The World is Round, Humans Evolved, and Elvis is Dead

“The bottom line is that the world is round, humans evolved from an extinct species and Elvis is dead.” This is how Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal summed up an article based upon a recent survey which showed that 61% agree with evolution.

“In an age when people have benefited so greatly from science and reason, it is ironic that some still reject the tools that have afforded them the privilege to reject them,” says Dr. Gerald Weissmann, the journal’s editor-in-chief.

The article is based on a new national survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters. Respondents favored teaching evolution over creationism or intelligent design.

Respondents also were more interested in hearing about evolution from scientists, science teachers and clergy than from Supreme Court Justices, celebrities or school board members. A key finding from the survey: There is a relationship between people’s understanding of science and their support for teaching evolution.

Respondents were asked three science questions: one related to plate tectonics, one related to the proper use of antibiotics and one related to prehistory. Those who accurately answered questions on these subjects were far more likely to support the teaching of evolution in schools.

This report also looks at previous polls on the public’s acceptance of evolution and notes that the manner in which the question is asked has a tremendous influence upon the result . After reviewing various survey results the article concludes:

Scientists accept evolution as the best and only theory that accurately explains how humans and other species came to be so diverse. The theory is supported by many studies in many different fields of science. Intelligent design is a thinly veiled creationist argument designed to make the public doubt the theory of evolution, according to nearly all scientists and a 2005 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Huckabee on Creationism

Mike Huckabee has been trying to sound like a reasonable, non-scary guy to get the votes of people who do not normally vote for candidates from the religious right. Huckabee and Ron Paul are the two remaining candidates in the race who believe in creationism as opposed to evolution. Huckabee was asked about creationism on Good Morning America and tried to avoid being controversial, but still missed the point:

ABC’s “Good Morning America” grilled Huckabee about his evangelical ties, making Creationism the issue.ABC’s Robin Roberts mentioned a new book from the National Academy of Sciences that says Creationism has no place in the classroom — given the overwhelming evidence in favor of evolution.

“Do you agree with that — that Creationism should be kept out of our classrooms,” Roberts asked.

“In ten-and-a-half years as a governor, I never touched it,” Huckabee said. “It’s not an issue for a president. It wasn’t even an issue for me as a governor, and governors do deal with education – but not the curriculum.” Huckabee said his focus as governor was on music and arts in education.

“Should creationism be banned from the classroom, yes or no?” Roberts persisted.

“Banned? Well, banning sounds like sort of a censorship,” Huckabee said. “I don’t think most people agree with censorship. Should we teach it as a doctrine? Of course not. Should we teach that some people believe it, some don’t? I think that’s academic freedom.”

So Huckabee wouldn’t teach evolution as a doctrine. Considering that evolution is established science and the basis of modern biology, this is like asking, “Should we teach anatomy, calculus, or spelling as a doctrine?” Does academic freedom also mean we must teach that some people believe the world is flat?

While the president himself might not get personally involved in school curriculum, people appointed by the president do. This includes judges in cases where there are court battles to defend the teaching of evolution in science classes as well hear other cases involving separation of church and state. The views of the president could also matter should the Republicans take back control of Congress and pass a measure to please the religious right which deserves a presidential veto. House Resolution 888 shows that even a Democratic majority is not enough to stop all the mischief of the religious right. The White House also serves as a bully pulpit, and should such issues remain controversial I’d rather have a president who would speak out on the side of science and reason.

SciFi Friday: Two Doctors; Sarah Connor; The New Bond Girl; Letterman’s Beard; and Amy Fisher’s Sex Video


Last week I reviewed the Doctor Who Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned. The Doctor had a brief adventure between the end of last season, when Martha left the Tardis, and his collision with The Titanic. The above video shows current tenth Doctor (David Tennant) meeting the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) in the 2007 Children in Need special, “Time Crash”.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premiers Sunday, January 13. Variety has a review:

“Why is this happening again?” a 15-year-old John Connor (Thomas Dekker) mutters near the outset of this Fox series, proving that while he might by the future leader of a rebellion against murderous machines, he doesn’t understand much at this age about Hollywood math. Credibly expanding the “Terminator” franchise into TV, this series faces a considerable challenge — beginning with the usual contortions of time-travel logic — to maintain its initial pace without devolving into silliness, but under director David Nutter and show-runner Josh Friedman, the first two hours roll a slick brand extension off this profitable assembly line.

Occupying a window between “T2” — which featured the assault on a barely pubescent John — and the 20-something version in “T3,” the pilot finds Sarah Connor (“300’s” Lena Headey) vigilantly guarding her teenage son, never knowing when the next portal-popping threat from the future will send them scurrying into retreat.

In fact, John has only just become acquainted with a pretty new classmate, Cameron (Summer Glau), when another Terminator turns up as a substitute teacher, attempting to administer the toughest pop quiz ever. (After toying with excising the scene last summer because of the Virginia Tech shootings, cooler heads prevailed, and it’s back mostly intact.)

So the Connors are on the run again, with an FBI agent (Richard T. Jones) in hot pursuit — introducing an extra “The Fugitive” riff — along with the mechanical monster. The first of several intriguing plot twists, however, temporarily puts mother and son out of danger — though for how long remains anybody’s guess.

Friedman and Nutter (whose enviable directing record as a pilot launcher continues) recognize that simply scaling down the cat-and-mouse chase sequences for TV won’t be enough to sustain a series, so they rely on the movie franchise’s time-travel motif to provide new wrinkles that become apparent in episode two — namely, that emissaries from the future, good and bad, can pop up in this current reality, creating various narrative possibilities, among them another shot at altering humanity’s grim destiny.

Even with that, the questionable logic that has allowed the “Terminator” franchise to flourish (such as a guy from the future fathering a child in the past) could easily unravel on an episodic basis. Fortunately, the reworked pilot (shot in New Mexico before production shifted to Los Angeles) exhibits a tighter pace, impressive and abundant action with convincing effects and, frankly, plenty of eye candy between Glau and Headey — who solidly slips into the Rambette role, complete with the portentous voiceover — sure to be enjoyed by teenage boys of all ages.

Nine episodes have been filmed, and after the premiere the show will air on Mondays until March. If you don’t want to wait until next week, the first episode is available on line at Yahoo! Video for a twenty four hour period which began at 9:00 PM tonight. The premiere will also feature an exclusive introduction by Lena Headey (Sarah Connor).

British actress Sarah Arterton has been cast as the next Bond girl. She will star in the next Bond movie which takes up where 2006’s Casino Royale left off and will play a character named Fields.

The late night talk shows have returned, with Mike Huckabee receiving national exposure on The Tonight Show. There has been controversy over both Huckabee crossing a picket line and over Leno writing his own material:

The striking writers union told member Jay Leno on Thursday that he violated its rules by penning and delivering punch lines in his first “Tonight Show” monologue in two months on NBC the night before.

NBC quickly fired back, alleging Leno was right and the Writers Guild of America was wrong.

“The WGA agreement permits Jay Leno to write his own monologue for `The Tonight Show,'” NBC said in a statement Thursday. “The WGA is not permitted to implement rules that conflict with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the studios and the WGA.”

The agreement between the guild and producers expired Oct. 31 but its terms remain in effect, said Andrea Hartman, executive vice president and deputy general counsel for NBC Universal. She cited federal labor law.

According to the contract, “material written by the person who delivers it on the air” is exempted from the agreement. The exception applies to shows outside prime-time, which includes NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

David Letterman returned, and reached a deal to have his writers back too. Michael Bloomberg appeared to present a key to the city–to the beard Letterman grew while off the air.

Letterman loved joking about Joey Buttafuoco after the Amy Fisher story broke, and it looks like he should get tons of new material. Amy’s husband secretly made a sex video of the two and sold it. Fisher subsequently decided to join him in marketing and profiting from the video. AP quotes Amy as saying, “I always wanted to be No. 1 at something, but I didn’t think it would be something like this.” Letterman could have quite a time with that line.

Obama’s Success in Bringing About Change

I’ve had multiple posts critical of the recent meme in the blogosphere (and at least one columnist) that Obama wouldn’t make an effective president because he wouldn’t fight as John Edwards would. Charles Peters provides yet more evidence that this is nonsense in a column reviewing Obama’s achievements in the Illinois legislature. He concentrates on one example:

Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced — by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama’s bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to “solve” crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that “Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics.”

The police proved to be Obama’s toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, “This means we won’t be able to protect your children.” The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought — successfully — to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.

By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.

Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Obama didn’t stop there. He played a major role in passing many other bills, including the state’s first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Post story said made Illinois “one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure”). Obama’s commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who “bundle” contributions for them.

Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Dillard, the Republican state senator, calls a “unique” ability “to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people.” In other words, Obama’s campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric.

After Obama’s victory in Iowa, both Edwards and Clinton have claimed that they could do a better job than Obama of bringing about change. Examples such as this totally undermine Edwards’ argument that Obama is in “never-never land” by believing he can negotiate with all parties.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“We have people who are plotting against us right now, getting ready to repeat the atrocity of Sept 11. We know it, I see the intelligence reports.”

Hillary Clinton, sounding very desperate in a New Hampshire hanger following her third place finish in Iowa. It is also symbolic that the photo accompanying the news report is focused not on her but on Bill Clinton in the background.

Clinton also remarked, “It’s kind of interesting that it took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush. I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.” Perhaps, but it might take an Obama to clear up after the political climate created by Bush-Clinton-Bush.

Independents Embrace Liberal Values to Propel Obama to Victory

Obama’s victory has been described as a victory for independents, but he also won narrowly among Democratic voters. His support among Democrats also appears falsely low as many of the independents would probably be registered Democrats if they lived in states which did not allow participation by independents. To a considerable degree, Obama’s victory was about values even more than the 2004 election. Americans are really better than the values attributed to us after Bush’s 2004 election, which was more a triumph for fear-mongering accompanied by the advantages of incumbency.

Brent Budowsky described how Obama won due to a realignment based upon both independent and Democratic voters embracing liberal values. These are also the same American values upon which this country was founded, and which have been violated under years of Republican rule:

The next great historic political realignment is at hand, comparable to the Democratic realignment brought by Franklin Roosevelt and the Republican realignment brought by Ronald Reagan.

This historic third wave realignment combines:

* the aspirations of progressive Democrats who believe in a party that opposes wrong with courage and principle, and dreams great dreams of what is possible in America,


* the huge American center of political independents who want a national unity based on a return to the first principles of Americanism that have been far too often abandoned in the extremism, corruption and radical rightism that will be known by historians as the dark interlude of the Bush Years.

This fundamental and historic realignment includes 98 percent of authentic Democrats, who believe in the traditions of Roosevelt and Kennedy, and more than 70 percent of political independents who will join together in a great movement and new electoral map for renewal and change that is hopefully destined to elect a new president and Congress.

This fundamental realignment will also bring to the new Democratic/independent majority and governing coalition 5 to 10 percent of those who are now Republicans, formerly known by names such as Bull Moose Republicans under Theodore Roosevelt and Rockefeller Republicans, who no longer have a place in a Republican Party dominated by rightist factions that are outside the tradition of historical and commonly shared American values:

* The use of war for partisanship;

* the contempt for the Constitution;

* the premeditated tearing-apart of national unity and premeditated attacks on domestic enemies;

* the abuse of Sept. 11, 2001, to create fear in the land, which is not only unprecedented from any previous American president but the single most reprehensible, vile and un-American tactic in the history of American commanders in chief from the days that George Washington commanded the Continental Army until the great day when the next American president puts his or her hand on the Bible, takes the oath of office and formally inaugurates the next great era in American history.

* the abuse of fear to justify torture and domestic spying against fellow Americans;

* the disrespect for the separation of church and state;

* the aggressive attacks on checks and balances, judicial review, and constitutional duties of the legislative branch of government.

* the pathological hunger for pre-emptive war, followed by the failure to give adequate support to American troops, followed by the shameless exploitation of under-supported troops as the petty cash of partisan politics.

* the economic policies that do not promote the rising tide that should lift all boats and the harvest of shame from a new tidal wave of “Grapes of Wrath”-type foreclosure;

* the environmental endangerment of the planet by the policies of a president whose representatives are booed and hissed by friends of freedom at a global summit, despite the fact that American leadership to protect the planet is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, a strong majority in Congress and a long and growing list of American business leaders and Fortune 1000 companies.

These things and many others violate cardinal rules of traditional Americanism.

Cardinal rules of Americanism that 98 percent of Democrats and more than 70 percent of political independents want restored to the center of American life.

With an occasional exception on an isolated issue, all the major Republican candidates support a continuation of the same extremist policies of the Bush administration which so greatly violate both liberal and traditional American values. One consequence was seen in the overwhelming desire of voters in a state which went for George Bush in 2004 to vote in the Democratic caucuses this year. This should also be seen in November as the Republicans are swept from power. In addition to the values which Budowsky listed, Americans oppose extremism, whether from the far right or left. The Bush/Rove strategy of governing with 50% plus 1 was doomed to fail. Democrats who have recently condemned bipartisanship in favor of a similar strategy should also keep this in mind.

Quote of the Day

“This feels good. It’s just like I imagined it when I was talking to my Kindergarten teacher.”

Barack Obama whose kindergarten paper entitled “I Want To Become President”  was turned into a campaign issue by Hillary Clinton.

David Brooks Describes the Two Earthquates in Iowa

One of the peculiarities of the campaign recently has been that often I’ve found that David Brooks has been making more sense than Paul Krugman on the op-ed page of The New York Times. I’ve noted many times in the past that Brooks often does make sense as long as he can get past the obligatory pot shots at Democrats which characterize so many of his columns. As he avoided such attacks on Democrats, today’s column does raise many good points. On Obama’s victory he writes:

Obama has achieved something remarkable. At first blush, his speeches are abstract, secular sermons of personal uplift — filled with disquisitions on the nature of hope and the contours of change.

He talks about erasing old categories like red and blue (and implicitly, black and white) and replacing them with new categories, of which the most important are new and old. He seems at first more preoccupied with changing thinking than changing legislation.

Yet over the course of his speeches and over the course of this campaign, he has persuaded many Iowans that there is substance here as well. He built a great organization and produced a tangible victory.

He’s made Hillary Clinton, with her wonkish, pragmatic approach to politics, seem uninspired. He’s made John Edwards, with his angry cries that “corporate greed is killing your children’s future,” seem old-fashioned. Edwards’s political career is probably over.

Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too.

If Obama can receive such flattery from a columnist who is frequently hostile towards Democrats, imagine the coverage he will receive from the rest of the media. This is one of many reasons why I see Obama as an overwhelming favorite to go all the way. Certainly Iowa is only one contest, and Clinton has considerable resources to continue fighting. Brooks does write, “Iowa won’t settle the race, but the rest of the primary season is going to be colored by the glow of this result.”

The “glow of this result” will make it extremely difficult for Clinton to make a comeback in New Hampshire, where Obama was closing the gap even before the results out of Iowa. Should Obama win in New Hampshire and then South Carolina he will appear even more unbeatable. Edwards might hang around like he did in 2004 even after Kerry’s victory was inevitable, but if his populism couldn’t sell in Iowa he will have a tough job everywhere else. I expect an increasing number of his supporters to move to Obama, further making a Clinton comeback unlikely.

Brooks also writes about how Huckabee’s victory shows that the Republican Party has changed, but does not feel he can win the nomination:

Will Huckabee move on and lead this new conservatism? Highly doubtful. The past few weeks have exposed his serious flaws as a presidential candidate. His foreign policy knowledge is minimal. His lapses into amateurishness simply won’t fly in a national campaign.

So the race will move on to New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is now grievously wounded. Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0. My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike.

Brooks makes the same predictions I have, but I’m much less confident about the predictions of the Republican outcome compared to the Democratic race. New Hampshire is important in the Democratic race as it might quickly answer the question of whether there is a possibility of a Clinton come back. New Hampshire will help clarify the Republican race but is unlikely to settle it. An impressive showing by Huckabee in a state without a large evangelical base would establish him as a legitimate national contender. A second loss by Mitt Romney will make it unlikely for him to come back. McCain could establish himself as a leader in the race by winning in New Hampshire, but he has too many negatives among many Republicans to win without a fight. Rudy Giuliani needs to hope that nobody is dominating to leave any room for his strategy of waiting for the larger states to vote. Fred Thompson also need to do something quickly or face becoming ignored. New Hampshire is one of the states where Ron Paul could do best, but if he fails as badly there as in Iowa he will quickly fade back into obscurity.



With about 98% of the vote in from the Iowa caucus, I project Barack Obama will be elected the next President of the United States.

Sure, a lot can still happen between now and November, but baring a major change it is difficult to see any other result. Edwards’ populism won’t sell in many states outside of Iowa, and having lost her aura of inevitability, support for Clinton is likely to hemorrhage. Dodd and Biden both withdrew, and Richardson performed too poorly to be a serious candidate. As for the general election, the record turnout of 227,000 in a state that went for George Bush is just one sign of the advantage the Democrats have. Some questioned the model used by The Des Moines Register that estimated 200,000 attendees but this number was greatly surpassed. By comparison, the turnout in 2004 was 125,000.

Not only did Obama win the caucus, he “won” in the post-caucus speeches. Clinton’s speech sounded like a speech of the Democratic Party past. John Edwards’ speech was the Dean scream put to words, showing yet again Edwards would never be elected president. Barack Obama gave the speech which would be expected not only by the leader of the Democratic Party, but by the president of all the people of the United States. The Republicans might be able to beat Hillary Clinton. I believe they would have beaten John Edwards. They will have a hard time beating Barack Obama.

Mike Huckabee also gave a good speech, but it was the speech of a skilled pastor, not a president. While Obama’s victory in Iowa will probably propel him to winning his party’s nomination, the Republican nomination is still in doubt. Huckabee did show he could win beyond the evangelical vote, and considering the flaws in all the Republican candidates he might be able to win the nomination. This is certainly a serious blow to Mitt Romney. The conventional wisdom a few weeks ago was that a victory for Huckabee would open up the race for Giuliani. With John McCain surging in New Hampshire, Giuliani could be forgotten by Super Tuesday. The one difficulty McCain might face in New Hampshire as a result of tonight’s results is that the independents might vote overwhelmingly for Obama, taking away potential votes from McCain.

In looking at Giuliani’s prospects, it is also hard to take anyone seriously who could not even beat Ron Paul. The Ron Paul fantasy has ended. As I’ve noted many times before, Paul’s enthusiastic supporters could help him do better than his 4% standing in the national polls, but not by enough to be meaningful. Making a lot of noise on line, and having a successful rally in The World of Warcraft, is not the same as getting real people to vote for your candidate. I’m sure it won’t be long before the Paul supporters develop a conspiracy theory claiming that Paul really won but had the vote stolen. Back in the real world, Paul has the money to remain in the race as long as he wants, and he might even do a little better in New Hampshire, but he is purely a protest candidate with zero chance of winning.

Obama’s support among independents will make it harder for a third party to harm the Democrats by dividing the vote. Michael Bloomberg is much less likely to run against Obama, as has been suspected since the two met for breakfast in November. Ron Paul might still decide to run as a third party candidate, with some rumors suggesting he might be planning to run as the candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, which is closer to Paul’s current views than the Libertarian Party. It is hard to see Ralph Nader or the Green Party seriously hurting the Democratic Party led by Obama.