If her writing is any indication of her thought processes, it's clear that University of Toledo administrator Crystal Dixon is a bigot, a kook, and an intellectually deficient human being. However, I have worked at two other northwest Ohio institutions of higher education, and I can say pretty confidently that if being a bigot, a kook and an intellectually deficient human being were grounds for termination, the faculties and staffs of both would be decimated.
Dixon, however, was recently fired from her post as an "interim associate vice president of human resources" at UT for writing a letter to the editor of the Toledo Free Press in which she laid her bigotry, kookiness and intellectual deficiency out for all to see:
As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of
Toledo's Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great
umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are
"civil rights victims." Here's why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not
be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and
very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of
homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced
by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and
Exodus International just to name a few. Frequently, the individuals
report that the impetus to their change of heart and lifestyle was a
transformative experience with God; a realization that their choice of
same-sex practices wreaked havoc in their psychological and physical
Following publication of her letter, she was fired--for doing nothing more than writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper and expressing her views.
If Dixon can be fired from a public university for expressing her anti-gay opinion, then any other employee could be sacked for expressing pro-gay sentiments--or for that matter, for expressing anything at all. Things would be different, perhaps, if Dixon was an employee at will at a private institution. However, if the First Amendment means anything, it means that agents of the state (such as the University of Toledo) are not allowed to punish employees for holding and expressing unpopular views.
It's uncomfortable for me to be on the same side of this matter as Rush Limbaugh, but this is not a liberal or conservative issue--it's a civil liberties issue. Dixon plans to file suit against UT; I hope she succeeds.
So the Pope thinks that all the fuss about global warming is a bunch of hot air. This comes from the head of the institution that forced Gallileo to live out the last years of his life under house arrest because he thought the earth revolved around the sun, from the organization that maintains that evolution is bunk, from the gang that practically invented anti-semitism, from the lovely folks who discourage condom use in AIDS-ravaged Africa, abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and birth control even for those at medical risk from pregnancy.
Here's the article (by the right-wing Daily Mail's Simon Caldwell) and the snarky deconstruction.
Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.
This is a laugh, given the church's positions in the face of firm evidence that the earth revolves around the sun and that animals evolve. Given the impossibly high standards of proof the church has required of those two theories, the Med will have to be three feet from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel before the church decides the evidence is firm enough.
The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.
Fear engendered by forces outside the church cuts into the church's attempt to hold a monopoly on the control of fear. The church wants people to fear hellfire and damnation if they don't act the way the Catholic hierarchy commands. The church--and only the church--can protect folks from these terrors if they just drink this magic wine and eat this magic wafer. Since fermented grape juice and saltines won't stop us from cooking the planet, people afraid of climate change might actually attempt to address their fears by taking reasoned action, instead of pleading with God and his minions to protect them.
The German-born Pontiff said that while some concerns may be valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.
Look: we're reasonable men. But the key word here is "dogma." The church doesn't want anyone encroaching on that.
His remarks will be made in his annual message for World Peace Day on January 1, but they were released as delegates from all over the world convened on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali for UN climate change talks.
In a pathetic bid for relevance, the Pope figures that taking a contrarian position on global climate change will give him more influence over the Bali conference than going with the overwhelming weight of scientific authority and political judgment.
The 80-year-old Pope said the world needed to care for the environment but not to the point where the welfare of animals and plants was given a greater priority than that of mankind.
A great mixture of scientific no-nothingism and the staw man fallacy. It's precisely because human civilization depends so heavily on the conditions that allow plant and animal life to flourish that changes in the climate that harm non-human life threaten mankind as well. Sure, I'm concerned about the polar bears qua polar bears, but I'm even more concerned about polar bears qua harbingers of flooded coastal cities, the expansion of uninhabitably hot regions of the globe and the warfare that results from changing resource bases.
"Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow," he said in the message entitled "The Human Family, A Community of Peace".
"It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.
Boilerplate. Who could disagree with any of that? I heard Mitt Romney saying something very much like that just the other day.
"If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations.
Since the church's best markets for growth are likely to continue to be in the developing world, it wouldn't be right to ask, say, Nigeria or Venezuela to do something about global warming. Anything that slows down the economies there will cut down on the amount that parishoners in those places can put in the collection plate every Sunday.
"Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken."
Thank you, George H.W. Bush (Mr. Prudence himself).
Efforts to protect the environment should seek "agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances", the Pope said.
I think you're repeating yourself. Maybe it's because you're getting senile.
He added that to further the cause of world peace it was sensible for nations to "choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions" in how to cooperate responsibly on conserving the planet.
Right, because if there's dialogue, the church will have the opportunity to gum up the works and interfere with solutions that might actually improve life on earth, thus making the afterlife seem all the more enticing by way of comparison.
The Pope's message is traditionally sent to heads of government and international organisations.
His remarks reveal that while the Pope acknowledges that problems may be associated with unbridled development and climate change, he believes the case against global warming to be over-hyped.
Presumably the Pope would rather that we focus on more pressing issues, such as preventing gay marriage, barring women from the priesthood and burning witches.
A broad consensus is developing among the world's scientific community over the evils of climate change.
But there is also an intransigent body of scientific opinion which continues to insist that industrial emissions are not to blame for the phenomenon.
Here Caldwell is shooting for the kind of phony "balance" that is destroying contemporary journalism. In this model, it is not the journalist's job to report the truth, only to report the controversy and give equal space to all views, no matter how ill-founded or loony they may be.
Such scientists point out that fluctuations in the earth's temperature are normal and can often be caused by waves of heat generated by the sun. Other critics of environmentalism have compared the movement to a burgeoning industry in its own right.
The phrase "can often be caused" hides a lot. Note that constructing the sentence this way avoids both identifying the "scientists" who hold such views and attributing to them the contention that global climate change is being caused by fluctuations in solar radiation.
In the spring, the Vatican hosted a conference on climate change that was welcomed by environmentalists.
But senior cardinals close to the Vatican have since expressed doubts about a movement which has been likened by critics to be just as dogmatic in its assumptions as any religion.
Look how these sentences stands the epistemologies of religion and science on their heads. Science deals with the realm of things that can be proved or disproved by evidence and the rules of logic. Religion deals with matters of faith that can neither be proved nor disproved. Yet the certitude of science in this article is referred to as "dogmatic . . . assumptions," presumably in contrast to the transcendent truths of revealed religion.
In October, the Australian Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, caused an outcry when he noted that the atmospheric temperature of Mars had risen by 0.5 degrees celsius.
"The industrial-military complex up on Mars can't be blamed for that," he said in a criticism of Australian scientists who had claimed that carbon emissions would force temperatures on earth to rise by almost five degrees by 2070 unless drastic solutions were enforced.
The sneering ignorance--the willful opacity--that is revealed in this kind of argumentation is just repulsive to behold. The argument seems to be that since natural forces can affect climate, therefore man-made forces cannot. It's akin to saying that since car crashes cause injuries, people can't be injured by falling. Maybe this kind of reasoning works in the realm of faith, but it sure isn't common sense, elementary logic, or good science.
I have no idea if this Theory of Everything is even plausible, or if it is the work of crackpot. What's interesting, though is how the publicity attending this theory and its author has revealed a hunger in the news media--and, I suspect, among the general public--for a non-traditional, non-academic scientist to upend scientific tradition.
This hunger has been both documented and fed by movies such as Star Trek: First Contact (a family favorite in my house). The film (which is either the best or second-best of the Trek flicks) deals primarily with the conflict between individuality and conformity, and definitely comes down on the side of the former. Along the way, though, it also touches on obedience to authority vs. doing the right thing, flawed human nature vs. mechanical perfection, obsession vs. reason, and the meaning of heroism.
All of those themes are present in the case of Garrett Lisi, a 39-year-old unemployed surfer physicist, and his suggestion that the four basic forces in the universe--gravity, the strong force, the weak force and electromagnetism--and the dozens of subatomic particles that have been discovered so far fit into a beautiful 248-point mathematical pattern that looks like something produced by a super SpiroGraph.
Even among the more relentlessly rational of us, there still lurks a desire for the heroic. We live in an era of huge laboratories, scientific collaboration, and hierarchical research institutions. Even so, we still pine for the Heroic Lone Scientist, someone who through his own brilliance, iconoclasm and originality will shatter old scientific assumptions. We all want the next Einstein, a guy who did his more brilliant and original work while he was a clerk in a patent office. We want to know that the individual is occasionally more powerful than the collective, that even brilliant scientists have quirks and flaws, that obsession at least occasionally leads to truth, and that sometimes credentials don't mean squat.
We're looking for Zefram Cochrane, a man whose scientific discoveries usher in an era of human unity, discovery and understanding. And we're looking for god, a theory that explains everything.
It is these yearnings, rather than any real understanding (at least on my part, unfortunately) of the science involved that has put so much air in Garrett Lisi's sails of late.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday she
would sign an executive order rescinding President Bush's restrictions
on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
presidential candidate also said she would bar political appointees
from altering or removing scientific conclusions from government
research without a legitimate reason for doing so.
administration has declared war on science," the New York senator said.
"When I am president, scientific integrity will not be the exception it
will be the rule."
* * *
and half years under this president, it's been open season on open
inquiry," Clinton said. "By ignoring or manipulating science, the Bush
administration is letting our economic competitors get an edge in the
global economy. I believe we have to change course, and I know America
She said Bush's limits on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research amounts to a "ban on hope."
the campaign trail, Clinton has repeatedly slammed what she calls
Bush's "war on science" and accused the administration of allowing
conservative political ideology to interfere with research and
scientific evidence. She cites administration officials who have
questioned the scientific evidence of global warming and who have
suggested a link existed between abortion and breast cancer.
As president, Clinton said she would:
_ Expand human and robotic space exploration and speed development of vehicles to would replace the space shuttle.
_ Launch a space-based climate change initiative to combat global warming.
_ Create a $50-billion strategic energy fund to research ways to boost energy efficiency and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Comply with a legal requirement that the executive branch issue a
national assessment on climate change every four years. She would also
expand the assessment to reflect how U.S. regions and economic sectors
are responding to the challenges posed by climate change.
_ Name an assistant to the president for science and technology, a position that was eliminated in the Bush White House.
_ Re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment.
Now if only she would pledge just as vigorously to the the war on Iraq.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!
A lot of hits on Framed have come recently from people Googling "classic crackpot," presumably a reference to the frivolous lawsuit brought by a kook named Stuart Pivar against Pharyngula publisher PZ Myers over Myers' hilariously skeptical review of Pivar's kooky book.
There are now dozens of links to stories about Pivar that are revealed whenever one Googles "classic crackpot." People like me who had never heard of Pivar before sure know who (and what) he is now.
And now there's some good news: according to PZ himself, Pivar has told a reporter that his lawyer is withdrawing the suit.
PZ Myers and his blog Pharyngula have long been essential reads for me. So I was distressed to hear that PZ is being sued by some litigous kook named Stuart Pivar who has his knickers in a twist over some bad reviews PZ wrote (which may be read here and here) about his silly little book
Anyone who would file a lawsuit over a bad review of a biology book has no understanding of the scientific method, no respect for public discourse, and (in Pivar's case) no understanding of the law of defamation. Ironically, one of the things that stuck in Mr. Pivar's craw was the fact that PZ called him a "classic crackpot." By filing his lawsuit, Mr. Pivar has inadvertently validated this description.
This post, though, is about the news media, and specifically Northwest Ohio's paper of record, the Pulitzer Prizewinning Toledo Blade. To that paper's everlasting shame, this is THE page-one headline that appeared last Sunday:
For those readers who aren't familiar with Ohio geography, let me take a moment. The Creation Museum is located in Petersburg, Kentucky, which is just over the border from Ohio's southwest corner. The Blade is published in Toledo, in the state's northwest corner, 225 miles away. If the museum were anywhere nearby, it might be reasonable for the Toledo paper to cover its opening. But giving the premier headline real estate to the opening of a facility some three and a half hours away is already suspect. The Blade doesn't generally report on events and openings in Columbus, Cleveland, or Dayton--all cities closer than Petersburg, Kentucky--and yet it reported on this.
In the entire article, written by religion editor Dave Yonke, the one reference to the utterly fraudulent and fictitious nature of the museum's purpose and presentation may be found in this sentence:
While prevailing scientific theory is that the
Earth is 4 billion years old and that humanity evolved from ape-like
creatures, Mr. Ham and his Creationist colleagues contend that
scientific evidence supports the biblical account of the origin of the
universe, and that evolution theory hinges on certain scientific
presuppositions, or biases.
That's it--half a sentence to reason, science and Darwin in a 32 paragraph article that occupies the prime headline slot in the news section of the paper.
But it gets worse.
A day later, The Blade did publish a much shorter, unsigned op-ed from the Los Angeles Times labeled "Another Opinion," which briefly pointed out the factual and scientific absurdities of the Creation Museum's exhibits:
The museum, a 60,000-square-foot menace to 21st century scientific
advancement, is the handiwork of Answers in Genesis, a leader in the
"young Earth" movement. Young Earthers believe the world is about 6,000
years old, as opposed to the 4.5 billion yearsestimated
by the world's credible scientific community. This would be risible if
anti-evolution forces were confined to a lunatic fringe, but they are
not. Witness the recent revelation that three of the Republican
candidates for president do not believe in evolution. Three men seeking
to lead the last superpower on Earth reject the scientific consensus on
cosmology, thermonuclear dynamics, geology and biology, believing
instead that Bamm-Bamm and Dino played together.
Get that? The notion that human beings and dinosaurs walked the earth together just 6,000 years ago is news, i.e., fact. But the rational, scientific explanation as to why that notion is impossible is opinion, i.e., just some crazy random thought that popped into someone's head.
And it gets worse still.
In today's paper, there is a letter to the editor by one Terry Hubert of Holland, Ohio, which reads as follows:
Evolution not science, rather a sacred cow
A May 28 article reprinted from the [Los Angeles] Times is a lie
promoted by an obviously atheistic author. Evolution parades behind a
mask of "science," but is really a sacred cow that is as factual as
Greek mythology. It contradicts even the most basic laws of
Only a fool who is trying to escape accountability before the Creator
would believe such far-fetched jargon. Creationism welcomes and
encourages investigation. However, how the universe began is a matter
of history, not science.
The Bible is a book of history that factually records the historical
events of creation. Unless you are willfully blind, the fact that the
universe operates by design is a simple deduction from everything you
see in the cosmos. It is evolution that is an assault on science.
To be sure, the same edition of the paper also carried a letter sharply critical of creationism and The Blade's adoring coverage of The Creation Museum. Such editorial and publication decisions are presumably made by those who swallow the "teach the controversy" line, the notion that schools (and newspapers) should give equal time to science and mythology and let the readers decide which is accurate. This is particularly ironic given The Blade's concern about "brain drain," the loss of Toledo's best and brightest to cities whose papers of record don't provide a forum for Flintstones zoology. I wouldn't blame any recent college graduate for wanting to get the hell out of a city whose preeminent news outlet denigrated science, reason and fact the way The Blade has on this issue.
Some of my liberal political friends are made uneasy by huge expenditures on space exploration, particularly when there are so many unmet needs here on earth. I understand their point: space science is expensive and has had its share of boondoggles. Nevertheless, I don't agree with their conclusions. In fact, I'd be behind putting more money into NASA.
Being a liberal is about more than being tolerant of differences and championing the poor and oppressed. It is a fundamentally optimistic philosophy that believes in the evolution of human beings and human society toward a more benevolent and enlightened state. It is a mindset that questions relentlessly and does not accept the status quo in the state of human society or human knowledge. To be conservative is to be essentially satisfied with the status quo and to mistrust government projects large and small; the desire to find out about stuff is a liberal quest. If conservatives had their way, we'd still believe that the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around it, and that the universe was only about six thousand years old.
Oh yeah, I forgot: some people still believe that kind of thing. But the last decade's worth of frenzied efforts by the creationists and the young earthers and the geocentricists are evidence that enlightenment is advancing. There is an inherent conflict in using 21st century technology to propagate a 13th century world view, a conflict that is bound to become more and more apparent as the state of our scientific and technical knowledge advances.
That's why the Webb Telescope (shown here in an artist's conception looking like a ray gun mounted on a four-poster bed) should be supported by people of progressive politics. Yes, it will cost $4 billion, and yes that money could do a lot of other good on our home planet. However, even that amount of money is less than 1% of what we have spent on the war in Iraq thus far. Here's what we get for our dough:
The telescope will capture images of what the universe looked like just 400 million years after the Big Bang.
trying to see, what were the conditions like back then," Stockman says.
"How was it that it chose to form into the stars and galaxies and
planets that we have today? It's a curiosity and a fascination, and our
lives, in a large sense, were affected by what went on then."
Conservatives don't share that restless curiosity and fascination. The things we might learn as a result scare them. They look at the Webb telescope (a full-scale model of which is pictured here with incongruous palm trees in the foreground) and see something that really IS a ray gun, a weapon pointed at their belief systems. And so some of them develop a sudden and patently insincere urge to spend public moneys on social welfare projects instead of science and space exploration. This line is superficially appealing to some of my progressive buddies, who wonder why we can find money for the Webb but not money for feeding the hungry. Note the word "superficially": a deeper understanding of liberalism mandates support for projects like this.