist and writer Carl Sagan’s statement that “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” This leaves out a lot of stuff that these people hold dear, and they are never going to let go as long as there is a word that can be bent or a school board that can be coaxed. And that is why scientists and other skeptics will never be able to stand back from this confrontation of ideas.

Not So Sacred Visions

[The following originally ran in much the same form as shown here in The Dallas Morning News on 27 March 2005.]

In 1429 a French teenager convinced church scholars and the future Charles VII that God had commanded her to drive the English from France. That Jeanne d’Arc actually spoke to God – or even that God exists – may be debatable, but the consequences are not.

A French army under her leadership turned the tide against the English in the Hundred Years War, and history was changed forever. While the French may have had reason to embrace the Maid of Orleans’ claim of divine guidance, the English were less than amused. They laid hands on her and burned her at the stake after a 14-month trial for heresy and witchcraft.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, in which we have abandoned the burning of witches, but our credulity is still being stretched by claims of heavenly conversations and miraculous visions. How then are we to take stories such as that of six young schoolchildren who reported an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1981 near Medjugorje in what was then Yugoslavia? And what of the supposed miracles that have become associated with this and similar places such as Lourdes, Fatima and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City?

For the faithful, apparently, little coaxing is necessary. Thousands visit these sites every year for spiritual inspiration and to seek miraculous cures. The pope has visited the Guadalupe shrine four times, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated every 12th of December.

But did these miraculous sightings and dialogues with God actually occur, or are they the result of self-delusion or even deliberate deception? In one scheme of things it may not matter. The historical result is the same as if they did happen. These days the British pound isn’t recognized on the Champs-Elysees, and the poor in spirit and body still flock to the shrines. No other proof is needed.

Except, there are some for whom the truth is not a sometime thing. For these people “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” This is the mantra of “rational skeptics,” some of whom are even organized. We skeptics want you to carry rationality to its logical conclusion and give weight to the least convoluted explanation. It’s an idea elaborated by William of Occam way back even before my time, and it’s called “Occam’s razor.”

In the case of miraculous sightings we may ask you which is simpler to believe: That a woman who has been dead for nearly 2,000 years has now become visible to a selected few individuals and only to them, or that these are just made-up stories, born of either design or an overwhelming need to believe. And not really true. Not true in the same sense as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”

So, what if these stories are not true? Does it make a difference in the course of history? And why do skeptics even give them a second warming? Besides, doesn’t trampling on these sacred toes amount to religion-bashing?

To answer the last, let me tell you what rational skepticism is not. It is not anti-religion. We skeptics don’t want to tell people how to manage their souls. However, we do insist that the physical realm needs to be approached through critical study and reason. We maintain that wishful thinking does not translate into reality. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan is noted for saying, “Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Whether you, as a devout person, would be offended by this stance depends on your approach to religion and how seriously you consider the consequences of mistaken belief. If you need to hang your faith on fake miracles, you may be overlooking the moral benefits of your religion’s teachings. Maybe your faith can benefit from skepticism on your own part.

Outside of that, skeptics take up these issues partly because they object to the outrageous abuses perpetrated on behalf of the shrines. Confusing belief in miracles for religious faith, the gullible are induced to place reliance on magic above common sense. Tragically, real people with real medical problems every year abandon helpful medications and prosthetics at these sites under the delusion they have been healed.

Maybe a moral compass will be found among the abandoned items as well.

See this also on the North Texas Skeptics Web site at http://ntskeptics.org/2005/2005april/april2005.htm

Santorum And Sanity

I like Rick Santorum. I’ve always liked Rick Santorum. Now that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination I like him even more.

My affection for Rick Santorum began with his advancement of the so-called Santorum Amendment to the so-called No Child Left Behind Act. Ever concerned that school children in our public schools would be denied the revealed truth about life and human origins, a truth that has been long denied them by a cabal of self-serving scientists who possess a stranglehold on scientific thought and learning, Rick Santorum selflessly put forward the following proposition to be a part of the Act:

This is an amendment that is a sense of the Senate. It is a sense of the Senate that deals with the subject of intellectual freedom with respect to the teaching of science in the classroom, in primary and secondary education. It is a sense of the Senate that does not try to dictate curriculum to anybody; quite the contrary, it says there should be freedom to discuss and air good scientific debate within the classroom. In fact, students will do better and will learn more if there is this intellectual freedom to discuss. I will read this sense of the Senate. It is simply two sentences-frankly, two rather innocuous sentences-that hopefully this Senate will embrace: “It is the sense of the Senate that-

(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and

(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.

It simply says there are disagreements in scientific theories out there that are continually tested.

You see, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania not only was aware there was a problem with modern day science and a serious disagreement among hard-working scientists; he knew the exact place and the exact circumstances of this disagreement. The place of this scientific disagreement was not quantum mechanics, where events occur without cause, not just without apparent cause, but without any cause. The place of this significant disagreement was not the theory of relativity with its paradoxical distortions of time and space. None of these and many other significant points of scientific dispute were worthy of Rick Santorum’s public concern. The one point deserving of mention, of action by the United States Senate, of encouragement through the weight of national law, was biological evolution.

In no other field of modern science have reputable scientists gotten it so wrong. No other massive body of scientific study and research by thousands of working scientists has so missed the mark that government action must be called into play to redirect the search for truth, to correct the wrong, to set the record straight. Only the science of biological evolution is deserving of legal dispute.

And Senator Rick Santorum and the rest of us know the reason why modern biology is wrong. It is wrong because it disputes an unassailable fact that we and a large number of deserving adherents have been privy to for centuries. If you are still in doubt as to the identity of this treasury of wisdom, allow me to illuminate it here. It is really just a restatement of the Santorum Amendment, albeit a restatement with more substance and flourish:

Genesis 1

The Beginning

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”

7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.

8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning-the second day.

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.

10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.

12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

13 And there was evening, and there was morning-the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,

15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.

16 God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.

17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,

18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.

19 And there was evening, and there was morning-the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”

21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”

23 And there was evening, and there was morning-the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.

25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day.

So there you have it. So simple, so eternally true, so personally reassuring.

What need is there for thousands of working scientists, for immense stacks of peer-reviewed publications, for enormous beds of ancient fossils, for countless hours of careful study and analysis? The truth has been here all along for those who will read. And believe. We need not think. Only believe. It is so simple.

And it was Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania who came forward, when none other would, to defend the faith in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary. It was Senator Rick Santorum of the great state of Pennsylvania who even went so far as to promote the idea of teaching the well-demonstrated truth of Intelligent Design in our public schools.

Unfortunately for students in our public schools, the so-called Santorum Amendment was rejected for inclusion in the NCLB Act. Fortunately for posterity and the good name of the United State Senate, Senator Rick Santorum’s proposed amendment did have an impact on the Senate’s conference report on NCLB:

The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.

His display of courage, his act of self-sacrifice, his public manifestation breathtaking inanity, is what sets Rick Santorum apart. Apart, maybe from many who live in the real world, but not apart from his myriad political supporters. Friends, it did not end there.

Rick Santorum will intervene to protect the American public from the encroachment of Big Government; that we can count on. Nowhere was this more demonstrated than in the unfortunate case of Terri Schiavo:

Terri Schiavo collapsed in her St. Petersburg, Florida home in full cardiac arrest on February 25, 1990. She suffered massive brain damage due to lack of oxygen and, after two and a half months in a coma, her diagnosis was elevated to vegetative state.

Some people would say that the United States Government has better things to do than interfere with the operation of major corporations and the lives of honest, everyday people. Those people would be Republicans. Some people would say that the United States Government has better things to do than to interfere with the lives of honest, everyday people. That would not be the Republicans. Senator Rick Santorum defended these American ideals without regard to his own political fortunes:

A major factor in Santorum’s defeat was his controversial vote to have a judge intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was living in a vegetative state at the time and whose family was deeply divided over whether to remove her feeding tube.

Santorum defended his vote to CNN.

“What I cared about with Terri Schiavo was that a judge looked at the case fairly and they did. And they made their decision,” Santorum said.

“I didn’t think that was an unreasonable thing to do,” Santorum added.

Polls conducted before Santorum’s re-election defeat found voters in Pennsylvania opposed to the Congressional intervention in the case.

What a delightfully exemplar of political hypocrisy is ex-senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania. How delightful is the prospect of having him as the Republican Party nominee for President. Fool I am for not filing in time to run for the office.

Now you know why I love Rick Santorum, ex-senator from Pennsylvania. And now you know why I do so want him to become the Republican Party nominee for president. It’s because, as much as I love ex-senator Rick Santorum, I love President Obama even more.

Hurry Sundown

Guess who’s back in town? Hey, it’s like I always told you. Rick Santorum may be down from time to time, but he is never out.

Of course I never said that. I have been forecasting since last year that Santorum is headed for the scrap heap of history. My thinking was that the Republican Party, the people who trashed a bona fide American war hero to put into office a man who sat out the war in comfort, then did it again four years later with another war hero just to keep the same short round in office for a full eight years, that Republican Party would never push a lame ideologue ahead of somebody who has a chance of returning Republicans to the White House. But then I have been wrong before.

If Mitt Romney has spent the past 24 hours licking his wounds and wondering what happened in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, the Democrats have been licking their chops and renewing the leases on their expensive digs in Georgetown. They are beginning to think they are going to sit a spell.

Not so fast, bleeding heart liberals. It’s still over six months until the Republican convention in August, and there is still time for the Republicans to come to their senses. Of course, I have been wrong before.

Comments filtering out of my radio on the drive home today provided a little analysis. Romney has the chops for the number one spot. Absolutely none of the other Republicans even come close. See my previous analysis. However, all that glitters is not an aluminum dome in Utah.

I have long speculated that Romney’s LDS membership will not sit well with the hard core religious right, many of whom do not consider Catholics to be Christians, much less Mormons. The commentary runs deeper, however,

A closer look at Romney shows a lot of glitter but not much substance. He’s going to save the country from Obama. But how? He has the business acumen to run the Olympics, a multi-million dollar business and a small New England state, but what’s his plan for running the country. So far Romney has not seen fit to clue the rest of us in.

It could be he has been spending most of his time trashing Republican candidates who need no trashing and some of his time trashing President Obama, but not enough of his time speaking frankly with the voters. (Call me a left wing subversive if you wish, but I don’t think most Republicans can handle frank talk.)

Another problem is that when Romney has sought to trash the president in the past it has been on foreign policy and the economy. Maybe even on matters military. The problem is here is a president who oversaw the disposal of Osama bin Laden and a number of other top enemies of this country who had eluded a Republican president for nearly eight years. Also the economy just dealt Romney a body blow last week by refusing to roll over and die.

Where that leaves Romney is battling a president who is beginning to act like the liberal that voters elected in 2008. Obama has lost a lot of charm with the left wing and many independents in the past year, and that has not necessarily won him any votes from the right. However, when people like Dick Cheney and Carl Rove high five the president as they have done recently, then it takes some wind out of the idea he is a weak sister of a president.

Romney is going to have to come up with a game plan to convince American voters that he is a better choice than a man with black skin, a college education, a foreign-born Muslim father, who lived a good part of his life in a Muslim country and whose middle name is Hussein.

Meanwhile the Democrats are salivating. Come on, Santorum. Move your bleedin’ ass!

Stronger Than Dirt

What’s stronger than dirt? Stronger than reason? Stronger than fact? Stronger than the law? Stronger than justice, even.

If you guessed personal belief then go to the head of the class. Only you have to call it religious belief.

If it’s only personal belief or if it’s only well-established fact, then it has no weight with the law. Not when put it up against religious belief. An introductory example:

I was having a discussion about biological evolution and teaching about evolution in the public schools. Because it’s deep subjects like that which highly-paid technical workers bandy about during idle times among the cubes.

Only, one party to the discussion objected. Teaching evolution in public schools would be illegal, he said, because that would violate his freedom of religion. Because his religion was antithetical to evolution. Breathtaking inanity.

Of course that got me to thinking. Of course, that means we can’t teach anything, because everything we might want to teach would be contrary to somebody’s religious beliefs, and their religious liberty would be infringed.

Before you come back at me with “Not everything, because my religion does not have any problem with the principles of quantum mechanics,” just keep this in mind. It might not have occurred to you, but your religious convictions, like all others, were spun out of thin air, if not yesterday, then at some time in the murky past. There is no limit to what can become a sincere religious conviction. Some points of illustration:

Some now departed friends of mine knew L. Ron Hubbard personally, and they recalled how he wove the whole cloth of of the Church of Scientology out of a science fiction plot. Don’t concern yourself with convincing one of L. Ron’s true believers of this, however.

Joseph Smith would put a stone in a hat and then would receive revelation from reflections in the stone. Today the LDS Church is one of the largest and fastest growing religious movements in the country.

Nearly two thousand years ago a Jewish rabbi was crucified by the Romans and became a martyr for his philosophy of peace and tolerance, inspiring a world-wide religion that has not always practiced peace and tolerance. Prior to that a desert kingdom in the Eastern Mediterranean region decided to cast out all other of its gods and to settle on one in particular. This god of Abraham also became the idol of an Arab tribesman who claimed to speak to this god, and thus was founded another world-wide religion.

Wait, I have not gotten around to Vishnu and more Hindu gods than I can name, who are daily worshiped by millions of people who either seek relief from personal hardships or else invoke these gods to enslave the minds and subjugate those millions of the first kind.

People, they can make this stuff up faster than I can learn it, and these are earnest religious convictions, and I must not infringe. Forget about fact, reality, the law and any number of other inconvenient distractions.

Want to get paid double time for working on Saturday? Become a Seventh Day Adventist, a religious movement inspired by William Miller nearly two hundred years ago. His succession of failed predictions of the end of the world devolved into the twelfth largest religious movement in the world. Saturday is the holy day of the week for the Adventists, and while their fellow hourly workers toil away at 1-1/2 times the standard rate on Saturday, Adventists pull twice their rate. I have not checked, but this likely holds for Jews and Muslims, as well.

Want to indulge in some recreational pharmaceuticals? Make it part of a religious ceremony and the law will look the other way, but Baptists and Catholics will face jail for doing the same.

There is a catch, of course, but one that anybody can get around if they wish. Some friends of mine wanted to start a church for non-believers. That is a church for people who do not believe in God. That’s the god of Abraham, in case there is some confusion. My friends also wanted the the tax exemptions regularly accorded religious organizations, but the Texas Attorney General said no. To be a religion you have to invoke the supernatural.

Another interesting story is war hero Alvin York. If the movie starring Gary Cooper is to be believed (fiction is more interesting than truth) he at first objected to serving in the military when drafted for World War I, because he did not believe in killing. The draft board (in the movie) denied his objection, because it was not based on the doctrine of a recognized religious organization to which he belonged. If York had been a Quaker there would have been no problem.

So, where does this lead. To court, of course.

The Obama administration has enacted a national health care law that includes uniform insurance coverage for all citizens. Employers are required to conform to these standards. The problem is that the Catholic Church does not cotton to the idea of birth control, to say nothing of abortion, and employers like the University of Notre Dame object to providing such services to their employees, who are not necessarily Catholic. What’s good enough for General Electric is not good enough for the Catholic Church. The matter is headed for the courts.

Famously Catholic presidential contender Rick Santorum has now jumped on the band wagon, along with Newt Gingrich. It is obvious to them and to all who will listen that the Obama administration is trampling on the religious rights of Catholics. This is from two people who have no objection to accommodating, at tax payer expense, the practice of instructing school children in the religious principle of creationism (possibly in the guise of Intelligent Design).

Don’t fight it, guys. It’s stronger than dirt.

Calling The Tune

Well-seasoned proverbs provide the means to reduce complicated thoughts to a few words. Toss off a short phrase, and the message comes clear, because the listener fills in the details and the implication. We have all heard the message before, and covering it again in the foreground is pointless and consumes more ink and more energy than necessary.

So it goes with “calling the tune.” “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

This came back last week when the Susan G. Komen Foundation (Komen) announced it would no longer provide funds to Planned Parenthood. If you are not completely clueless you can skip the next paragraph. The rest of you should take note of a few facts.

In 1982 Susan G. Komen died of breast cancer at the age of 36, and her sister, Nancy Brinker established the foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The foundation has since raised over $2 billion for breast cancer research and treatment. That Brinker is associated with Republican politics, serving a minor role in the latter Bush administration (also ambassador to Hungary), provided to some the significance of what came off last week.

The Washington Post reported:

Komen officials told the Associated Press on Tuesday that they had decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood, saying a new national policy barred support for organizations under government investigation. A House committee began a probe in September into Planned Parenthood’s compliance with federal restrictions on funding abortions.

Planned Parenthood said the fund cutoff is the result of Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen also hired a vice president last year, Karen Handel, who had previously advocated for the group’s defunding in her run for Georgia governor.

Komen had been funding Planned Parenthood to provide cancer screening for women of insufficient means. Planned Parenthood also provides birth control and abortion services for women. The religious right obviously has issues with abortion and some factions are also at odds with facilitating birth control. Planned Parenthood has long been a target of social conservatives.

The immediate observation by those concerned and those just mildly curious was that religious right ideology, which seems to pull some strings for Republican politics, was now pulling strings for Komen. Was this the religious right’s way of calling the tune? It seemed that way to many who where highly concerned.

Reaction was immediate and swift.

Donors reacting to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood contributed $650,000 in 24 hours, nearly enough to replace last year’s Komen funding, Planned Parenthood executives said Wednesday.

New York billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, a prominent Republican politician and a previous candidate for the presidential nomination, pledged $250,000 in matching funds to Planned Parenthood’s drive to offset the loss from Komen.

Somebody got the message, and quickly. Again from the Washington Post:

Executives of the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave a new explanation Thursday of their decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, but their contradictory statements failed to quell a rising controversy that led several of the organization’s affiliates to openly rebel.

In the end it proved true that he who pays the piper does call the tune. By Friday Komen had come to see the errors of its decision:

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation announced Friday that it would revise a new policy that barred the organization from funding Planned Parenthood, a move that had thrust the breast cancer foundation into a national controversy.

Komen apologized “to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.”

The thing that cast such a long shadow over the whole affair was the notion that ideology can somehow trump the real needs of real people. While the loudest voices from American conservatism may come from the upper tiers of society, a great bulk of conservatism comprises people in this country of low means, who rely on Planned Parenthood and similar services. These people may not have the wherewithal to purchase blocks of campaign advertising, but they can drive over to the polling places in November and express their concerns. Politicians will forget at their peril that their job description involves service to citizens and not political slogans.

Creative Ignorance

A link I received by e-mail got me going on this. It’s been cooking for several weeks, but time and some sort of trigger was required. The trigger was from Americans United:

According to the National Academy of Sciences, “Evolution is supported by abundant evidence from many different fields of scientific investigation. It underlies the modern biological sciences, including the biomedical sciences, and has applications in many other scientific and engineering disciplines.”

To New Hampshire State Rep. Jerry Bergevin, however, evolution is something else.

“It’s a worldview and it’s godless,” said the first-term Republican from Manchester. “Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don’t respect human rights…. [W]e should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it…. Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That’s evidence right there.”

Bergevin’s solution: H.B. 1148, a bill that would order the state board of education to “[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

Representative Bergevin thinks evolution is godless? Well I have news for him. There’s a lot more that’s godless. Automobile mechanics, for starters, I feel is completely godless. I know very little about automobile repair, but what little I do involves God in no part, except maybe when I came in contact with a hot exhaust pipe. Banking and finance seem to have little to do with God, as well. Do you think not? Well, try going into a bank sometime to get a mortgage. Tell them God sent you. Let me know how you make out. Physics I believe is godless, as well, but there were times I have had some doubts. Once I encountered a problem on a midterm exam that I had never seen before, and I was completely clueless. Then, now don’t get me wrong, there was an inner voice that said, “Use the four-space, Luke.” I took the advice, even though my name is not Luke, and I aced the quiz. Talk about miracles.

Representative Bergevin may be correct on the Soviets, the Cubans and China, but he is misinformed about the Nazis. Although the thugs who took over German society in the 1930s seemed to quickly abandon many of the teachings of Jesus, they apparently took some useful lessons from the God of the Bible. Godless, they were not. German soldiers, while shooting civilians and even children at point blank range, among other niceties, wore on their belt buckles the inscription “Gott mit uns” (“God with us” or “God is with us”). They used the dislike that many German Christians had for Jews and leveraged this tension into the near destruction of European Jewry.

Bergevin’s act is going to run into some trouble with the courts, if past experience is any lesson. His declarations may not be part of the act, but they bolster the evidence that H.B. 1148 has the sectarian purpose of supporting a particular religious doctrine. The act’s specific application to the science of evolution is another factor that will lead it ultimately to the court room.

Besides its First Amendment problems, this act and any act with similar wording is just bad legislation. Subjects in public schools are developed ultimately from scholarly work, studies done over long periods of time by people who make this work their task in life. Good scholarship is assured by peer review, meaning that any one researcher’s conclusions are checked by people of equal talent and knowledge and deemed to be accurate and reasonable. What H.B. 1148 wants to do is to have students review the personal and political persuasions of these scholars and assess the correctness of the course work based on these reviews. This might be a worthwhile topic of study by a graduate student, but it is inappropriate to involve primary school students in this type of work. And this is assuming that students are to do this for all their courses of study, from mathematics to geography. What makes H.B. 1148 legally treacherous beyond odorous is that it singles out a particular area of study, biological evolution. This act has the transparent aim to defend the religious principle of creationism at the expense of modern biology.

Obviously New England does not have a lock on ignorance. The Indianapolis Star has another story for our amusement.

The Indiana Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would allow creationism to be taught in the classroom – an idea that, if it becomes law, could likely end up in a courtroom.

Senate Bill 89, authored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, would allow schools to teach religion-based views on the origin of creation – be they Muslim, Jewish, Scientology or Christian – alongside the theory of evolution in public school science classes.

Schools, however, would not be required to do so, and an Indiana Department of Education spokesman said the state would not develop any such curriculum or guidelines for teaching creationism.

The Senate passed the bill 28-22. It would still need to be passed by the House and signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels before it became law.

“I believe in creation,” Kruse said, “and I believe it deserves to be taught in our public schools.”

Obviously Bill 89 is not universally popular in the Indiana Senate.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, had a decidedly different take: “I can’t believe we are even considering this.”

The question now – if it becomes law – is whether schools will consider it. And if they do, will that violate the Constitution?

Readers will excuse me if I pause to make an observation. All the politicians pushing for creationism and against evolution are Republicans, and all opposed to these actions are Democrats. When did the two parties decide to go their separate ways on common sense? Better put, when did the Republican Party become the party of dumb?

A look at history reveals Republican President Theodore Roosevelt to be a great booster of real science and a fan of conservation of our natural wonders. Herbert Hoover, whatever his shortcomings, was a man of great intellect. Dwight Eisenhower was a brilliant military leader who was instrumental in crushing the Nazi armies of Europe and was later president of Columbia University and a forward-thinking president of the United States. Somewhere after that it became fashionable for Republicans to lean on the religious right for support as Nixon did in speaking out for creationism. The same is true for Ronald Reagan and later George W. Bush. In today’s run-up to the national elections a great majority of the Republican candidates are either avowed creationists or else supporters of public sponsored creationism. Fortunately the front runner and the presumed nominee appears to hold no stock with creationism, and neither does the current president. Can we be thankful for small favors?

Breathtaking Inanity In Alabama

Well, this is refreshing.

There is a politician in Alabama who believes increasing the pay of politicians is good, but increasing the pay of public school teachers is bad. It’s not often you receive such candor from people who are elected by us and get paid by us. He could have said something like,  “It really regrettable the people of this state have chosen to raise pay of elected officials but are ignoring the needs of our hard-working teachers with whom we trust the future of our children.” If state Sen. Shadrack McGill had made a statement like that we would have known immediately he was being insincere, that that would certainly have been unseemly of an elected politician. From such people we expect much less.

According to the DeKalb County Times Journal:

State Sen. Shadrack McGill defended a pay raise his predecessors in the Legislature passed, but said doubling teacher pay could lead to less-qualified educators.

McGill said that by paying legislators more, they’re less susceptible to taking bribes.

“He needs to make enough that he can say no, in regards to temptation. … Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys.

“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.

“To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK?

“And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ’em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.

I had a conversation about this with a former school teacher, a woman who worked 15 years educating special needs children. She agreed. If somebody does not want to teach school, you cannot pay them enough to do it. I am married to a woman who has been there and also agrees.  Apparently God agrees, as well.

That pretty much settles it for me. I may dispute the opinion of a self-serving public school teach, and I may even dispute the opinion of an Alabama politician, but when God says it, then I know it’s time for me to step back. Because, God’s word is, well, it’s God’s word, and you go against God’s word at your own peril. Additionally, Senator McGill’s remarks were made at a prayer breakfast, please note, a prayer breakfast, the place where real business of the state of Alabama gets done.

Then I may have spoken too soon. State Senator McGill later provided clarification, as reported again by the Times Journal:

Comments about finding a balance in teacher pay were misunderstood, state Sen. Shadrack McGill said Friday.

McGill, R-Woodville, found himself the target of criticism after saying biblical principles required balance in paying teachers, as well as legislators.

In remarks reported first in the Times-Journal and later picked up by several national blogs, McGill said at a prayer breakfast in Fort Payne on Monday that lawmakers need to make enough money that they’re not susceptible to unethical behavior. He also said if teacher pay were doubled, then people who weren’t called to teach might enter the profession.

“My reference to biblical principle was in reference to things being in balance,” McGill told the newspaper Friday.

“I apologize that people took that to mean that I was saying that not getting teachers a raise was biblical principle. I have said many times that I hope to see teachers getting at least a cost-of-living raise soon.”

See, even a stalwart member of the Alabama Senate can be swayed by the pressure of the evil liberal press. Possibly also by the weight of the vast and voting public body, but we have yet to see any of that.


None Of The Above

This is something that has always intrigued me. I am not surprised the U.S. census wants to know my “race.” After all, that’s what the census is all about. Who we are, what we are doing, where we came from. Even so, I vaguely recall answering the racial question in 2010 with my usual “western European.”

OK, now the truth is out. I am plain vanilla. Honky to the core. The Blanton family came to England, not as conquerers with William, but as Huguenots, chased like scared rabbits by the majority Catholics from nearby France. But I don’t like the “white” label. I’m not really “white.” Many years in the Texas sun have turned me into a dull color of dirt. Neither do I consider myself a Caucasian. Nobody I know is from or has ever been to the Caucasus.

But, back to the story. What amazes me is when I apply for credit or answer some survey in the hopes of winning a free vacation I confront the question “Race/Ethnicity.” I resist playing the role model of Richard Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart). He was famously asked about his nationality, and he responded “drunkard.” Generally these applications are sensitive enough about sexual preference and ethnicity they give the petitioner the opportunity to not respond.

So, why are people so concerned anyhow about your “race?” It turns out some are not. Fox News has the story from the Associate Press:

When the 2010 census asked people to classify themselves by race, more than 21.7 million — at least 1 in 14 — went beyond the standard labels and wrote in such terms as “Arab,” ”Haitian,” ”Mexican” and “multiracial.”

As the news tells it, more and more of us are inclined to decline when asked to confine themselves so. And for many more each year there is no clear cut answer.

As mentioned I have lived in Texas many decades and am well acquainted with the specter of racial prejudice. People I have known all my life, people I am related to have expressed the concern about loss of our “racial heritage.” They may not realize it, but some of these same people could benefit by shedding a bit of their ancestry. I did mention why the Blantons left France. I did not bring up the subject of why they had to leave Scotland and England. That’s a family heirloom we will keep tucked away.

Anyhow, the racists’ worst fears are upon them, and none too soon for our best interest. We are ceasing to be a land of black, white, brown, red, etc. We are becoming a nation of buff, a melding of our multinational heritage. A letter to The Dallas Morning News a few years back objected to interracial marriage. The woman said she preferred the children look like their grandparents. I resisted responding with the observation that children always look like their grandparents, all four of them.

The news continues:

“It’s a continual problem to measure such a personal concept using a check box,” said Carolyn Liebler, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota who specializes in demography, identity and race. “The world is changing, and more people today feel free to identify themselves however they want — whether it’s black-white, biracial, Scottish-Nigerian or American. It can create challenges whenever a set of people feel the boxes don’t fit them.”

People, our nation is growing up.