Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Monday, April 18, 2011

TN Monkeys Storm General Assembly

In this case, the monkeys are the legislators themselves, which some might claim is an insult to our cousins in the wild. They wouldn't be wrong.

Eighty-five years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, last week the Tennessee General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make it easier for public schools to teach creationism.

The bill would require educators to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies." It lists four "controversies" ripe for pedagogical tinkering: biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
"This is part of a long held creationist strategy," says Steven Newton, policy director for the National Center for Science Education. "By doing everything except mention the Bible, they are attacking evolution without the theology."
The floor debate was a "tour de force in creative polemics." Rep. Frank Nicely "'thanks' that if 'anythang,' people in this room could agree on," it is that Einstein believed that "a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity." Therefore, it only follows that creationism should be taught in schools. The Jewish scientist's only religion was agnosticism.


Not to be outdone in the Dept. of Scientific Ignorance, Rep. Sheila Butt spoke about all the things she learned in high school which have turned out not to be true by providing the Aqua Net theory of global warming.


Each video is slightly over one minute and is well worth the view - just to get the full flavor of mind boggling ignorance spoken with a Tennessee twang. What's in the minds of people who vote for these monkeys?

Tennessee isn't the only state sashaying their butts. Six others are swinging from the tree tops with creationist bills in their hands: Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Missouri.

Note: Of course Einstein never said or implied anything close to what Nicely claims. This is about as close as I could find and the quote is about 10,000 miles away from broader knowledge turning one's head toward Christianity:
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.


  1. Am I living in 2011, or not? It's amazing these subjects are even still being debated. Religion can really screw up a society.

  2. Never underestimate the depth of Stupid...and their attempts to spread it around.

  3. I am a direct descendant of a great ape. True. Every time Dad would say something stupid, Mom would slap him on the shoulder and say. "You Big Ape" .... and Mom was never wrong.

  4. Those people no doubt come by it honestly. Kevin Phillips goes into considerable detail describing the roots of modern conservatism and the influence of Christian fundamentalists — Baptists, Pentecostals and so on — in one of his books. I think it was "Bad Money." Tennessee was and is one of the places where it formed and has flourished for generations.

    I found Butts' argument interesting, if not persuasive. She raises a point that people who don't really get it about science often find disturbing or take as an indication science is just mumbo jumbo.

    Scientists study things and advance hypotheses, or theories, about why something is a certain way. If scientists elsewhere take it up and observe the same result, eventually consensus is reached that the theory is correct. If not, it remains in question or in time is refuted and replaced with something else.

    That process seems messy and indefinite to people attuned to biblical absolutes. Creative reading of the Bible can yield instant, absolute reasons for or answers about anything. It's no doubt simpler and more satisfying to those who see things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, with no in between.

    It's not surprising people of that mindset want their young to be taught in ways they find familiar and satisfying.

  5. While I totally agree that creationism, or any other "ism", has no place in a science curriculum, I believe it does have a place in secondary education. There has been no more powerful force throughout history than religion and the major religions and their primary tenants should be taught in school. To not do so leaves the education of such to tent preachers and outright charlatans and plays into the hands of homophobic bigots such the character in Florida who burns Korans.

    I say teach creationism and any other religious cockamamie in schools and let the kids decide for themselves what makes sense to them and what doesn't.

  6. I'm going to try to respond with restraint and coherence, but--uh,oh--sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, this is so ignunt, it just makes me insane!!!

    My sweet son in Nashville has suggested that his father and I make our final move to his area so he can spend more time with us. My fear? That people like these will run the assisted living facility when I get there and I'll be too weak to defend myself. On the other hand, I don't want to be stuck here in South Carolina, either, for the same reason.

  7. @Tom: Creationism should only be taught in a mythology class.

    @JC: They're spreading stupidity alright and each generation is getting dumber than the previous one.

    @okjimm: Har! Moms are never wrong.

    @SW" Good analysis. Living in Ten-uh-see, I see and hear this kind of thing all the time. It's really distressing because they just close their minds and absolutely refuse to accept anything that isn't in the Bible. So, basically, there's no point in even trying to discuss anything with them.

    @Mr. C: I don't totally disagree with you, but the trouble with these mindsets is that you give them an inch and they soon take over the whole show. If creationism is to be taught, it should be in a comparative religion class. Needless to say, they would never go for this.

    @Nance: My mom lived in a retirement home here that had lots of folks who would have applauded this bill. But there were also plenty of retired Vanderbilt faculty and academics from other areas who offered a welcome relief. And I'm here. : )

  8. "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly." -- Einstein (more here).

    Einstein was an atheist by any normal definition. He sometimes used religious terminology metaphorically, as many people do.

    As for the idiots who want to teach ancient mythology in science classes, there has always been a streak of this in the country. The widespread teaching of evolution dates back to the period after Sputnik and was part of the renewed emphasis on real science which we suddenly realized was necessary because we were in a real competition.

    What we really need right now is another Sputnik moment. The kids in Tennessee who get their grasp of science confused by this nonsense are going to be competing with kids in Russia, Japan, Europe, China, etc. who were taught real science. Put it to people that way, and maybe they'll get it.

  9. Infidel: I don't disagree with anything you say here up until: "Put it to people that way, and maybe they'll get it." No, they'll never get it, partly because they simply don't want to or don't care and partly because they live in a very narrow world whose boundaries don't extend beyond their front porches. They could care less about what the rest of the world thinks because as far as they are concerned, it simply doesn't exist.

  10. partly because they live in a very narrow world whose boundaries don't extend beyond their front porches.

    Figures. Up next: "Asia is just a theory."

  11. Apparently the fact of carbon dating has not penetrated the closed minds of these people, because if it did, there would be no discussion of creationism. Also all science is arrayed in its factual majesty against the nonsense that the Earth is 6,000 years old.

    End of discussion.

    The states that embrace this ignorance are mainly in the south. Why? Let's have a discussion on it.

  12. Shaw: “The states that embrace this ignorance are mainly in the south. Why? Let's have a discussion on it.”

    I am a Christian who believes in evolution. Period. The Holy Bible should be taught as a great work of literature with all the literary devices of such a work. It is certainly rife with symbolism.

    That said, as a child of the South, I will address Shaw’s question. In the South, by and large, the center of all community activity and socializing is the church. Few fundamentalists are exposed to cultural and educational experiences beyond going to church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday nights. And, it’s fundamentalists we are speaking of here. There are plenty of Christians who accept the theory of evolution.

    Now, if the experience of fundamentalists brings them happiness, that’s their business, but they must not be allowed to impose on others their lack of knowledge of a world beyond their narrow parameters. They are not flaunting creationism in the face of scientific fact so much as being totally ignorant of it.

    I know of what I speak


  13. @Shaw: Good question. While we see the bulk of creationism in the South, it's "everywhere." California ranks right up there with TN and Texas. Kansas and Colorado have their fair share as do other states. I think one huge influence, besides the ones BJ mentions, are the homeschoolers. I for one think these shams should not be allowed and for many, many other reasons. Just think, Bachmann home schooled her five biological children and 27 foster kids. Can you imagine the kind of "education" they received?

    @BJ: I agree that we need to distinguish between fundamentalist "Christians" and main-stream Christians. However, in the case of the latter, there are many where the church is the center of their lives but that fact doesn't preclude them from believing in scientific fact.

    Yet, there is no doubt that creationism prevails more in the South than in the rest of the country. These are the same people who can't accept the outcome of the Civil War or that Obama won in 2008. In other words, they can't accept the will of the majority and want to impose their narrow beliefs on everyone else. In their minds the Bible supersedes the Constitution and rational or scientific thinking.

    Out of 34 countries the U.S. ranks second from the bottom in the belief in evolution. Only Turkey is last.

  14. This is a battle that will continue to be fought in legislatures all over the country as long as we have a president and a congress that keeps yapping about God and hosting freaking "prayer breakfasts" at every opportunity, not to mention saying "God Bless America" at the end of every speech. There is also that catering to all of these religious leaders and not coming out in strong opposition to fairy tales being taught in schools.

    The religious nutters are taking a fast and firm hold on this country and they are dangerous to our children. They need to be stopped, but I don't know how to do that. Any thoughts?

  15. @Mike: I'm not too keen on those prayer breakfasts or in all this catering to religious leaders either, but mainly because of the separation of church and state issue. I believe Obama says "God bless the United States" which seems to have a slightly different ring to it. I checked this once awhile back but I think most presidents have said it, so the precedent is set, so to speak. And "God" can be any God.

    The only way I can think of to stop these religious nutters from taking over the schools is to elect different people to the city councils, school boards, legislatures and the governorships. But, as you and I know, here in the South there's a zero chance of that happening.

  16. Thanks for the clarification and explanations BJ and tnlib.

    As I thought about it, I recalled that growing up in Massachusetts, the Catholic Church had a very, very strong influence in family life--as stong, I would say as how you've described it in the south. However, there was never any indoctrination against evolution. The nuns in parochial school who taught biology covered evolution, and there were no complaints from the parents.

    But the Catholic Church's teachings were more concentrated and based in the New Testament and not the Old Testament where this anti-evolution is probably based.

    I still don't understand how this can be a controversy.

  17. tn answered shaw, saying "@Shaw: Good question. While we see the bulk of creationism in the South, it's "everywhere."

    In the deep blue state of Michigan, this mindset is quite common, also, in my experience. Maybe not as common as in the Bible Belt south, but it's pretty strong.

    These are the folks that watch the 700 club religiously *cough*.

    While I am a Christian (like several who have already posted) and against abortion (perhaps the only one), no I find little agreement with them.

  18. @Shaw: I think pretty much everything that isn't found in the Bible or heard from the preacher is controversial for these fundies. Kind of funny considering that they have cars, fly on planes, have more teen sex than the national norm, etc.

    Fundies just don't go to church twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, they most often pray and read the Bible at every meal and before going to bed at night. Down here you will see them in restaurants (that serve booze) holding hands and praying before they eat. (Some of my family do this and I hate it). Kids are indoctrinated early on. In the summer they attend Bible school or Bible camp where they wear - omg - bathing suits and swim! Horrors. It is 24/7 indoctrination - and these kids grow up and have kids, so the circle is never unbroken. Any benefits of a secular education are destroyed.

    A true story. A gal who used to live here was a dedicated fundie. She and I were walking our dogs along the edge of the parking lot that runs behind some houses. Behind the one with a pool she said the owner told her they didn't use it because there was a ghost there. She said her dog never liked to walk behind this house. Then she paused and thought for a moment and said, "yes, there is something in the Bible about spirits." She is a dedicated Fox watcher and a birther. It's just astounding how these people think.

    @dmarks: It is indeed everywhere and the prevailing ignorance is what contributes to such forms of government as fascism.

  19. Growing up in Irish Catholic Boston, I too was influenced quite strongly by the RCC as a result of having had that religion thrust on me as a child. However, I was raised in an immigrant Italian Catholic family where our religion was more a basis for celebrating holidays with food, wine, and music--and new clothes.

    This Good Friday I'm remembering an incident from my childhood that deliniated the way these two cultures approached the Roman Catholic religion.

    My best friends were two Irish Catholic sisters, and two Jewish sisters who lived in my immediate neighborhood. The Irish sisters had Good Friday off from the parochial school they attended, and their mother insisted that they kneel in front of a statue of Jesus from the hour of 12 noon to 3 o'clock, when they had to attend the Stations of the Cross.

    I attended public school, which did not give Good Friday off to students; but on this particular morning, my mother called in sick for me (I did have the beginnings of a cold), and she and I spent the day shopping for new shoes and accessories for my Easter outfit, which was an important element in our family for celebrating Easter Sunday.

    My Jewish girlfriends were busy helping their mother prepare a Seder--since, IIRC, Passover fell on the same weekend that year. After my shopping and purchase of a pair of beautiful black patent leather shoes, I went to my Jewish friend's house and watched her mother prepare for the Seder meal.

    We felt bad that our Irish friends were kneeling for 3 hours, but then quickly forgot their ordeal when Mrs. Levine served us her famous homemade cinnamon twists as a treat.

    A little before three o'clock, I had to leave to attend the Stations of the Cross--I did keep that tradition, and invited my two Jewish friends along (I think I was 8 or 9 years old and didn't quite get the "Jews Killed Christ" message, or maybe just didn't care?) I remember my two Jewish friends asking their mother if they could go to my church, and their mother smiled (I didn't know why) but politely declined my thoughtful invitation.

    After the Stations of the Cross service, it was back to the neighborhood where all of my friends and I put on our roller skates and forgot all about the god stuff and played until just before the sun went down.

  20. On evolution, there's a split between the Catholic Church and the fundamentalist ones. The Catholic Church accepts evolution, with some reservations.

    In my view, this is an after-effect of the Church's battle with Galileo. He was actually threatened with torture until he backed down and admitted that, yes, the Church was right and the Sun really does revolve around the Earth.

    It's an embarrassment the Church has never lived down. So when evolution came along, the authorities in the Vatican gave it some thought and concluded, "Nah, we're not gonna touch this one. Let the Protestants be the ones to make idiots of themselves fighting against science this time."

    Which they have.

  21. I just keep thinking how grateful I am that intellikid is done with her schooling here in TN. (And I have it on good authority that not many belles really gave up their Aqua Net.)

  22. I'm with Michael Scott.

    And you may not know the history of the "prayer breakfasts," but they were originally set up as a rightwing political events and have even seduced Hillary Clinton into giving them good PR.(See Jeff Sharlet's "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.")

    All this religion influencing the movers and shakers in the halls of Congress has moved our country from educated to miseducated.

    It's probably our ruination as a civilized, decent society.

  23. Wow, how nice it is to come home and finding that we all agree! : )

    @Shaw: I think you and I had similar experiences growing up. I was pretty naive when it came to different religious beliefs when I was younger. The only time I really worried about anything was when I went to a certain church with some of my relatives (who I dearly adore despite our difference). When I was told I was going to hell because I wasn't a member of that particular church, it scared my little heart almost to death. When I told my Episcopalian mother, she was none too happy. She pulled me in her lap and explained her own beliefs which were much more comforting to this scared little girl.

    @Infidel: You mean the earth doesn't revolve around the sun? My heavens! I wonder if the fundies know this.

    @intelliwence: That is precisely why my mother took me out of the Nashville public schools and sent me to a small girl's boarding school in Sewanee, TN, which my uncle paid for. It was run by Episcopal nuns, so there was the usual religious exercises but I received a first rate education not based on a narrow belief system.

    @Suzan: I think you're right but I still think we have to distinguish between religion as it applies to fundamentalists and religion as it applies to, if you will, the more educated sects - not to sound elitist. I apply the same theories and characteristics to the fundies that I do to all extremist groups and organizations.

    But I agree with you that religion does not belong anywhere in our government.

    Anyway, I'm glad you stopped by. Awhile back I accidentally deleted about 2/3 of my blog roll and have been trying to reconstruct it as best I can. Yours was one that I had forgotten to include. It's back on.

  24. I recall the science class I took in high school freshman year. Our young teacher asked how many of us learned how the earth was created from church/synagogue/Sunday school. We all raised our hands. He then began to explain what a theory was and moved into evolution and Darwin and ended with that it was our choice which theory we accepted. Nobody's parents complained. I think this world gets nuttier every day.