Effect Measure

There are creationists and creationists. One of those creationists (which one?) wants to be just a 72 year old’s cardiac arrhythmia away from being President of the United States. It would be historic, although more historic for the rest of us than for the potentially almost President, Governor Sarah Palin, because her notion of the length of historical record is so much shorter. Like many Pentecostals, Governor Palin is said to be a Young Earth Creationist, someone who thinks the earth is only 7 thousand years old and that humans walked alongside dinosaurs. At least that’s what one of her fellow townsmen says. Governor Palin has yet to declare her version of geologic chronology. Until she does, this is what we have to go on, and it’s pretty plausible she would believe this:

Another valley activist, Philip Munger, says that Palin also helped push the evangelical drive to take over the Mat-Su Borough school board. “She wanted to get people who believed in creationism on the board,” said Munger, a music composer and teacher. “I bumped into her once after my band played at a graduation ceremony at the Assembly of God. I said, ‘Sarah, how can you believe in creationism — your father’s a science teacher.’ And she said, ‘We don’t have to agree on everything.’

“I pushed her on the earth’s creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she’d seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them.” (scibling Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Governor Palin’s private religious beliefs are none of my business. Unless, as Chief Executive of the government these beliefs influence policy, and since I am a scientist and this is a science blog that’s a pretty big “unless.” And it’s worth observing that Governor Palin is proud to number among those she admires most people who are not even examples of 18th century rationalism, much less 21st century science. People like the preacher Thomas Muthee:

Pastor Muthee founded the Prayer Cave in 1989 in Kiambu, Kenya after “God spoke” to him and his late wife Margaret and called him to the country, according to the church’s website.

The pastor speaks of his offensive against a demonic presence in the town in a trailer for the evangelical video “Transformations”, made by Sentinel Group, a Christian research and information agency.

“We prayed, we fasted, the Lord showed us a spirit of witchcraft resting over the place,” Pastor Muthee says.

After the spirit was broken, the crime rate dropped to almost zero and there was “explosive church growth” while almost every bar in the town closed down, the video says.

The full Transformations video featuring Pastor Muthee’s story has recently been removed from YouTube but the rest of the story is detailed in a 1999 article in the Christian Science Monitor, as well as on numerous evangelical websites.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, six months of fervent prayer and research identified the source of the witchcraft as a local woman called Mama Jane, who ran a “divination” centre called the Emmanuel Clinic.

Her alleged involvement in fortune-telling and the fact that she lived near the site of a number of fatal car accidents led Pastor Muthee to publicly declare her a witch responsible for the town’s ills, and order her to offer her up her soul for salvation or leave Kiambu.

Says the Monitor, “Muthee held a crusade that “brought about 200 people to Christ”.” They set up round-the-clock prayer intercession in the basement of a grocery store and eventually, says the pastor “the demonic influence – the ‘principality’ over Kiambu -was broken”, and Mama Jane fled the town.

According to accounts of the witchhunt circulated on evangelical websites such as Prayer Links Ministries, after Pastor Muthee declared Mama Jane a witch, the townspeople became suspicious and began to turn on her, demanding that she be stoned. Public outrage eventually led the police to raid her home, where they fired gunshots, killing a pet python which they believed to be a demon.

After Mama Jane was questioned by police – and released – she decided it was time to leave town, the account says.

Pastor Muthee has frequently referred to this witchhunt in his sermons as an example of the power of “spiritual warfare”. In October 2005, he delivered ten sermons at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the audio of which was available on the church’s website until it was removed around the time Mrs Palin’s candidacy was announced. The blog Irregular Times has listings and screen grabs of the sermons. (Times Online)

(That’s the kind version. For a less generous version, see here).

Pastor Muthee is a favorite at Palin’s Assembly of God church in Wasilla. He has preached there ten times and is scheduled to return later in the month. He is also a favorite of Governor Palin’s. Here’s the clip:

I’ll say this much for the Governor. She’s way, way ahead of a lot of us. Just about everything about that worship service freaks me out. Maybe it’s just because I’m a scientist.

Or maybe it’s just because it’s the 21st century and a potential President who admires a pastor who persecutes witches and who herself reportedly thinks the earth is less than 7000 years old seems a bit, well, dangerous?


  1. #1 Crudely Wrott
    September 21, 2008

    I’d like to see folks like Palin and Muthee, among many others, be required to wear a large button whenever they appear or speak in public. The button would read something like, “For entertainment purposes only. The person wearing this disclaimer should not be assumed to have a solution to any problem or to be able to fulfill any need no matter how great or trite.”

    Given that this would not be “The American Way” then possibly the members of the voting public should voluntarily wear buttons that read, “I do no assume that the candidate of my choice or any other candidate actually possess the ability to answer any question or meet any need that I care about or that might be of importance to the nation and the world at large.”

    Given that this would not be satisfactory to those who invest their allegiance and their dollars in said candidates and would surely arouse every talking head and every lawyer under every rock on the path to personal autonomy, I guess that we, the voters, must assume the risk. And accept the responsibility.

    It is always unfair to heap the lion’s share of blame on hapless politicians when they screw up. Their supporters, their shills and those who bankrolled them must assume a larger share of guilt. I am under no illusion that this will ever be the case yet it is a fascinating line of thought to follow.

  2. #2 g336
    September 21, 2008

    What SP should be wearing isn’t a disclaimer, but a straight jacket.

    Let’s be terribly blunt about this: in order to believe young earth creationism (YEC), you also have to believe that God arranged the fossils to test our faith, that God arranged the astronomical red shift to test our faith, that carbon dating doesn’t really work, etc. etc. etc. This isn’t just *wrong*, it’s downright *nuts,* as in, “ideas of reference,” a key sign of schizophrenia.

    This isn’t about a “religious test for office,” it’s about a basic sanity test for office.

  3. #3 caia
    September 21, 2008

    Wow, they found a woman to blame for all the town’s ills? And she had been an alternate source of spiritual guidance?

    How novel.

    I’m only surprised by two things: they ran her out of town instead of murdering her outright; and they’re so gosh-darn proud of what they did, when anybody who’s taken European or American history should say, heywaitasec…

    I’m also reminded of something Dr. Paul Farmer pointed out in Mountains Beyond Mountains: that the majority of Vodou ceremonies performed in Haiti were performed in response to health problems.

    If he wanted to “free” them from “witchcraft”, perhaps Pastor Muthee should have set up a clinic.

  4. #4 Victoria
    September 21, 2008

    Does the film “Deliverance” ring a bell with you?

    I can just imagine President Palin talking in tongues with heads of State. Imagine a state banquet where there really was a wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    Vote for Palin please! I would be laughing daily for the next four years.

  5. #5 The Eel
    September 21, 2008

    Audio of Bishop Muthee advocating violence…


    “The violent take it by force. People that have spiritual backbones are the ones that are going to advance. They are the ones that will move forward. I thank God for what I see happening in this place. I thank God for the vision, the passion that I can see here. And my word is this: the more violent you become, the more committed you become, the quicker you will see things happen in this region.” – Bishop Muthee

  6. #6 RobT
    September 22, 2008

    For a clear headed analysis of the “Palin threat”, see Sam Harris’s excellent Newsweek article at;


  7. #7 m
    September 22, 2008

    The problem with creationists is that they are fundamentally anti-science. They only accept science when it agrees with their preconceived and strongly held beliefs. Thus, in essence, science and rational thought have no role in their decision making. This is scary. It goes beyond evolutionary biology and geology, and should be a concern to all scientists: chemists or physicists, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal.

  8. #8 john
    December 12, 2008

    I just stumbled upon this page..Is everything wacked out here?
    I zoomed into the “Creationism/evolution” comments first because it is one of my favorite subjects…but I see no evidence on either side…just kneejerk reponses that appear to be peer oriented….but light years shy of evidence….So, I assume this is a very shallow talk place…
    I hope to find someone knowledgable about the subject..
    So, here goes…What to you do with a a “soft tissue T-Rex”?

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