Sunday, February 15, 2009

Religion Under a False Flag

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

During the Bush regime, a GOP constituency of religious fanatics, fundamentalists, and deniers of science mounted a full-court press against the principles of Democracy and the enlightenment. They put forward a dark age agenda: 'Intelligent Design', a stealth religious ideology cooked up by right wing focus groups --not scientists. It is religion under a false flag.

The body of evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming though ignored, misstated and rationalized by those having a political agenda. There is evidence that it was concocted, full-cloth, by a right wing focus group. To be expected, scientific evolution, indeed, science in general, is opposed and mis-characterized by advocates of bigotry, superstition and faux science. Like Relativity, theories of evolution challenge common prejudices regarding humankind's place in the universe. Unlike Relativity --often abstract and impersonal --evolution challenges the individual's self-esteem but only in those cases in which that 'self-esteem' is dependent upon a 'personal relationship' with 'God'.

It is impossible to date the historical resistance of religious authority to reason, logic or science. Authority seems always to have resorted to propaganda, fallacy and force in defense of lies, shibboleth, and baseless theology. Socrates was found guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens, sentenced to drink hemlock, and thus became a martyr for the cause of free inquiry. The Catholic Church utilized the Holy Inquisition to "persuade" heretics and forced Galileo to 'recant' a position in which it was posited that the Earth 'moved' about the sun. Though they opposed the authority of Rome, Protestant reformers were no more friendly to scientific inquiry. John Calvin in Geneva and Martin Luther in Wittenberg were no more disposed to science than was Rome. Today, there are statistical correlations between religious belief and an alarming, rising number of "hate" crimes. I dare say that every lynching down south was done by 'God-fearin'' Christians who would have claimed that they were doing 'God's work'.

When the US House passed the "Defense of the Ten Commandments" amendment to the juvenile justice bill, zealots of the Religious Right chanted the mantra: the USA is a Christian Nation! A press conference was attended by Gary Bauer and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R, Alabama), the sponsor of the amendment. Aderhold said:
The Ten Commandments represent the very cornerstone of the values this nation was built upon, and the basis of our legal system here in America".
And on various message boards, a chant, a mantra was taken up:
The legal foundation of this nation is the Ten Commandments
First of all, the 'religious right' appears not to have bothered reading the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
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.

--US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Second Amendment
An "...establishment of religion" is defined as follows:
...a church that is recognized by law, and sometimes financially supported, as the official church of a nation. Also called state church. Cf. national church.
Therefore, it is a violation of Constitutional law should tax revenues find themselves in church coffers. "Faith based charities"—like “intelligent design”—are therefore religious in nature. Surely that fact is not lost on the Bush administration which clearly refers to them as "faith based". A program cannot be, at once, "faith-based" and "secular". But that is precisely the issue that Bush folk have tried to blur or perhaps have both ways. What is a faith based organization apart from its affiliation with an established church? And what is a church if not a place where religion is practiced?

George Washington also chimed in on the issue:
"The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine."

--George Washington, Treaty of Tripoli

And it was James Madison --author of the First Amendment, indeed, the Bill of Rights --who penned the very words: "Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion..."
"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, It ill never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

--John Adams
John Adams —one of the chief rabble rousers —was witness to and instigator at the founding of this nation. He was in a position to know whether or not it was founded upon Christian principles. Secondly--the 'Ten Commandants' are not exclusively Christian and believing in them does not make one a Christian. Moreover, the validity of the injunction: 'Thou shalt not kill' is not exclusively Christian nor is belief in the Christian faith required to subscribe to it. Moreover, the commandment so overly broad as to be meaningless. Kill what? Are only other human beings covered or does the prohibition extend to every living thing? Will this provision apply to robots when they achieve consciousness?
In constitutional terms, charitable choice boils down to this: religious organizations can receive government money to provide public services without sacrificing their religious character provided (1) the funding scheme does not somehow give bonus points to organizations simply because they are religious, and (2) individual users of the services have meaningful choices among providers and are only exposed to religious providers voluntarily. It’s an approach to First Amendment interpretation that over the last two decades has been gaining ground at the Supreme Court, evidenced most dramatically by this summer’s landmark decision blessing the use of education vouchers at religious schools.

- Dennis R. Hoover, Faith Based Administration

It is doubtful that any of Bush's "faith based initiatives" money has gone to Jewish, Islamic, or, indeed, any organization but Evangelical Christian organizations!
"Bush's faith-based initiative also privileges Christianity above all other religions. After sifting through every grant announcement I could get my hands on from Bush's faith-based offices, I couldn't find a single grant issued to a religious charity that wasn't Christian -- no Jewish charities, no Muslim charities, nothing. And when I spoke with Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he confirmed that no direct federal grants from his program had gone to a non-Christian religious group. This kind of religious favoritism is exactly what the Constitution's establishment clause was put in place to prevent."

- Esther Kaplan, Journalist and community activist

Unless you are a bible thumping evangelical, tax money finding its way into the coffers of Evangelical Christian organizations with which you most certainly disagree is theft! Unless you subscribe fully to fundamentalist Christianity, you have been robbed! If you are Hindu, Jewish, or Kabbalist, you have been robbed! Clearly --GOP 'Faith Based Initiatives' are blatant and arrogant violations of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. They fly in the face of Founders' intentions. They are an insult to the intelligence of every truly patriotic American.

The Bush administration was the culmination of an insidious sea change in how this nation had viewed its own history. The founders were 'deists' and with stunning solidarity and an equally stunning dearth of dissent affirmed the proposition that the US was not founded upon the Christian religion, indeed, any religion whatsoever. The founders cited no other authority for their work but the people themselves. God does not get even a footnote. The US Constitution is not a "Ten Commandants" believed handed down by God.

The US Constitution is the work of men, specifically, a convention of elected delegates to Philadelphia in 1787. If the Constitution should prove faulty, unworkable, or, in any other way, impractical, the people themselves bear the responsibility. There is no use blaming God. 'He' had nothing to do with it.

The US Constitution is an existentialist document, a matter of deliberate choice by a people facing up to the facts of their founding and willing to take responsibility for the future they believed they could create or shape. If God was to be summoned, it would be done by individuals acting alone and within the dictates and limits of their consciences. It would not be done by a theocracy; it would not be done by an act of Congress; it would not be done by a single article or phrase in the new charter; it would not be done by a latter day Calvin or Luther. It would not be done by a 'state' to whom people were subservient due to theology.

The US Constitution is significant by what it does not do. It does not cite --as its source of authority --a transcendent being. It does not favor the Christian religion in any language. It does not cite or reference the works of theologians, saints, or prophets. It does not anoint a "King" who, in turn, cites a "divine right" to rule. The word "Christian" is not used at any time in any way. Nor "Muslim", nor "Buddhist", "nor "Hindu", nor "Kabbalist". Nor does the Constitution mandate the worship of any sort of any deity of any religion. No article mandates a day of worship. No article mandates a liturgy. The names of deities, religions or sects are not mentioned nor are they cited as sources of power or authority.

The word "myth" is too kind for latter ideologues who persist in trying to rewrite our nation's history. Assertions that our legal system is founded on the Christian Bible is a deliberate lie manufactured and perpetrated by American fundamentalists like Pat Robertson and other evangelists who have made huge fortunes exploiting irrational belief systems, misconceptions, deliberate lies, naive myths and psychotic fantasies.
Neither a State nor the Federal Government can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither a State nor the Federal Government, openly or secretly, can participate in the affairs of any religious organization and vice versa. "In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect `a wall of separation between church and State.' " Everson, 330 U. S., at 16, quoting Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 164 (1879). The dissenters agreed: "The Amendment's purpose . . . was to create a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion." 330 U.S., at 31-32 (Rutledge, J., dissenting, joined by Frankfurter, Jackson, and Burton, JJ.).

- The U.S. Supreme Court, ROBERT E. LEE, individually and as PRINCIPAL OF NATHAN BISHOP MIDDLE SCHOOL, et al., PETITIONERS v. DANIEL WEISMAN etc.

Following is the quote by Jefferson, referenced by the Justices, in which Jefferson referred to the "wall of separation" between church and state:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

-- Thomas Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists, January 1, 1802

The justices have simply buttoned it all up. There is no ambiguity in the decision itself. There is most certainly none in Jefferson's phrase "wall of separation." We may, however, dispense with some of the persistent myths about our "Christian" founders. For a start, few (if any) were Christian. Many were deists. Others were, we suspect, atheists.
Deism is a religious philosophy and movement that became prominent in England, France, and the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. Deists typically reject supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and divine revelation prominent in organized religion, along with holy books and revealed religions that assert the existence of such things. Instead, deists hold that religious beliefs must be founded on human reason and observed features of the natural world, and that these sources reveal the existence of one God or supreme being.

- Wikipedia entry for "Deism"

Thomas Paine did say:
"I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
Thom Paine is not quoted by 'rightists' saying that he believed religions should interfere in the affairs of state. Rightists have not quoted Paine saying that he was opposed to the 'separation of church and state'. Rightists have not quoted Paine saying that he favored giving Christians preferential treatment over Muslims in programs called "Faith Based Initiatives". Moreover, Thomas Paine was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and, therefore, was not a 'founding father' however great his treatise: Common Sense.

Then, of course, there is the opinion of the man who has was and is called the Father of his Country, George Washington:
"The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine."

--George Washington

This sentiment would be echoed in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 to which the U.S. was signatory:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

--1797 Treaty of Tripoli

About that, Tom Peters writes:
Does the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli say that "The Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion?" YES!

...

More generally, we can't imagine how the absence of Article 11 in the Arabic version effects [sic] the separationist argument. It was the English version of the treaty that was approved by President Adams and Secretary Pickering, and this version unquestionably contained Article 11. Similarly, when the Senate ratified the treaty, they did so knowing full well that the English version declared that the United States was not a Christian nation. The separationist implications of the treaty can't be escaped by arguing that the Arabic version may not have contained Article 11; the President, Secretary of State, and Senate thought it did, but approved the treaty anyway.

...

--Tom Peters, 1797 TREATY WITH TRIPOLI
For rational people, this debate is over. The case is closed. The separation of church is complete. And that is the law.
To bolster their case, accommodationists have produced reams of quotations from famous early Americans to the effect that religion is important to public life, or that the founders themselves were religious men. As we demonstrated elsewhere, some of these quotes are either fabricated or taken out of context. Others (as we suggest in this section) are taken from people who were either opponents of the Constitution (eg., Patrick Henry), or who played no role in the framing of the Constitution or other important American documents (eg., Daniel Webster). Finally, we argue that the overwhelming majority of these quotations are irrelevant to what's at issue in the separation debate: one can be religious, and even believe that religion is important for public life, without believing that the state should have the power to aid religion, either preferentially or non-preferentially. -

Separation of Church and State Homepage

Many fundamentalists have clearly demonstrated that they don't understand the terms 'founding father', 'framer' etc. Both terms refer only to those who attended and participated in the 'framing', the actual writing of the U.S. Constitution, that document which literally created the United States. Fundamentalists, ignorant of the most basic and essential facts of our history, apparently believe that any historical name --Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Boone et al --are 'framers', 'founding fathers' etc. Not so! Only those participating in the creation of our nation at the Philadelphia Convention are 'founding fathers'.

Fundamentalists have lately tried a different tact, arguing that the 'wall of separation' is "one way". In other words, government may not prohibit or, in any way, interfere with religion but that religion may interfere with the functions of government. But which religion, I wonder, is allowed this 'privilege'? Islam? Uh huh! It is impossible to imagine the likes of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell actively supporting the participation of 'Islamists' in the US government. Yet --that is but one reductio ad absurdum of their absurd and idiotic notion that the 'wall of separation' is 'one way'. Moreover, the late Steve Kangas asserts that that is an impossibility in any case. By definition, religious control i.e, "interference" with the "state" infringes upon the rights of other sects, atheists, deists, or agnostics. The best refutation, however, is found in a decision of the US Supreme Court:
Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State."

--The U.S. Supreme Court, ROBERT E. LEE, individually and as PRINCIPAL OF NATHAN BISHOP MIDDLE SCHOOL, et al., PETITIONERS v. DANIEL WEISMAN etc.

The Religious Right will often cite certain isolated professions of faith. In themselves, the quotes fall far short of proving that the founders had in mind founding the nation upon the Christian religion, indeed, a Christian theocracy. Jefferson, moreover, backed up with deeds his belief that there should be a "wall of separation" between church and state.

When Patrick Henry proposed to tax the citizens of Virginia in order to support "some form of Christian worship", Jefferson opposed it. Jefferson designed a bill for Religious Freedom which completely separated religion from government in Virginia. His bill passed while none of Henry's "theocratic" ideas were even introduced in either Virginia or the U.S. government.

The right, however, will cite other aspects of American history, the Pledge of Allegiance, for example. It must be pointed out, however, that the original pledge did not contain the words "under God". Those words were introduced much, much later at the insistence of the right wing and its addition to the pledge cannot possibly support the false position that the U.S. was, in any sense, founded upon any religious ideology whatsoever. Moreover, it was not until after the Civil War that U.S. currency had printed on it the words: "In God We Trust". Indeed, these words on a dollar cannot in any way support the right wing, fundamentalist position. In any case, some believe money to be 'evil'. As a child, I recall fundamentalist 'evangelists' screaming that it was easier for an elephant to pass through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich man to enter the 'Kingdom of God'.

Nor can fundamentalists find support in a SCOTUS decision of 1892. In the case of Holy Trinity Church vs. United States, Justice David Brewer wrote in dicta that "this is a Christian nation." But Brewer wrote that in dicta i.e, a personal opinion. It is not a legal pronouncement. It does not establish case law. It does not support the religious agenda of the radical right. It does not have the force of law. Feeling obliged to explain, Brewer himself stated:
But in what sense can [the United States] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or in name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within its borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all.

--Supreme Court Justice David Brewer
It may be left to the scrappy John Adams to close the book on the absurd assertions of religious folk.
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

--John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" [1787-1788],
Though he had hopes that "...men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice", he foresaw the present debate. In doing so, he gave us the best ammunition against them. Reason! I cite his line "...it will never be pretended that any persons ... had interviews with the gods ...". It is interesting that as the 21st Century often seems in danger of slipping into a new dark age, the antidote is often found in the lucid minds of 18th Century statesmen --Jefferson, Washington, Adams et al.

Mixing governance with religion is a bad and discredited idea as evidenced by those who espouse it.
"The national government ... will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality."

--Adolf Hitler, Nazi Fuhrer
Hitler's remarks have been said in very nearly the same words by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Ashcroft, Gary Bauer and George W. Bush --an American Taliban, an American Fourth Reich!

I refer interested readers to Joseph Storey's Commentaries on the Constitution - especially the significance he attributes to the Preamble which states:
"We the People of the United States, ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Significantly, the Preamble does not state that God ordained it, nor, indeed, any lawgiver but the people themselves. Nor is the Constitution based - as Gary Bauer had said - on the Ten Commandments. The "Ten Commandants" are not cited anywhere in the Constitution. Though it has the tone and voice of "Sacred Text" [See E.L Doctorow previously cited], the only authority cited by the Constitution is that of the people themselves. That is important. According to Joseph Story, a preamble may not enlarge or confer power that is not found in the body of the document:
§ 459. The importance of examining the preamble, for the purpose of expounding the language of a statute, has been long felt, and universally conceded in all juridical discussions. It is an admitted maxim in the ordinary course of the administration of justice, that the preamble of a statute is a key to open the mind of the makers, as to the mischiefs, which are to be remedied, and the objects, which are to be accomplished by the provisions of the statute.

. . .

§ 462. And, here, we must guard ourselves against an error, which is too often allowed to creep into the discussions upon this subject. The preamble never can be resorted to, to enlarge the powers confided to the general government, or any of its departments. It cannot confer any power per se; it can never amount, by implication, to an enlargement of any power expressly given. It can never be the legitimate source of any implied power, when otherwise withdrawn from the constitution. Its true office is to expound the nature, and extent, and application of the powers actually conferred by the constitution, and not substantively to create them.

--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
Stealth Ideology

The GOPs fundie base lapped it up, preferring to believe that the very worst 'President' in U.S. history George W. Bush --a war criminal and mass murderer --conducted daily "interviews" with God. Bush always implied that there was a special relationship between himself and a deity of his imagining, his psychosis, or his cunning manipulation of a 'base' that was easily duped. It was the basis of his would-be dictatorship! God (if he exists) had nothing to do with it, did not ordain it, did not consult the cabinet, nor Congress, no the Pentagon, nor K-street.

I am particularly interested in the timing of a 'stealth ideology', in fact, a phony ideology cooked up by a GOP/right wing/theocratic focus group who wish to 'get around' the separation of church. They came up with a phony science, in fact, a theocratic position disguised as science, a stealth ideology. It would be marketed as 'Intelligent Design'. A right wing 'think tank' forged what is now infamously called the 'wedge issue' which they attributed to the 'left' in an effort to discredit leftist criticism of 'Intelligent Design', a psuedo-science at beast, a work of crass, 'false flag' forgery at worst. "A giant urban legend", they call this so-called 'wedge document'. They flatter themselves. I learned about it on their own websites. No one on the "left" would have written it and even the Freep [Free Republic] --not the 'left' --says the Discovery Institute is the culprit. These idiots can't even get their stories straight!

A better word than giant is "conservative circle jerk"! What's typical of this camp fire coziness is the mutual satisfaction both conservative entities hope to get by blaming others for their crookery and/or idiocy.

All is done in the name of their search for absolute knowledge, a fool's errand if there ever was one. Warning: don't be fooled by the link on Freep that says "Evolution News". It goes straight to a Discovery Institute shill site, a "front" that has nothing to do with real or scientific theories about evolution. It's a typical right wing bait and switch.

Now --both sites blame the left! But for what? No one on the left wrote it; even Freep attributes the document to Discovery. But the left is supposed to have fallen for it!! Stop me, my sides are hurting!

It is fair to characterize Intelligent Design [ID] itself as nothing more than a public relations campaign if not a transparent hoax.
In 1999 someone posted on the internet an early fund raising proposal for discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Dubbed the “Wedge Document,” this proposal soon took on a life of its own, popping up in all sorts of places and eventually spawning what can only be called a giant urban legend. Among true-believers on the Darwinist fringe the document came to be viewed as evidence for a secret conspiracy to fuse religion with science and impose a theocracy. These claims were so outlandish that for a long time we simply ignored them. But because some credulous Darwinists seem willing to believe almost anything, we decided we should set the record straight.

--Free Republic: Discovery Institute's “Wedge Document”: How Darwinist Paranoia Fueled an Urban Legend

I have news for "Free Republic". Telling me what I already know does not refute me. Repeating what so-called "Darwinists" know about the ID movement hardly amounts to a broadside. The freeper site, in fact, borrows its post verbatim from the discovery Institute (or is the other way 'round?). I can hardly call the freepers unbiased. At last, the only refutation of what were, in fact, ID tactics amounts to mere labeling, name-calling, typical of the ilk. If the "Wedge Document" is an "Urban Legend" it is only so among the stooges of the right wing, the circle jerk, the closed loop of closed minds. Until I stumbled upon the pair of them, I had never heard of the damn thing!

The discovery of "Wedge Document" itself means that someone created it even as the ID movement discredited itself. The ID movement has always been a mere PR campaign, perhaps the very campaign described and revealed by the "Wedge Document". That it might have been created to discredit one side or the other simply doesn't matter. Even before it was discovered, there was every reason to suppose that a subversive, anti-science sub-culture was overtly out to subvert the pursuit of truth itself anyway. The "Wedge Document" simply makes no difference one way or the other. ID is creationism in fancy dress and big words not even understood by its 'authors'.

That is the crux of it. ID proponents are all about content and ideology. The pursuit of truth, by contrast, is about method and reason.
The Wedge Document is an internal memorandum from the discovery Institute (the leading proponent of Intelligent Designer "Theory") that was leaked to the Internet in 1999. The discovery Institute later admitted to its authenticity. Since then, discovery Institute hasn't talked very much about the document, or the strategy it outlines. The reason is crushingly obvious, since the Wedge Document makes it readily apparent that the discovery Institute is flat-out lying to us when it claims that its Intelligent Designer campaign is concerned only with science and does not have any religious aims, purpose or effect.

--Lenny Frank re: The "Wedge Document" [document reprinted on Frank's site]

Frank is entitled to his opinion. It is at least as good as the various opinions of the Discovery Institute and that's not saying much. Frank states that Discovery owned up to the document. But who cares? A movement is what a movement does! What does the 'wedge document' tell you about the people who puked it up? Nothing it says about science is of any significance between its very existence speaks volumes about the liars throughout the right wing, Discovery Institute, and fanatics throughout the religious right and the otherwise extremist right wing! Those methods are precisely what makes ID not science.
...we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip Johnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

--The Wedge Document

The "Wedge Document" reads like a right wing strategy paper.
FIVE YEAR OBJECTIVES
  1. A major public debate between design theorists and Darwinists (by 2003)
  2. Thirty published books on design and its cultural implications (sex, gender issues, medicine, law, and religion)
  3. One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows
  4. Significant coverage in national media:
    • Cover story on major news magazine such as Time or Newsweek
    • PBS show such as Nova treating design theory fairly
    • Regular press coverage on developments in design theory
    • Favorable op-ed pieces and columns on the design movement by 3rd party media
  5. Spiritual & cultural renewal:
    • Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism
    • Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation & repudiate(s)
    • Darwinism Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions
    • Positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God
    • Ten states begin to rectify ideological imbalance in their science curricula & include design theory
  6. Scientific achievements:
    • An active design movement in Israel, the UK and other influential countries outside the US
    • Ten CRSC Fellows teaching at major universities
    • Two universities where design theory has become the dominant view
    • Design becomes a key concept in the social sciences Legal reform movements base legislative proposals on design theory
ACTVITIES Research Fellowship Program (for writing and publishing) (2) Front line research funding at the "pressure points" (e.g., Daul Chien's Chengjiang Cambrian Fossil Find in paleontology, and Doug Axe's research laboratory in molecular biology)(3) Teacher training (4) Academic Conferences (5) Opinion-maker Events & Conferences (6) Alliance-building, recruitment of future scientists and leaders, and strategic partnerships with think tanks, social advocacy groups, educational organizations and institutions, churches, religious groups, foundations and media outlets (7) Apologetics seminars and public speaking (8) Op-ed and popular writing (9) Documentaries and other media productions (10) Academic debates (11) Fund Raising and Development (12) General Administrative support
Real Science vs Phony Crap and/or Focus Group Propaganda

Science does not hire PR firms, recently called "think tanks" for PR reasons. Science does not try to sell you on relativity, evolution, quantum physics or string theory. Science is ever self-correcting. Science is not an ideology, it is a method and a process.

Science is not a set of shibboleths to which you must pay obeisance or pledge allegiance. Science cannot, by definition, become a cult, a religion or an entrenched ideology. What might be a working hypothesis today may be disproved tomorrow. Intelligent Design is "creationism" written in jargon and in stone. 'Creationists' are not interested in giving up precious theories in the face of cold, hard fact. 'Intelligent design' is hardly intelligent, considerably ideological, and most certainly disingenuous. It is defined by its "content", it is a dogma sold politically. It is not and cannot be science. The "Wedge Document" proves, forever, the un-scientific nature of "Intelligent Design".But the environment proved hostile. In its final form, creationism took on a protective camouflage, like octopi and lizards. It evolved into: INTELLIGENT DESIGN!

Intelligent design was thus packaged. It is stealth ideology designed (not so intelligently) to pass itself off as science. But it was found out and exposed.
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator. To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.--Judge John E. Jones III, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
An issues clarification is in order. The case was not about whether one has a right to believe, indeed, teach "intelligent design". It was about whether or not the state has a right to teach religious dogma in state and locally supported schools.People are still free to believe whatever dogma, however cockamamie, they wish. They are still free to teach it at home and in religiously supported institutions. The decision in no way impinges upon one's right under the First Amendment to believe and espouse whatever bullshit they choose to believe. As the following headline properly suggests, the decision was about teaching science in science class and, presumably, religious dogma in the churches.
EVOLUTION CONSENSUS PREVAILS IN RULING TO KEEP RELIGION OUT OF SCIENCE CLASS

From his Pennsylvania courtroom, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III did a great service to the nation. Not only did Jones rule that it's unconstitutional for the Dover, Pa., public schools to present "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in biology classes because it merely advances a particular version of Christianity. But in a painstakingly supported and often scathing 139-page opinion Tuesday, he also debunked many of the myths surrounding the so-called debate over evolution.
The following passage from John Stuart Mill is especially relevant in an age in which latter-day "Puritans" have tried to finance their religious practices with public tax dollars:
Wherever the Puritans have been sufficiently powerful, as in New England, and in Great Britain at the time of the Commonwealth, they have endeavored, with considerable success, to put down all public, and nearly all private, amusements: especially music, dancing, public games, or other assemblages for purposes of diversion, and the theatre. There are still in this country large bodies of persons by whose notions of morality and religion these recreations are condemned; and those persons belonging chiefly to the middle class, who are the ascendant power in the present social and political condition of the kingdom, it is by no means impossible that persons of these sentiments may at some time or other command a majority in Parliament. How will the remaining portion of the community like to have the amusements that shall be permitted to them regulated by the religious and moral sentiments of the stricter Calvinists and Methodists? Would they not, with considerable peremptoriness, desire these intrusively pious members of society to mind their own business?

--John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
...
Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as "intelligent design" to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some anti-evolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a "wedge" for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Scientific American

The exhibition on evolution at the magnificent new science department at the Museum of Natural History in New York is countered by a proliferation of Creationist Museums around the country (US). A new production of Inherit the Wind may not reach an audience large enough to any good i.e., to educate Americans about a domestic, ideological danger.

Columbia University professor Philip Kitcher strikes back with Living with Darwin. Kitcher's position is not that ID ("Intelligent Design") isn't science but that it is "dead science", consisting of propositions long ago discredited, some by Darwin himself. Darwin is, of course, ignored and attacked by demagogic politicians, the religious right and various sycophantic politicians. Darwin's arguments against ID are still valid, merely ignored by the religious right.

Kitcher would strike an uncomfortable truce astride an increasingly fanatic right wing on the one hand and genuine science on the other. Kitcher would hope this possible, even necessary, if science is to survive at all. Is such an unholy truce possible? Can real science live in a world in which experiment is replaced by referendum, where propaganda impersonates evidence?

The scientific community resolved the issue long ago; Darwin himself refuted ID with a mountain of verifiable evidence. That those issues are raised now among religious demagogues and politicians raises disturbing questions about the quality of scientific education. Has it failed entirely? Have zealots succeeded in isolating science? Is it the aim of "religion" to destroy the spirit of free enquiry? Will science itself be subject to laws by which an 'orthodoxy' is decreed under the rubric of 'democracy'? Will a latter-day 'Galileo' be forced to recant?

The identification of "evangelicalism" with the "right wing", however, seems to be a very recent aberration in light of the emergence of "Christian Socialism" in the 1840's. Thomas Hughes and others taught that Jesus Christ was the world first socialist. Indeed, Jesus is said by religious folk to have fed the multitudes! Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Cal Thomas most certainly wouldn't care and wouldn't bother!
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

--Thomas Jefferson, in his historic Danbury letter, January 1, 1802

Evangelical "Christianity", however, is a relatively recent development emerging in Britain with the conversion of John Wesley in 1738. The distinguishing characteristics of the American movement are of even more recent vintage. I am told that the "theology" of the Religious Right cannot be found in the bible but in the teachings of dispensationalism --a belief that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will be a physical event. "He" will establish a world-wide kingdom centered in Jerusalem. Dispensationalism is associated with the end times prophecy, which finds omens of the Second Coming in current events. By consistently teaching that the Beast of Revelations, or the Antichrist, is a political leader, dispensationalism has, ironically, weakened the traditional Reformation-era identification of that figure with the Pope, and the Roman Catholic Church with the Whore of Babylon.

Lately, two views are found on the internet:
  • George W. Bush, a deceiver of nations [at the very least: a deceiver of the United Nations!], is the beast. Support for which is found in Revelations:
    And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

    --Revelation 13:4

  • Bush, a fundamentalist fanatic is trying to bring about those events which are said to precede the Second Coming!

A fundamentalist friend said almost those very words to me, telling me that Bush was not like any other "President" in American History, and, oddly, I had to agree. He most certainly was not. My friend also said, in effect, who can make war against the United States and win? Well! Who can argue with that? Certainly, no power could make conventional war on the United States. Not mentioned by my "friend" is the fact that Colin Powell presented a case for war to the United Nations Security Council that consisted of plagiarized student papers, ten year old, black and white satellite photos, and fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Clearly then --by the standards of the religious right itself --the Bush administration deceived the entire world and did so deliberately!

W. B. Yeats painted a grim picture of end times in his famous poem: The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

--W. B. Yeats

Things have fallen apart. A failed war of naked aggression, Abu Ghraib, an incipient 'Great Depression', the stunning swift fall of the U.S. from a role of prestige and world leadership are the proof of it. It took Rome several hundred years to complete a fall. The US will have done it in less than a decade. Iraq defines "anarchy" as well as the "blood dimmed tide" in which some 1.5 million civilians are now dead! In the past, only the best had convictions and now all seem to have abandoned conviction for spin. Passions run rampant if not deep. Truth for the GOP is whatever they can trick you into believing. Sincerity is faked and lies are the new currency of the realm.

The Truth of Evolution

I wonder how many "creationist s" have bothered to talk to a farmer. Any farmer who has ever bred for specific characteristics can bear witness to the fact of evolution as it is understood today. Naturally, when I think of Kansas, I think of both The Wizard of Oz and wheat. Wheat does not grow in the wild, yet its origins are most certainly ancient wild grasses. One suspects that wheat benefited largely by what evolutionists would call artificial selection, a process in which natural selection is helped out, possibly by a farmer who knows how to breed or, in evolutionary terms, select, for specific characteristics. If every farmer knows the truth of evolution, so too every cowboy who ever warned: 'never kill a slow roach; you just improve the breed!'

I fear for future generations that may be victimized by a fanatic Christian "right".
We keep trying to explain away American fundamentalism. Those of us not engaged personally or emotionally in the biggest political and cultural movement of our times—those on the sidelines of history—keep trying to come up with theories with which to discredit the evident allure of this punishing yet oddly comforting idea of a deity, this strange god. His invisible hand is everywhere, say His citizen-theologians, caressing and fixing every outcome: Little League games, job searches, test scores, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the success or failure of terrorist attacks (also known as “signs”), victory or defeat in battle, at the ballot box, in bed. Those unable to feel His soothing touch at moments such as these snort at the notion of a god with the patience or the prurience to monitor every tick and twitch of desire, a supreme being able to make a lion and a lamb cuddle but unable to abide two men kissing. A divine love that speaks through hurricanes. Who would worship such a god? His followers must be dupes, or saps, or fools, their faith illiterate, insane, or misinformed, their strength fleeting, hollow, an aberration. A burp in American history. An unpleasant odor that will pass.

Harpers, Through a glass, darkly: How the Christian right is re-imagining U.S. history
It is important that science be taught in school. Evolution was made clear to me in my junior high school science class. The topic was Giraffes which eat the leaves of trees in their habitat. Lamarck, we were taught, believed in acquired characteristics. In Lamarckian terms, the Giraffe had a long neck so that he could reach the leaves. The Darwinian view turns that on its head i.e, those Giraffes able to reach the higher leaves would pass their genes on to another generation which would inherit the longer neck. The short neck Giraffe would most certainly die before he could mate. Put yet another way, the long necked Giraffe survived and procreated because it had a long neck; it is inaccurate and fallacious to say that it had a long neck so that it would survive.

I have long considered the words "so that" to be red flags, signaling a question to be begged, a perversion of logic. The words so that almost invariably signal a thought process that works backward from end results. Human beings, having evolved brains, are capable of doing precisely that. It is fallacious to say that we have brains 'so that' we may think and, in various ways, use our brains to think, learn and, thus survive. We do all those thinks because we have brains.

Interestingly, Earnst Haeckel did not share Darwin's enthusiasm for natural selection as I have stated it in simple terms here. Haeckel, in his own version of Lamarckism, believed that biological diversity could be attributed to an environment acting directly on organisms to produce new species, new races.

There are crabs in Japanese waters that bear a "human face". They are the Heikegani crab, native to Japan. The carapace resembles a human face, or - with some imagination - a Samurai warrior. Legend has it that they are the re-incarnation of ancient Samarais, Heike warriors who died at the Battle of Dan-no-ura. (See: "The Tale of the Heike") Indeed, patterns on the carapace bear a striking resemblance to a human face.

Carl Sagan had a more colorful tale to tell. In his popular science television show Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, he linked the patterns to the local legend of the Heiki warriors. Sagan cited the crab as an example --not of natural but of unintentional artificial selection. Sagan told the story of local fishermen throwing back those crabs whose shells resembled the ancient Samurai warriors. Those not resembling Samurai were eaten. Those thrown back survived to pass on their genes.

Living beings themselves, therefore, may be thought of as "living fossils". We carry in our genes a code that is the result of billions of years of "code writing". Our own fetal development seems to mirror that process. According to Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919): "The ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny."

It is interesting that Intelligent Design is often espoused by the same political mindset that embraces "Social Darwinism". Both are equally bogus. Both are embraced by the right wing though they are incompatible theories. It is odd to find even fallacious perversions of Darwin espoused by a group that is identifiable by its hatred of all things Darwinian. It is equally odd to find Intelligent Design --however fallacious --espoused by a Social Darwinists. The obvious conclusion is that these people just haven't given even their own ideologies, let alone Darwin, enough thought.

Social Darwinism does not follow from "Darwinism". Worse, it attributes to Darwin positions he never took. The term "survival of the fittest" was never used by Darwin but has been variously attributed. Hofstadter attributes the phrase to rail road men:
Railroad executive Chauncy Depew asserted that the guests of the great dinners and public banquets of New York City represented the survival of the fittest of all who came in search of fortune. They were the ones with superior abilities. Likewise railroad magnate James J. Hill defended the railroad companies by saying their fortunes were determined according to the law of survival of the fittest.

—Hofstadter, Richard; 1959; Social Darwinism in American Thought, Braziller; New York.
Elsewhere, the term is attributed to Herbert Spencer who clearly inspired a generation of radicalized, latter-day robber barons and, bluntly, few of them evince the "...quality of mercy" so immortalized with but a few words by Shakespeare:
[Herbert] Spencer said that diseases "are among the penalties Nature has attached to ignorance and imbecility, and should not, therefore, be tampered with." He even faulted private organizations like the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children because they encouraged legislation.

Social Darwinism and American Laissez-faire Capitalism
An equally fallacious corollary to "Social Darwinism" is often phrased this way: the rich are rich because they are better, work harder and are more intelligent. George W. Bush put it more crudely: “The poor are poor because they are lazy!” In the same vein, the conservative economist Joseph A. Schumpeter likened recessions to a "douche" leaving us to wonder just who is "douched" and how? More importantly: who gets to make those life and death decisions? It is difficult not to conclude that New Orleans after Katrina is but the disastrous consequence of "blame the victim" thinking.

It is not surprising, then, that Spencer's influence continues, not in the field of biology, but in economics, specifically those theories most often associated with the right wing: the American apologists, William Graham Sumner and Simon Nelson Patten.

Spencer, believed that because society was evolving, government intervention ought to be minimized. Nevermind that government is but a function of society and responsible to it. It is because of the lasting Influence of Spencer that the idea of the “rational man” making rational decisions in a free market is still in use. In practice, however, economic decisions may or may not be rational.

Conservatives work mightily to force reality into a conservative, theoretical mold but that's bad science. Models must describe reality —not the other way round. John Nash, the subject of the motion picture, A Beautiful Mind, argued persuasively that not only games but societies and economies benefit more from cooperation and community than from competition. It's a mathematical slap-in-the-face to laissez-faire, right wing economics.

While Bertrand Russell's work in the Principia Mathematica sought to ground mathematics upon a foundation of pure logic, it was optimistically thought that it would then be possible to construct a "Universal Truth Machine" - a "computer", if you will, that would produce all true theorems from any given set of axioms. A "formal system". Some twenty years later, Gödel's famous Incompleteness Theorems "proved" that no such machine is possible. There is always at least one true theorem that such a machine is incapable of writing - no matter how well it is programmed, no matter how well phrased the axioms. [See: 'Infinity and the Mind', Rudy Rucker]

The significance of Gödel's 'incompleteness theorem' is this: even as we near a phase in quantum physics when it appears that we may be able to write an equation which will amount to TOE, a Theory of Everything, we will come up short. No such theory is possible. Sir James Jeans wrote that we may never be able to open the back of the watch and describe its workings; likewise, as human beings striving to understand a universe of which we are a part, we may never be able to see the face of God and describe it. We become ourselves a part of an infinite regress.

But - we must be free to believe that the face exists and free to believe that it doesn't. We must be free to find the truth for ourselves. Fundamentalism denies you this. As Socrates put it: the unexamined life is not worth living. Our choices define who we are as individuals, and collectively, as a species. By denying us the freedom to make a defining choice, religious ideology robs our lives of meaning. Bertolt Brecht said "A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook." Religious ideology parading as science is a crook.

Additional resources:
the Holy Office in Rome forced Galileo Galilei to recant his scientific view that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of the universe. The heliocentric theory of the solar system was first forumalted by Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer who refuted the geocentric models of Greek scholars Ptolemy and Aristotle.

Galileo Galilei first argued for the Copernican, sun-centric view of the universe in 1610 after observing the moons of Jupiter. At the time, the dominant view was still an earth-centric, Ptolemaic and Aristotelian theory. In 1612, opposition grew for a heliocentric view of the solar system. Two years later, Galileo was denounced by a Catholic priest who described his beliefs as dangerous and close to heresy. Galileo went to Rome to defend himself, but was warned never to teach nor advocate Copernican theory again.

In October of 1632, Galileo Galilei published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a work which compared the Copernican system to the traditional Ptolemaic system. Upon publication, Galileo was ordered to appear before the Holy Office in Rome. In 1633, he was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy. On the morning of June 22, the Inquisition, a Church tribunal which suppressed heresy, delivered its public sentence in three essential parts:
  • Galileo was required to recant his sun-centric ideas
  • He was ordered to be imprisoned
  • His offending Dialogue was banned.
Galileo Galilei died from natural causes on January 8, 1642 while under house arrest. Although an unannounced part of his sentence prohibited the publication of his past or future works, he dedicated his final years to one of his finest works, Two New Sciences, a book which later earned him the title of "father of modern physics."

--June 22, 1633: Galileo Recants his Heliocentric Theory


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