Questionable Motives

April 1, 2012

How are scientists like rapists?

Filed under: Religion,Republican Party,Science — tildeb @ 1:55 pm

The Blue Collar Atheist has a vimeo clip from the Daily Show I wish to post but cannot that reveals the dastardly plot by scientists to scam us all. So pop over and see what’s causing all the laughter.

October 21, 2011

Is Newt Gingrich anti-American?

Of course not. He is a patriot (of the New and Improved kind!). But what that means to you now isn’t quite what you may think it means by the time you reach the end of this post.

I think he is the antithesis of a patriotic American because he is intentionally undermining both the Constitution, to which he has sworn to uphold and protect from enemies foreign and domestic, and the Bill of Rights using cherry-picked bits of history to revise it in a way that makes up seem down, left seem to be another kind of right, and American history to support the delusion that religion –  rather than the Enlightenment values of reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise – was responsible for these founding documents.

Gingrich quoted from OpEdNews:

I think if the question is Does faith matter, absolutely. How can you have a country which is founded on truth, which begins, “We are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights” — how — how can you have the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which says religion, morality and knowledge being important, education matters? That’s the order: religion, morality and knowledge.

Now, I happen to think that none of us should rush in judgment of others in the way in which they approach God. And I think that all of us up here, I believe, would agree. (Cheers, applause.) But I think all of us would also agree that there’s a very central part of your faith in how you approach public life. And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments because then I’d wonder, where’s your judgment — how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray? (Applause.)

Who you pray to, how you pray, how you come close to God is between you and God. But the notion that you’re endowed by your creator sets a certain boundary on what we mean by America. (Applause.)

Gingrich is a slippery one and vile in his abuse of history to serve his pro-religious anti-Americanism. And it is anti-American.

He is trying to make it appear that the country’s governance and public education has a religious foundation. This is what we call historical revisionism… a polite way of saying someone is approaching the line children and other plain speakers call lying. In Gingrich’s case, clearly he is attempting to use his knowledge of history to support that which is not historically accurate. The polite can call this historical revisionism. I call it anti-American.

Hamilton and Madison, who explained the Constitution clause-by-clause in the Federalist Papers, did so totally without scriptural references. Funny, that. Gingrich avoids these vital documents presumably because they do not support his revisionism nor the intention of his revisionism. Note that it would have been good politics for Hamilton and Madison to argue that the Constitution was based on scripture, but there was no scriptural basis for concepts like a decentralized federal republic, a two-house legislature, limited government with enumerated powers, representation based on population, checks and balances, prohibiting religious qualifications for holding office, allowing secular oaths, and providing that a man-made Constitution was the supreme law of the land, which derived power solely from the consent of the governed and not by god. This shows just how carefully Gingrich picks what he does: he has a religious agenda to serve and it is not to in the protection of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. His agenda is to undermine them in the name of promoting religious piety.

Gingrich would have us believe that this revolutionary Constitution recognized the supremacy of god, whereas in fact it removed god entirely from government of the people, by the people, for the people. As a historian, Gingrich is cherry picking only those quotes which seems to support the importance of religious faith in government, whereas in historical fact this revisionist claptrap is unequivocally and patently false. He is trying to claim black is white… always a good indication of an agenda-driven sleight-of-hand. In my mind, Gingrich has joined up with the movement I call lying for Jesus.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 occurred under the Articles of Confederation, not the Constitution. Gingrich knows this but pretends the cherry-picked bit was part of the founding intentions for promoting religion in the public domain when it was no such thing. The national government wasn’t constrained by what became the Bill of Rights, but many of those rights were specified in the Ordinance (jury trial, habeas corpus, protection of property rights, sanctity of contract, prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments, etc.). Section 13 said:

And, for extending the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty, which form the basis whereon these republics, their laws and constitutions are erected; to fix and establish those principles as the basis of all laws, constitutions, and governments, which forever hereafter shall be formed in the said territory: to provide also for the establishment of States, and permanent government therein, and for their admission to a share in the federal councils on an equal footing with the original States, at as early periods as may be consistent with the general interest.

Gingrich’s cherry-picking becomes obvious here when he ignores the context that highlights religious liberty as one of the central founding principles and chooses only those words from Article 3 that only gives the appearance of supporting religion in the education:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Note that it doesn’t require religious education — or any education; it merely encourages schools. So why did Gingrich mention this line alone, devoid of context in which it means the opposite of what he is trying to convey? Perhaps it’s because it gives the appearance that there’s some kind of founding authority that government schools should teach religion. This is bunk and Gingrich knows it is bunk. Any second year American history student knows this is bunk. Heck, even I know this is bunk and I am neither a university grad in history nor even an American. What’s Gingrich’s excuse for this gross misrepresentation?

Gee, I wonder.

What is clear is that he is prostituting his knowledge of history by cherry-picking bits and pieces he can reassemble into what amounts to a blatant misrepresentation of historical fact in order to appeal to the ignorant biases of his uneducated audience for his own political gain. That it comes directly at the expense of upholding the intentions of nation’s founding documents seems not to matter to him or his audience. Such historical revisionism contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and Bill of Rights smacks to me of sedition for political gain. This is what Gingrich actually means for America, although he does his best to paint non believers as the enemy, those who are morally suspect for their lack of faith who will abuse the public power they are granted by the electorate unless they have religious faith, yet we see just how willing Gingrich is as a believer to use that highly touted faith to increase his chances to win public power by undermining support for the those founding documents! With patriots like these, who needs enemies?  But under the skirts of religious piety, Gingrich and the other whack-a-mole religious nutjobs that front the Republican party are doing their level best to undermine their Constitution and Bill of Rights and call the endeavor patriotic. But hey, what’s revising a few words to mean their opposite when you are already willing to revise history in order to reverse the intentions of your country’s founding documents to mean what they don’t mean? That’s why I think Gingrich and his ilk are indeed the new and improved version of an American patriot.

February 15, 2010

Why do the Texas state school board curriculum decisions matter so much?

Here are some excerpts from a fantastic article by Russell Shorto published in The New York Times Magazine that answers this question:

Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money. The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State. California is the largest textbook market, but besides being bankrupt, it tends to be so specific about what kinds of information its students should learn that few other states follow its lead. Texas, on the other hand, was one of the first states to adopt statewide curriculum guidelines, back in 1998, and the guidelines it came up with (which are referred to as TEKS — pronounced “teaks” — for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) were clear, broad and inclusive enough that many other states used them as a model in devising their own.

The cultural roots of the Texas showdown may be said to date to the late 1980s, when, in the wake of his failed presidential effort, the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition partly on the logic that conservative Christians should focus their energies at the grass-roots level. One strategy was to put candidates forward for state and local school-board elections — Robertson’s protégé, Ralph Reed, once said, “I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members” — and Texas was a beachhead. Since the election of two Christian conservatives in 2006, there are now seven on the Texas state board who are quite open about the fact that they vote in concert to advance a Christian agenda. “They do vote as a bloc,” Pat Hardy, a board member who considers herself a conservative Republican but who stands apart from the Christian faction, told me. “They work consciously to pull one more vote in with them on an issue so they’ll have a majority.”

The one thing that underlies the entire program of the nation’s Christian conservative activists is, naturally, religion. But it isn’t merely the case that their Christian orientation shapes their opinions on gay marriage, abortion and government spending. More elementally, they hold that the United States was founded by devout Christians and according to biblical precepts. This belief provides what they consider not only a theological but also, ultimately, a judicial grounding to their positions on social questions. When they proclaim that the United States is a “Christian nation,” they are not referring to the percentage of the population that ticks a certain box in a survey or census but to the country’s roots and the intent of the founders.

The Texas board’s moves to bring Jesus into American history has drawn anger in places far removed from the board members’ constituencies. The issue of Texas’ influence is a touchy one in education circles. With some parents and educators elsewhere leery of a right-wing fifth column invading their schools, people in the multibillion textbook industry try to play down the state’s sway.Tom Barber, who worked as the head of social studies at the three biggest textbook publishers before running his own editorial company, says, “Texas was and still is the most important and most influential state in the country.” And James Kracht, a professor at Texas A&M’s college of education and a longtime player in the state’s textbook process, told me flatly, “Texas governs 46 or 47 states.”

It’s one thing that 60% of American Republicans and about 38% of Democrats believe that humans were created in their present form 10,000 years ago, but when that religious belief translates into electing creationist school board members who vote accordingly for sympathetic curriculum in a state that effectively writes the texbooks for almost all of the states, then we have a titanic problem.

And it’s not just in the United States where this attack by theology into educational curriculum is such a growing concern.  In Britain, the numbers are approaching parity: about a third of people believe the same fairytale as their American counterparts and a majority think that evolution is insufficient to explain life without some Oogity Boogity to solve the really hard problems.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the move of unjustified beliefs from theology into educational curriculum does not stop with science. This year’s focus in Texas is mostly on rewriting history to favour evangelical christianity as the theological framework within which the founding fathers wrote their documents. The intention is to falsely present the US as a christian rather than a secular nation.

One thing we know for sure: the battle between theology and education for school curriculum will keep Texas a vital strategic theatre of operations. Stay tuned…

February 6, 2010

Why is ignorance such a powerful political force in the US?

There may be a clue here:

From the Republican Party straight to FOX News – the most ‘trusted’ news source in the US – comes evidence that selling intentional misrepresentations, outright lies, and purposeful misinformation all for partisan gain works and works well. It works because so many people are more than willing to accept ignorance packaged as something else (patriotism, religion, freedom, wisdom, passion, etc.) as the basis for their opinions. Yet once stripped of the packaging, these opinions become strikingly ignorant, intolerant, and incredibly dangerous to the continued respect and well-being of the Constitution.

Check this poll out and tell me what you think.

February 1, 2010

How can the United States become a loser in a competitive world?

It’s easy: just follow and implement the Texas State Republican Platform!

With its clearly laid out plan that says one thing that seems a step in the right direction only to advocate guidelines that will achieve its opposite, this is a timely and important document to turn a great state into a laughing stock, a proud state into a righteously pious theocracy, an able state to alter intelligent and capable children into idiots.

Well done,  Texas!

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