Looking Ahead: The Controversy In 2011

This is how we see the coming year shaping up regarding The Controversy between evolution and creationism. Our estimate is that at least half of all legislators and bureaucrats are incurably befuddled, so it’s impossible to predict what they’ll do in the year ahead. What follows, however, is a list of the events we’re watching, and our assessment of the situation. Some of this is copied from our year-end post last year, because certain things just don’t change.

Legislation Watch:

Several states will introduce new creationist legislation. It’s likely that we’ll see more attempts to enact some version of the Academic Freedom Act, sponsored by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

All such laws, and the newer versions that require teaching evolution’s alleged “weaknesses,” are intended to impose state-mandated affirmative action for creationism. Because creationism is a lifetime obsession for some legislators, they introduce the same bills year after year. Therefore, the states so affected will include many that have already dealt with such legislation in the past.

We are definitely expecting something totally crazy from Oklahoma’s Josh Brecheen. See Creationist Cretin.

For all such legislative attempts, we shall continue to urge rational members of those lawmaking bodies to consider The Curmudgeon’s Amendment, although no one has paid any attention to it yet. It’s designed to neutralize “academic freedom” laws. Then, as a potential legal argument (merely one of many that can be made) we suggest trying this: “Academic Freedom Act” — Presumptively Void.

Regarding the dates for legislative sessions, this website has useful information, but it’s always subject to change: 2011 Legislative Session Calendar.

Election Watch:

There won’t be much election activity in 2011. For the creationists who won important elections in 2010, see Post-Election Wrap-up: Creationism’s Impact.

Congress Watch:

It’s almost impossible to track what’s really happening in the US Congress, because they keep passing 2,000-page bills and no one knows what’s in them. We’re not aware of anything in particular that concerns us (other than everything in general), but we keep an eye on especially goofy legislators — especially those mentioned in Post-Election Wrap-up: Creationism’s Impact.

Media Watch:

Expect more creationist books to be written and fanatically promoted. There’s a big market for pseudo-science and the occult. Creationists will continue to produce and promote their strange “documentaries” like Darwin’s Dilemma. If we’re not careful, material like that will end up in some unfortunate kid’s science class.

Creationist articles, especially by Discoveroids, will pop up in otherwise respectable general-circulation publications. Journalists rarely know anything about science, so they’re always vulnerable to the peculiar jargon-filled essays that Discoveroids know how to write. Journalism is therefore a continuing target of creationists.

The usual creationist websites and museums will continue to flourish. Ignorant people take vacations, and they also cruise the internet. They need their fantasies reinforced. One matter we’ll be watching closely is Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark Theme Park.

Bureaucratic-Administrative Watch:

The creationist-dominated Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), presided over by Gail Lowe (successor to the creationist dentist Don McLeroy, who was defeated in a primary election last year), will have an interesting year.

Louisiana continues to bear watching, because it’s the only state in the US that can boast of passing one of those anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism “Academic Freedom” laws promoted by the Discoveroids — it’s the Louisiana Science Education Act (the “LSEA”) that was passed in 2008. That law encourages the use of unspecified “supplemental materials” — wink, wink — in science classes. Nothing of significance has happened yet, but it probably will.

Local School Board Watch:

Their minor eruptions are sometimes amusing, but rarely of any real importance. There will always be a few local boards that reveal their insanity during the year, which is understandable. Most voters don’t pay attention to such elections, and many boards end up populated by ostensibly civic-minded real estate brokers, insurance salesmen, funeral directors, used car dealers, and dentists’ wives; but they’re really out to promote their own businesses or to relieve boredom. Such people are utterly unqualified to make decisions about science curricula and texts, but they often imagine themselves to be on a divinely ordained mission to teach creationism in government schools. We anticipate that a brief lecture by their attorneys about the Kitzmiller decision will be sufficient to overcome such occurrences. That’s all it’s taken to stifle such outbreaks in recent years.

Court Watch:

Several court cases about The Controversy are awaiting trial or on appeal. You can find links to our articles on many of them here: The Controversy. Among the still-unresolved cases we’ve discussed are the David Coppedge case, the James Corbett case (appellate decision expected soon), the “Darwin’s Dilemma” Exhibition case, and Martin Gaskell’s suit against the University of Kentucky.

Discoveroid Watch:

As in previous years, creationist political agitation in the US seems primarily due to the activities of the Discoveroids. Our original analysis of their goals and intentions remains operative, presented here: Enemies of the Enlightenment.

From past experience, the Discoveroids have learned that they’re always going to be vigorously opposed, so it’s only worth their time to operate at the state or national level. Besides supporting “academic freedom” legislation, Discoveroids know that the elected or appointed functionaries in state-level school boards can have a big impact — not only on classroom curricula, but also on textbook purchases.

The Discoveroids’ asset base consists of two parts. The first is their visible “think tank” in Seattle, which enjoys significant sources of funding. But that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. The second part is a large, faith-based network of sympathetic supporters whom they’ve backed in elections to local school boards and state legislatures around the country, including some members of Congress. They also have an undetermined number of other accomplices in various advocacy groups and in the media. Some of them are card-carrying creationists, while others are fellow travelers and useful idiots who eagerly do the Discoveroids’ bidding.

They haven’t been doing well lately in their legislative efforts, and of course they have no actual science they can point to, so they seem to be pinning all their hopes on the courts. Lately they’ve been on a campaign to slip innocuous survey articles into lesser-known journals that make favorable mention of the “theory” of intelligent design. This appears to be in preparation for their next court contest, so they can cite some published articles and thus claim that their mumbo-jumbo is accepted as science. But the ploy is just too transparent. It’s possible that they’re doing this merely to satisfy their financial donors, by creating the appearance that they’re making scientific progress. It could be for both reasons. One never knows.

Long Term Outlook:

Despite all the noise they make, creationists have had no impact on science, industry, agriculture, medicine, academia, or any other rational endeavor. We often fail to notice what doesn’t exist, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that creationists have failed to accomplish anything of any substance whatsoever. Nor are any such accomplishments likely in the future.

Due to their failed efforts to gain scientific respectability, creationists’ only hope is in the field of politics. They need a sympathetic majority on the US Supreme Court, in order to reverse a string of decisions which have prevented their ideology from being promoted in government schools. Their plans for that seem to be thwarted by recent political developments, thus there should be little to concern us in that regard for the immediate future.

Conclusion:

So that’s how we see the coming year. It’ll be like the last year, which was like the year before. People come and go, code words are altered, tactics evolve, but the game never really changes.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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5 responses to “Looking Ahead: The Controversy In 2011

  1. It’s good that creationism is alive and well in 2011.

    (Warning: Only “Twilight Zone” fans will get it. Now back to my annual ritual of watching the marathon. :-))

  2. We should keep our eyes on the local public school boards, for two reasons.

    First, many districts simply don’t have a problem with teaching Creationism to various degrees. Berkman et al (2008) found that roughly 1/6 of public school biology teachers teach sort form of Creationism. Most of these cases simply never make the local papers, let alone attract national attention, probably their constituencies largely endorse such teaching.

    Second, any local public school board could be the next battleground. Exhibit A: Dover.

    Congressional action here is minimal at best. It’s not worth bothering to look in the Congressional Record for this stuff.

    Of greater interest is the apparent dwindling of Discoveroid funds. ARN, the group that largely emerged later in the DI’s CSC, is reporting reduced funding this year, according to Jason Rosenhouse. The Biologic Institute, and its offspring journal BIO-Complexity, have had very updates this year, likely a reflection of dwindling funds. The DI is also veering towards a more blatantly religious approach, with more articles on moral views and religious conferences; likely, they are shifting their public focus a bit, to attract more religiously-motivated funding.

    Regarding the court cases, look for the DI rats to abandon ship, when the going gets rough. They can’t afford to throw good money after bad, when these cases start to overwhelm them.

  3. My prediction, ID-style, for 2011 is that the DI “fellows” will find obscure, on-line, marginal, podunk “journals” to “publish” their “research”

    I may run out of double quotes before the year’s end!

    It will just provide us with more entertainment and, face it, without the DI Clown Capade I’d have to follow the antics of Lindsay Lohan.

  4. Love your posts, senouous curmudgeon! Keep up the good work!
    Cathy

  5. rubble: “Berkman et al (2008) found that roughly 1/6 of public school biology teachers teach sort form of Creationism.”

    The article mentions the downplaying and de-emphasizing of evoltion, which I think even more harmful in the long run that teaching “creationism.” The latter will at least have many (most?) students thinking “evolution may be ‘weak’ but creationism looks a lot weaker.”

    If we look beyond the legal issues once in a while, it becomes even clearer that anti-evolution activism is a scam. If these scam artists really wanted students to critically analyze evolution, as they pretend to, they would not tolerate the pressure of teachers to downplay and de-emphasize of evolution. Instead they contribute to that pressure.