Archive for the ‘The culture wars’ Category

In other news, water still confirmed to be wet

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

On Yahoo news, we have yet another confirmation that water is still wet abstinence-only sex education does not work. (edited to add: and neither does the Yahoo link back there.  Try this one!)

“Vast sums of federal monies continue to be directed toward these programs. And, in fact, there is evidence to suggest that some of these programs are even harmful and have negative consequences by not providing adequate information for those teens who do become sexually active,” Dr. Margaret Blythe of the American Academy of Pediatrics told [Congress].

When we’re faced wit ha ton of evidence against a position – say the position that abstinence-only sex education is beneficial – the rational course would be to abandon the position. As PZ Myers highlights, that’s just too difficult for some members of Congress. Take, for instance, John Duncan (R-Tenn):

it seems “rather elitist” that people with academic degrees in health think they know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate. “I don’t think it’s something we should abandon,” he said of abstinence-only funding

Just stop and think about that assertion for a moment. It’s “elitist” to assume that people who have dedicated a significant amount of time researching and studying the outcomes of various types of sex education might actually know more about these outcomes that people who haven’t? The stupid! It burns! Representative Duncan, people who have actually researched and studied things generally know more about these things than those who haven’t. Since when did stating the obvious become elitist?

Sadly, this attitude is one I often have to battle as an educator. A big part of my job is to make people more knowledgeable. But I can’t do that if students think that someone’s gut feelings somehow trump reproducible observations and actual knowledge. That’s exactly what Representative Duncan is pushing; his gut feelings are supposed to somehow carry more weight than real data.

Flipping the Byrd

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

When I saw this post over at Not Very Bright, I thought for a minute that nvb had been fooled by the Church Sign Generator. But no … it’s apparently real.

[Jonesville Church of God]

I know not to expect brilliance from church signs, but I can’t help pointing out its wonderful logic. Pastor Byrd, author of the sign, wants us to believe that because the name “Obama” looks a little bit like “Osama”, Obama must be a (scary) Muslim! If that’s the sort of argument that will persuade a typical Jonesville Church of God member, then …

[Byrd, Turd ...]

Convincing argument, is it not?

Edited to add:

Pastor Byrd’s seen the light! Or, at least he’s tired of being criticized all across the country for his foolishness. He’s changed the sign.

Pastor Roger Byrd said that he had just wanted to get people thinking. He said that the message wasn’t meant to be racial or political.

A message containing a false smear of a presidential candidate was not meant to be political? What a load of bull. Pastor Byrd: when you find yourself deep in a hole of your own making, stop digging!

Consider the source

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Matt at Pooflingers Anonymous has a post up about an event that seems almost foreign to someone living in the Deep South – a school is being sued because a teacher was allegedly critical of a student’s religion in the classroom.  I agree with Matt’s assessment – a teacher has no business either promoting or denigrating a religion in the classroom, since the teacher is in a position of power and is acting as a government employee.

The only problem I have with the story so far is the source: OneNewsNow.  It’s a site that, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought came from the same folks who brought us Landover Baptist.

Whether it’s a story about prayer in public schools, workplace restrictions on Christians or battles for biblical truth within our denominations, the American Family News Network (AFN) is here to tell you what the newsmakers are saying.


At, you will get your news from reporters you can trust to give the latest news without the liberal bias that characterizes so much of the “mainstream” media.

Workplace restrictions on Christians? In America? Where do they get this stuff? Anyway, I started poking around on the site, and thought I’d see what they thought about scientific matters.  This article caught my eye: Environmental expert chides media for reports on Antarctic ice breakage.

Although an ice chunk seven times larger than Manhattan has collapsed in the Antarctic, one environmental expert is saying there’s nothing to be alarmed about.

So who’s OneNewsNow’s environmental expert?

Marc Morano is the resident authority on global warming with the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works minority staff. He says media coverage of the ice collapse was both “shameful” and “embarrassing,”

With this guy being described as an “environmental expert” and a “resident authority” on climate, he must be a pretty impressive climate scientist, right?

Morano was “previously known as Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Man in Washington,’ as reporter and producer for the Rush Limbaugh Television Show

… which would certainly make him an expert on hot air.  How that makes him an expert in the field of climate science, I’m not certain.

Democrats hostile to religion?

Monday, April 7th, 2008

A common right-wing talking point is that Democrats in particular are hostile towards religion. Via PZ Myers, here’s an article that shows us exactly how hostile one particular Democrat is towards religion.

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) interrupted atheist activist Rob Sherman during his testimony Wednesday afternoon before the House State Government Administration Committee in Springfield and told him, “What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

“This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God,” Davis said. “Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.”

Looks like, yes indeed, this particular Democrat is extremely hostile towards Mr. Sherman’s religious beliefs – specifically his lack of a belief in her God. So hostile, in fact, that she feels it necessary to tell him that he has no right to speak.

I was not aware that First Amendment rights were contingent on having the proper skin color, the proper sexual orientation, or the proper religion. Representative Davis should be ashamed of her conduct – which sounds more like what you’d hear coming from a shock jock on right-wing talk radio than from the holder of an elected office.

Perhaps Barack Obama could privately talk some sense into her. It’s his state, after all, and as far as I know he respects the rights of both believers and nonbelievers.

Heresy is not just for biologists!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

BBC News reports that the current Pope has canceled his upcoming visit to La Sapienza University. Why?  He’s afraid of the faculty and students!

Sixty-seven academics had said the Pope condoned the 1633 trial and conviction of the astronomer Galileo for heresy.

While 1633 was indeed a long time ago, Pope Benedict (before becoming Pope) had approvingly quoted a philosopher’s argument that Galileo’s conviction was “rational and just”. This would be the trial that made Galileo recant the now obvious notion that the Sun is at the center of the Solar System, forcing him to say:

I, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei of Florence, seventy years of age, arraigned personally for judgment, kneeling before you Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals Inquisitors-General against heretical depravity in all of Christendom, having before my eyes and touching with my hands the Holy Gospels, swear that I have always believed, I believe now, and with God’s help I will believe in the future all that the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church holds, preaches, and teaches. However, whereas, after having been judicially instructed with injunction by the Holy Office to abandon completely the false opinion that the sun is the center of the world and does not move and the earth is not the center of the world and moves, and not to hold defend, or teach this false doctrine in any way whatever, orally or in writing; and after having been notified that this doctrine is contrary to Holy Scripture; I wrote and published a book in which I treat of this already condemned doctrine and adduce very effective reasons in its favor, without refuting them in any way; therefore, I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, namely of having held and believed that the sun is the center of the world and motionless and the earth is not the center and moves.

Therefore, desiring to removed from the minds of Your Eminences and every faithful Christian this vehement suspicion, rightly conceived against me, with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse, and detest the above-mentioned errors and heresies, and in general each and every other error, heresy, and sect contrary to the Holy Church; and I swear that in the future I will never again say or assert, orally or in writing, anything which might cause a similar suspicion about me; on the contrary, if I should come to know any heretic or anyone suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place where I happen to be.

This trial was, of course, neither rational nor just, and the Italian academics are right to hold Pope Benedict accountable for implying that it was. Instead, it is one of the more well-known early examples of religion suppressing science, and it’s absurd to try to spin it as anything else.

At least Pope John Paul II had the sense to admit that Galileo’s inquisitors goofed.

When you take “education” out of “sex education”, what you have left is …

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

While my students are taking their final exams, I’ve been catching up with the news online. Here’s an opinion piece from the Greenville News talking up abstinence-only sex “education”:

A 2007 Zogby International poll showed parents prefer abstinence education over comprehensive sex education by a 2 to 1 margin. In addition, a 2007 survey by the S.C. Palmetto Family Council and the University of South Carolina found that 83 percent of white parents and 72 percent of black parents believe schools should emphasize abstinence as the first and best option for youth.

Of course, just because something sounds good to people doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually works or is realistic. But if you’re wanting to know how well abstinence-only works, you don’t have to look hard to find out. The current administration has very heavily favored abstinence-only for a number of years now. The New York Times reports on how well that’s been working out for us.

But a landmark study recently failed to demonstrate that [abstinence-only programs] have any effect on delaying sexual activity among teenagers, and some studies suggest that they may actually increase pregnancy rates.

Teen pregnancy rates are going up … for the first time in fifteen years. Guess that taking the “education” out of “sex education” didn’t work out too well, did it?

The Dark Ages aren’t over yet

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

I’ve posted a few times on the British teacher imprisoned for allowing her class to name a teddy bear Mohammed. It looks like, after spending eight days in prison, the teacher has been freed.

There were the usual protests:

a demonstration of about 30 or 40 people was held outside the embassy in Khartoum, with banners protesting about the decision to release her.

Sadly, the teacher would have still been in prison today if not for bad press the world over and lots of diplomatic wrangling by the UK. The Dark Ages, obviously, are not over yet.

“Kill her, kill her by firing squad”

Friday, November 30th, 2007

“Kill her, kill her by firing squad”

No, it’s not what right wing talk radio is saying about Hillary Clinton.  It’s what a thousand  or more protesters in Sudan are saying about a UK schoolteacher who was recently sentenced to 15 days in prison for (supposedly) insulting Islam.

Her crime? She allowed her class to name a teddy bear Mohammed.

It’s times like these when I just shake my head and wonder what went wrong with the human race…


Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Via the BBC, here’s an odd development in the troubled country of Sudan.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, will appear at a court in Khartoum and, if convicted, could face a prison sentence, a fine or 40 lashes.

Why do the Sudanese want to whip a British teacher?

She was arrested in Khartoum after allowing her class of primary school pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

This, apparently was considered to be “insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs”.

Any religion that demands a woman be whipped for allowing kids to name a teddy bear after their prophet deserves to be insulted. Repeatedly and forcefully. This is nothing but insanity, and yet another reason to resist any attempt at injecting religion into government.

John Scalzi Hams it up at the Creation Museum

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I have to admit that I spent time reading about John Scalzi’s visit to the Creation Museum when I should have been making out a test for my introductory chemistry class. So, now I’m sitting here at home working on the test.

Check it out. Or, if you’re not too fond of horses, take a look at the pictures.

Now that the Creation Museum is operating, I wonder if that means Biblically Correct Tours is going to go out of business …