Date: Thu, 30 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 30, 1996 nn nn AAN

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Date: Thu, 30 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 30, 1996 from: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #51 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/30/96 In This Edition... * An AANEWS Interview With Frank Zindler * Zindler Letter on House Bill 692 * A Sidebar On The "Silly Season" ~ Secondary Virgins, Jesus Spray Paint * School Prayer At Graduation * The Latest On The Israeli Elections: Religious Parties Triumph * About This List CREATIONIST PSEUDO-SCIENCE ~~ AN INTERVIEW WITH FRANK ZINDLER Editor's Note: Earlier today, we reported that the Ohio House of Representatives Education Committee defeated a bill which would have mandated teaching creationism as an "alternative" to scientific evolution in public school classrooms. The demise of this bill was a victory for educators, scientists, students, First Amendment activists and especially for Frank Zindler, who helped to organize much of the opposition to this antediluvian legislation. Mr. Zindler is a linguist specializing in ancient languages, and a national authority on creationist pseudo-science. He has appeared on nationally broadcast debates with representatives of the Institute for Creation Research and other creationist groups. He serves as Ohio State Director for American Atheists and its parent organization, the Society of Separationists. We caught up with Frank last night, and found him still exuberant from his hard-fought legislative victory... AANEWS: How would you contrast the views of creationists as opposed to evolutionary scientists? ZINDLER: Creationism is actually the inverse of science. Whereas a scientist starts with a question and looks for evidence to form a hypothesis, test it and draw conclusions, the creationist asks and has no question. The creationist starts with conclusions and then goes out to see if he can find any evidence to support it. AANEWS: Many people would associate creationism with the Scopes Trial in the 20's. Is it really a threat today? ZINDLER: I certainly think that it is. It's actually more of a threat than in the 1920's! The power of religionists to flood our sensory environment with propaganda and disinformation is absolutely immense, and the inhibitory effect on science education has never been greater. Most teachers at the high school level will simply not touch the issue of evolution because it's so controversial. They fear getting into trouble if they do. So passing anti-evolution laws just gives further power to the religious forces who want to dominate education and exercise control over the culture. They're more sophisticated than in the past, so that makes them a greater threat. They're also able to do more things indirectly; the Ohio bill is an example of that. AANEWS: Do you consider there to be a substantive difference between "scientific creationists" and "religious creationists"? ZINDLER: No, I don't think there is any human being on the planet who is only one and not the other. There's really an absolutely 100% overlap between these groups. It's interesting to look through the ICR (Institute for Creation Research) graduate catalogue where they set forth the tenets of scientific and religious creationism, and they make it quite clear that their faculty have to be both. There's no conflict between the two. Scientific creationism is simply a deceit, a procedure for making religion to appear in such as way as to get it into the public schools. AANEWS: Is there anything about the teaching of creationism which makes it a legitimate free speech issue? ZINDLER: One might argue that it's an academic freedom issue, but I don't think it's a legitimate question of free speech. Is it really free speech if a geometry teacher begins to teach poetry? Or if an english instructor starts to teach physiology? What you teach is governed by the subject you elect to teach in. There are issues of HOW you might want to teach a particular subject. But I think that creationism also involves teaching competence. You could suggest that teaching a flat-earth doctrine is an academic freedom, but it really reflects poor knowledge of the subject matter. So does teaching a mythical explanatory system in biology or geology classes. AANEWS: Is the evolutionist view still in tact despite internal debates over issues such as punctuated equilibrium? ZINDLER. Yes. You have to remember that there are two levels in the question. There's the broad question of the general theory of evolution, which states that based on evidence, evolution has occured. We also have special theories which deal with question such as what drives evolutionary change, and what processes are involved. Special theories are not totally resolved, and I don't consider the debate between gradualists and punctualists to be finished. But there is no credible evidence that impugns the general theory, that evolution has and is taking place in the world. AANEWS: Why should Atheists and state-church separationists be concerned about this particular issue? ZINDLER: Creationism and evolution are about the origin of mankind, and that's absolutely essential to fundamentalist christianity. They have to have Adam and Eve as real persons who fell from grace and were condemned with their progeny, thus establishing the need for a redeemer. Without the scenario of Adam and Eve, it all falls apart -- no original sin, no need for a savior. We have to also remember that whenever religion gains strength, the rights of Atheists are endangered. One of the main goals of religions of all kinds is to suppress Atheism and non-belief. The separation of church and state is pretty basic in terms of protect us as thinking and living beings. The more power they have, the more endangered our freedoms become. ********** A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH... (The following letter was sent to the Columbus Dispatch by Frank Zindler. At issue was the proposed Ohio bill, HB692, which called for teaching creationism in public school classes as an "alternative" to evolution.) * THE EDITOR: Ohio will become the laughing stock of northern states if HB692, an antievolution bill introduced by Rep. Ron Hood of Youngstown, is passed into law. Currently before the House of Representatives Education Committee, HB692 would require "scientific evidence" against the theory of evolution to be presented along with evidence supporting it, whenever evolution is taught in Ohio's public schools. While this may appear to be a fair and democratic thing to do, it presupposes that "scientific evidence" against evolution does in fact exist. In reality, however, the theory that living things have changed over the course of millions of years is as well as established as the theory that rocks are made of atoms. The only "evidence" against the theory is religious. Teachers will be unable to find any "scientific evidence" against the idea that evolution has occurred, and so will be unable to teach evolution at all -- being unable to comply with a statute that demands such evidence be presented. Nor would they be able to use the tons of material published by so-called creation scientists. That material has been examined thoroughly by scientists and has been shown to be either the result of honest misunderstandng of scientific data, procedures and theories, or the product of mendacity and fraud. Certainly, a teacher could not present as evidence something known to be based upon a misunderstanding, say, of thermodynamic theory or radiometric dating. Still less could a teacher present evidence known to be false, or the product of fraud. In practice, HB692 would end the teaching of evolution in Ohio. It is clear that the motivation for HB692 is not educational but religious and anti-educational. It seeks to hinder the teaching of a branch of science hated by certain fundamentalist religions. By hindering the teaching of evolutionary science, the bill will have the primary effect of advancing fundamentalist religion. This makes the bill unconstitutional, as well as impossible to carry out. (signed) Frank R. Zindler ************** A SIDEBAR TO EVOLUTION ~~ AND GOOD FOR A LAUGH! It must be the "silly season" for legislators, especially solons in Ohio. There was more than just evolution being served up on the platter this past Tuesday, during a meeting -- or was it performance art? -- of the Ohio House of Representatives Education Committee? Along with a revised "Monkey Bill" was a proposal by Rep. Twyla Roman (R-Akron) which would require schools to emphasize chastity and abstinence when teaching about sexually transmitted diseases. According to a report aptly titled "Onward, Christian Soldiers" by Irv Oslin in the Columbus Guardian, "Roman trotted out a dozen young, avowed virgins and 'secondary virgins' from her district who performed skits, recited poetry, and lectured on the virtues of abstinence. The entertainment also included a rap song and a stand-up comedy routine -- the latter of which fell flat on its face when the would-be comic jokingly referred to female committee members as 'you girls'." We're tracking the "abstinence" bill, but all of this harkens back to the days when Nancy Reagan hit the political turf promoting government "chastity centers." The hand of Big Brother (or Big Momma') in the private affairs of citizens may strike some of us as being a trifle inconsistent with the conservative mantra of limited government and individual responsibility, but with religious ideology all things are possible. There are a couple of footnotes to all of this, which suggests that the "silly season" is afflicting both public officials and private folks alike. Education Committee head Rep. Michael Fox, upon hearing that several dozen Christian Coalition members and allies would be testifying on behalf of the anti-evolution proposal, remarked: "This bill isn't about religion." And we learn that on the streets of Columbus, Ohio is a graffiti artist of a different sort. Spraypainted tags reading "Trust Jesus" are popping up throughout the downtown area. Finally, we are faced with the ponderous notion of what exactly a "secondary virgin" is. ******************* SCHOOL PRAYER GRADUATION STYLE: VARIATIONS, CHALLENGES Last weekend, AANEWS reported the decision by the Third U.S. Circuit Court to reaffirm a 1993 ban on prayers conducting during high school graduation ceremonies. The latest case involved a practice at a New Jersey high school whereby a plurality of graduates "voted" on having a "student led" prayer during the official event. The Court ruled that this was clearly a violation of state-church separation, and noted its role in protecting "the entire spectrum of religious preferences from the most pious worshipper to the most committed atheist." We are still tracking reports of prayer at graduation events throughout the country, including an activity scheduled for this evening in Michigan. In the community of Wyandotte, located south of Detroit, a religious baccalaureate service is scheduled for 7 p.m.; the event breaks a quarter-century ban and reinstates what organizers call "an important tradition." The public school auditorium at Roosevelt High School is being rented for a $77 fee to the Wyandotte Ministerial Association; while the event cannot use public school staff in the program, it can be "as religious as they want" according to the News-Herald Newspapers. Critics worry that the venue and tone of the event creates the impression that this is some kind of "official" or government sanctioned function -- which it may not be. Even so, the intent of the organizers appears clear. The pastor of the local First Baptist Church defended the baccalaureate, saying that 'The pendulum of the church-and-state issue has swwung too far." A Presbyterian minister says the gathering is needed because young people are facing what the paper described as "serious moral crisis and getting little public support from the religious community...This (baccalaureate service) is one way to say it's all right." Other ministers cited the event as proof that "America is in the midst of a spiritual revival and that Christians are taking more opportunities to reach out." Even the High School principal at Roosevelt, Mary McFarland, told the media "she believe's this year's class will be receptive, given the resurgence in spirituality these days." Although the hall is being rented, thus avoiding potential charges of financial entanglement between the district and the religious organizers, there are other matters which constitute potential problems. AANEWS is trying to find out how the baccalaureate group obtained a list of all graduating seniors in the community, both public and parochial. There is also the appearance that the event is, somehow, "official" especially since it is taking place in a public school auditorium and is linked with an official school function. ******************** Are school prayer graduation events taking place in your community? We'd like to know about it. Just hit your REPLY function and give us some details, or contact us at: ***** ISRAELI ELECTION ~~ THE SHIFT TOWARD RELIGION Latest returns in the Israeli election now suggest that Likud candidate Benjamin Netanyahu has won a narrow victory over Labor Prime Minister Shimon Peres. According to postings and reports from CNN and other sites, Netanyahu still retains a 15,000 vote lead; final results may not be known until absentee ballots are counted tomorrow. Both Labor and Likud lost seats in the Knesset, and religious parties won 24 seats, a gain of eight positions. Analysts agree that the big gainers in the race were religious parties. CNN interviewed David Landau, an Israeli affairs expert, who said that Peres was defeated because of efforts to combine a peace initiative with the creation of widespread secular institutions throughout the country. *********** AANEWS is a free service of American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and put your name and mailing address in the message box. You may post, forward, or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to AANEWS and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information about this list, e-mail to:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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