LePage would be awful for education

Creationist Republican candidate for Maine governor Paul LePage has some terrible ideas on education. Last week he made this risible suggestion:

“Our program is going to offer high school students a choice — you can go four years at high school and get a diploma or go five years and get an (associate’s) degree,” he said. “We’re going to raise the standard for education in the state of Maine. We need to get our best and brightest out there and educated at the lowest possible cost.”

If I may – lol.

Right. Let’s just give away associate’s degrees. I mean, compressing two years worth of courses – most of which need to be taught by those with specialized, esoteric knowledge (not high school teachers) – into one year would totally raise the standard for education in the state of Maine. Or when a Maine high school student goes to take his terrible high school associate’s degree to an actual college or university and he asks if he can get credit towards a bachelor’s, he’s going to find that he suffered an extra year of low-level schooling for nothing. That’s because every other school in the nation (and I would hope even post-secondary schools in Maine) are going to laugh at that useless piece of paper.

LePage obviously hasn’t thought any of this through, unfortunately. But on the bright side, his lack of foresight and of general intelligence helps to explain why he’s now saying something different and superfluous.

LePage said the state needs to toughen its educational standards.

“We want to give our students an option — four years, you get a diploma or you can earn your associate’s degree with collaboration between the community college system and the University of Maine system,” he said. “It’s going to be tough; the kids are going to have to work harder.”

…wwwwhat? Community colleges and the UMaine system do work together – accredited schools tend to do that. Under LePage’s first plan from just a week ago (which I guess he has abandoned?), these two systems would have to lose a lot of credibility to work with high schools to just give away associate’s degrees. But right now it is perfectly possible to gain an associate’s degree at a community college which holds water when transferred into the UMaine system; the systems are already intertwined.

I highly doubt LePage actually thinks before he says anything.

LePage freaks out

This joke of a candidate, Paul LePage, has had issues with his anger in the past. He once declared he wouldn’t be talking with reporters directly when he was caught up in his creationist lies. According to some info from a little birdie, there exists a tape of him from March 2008 where he flipped out on a librarian at a City Council meeting; the librarian apparently had some budget concerns – the audacity! (FYI, the tape is available for $50 at Waterville City Hall.) And now there’s this.

On Monday, Paul LePage was asked by a reporter to clarify the residency status of his wife. He said he’d already addressed the issue.

When other reporters continued pressing for an answer, he began walking away.

“I am running for governor, not my wife. I want to talk about the $1 billion shortfalls we have,” he said.

Asked why he transferred the deed for his house at 438 Main St. in Waterville from both their names to just her name, LePage said his name never appeared on the deed.

“I never had it on. Never had it on! Ever,” he said. “That house was bought for my wife. That house in Florida my mother-in-law bought, we helped her.”

According to Kennebec County property records, however, LePage and his wife’s names were on the deed issued October 11, 1995 when they purchased the house. The property was transferred to just Ann LePage on Feb. 23, 1996, according to another record bearing Paul LePage’s signature.

The guy clearly has poor control over his emotions. But notice when he has poor control. Once the issues move from his constant threats to cut every program into oblivion because he hates poor people, he gets testy. LePage’s big rhetorical weakness is on the social issues. Of course, he’s a weak candidate all around, but rhetorically, at least on the economy, he has obvious appeal. But that disappears when he starts talking about his creationist beliefs or his deeply held bigotry. Once he moves into those issues, he’s a goner.

I hope reporters keep pressing him; he shouldn’t be the one dictating the election season discourse.

The cowardice of Paul LePage

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to think of a good topic for a letter to the editor. Ideally I want to write about evolution, but my space is limited. Then I think maybe I could respond to some inane letter that says the U.S. is based upon Christian ideals. But nah, people prefer topical stuff, not history lessons, at least in their newspapers. But then I realize, oh yes! Paul LePage is a creationist. He’s even on video professing his desire to teach children that Jesus rode on dinosaurs.

But now it gets better. Take a look at Paul LePage’s Facebook “Like” Page’s comments. Now filter it to “Just Others” and look between the comments by Sandra Blanchette and Marc Worrell, the first of which was made at 5:15 pm June 21, the second of which was made around midnight tonight. Do you see it? Do you see what it says?

No, you don’t.

The reason is that I left a message very near to this one:

You’ve said you support the teaching of creationism.

…why?

Fairly mundane by my standards.

But it got deleted. And I have been forced from his “Like” Page.

I mean, I’m glad LePage has learned that his anti-science ignorance ought to be viewed as an embarrassment, but the fact remains that he’s on video saying he supports the teaching of something known to be false. He is against every biology professor in the state of Maine. He is against every relevant scientific organization in the country. Paul LePage is an ignorant creationist who is too cowardly to defend what he believes.

But I thank him for the topic idea for my next letter to the editor.

Jesus Christ, Jack

In taking his break from getting his cues from FTSOS, Jack Hudson has ventured, once again, into a land he does not understand.

In recent years there has been an increasing antagonism to public displays of religious faith. Whether it concerns the those national symbols which historically refer to our inherited religious beliefs as in the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, or whether dealing with more explicit religious expressions, as in prayers offered at public events, the opposition to such expressions has grown if not in numbers, certainly in volume.

As every person with any bit of knowledge of history knows, pledge references to God were added in 1954. They have nothing to do with any historical references (not that that would necessarily even matter), but were instead a reflection of a growing paranoia over Communism and a misunderstanding of what atheism actually is. (Pss, it’s about the moral equivalent of not collecting stamps as a hobby – and just as dangerous.) Moving beyond the crackpot claim that one can somehow “inherit” religious beliefs, it’s unclear what sort of antagonism the Star-Spangled Banner has faced in recent times. The last thing I can recall dates a couple of years back when a few people decided to come up with a Spanish rendition, enraging a bunch of Fox Noise employees rednecks.

In the recent past such conflicts usually occurred as the result of what was perceived to be the direct imposition of religious belief on unwilling participants by the state via of the Federal or state government agencies. For this reason the Establishment Clause, that portion of the 1st Amendment which is understood to prevent the government from becoming excessively entangled in religious matters, is understood to be violated when publicly funded educational institutions express in any manner religious sentiments via a state agent like a teacher or curriculum.

Wtf. No. That clause prevents the government from endorsing and/or giving preference to particular religions. Given the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that atheism is due the same protections (and restrictions) as religion, it is a violation of the First Amendment when any religion is given favor. In other words, not only is the First Amendment not to be construed in the narrow way Jack would prefer, but it has recently been expanded in a definitive direction.

Jack then goes on to cite an instance where a senior citizen center has stopped offering public prayers before meals. The reason has to do with the partial federal funding the center receives for many of the meals it provides. It isn’t at all surprising that a number of people interpret the lack of public prayer as someone telling them to not pray at all. I mean, god damn it. That’s just stupid. No one is saying “SHUT THE FUCK UP! EVERYONE STOP PRAYING!” No. They’re saying, “We aren’t going to lead any prayer as an organization because we may be acting as too much of an extension of the federal government.” It’s unclear just how the legal situation will shake out in this instance, but the position really isn’t unreasonable. But does that stop Jack? Heck no!

…collectively the state acts mindlessly in accordance with the rules and regulations it is given, not in accordance with cultural realities, or traditions, or personal sensitivities. The state is no respecter of individuals, and it’s activities reduce every situation down to the lowest common denominator – in the case of religious liberty, this lowest denominator is always state imposed secularism.

Ah, the ol’ “We’re a Christian nation!” line of thought. It doesn’t matter. The U.S. is set up to be secular and not endorse any religion. It only imposes neutrality (something to which it does not adhere nearly enough). Now, if there was a National Day of Godlessness, it absolutely would be imposing secularism, but the fact that the government says “Pray on your own dime” does not somehow mean “SHUT THE FUCK UP! EVERYONE STOP PRAYING!”

As the state intrudes itself financially into virtually every aspect of our lives – our education, our medical needs, taking care of us in our retirement, etc – it gains the power (or claims to) to dictate to us the manner and degree of expression of our respective faiths. Whether it is limiting personal prayers shared between individuals, or, as in the example above, corporate prayers shared at a meal, the growth of government as our caretaker inevitably entails the imposition of secular restrictions on our lives.

Nope. Dead wrong, you mook. The government will not pay for you to pray. It will not pay to have others encourage you to pray. It is not an extension of your church (I mean, how could it be? It’s actually honest about wanting your money for its own personal use). Oh, and that article Jack cites? It is about a college student and professor who prayed together. Gasp! you proclaim! Why, it must have ended in the limitation of “personal prayers shared between individuals”, you declare! Why else would Jack have cited it?!

In the settlement, announced this week, the four-campus Peralta Community College District recognized the right to “non-disruptively pray on campus.” The district also agreed to remove all records of disciplinary action against the students and pay their attorneys’ fees, said Kevin Snider, a lawyer with the Pacific Justice Institute, which represented the students.

Students still won’t be allowed to lead organized prayers in class, but can pray in other campus locations “to the same extent that they may engage in any other free speech,” Snider said.

“This was a case of voluntary prayer between consenting adults,” the attorney said.

Oh, that’s right. Creationists will always lie for Jesus.

When being ‘morally upright’ goes a bit too far

Edit: What specifically spurred this post was when Jack deleted a post from his own site. The post, made by me, referenced harassing text messages, but would have been entirely incoherent to anyone who had not sent such texts. That is, I made a comment on Jack’s blog where I responded to the specific subject of a post. However, within that comment, I made reference to the immorality of sending harassing text messages. I did not specify that it was Jack who had sent anything, nor did I reference my cousin. Jack immediately deleted the post. For further evidence, see here where Jack has deleted all my posts from the record. Specifically, Jack says to have deleted the entire post for language. However, he contradicts himself by admitting that when he comes across “foul” language, he only edits posts. That, in fact, is a policy of his. He had never deleted an entire post for containing curse words before that point; only when the post also contained a reference only he would understand if he had sent out texts did he start with the deletions.

Jack Hudson is a creationist and frequent poster here. He’s actually even on my ‘friends’ list on Facebook (my requirements for ‘friendship’ basically being ‘any interaction on any level at some point in time’). Given that he has the conservative, creationist, Christian version of SIWOTI (unlike my version which is centered around things that are true), it’s understandable that he’s going to post from time to time on my links, status updates, etc. In fact, I frequently find my notifications up around the 40-50 mark each day, largely thanks to Jack and those who respond to him. And that’s all fine and dandy; it keeps me entertained.

But sometimes people will react with hostility. It isn’t unique to Facebook or people I know, of course, but it does happen on my profile. One person who did this was a cousin of mine whose hostility was given in a relatively unique way: rather than lash out or rant, he just went for the jugular. Even though the topic was health care or some such thing, he started making abortion jokes. They shouldn’t really bother any rational person who has ever worked with any cells of any kind since there’s no ‘spiritual’ difference between, say, E. coli, and a human embryo (with “spiritual” being meant largely in the Carl Sagan sense, i.e., ‘important philosophical difference’). But the entire point of using those jokes was to bother someone – a conservative Christian. My cousin didn’t want to engage the particular views being offered since there wasn’t much point in arguing, so he just sought to anger. And believe me, the plan worked.

But it worked too well. Instead of the issue ending on Facebook, it spread further; my cousin has his personal phone number listed on his page, which itself is not private. Over Easter dinner he told me of recent messages he had been getting from several different phone numbers. They read something like “How can you make jokes about abortion like that?”. At no point did the person identify himself, but the blatant references to what happened on my private Facebook profile makes it all too obvious.

Now to be sure, my cousin actually has no idea I’m typing this. And, in fact, he expressed no particular concern over the issue. It’s sort of funny, sort of pathetic, and if I actually thought Jack was dangerous and not just taking his notion of morality a bit too far, I might be more concerned myself. (In fact, I haven’t even defriended him.)

Instead, what does concern me is how this relates to what I’m always writing on FTSOS – religion and how it motivates. For those with children, imagine little Johnny sending hostile texts to a random person on the Internet. How would you react? Would it ever be okay for that to continue? I can vouch for the general sanity of my doctorate-pursing cousin, as it happens, but how much is that even worth on the Internet? Johnny would be told never do that again – right after he was grounded and had his phone and Internet taken away. And it wouldn’t be Johnny’s motivations that were of concern. No. It would be his actions. No matter how good he thought his reason, his actions were the problem. But that all changes when the autonomy of an adult (even if it isn’t the one I suspect) motivated by religion enters the picture. The whole What Would Jesus Do? jazz is what has caused my cousin to receive texts (from several different phones, no less) berating him for his jokes; that seems to have somehow made things okay. No longer are over-the-line-actions what matter; instead, (and because an adult is involved) it is the motivation that is important – because it’s religion.

Well, he was a creationist…

Here’s video of Hitler reacting to the Atheist Convention in Melbourne.

It still isn't random

This is apparently some confusion over my post about why natural selection is not random. It’s a fairly elementary issue at hand, but it evidently needs to be addressed. One reader mentions,

Natural selection is a product of selective pressures. Those selective pressures are random in that they do not try to produce anything specific (ie: original appendages, limbs, organs, organ systems, body plans, etc… or the DNA that codes for them).

This user is right so far, even if the language is a bit dicey. A particular environment produces conditions to which a population then responds. A research job from a biology professor of mine will do fine here: there are two species of fish in a stream, one small, one large. This stream is divided into two sections: an upper area and a lower area. The division is due to a small waterfall. Now, the small fish in the top section of the stream tend to be vibrant in color while the lower small fish are a more gray color. The hypothesis is that the large species of fish is unable to traverse the waterfall so thus unable to eat the upper small fish, hence their vibrancy. So the research team takes some large fish and introduces them into the area with the vibrant fish. Sure enough, the fish lose their vibrancy pretty quickly. Conclusion: The hypothesis was not falsified because a correlation between color vibrancy and survival was shown upon introduction of the large fish species to the upper stream.

So now here’s where the user goes awry.

Hence, natural selection is random.

He concludes that because the selective pressures happen without regard to a particular species that the reaction of the species is thus random. Do you see the inane logic? This is like saying that because what particular rocks, gas, and space junk goes into the making of a planet can be called random that the force behind the accretion process – gravity – is random.

It’s all very simple. Natural selection is the process of differential survival of organisms based upon how they respond to a given environment. That means that natural selection happens with regard to adaptability. And maybe this is the kicker for this silly creationists. That’s really all “non random” means – with regard to adaptability. That’s why any aspect of genetic drift or mutation is considered random. It happens regardless of whether an organism will do better, worse, or the same in its survival. Were natural selection random then we should expect to see a number of vibrant fish swimming around the upper stream which is in comparable proportion to the number swimming around prior to the introduction of the large fish species. Of course we do not see anything like that. What we do see is differential survival based upon the response of the organism to a particular environment – the fish which survived were less vibrant, on average, than the fish which were quickly eaten.

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