Freshwater: He taught “robust evolution”

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In spite of adverse outcomes in the administrative hearing on his termination, in federal court, and in the County Court of Common pleas, John Freshwater is still pleading his case in the Christian media. On November 30, he was interviewed on David Barton’s Wallbuilders Live radio program. Ed Brayton has posted on some aspects of that interview, as has Wheat-dogg’s World.

My interest is in what Freshwater now says he was teaching about creationism and evolution in his 8th grade science classes as contrasted with what he has claimed in the past. There was a good deal of testimony about that in the administrative hearing on his termination. His stories ranged from ‘I didn’t teach creationism’ (see his testimony here) to ‘I may have used creationist materials, but it was to illustrate bias and lack of objectivity in the interpretation of good science’ (see his testimony here). Now he has a new version: he taught “robust evolution.”

More below the fold.

I’ve transcribed the part of the interview that has Freshwater’s description of this current version in which he explicitly claims to have purposefully taught creationism. In the transcript, RG is Rick Green, Wallbuilders interviewer, and FW JF is John Freshwater. I don’t guarantee the transcript, but I think it’s accurate.

At 9:20

RG: So when you say you taught critical view of evolution, what does that mean?

JF: I teach what I … actually, I call it a robust evolution. I showed what was the evidence for evolution, I showed evidence that was opposed to evolution. I showed all sides.

RG: And let the kids decide?

JF: Yes. Let the kids decide. I stayed neutral on it, and let the kids make a decision on it.

RG: So what’s wrong with that? Why, why are they afraid to look at all the evidence? I mean, what’s wrong with saying ‘Look, you know, here’s the positives, I mean here’s the things that point to evolution, but here’s the problems, here’s the questions, how does this .. how does this …’. What’s wrong with letting kids look at all that and try to decide on their own?

JF: That’s exactly what I say: What is wrong with it? But obviously in America I do believe that evolution is sacred. And it’s evolution theory, it’s not evolution fact, it’s evolution theory. I’ll be quite honest with you, Rick, let me show you something real quickly. This past spring of 2011, May of 2011, they brought in two attorneys from another state, and it was mandatory, all teachers and administrators go to it, and they required, what they told, they did a Powerpoint presentation to all the teachers and administrators, and they came back and said, in this Powerpoint they said that…uh, let me see, I’ve got it written down here…they said this: “Evolution must be taught as a scientific fact.” And this was mandatory for all teachers to be there. “Evolution must be taught as a scientific fact. More precisely, evolution must be taught as the dominant paradigm for research in biological science.” And bullet point 3 was, “Creationism may not be taught as a science under any circumstance.”

So that was what was told to Mt. Vernon City Schools, which when I moved here was considered the Bible Belt of Ohio. And they … it’s mandatory that you must teach evolution as a fact. And that goes against academia. In academia they don’t declare evolution as a fact, they declare it as a theory.

[John, let me introduce you to Steven Jay Gould on evolution as fact and theory.]

RG: Yeah, it’s amazing to me that we’re so lopsided, we’re so one-sided. And I’m no scientist, I mean you tell me when you lay all the facts out there, the actual evidence, you don’t have any more for one theory than the other. You have to study all of them.

JF: Absolutely. You need to study it all, especially in a public school. You need to see all the evidence. And there’s some great evidence for, and there’s some great evidence that goes against it. And I think the kids need to see all evidence rather than indoctrinating them only on one side or the other.

In A Bonsell in the offing? I described the different stories Freshwater told about marking students’ arms with the Tesla coil. In sworn testimony in different venues Freshwater (a) conceded in his testimony in the administrative hearing that he marked Zach Dennis’ arm, but with an X, not a cross; (b) denied in a sworn deposition that he marked the arm, and (c) invoked his right against self-incrimination under the 5th Amendment.

Now in his various statements about whether he taught creationism, he (a) denied using creationist materials; (b) conceded that if he used creationist materials it was to illustrate bias; and now (c) proudly states that he taught “all sides.” Once again we see different mutually contradictory stories. In the administrative hearing we got two stories:

Freshwater testified that there are three categories: evolution, creationism, and intelligent design. He said that he teaches evolution and not the other two, and that’s been true through his (24-year) career.

But then later in the same testimony

Freshwater acknowledged telling students in class that it was possible that humans and dinosaurs were on the earth together at the same time. Freshwater affirmed that he told students that Tyrannosaurus rex had teeth that were “not deep enough” for it to be a carnivore.

Asked if he used a Kent Hovind video, he said “Pieces of it. It relates to the standards that I teach to.” Asked what pieces, he responded “It’s about whales, moths.” Asked what it purports to teach or show, he responded “It examines evolution. It’s showing evidence of evolution. It’s talking about the evolving (sic) of whales.” He would not disagree that it is questioning evolution.

Later he claimed using creationist material was consistent with the Academic Standards:

In his testimony over the three days Freshwater attributed his use of creationist and ID materials to a legitimate effort to teach to a particular Academic Content Standard (p. 216) (LARGE pdf!):

Grade Eight Ethical Practices 2. Explain why it is important to examine data objectively and not let bias affect observations.

Freshwater depended almost wholly on that standard to justify the use of the woodpecker handout, the giraffe handout, Wells’ Survival of the Fakest as a handout, and segments of Kent Hovind’s Lies in the textbooks (Youtube video), among others, in class. Freshwater said he used them to illustrate how bias can lead to bad science and bad application of the scientific method.

Finally, of course, there’s his “robust evolution,” teaching the “great evidence” on both sides.

So what’s this “great evidence” that Freshwater thinks goes against the theory of evolution? Well, judging from the material he used in his proposal to the science curriculum committee and the handouts he used in his classes, it’s creationist crap. From testimony in the administrative hearing and private communications from former students, as well as my memory of his proposal in 2003, he has offered these bits of “great evidence”:

1. In 2003, Freshwater used Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution and his “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution” as support for his proposal that the district adopt the Intelligent Design network’s Objective Origins Science Policy. His proposal was rejected by both the science curriculum committee and the school board.

2. According to testimony in the administrative hearing, Freshwater used creationist handouts about the (un)evolvability of woodpeckers and giraffes, and about dragons (thought by creationists to be dinosaurs that lived contemporaneously with humans). Patricia Princehouse analyzed them in testimony in the hearing. The handouts had sources like All About Creation and Dinosaur Extinction, both sites associated with All About God, a young earth creationist ministry.

3. According to testimony in the administrative hearing, Freshwater may have discussed the creationist “hydrosphere” notion, by which he apparently meant the creationist water vapor canopy theory. That notion is part of some creationists’ effort to account for where the water for Noah’s Flood came from when the “windows of heaven were opened.” Also in testimony we learned that he used a Kent Hovind video in class at least once, introducing Hovind as “a renowned scientist.”

4. According to responses that I myself read on several questionnaires he gave students at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, Freshwater may have suggested that trilobites lived at the same time as humans. That’s one of Walt Brown’s creationist claims.

5. According to a former student with whom I’ve talked recently, Freshwater used creationist handouts about so-called polystrate fossils and supposed Paluxy River human tracks as recently as the 2007-2008 school year, the last year he taught before being suspended.

6. According to one former student, Freshwater flatly told one of his 2007-2008 science classes “The earth isn’t as old as everyone says it is.” That same student was struck by how certain Freshwater was that everyone else was wrong.

And that’s his “great evidence that goes against” evolution. Trash. And “neutral” means “I taught trash alongside science.” Most damning, until now Freshwater has sometimes denied teaching creationism and/or intelligent design, while sometimes claiming that he may have used creationist materials but only to illustrate scientific bias. But now he not only admits that he taught creationism, he is proud of having taught what he calls “robust evolution.”

This has real consequences for students. Both in high school and subsequent education, evolution in particular and science in general are critical to students’ understanding of the world. Evolution will reportedly be one of the four central themes in the new AP biology curriculum, and increased emphasis on it is reportedly being considered in the MCAT. But Freshwater’s teaching subverts that. James Hoeffgren, a former student of Freshwater, put it succinctly when asked what he learned from Freshwater:

Millstone asked James what he concluded from Freshwater’s teaching. James replied with an anecdote. He said his sister had found a rock and was going to take it to a teacher to see if she could find out how old it is. James said he told his sister to not bother, “Science can’t be trusted. Science can’t teach us anything.” (Bolding mine)

Another former student of Freshwater confirmed that Freshwater sent that general message to his students. Freshwater was actively subverting students’ understanding of the most reliable source of knowledge we have, science since the Enlightenment, in favor of an ancient mythological account of how the world works. I’m only a little surprised that he didn’t also teach geocentrism and the flat earth “theory.”

160 Comments

From reading the above and knowing nothing else of the case, he seems to be guilty of being a crappy Biology teacher. Maybe he is a great guy and he loves the kids and all of that, but that is the impression that I get. Anyone who was taught Biology in a reputable college knows full well that evolution is both a fact and a scientific theory. Telling kids that life in prehistoric times was just like the Flintstones is unforgivable.

You might want to read more of what I have to say at my new skeptically themed science-based website, http://www.theinconvenienttruth.org The Inconvenient Truth.

But now he not only admits that he taught creationism, he is proud of having taught what he calls “robust evolution.”

So, like many creationists before him, he tells different audiences different things. I really marvel that these guys can be so ignorant of the consequences of the modern media age: lawyers can and will get access to what you say in all fora, not just the ones creationists want them to see.

This is why I think the stealth strategy will fail: creos ultimately have to reveal the message they want to teach. There’s no way around it. Even for a perfectly conducted stealth campaign, they’d have to reveal it in the classroom when they start actually teaching creationism. But for more realistic, less perfect stealth campaigns, they have to message to their people long before they reach the classroom, in order to to drum up legislative support. When outsiders see that message, the whole effort falls apart.

Freshwater seems like a perfect illustration of what is wrong with public high school biology classes. As the New York Times reported earlier this year, less than 30% of biology teachers actually teach evolution. 13% explicitly teach creationism and about 60% avoid controversy by endorsing neither evolution nor an alternative, which the study calls, the “cautious” 60%. As I understand it, Freshwater’s teaching of creationism wouldn’t have been exposed except for his stupidity about burning the students. It seems a lot of creationists, who aren’t quite as dumb as Freshwater, fly under the radar.

eric said:

But now he not only admits that he taught creationism, he is proud of having taught what he calls “robust evolution.”

So, like many creationists before him, he tells different audiences different things. I really marvel that these guys can be so ignorant of the consequences of the modern media age: lawyers can and will get access to what you say in all fora, not just the ones creationists want them to see.

This is why I think the stealth strategy will fail: creos ultimately have to reveal the message they want to teach. There’s no way around it. Even for a perfectly conducted stealth campaign, they’d have to reveal it in the classroom when they start actually teaching creationism. But for more realistic, less perfect stealth campaigns, they have to message to their people long before they reach the classroom, in order to to drum up legislative support. When outsiders see that message, the whole effort falls apart.

This is a common problem with authoritarians who feel that they have a monopoly on truth, and are at war with forces of evil whose goal is to pervert the truth. Several years ago, here in Arkansas, we had an attempt by fundamentalist Christians to ban sex education books from the public schools. It was presented in the newspapers and at school board meetings as “just a concerned parent trying to raise her kids”, nothing to do with religion, and as a local phenomenon, limited to the single school district. But then the same people would go on Christian radio and discuss how their goal was to enforce Christian principles in the schools, put God back in the schools, and following success in this district, spread the tactic statewide. We subsequently discovered that the “local” mom was backed by the state Constitutionalist Party and that Don Wildeman’s group was providing the materials that she was using to make her case. The entire thing was an exercise in flagrant hypocrisy and contempt for the law and the public. I am pleased to say that at a school board meeting, I spoke and quoted their statements, with sources, and had the deep satisfaction of listening to them rage (literally yelling) on the radio the next morning because someone had the nerve to tell the public what they were saying (and yes, it apparently never occurred to them that the radio or non-local publications are actually available to the public!).

I strongly suspect that Freshwater sincerely believes every different story he tells, at the time he tells it. Dawkins spoke of “virtuoso believing”, and creationists seem to have honed this skill over a lifetime. They literally DO believe six things before breakfast, incompatible with their after-breakfast beliefs, without skipping a beat.

I’m reminded of the joke about the customer who spent 15 minutes energetically haggling with the vendor over the price of some item. When they were finished, the next customer said “I want one of those also, at that same price.” And the vendor said “Oh no! For you, we start all over.” Each price is customized to a buyer, just like each creationist message is customized to an audience. Converts are made retail, not wholesale.

Good god, even the “it’s just a theory” nonsense from this idiotic clod?

If he doesn’t even know what “theory” means in science, he clearly hasn’t a clue what teaching “robust evolution”–or whatever he calls maliciously and dishonestly attacking evolution–could legitimately be.

Glen Davidson

Flint said:

I strongly suspect that Freshwater sincerely believes every different story he tells, at the time he tells it

I think you’re right.

A Masked Panda (7cad) beat me to it. If this guy doesn’t know what a theory is in science and how it relates to facts then he shouldn’t even be teaching any science-based class, let alone one that deals with evolution. It is curious (not really, I guess) how he has managed to go through all of this mess and *still* not have learned the difference. Does he have to be hit with the proverbial 2x4 before he learns?

I was watching Eugenie Scott’s talk on “Academic Freedom” Laws in a video posted by Sensuous Curmudgeon, and thinking about the trend in language in the ID/creationism legislation.

There is little doubt that these sectarians driving paranoia about all of secular society will keep them meddling until they “get it right.”

As Eugenie point’s out, it is ultimately going to come down to education, both at the high school and university level. People will have to recognize not only the linguistics and the motivations that identify these sectarians, but they will have to become far more proficient at teaching the ideas of science. And that is not just evolution, but physics, chemistry, geology and earth science as well.

But I think that the education must go beyond this. ID/creationism is a horribly dishonest pseudo-science; and as such, it is dismal reading to anyone who understands the science and just how badly ID/creationism mangles real science.

As annoying and as wasteful of time that many people might think it would be to read and understand this pseudo-science, I suspect that it will ultimately become necessary for all dedicated teachers to understand and articulate. Not just articulate, but debunk in no uncertain terms.

The fact is that ID/creationism uses and builds upon common misconceptions that many students bring into the classroom. Learning how misconceptions arise and how to fine-tune a student’s understanding of subtle scientific concepts is something every teacher can benefit from; and studying the concoctions of ID/creationism can help. It’s bad tasting learning, but it does, in fact, help in one’s preparations of the correct concepts in science.

Somewhere in every science curriculum there needs to be some kind of unit or course on pseudo-science and other forms of voodoo science. ID/creationists aren’t the only aggressive crackpots out there.

JF: I teach what I … actually, I call it a robust evolution. I showed what was the evidence for evolution, I showed evidence that was opposed to evolution. I showed all sides.

RG: And let the kids decide?

JF: Yes. Let the kids decide. I stayed neutral on it, and let the kids make a decision on it.

Riiight! Because 8th graders are in a position to “decide” whether or not evolutionary science makes sense or not!

Maybe we should let them decide whether or not the germ theory of disease is right or not and whether or not they should wash their hands after going to the bathroom too … right, parents?

It’s clear that Freshwater was a good conman at his level of operation. He managed to convince his own supervisors and even colleagues that he was teaching science.

Of course he was not teaching science. We now know that he was not teaching it, and not merely subverting it, but destroying it wholesale. It wasn’t that he was merely presenting creationism as an alternative theory to evolution (which it isn’t); he was actively engaged in the denial, nay, sabotage of all science.

Well, that follows. Evolution is supported by every science, not just biology. To deny it, it is necessary to deny all science. And so we have the student’s remark about what he learned from Mr Freshwater: “Science can’t be trusted. Science can’t teach us anything.”

I can’t, just offhand, think of anything one might teach a student that would be more destructive to the student’s education, and to the student himself. Racism, perhaps. Freshwater systematically and deliberately crippled and blinded his students. He did it for years - decades. Fire him? He should never have been allowed within shouting distance of a school.

Compared with this evidential intent to drag his students back into the Dark Ages, and his actual achievement of it in some cases, burning crosses on their arms is trivial. Superficial burns is one thing; it’s abuse, sure, but compared to the profound damage he inflicted on their minds, it hardly rates a mention. And yet it was the branding which caused his downfall.

How many more are there out there? Freshwaters with just enough sense not to do something that comprehensively, violently, overwhelmingly stupid? “Flying under the radar”, working an audience, while destroying minds, educations, and the enlightenment itself, in the same determined, insuppressible way, but with more cunning?

I wonder.

Whence cometh “robust evolution”?

Surely not John Freshwater.

Have we a new idiom from ID/creationists?

A common trait of the anti-science Christians I’ve encountered that I find as fascinating as it is absurd, is the speed with which they become post-modern relativists on the subject of science, and the total lack of cognitive dissonance they display when doing it.

On what other subject would fundamentalist Christians ask, “What’s wrong with letting kids look at all that and try to decide on their own?”

Imagine:

“What’s wrong with telling the kids about both abstinence and birth control and letting them decide on their own?”

“What’s wrong with presenting the arguments for both capitalism and communism and letting the kids decide on their own?”

“What’s wrong with presenting the arguments for and against gay marriage and letting the kids decide on their own?”

“What’s wrong with telling kids…” – fill in the blank with virtually any topic other than science, and fundamentalist Christians would generally become apoplectic at the prospect of letting kids hear all sides of the issue and decide for themselves what they want to believe.

The level of intellectual inconsistency in stunning.

We can see Freshwater’s anti-intellectualism on another level, as well. As a religious man, he clearly has firm beliefs, but his logic sucks. Even a theologian will try to be consistent in his or her reasoning and look for compelling evidence in primary sources. Freshwater’s argument for “everything but evolution” is by contrast scattered and relies on poor secondary sources for support. His argument is essentially, “It just is. So there.” Hardly the kind of intellectual exercise suitable for a science class. (Of course, at the 8th grade level, that’s how a lot of science texts read.)

Most Bible literalists use this same kind of argumentative style: “The Book says so.… The defense rests.” There’s no attempt to address theology, or any other subject, in a multi-dimensional way. In their dichotomous worldview, Creationism/ID is the only valid “theory,” while evolution (which is not mentioned in the Bible at all – big surprise) is garbage.

As a science teacher and a theologian, Freshwater stinks. He has no grasp of the scientific method, or the reliability of evidence, or the requirements of a logical argument. I hope this man never finds another job teaching in the public schools, or really any school.

By the way, thanks for plugging my plug. I will plug this thread later on, in return.

Flint said:

I strongly suspect that Freshwater sincerely believes every different story he tells, at the time he tells it. Dawkins spoke of “virtuoso believing”, and creationists seem to have honed this skill over a lifetime. They literally DO believe six things before breakfast, incompatible with their after-breakfast beliefs, without skipping a beat.

I’m reminded of the joke about the customer who spent 15 minutes energetically haggling with the vendor over the price of some item. When they were finished, the next customer said “I want one of those also, at that same price.” And the vendor said “Oh no! For you, we start all over.” Each price is customized to a buyer, just like each creationist message is customized to an audience. Converts are made retail, not wholesale.

Why Freshwater believes in 6 impossible things before breakfast.

John said:

JF: I teach what I … actually, I call it a robust evolution. I showed what was the evidence for evolution, I showed evidence that was opposed to evolution. I showed all sides.

RG: And let the kids decide?

JF: Yes. Let the kids decide. I stayed neutral on it, and let the kids make a decision on it.

Riiight! Because 8th graders are in a position to “decide” whether or not evolutionary science makes sense or not!

Maybe we should let them decide whether or not the germ theory of disease is right or not and whether or not they should wash their hands after going to the bathroom too … right, parents?

Well kids should get to decide on everything. Except sex education apparently

Dave Luckett said: And so we have the student’s remark about what he learned from Mr Freshwater: “Science can’t be trusted. Science can’t teach us anything.”

There was a much better conclusion for student James Hoeffgren to reach: “Mr. Freshwater can’t be trusted. Mr. Freshwater can’t teach us anything.” If someone teaches nonsense, the students have every right to be suspicious of what they say next time.

Carl Drews said:

Dave Luckett said: And so we have the student’s remark about what he learned from Mr Freshwater: “Science can’t be trusted. Science can’t teach us anything.”

There was a much better conclusion for student James Hoeffgren to reach: “Mr. Freshwater can’t be trusted. Mr. Freshwater can’t teach us anything.” If someone teaches nonsense, the students have every right to be suspicious of what they say next time.

Sorry, I forgot to include the Biblical reference. James 3:1 “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (NIV)

nasty.brutish.tall said:

A common trait of the anti-science Christians I’ve encountered that I find as fascinating as it is absurd, is the speed with which they become post-modern relativists on the subject of science, and the total lack of cognitive dissonance they display when doing it.

I think this is a misconception. “Let the kids choose” has no connection, intended or implied, with letting the kids choose. Nobody is fooled. This request decodes as nothing more than “legally allow creationism into science class and we’ll take it from there.”

The goal here is to get the law changed so that children won’t get a chance to choose science while they still can.

Flint said: I think this is a misconception. “Let the kids choose” has no connection, intended or implied, with letting the kids choose. Nobody is fooled. This request decodes as nothing more than “legally allow creationism into science class and we’ll take it from there.”

The goal here is to get the law changed so that children won’t get a chance to choose science while they still can.

I don’t disagree when it comes to the DI crew and their like, who are masters of dissimulation about their legal motives (not to mention the identity of the designer). But I was referring more to the average joe churchgoer who is the target audience for said dissimulation. Most that I encounter are naive to the “strategy”, instead taking it at face value, which results in sincere indignation about how unfair it is that kids can’t just hear both sides and decide for themselves.

nasty.brutish.tall said:

Flint said: I think this is a misconception. “Let the kids choose” has no connection, intended or implied, with letting the kids choose. Nobody is fooled. This request decodes as nothing more than “legally allow creationism into science class and we’ll take it from there.”

The goal here is to get the law changed so that children won’t get a chance to choose science while they still can.

I don’t disagree when it comes to the DI crew and their like, who are masters of dissimulation about their legal motives (not to mention the identity of the designer). But I was referring more to the average joe churchgoer who is the target audience for said dissimulation. Most that I encounter are naive to the “strategy”, instead taking it at face value, which results in sincere indignation about how unfair it is that kids can’t just hear both sides and decide for themselves.

I’m not sure about that. Those people I know really DO want their kids to get the best education they can get - and that leaving Jesus out of the classroom deprives them of such an education. And after all, things like sex education (abstinence vs. birth control), political organizations (capitalism vs. communism), etc. ARE taught in class, with both sides at least presented, and the parents have the opportunity to help their children understand and choose. But the law flat keeps Jesus out of science class, so it comes across as unfair. The parent has to do ALL the religious heavy lifting.

The Creationist Thought Misleadership, I think, is trying to leverage a cultural orientation toward fairness into a foot they can stick in the door - and there’s no doubt in my mind that most of the target average joe churchgoers take it so unconsciously for granted that Jesus BELONGS in the classroom (and everywhere else) that they sincerely DO see it as a fairness issue, rather than what it really is. If they weren’t pre-convinced their children were being deprived of Truth (and maybe even heaven!), they’d see through these claims. The DI cannot and does not create the fundamentalist current, they only do all they can to steer that current where they wish it to go. And they sense that if children are provided a solid understanding of what science is, that current may stop flowing, or even reverse. They see the stakes as high.

Dave Luckett said:

How many more are there out there? Freshwaters with just enough sense not to do something that comprehensively, violently, overwhelmingly stupid?

How many? Well, according to the National Science Teachers Association, there are about 52,700 high school biology teachers (2005). If the Penn State study published in Science, linked above, is accepted, 13%, or close to 7,000, are explicitly teaching creationism. Look at how much trouble it was to get rid of Freshwater, and imagine doing that 7,000 times. Not a pleasant prospect.

Flint said:

I’m not sure about that. Those people I know really DO want their kids to get the best education they can get - and that leaving Jesus out of the classroom deprives them of such an education. And after all, things like sex education (abstinence vs. birth control), political organizations (capitalism vs. communism), etc. ARE taught in class, with both sides at least presented, and the parents have the opportunity to help their children understand and choose. But the law flat keeps Jesus out of science class, so it comes across as unfair. The parent has to do ALL the religious heavy lifting.

You make good points, and I don’t think we’re that far apart. However, I don’t think it is quite as simple as your bold quote above suggests, at least in Texas where I’m at. Abstinence only programs have enjoyed dominance here. And when the state social studies curriculum standards came under review here a couple of years ago, religious conservatives on the Board of Education fought hard to enhance content celebrating free market capitalism while trying to remove content about historical figures with “socialist” tendencies such as civil rights leaders and labor leaders. They even tried to rewrite the history of Joe McCarthy, wanting him portrayed as having saved the country from communism. Such people have no desire to have both sides taught on most subjects.

While I can’t speak for Freshwater,it appears that even he has his up Darwin’s colon far enough to believe that science can be addressed independently of metaphysics. If Darwinian factoids are necessary for certain standardized tests, the schools can just pass out review sheets for the kids to memorize. If not, it is time to consign that retard to whatever Victorian sewer he emerged.

Not that I object to teaching the religion of evolutionism in schools; the students should read Nietzsche, de Sade, Lovecraft, and others who express the bleak nihilism that is central to their faith that Darwin and his followers were too stupid to understand. They then should compare this to the love and hope available through the Gospel. Then the students could make an informed choice.

I think Flint may be underestimating the degree of mental compartmentalisation of which fundamentalists are capable. It is perfectly possible - indeed, necessary - for them to hold two (or more) mutually opposed views simultaneously.

Hence, they want freedom of speech, and they don’t want it, both at once, the one for themselves, the other for those opposed. They want science and history taught, and they don’t want them taught, both at once. They want the best possible education for their kids, and they don’t want it, both at once. They want to live according to the Bible, and they don’t want to, both at once. They hold the Bible to be literal and metaphorical, both at once. They want to enjoy the benefits of science and they think science knows little, both at once. They think that the State should be small and unimportant, and should never interfere with how citizens live their lives in private, but should be all-powerful to enforce moral behaviour, both at once.

It’s only possible to hold both views by not recognising that they are essentially opposed. How is it possible to not recognise that? I think - because I see it in myself sometimes - it works by keeping a sort of one-way gate between the compartments. Opening the one shuts the other. But to avoid cognitive dissonance, the gate must be very strong and the compartments inviolable. There can be no leakage.

They cope. They do actually cope.

Truly, the human mind is a wonderful thing. By which I mean that it is an object of wonder.

Hygaboo’s a professional, industrial strength troll, and it is unwise to assume that he’s actually sincere about anything.

That said, you can see that compartmentalisation that I noted operating there: he doesn’t mind the theory of evolution being taught, provided that it isn’t actually taught; he’s for freedom of thought, so long as it isn’t freedom of thought. Darwin was smart enough to fool practically everyone, even other creationists, (everyone, in fact, except the almighty Hyg himself) but he was desperately stupid, both at once.

Silly, isn’t it?

Dave Luckett said:

Hygaboo’s

This is the second time you called me that; is this some Australian curse word?

a professional, industrial strength troll, and it is unwise to assume that he’s actually sincere about anything.

Ahh, another Darwinian evasion. You just assume everybody who disagrees with you is a prankster so you don’t have to face the challenge the Gospel poses to your fetid faith!

That said, you can see that compartmentalisation that I noted operating there: he doesn’t mind the theory of evolution being taught, provided that it isn’t actually taught; he’s for freedom of thought, so long as it isn’t freedom of thought. Darwin was smart enough to fool practically everyone, even other creationists, (everyone, in fact, except the almighty Hyg himself) but he was desperately stupid, both at once.

Darwin’s arguments were stupid, and that is precisely why they appeal to the evolutionary mind. The kernel of goodness that still exists in most evolutionists directs them to the lotus-land of Darwinism. In a way, it is a good thing that most evolutionists do not correlate all of the contents of their minds. When they do, you get things like random school shootings.

Silly, isn’t it?

God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise!

Ian Brandon Andersen said:

While I can’t speak for Freshwater,it appears that even he has his up Darwin’s colon far enough to believe that science can be addressed independently of metaphysics. If Darwinian factoids are necessary for certain standardized tests, the schools can just pass out review sheets for the kids to memorize. If not, it is time to consign that retard to whatever Victorian sewer he emerged.

Not that I object to teaching the religion of evolutionism in schools; the students should read Nietzsche, de Sade, Lovecraft, and others who express the bleak nihilism that is central to their faith that Darwin and his followers were too stupid to understand. They then should compare this to the love and hope available through the Gospel. Then the students could make an informed choice.

It’s tough when people are putting theirs up where you never get to put yours, huh, Hygabooby?

It’s tough, huh Booby, when you realize there are no gods, no sparkly Santa Claus gifts of love and hope and magic. How old are you, anyway?

Dave Luckett said:

I think Flint may be underestimating the degree of mental compartmentalisation of which fundamentalists are capable. It is perfectly possible - indeed, necessary - for them to hold two (or more) mutually opposed views simultaneously.

You may be right, but the examples you give don’t line up with my notion of compartmentalization.

Hence, they want freedom of speech, and they don’t want it, both at once, the one for themselves, the other for those opposed.

Not compartmentalization. They want the freedom to speak THEIR opinions, but this is not a generalized social freedom of speech at all. “Free speech” for such people is only a code phrase for “only my opinion should be allowed.”

They want science and history taught, and they don’t want them taught, both at once.

Again, I don’t think this is quite it. They want science and history consistent with their preferred views taught. What differs from their views isn’t science or history, you know. It’s propaganda!

They want the best possible education for their kids, and they don’t want it, both at once.

Not so. Not at all. They want the best possible education for their kids period. But of course, they get to define “best” to suit their purposes. As do we all, of course.

They want to live according to the Bible, and they don’t want to, both at once.

My observation has been that they want to live according to the bible, as per their interpretation of their selection of which parts of the bible they wish to live according to. Although they do seem a little weak on the notion that if others lived exactly as they themselves wish to, they wouldn’t tolerate it.

They hold the Bible to be literal and metaphorical, both at once.

As do we all, right? Even the most devout literalists have conceded that some of the biblical imagery isn’t literal. And even those most inclined to see metaphors agree that some of the bible is quite accurate history. But I agree that some people’s standards for judging what to take literally and what to take metaphorically are, uh, elastic, and hard to distinguish from self-serving, at least in terms of the interpretations required to keep themselves on a pedestal, the crown of creation, the image of God.

They want to enjoy the benefits of science and they think science knows little, both at once.

They seem pretty focused about this, though. Most of science is acceptable, some is rejected, and NONE of it is understood. But nonetheless, scientific positions are subjected to a fairly consistent religious filter. Even the ICR’s pledge allowed scientists to make genuine knowledge-extending discoveries, provided those discoveries passed the religious litmus test. The issue here isn’t compartmentalization at all, but rather a matter of a swearing contest between conflicting authorities. Where scriptural authority is interpreted as being either silent or metaphorical, science is fine. Where it’s interpreted as being more unambiguous, it trumps reality every time.

They think that the State should be small and unimportant, and should never interfere with how citizens live their lives in private, but should be all-powerful to enforce moral behaviour, both at once.

I disagree with this fairly strongly. There is no necessity that a government charged with enforcing moral behavior must be very large or expensive. You can build a lot of jails and hire a lot of thought police for what we now “waste” on social security, foreign aid, medicare, and other social programs.

It’s only possible to hold both views by not recognising that they are essentially opposed.

But so far, everything you’ve listed has been internally consistent. You don’t seem willing to recognize that hypocrisy is NOT an inconsistent position for an individual. Just because YOU should share with ME, doesn’t mean everyone should share with everyone, or that I should share with anyone.

How is it possible to not recognise that? I think - because I see it in myself sometimes - it works by keeping a sort of one-way gate between the compartments. Opening the one shuts the other. But to avoid cognitive dissonance, the gate must be very strong and the compartments inviolable. There can be no leakage.

Well, no thoughtful reflection anyway. But the compartmentalization I’ve seen lies inside explicitly religious walls, so that (for example) the ability to use observation to generate evidence, and use rules of inference to draw conclusions from it, can be quite well developed in general, yet totally suspended when it comes to observing religious-oriented phenomena or drawing non-predetermined conclusions.

In general, you could take just about any fable from the creationist religious tradition, from the Garden of Eden to the Flood to the resurrection of Christ, you could change the location and names but keep the substance of the story intact, and these folks would recognize instantly that we’re dealing with fiction, often silly fiction. So long as these tales stay outside the compartment, they’re evaluated like anything else. But paint them with a coat of Jesus, and the compartment is entered and the mind switches off.

Having a blind spot, even a large one, isn’t the same as being blind.

I won’t nitpick, Flint. I think we actually agree, mostly. But I’m afraid that you’re badly wrong here:

There is no necessity that a government charged with enforcing moral behavior must be very large or expensive.

On the contrary, such a government must be enormous, bloated and all-pervasive. Its tendrils must penetrate to every act, with or without consequence to second or other persons. It is governance that mandates, in fact, the abolition of any distinction between public and private acts. It’s the government of 1984, of East Germany, of North Korea, a government so vast and so all-demanding that it consumes most of the useful work of the populace, relegating most of it to the most wretched poverty.

Yet this is the government the religious fundamentalists would have, except that they wouldn’t have it. They want women to be prevented from controlling their own fertility. They want gays to be suppressed and pilloried. They want Biblical (or Koranic or Torah) sexual morality enforced and for the enforceement to come from public law. They want the Lord’s Day (whichever one it is) kept holy, or else, by order. They want government to have the power to suppress other religions. Consider the “Mosque at Ground Zero” foofaraw. The immediate appeal was to the power of government to prevent it - but these are the very people who think that government should be as powerless as possible. Yet they want these things, knowing that they involve the huge extension of government power, which must necessarily much increase the resources consumed by it.

Sure, it’s hypocrisy. But for them neither to recognise it as hypocrisy - and they don’t - nor to attempt to resolve the conflict, they must necessarily be capable of holding two mutually opposed opinions at once and not know that they’re doing it. This, to me, indicates compartmentalisation of attitudes so profound and so inviolable as to amount to actual fragmentation of mind in some respects.

wheatdogg.myopenid.com said:

Rockwell also painted a classic scene of a little black girl being escorted to school by federal marshals, and an ecumenical grouping of people off all different colors and faiths worshiping. Not all his paintings were of white folks.

A copy of that painting is found on the site harold gave, above. I very much enjoy how Rockwell cut the heads off the feds, but showed the tension and grimness in their posture and gait, while the little girl is simply walking to school, her eyes on what is ahead of her. It’s a compositional comment on faceless authority, on childhood, and on what the issue was, and is. It shows what representational art can be used to do.

Dave Luckett said:

wheatdogg.myopenid.com said:

Rockwell also painted a classic scene of a little black girl being escorted to school by federal marshals, and an ecumenical grouping of people off all different colors and faiths worshiping. Not all his paintings were of white folks.

A copy of that painting is found on the site harold gave, above. I very much enjoy how Rockwell cut the heads off the feds, but showed the tension and grimness in their posture and gait, while the little girl is simply walking to school, her eyes on what is ahead of her. It’s a compositional comment on faceless authority, on childhood, and on what the issue was, and is. It shows what representational art can be used to do.

Not to belabor this issue, but let’s recall that it’s a harsh right wing theocracy ruled by a wealthy elite, not an “return to an imaginary Rockwellian past”’, that creationist political activity seeks to establish.

harold said:

Not to belabor this issue, but let’s recall that it’s a harsh right wing theocracy ruled by a wealthy elite, not an “return to an imaginary Rockwellian past”’, that creationist political activity seeks to establish.

That is true. However, most creationist political activists seek to present the illusion that said oligo-theocracy will be a return to this imaginary Rockwellian paradise.

apokryltaros said:

harold said:

Not to belabor this issue, but let’s recall that it’s a harsh right wing theocracy ruled by a wealthy elite, not an “return to an imaginary Rockwellian past”’, that creationist political activity seeks to establish.

That is true. However, most creationist political activists seek to present the illusion that said oligo-theocracy will be a return to this imaginary Rockwellian paradise.

This actually segues me into a thought I had yesterday.

I’d honestly dispute this.

It’s true that reality-denying authoritarian mass movements demanding ideological purity have usually presented an ultimate Utopian vision - for their adherents. That was certainly true of European fascist movements, in their way, and of communist movements. Arguably, it’s even true of radical Islam.

However, presentation of positive goals, other than appeal to short term greed, and rather narcissistic claims to special status in the eyes of a divine being, is markedly absent in the current US right wing movement. There is only a relatively small amount of hypocritical praise even of “heroes” in the military or law enforcement, partly because members of the movement are deeply ambivalent about law, unions, and humane treatment of military veterans (use of quotes not intended to deny that some members of military and law enforcement have acted in heroic ways). It’s almost pure reactionary resentment, anger, and paranoid fear.

One obvious reason is that the ideology has an economic component. The movement today is the result of an alliance between economic right wingers who weren’t necessarily crazy about traditional religion, and religious authoritarians who were willing to adopt right wing economic ideas. However, the ideology is hard-baked now, and those who fail to endorse all aspects of it become controversial and rejected within the movement.

The economic policies of mid-twentieth century presidents, say FDR through Nixon and certainly including the Republicans of those times, were anathema by the standards of the contemporary conservative movement.

And the movement also has to incorporate people who resent every progressive advance since, and including, the abolition of slavery.

It’s also worth remembering that for all its tolerated misogyny, racism, sexual repression, and so on, mid-century society was relatively humane in some ways, for example incarceration rates, execution rates, and so on. Stuff like this is more characteristic of contemporary times http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Swartz#JSTOR (the point is not that Swartz didn’t distribute copies of an academic journal without paying; he probably did, although the publisher is not pursuing civil damages; the point is that it has been trumped up into an insane charge that could lead to 35 years in prison by prosecutors, and even if that’s eventually dropped, it happened at all. I could go on with other examples.)

They seldom make reference to a past “ideal” time at all. The more “economically oriented” of them may make reference to Hoover, Coolidge, the nineteenth century, or even the eighteenth century, as an ideal. But one doesn’t hear that out of the mouths of the propaganda lords very often. Fox News, Limbaugh, etc, tend to stick to a negative message that manipulates anger, selfishness, and panic.

The mid-century industrial American society had its strengths and weaknesses. It faced several crises in the mid-seventies - the traditional unspoken ethnic and gender hierarchy broke down, the need for pollution control was recognized, and the unsustainable nature of a fossil fuel driven economy was recognized.

“Progressives” or “liberals” can very much be characterized as people who wanted to preserve the positive aspects of mid-century industrial society, while improving it to make it non-discriminatory, sustainable, and economically benign.

The right wing movement of today despises many aspects of the mid-century era - economic policy, liberal churches, humane concern for prisoners and juvenile delinquents, improving conditions for women and ethnic minorities, etc.

I haven’t seen them ever present a Utopian vision, and I certainly haven’t ever seen them suggest support for a system of high wages, highly progressive taxes, low incarceration rates, low crime, free public universities, strong respect for and promotion of science, and so on.

Caveat -

Ronald Reagan and some other conservatives of his era did perhaps make use of imagery implying a return to a recent, more ideal past.

We’re getting a long way from “robust evolution,” folks.

Richard B. Hoppe said:

We’re getting a long way from “robust evolution,” folks.

I was moved an association of ideas to Google “robust australopithecines” and got Amazon offering “Australopithecines - Great Prices and Huge Selection”.…

Richard B. Hoppe said:

We’re getting a long way from “robust evolution,” folks.

I never saw a response to my query Dec. 7th:

Whence cometh “robust evolution”?

Surely not John Freshwater.

Have we a new idiom from ID/creationists?

Do you think Freshwater came up with this himself?

Is he referring to the hypothesized hyper-evolution after “The Flood”?

Maybe “robust evolution” is a new euphemism for impossible hyper-evolution.

prongs said:

I never saw a response to my query Dec. 7th:

Whence cometh “robust evolution”?

Surely not John Freshwater.

Have we a new idiom from ID/creationists? Do you think Freshwater came up with this himself?

Is he referring to the hypothesized hyper-evolution after “The Flood”?

Maybe “robust evolution” is a new euphemism for impossible hyper-evolution.

I don’t know where it comes from. It’s used in the context of search optimisation and evolutionary algorithms, but Freshwater’s usage to justify teaching creationism and/or anti-evolution is new to me.

prongs said:

Richard B. Hoppe said:

We’re getting a long way from “robust evolution,” folks.

I never saw a response to my query Dec. 7th:

Whence cometh “robust evolution”?

Surely not John Freshwater.

Have we a new idiom from ID/creationists?

Do you think Freshwater came up with this himself?

Is he referring to the hypothesized hyper-evolution after “The Flood”?

Maybe “robust evolution” is a new euphemism for impossible hyper-evolution.

I don’t think it’s a new neologism: it sounds like, to me at least, simply a lie Freshwater made up on the spot to make it sound like he had taught science and not anti-science religious propaganda.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 7, 2011 2:11 PM.

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