Pharyngula

Never mind

Warren Chisum, the Texas legislator who peddled an anti-evolution memo, has, well, ummm, finally read what he was trying to legislate.

On Tuesday, the Pampa Republican distributed a memo written by Georgia GOP Rep. Ben Bridges to Texas House members’ mailboxes. The memo advocated that schools stop teaching evolution and contained links to a Web site that warns of international Jewish conspiracies. It also directed readers to the group that created the Web site ? the Atlanta-area Fair Education Foundation.

Mr. Chisum said he hadn’t looked at the Web site and didn’t realize that he was distributing that type of material. He expressed chagrin that he didn’t vet the material more carefully.

He said he believes creation and evolution should both be taught in schools, and he separated himself from what he called "goofy stuff" on the Web site.

There was "non-goofy stuff" at Fixed Earth? He can’t simultaneously separate himself from the "goofy stuff" and be advocating goofy creationism.

It adds another interesting data point to those at Dover and Kansas: the people on the political side who are pushing the various flavors of creationism on schools rarely seem to have actually read the material they say is so important for school kids to know.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 16, 2007

    Maybe next he’ll reference to the time cube guy.

  2. #2 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    February 16, 2007

    In simpler words, Warren Chisum has been pwned.

  3. #3 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    February 16, 2007

    Oh, and one other thing:

    Mr. Chisum said all he thought he was doing was “a Good Samaritan” deed for a fellow legislator.

    “If that’s a sin, well, shoot me.”

    Is that a wise thing to say … in Texas?

  4. #4 daenku32
    February 16, 2007

    Reading? That is a purely atheistic, humanistic, and materialistic (perhaps even communistic) practice. True Believers pray, or listen to their gut (with a hat tip to Colbert).

  5. #5 BlueIndependent
    February 16, 2007

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I behaved this way when I was in 4th grade I’d have flunked my way not just through school, but through life. It blows me away how these people are somehow allowed to carry on through life completely irreverent toward even the most basic accademic practice as reading. How do they get away with not doing something that, if I had done the same, would’ve gotten me an F on a paper at age 9?

    It is absolutely true this is the most uneducated Congress in our history, and it shows.

  6. #6 April
    February 16, 2007

    “I didn’t read it!”

    Interesting…saw a bit of that in “Flock of Dodos” last night, as well.

  7. #7 Richard Harris
    February 16, 2007

    I’ve become concerned about the possibility that Creationists, being well organized thru their churches & websites, are attempting to subvert science by encouraging clever young believers in gaining membership of scientific bodies. I have seen some evidence for this.

    My experience in arguing with Andrew Halloway of ‘The Delusion of Evolution’ (& the Elim church) is that he has a significant resource at his disposal to counter ‘Darwinist’ claims, i.e. the claims of mainstream biology.

    So, I suspect that people with Creationist beliefs & PhDs in scientific disciplines are well aware of what they’re doing. They do not have equivalent beliefs in magic & science that they compartmentalize. They are trying to subvert Science. You might argue that Science is too well-structured to fall to their assaults. Science in academe, engineering, & medicine itself will be able to resist this, but Science in the media might not. If this becomes the case, then the Creationists will exploit it politically. Look at the appalling way the media in the UK treated the ‘MMR vaccine causes autism’ nonsense. The media seems to have a policy of giving both sides equal weight, even when one side is barking mad, or not well-supported by evidence.

    We need to be able to fight back. My personal attempts to argue with people like Halloway & the nutty professor, Andy McIntosh (of ‘Truth in Science’ & Leeds U), fail to change their minds. They are pursuing a campaign of obfuscation.

    Andy McIntosh wrote me, “You are right that many creationists do indeed have good scientific training and this is by no means surprising. The reason is that the science fits extremely well with the notion of design and does not fit with some fanciful stories of creatures making themselves. …” & “… If any philosophy is true on origins it clearly cannot be a private matter, since it affects us all. …” I take the latter to mean that he & his Xian cohorts would like to impose their superstitious beliefs on us all.

    I believe that the next stage in their campaign is to persuade the media that they’ve got a degree of scientific integrity & support that they do not have. They will then try to use the media to influence public policy.

    Perhaps the only way to combat this is through national science bodies, in the USA, Canada, & UK? And anywhere else where these scumbags are active.

    Richard.

  8. #8 gregor
    February 16, 2007

    Blue – It was not Congress, Chisum is a representative in the state house in Austin. It still does not reflect well on elected representatives.

  9. #9 David Livesay
    February 16, 2007

    Well, I’m probably going to get pummeled for this, but here goes.

    I believe that introductory biology should be taught from a historical perspective, and under that framework, you would have to teach creationism, but you would teach is as a preanalytic theory, i.e. an idea that is like a theory, in that it served as an explanatory framework, but it was based on pre-existing assumptions derived from folklore, mythology and religion rather than evidence.

    To be fair, you have to say that creationism served science fairly well in this role. It enabled naturalists to do a lot of important scientific work, much of which is still useful today. The belief that organisms were designed by a creator enabled naturalists to elucidate taxonomic relationships that still hold today, even though the underlying assumption turned out to be completely false.

    The value in this approach is that it doesn’t attempt to hide or denigrate creationist ideas. It shows them for what they are: old theories, which had enormous explanatory power for a long time, but which have been thoroughly examined, tested and discarded. This, to me, is real balanced treatment. It gives creationism its due, but it doesn’t do what latter-day creationsts want, which is to put their thumb on the scale and represent it as something it no longer is.

    I think this teaches an important lesson about theories in general, and that is that, no matter how self-evident something may seem, or how well it helps us organize our observations, it can still turn out to be completely wrong on further examination. The same is true of Natural Selection. Someday it might be overturned or refined, but it won’t be replaced by creationism, because one thing that never happens in science is the replacement of a theory by its predecessor.

  10. #10 George
    February 16, 2007

    Mr. Chisum said he hadn’t looked at the Web site and didn’t realize that he was distributing that type of material.

    Yeah, right. He spends all his Internet funtime at sites like that.

  11. #11 Fatboy
    February 16, 2007

    I still don’t think Chisum gets any pass at all. Maybe in his full apology he said things that didn’t get quoted in the article, but all he apologizes for in the article is the anti-semitism of the site, not the disconnect with reality, and only because the Anti-Defamation League made a stink about it.

  12. #12 dkew
    February 16, 2007

    Livesay:
    Biology IS usually taught from a historical perspective, and if traditional Biblical creationism is omitted, it’s to avoid directly confronting the nutters who still believe in it, and because there is so much real science to cover, and because it has no more validity than the myths of other cultures. Twentieth & twenty-first century Creationism, under its various names, is something else: it is consciously crafted to deny the facts of geology, biology, chemistry, physics and archaeology, etc. Its believers need the certainty of ancient texts for some reasons, but there is no reason to pay the recent versions any attention in a science class. It would be most usefully studied in classes on politics and psychology.

  13. #13 Steve LaBonne
    February 16, 2007

    David- what makes you think there aren’t quite a few biology courses already that teach the historical background of evolution in much that way? Just as it’s not at all uncommon for, say, developmental biology textooks to mention prescientific theoris like peformationism. Your apparent idea that you’re bucking some kind of huge resistance on this is, to say the least, a bit overblown.

  14. #14 George
    February 16, 2007

    Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman!”

    Chisum: “I did not go to that Web site!”

    Fess up, Warren. You’re a homophobe, oppose sex education, oppose hate crime legislation, and have twice been voted Texas’ worst lawmaker (by Texas Monthly).

    Not wise to piss off your supporters by dissing their web sites.

  15. #15 MarkG
    February 16, 2007

    First thing I thought of when I saw the Fixed Earth site was Gene Ray (of Time Cube fame), the only person to make the UcD IDiots look sane.

  16. #16 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    February 16, 2007

    Just as it’s not at all uncommon for, say, developmental biology textooks to mention prescientific theoris like peformationism.

    I’d say that covering the history of your science (including old no-longer-accepted ideas) is actually fairly common in the sciences. We certainly do that in chemistry.

    Of course, we have it easy in chemistry. No student complains when we say that there are more than four elements, or that oxygen (not phlogiston) is involved in combustion.

    But say that creationism is washed up and no longer scientifically credible, and they’ll call for your head on a platter. :)

  17. #17 David Livesay
    February 16, 2007

    Biology IS usually taught from a historical perspective

    If that’s true then I’m certainly glad to hear it. All the textbooks that were available when I was teaching used variants of the “molecules to man” approach, where the first chapter was all about chemistry, which completely baffled and turned off most of the students. What little historical background they did present was more the stuff of legend than actual historical scholarship.

    Your comment that biblical creationism has “no more validity than the myths of other cultures” kind of misses the point. I don’t think any of those other cultures contributed in any significant way to modern biology. I’m not talking about teaching a survey of alternative theories of biology, just the intellectual history of what we now call biology.

  18. #18 Chris Bell
    February 16, 2007

    Some biology classes go overboard in teaching “historic” creationism.

    My high school biology unit consisted of my teacher reading Genesis. I kid you not. I was only a 9th grader who was bumped up into a class of Seniors and Juniors, so I kept my mouth shut most of the time.

    Lord, the fit I would throw if I knew then what I know now….

  19. #19 SEF
    February 16, 2007

    It adds another interesting data point to those at Dover and Kansas: the people on the political side who are pushing the various flavors of creationism on schools rarely seem to have actually read the material they say is so important for school kids to know.

    i.e.: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/05/the_dog_ate_my.html

    each witness in turn was forced to fess up … that they too hadn’t bothered to read the majority draft before giving their testimony. This despite the fact that each had earlier testified … that the minority draft was superior to the pro-science majority draft.

    Even when they’re allegedly literate, it seems they’re the kind who can’t be bothered to use that talent properly.

  20. #20 Rey Fox
    February 16, 2007

    Blue: In most state legislatures, only a third grade education is required.

  21. #21 Beren
    February 16, 2007

    I can’t say I’m surprised. But then, I have a bitter rant about politicians specially prepared for such times ;p

    His job, in terms of the criteria that determine whether he gets to keep it, is to please as many people as possible. Our culture isn’t really set up so that a politician has to be thoughtful, rational, and consistent in order to please people. He just needs to get in the right sound bytes, and make sure the high profile laws he supports are crowd pleasers. We just sort of shrug and forgive them when they piss a lot of people off and then formally apologize. “These things happen” is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in this case… (:

    I’m all for elections, mind. I judge it the best system we’ve yet invented. I just wish there was a more objective way to tell (and convince people!) that a given leader is a good choice.

  22. #22 Ed Darrell
    February 16, 2007

    The bigger issue is that it is crank science. It’s telling that Chisum volunteers to apologize to any Jews who were offended, but he doesn’t volunteer to correct the errors or pull the memorandum.

    By the way, the Atlanta Constitution now reports the Georgia guy didn’t know the thing had gone out, didn’t write it, and may not fully approve.

    God made the monkey. That was for practice. Then He made creationists. (Apologies to Mark Twain, and to all monkeys everywhere.)

  23. #23 Noah
    February 16, 2007

    The claim that evolutionary theory comes from Pharisee cosmology is new to me. I do not find it in the talkorigins.org Index to Creationist Claims. Does anyone know more about it? Did the Fixed Earth website make it up, or did they get it from somewhere else? Is it specially connected to geocentrism somehow?

  24. #24 Blake Stacey
    February 16, 2007

    AFAIK, the “Pharisee” bit is original to the Fixed Earth folks.

  25. #25 Matt Ray
    February 16, 2007

    Fixed Earth is astoundingly wierd. I’ve read a lot of bizarre claims about science since I started frequenting this blog and Orac. But, man… that’s just crazy talk. Why do conspiracy theorists imagine that many people can work together for vast amounts of time on hugely complex schemes? Do these people really think mathematicians, physicists, biologist and astronomers have spent centuries just trying to subvert a few lines in the Bible?

  26. #26 Evolving Squid
    February 16, 2007

    God made the monkey. That was for practice. Then He made creationists. (Apologies to Mark Twain, and to all monkeys everywhere.)

    You sure you got those the right way around? I’d bet the creationists were for practice :)

  27. #27 Steve Watson
    February 16, 2007

    AFAIK, the “Pharisee” bit is original to the Fixed Earth folks.

    Sounds like a gimmick to be able to hold one’s antisemitism without dissing Jesus (since the Gospels conveniently portray the Pharisees as his main opponents).

  28. #28 Grumpy
    February 16, 2007

    So Chisum “believes creation and evolution should both be taught in schools”? Not good, but better than Rep. Bridges, as TalkingPointsMemo reports:

    Asked if he agreed with the Kaballah evolution conspiracy theory and the earth’s lack of motion, he [Bridges] told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory. I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie why teach anything?”

  29. #29 CJColucci
    February 16, 2007

    In a better world than this one, David Livesay’s approach would make pefect sense, and I’d be happy to attend, or send my kids (if I had any) to such a class. But do we really have in K-12 science teachers with the chops to do this right and administrators with the, well, other endowments, to back them up?

  30. #30 David Harmon
    February 16, 2007

    To simplify David Livesay’s comment: Creationism should be taught in the same lesson as Ptolemic geocentrism, if not flat-earth theory.

    The real problem here is that even our leaders have gotten the idea that actually knowing about anything is completely irrelevent to success.

  31. #31 fardels bear
    February 16, 2007

    You know, one interesting aspect of teaching the history of evolutionary biology would be the opportunity to point out that Darwin’s creationist predecessors were NOT Young Earth Creationists. The natural theologians like Paley did not argue that the creation account in Genesis was literally true.

    Even William Jennings Bryan did not argue that the earth was created in 6 days, he thought that was a stupid idea. The entire apparatus of Young Earth Creationism dates back to 1923 and the writings of George McCready Price, whose ideas were basically plagiarized by Henry Morris in the 1960s and 1970s.

    In other words, lets not let the creationists claim any of Darwin’s religious or scientific opponents in the 19th century since they don’t really deserve to.

  32. #32 The Local Crank
    February 17, 2007

    If you thought this was good, you should have seen ol’ Warren a few years debating his bill to extend the Texas sodomy law to straight couples. What many of you yankees may not know, however, is that under the Texas constitution, the Legislature is required to appoint an Official State Laughingstock to represent as many negative stereotypes as possible of Texans as ignorant, inbred, gun-lusting fascist morons who are too dumb to tell fetch from sic ‘em. Since the previous holder of this prestigious office has moved on to another position in Washington, DC, Rep. Chisum was kind enough to step forward and stand up for his state. We salute him.

  33. #33 llewelly
    February 17, 2007

    … the Legislature is required to appoint an Official State Laughingstock to represent as many negative stereotypes as possible of Texans as ignorant, inbred, gun-lusting fascist morons who are too dumb to tell fetch from sic ‘em.

    Dude. The previous holder of that office wasn’t even from Texas!

  34. #34 Graculus
    February 17, 2007

    The belief that organisms were designed by a creator enabled naturalists to elucidate taxonomic relationships that still hold today, even though the underlying assumption turned out to be completely false.

    Actually, no. If each species had been individually created then there is no reason to expect taxonomic relationships. In fact, Linnaeus rejected fixity of species because of his taxonomic work.

  35. #35 The Local Crank
    February 17, 2007

    “Dude. The previous holder of that office wasn’t even from Texas!”

    The gentleman’s point is well-taken. As currently written, the Texas Constitution does not require the Official Laughingstock to be a native-born Texan. He can even be from *shudder* Connecticut. We can only hope that Rep. Chisum can find the time in his busy schedule of trying to repeal the Enlightenment to propose a constitutional amendment. After all, there is no shortage of Laughingstocks who were actually BORN here (and most are already conveniently in the Legislature, the courts or the Governor’s Mansion); why do we need to import yankees? It’s just another example of unfair foreign competition destroying American jobs. Ross Perot was right all along.

  36. #36 David Livesay
    February 17, 2007

    Actually, no. If each species had been individually created then there is no reason to expect taxonomic relationships.

    Sure there is. Similarity of design reflects similar ideas in the mind of the creator. Agassiz elaborated this theme ad nauseam. Linnaeus’s rejection of fixity of species was based on the idea of variation and hybridization among originally created types, which he saw as more or less continuous but not unlimited in scope. Don’t mistake him for an evolutionist.

  37. #37 csrster
    February 19, 2007

    The claim that the Big Bang and Evolution come from kabbalh and judaism may well originate with this sort of thing:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Genesis-Big-Bang-Gerald-Schroeder/dp/0553354132/sr=8-4/qid=1171881678/ref=sr_1_4/203-3808349-3462361?ie=UTF8&s=books

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