Fox "News" Claims that Algebra Classes Are a Conspiracy of Liberal Indoctrination

Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up. But there’s actually a video clip of the Fox News dolts sitting around expressing dismay at 6th graders learning about algebra.

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Christians to Get Their Own Exclusive Prison? Loopholes for Religious People Keep Growing

At first glance, I thought this story was good news: Oklahoma is going to build a Christian prison! About time, I thought, I can think of a few Christians who deserve a few years for faith-abuse. But no…it's a prison to be administered by Christians to give Christian criminals special privileges. Not quite as appropriate, but more in line with what we've gotten used to from our dominant faith tradition.

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Karen Armstrong Weaves Bizarre Defense of Religion

Karen Armstrong has once again published a pile of meaningless twaddle in defense of religion. In this mess, she takes a series of statements about god that she says need rethinking…but as always, her "rethinking" is merely a reworking of apologetics for maintaining the status quo. It's almost as if she thinks it is a new and brilliant idea to just keep going to church and accepting Jesus into your heart. It's not.

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Old Fossil Takes On Darwin

The old fossil is Pat Buchanan, who has published a freakishly antiquated diatribe against Darwin. It's extremely old school — he uses arguments straight out of 1960s era "scientific creationism", trying to tar Darwin with guilt by association with Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler. He is apparently inspired by a "splendid little book," The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold, by a creationist crank named Eugene G. Windchy. You can get an idea of Windchy's level of scholarship by this quote:

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More Proof That PETA are Just Opportunistic Ghouls

Oh, how I despise PETA. Now they're putting up new billboards in Kansas —can you guess why?

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Grim Tales of Abuse Emerge from the Irish Catholic Church

Grim tales are emerging from an investigation of the Irish Catholic Church. For years, they've been running reform schools which sound more like hellish work camps, where sadistic priests were given free rein. I found it ironic that some of these workhouses were used to make religious paraphernalia, like rosaries, that were sold to the faithful. I wonder how many hail marys have been said on beads assembled by child-slaves who were raped or beaten as a reward? It does add a rather sinister gloss to Catholic prayers.

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Rocky Rebellion Confirms Chimps Ability to Plan

Santino is my hero. He was kept imprisoned in a cage, and his response was to throw rocks at his obnoxious captors. He'd scavenge the prison yard at night for whatever loose stones he could find, and he'd cache them for the morning. When there weren't enough rocks, he'd pound the concrete retaining wall to knock loose chips of stone. Then when the jailers would show up, zip, zip, zip, a rain of stones on them. You have to respect that kind of defiance and planning.

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Does Your State Forbid Atheists From Holding Public Office?

It's an ugly little open secret that Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have constitutions that explicitly forbid atheists from holding state office.

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More Oblivious Irony From the Religious

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A Beautiful Look at Evolution

It's a bit too phenomenological, and definitely too animal-centric, but who cares? David Attenborough's tree of life is very pretty and gets the gist of the story of life on earth across.

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Obama Taps Science-Hating Homophobe Rick Warren to Deliver Inaugural Invocation

This is not an auspicious beginning. Guess who is going to deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration? None other than the smilin' face of right-wing fundamentalism, Rick Warren.

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Palin Mocks Science

This is too much. Sarah Palin gave a policy speech today in which she claimed that she wanted more support for children with disabilities, more tools to test for disorders, and while also decrying the expense of scientific research.

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Protesters Fight for Separation of Church and Dems

The Democratic National Convention is going on in Denver, and I'm really not at all interested in what's going on inside the convention center: it's a bunch of people saying feel-good platitudes to get themselves elected, all studiously avoiding saying anything substantial that might annoy a voter. It's much more interesting to see what's going on outside the convention, where people are trying to make their real opinions heard. That is actually a bit troubling.

The Coalition of Secular Voters protested the interfaith alliance garbage. This demonstration went well, but was largely ignored, of course -- the democratic leadership has their sights set on yet another faith-based political experience.

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How Do We Get Students Interested in Science? Inspire Them

Peter Wood has an interesting commentary in the Chronicle today. At least, it starts out well, but by the end it turns into a bit of a train wreck. The good part is a discussion of a growing deficiency in science and math training in the US. The usual ignorant reaction to this problem is to flog the students and demand more drill-and-practice in the classroom, more testing, incentives and punishments for the schools ... the familiar Republican litany of No Child Left Behind, which treats the problem as a superficial one that can be corrected with more multiple-choice tests, or by marshaling market forces to make that engineering job in adulthood more attractive to 8 year olds. That's not the answer.

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Christopher Hitchens Attacked by Creationists Over Salamanders

Christopher Hitchens was impressed by the existence of blind cave organisms, and wrote that they argue against a linear progression in evolution. He's quite right; creationism doesn't explain why their god tossed in to salamanders and fish a collection of complex developmental mechanisms that the animals simply throw away and do not use. Evolution does -- descent from a sighted ancestor explains how blind cave animals can still possess the machinery for a lost organ.

Do you think the Discovery Institute would let this challenge pass by? Of course not. They put their top man on the job, so Casey Luskin wrote a rebuttal. After a long weekend and before a busy day of work, it always makes me happy to find a new Luskin screed -- they're so dang easy to shred. Here's his devastating critique:

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Christian Lunatics Issue Death Threats Over a Cracker

Editor's note: University of Minnesota biologist PZ Myers posted this item on his blog last week. Since then, he's received deaths threats, been the target of a campaign to have him fired and was cited as a justification for increasing security at the upcoming GOP convention in Minneapolis.

There are days when it is agony to read the news, because people are so goddamned stupid. Petty and stupid. Hateful and stupid. Just plain stupid. And nothing makes them stupider than religion.

Here's a story that will destroy your hopes for a reasonable humanity.

Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it, out of mass, didn't eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it.

This isn't the stupid part yet. He walked off with a cracker that was put in his mouth, and people in the church fought with him to get it back. It is just a cracker!

Catholics worldwide became furious.

Would you believe this isn't hyperbole? People around the world are actually extremely angry about this — Webster Cook has been sent death threats over his cracker. Those are just kooks, you might say, but here is the considered, measured response of the local diocese:

16% of Biology Teachers are Young Earth Creationists

Here's the most depressing thing I've seen all week (and I'm grading genetics exams): it's the result of a national survey of high school biology teachers.


At least 16% of our high school teachers are young earth creationists. Furthermore, 12% our our teachers are using biology classes in public schools to teach creationism in a positive light. The majority are still pro-science, but even in the good cases, relatively little time is spent on teaching evolution.

The news isn't all bad. One constructive discovery is that it is neither legal battles nor demanding state standards that determine how much effort is put into teaching evolution � it's how much education the teachers have in the subject. The obvious lesson is that we ought to be encouraging more coursework for teachers; help educate the teachers, give them more material they can use in the classroom, and the students benefit.

Here's the conclusion of the paper, which lays it all out very clearly.

Sanctimonious Monsters

Yesterday, two great pious leaders of the world met in Washington DC. President Bush has immense temporal power, leading one of the richest countries on the planet with the most potent military force. Pope Benedict is a spiritual leader to a billion people, with immense influence and the responsibility of a long religious legacy. What could they have talked about? Mostly, they seem to have patted each other on the back and congratulated each other on their commitment to superstition.

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Growing Meat Without Animals?

Revere is thinking about how to grow meat without the animal. It's a cool idea that's been floating around in science fiction for a while now, but, well, of course it has problems, and Revere notes a couple.

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