Tuesday, December 20, 2005

At long last... some sanity.

Scopes Monkey Trial, part II is over. Unlike the outcome of the first, the creationists lost this one. It turns out that there are some sane people left among the millions of zealots in this country.

The thing that worries me though is that this case was determined primarily due to the excess of evidence that the school board made multiple god references while debating the subject. There was even a quote from Charlotte Buckingham to the effect of "2,000 years ago someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?"

My worry is that when this nonsense is introduced elsewhere (e.g., Kansas) will we have a situation where the school board will just be a little more cautious in what it says?

At least this one is dead, all 8 of the 9 board members that supported adding ID to the curriculum were voted out in November so there will be no appeal.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Holocaust denial

From CNN.com today:
  "Historians say six million Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust."[1]

Uh, excuse me... 'historians' say that??? Did I miss a meeting or something? When did the holocaust become a point of debate? Why is it that news agencies of late seem to think that anytime a quack stands up with some ignorant opinion on history, science, etc. the subject in question is suddenly no longer a fact?

The article referred to here discusses Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's latest comments where he denies the holocaust and proposes the (logistically trivial and only slightly racist) idea of moving Israel to a different continent. His comments don't really offend me, what more would I expect from a man with first-hand experience in taking and holding hostages [2].

What really irks me is that CNN has the gall to run with it and suddenly feel the need to qualify their holocaust remark with "historians say". I know, I know, it's only two words in an entire article that I'm complaining about, but these two words are significant. Adding these words gives every person out there that is less educated on the subject the idea that there is some sort of legitimate controversy here.

It probably would not be worth my time to write about it except for the fact that I have seen far more of this style of reporting in recent years. News organizations should always ensure that they qualify all of their stories with real data when they cover a controversial subject, but there is a difference between fact and allegation.
  • It is alleged that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one of the hostage takers in 1979.

  • It is fact that 6 million jews were killed in the holocaust.

[1] - http://www.cnn.com/
[2] - http://www.cnn.com/

Friday, December 02, 2005

Whipping up a new war

No, not a war on Arabs, Persians, Muslims, or Buddhists, instead we now have a manufactured "War on Christmas" thanks to Bill O'Reilly, Jerry Falwell and the like. The right has now launched a multi-pronged attack on multiple groups accused of attacking Christmas. So far we have:

  • Target is under threat of boycott by several religious right organizations for its use of the term “Happy Holidays” in place of a Christmas only theme [1], [2], [3].

  • Fox News renamed “holiday ornaments” on its website as “Christmas ornaments” after Bill O’Reilly made comments condemning the “War on Christmas” on his show [4].

  • Falwell's Liberty Council threatened to sue the city of Boston over a remark on the city's official web site that called the city Christmas tree a "Holiday tree" [5].

The last item is surely the most comical as it turns out Boston's mayor (and several other city officials) knew nothing of the 'offensive' language on the site and promptly confirmed the "Christmas tree" title as the correct one. Why is it that the religious right is so concerned about this fictional "War on Christmas"?

Honestly, I have no idea where they get half their ideas and I would be hard pressed to ever guess which ones that they are about to go off about. That said I'll throw out a semi-educated guess anyway...

The religious right currently has the greatest amount of political influence that it has held in several decades, this fact seems to be without debate, and with that power comes the fear of losing it. A backlash against the recent religious movement is unavoidable just due to the enormity of its intrusion into our daily lives. Americans will always follow the fads initially, but they don't like being told what to do, and they will get sick of being preached to at one point (its just a question of when).

Though church attendance grew through the late-90's and spiked after 9/11, the latest data seems to indicate that church attendance within the United States has returned to its pre-9/11 levels and may continue to drop [6]. Furthermore, there is some suspicion that the attendance level has actually dropped below than the commonly stated 40% mark but has been influenced by polling bias due to the fact that most polls of this nature are performed or financed by religious groups, a decidedly biased group in this discussion [7].

Declining membership is sure to put pressure on the Christian leadership to find ways of maintaining the political clout that they've gained in the last decade, and few things can do that better than an "us against the world" crusade. By inventing an enemy, the religious right may reinvigorate their followers and strengthen their resolve, or they may just make Americans a little more sick and tired of being preached to.

[1] - http://www.denverpost.com
[2] - http://www.stratfor.com
[3] - http://www.sfgate.com
[4] - http://mediamatters.org/
[5] - http://www.bostonherald.com/
[6] - http://www.barna.org/
[7] - http://www.findarticles.com

Thursday, December 01, 2005

FINALly back

I've been out of the loop for a few weeks with T-day, finals, and just kicking back to enjoy watching G.W. plummet in the polls. If only we could vote again next year...