This is All Dawkins’s Fault!

My friends, there are certian times in your life when you are simply forced by events to reevaluate everything you believe and hold dear. For me, now is such a time. I have argued at length that the aggressive tone of the anti-religion books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens does not hurt the cause of promoting good science education. That position is no longer tenable, in light of events coming out of Sedalia, Missouri:

The shirts, which were designed to promote the band’s fall program, are light gray and feature an image of a monkey progressing through stages and eventually emerging as a man. Each figure holds a brass instrument. Several instruments decorate the background and the words “Smith-Cotton High School Tiger Pride Marching Band” and “Brass Evolutions 2009” are emblazoned above and below the image.

Assistant Band Director Brian Kloppenburg said the shirts were designed by him, Band Director Jordan Summers and Main Street Logo. Kloppenburg said the shirts were intended to portray how brass instruments have evolved in music from the 1960s to modern day. Summers said they chose the evolution of man because it was “recognizable.” The playlist of songs the band is slated to perform revolve around the theme “Brass Evolutions.”

The band debuted the T-shirts when it marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. Summers said he was surprised when he received a direct complaint after the parade.

While the shirts don’t directly violate the district’s dress code, Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt said complaints by parents made him take action.

“I made the decision to have the band members turn the shirts in after several concerned parents brought the shirts to my attention,” Pollitt said.

Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned.

“If the shirts had said ‘Brass Resurrections’ and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing,” he said.

Band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district, stands behind Pollitt’s decision. Melby said she associated the image on the T-shirt with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

Oh, sure, the usual suspects look at this and see a story about scientific ignorance and excessive religious influence in public education. Here’s P. Z. Myers stamping his little feet and Jerry Coyne huffing and puffing. ERV added some bashing of her own, as did Orac in this post.

Give it up, guys. Just give it up. When the facts are so unambiguous long-held dogmas simply must be let go. Is it even conceivable that you can read this article and fail to see how this is all Dawkins’s fault?

Those poor people in Sedalia, MO. Just minding their own business, maintaining a respectful distance between church and state, not wasting much emotional energy on the minutiae of modern scientific theories. Until that day a few of them strolled down to the local bookstore and noticed a copy of The God Delusion on the front kiosk. They could hardly miss it, what with its shiny silver cover calling to them like Homer’s sirens. Curious, a few opened the book and scanned some pages. And then they were gone….

Pandora had nothing on the horrors that were unleashed. The seeds that came to fruition in the great band shirt scandal were planted by Dawkins himself the moment he used the word, “faith-head.” How could the townspeople not recognize the obvious syllogism: Richard Dawkins is an atheist. Richard Dawkins defends evolution. Therefore we must summon forth the sort of single-minded humorlessness that leads us to get bent out of shape over a freakin’ band T-shirt, so as to oppose this massive atheist assault on our schools.

The parents filing the complaints are victims just as surely as the band members deprived of their shirts. Once that is recognized, the proper strategy becomes obvious. First, don’t criticize them! It only makes them angry and turns off moderates. Second, if you tend to agree that evolution poses challenges to certain common forms of religious belief, then sit quietly and do nothing. You will hurt the cause simply by showing up.

Third, let the theistic evolutionists go down to Sedalia and undue the damage wrought by Dawkins and his militant ilk. They are the perfect ones to do it, seeing as how they know best how to talk to their fellow religionists. I’m sure the band shirt complainers will be very receptive to talk of process theology, or to hearing that they can not understand the Bible without the help of scientists and academic theologians, or to the idea that the model of “God as creator” is totally passe and unsophisticated. As for Dawkins, c’mon, the man didn’t even present Aquinas’s third argument correctly. How can you listen to anything he says?

That ought to do it.

For myself, having been proved wrong so conclusively I will have to retreat for a while and ponder my situation. All the time I have wasted thinking that the problem had something to do with society’s excessive deference to religious belief, or to the respect granted to reading the Bible for reasons other than its historical and literary value, or to the idea that there is something inherently admirable in strong religious faith that is worth preserving despite its receding relevance in modern life, it pains me to think of it. I was blind but now I see.

Damn you Dawkins! Go down to Sedalia and explain to the students why they can not have their band T-shirts. Go see for yourself the casualties in that foolish war you started between science and religion. Ruminate on how much better things were before you wrote your book, when science and religion existed peacefully side by side and asinine brou ha ha’s like this never happened. Then hang your head in shame and think real carefully about the harm you have done. Villain!


  1. #1 ERV
    August 30, 2009

    My mom called some friends who teach in Sedalia– While Dawkins not Civil(TM) had a hand in this incident, she said the majority of the anti-science sentiment in the school was caused by PZ desecrating a cracker. Oh, and because one time I said ‘fuck’ on my blog.

    There is blood on the hands of every New Atheist.


  2. #2 Cath the Canberra Cook
    August 30, 2009

    Won: one (1) internets. I lolled.

  3. #3 Matthew Platte
    August 30, 2009

    militant ilk

    It rolls off the tongue like warm chocolate syrup, doesn’t it?

  4. #4 Jim
    August 30, 2009

    Ok, this is much better than my post. Very funny.

  5. #5 Physicalist
    August 30, 2009

    Heh. Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

  6. #6 Pierce R. Butler
    August 30, 2009

    … the band members deprived of their shirts.

    A topless marching band will probably triple attendance at Sedalia high school football games, but it’s going to be tough on the performers, especially over the winter.

    Let’s pray that Dawkins doesn’t hog all the sackcloth ‘n’ ashes!

  7. #7 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 30, 2009

    According to Google Analytics, I once had a visitor from Sedalia, so I must shoulder part of the blame. I fear I shall never again play trumpet without trembling in shame.

  8. #8 The Science Pundit
    August 30, 2009


    If you and Dawkins had only seen the accomodationists’ light earlier, none of this would have ever happened. Shame!

  9. #9 Michael
    August 30, 2009


  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    August 31, 2009

    I’m pretty sure Dawkins went back in time and caused the Scopes Trial too.

  11. #11 John Pieret
    August 31, 2009

    That is very funny.

    But why did you leave out this part of the story:

    Parent Alena Hoeffling said she is infuriated with administration’s decision to pull the attire.

    “Whatever happened to the separation of church and state,” she said.

    Hoeffling said she is both a scientific person and a practicing Catholic and enjoyed the “play on words.”

    “I thought it was funny,” she said. “I didn’t think much of it.”

    However, the T-shirt’s imagery became a hot topic at a recent TIMPO (band booster) meeting. Hoeffling said that’s where she learned the evolution T-shirts were causing a stir.

    “Parents were informed the shirts had to be turned in,” Hoeffling said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
    Hoeffling said she enrolled her children in public school so they could have choices.

    “If I wanted my children to be sheltered, I would have enrolled them in private school,” she said.

    It sounds like the “moderates” are already there … perhaps not as knowledgeable as we’d like … but then we might also be able to do a better job on that end.

  12. #12 HoleyHands
    August 31, 2009

    Enroll now for the fall session:
    Atheist Accommodationist 101

  13. #13 Joel
    August 31, 2009

    No, that’s not it at all! It’s my fault – I have managed to get my hands on a copy of Dawkins’ new book, and have been sighted reading it. Clearly that’s what’s caused the problems in Sedalia.

    Sorry, everyone 🙁

  14. #14 beebeeo
    August 31, 2009

    For a moment you really had me. I thought you were dead serious. Now that I got it though, I do think it is funny.

  15. #15 Sigmund
    August 31, 2009

    I think this sort of baseless attack on Dawkins is beneath you Jason.
    What ever next? Claiming he was born in Kenya?

  16. #16 eric
    August 31, 2009

    Amusing post.
    Censorship like this tends to be self-defeating. Its probably just a matter of time before some enterprising student realizes that “this shirt ticks off parents” can be converted into $$. I expect to see a private print run soon. Maybe with the word BANNED BY THE SCHOOL in big red letters on top of the original design.

  17. #17 ObSciGuy
    August 31, 2009

    [To Dawkins] Go see for yourself the casualties in that foolish war you started between science and religion.

    Seriously? I agree some of the behavior you mention can be very counter productive but trying to point a finger at Dawkins for the administrative blunder made over in Sedalia [let alone the “war… between science and religion”] is all quite a stretch!

    The irony? This very post injects Dawkins persona into these matters… so you yourself aren’t really helping by taking part in this kind of finger pointing.

  18. #18 Divalent
    August 31, 2009

    And you owe Mooney and Kirshenbaum a huge apology. They tried to warn us that these sorts of things would begin to happen, and they were *so* right.

  19. #19 pough
    August 31, 2009



  20. #20 Blake Stacey
    August 31, 2009




  21. #21 pough
    August 31, 2009

    As a matter of fact, yes, I was seriously asking if he was asking the question “seriously?” seriously.

  22. #22 Rachel
    August 31, 2009

    My daughter is a senior in the band and is refusing to turn in her shirt, facing administrative punishment. My husband and I stand behind her 100%. While I think it isn’t funny how ignorant the school teaching my daughter seems…. I am printing all these blogs and articles for her scrapbook and getting a good chuckle. 🙂

  23. #23 qbsmd
    August 31, 2009

    As a matter of fact, yes, I was seriously asking if he was asking the question “seriously?” seriously.

    Posted by: pough

    I think he was echoing you, not meta-questioning you, but if you disagree, your response should have been




    Seriously?< \i>< \b>

  24. #24 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 31, 2009

    Rachel –

    Thanks for the comment. Your daughter is very courageous, and she is lucky to have such supportive parents. It’s always distressing to be reminded that it only takes a handful of extremists to cause trouble for everyone else.

  25. #25 (not really) Dawkypoo
    August 31, 2009


    I am Dawkypoo!

  26. #26 Blake Stacey
    August 31, 2009



    Also, I don’t often get the chance to use nested blockquotes.

  27. #27 Interrobang
    August 31, 2009

    Blake, the fact that you are happy about getting the opportunity to use nested blockquotes warms the cockles of my twisted little heart. My lack of hat is off to you, sir. And my attire is dutifully pulled in solidarity with the high school band, even though I was a high school chorister…

  28. #28 bmkmd
    August 31, 2009


    Whether you are serious or joking around, Dawkins (we) could/would help the cause by being serious about the difference between his views about science and reality vs. his veiws about whether or not the acceptance/believe in God is teneble. We need to be clear which hat we are wearing.
    If he/we can’t and won’t keep those seperate, how can we expect these folks to.
    Hopefully they will redo the T-Shirts with pictures of evolving brass instruments and no primates.

  29. #29 Douglas Watts
    August 31, 2009

    To be fair, fig wasps should share some of the blame.

  30. #30 Satcomguy
    August 31, 2009

    Excellent post, Jason. I love the way you write!

    I echo Jason’s sentiment: your daughter is very brave (and it seems that her parents must have done something right!)! Well done!


  31. #31 mewol
    August 31, 2009

    Hopefully they will redo the T-Shirts with pictures of evolving brass instruments and no primates.

    Brass instruments don’t actually evolve, you know.

    Primates, on the other hand, do.

  32. #32 Tim H
    August 31, 2009

    Brass instruments don’t actually evolve, you know.

    Which is why they are inherently inferior to woodwinds, which do. I personally played many examples of the single reed clade.

    (Just had to add “clade” to the Firefox dictionary. WTF.)

  33. #33 Wehaf
    August 31, 2009

    Rachel – good for her, and you. If the band fees were paid up front, the school probably doesn’t have a leg to stand on in trying to punish her.

  34. #34 RBH
    August 31, 2009

    mewol wrote

    Brass instruments don’t actually evolve, you know.
    Primates, on the other hand, do.

    In fact, Ilya Temkin and Niles Eldredge did a phylogenetic analysis of the evolution of the cornet. See here (pdf).

  35. #35 RBH
    August 31, 2009

    Oh, and good for Rachel’s daughter and her parents!

  36. #36 VVS-Hedestoker
    August 31, 2009

    Really enjoyed this. Thanks a lot.

  37. #37 articulett
    August 31, 2009

    Great, now you’ve gone and done it…

    Next they’ll be banning soap from the bathrooms at the school in opposition of germ theory.

  38. #38 Dr. C.
    August 31, 2009

    Gee, too bad you all don’t have old John Scopes to kick around anymore. I can’t figure out if this piece is tragedy or farce. (BTW, the prosecution in Dayton in 1925 had a Boy Named Sue, i.e. Sue K. Hicks).

  39. #39 Erbil
    August 31, 2009

    It sounds like the “moderates” are already there … perhaps not as knowledgeable as we’d like … but then we might also be able to do a better job on that end.
    I agree

    Thank you to the article author !

  40. #40 Emlyn
    September 1, 2009

    Is this satire? Band loses some t-shirts, so what? Meanwhile, a whole lot of kids get a first hand lesson of the stupidity that comes from fundamentalism. I think it’s great.

    Comparing natural selection to creationism is like comparing modern biology to elan vital. Just bloody wrong. Good on Dawkins for standing up to this crap.

  41. #41 gsw
    September 1, 2009

    Now who was it wrote that lovely sci-fi when the world was younger – all about a small walled town where the crazy people lived.

    At the end of the story, you realise that they have walled themselves in ‘cos actually the world has gone crazy.

    Sometimes, I think I shall try to find that place – and then I read such blogs and realise that I am not alone.

  42. #42 windy
    September 1, 2009

    Whether you are serious or joking around, Dawkins (we) could/would help the cause by being serious about the difference between his views about science and reality vs. his veiws about whether or not the acceptance/believe in God is teneble.

    His view (and not just his) is that God is not part of reality, and that belief in such things is not reasonably tenable. Where’s the difference that we should be serious about?

  43. #43 Kevin (NYC)
    September 1, 2009

    I wonder if these students can be saved.

    Once you wear an evolution t-shirt, you are RUINED in good society. I expect they will all be sleeping under bridges and eating out of garbage cans within the year.

    Sad, really, seriously sad what this Dawkins madman has wrought.

  44. #44 hall monitor
    September 2, 2009

    This story made ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

    The evolution debate is getting heated right now!

  45. #45 Brad
    September 2, 2009

    Hey Mizzery numbnuts, got a message from my friend:

  46. #46 nighthawk808
    September 3, 2009

    If evolution is a religious concept now, then so is gravity, because gravity says that angels can’t fly. The solution is obvious: stop teaching physics. Oh, and math says that 666 means, well, nothing special. It’s not even prime. We should stop teaching math, too. And since the Big Dude created the world as-is, we can’t talk about plate tectonics and the other myriad forces that shape our planet every day. So geology is out. We should also close the architecture schools, because you know how pissed God got about that whole Tower of Babel thing, which means any person that works on designing skyscrapers is a sinner. And after that tower debacle, since God gave us all different languages to prevent us from ever designing anything like that again, we should also get rid of linguistics courses (and the foreign language requirement for high school and college students). Computer scientists are double sinners, because not only do some of them work on language translation systems, they also use the Internet, which brings together people from all over the world regardless of language or country, which is against God’s divine plan (and some of those other countries have the gall not to believe in the same god, too!). And damn the electrical engineers for designing the hardware the computer scientists use–although we’ve killed three birds with one stone by getting rid of teaching math, because without math, there are no engineers or computer scientists anyway. Yay for us.

    Let’s just say screw it all and ban the teaching, discussing, or even thinking about any -ology that doesn’t start with theo-. That will solve all our problems. We can all live as one big, happy, totally ignorant family. Who needs modern medicine and electricity and plumbing anyway?

    I’ve got to hand it to the believers in the Big Invisible Man in the Sky: they took a concept (evolution) that has nothing WHATSOEVER to do with religion and managed to make it practically synonymous with anti-religion.

  47. #47 Sara
    September 3, 2009

    Oh, I too, must apologise for spreading the new atheist hatred and alienating our moderate friends. If only we’d heeded Mooney’s warnings!

    (prize: internates, one (1). I lolled so hard *bookmarks* The whole debacle was like an Onion article to start with; this was the only response it deserved)

  48. #48 Kids Football Shirt
    September 6, 2009

    I agree some of the behavior you mention can be very counter productive but trying to point a finger at Dawkins for the administrative blunder made over in Sedalia.

  49. #49 Download
    September 7, 2009

    Full archives

  50. #50 Innocent of all charges
    September 8, 2009

    Where’s the ACLU? My right have been violated…
    1. We now must produce a whole new set of shirts with no evolution icon.
    2. We have received international exposure?
    3. Will be reprinting and selling shirts to who wants them. (and some other items we of course hope are liked, with part of the profit going to the band, if they accept)
    Just to many requests, so does that make us users, scandalous, opportunists, or just good business owners?
    4. Getting emails from all over the world wanting shirts.
    5. Exposure that we certainly could not afford…

    Ahhhhh on second thought, we pass on the lawyer part…ha

    Since a lot of us in Sedalia are now considered Hayseeds. I passed on to the band direct the following. Band uniforms are very, very expensive. You’ve made the news…go with it.
    The bands new uniforms should be bib overalls long sleeve shirts, or no shirt..(depends) and a broken down straw hat.
    Then they would probably even get invited to the Rose Bowl parade….
    Hope your laughing…it was the result I was seeking….

  51. #51 DuWayne
    September 17, 2009

    This whole issue really makes me miss Portland (OR). Trimet, the public trans authority actually put out an advert that showed the same progression, except at the end it’s a person putting a bike on a bus rack. I had a sticker of this on my last laptop. No controversy, no one with a loud enough voice annoyed about it, in spite of it appearing in several places – including buses, trains, ticket vendors and on some of their banners.

    Of course that is the same town in which I once watched a girl – couldn’t have been older than eight or possibly nine – arguing with a street preacher about evolution. Apparently she hadn’t gotten the memo about the new atheists turning people off to science. She didn’t seem to object to the notion of a god/s persay, just the idea of one who would refuse to prove itself real and play “Gothcha!!” games when people didn’t buy it. When she got bored with that, she played chase with my eldest for a while…

    Hmmm…I really can’t wait to transfer to a school out there…

  52. #52 Kids Football Shirt
    September 29, 2009

    what a lovely group hope it goes a long way .tanks for the post…

  53. #53 Iliana Darrington
    July 23, 2012

    this is ridiculous! you you should not truly believe this, do you?

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