Discovery Institute: Problems with Perry

Buffoon Award

There are hundreds of headlines screaming about Texas Governor Rick Perry‘s public statement about creationism yesterday. For a typical example, see this from CBS News: In exchange with child, Perry calls evolution a “theory” – with “gaps”. You’ll want to read it all and maybe look at the video too, but this excerpt tells what happened:

The Texas Governor, speaking at an event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was answering a little boy’s questions about science when his mom urged him to question the conservative politician on evolution.

“I hear your mom was asking about evolution,” Perry told the boy. “That’s a theory that is out there – and it’s got some gaps in it.” He added: “In Texas we teach both Creationism and Evolution in our public schools — because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

The mainstream press is suddenly realizing that Perry is a bit daft, but that’s old news to us. Our readers have long been aware of Perry’s obsession with creationism. It was he who appointed Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist, to be chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), but the Texas Senate voted to reject that nomination. After McLeroy’s rejection and then his defeat in a primary election, Perry honored him at a GOP event with the group’s Patriot Award, about which we wrote Is Texas Governor Rick Perry Insane?

Being a creationist fanatic, Perry then appointed Gail Lowe (another creationist) to be SBOE chairman. She too was rejected by the Texas Senate. That’s when Perry showed his total commitment to lunacy– he ignored a few sane Republicans on the SBOE and picked Barbara Cargill, yet another creationist, to be the board’s chairman. See Rick Perry’s Newest Creationist.

We’ve known for quite some time that Perry is as hard-core a creationist as can be found anywhere. But after his remark yesterday about what’s going on in Texas, and because he’s running for President, the whole country now knows he’s an out-of-the-closet creationist. That’s the headline story today, but the press is missing the real story.

We dig deeper around here. Our concerns go beyond the Presidency; they’re cosmic. We want to know the effect Perry’s blunder will have on The Controversy, on teaching science, and ultimately on preserving the Enlightenment.

That’s why we’re interested in the reaction from 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).

You can see how they’re handling it by reading this new item at the Discoveroids’ blog: Governor Perry Thinks Texas Schools Teach Creationism, while Texas Education Agency Stifles Even Scientific Criticism of Darwin. It’s written by John West, whom we affectionately call “Westie.” Most of you know who he is.

Westie is Associate Director of the Discoveroids’ creationist “think tank,” which consumes almost half of the Discovery Institute’s’ $4 million budget (see Their 2007 Tax Return). That makes him one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy. It’s in his honor that we have adorned this post with our jolly Buffoon logo, because he’s a winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award.

Westie isn’t happy with Perry’s performance. Because the Discoveroids are always careful to conceal their purposes, they’re understandably aghast when one of their political stooges unmasks and declares that he wants creationism in the public schools. It’s a key part of the Discoveroids’ stealth approach to creationism that they never admit their true beliefs and theocratic goals. They can’t afford honesty, because that would hurt them in court and maybe even in elections. Instead they cloak their anti-science ideology in ambiguous phrases and they claim to be promoting “critical thinking” (see What Is “Critical Thinking”?) but we know what they really mean.

They faced such an “honesty crisis” last year in Louisiana’s Livingston Parish. See Bruce Chapman’s Louisiana Damage Control. As we said then, addressing our remarks to Chapman, who heads the Discovery Institute:

The problem, Chappy, is that while you and your Discoveroid comrades in Seattle are clever enough to devise a stealth creationist campaign and to disguise it as the “science” of intelligent design, it’s not going to work.

Why won’t it work? The reason, Chappy, is that your obedient followers in the states that adopt your scheme are inevitably going to be among the dumbest people in the universe; they can’t stick to the script. They’re creationists — and that means they’re stupid. Got it? We explained the problem in detail here: Intelligent Design, the Great Incongruity

Now they’ve got the same problem with Perry. He not only exposed himself as a naked creationist, but he’s probably exposed the entire game that’s been played out for years in the Texas SBOE. Here are some excerpts from Westie’s critique of Perry’s performance, with bold font added by us:

It has to be challenging to be a presidential candidate. After all, you are expected to dispense wisdom (or at least comments) on almost everything under the sun, and you never know what question is going to come up next. Still, some questions should be easier to anticipate than others. For example, it has become pretty typical for candidates (especially Republican ones) to be grilled at some point about their views on evolution. So Governor Rick Perry shouldn’t have been surprised when asked earlier today about his own views on evolution, especially given all the controversy over the topic in his home state of Texas.

Yes, after all the careful coaching, all the approved examples of double-talk scripts available in countless posts at the Discoveroids’ blog, Perry should have been prepared. Let’s read on:

What was a surprise was Perry’s answer. According to the New York Times, Perry claimed: “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”

“Surprise”? The reaction at Discoveroid headquarters must have been more severe than that. We imagine there were quite a few face/palms, accompanied by salty expletives. That’s because, after Perry’s unguarded moment, it will be difficult for the Discoveroids’ pawns on the SBOE to maintain the charade that they’re not promoting creationism. Westie continues:

In fact, Texas public schools do not teach creationism, at least not anywhere in the approved curriculum. But under science standards adopted in 2009, Texas students are asked to “analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations… including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.” This sort of critical inquiry is supposed to apply to the discussion of Darwinian theory, and Texas students are also expected to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for Darwinian claims about natural selection, mutations, cellular complexity, the fossil record, and more.

Yes, Westie. That was the script — but Perry just blew it. Big time. Whatcha gonna do now?

Here’s one more excerpt:

Perry will likely be excoriated for his comments by those on the left who think Perry is somehow a proponent of creationism.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Wasn’t that cute? Westie says “those on the left” will “somehow” think that Perry’s a creationist. Hey, Westie — after Perry’s performance, it’s not just lefties who will “somehow” figure it out. There’s no way anyone can miss it now.

Oh, one more thing: We’re sorry to bring you the bad news, Westie, but it looks like you just lost Texas. Hey, don’t look so sad — you’ve still got Louisiana.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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34 responses to “Discovery Institute: Problems with Perry

  1. SC said:

    “Surprise”? The reaction at Discoveroid headquarters must have been more severe than that.

    I believe the words that will help to explain their reactions are “apoplectic” and “conniption”. These will be followed by a syndrome known by the acronym “OSWDWDN” (“Oh, S___! What do we do now?!?”)

  2. Perry’s seeming confusion regarding the usage of the words treacherous and treasonous in regards to Mr. Bernanke’s Fed policies indicates that there is also a whiff of anti-antisemitism mixed in with his creationism views as well.

    Like they say, another Lone Star cowboy candidate for president how can we go wrong?

  3. I don’t really think Perry himself is quite the Creationist you give him credit for.

    But well over half of his constituency in Texas are, and his target demographic in the Republican primary are.

    You expect him to call all those folks dumbasses when he needs their vote?

    The political calculus is that Perry supporters who don’t believe in Creationism are smart enough to understand why he has to pander to those that do.

  4. I’ve read about this several other places, including sites that allow comments. I wish I had saved one of them where a commenter was a TX science teacher that wished to assure readers there was no creationism taught in his science class. Not now, not then, and not ever. I did feel marginally better about TX.

  5. Redneck Texan says:

    I don’t really think Perry himself is quite the Creationist you give him credit for.

    I’m open to evidence that shows otherwise. Haven’t seen any yet.

  6. The DI is having a hard time getting over their loss in Texas. They’re still bitter.

    I also wonder if any science teacher in Texas ever refers to “Darwinian theory”. Especially “Darwinian claims about…cellular complexity. (?!)” My guess is that, much to the DI’s disappointment, they probably just call it evolution.

  7. Ed says:

    The DI is having a hard time getting over their loss in Texas. They’re still bitter.

    It’s all about keeping the place funded. Every time they have a setback — and it looks like Perry’s blunder is a big one for Texas — they have a lot of explaining to do. Their patrons are probably getting impatient for results.

  8. The DI’s funding is a likely a tax write-off for spillaging its donors’ world-view. Judging from the history, results probably aren’t all that important, as long as the propaganda rolls outs.

  9. As a non-redneck Texan, I have to emphatically state that Perry *is* your typical religious fundagelical nutjob. He *is* a creationist. He *is* a Christian dominionist.

    He *is* a danger to democracy.

    And, for once, Curmie and I are in agreement about something political– Perry is just awful!!!

  10. Wondering who the DI’s patron’s are, and googling around, I came across this rather complete description of the DI and it’s original benefactors. Apparently the Templeton Institute once gave them money, but no longer will… it’s in the article.

    http://rightwing.wikia.com/wiki/Discovery_Institute

  11. The only thing Rick Perry really believes in is Rick Perry.

    Hey look, I’m as agnostic as anyone here. Just not as militantly opposed to the nation of believers we find ourselves surrounded by as some here are.

    I don’t like it when they try to cram their religious ideology down my throat, but I don’t go around assaulting their beliefs either…. there’s just too many of them.

    But if I we’re running for any office on the Republican ticket I couldn’t go around broadcasting the fact that I’m agnostic. It’d be political suicide.

    Hell, even leftist Democrats in New England have to feign adherence in election years.

    I’d have given the same answer verbatim that Perry did.

    Evolution IS a theory with gaps in it…… is it not? There’s a BIG gap in the first chapter.

    And I would avoid expounding on the fact that Creationism is total BS in front of certain company.

    ….. I think they call it Politics. And Perry is a politician.

    If you have a majority of your supporters demanding that you cram their ideology down everyone’s kids throat, what do you do?

    What are your choices?

    You can’t actually DO what they want you to do. Science Teachers and half the general public would never go for promoting creationism over evolution. But you need the fairy tale believer’s support down the road.

    You cant tell them to STFU. You’ve got to make them think you are on their side and are promoting their agenda, while at the same time make sure your visible efforts fail.

    Same as the abortion issue really…… the same crowd. You’ll never win a republican primary down here without pretending to be on their side, but you’d get eviscerated by the general population if you actually successfully enacted what you promised your supporters you would do after you were elected.

    Its a conundrum. But that’s the reality of a political system that punishes you if you don’t subscribe to a fairy tale. There’s no real sport in condemning a politician for taking the only path available to him.

  12. @LRA:
    Perry *is* your typical religious fundagelical nutjob. He *is* a creationist. He *is* a Christian dominionist. He *is* a danger to democracy…

    Yup, that’s what I see from the bleachers. Either that or he’s doing the world’s best impression of one. He doesn’t know it yet, but he just handed his opponents a loaded AK-47, pointed straight at his candidacy. He has no one to blame but himself…

  13. Redneck Texan says:

    Evolution IS a theory with gaps in it…… is it not? There’s a BIG gap in the first chapter.

    Oh? What would that be?

    You’ve got to make them think you are on their side and are promoting their agenda, while at the same time make sure your visible efforts fail.

    There is another option. A politician could try being honest. But that’s not part of the job description these days.

  14. I’m a Texas scientist, not a Texas science teacher. But I can attest that creationism isn’t taught in my son’s school.

    Reason had a nice article up today analyzing Perry’s record. Their conclusion: he talks radical, governs centrist.

  15. “Oh? What would that be?”

    The spark of life from the raw materials provided.

    I’m not aware of an explanation for it that doesn’t require a leap of faith.

  16. Their conclusion: he talks radical, governs centrist.

    That’s not good enough. It looks like I’ll be sitting this election out, or else half-heartedly pick the lesser of two evils. Again. It must be nice to vote with confidence for a candidate you trust with your family’s education, earnings, safety and healthcare. I haven’t experienced that this century yet, and it looks like it isn’t coming any time soon.

  17. I agree with LRA that Perry is a true believer. I don’t think he cares much what anyone else thinks about it.

    If he is just putting on an act, then he is one of the best liars in politics.

    Out of the entire GOP field, Huntsman is the only one who accepts evolution, and he may be the only one who accepts climate change. He seems to be intelligent and he certainly was a capable governor. Unfortunately, he also seems to be a very low-profile candidate, and has no clear path to becoming the nominee.

  18. If you have a majority of your supporters demanding that you cram their ideology down everyone’s kids throat, what do you do?

    Tell them why you disagree with them in a forthright but respectful manner. If you do it right, maybe the’ll be impressed and respect you more. People do respect good leadership, and good leadership is different than voting like a windsock.

    The spark of life from the raw materials provided.

    What spark? The behavior of organic molecules in a living body is no different than the behavior of organic molecules outside of one. AFAIK vitalism was pretty much disproven in the 1800s.

  19. Romney elaborated on evolution in the NY Times on May 11:

    Mitt Romney expanded on his belief in evolution in an interview earlier this week, staking out a position that could put him at odds with some conservative Christians, a key voting bloc he is courting. Mr. Romney, a devout Mormon, surprised some observers when he was not among those Republican candidates who raised their hands last week when asked at the Republican presidential debate if they did not believe in evolution…

    “I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe,” Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. “And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.” He was asked: Is that intelligent design? “I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.” While governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney opposed the teaching of intelligent design in science classes…

    “In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed,” he said. “If we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”

    Romney attended Brigham Young University, where they teach evolution, according to him. The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints has no definitive position on evolution, and church leaders have disagreed on the issue. Romney is probably the best you’re going to get on that side of the fence. At least it’s better than Perry.

  20. “The only thing Rick Perry really believes in is Rick Perry.”

    Then screw him. If he doesn’t support democracy and our Constitution (which guarantees freedom of religion), then he doesn’t deserve to be president and should be criticized mercilessly by Texan Hindus, Texan Black Evangelicals (who he conveniently left out of his prayer rally), Texan Catholics, Texan Non-believers, Texan Muslims, Texan Jews, and any other group out there I’ve left out.

  21. If he doesn’t support democracy and our Constitution (which guarantees freedom of religion), then he doesn’t deserve to be president

    You have described nearly all the candidates and all of the presidents in my lifetime.

    I’m curious, has Rick Perry done anything to interfere with your freedom of religion? I’m an atheist and haven’t had the Texas Rangers (the cops, not the baseball team) beat down my door for reading Bertrand Russell. I haven’t had my kid indoctrinated in school. I haven’t had to pay a Christian version of jizya. No-one makes me put a crucifix on my door. I haven’t been forced to go to church. The bookstores all are happily selling Richard Dawkins’s books. When I swore an oath before being deposed, I was able to use a secular oath.

  22. Well, it’s pretty clear that Perry wants creationism taught in science classes, and if it weren’t for diligence on the part of people against that, it would be the case. That doesn’t even deal with the whole “abstinence-only” sex ed ridiculousness that goes on.

    Let me refer you to this:

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/seven-ways-rick-perry-wants-change-constitution-131634517.html

    Clearly, Perry (true to social conservative form) wants to strip me of my rights and impose his world-view on me. He doesn’t respect the Constitution and he thinks that I do not have a right to live by the dictates of my conscience.

  23. Not my question.

    Perry has been governor for 10 years. Other than making speeches which offend you (which he has a First Amendment right to do), what has he actually done to restrict your freedom of religion?

  24. Perry’s weaseling out of the age-of-the-earth question was to me more damning than his endorsement of teaching “creationism” (not even ID or the phony “critical analysis”). Having apponted Don “big tent” McLeroy Perry is in on the scam. He must know that YEC (& probably OEC too) has no evidence to support it however “weak” he may think evolution is. But he knows that he needs every “kind” of evolution-denier, from the flat-earth YEC to the common-descent conceding OEC, and can’t afford to offend any of them. Bottom line: assume nothing about what he believes and ask plenty of “what happened when” questions.

  25. Besides appointing 3 creationists to try to force children to learn the fundamentalist Christian account of genesis as science you mean?

  26. BTW, one way in which Perry is FAR more honest than the current and last few occupants of the White House is that he wants to amend the constitution (or says he does) to enable the policies that he favors, rather than just ignoring it and doing what he wants extra-judicially. There’s no constitutional support for so-called affirmative action, undeclared wars, drug prohibition, corporate subsidies, gun rights restrictions, asset forfeiture, agricultural subsidies, detention without trial, gate-rape at airports, warrantless Customs and Immigration searches well within the national borders, and limitations on free speech, yet folks like Obama and Bush just blithely ignore the plain language of the constitution to enforce limitations of our liberties that they happen to want.

  27. Flakey, do you have a child in school in Texas? I do. He hasn’t been taught creationism, he has been taught science.

  28. magpie61: “Romney is probably the best you’re going to get on that side of the fence.”

    Or any side of the fence when it comes to evolution. Nearly all politicians are science-illiterate and learn “evolution” though media sound bites. I remember Al Gore and Ted Kennedy waffling on the issue.

  29. No i do not, and you want actions that have succeeded in robbing religious freedoms and not plans that failed then. None so far then, but you said yourself he wants to modify the constitution to enable at least 2 religious believes on people that do not necessarily believe as he does. So when will you accept intention over results? Or do you simply believe he is lying on a mass scale to get elected, and does not mean anything? Would you willing vote for some one that constantly lies to get what he wants?

  30. “I hear your mom was asking about evolution and, you know, it’s a theory that’s out there,” Perry said. “It’s got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

    AGAIN with the “let the children decide”. The kid was like seven years old, for crying out loud. They’re in school to learn science, not debate it.
    And notice how carefully Perry didn’t answer the question at all. Maybe because he doesn’t figure he himself is smart enough to know which is right.

  31. Tomato Addict

    By now most of you will have seen this quote:

    “I believe in evolution & trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
    –Jon Huntsman.

  32. Or do you simply believe he is lying on a mass scale to get elected

    Yes. He’s a politician.

  33. Sy– he’s got a hand in the whole Texas BOE debacle. That enough for me. BTW, if he hasn’t imposed his BS more on Texans it’s because the Texas governorship is actually a pretty weak one.

  34. And Rick Perry will use my tax dollars to keep himself in power–

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/us/politics/21donate.html?_r=3

    Disgusting.