Just Above Sunset
August 28, 2005 - Avenging, Angry Christians, and the End of the Enlightenment Confirmed

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Iraq wasn't the only thing in the news Monday the 22nd - although the abortive constitution business did suck up a lot of commentary, so much that you might have missed Power cut halts Iraqi oil exports: Oil exports from southern Iraq have stopped after a power cut left much of the country without electricity - which isn't good. AP later reported pumping resumed - "on a limited basis at Iraq's only functioning oil terminals Monday afternoon following a shut down for much of the day because of a power cut that darkened parts of central and southern Iraq, an official of the South Oil Company said." The pipelines to Turkey, to the west, have been offline for many months, as they get blown up too easily. Basra is the only way to export oil these days. One more detail.

Outside Iraq? You might have missed this: "JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Hundreds of looters battled police all weekend at the site of a beer train wreck in violence that left one woman dead, South African police said on Monday as they kept a heavy guard on the remaining alcohol. …"  Curious.

The most curious off-topic items, oddly enough, seem to center on religion.

The Reverend Pat Robertson - the evangelical Christian leader who may be the de facto leader of the Republican Party's core believers in all things Bush - called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. It's not often a Christian leader, who accepts Jesus Christ as his savior, calls for a team to be assembled to assassinate the pesky.

But that's what he said. Jesus would want that.

We all know Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is a pain.

Rod reminds us of why:


- Chávez hangs around with Fidel Castro

- Chávez wants to take over the world, or at least Ecuador

- Chávez mocks and ridicules George Bush

- Chávez survived the recall election we promoted, and had the temerity to win by a margin of nearly sixty percent.


You might also recall that a few years ago the Bush administration hailed the coup that removed Chávez from power and recognized the new government - the generals who took over – then Chávez shows up still in power, and we… well, it was embarrassing.  (That was in 2002 and mention in these pages here two years ago.)

He is a problem. And he has all that oil - thirteen percent of what we import.

Pat Robertson, host of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club and founder of the Christian Coalition of America, has the answer, in this from the August 22 broadcast of The 700 Club:


ROBERTSON: There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.


The emphases, in bold, are from the source, Media Matters - watching The 700 Club so you don't have to. By Tuesday, August 23, the majors had picked up the story, CNN and MSNBC and all the papers.  MSNBC ran a viewer's poll - "Has Pat Robertson gone too far?"  There's reaction all over.

A bit of chiding from the quite conservative American Daily in Phoenix - Pat, You Have Strayed


Pat, when you say things like the President of Venezuela should be assassinated, you are not following in the footsteps of Jesus. You have strayed.

As a Christian you have failed. Your focus on the Old Testament has skewed you away from Jesus' message of peace and love in the New Testament. Your message of hate and revenge borders on something that the Antichrist might say and do.

You need to step down from your position as spokesman for God and collector of his tithing. You cannot lead when you have lost your moral compass.

I wondered about you when you came out in support of torture. Jesus would not have done so. I mused about when you suggested that we should start the war in Iraq in the first place. Your use of God as justification seemed fantastic.

I have no more doubts. Your words have indicted you.

... I beg to differ with you Pat. It is, in fact, a whole lot more expensive. It costs you your soul.


Yeah, whatever.  He thinks not.

One comment from the left: "Excuse me for a second while I peruse my Bible. Was there a part I missed where Jesus taught the parable about killing people who make trouble for you?"

Times have changed. Pat Robertson is the new face of Christianity - or the face of the new Christianity (What Would Jesus Do? Version 2.0).

To keep up with the times, you might take a look at this graphic - available on t-shirts and mugs.  (It's satire.)


Well, Pat Robertson said he NEVER said the word "assassinate" (the following day he said on his show that the Associated Press always misquotes him) – then the tapes rolled a few more times – and he issued a written apology. 


Let's go deeper.

Not satire, Sunday the 21st the New York Times published a long article by Jodi Wilgoren - Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive - everything you ever wanted to know about the Discovery Institute, the organization that put the patina of attentive scholarship on the science-doesn't-know-everything-but-God-does crew, the folks fighting teaching evolution and, pretty much, scientific inquiry, in public schools.

That opens with this:


When President Bush plunged into the debate over the teaching of evolution this month, saying, "both sides ought to be properly taught," he seemed to be reading from the playbook of the Discovery Institute, the conservative think tank here that is at the helm of this newly volatile frontier in the nation's culture wars.

After toiling in obscurity for nearly a decade, the institute's Center for Science and Culture has emerged in recent months as the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science in school districts and state capitals across the country. Pushing a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution, the institute has in many ways transformed the debate into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.

Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists. But Mr. Bush embraced the institute's talking points by suggesting that alternative theories and criticism should be included in biology curriculums "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Financed by some of the same Christian conservatives who helped Mr. Bush win the White House, the organization's intellectual core is a scattered group of scholars who for nearly a decade have explored the unorthodox explanation of life's origins known as intelligent design.

Together, they have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive.

Like a well-tooled electoral campaign, the Discovery Institute has a carefully crafted, poll-tested message, lively Web logs - and millions of dollars from foundations run by prominent conservatives like Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Philip F. Anschutz and Richard Mellon Scaife. The institute opened an office in Washington last fall and in January hired the same Beltway public relations firm that promoted the Contract With America in 1994.

"We are in the very initial stages of a scientific revolution," said the center's director, Stephen C. Meyer, 47, a historian and philosopher of science recruited by Discovery after he protested a professor's being punished for criticizing Darwin in class. "We want to have an effect on the dominant view of our culture."


The article implies the science folks, those stuck in the old Enlightenment values of scientific inquiry and finding facts, are now on the defensive. No one has those values anymore - and the billionaire banker from Pittsburgh, Richard Mellon Scaife, the man who almost brought down Bill Clinton by financing The Arkansas Project from his own funds, now controls the terms of all the arguments. And it's not just the right wing it's-all-still-Bill-Clinton's-fault people. The article notes other underwriters of the Discovery Institute - the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Verizon Foundation. And add Bill Bennett. Mainstream, no?

The Discovery Institute may be the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell - but they seem to rule this America now. In a few weeks you'll be able to read a new book by Chris Mooney The Republican War on Science - but don't look for it in the Current Events section at Borders. Try the shelves in the American History section.

You might want to check out the Discovery Institute's basic plan - what they refer to as their Wedge Document. It's a long discussion of the whole effort and contains this:


Five Year Goals

- To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.

- To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.

- To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Twenty Year Goals

- To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.

- To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.

- To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.


Clear enough.

Compare and contrast:

Mencken's Creed


I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty.

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech.

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.


H. L. Mencken died a long time ago. Those beliefs are becoming quaint history.

Senate leader Bill Frist - a doctor, a heart surgeon (who also makes made a neurological diagnoses on the basis of home movies) - this month goes with the flow:


"I think today a pluralistic society should have access to a broad range of fact, of science, including faith," Frist said.

Frist, a doctor who graduated from Harvard Medical School, said exposing children to both evolution and intelligent design "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone. I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."


Well, there may be some other stuff going on here.  As suggested by Gary Bauer in Reverend Moon's Washington Times, Frist ruined his chances of ever hoping for the Republican presidential nomination next time around when he broke with the president and angered the religious right, the core of the Republican Party, and came out for stem cell research - condemning all those little lumps of cell-citizens to death without any charges or a fair trial and all the rest.  Gary Bauer says this statement about intelligent design is an attempt to win back the heart of the Party - but it just isn't enough.  Too little too late - that man has joined the murderous sons of the Enlightenment?  Something like that.  Mark Kleiman of UCLA points out that the Republicans pretty much have to nominate "a bio-Luddite for President in 2008."

Of course they want to win, and that's the ticket.  And now John McCain has joined Frist.

A final note on religion is that this has being going around the web again:

"Black Jack" Pershing and pig's blood...

From Urban Legends see this:


I consulted Dr. Frank E. Vandiver, professor of history at Texas A&M University and author of "Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing," to find out if there's any truth to the above, and he responded via email that in his opinion the story is apocryphal. "I never found any indication that it was true in extensive research on his Moro experiences," he wrote. "This kind of thing would have run completely against his character."

Similarly, I been unable to find any evidence corroborating the claim that Muslims believe that "eating or touching a pig, its meat, its blood, etc., is to be instantly barred from paradise and doomed to hell." It is true that Islamic dietary restrictions, like those of Judaism, forbid the eating or handling of pork because pigs are considered unclean. But according to Raeed Tayeh of the American Muslim Association in North America, the notion that a Muslim would be denied entrance to heaven for touching a pig is "ridiculous." A statement from the Anti-Defamation League characterized the claim as an "offensive caricature of Muslim beliefs."

Sources and further reading:

U.S. Senator's Insults Upset Muslims
Aljazeera.net, 29 June 2003

ADL Calls for Apology from MA State Senator For Distributing Anti-Muslim Flier
Anti-Defamation League press release, 27 June 2003

Gen. John J. Pershing Biography
Pershing Rifles C-12 (ABN) Web site


The item has been on the net here and there since September 2001.  That it resurfaced this last weekend again is no surprise.  The devout and pure Christians - not those United Church of Christ wimps - are on a roll.


You see that everywhere.


Adam, Eve and T. Rex

Giant roadside dinosaur attractions are used by a new breed of creationists as pulpits to spread their version of Earth's origins.

Ashley Powers, The Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2005


CABAZON, Calif. - Dinny the roadside dinosaur has found religion.

The 45-foot-high concrete apatosaurus has towered over Interstate 10 near Palm Springs for nearly three decades as a kitschy prehistoric pit stop for tourists.

Now he is the star of a renovated attraction that disputes the fact that dinosaurs died off millions of years before humans first walked the planet.

Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, some 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark. The gift shop at the attraction, called the Cabazon Dinosaurs, sells toy dinosaurs whose labels warn, "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution."

The Cabazon Dinosaurs join at least half a dozen other roadside attractions nationwide that use the giant reptiles' popularity in seeking to win converts to creationism. And more are on the way.

"We're putting evolutionists on notice: We're taking the dinosaurs back," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian group building a $25-million creationist museum in Petersburg, Ky., that's already overrun with model sauropods and velociraptors.

"They're used to teach people that there's no God, and they're used to brainwash people," he said. "Evolutionists get very upset when we use dinosaurs. That's their star."


When you lost the dinosaurs, you've lost all.




The nation's top paleontologists find the creation theory preposterous and say children are being misled by dinosaur exhibits that take the Jurassic out of "Jurassic Park."

"Dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden, and Noah's Ark? Give me a break," said Kevin Padian, curator at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley and president of National Center for Science Education, an Oakland group that supports teaching evolution. "For them, 'The Flintstones' is a documentary."


You thought the dinosaurs were around for about a hundred and sixty million years, and then got wiped out possibly after a meteorite hit the planet, and they are considered the forebears of birds?  Oh, ye of little faith!


Drivers who pull off Interstate 10 in Pensacola, Fla., are told a far different story at Dinosaur Adventure Land. Its slogan: "Where Dinosaurs and the Bible meet!"

The nearly 7-acre museum, low-tech theme park and science center embodies its founder's belief that God created the world in six days. The dinosaurs, even super carnivores such as T. rex, dined as vegetarians in the Garden of Eden until Adam and Eve sinned — and only then did they feast on other creatures, according to the Christian-based young-Earth theory.

About 4,500 years after Adam and Eve arrived, the theory goes, pairs of baby dinosaurs huddled in Noah's Ark, and a colossal flood drowned the rest and scattered their fossils. The ark-borne animals repopulated the planet — meaning that folk tales about fire-breathing beasts are accounts of humans battling dinosaurs, who still roamed the planet.

Of course the Grand Canyon was created by the Great Flood.  Our National Park Service was forced to offers pamphlets there that say so.  Some folks quit over that, but does it matter? 


Do we see a trend here?  The Times mentions these "creationist" parks cropping up all over - Glen Rose, Texas, where some people said fossilized dinosaur tracks and human footprints crisscrossed contemporaneously.  Up in Humboldt County (northern California) we have the Creation Research of the North Coast – they want to build their own reptile park but lack funding and acreage.  The folks in Mount Juliet, Tennessee are trying to raise a cool million – "to assemble 30 to 50 pterodactyl and brachiosaur replicas to mingle with live chickens and goats."  There's the Institute for Creation Research museum in Santee, a San Diego suburb, whose directors says, "We like to think of [dinosaurs] as creation lizards, or missionary lizards."   There's also the Genesis Museum and its headquarters under construction near the Ohio-Kentucky border – "When the facility opens in 2007, the lobby will spotlight a 20-foot waterfall and two animatronic T. rexes hanging out with two animatronic children dressed in buckskins."  "If [evolutionists] convince people that dinosaurs are exotic, strange creatures, they've won right there, and the Bible looks like a book of Jewish fairy tales," said Sean Meek, executive director of the Tennessee group Project Creation.




Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist and founder of Reasons To Believe ministry in Pasadena, frets that "young-Earth theologians" damage the credibility of scientists who are Christian and push intellectuals away from religion.

"I'd put them in the same category as flat-Earth people and the people that think the sun goes around the Earth," he said. "They think they're defending the truth, but the young-Earth model has no scientific integrity."

Advocates of the intelligent design idea, who assert that certain features of life are best explained by a creative intelligence, bristle at being lumped in with young-Earth creationists. There's little question that the Earth is billions of years old, said John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank in Seattle that is critical of Darwinian theory.

"Critics would rather tar everyone with the brush of creationism," said West, who teaches political science at Seattle Pacific University. "I think the idea that Genesis provides scientific text is really farfetched."


Not everyone agrees.


Some say what is happening in America right now is the second "Great Awakening."  The first was from 1730 to about 1770 and you can read about that here.

If this is a second "Great Awakening," why does it look some much like everyone falling asleep?






Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....