Smithsonian Warming to ID?

| 220 Comments | 4 TrackBacks

Word has reached the ears of the Thumb (!) that the Discovery Institute has managed to get the Smithsonian to co-sponsor an ID-friendly presentation, surprising us to say the least. (Indeed, Prof. Steve Steve was as crestfallen over the matter as anyone with a fixed expression could be.)

How could the Smithsonian, the quintessential archive of evolution as natural history in our nation, have agreed to co-host this video? How could the director be “Happy to announce” this private screening? Does the director even know if any Pandas were harmed in the production of this film?

Today, the NY Times has an article that explains the situation. We’ll discuss this and other possible violations of Panda rights on the flipside.

The article explains how the Discovery Institute donated $16,000 to the Smithsonian. In exchange for this contribution, the Smithsonian allowed them to use the Baird Auditorium. And, instead of advancing science or talking about any actual controversy, the DI are playing a video that involved Intelligent Design.

In other words, the DI’s best efforts to get scientific support at the Smithsonian involves payola. They had to pay $16K for the privilege of showing their movie to a hand-picked, 100%-ID-friendly audience at the Smithsonian. Oddly enough, we here at the Thumb think this is the Discovery Institute’s biggest contribution to science in the last decade. It’s also significant that this is in keeping with the Wedge Strategy, gaining notoriety as having their views addressed in academic and scientific venues.

We also thought it was funny that Denyse O’Leary’s posts on the matter were so starry-eyed and enthusiastic that it got the better of her writing. Take, for example:

O'Leary Wrote:

So why is the Smithsonian considering premiering a film that suggests that the universe shows evidence of intelligent design? Well, the Smithsonian depends for over 80 percent of its funding on the American federal government (approximately 67 percent from direct appropriations and over 13 percent from grants from federal agencies) and its new projects require the approval of Congress. An insider suggests that the US government is leaning on the venerable science institution to behave better toward people who want to talk about intelligent design? (My emphasis)

So who is this mysterious insider? Who is this person that O’Leary goes to great pains to identify only indirectly? What manner of Panda’s Thumb intelligence techniques must be applied to wean this information from Ms. O’Leary?

Well, just read a bit further!

O'Leary Wrote:

And what better way to do it than giving a hearing to some of the colleagues of Richard Sternberg? He’s the guy who had to appeal to the Office of Special Counsel on account of job harassment at the Smithsonian because - even though he is not even an advocate of intelligent design - because he had published a peer-reviewed ID-friendly paper in a Smithsonian-sponsored journal. He has told me privately that he intends to attend the premiere of that film. (My emphasis.)

Subtle, Ms. O’Leary. Very subtle.

Readers of the Thumb should note the obvious glee with which outright political pressure on an independent scientific institution is openly acknowledged, welcomed, and encouraged. God help us if these guys ever get in a position to call the shots on scientific research.

The facts of the matter are as follows: The Discovery Institute has made a donation of $16,000 to the National Museum of Natural History. In keeping with Smithsonian policy, they have the opportunity to co-sponsor an event at the Museum. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History does not endorse the content of the video that will be shown at the Discovery Institute’s June 23rd event.

In other words, the fact that the DI are going to be showing an ID-friendly video at the Smithsonian is nothing more than the museum saying “Thanks for the cash.”

Prof. Steve Steve doesn’t mind that so much.

(Prof. Steve Steve and other contributers to the Thumb… well… contributed to the production of this post. No pandas were harmed in its creation.)

BCH

4 TrackBacks

The Panda's Thumb and Thoughts from Kansas have the story on the announced "sponsorship" of anti-evolution at the Smithsonian. It turns out that the DI is renting an auditorium for $16,000, nothing more, and are doing their best to p... Read More

Frankly, I expected better of the Smithsonian but perhaps there was little they could do. The New York Times reports that the creationist movie "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" will be shown at the Smithsonian... Read More

"Creationism's Trojan Horse" from aTypical Joe: A gay New Yorker living in the rural south. on May 30, 2005 3:15 PM

Guest post by Jen. The line between religion and science continues to fade. Those trying to rid school curricula of references to evolution have donned the pseudoscientific cloak of Intelligent Design, says a recent article in the scientific journal Na... Read More

I haven't been commenting on the Smithonian/PP affair and am not going to beyond noting that, despite Denyse O'Leary's triumphalism, the SI is not "warming" to ID. The Thumb - as usual - has all you need to know. Illustra Media (the publisher) posted... Read More

220 Comments

Will Rev. Moon be there, with his robe and crown?

Well if you can’t be arsed writing any ID papers and submitting them for peer review, at least you can get the government to ‘lean’ on museums in order to advance science.

I imagine this is how science might have been done under the Taliban. Marvellous.

Will Rev. Moon be there, with his robe and crown?

And his older brother, Jesus Christ?

In other words, the fact that the DI are going to be showing an ID-friendly video at the Smithsonian is nothing more than the museum saying “Thanks for the cash.”

Ahmanson’s checkbook has already purchased a “controversy” for DI.

Now, Ahmanson’s checkbook is purchasing an attem pt at “scientific credibility”.

Maybe next, Ahmanson’s checkbook can purchase a few judges for DI.

An alternate title is “Smithsonian warming to Smith-Burns wedding?”

The Discovery Institute has made a donation of $16,000 to the National Museum of Natural History. In keeping with Smithsonian policy, they have the opportunity to co-sponsor an event at the Museum. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History does not endorse the content of the video that will be shown at the Discovery Institute’s June 23rd event.

If we pass the hat and raise $16,000 and donate it to Discovery Insitute, do you think they’d let us rent Chapman’s office for the day and have a Behe-book-burning, then tell the press that DI supported our efforts?

Not to be petty, but I totally scooped you guys.

I like this juxtaposition:

Title of blog post: “Smithsonian warming to design theory?”

Quote from article:”They certainly didn’t say, ‘We’re really warming up to intelligent design, and therefore we’re going to sponsor this.’””

So the answer to the question in the blog post would be …

How big a donation is required to rent the Smithsonian’s Baird Auditorium? Did they gouge the Discovery Institute by charging $16000 for a one-time showing of their film? I’d like to go “Rev Dr” Lenny Flank one better and suggest asking the Smithsonian Institution if they’d rent Baird to a suitably scientific group for, say, $1 the day before the Discovery Institute’s screening. The group could present a talk or film defending “flat earth theory”, thus setting the stage for DI’s equally scientifically valid presentation of “intelligent” design. The media would find the juxtaposition irresistible and feel compelled to mention the two events together.

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I suggest Lenny Flank immediately apologises for his offensive comment.

I have attempted to put that O’Leary in her place on several occasions.

I wonder if Flank is not an ID stoolie attempted to get people onto ID’s side.

As I have written elsewhere ID is simply god of the gaps wrapped up in amino acids

Micahel Roberts

Michael Roberts Wrote:

As I have written elsewhere ID is simply god of the gaps wrapped up in amino acids

Since Michael Behe says that biochemistry is the rock-bottom end of any attempts to further reduce biological phenomena, I’ve been pointing out for some years that “irreducible complexity” is a “god of the crevices” argument.

Given that Smithsonian policy prohibits the use of the auditorium for “events of a religious or partisan political nature”, I’m not sure that this DI event is allowable. The DI may claim that they aren’t a religious organization, but a very strong case could be made to the contrary.

I think Burt’s right– the fact that the Smithsonian’s hosting this doesn’t *really* mean anything– but the DI and their supporters are going to insinuate that the Smithsonian supports ID, and lots of people will believe them. Remember the game they played with the conference language of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The Smithsonian should be urged to back out on this and return the contribution if at all possible. I’ve already written a letter urging them to do so. I’d definitely encourage others to do so as well.

–Brian

I suggest that we flood the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History with protest e-mails and calls.

Discovery and O’Leary misrepresent the nature of the Smithsonian’s “sponsorship” for political purposes – they’ve made the $16,000 donation to purchase legitimacy for their “teach the controversy” strategy. Smithsonian supports us, so the controversy must be real.

This violates museum policy which states that “events of a religious or partisan political nature” are not permitted.

Public Affairs can be contacted at Phone: 202-633-2950 Fax: 202-786-2982

Here are the numbers for Public Affairs staff: Randall Kremer, 202-633-0817 Michele Urie 202-633-0820

The Special Events e-mail address is: [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

A quick response may cause the museum to rethink its sponsorship, and embarrass Discovery Institute for their crass effort to purchase scientific legitimacy.

Ms. O’Leary…

Didn’t she own a cow that burned down Chicago?

Brian Spitzer: I think Burt’s right— the fact that the Smithsonian’s hosting this doesn’t *really* mean anything— but the DI and their supporters are going to insinuate that the Smithsonian supports ID, and lots of people will believe them.

Pat Hayes: Discovery and O’Leary misrepresent the nature of the Smithsonian’s “sponsorship” for political purposes — they’ve made the $16,000 donation to purchase legitimacy for their “teach the controversy” strategy. Smithsonian supports us, so the controversy must be real.

Hold your horses, folks. The DI itself has done nothing of the sort - they have a very restrained note on their web site, and that’s that.

That some of their more gullible groupies misinterpreted Smithsonian policies on “co-sponsoring” as a scientific endorsement is really not their problem (though I am sure the DI is glad it happens, as when people pass Campus Crusade for Christ talks and similar events by DI Fellows as “seminars at major universities”).

I think the Smithsonian director was very clear that a) the movie was screened by Smithsonian event organizers (which I am sure are just administrative staff) strictly to determine that it wasn’t sectarian in nature, b) there is no endorsement from the Smithsonian regarding its scientific content.

So, since this P.R. move has already blown up in the DI’s face, they would probably just love it if the event was now cancelled, and they could whine some more to the media about “darwinist censorship”. They love that crap, let’s not give them another chance to revel in it.

Which reminds me: I agree with Michael Roberts that Lenny’s comment above about burning Behe’s book in Chapman’s office, even if in jest, is inappropriate (as well as in violation of Seattle Fire Department safety codes, most likely). I am sure I am talking for all PT contributors when I say that, while we can’t tell you how to light your Memorial Day barbecue, organized book burnings are not something that should be advocated, or condoned.

“Maybe next, Ahmanson’s checkbook can purchase a few judges for DI.”

whaddya mean, maybe?

have you actually taken a look at the beliefs of the judges that were rejected by the dems during GW’s adminstration so far? How bout the one that just made it in after 4 years of blockage?

this strategy is already well under way.

Republicans control the Whitehouse, the Senate, and the House - could that have something to do with it?

The Smithsonian is a government institution, so if you control the government, you get to have say in how its run.

This is happening at PBS as well.

Read what I said. I was not refering to burning Behe’s book, even though I wrote a very negative review on it in 1997 for Science and Christian Belief, which got lots of complaints!

I was referring to Flank’s reference to Jesus Christ as Moon’s elder brother. Comments like that turn many Christians away and will make them more sympathetic to ID and YEC.

I have enough of a problem of trying to persuade fellow Christians and fellow clergy that both ID and YEC are total nonsense, without bigotted comments like that. On another listserve I have been very critical of dear Denyse O’Leary.

I am afraid bigotry is not confined to the friends of AIG

Michael

Michael, I see I misunderstood what you were referring to. However, isn’t the claim that Rev. Moon is the brother of Jesus (I guess, half-brother would be more appropriate) one of the tenets of the Unification Church? I guess the vast majority of Christians would certainly consider that blasphemous, but I don’t see why one should not even be allowed to mention the fact.

…reference to Jesus Christ as Moon’s elder brother. Comments like that turn many Christians away and will make them more sympathetic to ID and YEC.

I have enough of a problem of trying to persuade fellow Christians and fellow clergy that both ID and YEC are total nonsense, without bigotted comments like that. … I am afraid bigotry is not confined to the friends of AIG Michael

Offensive, inappropriate, unhelpful, probably. But “bigotted”? I’m not sure I get that.

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Michael Roberts Wrote:

I was referring to Flank’s reference to Jesus Christ as Moon’s elder brother. Comments like that turn many Christians away and will make them more sympathetic to ID and YEC.

Uh, that’s part of the content of Sun Myung Moon’s “theology”. I join Andrea in being puzzled as to why making reference to the well-known theological content of the Unification Church should be considered offensive. It isn’t Lenny that Michael needs to take that up with, but rather Moon and the Unification Church. Good luck on that.

I was referring to Flank’s reference to Jesus Christ as Moon’s elder brother. Comments like that turn many Christians away and will make them more sympathetic to ID and YEC.

It is offocial Unification church doctrine that Moon is a Son of God and Brother of Jesus.

That SHOULD turn amny Christians away ——- from Moon;’s cult, Weels’ association with it, and the ID movemement that Moon supportsin his Moonie-owned newspaper The Washington Times.

I think you are pissed at the wrong person. Turn your anger to the Moonies, where it will do some good.

The DI may claim that they aren’t a religious organization, but a very strong case could be made to the contrary.

Something I’ve never heard anythign about —- does DI claim tax exempt status as a “public policy research institute”, or as a “religious institution”. Anyone know offhand?

Slightly OT:

So whatever happened to the Sternberg debacle? I have not read or heard anything else about it since the story first broke. I haven’t even heard any more references to it from the IDiots.

Oh, and I agree with you Lenny, it has been public knowledge the link Moon claims to Jesus, so pointing that link out is in no way offensive to christians. All they need to know is who Rev Moon is, and the statement speaks for itself. It is Moon who is offensive to Christians, not anyone else who points that out.

P.S. How about a book shredding instead of a book burning? Wait, I have it! Replace all copies of Behe’s book at the DI with copies of all the rebuttals of it.….

Lenny was making fun of Moon, and even more so of one of the “leading lights” of ID, the egregious Jonathan Wells. At least that’s how I read it. He was making fun of the “Jesus is Moon’s older brother” view that Wells espoused at least at some point.

Had Flank been writing a newspaper column I’d be against this appropriate abuse of someone whose tactics sink as low as Wells’ tactics are. Why? Because many would not understand it. I think that here most should understand, and if not, they should begin to understand it once it is pointed out to them.

In other words, the fact that the DI are going to be showing an ID-friendly video at the Smithsonian is nothing more than the museum saying “Thanks for the cash.”

That, of course, is not how it’ll be portrayed by the ID folk, any more than the Sternberg-Meyer paper is being portrayed as an inside job by a creationist editor.

Denyse O’Leary is claiming she’s been told that the US government is putting pressure on scientific institutions to behave better toward people who want to talk about intelligent design? What does this mean? Quotas in Science and PNAS? NIH research funds earmarked for ID people to pretend to do research that’s then reported in Science and PNAS under the quota system? Mandatory ID stuff in museums? And of course in high schools? Given the way the Sternberg-Meyer paper was reported by the ID folk, pressure by the US government will no doubt be hailed as a major scientific breakthrough.

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his ownership of the Washington Post

Sorry for the mis-type — that should be The Washington Times.

It looks like the creationists are pursuing a policy of making this ID stuff so prevalent that it becomes a part of the culture, that once a subculture reaches a “critical mass”, so to speak, that humans have a tendancy to view the prevalence of a group’s beliefs as evidence in itself.

I think that’s exactly what they’re doing. They have the money and the political connections to be successful too.

Does anybody think that pro-evolution groups should be looking more into how mass-marketing techniques are used to “sell” ideas and how they can be countered (Robert Cialdini’s stuff etc.)

Well, one problem is that so many people switch off as soon as they come up against science or mathematics that it’s hard to get across to them. Science popularisers are thin on the ground, and people are hearing the creationist side of this debate from very early in their lives at home and at church. The way ID is presented to the public is very non-threatening, and sending the message that the natural world is very complex but don’t worry because we have a simple explanation that isn’t hard to understand without any in-depth scientific knowledge and that also ties in with the religious beliefs of most people. Score one for real people against the pointy-headed atheistic intellectuals (who have apparently declared war on the rest of us).

Okay, well, move to Ireland. No separation of church and state there, IIRC. They don’t even permit divorce.

We do have separaton of church and state in Ireland. (They don’t in England).

And we’ve had divorce (again) from the last few years. We got rid of it in 1937 and reintroduced it in 1995.

You mentioned Muslims. The main argument in favour of reintroducing divorce was that some people’s beliefs allowed them to divorce. I asked why then Muslim men were not to be permitted to have more than one wife, and Tibetan women to have more than one husband. I’m still waiting for an answer.

Sheesh ! This is a tough crowd ! Here’s my $.02

Jan, Let’s suppose you are sincere in your interest in being fair and honest. Then, can you propose any materials that could be used to present ID to students in an “honest” manner ?

Since you don’t appear to be someone who is educated in science, you should be aware that scientists have moral standards about lying and deception that are enforced rather strictly. If a scientist knowingly presents data that is skewed or falsified or otherwise chooses to misrepresent the facts in order to force a conclusion (or for any reason at all), then that person is regarded as a liar and is shunned from the scientific community.

So as an extremely simple hurdle to cross, lets suppose that ID could be considered a science if its proponents were simply able (or willing, rather) to present their ideas to their peers without lying or deception. I’m not an expert on ID, so I might need to ask for some help here : Are there any ID proponents who present their ideas without resorting to lies and distortion ? It’s a tough question to answer, because it has to be approached on a case-by-case basis. In every case that I’m aware of, proponents of ID resort to the use lies and deception.

Of course, anyone can make an honest mistake, but you can’t make the same “honest” mistake over and over again and refuse to acknowledge it. That is simply a lie.

So there’s your homework. Come up with a list of ID proponents who aren’t liars. To make you task much easier, you can read reviews of works by Dembski, Behe, Wells, etc. by any competent scientist and quickly learn how they operate. Then, if you regard fair and honest discussion as something to present to students, you’ll see why real scientists (many of whom are christian) despise what the ID movement is up to.

Oh, and Jan …

Since you support “fair and balanced” treatment of ideas, I should ask : When you refer to us as “free thinkers”, is that a complement ?

Jeff S:

Are there any ID proponents who present their ideas without resorting to lies and distortion ?

Here you go.

Here you go.

Wow. Hadn’t heard of him before.

Well, I guess there you have it. Let’s present this scholoar’s works (in toto) at the next school board meeting.…

There is divorce in Ireland? My bad.

Jan said:

Now concerning the question of separation of church and state. Would one of you who have a much higher education than I please give me the place where this is written in our constitution? I have already explained to you that I disagree with the courts interpretation of our first amendment in the broad sweep that has been made.

Higher education isn’t necessary to read the Constitution. But don’t fall into the trap the demagogues set when they sayd “separation of church and state” isn’t in the Constitution – they’re playing to the suckers who never read the document and who don’t know history. That’s not you.

Separation of church and state is woven throughout the Constitution. Madison’s writings tell us that the Constitution sets up a government of limited powers; the document tells what authority the people delegate or yield to the government, and the government can do no more. Article I gives no ecclesiastic powers to the legislature, and gives no formal role for any ecclesiastic authority in the legislative process. Article II is similar, but with regard to the executive. Article III does the same with regard to the judiciary, and Article IV does the same with the states. Those places are where a marriage of church and state would have to be spelled out, and there is no such marriage.

Article VI includes a more sweeping separation. It has a clause that says no office holder can be required to swear an oath to any religious purpose. This clause would cover the states, too, I suppose, except that before it was ever tested the nation adopted the First Amendment, which specifically enumerates some of the rights protected by the Constitution (a complete list does not appear, in deference to the founders’ fear that any list would be incomplete, and therefore unjust; instead, all powers not enumerated as delegated to the state are reserved to the people).

All of this means simply that the government does not have rights in religion. For evolution, this means the government may not say that a religious belief is equal to, better than, or less than, science. Government cannot advocate for religion, nor against it.

The phrase “wall of separation between church and state” originated, as best we can tell, with Roger Williams in Rhode Island, the first religiously-free colony in America. In 1801, fearful that the State of Connecticut was about to ban adult baptism again, a group of Baptists wrote to President Jefferson asking for his help. He took this opportunity to show how the government didn’t need to act to protect rights, and to state the religious rights that people have under the Constitution. In careful consultation with his attorney general, Levi Lincoln, Jefferson drafted an official proclamation on religious rights, a proclamation we now know as the “letter to the Danbury Baptists.” In it Jefferson assured the Baptists that, under U.S. law, religion is free, and government may not interfere. That official proclamation has been turned to on several occasions by the Supreme Court, most famously in the 20th century religion cases. It was solid law in 1801, it still is today. Some pillars of freedom remain strong.

I am going to be polite and tell you briefly why I feel that we were established as a Christian nation. It would take hours for me to do a great job with this, but I will be brief and you will tear this to shreds because there is not adequate time to answer. Anyway, here goes:

The Mayflower Compact: clearly stating that it was for “the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”

Did you study English? Diagram that sentence, and the operative sentences of the Mayflower Compact. It is an agreement between the religious refugees and the non-religious majority aboard the Mayflower that, outside of the land to which they had a charter, outside of the jurisdiction of their financial backers and therefore outside of that contract, they would instead make good laws, and they agreed to obey them. There is no role for God or any ecclesiastic authority granted in that document.

See Diane Ravitch’s brief description of the document in her American Reader, for example. Ravitch is, as you know, a very conservative woman, a favorite education authority of President Reagan and Assistant Secretary of Education for Research in George H. W. Bush’s administration, 1989-1993. Or see any other history of the document. The document itself is available many places online.

Benjamin Rush, a signer of our constitution wrote: But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament.

Where did Rush say that? He made no such claim at the Constitutional convention, and he never suggested anything but religious freedom for all Americans. See his correspondence with Jefferson on the point; Rush noted, with some humor and a little alarm, that the clergy in New England feared Jefferson as president. Jefferson said they had much to fear, because “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal opposition to every form of slavery over the mind of Man.” That statement from a letter to Rush is engraved around the dome of the Jefferson Memorial (one of my favorite places in D.C.). Rush agreed with Jefferson and Adams on the disestablishment of churches in the U.S.

It is foreign to my purpose to hint at the arguments which establish the truth of the Christian revelation. My only business is to declare, that all its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society, and the safety and well being of civil government. There are dozens of other quotes and perhaps I will place them on this post at another time.

This next paragraph is copied, but I believe my source is reliable: “Congress. The largest congregation in America at one time was meeting in, of all places, the House of Representatives! Weekly worship services once boasted an attendance of 2,000! These services took place the very week that Congress passed the 14th Amendment”

Quotes don’t change the law. Quotes don’t nullify the Constitution or the First Amendment. Yes, public buildings in D.C. have been used for private purposes often. The renting of the Capitol, or any other public building, does not imply endorsement of the government, nor does it repeal the Constitution. Today the widest private use of public buildings in the U.S., especially schools, is for Sunday church services. Mind you, the kids are not required to attend. Nor did Congress attend any of those services as an official act or as an official body. The Capitol was simply one of the few big spaces available. Jefferson and Madison made due note in their diaries of the contributions they made to get the chapels constructed to get the services out of the public buildings. Don’t claim legal standing for acts that have no legal effect.

Read the inscriptions in the halls of Washington DC and on our coins.

The inscriptions on our coins were first made in 1862, as a sop to the group that asked that the Constitution to be amended to fix its “godless” structure. Those inscriptions stand as testimony to the fact that Christians in the U.S. for the first 150 years of our nation recognized that the U.S. is not and never was intended to have any religious bias. The first law which made mention of any religious saying on money was passed in the 1930s. As you know, the founders were long dead by that time.

There are about a dozen verses from the Bible painted or inscribed in various places in the Library of Congress – along with a couple hundred other, non-Biblical verses. There are no other Biblical verse on other public buildings. Someone is trying to sell you a bill of goods. (There is a great little book on the stuff in the Library of Congress, and it’s on-line – look for On These Walls.)

My point might be made by reminding you that as early as the 1600’s the schools, beginning with was was called “The Old Deluder Act” referring to Satan attempted to equip children with Christian values.

That act only required the establishment of schools. It reflects the value running through the history of American education that if the people could read, they would not be hoodwinked by clergy who could read and misinterpret scripture, or history. Check it out.

See also the Northwest Ordinances. First they guarantee religious freedom; then they state policy. They say morality is essential to good government, and so, to encourage morality, the act encourages the establishment of schools. Not churches: schools. The acts also set aside lands to be sold or operated for the benefit of schools on the frontier.

The early readers were filled with Christian virtues. I have copies of these in my possession. They belonged to my father. You are probably younger than I and have not seen these, but they do exist. The later books dropped these, but it was generally agreed in the American Colonies that the main purpose of reading was to enable the student to read the Bible.

The readers got constantly secularized because the scriptural references made bad readers. Originally American schools used Bibles – unscrupulous door-to-door Bible vendors had sold hundreds of the books, and in the absence of texts, teachers used the most available book. The first New England Reader came out with a much more secular text, and was successful because it taught reading instead of scripture. Ben Franklin’s fortune was based on his versions of the readers, which were increasingly directed to teaching reading, and away from scripture. Jefferson complained that Bible in schools corrupted young children, and in his play for public schools he suggested use of secular readers and then the teaching of “morals” instead of Christian scripture. Noah Webster’s publishing fortunes followed that secularizing trend – he was the guy who did away with the alphabet of “Adam” to “Zacheus,” replacing it with an alphabet of “Apple” to “Zebra.”

America has grown increasingly moral, but that increasing morality has come with a trend away from scripture to teach. Mark Twain’s Huck Finn achieved a moral breakthrough when he realized that his friend Jim was human despite being African American – but that moral breakthrough came against what the Bible taught, according to preachers of the day. Progressives from the 1880s to the 1940s got laws protecting children from abusive parents, spouses from spousal abuse, consumers from tainted meat and drugs, workers from inhumane working conditions – all over the objections of scripture quoters.

That, incidentally, is in the spirit of Benjamin Rush’s quote that you offer above. He didn’t urge a return to ancient morality, but an improvement on it.

I will end with this, but I could write pages. It is late and I will add more if you feel that I have not answered sufficiently. Remember, this is a country where we are allowed to disagree. I know that my words will anger you, but please do not shoot the messenger. Research this before you attack.

I hope you’re not disappointed that I’m not angry!

Yes, this is a nation where authority may be questioned – as opposed to the hierarchies described in scripture. Madison and Washington both noted that our government cannot function well without moral people to make it work – but their getting morality was their own responsibility, and not that of the government’s.

You touch on some life-long studies of mine. I would urge you to not accept cheap, veneer histories of these U.S. policies, but instead get it from the original sources. Read Madison, especially the Memorial and Remonstrance; read Jefferson, especially the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Go see D.C., and read the cases (you can get them at Findlaw.com, and at the Cornell University Law Library site). Get a couple of good biographies of Jefferson, and Washington, and Franklin and Adams (there isn’t much good I recommend for Madison – Ralph Ketcham’s book is thorough but verrry long). See what really happened.

And study biology the same way. Go look at your oak tree and its thousands of acorns – Darwinian principles in action.

The truth is there for the looking. Go look.

And good luck!

Those places are where a marriage of church and state would have to be spelled out, and there is no such marriage.

Of course there is no such marriage. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Period. Read the constitution. You’ll see. Soon…

I took the suggestion above to contact the Smithsonian.…;

Dear Smithsonian Institution, and to whom it may concern; I have visited the Smithsonian many times during my life, and have always been excited, enlightened and enthralled by the leading edge scientific knowledge displayed within this museums distinguished halls. I now live on the west coast, but have planned to visit the east coast again soon to visit family. One of my main planned stops is to be the Smithsonian. Recent news articles have reported the Smithsonian is actually co-sponsoring the supposed “Intelligent Design” movie, Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe, a Discovery Institute religious film masquerading as science. I am greatly surprised and saddened that the Smithsonian would lend it’s venerable name to such a distorted view of science. I believe to my fullest extent that this “endorsement”, perceived or otherwise, will greatly diminish the stature of your institution, if not actually make your institution a laughingstock. Additionally, science, real science, will be damaged in the publics eyes far into the future by the Smithsonian’s involvement. I will not presume to waste your time with arguments of what actually constitutes science, as I fully believe this whole ID debate is politically motivated. However, great institutions like the Smithsonian should continue to be the shining lights of wisdom, and lead our nation with current scientific knowledge, and not be associated with intellectually defunct “junk science” like Intelligent Design, Astrology, Creationism, UFO’s, crystal healing, etc. The Dark Ages are a time past, hopefully not to be revisited. I hope and request that your great institution re-evaluate your position on this matter. Again, the Smithsonian represents the greatest aspects of science and knowledge, this loss would be immeasurable.

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This page contains a single entry by Burt Humburg published on May 28, 2005 5:09 AM.

Privileged Planet: The puddle and the hole was the previous entry in this blog.

Oklahoma, Textbooks, and Ignorance is the next entry in this blog.

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