Friday, June 13, 2008

Una perla anzi porci

This story in the Times prompted these letters. The last caught my eye:

I love the author's words: "No reputable college or university will teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of atomic theory or the theory of gravity."

Again: "No reputable college or university will teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of atomic theory or the theory of gravity."

Again: "No reputable college or university will teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of atomic theory or the theory of gravity."

I am ashamed to say that I am affiliated with an institution at which "the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theory" was part of the general education science requirement, until the most recent revision of the curriculum.

What made this situation even more unbearable is that the institution regarded itself as relatively enlightened.

Compared to what? The Inquisition?

I wish that there were members of the faculty outside of our science division who were as vocal as

Michael King at the Austin chronicle, who wrote this last December 14:

DECEMBER 14, 2007:

Point Austin: God Knows

Mitt Romney, Christine Comer, and the political uses of religion


Today's homily might as well begin with a borrowing from the Rev. Mitt Romney, who recently visited Texas to explain to us the relationship between religious belief and political freedom. "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," Romney pronounced. "Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together or perish alone." ...

Pray for Freedom

There is plenty of corollary foolishness. New SBOE Chair Don McLeroy, a Bryan dentist and an amiable boob in the pure-dee Texas tradition, is an avowed creationist who has adopted the new intelligent-design lingo and says all he wants for the schools is to teach the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theory – the latest cant, echoed by his creationist brethren on the board. He also insisted last week that TEA employees "can say what they want. They have freedom of speech." McLeroy apparently hasn't communicated that elementary constitutional principle to staffers at the agency, who explicitly cower in fear that anything they say that violates the science/anti-science "neutrality" doctrine will result in their sharing the fate of Christine Comer. They may be timorous, but they're not stupid.

There you have it: the current state of intellectual and political freedom in Texas, where a small group of fundamentalist fanatics drives public education policy, and an utterly cynical governor – who this week endorsed the brazenly unfundamentalist Rudy Giuliani for president because he's "electable" – panders to the worst sort of religious fanaticism (emphasis mine - OG) as a working principle of governance. Yet the Rev. Romney solemnly declares, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom."

I'm perfectly aware that religious faith can form the ground of community engagement and social activism. But in this time and in this place, religious sentiment is most often used as an ideological bludgeon to enforce conformity and obedience to authority. So it is that Mitt the Mormon journeys to Texas and pleads, "I'm just like everybody else," and Christine Comer and her colleagues receive a rather different sacred message: "Do as your told, if you know what's good for you."

If this is religion, I'll choose freedom from it, every single time.

See the TEA's justification for terminating Christine Comer, and Comer's resignation letter .

Send your prayers, curses, and news tips to

I will drink a toast to you tonight, Michael King.

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