Once I was a caring blogger who thought I was doing something important. I should look for my post on how I thought blogging was going to change the world. Publishing’s first meritocracy and all that. Maybe it will. There’s a new post below this
Blogging has been great for me. It’s allowed me to meet people from parts of the country I didn’t know well enough before, and realize that people throughout this incredible country are caring, compassionate, and intelligent with beliefs that are very similar but they don’t exactly mirror them.
That’s the problem. We, who are called liberal, don’t think exactly alike. Earlier this summer I wrote about subway searches. I was scared, angry, tired of answering comments from people who do usually think alike, and can’t understand how people on Bring it on! can think differently from one another.
I won’t explain how The First Amendment really means that America is a Christian country; because as many times as it’s been explained to me I still don’t understand how this: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. — The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution can possibly mean that as a non-Christian I have been living in a legally Christian country all these years. Yes the majority of the population is Christian.
The variety of religious beliefs in the United States surpasses the nation’s multitude of ethnicities, nationalities, and races, making religion another source of diversity rather than a unifying force. This is true even though the vast majority of Americans–83 percent–identify themselves as Christian. One-third of these self-identified Christians are unaffiliated with any church. Moreover, practicing Christians belong to a wide variety of churches that differ on theology, organization, programs, and policies. The largest number of Christians in the United States belong to one of the many Protestant denominations–groups that vary widely in their beliefs and practices. Roman Catholics constitute the next largest group of American Christians, followed by the Eastern Orthodox.
That in no way means that Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers meant for this to be a Christian nation.
The roots of the First Amendment can be traced to a bill written by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in 1777 and proposed to the Virginia Legislature in 1779. It guaranteed freedom of (and from) religion. After an impassioned speech by James Madison, and after some amendments, it became law on 1786-JAN-16.
Why when we at Bring it on! have been saying this since we began am I bringing this up now? Because many radical Christian Rightists still don’t get it. It’s simple; it’s the Amendment that guarantees the most basic of rights, the right to practice or not practice a religion, and never have to worry that a state religion will be formed, and also and equal, guarantees freedom of speech.
Because so many people feel validated and vindicated by the people occupying The White House, Intelligent Design, and The Discovery Institute have been getting much play recently. Here are a few quotes by William Safire who isn’t exactly known as a liberal, but yikes, he’s Jewish, so the Radical Christian right always knew that they couldn’t trust him, really.
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I am writing a memoir that begins in the Fall of 1967 and ends several years later. I was looking for sex in all the right places. Then I graduated high school, went to college and met my Prince Charming. I never wondered again what happened after the marriage. It’s a lot more complicated than that. Some people say that I invented and defined the word “hippie” in my Long Island town. If I could have done anything as well, I would have, but I made such a great hippie. Then I grew up.
Then along came the phrase intelligent design, and evolution had fresh linguistic competition. Though the phrase can be found in an 1847 issue of Scientific American, it was probably coined in its present sense in “Humanism,” a 1903 book by Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller: “It will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of evolution may be guided by an intelligent design.”
At about that time, the traditional creationists took up the phrase. “We are a Christian organization and use the term to refer to the Christian God,” says John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Santee, California. “The modern intelligent design movement looks at Dr. Phillip Johnson as its founder. … His book, ‘Darwin on Trial,’ kind of started it all in the early ’90s. We were using intelligent design as an intuitive term: a watch implies a watchmaker.”
The marketing genius within the phrase – and the reason it now drives many scientists and educators up the wall – is in its use of the adjective intelligent, which intrinsically refutes the longstanding accusation of anti-intellectualism. Although the intelligent agent referred to is Divine with a capital D, the word’s meaning also rubs off on the proponent or believer. That’s why intelligent design appeals to not only the DNA-driven Discovery Institute complexity theorists but also the traditional God’s-handiwork faithful.
To counter the “sophisticated branding experts” who flummoxed establishmentarian evolutionaries with intelligent design, opponents of classroom debate over Darwin’s theory have come up with a catchily derisive neologism that lumps the modern advocates of intelligent design with religious fundamentalists: neo-creo. The rhyming label was coined on Aug. 17, 1999, by Philip Kitcher, professor of the philosophy of science at Columbia University, New York, in a lively and lengthy online debate in Slate magazine with the abovementioned Phillip Johnson, professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Intelligent design advocates like to point to Albert Einstein, who repeatedly rejected a statistical conception of physics with his famous aphorism, “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” However, his recent biographer, Dennis Overbye, a science reporter for The New York Times, says: “Einstein believed there was order in the universe but that it had not been designed for us.” Overbye also notes that Einstein wrote the evenhanded “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
Can’t really trust Dennis Overbye, he’s a reporter for The New York Times. Like many New Yorkers, I have spent my life in a love/hate relationship with The Times, but I’m very proud it’s my hometown newspaper now. Anybody who wishes to point out that Einstein’s brain was smaller than average, and that he couldn’t learn to tie his shoes until he was six etc., will be ignored. Here’s something about The Discovery Institute.
After toiling in obscurity for nearly a decade, the institute’s Center for Science and Culture has emerged in recent months as the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science in school districts and state capitals across the country. Pushing a “teach the controversy” approach to evolution, the institute has in many ways transformed the debate into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.
Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists. But Mr. Bush embraced the institute’s talking points by suggesting that alternative theories and criticism should be included in biology curriculums “so people can understand what the debate is about.”
Financed by some of the same Christian conservatives who helped Mr. Bush win the White House, the organization’s intellectual core is a scattered group of scholars who for nearly a decade have explored the unorthodox explanation of life’s origins known as intelligent design
In any other political climate, these people would be known as crack pots who are pushing a pseudo-scientific answer to the theory of evolution. But in today’s climate they are scientists posing an important alternative to a theory that has been postulated over and over again. Oh right, Intelligent Design can’t be tested through regular tests; a designer acted. How can you test faith? Sorry,then it’s not science, and can’t be taught in public schools.
Here’s something by Carl Zimmer that refutes Intelligent Design
It describes how the Institute has spent $3.6 million dollars to support fellowships that include scientific research in areas such as “laboratory or field research in biology, paleontology or biophysics.”
So what has that investment yielded, scientifically speaking? I’m not talking about the number of appearances on cable TV news or on the op-ed page, but about scientific achievement. I’m talking about how many papers have appeared in peer-reviewed biology journals, their quality, and their usefulness to other scientists. Peer review isn’t perfect–some bad papers get through, and some good papers may get rejected–but every major idea in modern biology has met the challenge.
It’s pretty easy to get a sense of this by perusing two of the biggest publically available databases, PubMed (from the National Library of Medicine) and Science Direct (from the publishing giant Reed Elsevier)….Look for the topics that have won people Nobel Prizes–the structure of DNA, the genes that govern animal development, and the like–and you quickly come up with hundreds or thousands of papers.
A search for “Intelligent Design” on PubMed yields 22 results–none of which were published by anyone from the Discovery Insittute. There are a few articles about the political controversy about teaching it in public schools, and some papers about constructing databases of proteins in a smart way. But nothing that actually uses intelligent design to reveal something new about nature. ScienceDirect offers the same picture. (I’m not clever enough with html to link to my search result lists, but try them yourself if you wish.)
Here’s another search: “Discovery Institute” and “Seattle” (where the institute is located). One result comes up: a paper by Jonathan Wells proposing that animal cells have turbine-like structures inside them. It describes no experiments, only a hypothesis.
Zimmer’s talking about peer review and the importance of papers agreeing with or refuting a hypothesis. Anybody who does any kind of meaningful research in any field will tell you that the first step is a lit review to see what is or isn’t there. Don’t tell me that Intelligent Design is too new to have been studied; it’s been discussed enough these last several months, and has been studied for a longer time period. I have linked to an article from The Natural History Magazine that talks about it in 2002.
They take it a little less seriously then New Yorkers take subway searches. They’re an inconvenience that can’t work. .Subway searches can’t work though I would have loved for them to be an easy answer. Like any good Liberal I have flip-flopped on that one. I will discuss why they can’t work in depth next time. But I will leave you with one last thing that I have learned this year; the ACLU is a Commie organization out to poison your water and kill your children. No, I added the part after “Commie organization.”
Of everything that has happened in the past year, and of all the things that I have learned the movement to stop the ACLU scares me almost as much as or the same as the movement to re-create The First Amendment.
The 2006 elections will be here before we can blink our eyes; and then there will be 2008. Moderates will take back this country because more and more people are waking up to the reality that the Radical Christian Right has gained power way beyond its membership. When William Safire and I agree on an issue; it should be a wake-up call.
We Jews don’t all know each other; but we do tend to get a bit crazed when The First Amendment is under attack; and Intelligent Design is just another attack on it.