Alabama is for lovers

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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56 Responses

  1. ThatPirateGuy says:


    The Alabama governer situation is exactly the reason I oppose more federalism. Creationism is a known court-case loser, and n0nsense to boot. Trying to teach it violates the first amendment and we would be done with this issue already if it weren’t for the localization at the state level of education.

    As it is now a small group of nuts can take over the texas board of education and get their view written into the textbooks while most people are not looking. Then due to market size their screwed up books end up used by many smaller states because the manufacturers are not going to write a book that can’t be used in Texas. This is where I find state-level politics falls down. They make decisions for the entire country, who has no opportunity to vote for them.

    Then you have to deal with the fact that teaching creationism isn’t just bone-deep stupid and bad science it is also against the first amendment. So why should we allow alabama to violate the rights of their citizens? Don’t we have the 14th amendment for a reason?

    This is further evidence that I can’t trust republicans on anything since they are completely disconnected from the best thing we have going in terms of figuring things out, science.Report

  2. Aaron says:

    I think the problem with this is that it assumes a level of social mobility in the United States that simply does not exist. Sure, people in Alabama may end up discovering that their Biblically-based science education program is not exactly conducive to effective educational attainment. However, by that point, it’s going to be way, way too late for a lot of Alabamans who may otherwise have obtained a quality education. These poorly educated Alabamans are not going to have the kind of resources and networks that would enable them to pick up and move to a more prosperous (and better educated) state. It takes money and resources to move, without even considering that they will be tossing themselves into a job pool that they are ill-equipped to compete in.Report

    • Mopey Duns in reply to Aaron says:


      While I personally think that creationism-as-science is so much junk, I think you are overstating the damage that being misinformed about evolution and the age of the universe will do to people’s job prospects. Unless you plan to work in very specific fields, it is pretty much a non-issue.

      I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I know some (otherwise) extremely smart, technically competent, well-paid people who happen to believe the earth is about seven thousand years old. A couple of them are engineers, and as far as I can tell, good ones.

      Short version, I think the assumption that teaching creationism ruins people’s job prospects is mistaken.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mopey Duns says:

        @Mopey Duns, yeah. I work with some brilliant programmers and database developers and, yep, some of them are Young Earth Creationists.

        Brilliant people. Amazing minds. Smarter than I am.

        And yet…

        Well, thankfully, there isn’t a whole lot of overlap between their theories of the origin of Us All and their requirements for putting together a db.Report

      • Aaron in reply to Mopey Duns says:

        @Mopey Duns, I’m sure that that is true — and there certainly seem to be a number of very well paid creationists running around on Fox News, so it can’t hurt all of your prospects. I would just say that a rejection of settled science in one area suggests and overall culture of revanchism against modernity in general. Creationism seems to be a canary in the coal mine for a whole host of social issues with deleterious consequences.Report

  3. gregiank says:

    I’m not sure how many progressives are truly opposed to federalism as a concept. The rubber meets the road over specific issues. My feeling is proponents of federalism either fail to define what they mean by better government, so it is unclear how states will do better or are just deploying a naive idealogical belief that Fed=bad, state=good.

    I think in the areas of insurance regs where all the companies incorporate in friendly states shows one of the problems with federalism. Along the line of what you are suggesting i can easily imagine one state tossing as many enviro and safety regs as possible to draw businesses. hell that has already happened. So there is a race to either lose your economy or lower various standards, with the people willing to go the lowest having a massive advantage. That is not a formula for creating better societies, but for struggling to keep up those places most willing to fellate business.

    I’ve read the theory that having Fed level regs just centralizes bribing where states are harder to buy since they are spread out. I’m sure that makes sense at times, but it just seems mega-naive to think federalism is a protection against that. Here is AK we had a state legislator being bribed with a twenty here and a twenty there, depending on whatever the briber happened to have in his pocket. Also looking at the recent mining accident in WV is instructive. The mine owner appears to have purchased himself an actual WV supreme court judge. It’s nice to think there is an easy solution to cleaning up gov, but i don’t see any evidence federalism is it.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    We need to invade Alabama and change the culture. Bring them democracy. After we have installed a decent democratic culture, we can declare victory and go home.

    We’ll be greeted with flowers.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:


      I dunno it didn’t work the last time we did it, though it would certainly be lincolnnesque.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

        @ThatPirateGuy, maybe reconstruction will work this time. We just need more willpower.

        Pick up the Smart Man’s Burden and help these half-devil, half-children out of the squalor in which they take so much pride.Report

        • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:


          First, I loved this response.

          Second, if I can be serious here, secularism is on the upswing among the youth. I think that we are winning the conversation and would be happy if we simply followed the constitutions and taught science in science class. Military invasion seems a tad premature at this juncture.

          Especially when lawyer invasion is so much more effective.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

            @ThatPirateGuy, My fundamental problem is that I do not know if this attitude results in more good than harm.

            Polling on the topic of creationism in science class has pretty regularly shown that two-outta-three folks want, ahem, “multiple perspectives given”. That is to say, two-outta-three people want Creationism/ID taught right next to evolution.

            I do not know how to overlook that two-outta-three thing. Do we *REALLY* want to say that local folks ought not be able to pick their curricula? Do we *REALLY* want to say that curricula ought to be picked by national appointees?

            What precedents do we want to set, here?Report

            • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:


              In a word, yes. Science is not a democracy. Science is about the evidence. Teaching popular lies to children is a bad idea. See Kitzmiller vs. Dover. Furthermore we can’t ignore the first amendment. If people want to send their schools to private schools that will lie to their children about the state of the science in the service of religion then they have that option.

              You can’t trust the public on this issue since many have been recipients of terrible science education engineered by local boards dedicated to curriculum. We wouldn’t tolerate a local school board putting George Washington was a martian plant into the curriculum. Why should we do it with science?Report

    • gregiank in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, wow, how could you tell that is what many of us actually want to do. we thought it was secret.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to gregiank says:

        @gregiank, we either base things on democracy or by technocrats on high.

        If we are not fans of democracy (and is any enlightened person a fan of democracy that allows the unenlightened an equal vote), we must be fans of technocratic rule… that is to say, something analogous to colonialism.

        I don’t trust us enough to be good colonial masters… at least, I trust it less than I trust democracy (even the democracy where the unenlightened is given an equal vote).Report

        • Aaron in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, I think it’s pretty clear we crossed this particular Rubicon a long, long time ago. Are you actually suggesting that technocratic regulation is in tension with democracy?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Aaron says:

            @Aaron, on the topic of school curricula? It absolutely, positively is.

            Is it your position that it is not in tension with it?Report

            • Aaron in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, certainly, when the question at hand is clearly out of step with scientific consensus. It’s not like we’re arguing who should be making up the literary canon. Teaching inerrant Biblical creationism or even watered down ID nonsense is just flat wrong, and I don’t think it should be up to local school districts to put their heads in the sand this way.Report

        • gregiank in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, well i’m glad you are not stooping to over the top hyperbole. I don’t think technocrats and democracy are at odds. The democratically elected officials hire people to do certain jobs. Many of those jobs should be done based on skill and knowledge , not on ideology. The pol’s set the policy based on ideology, the technocrats carry it out. So to pick an example that fits my point, if we have an agency like FEMA, the director should be a person who knows a lot about running a disaster relief org, his politics are irrelevant. If you pick a FEMA chief based on liking his politics then the poo hits the fan.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to gregiank says:

            @gregiank, sure, fine.

            Except, in this case, we’re setting up a dynamic where parents are telling children “your teachers are lying to you” and these children then go on to live a life where… tah dah, what they learned in high school biology class has little to no impact on their daily lives.

            And the lesson that they are learning is that if they have the reigns of power, they can pick the curricula for everybody.

            I’m not looking forward to what that harvest will eventually look like, myself.Report

            • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:

              We are already reaping that harvest. The creationist lost their court cases in the 80’s. Look at the homeschool movement and liberty university.

              There is a reason my first vote for president was all about the supreme court.Report

            • Aaron in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, So, because parents are telling their kids lies, thus teaching them to view their educations with suspicion … the solution is to capitulate to the lies and go along with them? Huh?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Aaron says:

                @Aaron, no, not at all. It’s that we have a choice between local control in which a handful of school districts teach ID and, more importantly, a handful *DO *NOT* and a risk of an appointee deciding that everybody is entitled to have the controversy taught.

                I worry more about the downsides of central control than the downsides of local control. A lot more harm has been done by Trofim Lysenko than by Matthew Harrison Brady.Report

        • Pat Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:


          > If we are not fans of democracy (and is
          > any enlightened person a fan of democracy
          > that allows the unenlightened an equal
          > vote), we must be fans of technocratic
          > rule… that is to say, something analogous
          > to colonialism.

          I’m not so sure this is a binary comparison.

          For one thing, we’re fans of democracy and yet we still aren’t a direct democracy 🙂Report

    • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, We need to leave ’em peoples alone!
      “Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land!”Report

    • deb in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, Now that’s funny. And very much on target.Report

  5. Pat Cahalan says:

    So you let Alabama run off into complete flaming ignorance land… how do you expect to co-exist with them in a decade or two in any meaningful sense?

    I get what you’re saying, E.D., that it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have real political cohesion between anyone who has a quality education and people who support teaching of the inerrant nature of the Bible in the classroom. I don’t know that segregating the loonies into loonieland is a great long-term solution, though.Report

    • Mopey Duns in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

      @Pat Cahalan,

      I think you might be overestimating the damage done by the creationist movement. Most people emerge from the 13 years of state-funded education of Western democracy ignorant. This is not a good thing, and it is not improved by teaching creationism in schools, but people here are acting like teaching creationism is the only thing standing between us and a world of flawless Truth provided by the education system.

      The truth is that a significant proportion of any population is going to believe things that are absolutely insane (from certain points of view, at least), and there is very little you can do about it. That is simply how people are. A significant proportion of the US population believes sincerely in things like the 9/11 conspiracies, AIDS conspiracies, homeopathic dilution, alien abductions, healing crystals, astrology, the Illuminati, Zionist conspiracies, and that you can simultaneously increase spending and cut taxes with no adverse consequences. Now, to my mind, believing these things ranks up there with subscribing to a geocentric universe or a young earth. But the point I want to drive home is that there are millions of people who earnestly believe these things, who are otherwise fairly normal and well-adjusted individuals. This is simply human nature, like it or not.

      Again, creationism is bafflingly dumb. But you need to keep in mind the larger context of the number of bafflingly dumb beliefs cherished by the American people, which don’t, overall, seem to do all that much harm, or spill over into other areas of their lives.Report

      • Pat Cahalan in reply to Mopey Duns says:

        @Mopey Duns,

        > The truth is that a significant proportion
        > of any population is going to believe things
        > that are absolutely insane (from certain
        > points of view, at least), and there is very
        > little you can do about it.

        Granted. Officially enabling it is right out, though, at least in my book.

        One can argue (Jaybird might) that this is the fundamental weakness in any public schooling mechanism; you cannot truly decide what to teach based upon popular rule. It’s a case where real education requires actual experts, and there is no place for majority rule… ergo, it’s not something that a democracy should entrust to the government. It’s a framework problem; you can’t have a truly democratic system of education (quite like you can’t have a scientific argument for paranormal activity, coinkydinkily).

        I’m willing to entertain that debate, but I’m going to be difficult to convince. The inherent danger, the exception scenario of expertism in the case of education (as Jaybird points out, get enough people on board at the federal level and suddenly idiocy could be mandated in the public school system) is not, to my thinking, large enough to offset the advantage of having a public school system itself.

        Granted, the public school system, generally, is not terribly great, so the advantage itself isn’t anywhere near what it could be… so you could definitely make a case for the opposite argument.Report

  6. From E.D:

    “I think the strongest argument against more state-based politics in the United States is that it would be too inherently chaotic…”

    So then why not support a national curriculum?Report

  7. Tom Thompson says:

    What, exactly, is wrong with offering the theory of ID alongside the theory of evolution? As we delve deeper into the heretofore unknown complexities of cellular biology, DNA, the fossil record, and other proven scientific knowledge evolution continually loses credibility. Darwin never even dreamed of what we now know to be true. Evolution- last of the great 19th century mystery religions…Report

  8. Tom Thompson says:

    Good points gents, fact is neither is Darwinian evolution scientifically provable. All substantiated by maybe and perhaps. It’s only a theory which is outdated and more a belief system than science.Report

    • @Tom Thompson,

      Tom, you’re clearly not a biologist. Nor, to be frank, a scientist. You don’t prove things in science. You prove things in mathematics.

      You support theories with evidence in science. That’s it. You can’t prove the law of gravity, either.Report

      • Tom Thompson in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

        @Pat Cahalan, I concede that point sir. I haven’t claimed to be. My point is the scarcity of evidence in Darwin’s theories, based on what we know now, makes him appear downright superstitious. It was implied in the comments section the error of the creationist was to substitute faith for science. It equally applies to both in my opinion. Just an observation nothing more.Report

        • @Tom Thompson,

          Tom, there isn’t a scarcity of evidence for evolution.

          For Darwin’s theories, in some cases, yes, but modern evolutionary theory is a somewhat more robust body of knowledge than Darwin’s book, which is, after all, dated and in some cases wrong.

          There really are gobs and gobs of supporting evidence for evolution, all the way down to the molecular level. We know how genes work, we know how chromosomes work, we even understand quite a bit about the chemical mechanisms by which DNA and RNA function.Report

        • @Tom Thompson, There’s plenty of scientific oservations which support evolution. Where there is a lot of inference is in human evolution because there are holes in the fossil records. With regards to other species the evidence is much more solid.Report

        • Francis in reply to Tom Thompson says:

          @Tom Thompson, Frankly, modern biology is far more robust than physics. No one in physics has a solid theory of gravity that plays well with the theories behind the other fundamental forces (strong, weak & e-m). By contrast, the great fusion between Mendel and Darwin really got going after Watson&Crick figured out DNA, and has been repeatedly reconfirmed with the recent reading of the genomes of multiple species.

          Evolution is, really, nothing more than changes in the gene pool from which a species draws. The appropriate weight to give to the various forces (mutation, drift, isolation, etc.) acting on any particular gene pool is hotly debated, but the underlying theory is as solid as any body of scientific knowledge.

          Moreover, no one has come up with a single scientific hypothesis that invalidates current theories. By what mechanism does ID work? If it’s not God working outside the laws of the natural universe, then ID would have to leave a trail, and none has been found. And if it is God, then the amount of cruelty He causes leaves some serious questions as to why He should be worshiped at all.Report

  9. A.R.Yngve says:

    “I believe the Bible is the Word of God and that every single word of it is true. ”

    Ask him about the Bible’s strict, God-given rules on what to eat… presumably while he’s invited to a seafood restaurant… then ask him if he’d kill his own son if he caught the young man “red-handed” — if you know what I mean and I think you do.

    There is much we can learn from holy books.Report

  10. Bob Cheeks says:

    Just one example of the intrinsic failure of scientism is Algore’s ‘Global Warming’ mental masturbation all nicely and scientfiically ‘proven’ by falsified data. Which begs the question, how much of our scientism ideologies are promulgated by ‘false data?’
    The Bible, as the Word of God, is a book that is read and understood as predicated on faith, love, freedom, grace and a ‘gnosis’ permitted by God, which by definition no follower of ideological scientism, the modern Gnostic, may ever embrace.

    “ finds the truth about God and the world, as well as of his own existence, by becoming ‘philosophos,’ the lover of God and his wisdom.”Report

  11. Barry says:

    BTW, for those advocating creationism (whether or not they lie and call it ‘ID’) and denying global warming, if you wonder why people are short with you, it’s because experience has shown that (a) you don’t know what you are talking about and (b) the best that you have is simple assertion; your ‘facts’ are uniformly false.

    After a while, STFU becomes a very rational and efficient response.Report