Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Pledge of Allegiance: The Next Generation

CNN on-line reports ("Appeals Court Upholds Pledge Law") that a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a suit filed against a public school system requiring daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
"Undoubtedly, the pledge contains a religious phrase, and it is demeaning to persons of any faith to assert that the words 'under God' contain no religious significance," Judge Karen Williams wrote. "The inclusion of those two words, however, does not alter the nature of the pledge as a patriotic activity."
Look for this case in a Supreme Court near you.

A Rushdie Judgment

A column in today's Times of London by Salman Rushdie (titled "Muslims Unite! A New Reformation Will Bring Your Faith Into the Modern Era") calls for a reformation of Islam, to "combat not only the jihadi ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows of the closed communities to let in much-needed fresh air."

It would be good to see governments and community leaders inside the Muslim world as well as outside it throwing their weight behind this idea, because creating and sustaining such a reform movement will require, above all, a new educational impetus whose results may take a generation to be felt, a new scholarship to replace the literalist diktats and narrow dogmatisms that plague present-day Muslim thinking.

It is high time, for starters, that Muslims were able to study the revelation of their religion as an event inside history, not supernaturally above it.

Humanists should applaud Rushdie's call for scholarly reassessment of Islam, and its potential to wrest control of this major world faith from the hands of the Islamofascists who now hold it hostage and threaten world peace.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Scientific Support, By Design

Paul Krugman has an excellent op-ed in today's New York Times ("Design for Confusion") discussing the continued use of pseudo-scientific "theories" to support an ideological agenda.
The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.
The question, of course, is what can be done about this situation. Clearly it is unproductive (and even counter-productive) to debate the merits of evolutionary theory, and proponents of ID have yet to put forth a falsifiable hypothesis that can be attacked directly.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bush Promotes Faith-based Science

A number of sources have reported that President Bush has come out in favor of teaching Intelligent Design in public schools. According to the 3 August 2005 Washington Post story titled "Bush Remarks on 'Intelligent Design' Theory Fuel Debate:"
"Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."
The complete transcript of the exchange from which this excerpt is taken was published by the Washington Post on 2 August 2005 as part of its "White House Briefing" feature.

Predictably, this pronouncement has resulted in widespread denouncement by such organizations as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, American Humanist Association, National Science Teachers Association, and American Geophysical Union,

An interesting parody of the case for teaching ID may be found here.

The Back of the Bus?

US News and World Reports has posted an article about a Universist group in Alabama being denied use of a local coffee shop for their meetings.
The problem arose, says Universist Movement founder Ford Vox, when he met with Anderson to discuss holding a gathering at Cool Beans. After she asked what the group believed in, he claims, Anderson said she was not comfortable with it meeting in her cafe because she is Christian.
This is somewhat reminiscent of WASH being denied the use of Winchester Hall in Frederick, Maryland for a forum on the public display of the Ten Commandments a few years ago.

embrace a "progressive, natural religious philosophy" not entirely unlike Humanism.