Science, Education, and Creationism

An updated version of Science, Education, and Creationism, a book from the National Academy of Sciences, is available for free download in pdf format here. An eight page summary is also available for download.

Scientists Warn Of Dangers if Huckabee Elected

Mike Huckabee might have won in Iowa, and perhaps won tonight’s debate on style, but we also must remember that the US is “doomed” should he be elected. Here is the scientific basis for this warning:

A day after ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee finished first in the opening round to choose a Republican candidate for the White House, scientists warned Americans against electing a leader who doubts evolution.

“The logic that convinces us that evolution is a fact is the same logic we use to say smoking is hazardous to your health or we have serious energy policy issues because of global warming,” University of Michigan professor Gilbert Omenn told reporters at the launch of a book on evolution by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

“I would worry that a president who didn’t believe in the evolution arguments wouldn’t believe in those other arguments either. This is a way of leading our country to ruin,” added Omenn, who was part of a panel of experts at the launch of “Science, Evolution and Creationism.”

The panelists at the book launched spoke out against the teaching of creationism in science classes:

Omenn and the other panel members at the book launch said categorically that creationism should be banned from science classrooms.

“Scientific inquiry is not about accepting on faith a statement or scriptural passage. It’s about exploring nature, so there really is not any place in the science classroom for creationism or intelligent design creationism,” said Omenn.

“We don’t teach astrology as an alternative to astronomy, or witchcraft as an alternative to medicine,” said Francisco Ayala, a professor of biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine.

“We must understand the difference between what is and is not science. We must not teach creationism as an alternative to evolution,” he said.

“Holding deep religious beliefs is not incompatible with believing in evolution,” Omenn said.

“But that’s different to saying the two can be taught together in science class, because religion and science are two different ways of knowing about the world. They might not be incompatible but they don’t overlap each other’s spheres.

“Science class should not contain religious attitudes,” he added.

In addition to Mike Huckabee, one other current candidate, Ron Paul, has denied evolution.

The New Hampshire Republican Debate

I wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the Republican candidates, but I think I have to give the win in the Republican debate to Mike Huckabee primarily for style as opposed to substance. He manages to both carry on the failed policies of George Bush while still claiming, “I’m not running for George Bush’s third term.” He also showed he’s accustomed to beating Mitt Romney, who was the major target of the debate:

ROMNEY: “Don’t mischaracterize my position.”

HUCKABEE: “Which one?”

Naturally they were terrible on foreign policy, with all but Paul supporting the greatest foreign policy blunder in our history. They were also annoying on health care as they misrepresent the Democratic policies as socialized medicine. This is the most absurd coming from Mitt Romney considering how similar the Democratic proposals are to his Massachusetts program. In terms of health care, the Democrats should hope that they run against John McCain. His proposals for health care reimbursement are basically an extension of HMO concepts of capitation. In a battle between fake charges of socialized medicine versus the very real problems of the HMO model which McCain has adopted, many voters who have experienced HMO’s are likely to vote Democratic.

Huckabee might be wrong on the issues, but he does do the best job of the Republicans of sounding sane. Democrats who see him as an easy opponent are making the same mistake that Jimmy Carter did in being excited about Ronald Reagan being the opponent. Democrats are in a much better position this year and will probably beat any Republican in the general election, but Huckabee can put up a good fight if he wins the nomination. Mark Steyn’s column from earlier today sums up Huckabee’s strengths, even if over-estimating his chances of actually winning:

As for Huckabee, the thinking on the right is that the mainstream media are boosting him up because he’s the Republican who’ll be easiest to beat. It’s undoubtedly true that they see him as the designated pushover, but in that they’re wrong. If Iowa’s choice becomes the nation’s, and it’s Huckabee vs. Obama this November, I’d bet on Huck.

As governor, as preacher and even as disc jockey, he’s spent his life in professions that depend on connecting with an audience, and he’s very good at it. His gag on “The Tonight Show” – “People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off” – had a kind of brilliance: True, it is cornball at one level (imagine John Edwards doing it with all his smarmy sanctimoniousness) but it also devastatingly cuts to the core of the difference between him and Mitt Romney. It’s a disc-jockey line: the morning man on the radio is a guy doing a tricky job – he’s a celebrity trying to pass himself off as a regular joe – which is pretty much what the presidential candidate has to do, too. Huckabee’s good at that.

I don’t know whether the Jay Leno shtick was written for him by a professional, but, if so, by the time it came out of his mouth it sounded like him. When Huck’s campaign honcho, Ed Rollins, revealed the other day that he wanted to punch Romney in the teeth, Mitt had a good comeback: “I have just one thing to say to Mr. Rollins,” he began. “Please, don’t touch the hair.” Funny line – but it sounds like a line, like something written by a professional and then put in his mouth.

This is the Huckabee advantage. On stage, he’s quick-witted and thinks on his feet. He’s not paralyzed by consultants and trimmers and triangulators. Put him in a presidential debate, and he’ll have sharper ripostes and funnier throwaways and more plausible self-deprecating quips than anyone on the other side. He’ll be a great campaigner. The problems begin when he stops campaigning and starts governing.

The full transcript of the debate is here.

Living Standards in UK Surpass US

I often see conservative writings about Democratic proposals warn about how they risk making the United States more like Europe. To conservatives, Europe is a mass of socialism as described in an old Ayn Rand novel with economies doomed to forever fall behind the economy of the United States.

This is one conservative meme which should be retired. This also provides an amusing landmark to be reached under George Bush. The conservative Times of London reports that living standards in the United Kingdom has surpassed that of the United States:

LIVING standards in Britain are set to rise above those in America for the first time since the 19th century, according to a report by the respected Oxford Economics consultancy.

The calculations suggest that, measured by gross domestic product per capita, Britain can now hold its head up high in the economic stakes after more than a century of playing second fiddle to the Americans.

It says that GDP per head in Britain will be £23,500 this year, compared with £23,250 in America, reflecting not only the strength of the pound against the dollar but also the UK economy’s record run of growth and rising incomes going back to the early 1990s.

In those days, according to Oxford Economics, Britain’s GDP per capita was 34% below that in America, 33% less than in Germany and 26% lower than in France. Now, not only have average incomes crept above those in America but they are more than 8% above France (£21,700) and Germany (£21,665).

“The past 15 years have seen a dramatic change in the UK’s economic performance and its position in the world economy,” said Adrian Cooper, managing director of Oxford Economics. “No longer are we the ‘sick man of Europe’. Indeed, our calculations suggest that UK living standards are now a match for those of the US.”

Although many people will be surprised by the figures, Americans have long complained that average incomes have been stagnant in their country. One often-quoted statistical comparison suggests that in real terms the median male full-time salary in America is no higher now than it was in the 1970s.

Plus, even though the system might not be the model I’d advocate, they all have access to health care.

Obama’s Momentum Going Into New Hampshire

After Obama won in Iowa I confidently predicted that he would win the nomination but soon found that the pundits were arguing the opposite. The conventional wisdom quickly became that Iowa was just one contest and there are many more to go in a wide open race. It is premature to say I was definitely correct, but all indicators lead me to stick to my original view.

My prediction was not based upon merely seeing a repeat of Kerry’s victory in 2004 or any belief that the New Hampshire voters would blindly follow Iowa. The prediction was based upon the particular individuals running this year. I felt that the Iowa caucus would provide a reading on the effectiveness of each campaign as well as create its own momentum. Iowa showed both showed that Obama could bring out the independents to vote for him and gave New Hampshire independents reason to do the same.

Clinton’s strength was the impression that her nomination was inevitable. This contributed to people giving her name to pollsters, but this did not guarantee they would stick with her. I never thought the early New Hampshire polls showing a Clinton lead meant very much, especially as her lead has narrowed. New Hampshire voters decide at the last minute and polls over a week ahead aren’t very predictive.

If there was no Iowa caucus, I think Obama would have pulled out a win New Hampshire, regardless of the polls, due to his greater support by independents, as well as Clinton’s limitations. If Clinton had won in Iowa, she might have had a bounce and won, but with Obama winning he should go on to an easy victory in New Hampshire. As for Edwards, his populism wouldn’t sell well in New Hampshire. Maybe a victory in Iowa could have given him a bounce (especially as polls show a large number of people still see him as a centrist southerner), but after losing in Iowa he has nowhere to go.

With only five days between Iowa and New Hampshire there is too little time for Clinton to make a come back baring a major melt down on Obama’s part. I already thought that Clinton’s attacks looked desperate in the final days before the Iowa caucus. The whole argument that Obama was arguing from “conservative frames” which was picked up my much of the blogosphere was ridiculous to begin with. If anything it played into Obama’s strengths and highlighted the weakness of those who used such arguments. What this argument against “conservative frames” really said was “We are right on everything. If you even consider issues from the point of view of others you are guilty of a thought crime.” The perception that Obama does consider the views of others is one of his strengths, and if they had any effect these attacks wound up pointing that out and helping Obama.

With Clinton losing in Iowa she is looking even more desperate. We see that she is resorting to claims that Obama is too liberal (which are nullified by the opposite clam from Edwards). Clinton is trying to imitate Rudy Giuliani in capitalizing on 9/11. She’s even getting bad advice from Bill. If we can trust Robert Novak, it sounds like even Clinton is preparing how to spin a second place finish.

The first polls are coming in since the Iowa caucus and are showing just what I expected. American Research Group shows that Obama has moved from a four point deficit to a twelve point lead over Clinton. The Concord Monitor shows a lead of one point for Obama. A Suffolk University poll which began before the Iowa results showed Obama cutting into Clinton’s lead. CNN/WMUR shows a tie. Rasmussen shows a ten point lead for Obama after previously trailing by three.

These polls aren’t conclusive but do show the expected bounce for Obama. These polls, as well as further media coverage of Obama as front runner, will bring further support to Obama similar to how the Des Moines Register’s poll contributed to Obama’s momentum in Iowa.

Don’t Listen To The Moderates

“Don’t even think of listening to what those centrists have to say” is the message which keeps coming from parts of the blogosphere. I continue to be amazed by vitriol expressed regarding the upcoming meeting which includes Michael Bloomberg and a number of both Democrats and Republicans. Via The Carpetbagger Report I read of Greg Sargent’s opposition to the very idea of anyone paying attention to them.

Bloomberg and others get attention because there is a very real sense among many people that neither party represents them. This group very well might not be any better, but I’m willing to listen to what they have to say.I’m far more annoyed by the attitude of people like Greg Sargent who go out of their way to attack them before the meeting has even taken place. It is quite premature to claim they have nothing to say before they have even met.

The meeting is simply a group of Democrats, Republicans, and independents getting together to talk about reducing some of the excessive partisanship. I hardly find that something worthy of all the vitriol coming from parts of the blogosphere. That does not mean anyone expects an end to all partisan bickering or that anyone thinks that there is a set of non-partisan solutions which will magically solve all our problems. These criticisms are just a set of straw man attacks which have little bearing on what they are really saying.

Maybe this will lead to Bloomberg running, but some of the attendees say this is not their interest. Some are Republicans such as Christine Todd Whitman who says she is attending due to the Republican Party driving out the moderates. While it might be futile, I wish her luck in any efforts to counter the extremism of the current Republican Party.

At this time I think a Bloomberg candidacy is less likely considering Obama’s victory. I find it notable that when Bloomberg recently criticized the major party candidates he left out Obama. Obama’s support among independents would make a moderate third party run quite futile. The only way I could see such a party winning would be if it was an election between Huckabee and Edwards. Even then it would be a long shot. Mike Murphy is probably right that “There aren’t enough cheese-eating, Volvo-driving, wine-drinking guys for him to win.”

This group might not be the answer. The current Republican Party is certainly not the answer. However when elements of the left show such a knee jerk opposition to the idea of Democrats, Republicans, and independents meeting, it does show that hyper-partisanship has become a problem on both sides.

Ad Campaign Calls For Protection of Religious Freedom

First Freedom First, a joint project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and The Interfaith Alliance Foundation, is launching an ad campaign to  encourage voters to ask the presidential candidates about their positions on issues related to separation of church and state.

The first advertisements feature legendary actors Jack Klugman and James Whitmore and are designed to remind candidates and voters that religion has a place in American life, but not as a political tool.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, noted, “The separation of church and state is what makes America a great nation. At their core, the ads are designed to prompt important conversations about where candidates stand on the critical issue of religious liberty as enshrined in the First Amendment.”

Lynn continued, “All Americans, whether religious or not, have a right to know where candidates stand on issues that have a real, direct impact on their lives, such as sound science, academic integrity and protections against religious discrimination. The ads and related questions on the First Freedom First Web site are designed to help start the discussion between voters and candidates.”

The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance Foundation, said, “Religion has played an unusually large role in the 2008 election, and unfortunately, it has been used as a gimmick or a divisive tool rather than a unifying force. First Freedom First focuses on important issues that are at the intersection of religion and public policy issues that our next president must be prepared to deal with.”

In the TV and print ads, Jack Klugman and James Whitmore raise such questions as, “Who will decide my end of life care: politicians and religious right leaders, or my doctor and me?” The ads also ask candidates what they will do to protect the right of all Americans to worship…or not.