Today's St. Petersburg Times has a letter from Bill Foster. Foster was the outgoing city councilman who wrote a letter to the school board opposing the teaching of modern Evolutionary Biology, or at least, the teaching of modern science without wrapping it in a medieval blanket of Christian Inquisitorial reasoning. Let's have a look at Bills latest letter.
On Jan. 2, I spent my last day as a St. Petersburg city councilman. I was heralded by my colleagues and received a key to the city from the mayor. After almost 10 years of service, I was forced out of office due to term limits. Many nice things were said about me, and I received many cards and letters thanking me for my thoughtful years of service. By Jan. 12, area bloggers declared that I was "an idiot, a has-been, dangerous, a moron, unintelligent, a disappointment, ashamed, not mayor material, not human material, I shouldn't work, shouldn't have a job, shouldn't have friends, etc."
You know, I've checked up a bit on Bill's career. I don't think he's making this up. He seems to have been an active and reasonably well respected member of the council. He is wrong that these negative declarations came from "area bloggers" however. Bloggers from around the nation have been writing about his efforts, and his letter. Bill's letter is only one piece in a drama being played out in Florida as science standards are being questioned by the usual parties in the debate between excellent science education and christian fundamentalists who want their religion forced down the throats of all the children in public schools.
What, Bill asks, could have caused this virtual tar and feathering?
I simply sent a letter to my local school board. As a concerned parent and citizen, am I not entitled to voice an opinion to the very body which I support as a taxpayer? True, I pointed out the deficiencies of Darwin's teachings. Much to the public's chagrin, I even used a few lines from Dr. James Kennedy as I made a connection between Darwin and Hitler. Mind you, I never said "no Darwin, no Hitler." What I did say was that the major assertions of Darwin contributed to the idea that certain people were superior (had greater social value) over others.
Well, Bill, you actually said:
Darwin's theory led to the idea of "Eugenics", ... . Many people in American history and abroad adopted this belief,... This social engineering is at the core of Darwinism - just in fast forward. ... Many Darwinists believe that nature or natural selection could use a little help from man [and] produce a highly gifted race of people. ... [b]y force ... this was the basis for Nazism. Darwin ... helped to eliminate a moral compass in Europe that could have prevented the atrocities of the holocaust. Adolph Hitler duped an entire generation using Darwin's evolution. ... Ultimately, some 11 million people, possible more, were exterminated, all in the attempt to speed up evolution.
Well, you didn't say "no Darwin, no Hitler." What you did say was that Darwinism led to eugenics, and to Hitler, and to the holocaust, and that modern Darwinists are on board with this idea. Hey, Bill, go fuck yourself.
Bill's new letter also says:
One could say that Hitler twisted science and Darwinism to justify his abuse of religion. Darwinism appeared to support Hitler's disdain for the "unfit," so he twisted Darwinism to fit his case...
Bill! Correct! Hitler, a very twisted guy, twisted Darwinism. That is a gross oversimplification of what really happened, but it is closer to the truth. We Darwinists are really pissed at Hitler for all the same reasons everyone else is, plus this! OK, BIll, I'm sorry I told you to go fuck yourself. Maybe you are not such a bad guy after all.
So, let's see what else is in the letter.
Both ideologies devalue human life, and make the "fittest" superior over the weak. In my opinion, there is an undeniable correlation.
Ah, Bill, I think you are going to have to go back to fucking yourself again. Listen, in one way, it is possible to say that Darwinism (or Evolutionary Biology, or whatever) is mute on the value of human life, and says nothing more about human life than, say, chemistry or engineering. These are fields of study and not ethical positions. But you clearly imply that we Evolutionary Biologists do not value human life. No, this is not true. We evolutionary biologists are generally good people. Most people might even say we are a notch above politicians when it comes to valuing things like human life. We very rarely start wars or advocate torture, for instance. So, Bill, I feel deeply insulted, and you've insulted many of my friends, my wife, lots of people I respect. He Bill, go fuck yourself (GFY).
OK, back to the letter.
What is also undeniable is that there is growing dissent in the scientific community, and there are literally hundreds of leading experts in a multitude of scientific disciplines who are "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."
This is simply not true, Bill. You've been drinking the Kool Ade of the Creation Scientists. You're kind of a moron, Bill.
I do not want a public school teacher teaching religion in the public school. This would be a clear violation of the First Amendment. In addition, faith and religion are not science, and therefore should not be taught in a science classroom.
Bill! You're brilliant! I'm glad you think that! You agree with the nation's top educators, the nation's top lawyers and legal experts! I'm impressed. You are absolutely correct.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of your letter says...
However, there are other school venues where a tolerance of alternative theories is appropriate, and where a dialogue on these theories should be allowed. Social studies comes to mind. ...Present the fact that as we speak, there are millions of people who believe in Creationism and an Almighty God.
Oh, man, Bill, Bill, Bill. What are you talking about here? You want to set up a scenario where you've got Life Science Teachers in one room trying their best to teach excellent science, and in the other room you have organized criticism ... what you call "alternative theories" ... which constitutes nothing more than an attempt to replace Evolutionary Biology with a particular subset of the Christian world view? Give me a break, man. In fact, GFY!
Persecution or public shame for an opposing viewpoint is dangerous. Stifling debate is dangerous. Unchecked ideology, whether scientific, political or religious,is dangerous. This is America, people. Sure, I touched a nerve, but I appreciate healthy debate, and I truly respect opposing viewpoints.
Bill. You could have invented the Wedge Strategy had it not already been invented.
The letter ends with this tag-on from the editors:
Bill Foster is considering running for mayor of St. Petersburg in 2009.
Good luck with that, man.
Bill Foster's Letter to the Schoolboard can be found transcribed here.
Bill! Correct! Hitler, a very twisted guy, twisted Darwinism.
Greg, I think you missed a very big opportunity in your follow up to this. I really think that Bill Foster deserves a "Bill, you're a very twisted fellow too, the way you try to twist modern evolutionary theory into a social ideology!"
Indeed, the most important mistake Bill makes is calling evolution an ideology in the first place. He, and everyone else who does that, needs to be called on it and made to explain if he also thinks that the theory of gravitation is normative and that people who believe in it refuse to step into airplanes or elevators.
I think Foster is being disingenuous in his penultimate paragraph--I suspect he would throw a fit if a kid brought a Bible into social studies class and used it to support some viewpoint and the teacher responded by informing the kid that that section of the Bible was written hundreds of years later than the kid claims. Or if the kid tried to use it in social studies class to argue in favor of Creationism only to have the teacher explain that the Bible is not an accurate source for the Creationist contentions.