On Taking a Seat at the Table
Getting into the White House (okay, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just next door) is only slightly easier than getting onto an airplane. You get to keep your shoes on.
The scene was somewhat surreal on Friday, February 26. The bulletproof glass enclosures. The metal detectors. The taut-backed security agents whose ribbed sweaters couldn’t quite hide the telltale bulges of their body armor.
And milling through the checkpoints with me? Damn near everyone I know among the leaders of America’s “nonbeliever” organizations: Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists and some years ago executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism; Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association; and Secular Coalition for America (SCA) founder Herb Silverman. (A few friends I’d looked forward to seeing weren’t there because a snowstorm had stranded them in New York City.) With me were the other members of the Council for Secular Humanism’s delegation: CFI/Office of Public Policy director Toni van Pelt, CFI/D.C. director Melody Hensley, and CFI/D.C. science adviser Stuart Jordan.
We were all there to spend an hour and a half exchanging views with the Obama administration in a White House briefing arranged by SCA (of which the Council is a member).
Perhaps sixty secular humanists, religious humanists, atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, and more than half a dozen officials of the administration, gathered in a spacious auditorium in the Executive Office Building.
The Council Delegation: Melody Hensley, Tom Flynn, Stuart Jordan, and Toni van Pelt
White House rules preclude me from identifying the officials or what they said; suffice it to say that assistant secretaries of three departments were among them. Only a handful of us got to speak, and appropriately so, as time was tight. (As we knew we would, the rest of us had to content ourselves with sitting there and looking very, very secular.)
Into that hour and half were compressed inevitable platitudes but also incisive discussion (on the part of our community’s representatives) on three issues: religion-based child abuse and neglect, discrimination against nonbelievers in the armed forces, and constitutional issues involving the faith-based initiatives. SCA legislative director Sasha Bartolf and executive director Sean Faircloth kept the pace and the quality satisfyingly high.
And I don’t think I’m breaking the rules to say that the administration officials present appeared to listen intently and responded meaningfully to our concerns.
Was it all lip service? I honestly don’t know; future events will tell us whether our discussions will lead to any noticeable change. But the specific results of this briefing are less important than the simple fact that it occurred.
For the first time in the history of the United States, representatives of the nonbelieving community were invited to take part in national policy dialogue at the White House level. We have taken our seat at the table alongside every other properly recognized interest group. On one view, it’s easy to carp that this was far too late in coming; by one common measure there are nearly fifty million American men, women, and children who live without religious belief—more people than belong to any single American religious denomination except Roman Catholicism. By any common-sense standard we should have enjoyed this recognition decades ago.
Of course common sense has little influence on the long-standing American aversion to nonbelief. The usual suspects on the right were outraged. Some right-wing bloggers suggested that we’d sat down with Obama himself (sadly not)—not for a briefing but rather to plot together the final ejection of Christianity from the public square. Fat chance! Fox News bloviator Sean Hannity didn’t go quite that far, but he did treat his viewers to the dumbfounding claim that in meeting with nonbelievers, the Obama administration had done something for us that had never been offered to religious groups! (The White House spurns religious groups and leaders, right. And who was that with the Dalai Lama the other week—one of Obama’s body doubles?)
Never mind, for now, that our community’s recognition was overdue. Now is when that overdue recognition occurred. Now is when the first U.S. president to acknowledge our community in an inaugural address occupies the White House. And from this moment forward, our movement will be on the inside, not the outside looking in. One thing we absolutely know after this briefing: it will not be the only one. Secular humanists and all their allies will be full participants in policy dialogues from now on.
In three words, this is huge.
I’m proud that the Council for Secular Humanism could be a part of it. I’m gratified that nonbelieving Americans have taken their seats at the table. And I didn’t even have to take my shoes off.
Tom Flynn is executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of its magazine Free Inquiry
On May 16, 2010, from noon to 6:00 PM, African Americans for Humanism will hold a conference at the Center for Inquiry/Washington, D.C., located at 621 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, 20003. The theme of the conference is “New Directions for African American Humanism.”
Speakers will include AAH executive director Norm R. Allen Jr. and columnist Sikivu Hutchinson. Topics will include African American women and humanism, how to attract African Americans to organized humanism, the role of the clergy in the African American community, great African American humanists in history, and other subjects.
Registration is $45 for the general public, $35 for Friends of the Center, and $15 for students. To register, contact Melody Hensley at email@example.com or (202) 546-2332 (ext. 111).
African humanists have been making impressive strides. Norm Allen and the Association of Secular Humanists of Malawi have been at the center of an ongoing national debate in that nation. One of Malawi’s major newspapers, the Malawi News, has featured ideas and writings from Allen, George Thindwa, the executive director of the Malawian humanist group, and other members of the group. Christian Pastor Nick Chakwera has presented a Christian viewpoint in reaction to the humanist messages.
On December 27, 2009, Thindwa formally debated Pastor Chakwera at the Cresta Hotel in Lilongwe, the nation’s capital. The topic was “Which is Good for Malawi: Christianity or Secular Humanism?” The debate was broadcast live on national radio.
In February, Thindwa participated in two nationally televised debates on Television Malawi. On February 7, 2010, he debated “Witchcraft in Malawi and the Way Forward.” Participants discussed whether alleged witches have real powers and whether the government of Malawi is right to criminalize witchcraft.
Thindwa was joined on the panel by an attorney from the Muslim Association of the Southern Region of Malawi and another representative of that group. Thindwa rejected the idea that witches and wizards have genuine paranormal powers. In response to a question raised by a member of the audience, he went on to say that Satan is simply a mythical figure.
On February 21, 2010, Thindwa participated in a second Television Malawi debate on the same subject. A second debate was held because the public demand was so great from the first one. These debates are being closely considered along with a proposal by Malawi’s Law Commission to review the nation’s Witchcraft Act.
Organized humanists in Kenya, Uganda, and other African nations are making similar progress. African humanists are meeting regularly and increasing their numbers. Leo Igwe of the Center for Inquiry/Nigeria is regularly featured in Nigerian media, as are humanists from Uganda. The future for organized humanism in Africa continues to look bright
Most of you who have followed my commentary over the past few years know that I maintain that if there is ever a fifth justice on the Supreme Court to out of hand reject government neutrality in matters of religion, the separation of church and state will be nullified and our nation will become some form of theocracy.
President Obama was able to secure his first appointee to the Court, when there were sixty Democratic senators to form a filibuster-proof majority. Now, with the Republican win in Massachusetts, if every Republican senator voted against cloture, the mechanism by which to end a filibuster, there would be one vote short of the sixty needed for such cloture.
Thus, it is conceivable that if even the two moderate Republicans in the Senate, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine, sided with the more right-wing colleagues in their party, any Supreme Court nominee of the president could face a successful filibuster. Even if these two senators joined with Democrats to end a filibuster, if the Republicans gain any Senate seats this year, filibusters could conceivably become the primary tool of rejecting any of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees.
As far as the lower federal courts are concerned, there has already been a shocking display of obstruction against the president's nominees. The president has nominated Edward Chen, a U.S. magistrate judge, one who is appointed by United States district court judges, to become such a district court judge in the San Francisco area. Primarily because he is a former ACLU attorney, the Republicans have prevented his nomination from coming before the full Senate for a vote.
The president also just nominated an eminently qualified Berkeley law professor for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviews federal trial court decisions in nine western states. There is now a major right-wing outcry against Goodwin Liu because he, among other things, has been on the board of directors of the ACLU of Northern California.
By the time one year and six weeks elapsed into Bush's first term, in 2002, the Senate had confirmed a total of thirty-nine of his nominees to the federal trial and appellate courts. At precisely the same stage in President Obama's first term, only fifteen such nominees have been confirmed.
The Council for Secular Humanism is a nonpartisan organization. However, one of our major concerns is securing the successful seating of judges that are inclined toward the preservation of the separation of church and state. It is more likely than not that President Obama's judicial nominees, who are currently unable to get to a floor vote in the Senate, would decide cases in a manner designed to uphold the wall of separation. It is even more obvious that the senators who are blocking a vote on these judges are opponents of church/state separation.
We also recognize that not all nonreligious people have identical views on every social, legal, and political issue. Certainly, secular humanism does not require a left-wing position on every such issue. However, since the survival of secular government hinges on the overall makeup of the federal judiciary, we must take a stand, notwithstanding other unrelated questions that may come before a given judge.
Accordingly, we strongly urge our readers to
contact both of their United States senators and urge a floor
vote on all the president's current judicial nominees. We cannot
allow the religious right to tread water for years to come,
blocking President Obama's judicial appointments, until such
time as a religious right-wing-sympathizing president once again
wins the White House.
Edward Tabash is a Los Angeles area constitutional lawyer and sits on the board of directors of the Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism.
Cover: John Dewey, America's Greatest Thinker?
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Scheduled for October 7-10 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, home of Academy Awards ceremonies during the 1930s and 1940s, this conference promises to be a classic!
Richard Dawkins ∙ Sam Harris ∙
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February is gone and so is the snow in DC. It’s time to thaw out with another Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy (OPP) update as we look forward to spring! (The Center is a supporting organization of the Council for Secular Humanism.)
We begin with some updated information and a short reminder on Civic Days. At this point, the OPP planning committee is in the process of finalizing the events schedule. We have firmed up all of our main events and selected dates for our sightseeing and exploration trips. All of the information is available online, including a link to register for the event at: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/dc/events/civic_days_2010/. Stay tuned for a final update next month, and we hope to see you there!
Also during the month of February, the OPP began the process of selecting members of Congress for our Awards for the Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy. Each year we select Senators and Representatives who have worked to advance the ideals espoused by our office—namely science, reason, and freedom of inquiry. This year we have selected a diverse group of four representatives and two senators for our awards. The nominees are: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Representative Rush Holt (D–NJ), Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD), Representative David Wu (D-OR), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). We hope that each of them will accept this award and look forward to being able to present it to them later this month. We will undoubtedly have more information to come next month, including the text of the citations and photographs of the presentations.
On February 18th, representatives of the OPP attended a briefing at the Brookings Institution entitled “Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama Era: Assessing the First Year and Looking Ahead.” The purpose of this forum was to analyze the ways in which the Obama administration has changed the Bush era Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives into its own Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and assess the legal and practical implications of faith-based outreach by the government. At this briefing, OPP policy analyst Matt Separa had the opportunity to meet Joshua DuBois—the head of President Obama’s Faith-Based Office—and familiarized him with the Center and our mission in Washington. He seemed intrigued by our work and generally agreed that church-state separation should be protected with regard to any government dealings with faith-based organizations. You can read the full write-up on the OPP website.
With all the attention it has been getting in the news it may hardly need mention here, but on Friday, February 26th 2010 members of the Secular Coalition for America—of which CFI’s affiliate The Council for Secular Humanism is the newest member—met with senior staff from the Obama Administration’s Office of Public Engagement. Representatives of the CFI Washington DC Center/Office of Public Policy—including Toni Van Pelt, Melody Hensley, and Stuart Jordan PhD.—also attended. Among the issues discussed with administration officials were how to protect children from neglect and abuse for parents who cite religious reason to deny their children medical treatment, how to end proselytization in the military, and how to stop faith-based organizations that receive federal funding from proselytizing and discriminating in hiring. This marks the first time an administration has met at such a high level with members of the secular community. Read the full press release here.
Lastly, an update from the January report: Toni Van Pelt will still be speaking at the Darwin Day Science Conference on March 20th hosted by CFI Indiana, but the topic of her talk will not be Charitable Choice, as was reported last month. Instead Toni will be speaking on the Importance of Advocating for Science at 2 PM. For those in the Indianapolis area, register for and enjoy a wonderful day celebrating science, reason, and inquiry!
Evolution and science education in schools was the theme of the lecture organized by the Center for Inquiry/Nigeria to mark this year’s Darwin Day. Darwin Day is celebrated on or near February 12 to honor British scientist Charles Darwin, who was born on that date. Darwin discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection, a theory that has become the central organizing principle in biology and plays a central role in astronomy, cosmology, and other sciences.
Science has played a key role in human development, civilization, and enlightenment. Darwin Day not only celebrates the logic of scientific discovery but also underscores the positive and progressive roles of science in the world.
Unfortunately, the teaching of evolution is not encouraged in our schools—a reflection of the poor and low standards of science education in our institutions. The topic of evolution is among the last in the science curriculum. The textbooks used in science classes contain vague references to this vital discovery. Evolution is not taught as a fact—as a scientific fact. That means most students graduate from schools without learning about evolution at all or knowing very little about it. Recently, I met a final year student of microbiology in one of the private universities who told me she never heard about Charles Darwin. I didn’t have time to query her further, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had said that she never heard about evolution. So what we have here in Nigeria is a sorry situation in which science students graduate from school without learning about Charles Darwin or evolution.
As I noted earlier, evolution has become the central organizing principle in biology. Evolution has become a pillar and foundation of the sciences. In fact, “To study biology while neglecting evolution would be like studying physics without Newton’s Laws that govern the universe or chemistry without the periodic table.” Sadly, many heads of schools think otherwise. They do not encourage the teaching of evolution in their schools because according to them, the topic of evolution conflicts with their beliefs—with their religion.
Evolution is science. And science is about facts—demonstrable facts of nature and the world. Science is not about what you believe. Science is not religion. All schools should strive to teach students facts about nature and the world no matter what the school owners, managers, and teachers believe or disbelieve. We should not allow our beliefs to distort facts and reality. We should not allow our faith to undermine science education in schools.
Stakeholders in education in this country are doing our nation, students, and youths a great disservice by neglecting, de-emphasizing, or discouraging the teaching of evolution in schools. They have created a situation in which our science students cannot compete with their counterparts in other parts of the world. They have created a situation in which the Nigerian educational system cannot be reckoned with globally. But this situation must change. Yes, it must change, because science is the bedrock of development, and as a developing nation, Nigeria must take the learning of science seriously. Nigeria must invest in science education, research, and development. Nigeria must commit itself to promoting public knowledge and understanding of science.
I am therefore calling upon the federal government, the Ministry of Education, and all those responsible for drafting the science curriculum for schools to ensure that evolution becomes one of the first topics taught in all science classes. In fact, the government should introduce evolution to the primary school science curriculum. Headmasters, principals, and other heads of schools should ensure that their science students do not graduate without learning about evolution. All schools should introduce programs that provide opportunities for students to showcase their knowledge and understanding of evolution and science. All schools should work to promote reason, science, and free inquiry in all areas of human endeavor.
Lack of scientific thinking and critical inquiry is largely responsible for the spread of witch hunting, ritual killing, and other superstition-related abuses in Nigeria. I invite you to join the CFI anti-superstition campaign and take its message of rational light, scientific temper, and critical awakening to all of your schools, offices, and families.
Leo Igwe is the Director of the Centre for Inquiry/Nigeria.
Theodore Dalrymple and the Suicide of the
by Sheldon F. Gottlieb
Theodore Dalrymple covers a lot of territory in his provocative recent essay “Suicide of the West: Will America follow Europe into anomie and atheism?”
In discussing the decline of influence of religion in Europe, Dalrymple seems to be referring solely or primarily to Western Europe (WE) since all the countries he mentions are those constituting the western portion of the continent. The situation in Eastern Europe (EE) may be somewhat different; perhaps it is at a much more juvenile phase of ridding itself of religious influences compared to the west. When my wife and I were touring EE a few years ago, we saw some of the most primitive religious behaviors that we had ever encountered—it was as if we had been transported back to the Middle Ages. In one case, numerous children were dressed in traditional religious garb for the ceremony that, fortuitously, was taking place that day, and the church was reinforcing the children’s indoctrination in orthodox Christian rituals and prayers. The churches in EE, unlike their counterparts in WE, were packed with parishioners, making it very difficult for tourists to make their way though the church while trying not to disrupt the services. (After all, this was part of the inevitable ABC tour—another bloody church, or, for the less sanguine and more tolerant, another beautiful cathedral—typical of European tours.) We saw people—mostly older women—prostrate themselves on the sidewalks of entrances to the churches and kiss the ground as they slowly wended their way to and through the church's entrance.
When Dalrymple concluded that "God is dead in Europe," I wonder if he should have limited that conclusion primarily to WE. God seemed to be quite alive in EE. Admittedly, there was evidence that EE is undergoing a vast social and economic change which undoubtedly—and somewhat hopefully—will parallel the changed intellectual pattern pertaining to religion as seen in WE. A secularized EE would go a long way in helping to diminish, if not quite overcome, the evil Roman Catholicism and its derivative Christian religions inflicted on the world. Aspects of that evil, which have been perpetrated for centuries, have become so deeply embedded in all aspects of western culture that it can be considered as having been encoded in the DNA of western civilization and, through the efforts of Islam, the UN, the political left, and the media, is flowing into the gene pool of cultures throughout the world.
It is interesting to note that the Islamic invasion of Europe is occurring primarily in WE, not EE, excepting Russia. Perhaps some of that phenomenon is due to the better economic opportunities in WE coupled with WE’s markedly reduced reproductive rates providing economic opportunity for immigration from the still over-reproducing Muslim nations. Perhaps part of that phenomenon is due to the greater Christian religiosity of EE in successfully—comparatively speaking—keeping the Muslims out. The Islamization of Europe and its potential effects on the future of religiosity, the future of WE's self view of humans along with other possible social, political, and economic effects are issues Dalrymple does not discuss.
Dalrymple does "not see much chance of [religious] revival except in the wake of catastrophe." I wonder whether the Islamization of WE—and eventually, perhaps also EE—may not be considered such a tragedy. Religion has always been a cancer in the world—that is partly the reason why society seems to be obsessed with it—but Islam is a rapidly growing, vicious malignancy that will have to be dealt with. The question is the same one I used to ask my colleagues in the early 1970s: Does Western Europe have what it takes to withstand a Muslim onslaught? One would think, or at least hope, that the loss of religiosity and increased secularization would carry over to wanting to see that Islam did not take hold and replace what seems to be the now discarded Christianity. I do not live in Europe and may not see what is actually occurring, but from my vantage point in the U.S., I conclude that thus far, the answer to my question seems to be no. How much of that no is related to the loss of religiosity, I cannot say.
However, irrespective of how my personal views would have framed further discussion, the fact is that Dalrymple took it in another direction and discussed how individuals think of themselves. He states that individuals still think of themselves "as being of unique importance, but without the countervailing humility of considering themselves as having duty toward the author of their being, a being inconceivably larger than themselves. Far from inducing a more modest conception of man, the loss of religious belief has inflamed his self-importance enormously."
I tend to disagree with the assessment in the previous paragraph. I consider that humans have always thought of themselves as being unique long before organized religion came along and long before Christianity, or any of the Abrahamic religions, arose. I suspect that humans will always consider themselves unique.
I disagree with Dalrymple's notion that religion may have provided a countervailing humility. I am more inclined to accept that religion (particularly Christianity) provided an even greater basis for humans to think of themselves as unique and added to human arrogance and conceit. Religion, as stated in sacred texts, claims special divine creation of humans and their special relationship with the divine ("the author of their being") that is not available to any other living organism. After all, according to Christian belief, the divine had a son, following an assignation with a human female, who was later sacrificed for the sins of humans. How much more unique could one be considered? If anything, a true understanding of the common origin of all living species via evolution should provide a more humbling ("more modest") conception of self than that offered through religion and, instead of inflaming human self-importance, should dampen it.
I also tend to disagree with Dalrymple's view of persons "with no transcendent religious belief." Dalrymple states: "...this life is all he has. He must therefore preserve and prolong it at all costs and live it to the full ... living to the full means consuming as much as possible, having as many experiences as possible, and not only many experiences, the most extreme experiences possible." After dissecting the problems associated with the attributes of living to the full, Dalrymple concludes with a pessimistic outlook of a "miserablism" that leads to indifference and hatred of the past. I have no doubt that there are people who fit Dalrymple's profile. People who push laws and concepts to their limits will always exist.
However, as an atheist who is also a secular humanist and a gastronomic Jew, I, and many of my acquaintances, do not fit the profile detailed by Dalrymple. Most of us come out of an East European immigrant Jewish tradition. Judaism is a transcendent, ethically-based religion that has a concept of heaven and hell that plays a small role in the lives of most Jews. Judaism is a religion that concentrates on ethical behavior in the here and now. Adherents of the faith are supposed to behave morally not because of any rewards or punishments in the hereafter, but because it is the right thing to do. This view of Judaism was emphasized in the Talmud (Pirke Abot: The Sayings of the Fathers) by the beloved Rabbi Hillel and is pejoratively referred to by Christians as the Silver Rule: "Do not unto others as you would have others do not unto you." There is such a marked philosophical difference between the silver and golden rules that I chose living under the philosophy of the silver rule. Summarized in Hillel's adage is a moral way of life, devoid of a deity, that permits people to explore their innate talents and abilities while behaving morally towards others and not disrupting society and not terminating in a miserabilism.
Any miserabilism I manifest is not the result of not having lived a full or interesting life (I have)—within the confines of my genetics and environment without having to push limits—but the result of some age-related deterioration over which I have little to no control.
I have mixed reactions to Dalrymple's conclusions that Europeans "because of their history, or rather their obsession with the worst aspects of that history ... do not feel able to admit that they wish to preserve their own way of life." That they are not able to admit that they do not wish to preserve their way of life goes back to the above question I asked my colleagues four decades ago about Europe having what it takes to withstand an Islamic onslaught. There is no doubt that the history of Europe is exceedingly sordid. But there is also no doubt that the Europeans are quick to forget their past antisocial behavior as they now respond, in knee jerk fashion, to the call of that ancient, yet modern, social disease inherent in their cultural DNA, i.e., anti-Semitism—Maurice Samuel's Great Hate and Harry Golden's The One Constant in Western Civilization. European hatred of Israel, since at least 1967—especially that of the WE governments, the left leaning academicians and intellectuals (with very rare exceptions), and the Papacy (excepting Pope John XXIII)—has gone well beyond the realm of irrationality. Dalrymple would know what I am referring to since he previously had written so eloquently on this subject.
Dalrymple is right in his assessment of the U.S. and its susceptibility to a European-like meltdown and resulting miserabilism. However, Dalrymple does not offer any mechanism whereby America can learn from Europe and defend itself from an almost inevitable internal destruction and miserabilism other than to say it is necessary to defend "all that is best, and of all the achievement, in U.S. history" while implying that it is important to know how to change and conserve.
However, the success of the defense of culture enterprise depends on defining the best of American history and all of its achievements. How are they to be defined? And who will be doing the defining? What do we do with those aspects of American history that are not so savory? Certainly they cannot just be discarded and forgotten simply because they are embarrassing. Americans must avoid doing what Dalrymple claims Europeans have done, i.e., dwell on all of the evils of the European past. Being able to avoid dwelling on the evils of the past may depend, in part, on the outcome of the "culture wars" in America.
I was delighted that Dalrymple referred to culture wars, since the war in the U.S. is polygonal, with many of the sides having ties to fundamental religion. One of the most pernicious aspects of the culture wars is the breakdown of the first amendment—separation of church and state. Another is the lack of a coherent attack on world-wide, religiously (Islam) induced terrorism. A third is the loss of the "big umbrella" status of the two major political parties, resulting in the polarization of the American political parties. This phenomenon is of recent vintage and, to a large extent, it is related to fundamental religion. There is now room for at least one, if not two, new political parties—a "big umbrella" center party or center right and center left parties. A complete discussion of the culture wars is a topic for another day.
My usual answer for understanding and solving many social and political problems is education. Education, I suggest, is the best way to avoid dwelling on past evils. However, I cringe each time I offer this as a solution. I cannot help but think of our world in which ideological thought trumps evidence-based, rational thought. I can never forget that the Nazis had highly educated and "cultured" men in their entourage. I cannot forget the anti-Semitism emanating from the universities; the arrogant, self-labeled intellectuals throughout the WE and the Western World; and the media in WE—all presumably involving educated people. I am reminded that education in the U.S. is highly individualized and dependent on hundreds of independent school districts and fifty separate state departments of education who set standards for K-12 curricula. The mindless and needless creation-evolution (non)debate is a classic example of religious ideology running amok over rational thought. I am reminded of the questions: Who sets the curricula? How are the curricula determined? What information is to be included and what is the context whereby it will be taught? Etc. I cannot forget the news media with ideological biases and false reporting and manufactured news. In particular, I consider the anti-Semitic biases of the BBC in Great Britain and CNN in the U.S. classic examples of ideology trumping evidence and rational thought. And, with the rise of the Internet and alternate sources of rapid communication and dissemination of information—much of which is ideologically based political propaganda—I wonder if there will ever be a way to derive a consensus view of American history.
Sheldon F. Gottlieb, PhD, is the author of The Naked Mind. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org