Phineas Taylor Barnum would be green with envy. The master of the
hoodwink would be in awe of the Religious Right were he alive today.
Snake-charming, beguiling, conning, and flimflamming are at the heart of
their repertoire, and their leaders leave Barnum looking like a bush
leaguer. If the religious conversion business cycle hits a
lull, there will be a glut of highly talented salespeople looking for
work. This week, this Evangelical movement is flexing its muscle, and
flashing its propagandistic cunning, as it soaks up the spotlight of
national media attention in Topeka, Kansas.
Brothers could not rival the hype of the circus of events dubbed
"Scopes II". Led by its three "ring masters" (Kathy
Martin, Steve Abrams, and Connie Morris), the Kansas State School Board
has once again put the theory of Evolution on trial. Despite the lack of
testimony from a single member of the established, mainstream scientific
community, "the show must go on" as the board
"proves" that Evolution is dubious at best. The purpose
of this extravaganza is to "validate" the new science
standards they desperately want to implement, and they are determined to
"bring home the win" this time.
the "big top" of Memorial Hall in
, the board has paraded a panel of "expert witnesses" to
testify that Evolution is a "flawed theory". Several witnesses
have asserted the fiction that there is a "controversy" in the
scientific community about the validity of the theory of Evolution. John
Calvert, a retired attorney and
resident who heads the Intelligent
Design Network, read scripted questions to nine of the twenty three
anti-Evolution witnesses over the course of May 5 and May 6, with more
to following after the weekend.
of Evolution Speaks for Itself
the mainstream scientific community has elected to boycott this charade.
Their position is that by participating in "The Greatest Show on
Earth", they would be lending credence to the assertions that there
is a controversy over Evolution, and that those who believe in Evolution
are atheists by default. The truth is that the theory of Evolution has
grown and changed significantly since its assertion by Charles Darwin in
1859, and scientists do disagree over some details. However, the
majority of the scientific community agrees over the principal aspects
of the theory. Conflict over the validity of Evolution is a sham
perpetrated by the "showmen" of the Religious Right. Keith
, author of Finding Darwin's God,
is a living example of one who believes in both Evolution and a
Christian God. People like Miller, who are not uncommon in the
scientific community or the general population, dispel the myth that
Evolution demands that one embrace atheism. The scientific community is
not denying the existence of God; they simply believe that proving the
existence of God is beyond the scope of science, and discussion of the
subject belongs in philosophy classes.
Irigonegaray, the "lyin' tamer" in this circus, is an
attorney who chose to volunteer his services as the sole advocate for
the preservation of Evolution in the science standards in the state of
Kansas. He called the
proceedings a "kangaroo court" and stated that Intelligent
Design, the "rival theory" to Evolution, is "junk
science". Through cross examination of the "expert
witnesses" against Evolution, Irigonegaray exposed the fact that
several of them have not even read the science curriculum
recommendations submitted to the board. Following that revelation,
conservative Christian board member Kathy Martin acknowledged that she
had not read the recommendations in their entirety either.
precipitated this absurdity?
2004, two groups presented recommendations to the Kansas State School
Board concerning the science curriculum. A Majority Report by 25
individuals, including Steve Case, an associate research professor at
, recommended virtually no changes with respect to how public schools
teach Evolution. John Calvert and seven other individuals wrote a
Minority Report, summarized at http://www.kansasscience2005.com/Summary%20of%20Key%20Proposals.pdf.
Displaying the height of hubris, this report calls for the school
board to rewrite the very definition of science. The state school board,
comprised of ten members, is dominated by six conservative Christian
members. After receiving the Majority and Minority Reports, the
"Big Six", employing their infinite Biblical wisdom, decided
needed to hold a hearing to determine the validity of the theory of
do the moderate school board members think?
least two of the more moderate members of the board have refused to
participate in the process. They both responded to me with their
thoughts on the proceedings.
do not support these hearings and will not participate in them. There is
no controversy in the Science Community about the validity of
Evolution as a part of Science. The Theory of Evolution has been
continually supported and strengthened since its introduction in 1859.
My understanding from scientists is that Evolution is one of the
strongest theories within science, and actually unifies other scientific
disciplines. This is a political issue for the ultra conservative
faction on the state board who currently hold 6/4 majority. This is not
an educational issue."
Rupe, another moderate board member, expressed her views:
"My personal belief is that God
created the heavens and the earth and that He did it through evolution.
There is no controversy for me between science and my faith. My father
is a doctor and my son is a doctor; they have taken many science
courses. They also both have strong faiths. I think that in science
class we must teach what scientists think happened. There are plenty of
opportunities to teach other ideas in philosophy, sociology, and
comparative religion classes. We've been hearing that the teaching of
evolution is itself teaching a religion. I certainly don't feel that
way, and I don't know of anyone who does. Science is not anti-God any
more than math is anti-God. The discussions that are taking place about
changing science should be between scientists in the science community.
If Intelligent Design is to be recognized as science, then it needs to
be peer reviewed. If it is accepted by scientists, then it should be
taught. The debate should not be taking place in school board meetings
across the country because that is not where science becomes
Cast of "Characters"
Ironically, not one of the
's version of the Cirque Plume holds a PhD in evolutionary biology.
Their credentials qualifying them as "experts" qualified to
objectively challenge the theory of Evolution are highly questionable.
John Calvert, the "star of the show", is a retired attorney
turned Intelligent Design proponent. William Harris, a close
associate of Calvert, is a professor of medicine at the
, and has admitted that he believes that the Christian God is the
"Intelligent Designer". Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish activist
writer with a master's degree in history. Akyol is affiliated with
a Turkish organization called Bilim Arasfirma Vakfi, which began as
a religious cult, and was instrumental in virtually eliminating Evolution
from the curriculum of Turkish schools. High school biology classes
, a secular nation, now teach a form of creationism.
Charles Thaxton and Jonathan Wells are both strong proponents of the
concept of Intelligent Design, the pseudo science offered by the
Religious Right as an alternative "theory" to Evolution.
is this Intelligent Design "Theory" Anyway?
Intelligent Design is a cleverly packaged
form of Creationism which the Religious Right is attempting to sneak
into public classrooms through a variety of means, including this
farcical "hearing" in
. In 1991, Phillip Johnson, a
law professor, kicked off the movement by authoring
on Trial. The premise of Intelligent Design is that mere observation of
the complexity of the universe provides "evidence" that there
was an intelligent designer. In virtual unanimity, the scientific
community rejects the credibility of Intelligent Design. Lacking the
support of scientific evidence, research, or peer review, Intelligent
Design only qualifies as a "theory" in the minds of those who
are desperate to "prove" the existence of their version of the
Christian God, and manipulate our children into believing in their
version of the Christian faith. In 1996, Bruce Chapman founded an
allegedly non- partisan think- tank called the Discovery Institute.
However, an internal document leaked in 1999 called The Wedge Strategy (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/archive/wedge_document.html)
belies the true purpose of Discovery.
In the Wedge,
the Discovery Institute summarizes its five year objective as follows:
"We are building on this momentum,
broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to
materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the
theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the
stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with
a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."
its denials to assertions that it is advancing Creationism as an
alternative to Evolution through the theory of Intelligent Design,
Discovery's Christian agenda, and its alignment with the Religious
Right, are quite obvious. Howard Ahmanson, an
savings and loan heir has provided Discovery with millions of dollars in
funding. Phillip Johnson still appears as a "program advisor"
on Discovery's website (http://www.discovery.org/csc/fellows.php). Two
of the "circus performers" from the
trial, Charles Thaxton and Jonathan Wells, are listed as
"fellows" with the Institute. If one needs further
evidence, The Wedge Strategy
document articulates their objectives quite clearly. After connecting
the dots, it does not take a rocket scientist (or an evolutionary
biologist) to see the pattern emerging with Johnson, Calvert, Harris,
and their cohorts leading the charge to drive their Christian wedge into
's secular public schools.
of Public Trust
three "ring-masters" here in
are "poster children" for the Intelligent Design movement, and
its insidious purposes. Elected by the people of
to represent the educational interests of our children in our
secular public schools, Kathy Martin, Steve Abrams, and Connie Morris
are selling our children out to advance the cause of the Religious
Right. In a state where there is currently a dearth of funding
for public schools, they chose to spend $10,000.00 on the
"Scopes II" spectacle simply to provide a vehicle to
support their denigration of Evolution, one of the most widely accepted
theories in the scientific community. By choosing to help
employ The Wedge Strategy to transform public school classrooms
into religious pulpits, they are complicit in violating the First
Amendment of the US Constitution and in trampling the rights
's 75 million non-Christians.
taxpayer, voter, and parent of a student in the public school system, I take
serious issue with the waste of time and resources spent on these
hearings. It is a foregone conclusion that the 6-4 majority on the
board will vote to adopt the science standard recommendations of the
Minority Report. They have stacked the deck in their favor. They have
launched tenacious propagandistic attacks against sound science, and are
preparing to flatten the wall of separation of church and state. My wife
and I teach our son spirituality in the home. If we wanted a school
that taught Evangelical Christian dogma, we would send him to a private
Evangelical Christian school. Spiritual lessons belong in the home or
the church, not in the public schools, and certainly not in science
classes. Even my two other sons, who attend a Catholic school, will
learn the theory of Evolution in their science classes when they reach
that point in the curriculum.
member Kathy Martin, the out-spoken former teacher from Clay Center,
Kansas, minces no words about her agenda or her tenuous grasp of the
facts. In an interview with the
paper, Ms. Martin said, "Evolution has been proven false.
Intelligent Design is science-based and strong in facts." Going
further, she stated, "Man has changed and evolved, but we are not
going to change back into monkeys." Giving an enthusiastic "thumbs
up" to the Religious Right when asked if Intelligent Design was a
form of Creationism, she commented, "Of course this is a Christian
agenda. We are a Christian nation. Our country is made up of
Christian conservatives. We don't often speak up, but we need to stand
up and let our voices be heard." Ms. Martin saved her most
revealing dictum for last. "Why shouldn't theology be taught
in the classroom? Morality ought to be taught in every class.
Prayer ought to be allowed. Whenever a child wanted to pray in class, I
prayed with them. All children believe in God. Even little children
whose parents don't take them to church believe in God." It is
indeed frightening that she is in a position that enables her to render
decisions affecting the education of our children.
What are the stakes?
Once the dog and pony show is over, the
Kansas State School Board will implement the Minority Report, rewrite
the definition of science as we now know it, and seriously weaken the
standing that Evolution holds in our science classes. 455,000 young
minds stand to be corrupted by the introduction of the "junk
science" of Intelligent Design" into the classroom. Next
year, our children could be learning that the Earth is only 10,000 years
old, and that humans saddled and rode dinosaurs. Both are commonly held
beliefs amongst ardent members of the Religious Right. Two years from
now, Genesis could replace Evolution in biology classes.
is not the only battleground over Evolution.
schools adopted challenges to Evolution in 2002. Twenty other states are
contemplating similar changes in their curriculum.
Despite the fact that it is a loosely
organized coalition, the Religious Right is highly unified in their
thrust to achieve their objective of a theocratic, Christian nation. Men
like James Dobson, Ted Haggard, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell have a
that includes strengthening the patriarchal nature of our society,
establishing Christianity as the national religion, superseding the US
Constitution with the Bible as the ultimate source of American law,
openly persecuting homosexuals and non-Christians, and teaching our
children that faith supplants reason. Take a long hard look at
may be a strong-hold for the Religious Right, but it is not an
aberration to be dismissed lightly. Dominionism, the act of
Christians rising to fulfill their God-appointed places of rulers of the
Earth (see Genesis 1:26), is the ultimate goal of this movement, and the
Religious Right is increasing its political power across the country
with each passing day. "Scopes II" is merely the first of many
circus-like spectacles, not unlike those held in the Colosseum of
. However, this time around the "true Christians" of the
Religious Right intend to make lion fodder of their opposition.
I am a 38 year old free-lance activist
writer with a degree in liberal arts. I am a husband and a father to
three boys, and I earn my living as an account representative at a
finance company. My affiliations include the ACLU and the Americans
United for Separation of Church and State. I welcome responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.