Posted by Prof. Steve Steve on September 21, 2005 10:27 AM

I Arrive in New Mexico

I arrived in New Mexico last week, having been called on by concerned citizens of that state to look into “Intelligent Design” encroachment into public school science classes. I was immediately greeted by one of the local residents. Fortunately, I am well versed in many things, including Great Dane Standard Greeting Protocol (GDSGP) in which one always sniffs the right sides of noses. To sniff the left sides can cause one to have a very bad day.

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I Check Out Kim’s Digs

I decided to spend a few days with Kim Johnson before moving on to Dave Thomas’s house the next week. I wished to stay in Kim’s place on the recommendations of couple of other well known people who have stayed with him while in Albuquerque - Barbara Forrest and Molleen Matsumura - who were both well chaperoned, as is proper, of course!

I was also introduced to someone a wee bit closer to my size. In fact, I found that I was much more comfortable sniffing noses at the same level. I am really not into the more standard dog greeting protocol (use your imagination).

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After greeting the various canines, Kim took me on a tour of the house. The tour came to an abrupt end when I came across the single malt scotch cabinet. I have been a single malt connoisseur at the highest level. I have even consulted for a number of breweries in Scotland when they were having difficulties with the malts. While I tried earnestly to conceal my intense interest, I was unable to do so, and was soon cordially invited to partake of the scotches in the collection. Unfortunately, they were out of my favorite 30 year old Laphroaig. But, I did enjoy a 21 year old Highland scotch and a marvelous 15 year old Laphroaig. My favorites are the Islay scotches, but I thought that the Glen Garioch was extremely smooth with a hint of spice and a touch of honey as I rolled it over the tip, sides, and back of my tongue. I enjoyed this thoroughly, as you can see. It has been said that I have one of the best palates along with one of the best capacities that anyone has ever seen. I am also a marvelous wine taster, but I’m sure you are all aware of that, and one shouldn’t brag. Incidentally, by the time the camera came out, Courtney Kangaroo was literally under the table. She was quite pale and non-communicative the next day.

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A Sticky Situation

In a very rare occurrence, I decided that discretion could, indeed, be the better part of valor. A Navajo friend of Kim’s (Pauletta) stopped by, and I thought it might be a good time to engage a Native American concerning the creation of life forms on earth - something I have never done, before, believe it or not! I had heard of the Navajo Waking Woman, the creator, and was fascinated with the concept as a creation myth. However, when I mentioned that I was against teaching creation mythologies in science classes, I found that passions arose quickly. Although I tried to explain the new synthesis to straighten her out, she did not want to hear about no “stinkin’ evolution,” because she already knew what the answer was. I’m sure you all know how persistent I can be. I continued to insist that the scientific conclusion was the only valid way to look at this, and was suddenly in a bit over my head, as you can see. Fortunately, I was able to exercise charm and wit by saying “Just kidding” to get her to back off. After all, when I puts my mind to it, I can be quite cute. Females do seem to be attracted to me.

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After my heart slowed down to a mere race, I concluded two things: 1) some people will never change their beliefs, and it is wise to be able to tell when that is the case! 2) In “mano-a-mano” clashes over science (I’m learning some Spanish, too!), the person with the biggest knife will usually win the argument every single time! I believe that we should enlist the aid of Native Americans like Pauletta whenever possible. Not because of the knives, but because anytime a person wants to “teach the controversy,” they need to teach ALL the controversies. I suggested to Kim that he try to recruit Pauletta and her Navajo friends to help in our cause - but to please wait until after I left! Fascinating.

Dressage Day

Next day, I visited with Kim’s horses. At one time, many years ago, I was a world class dressage rider. One of the horses is named Satan (no relation) and happens to be a retired dressage horse. It’s too bad that the accompanying pictures are stills, and not in motion. I rode Satan bare back, and with just leg cues and weight shifts was able to get him to side step, do flying lead changes, etc. It is not so remarkable that this was done with leg cues and weight shifts, since that’s the way it is supposed to be done, but considering the length of the my legs and my light weight, well - I’m sure you all get the picture! I later sat on Satan’s head while Jesse, Satan, and I relived the ride. Marvelous! Here, Jesse, Satan and I have a laugh over the just finished dressage ride in which I excelled. Jesse vaults off (gymnastics) horses and understands a good “seat.” We really hit it off.

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I Become a Lifetime Honorary Member of CESE

Kim presented me with a lifetime membership for the New Mexico Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE). In the picture, you can see me receiving a CESE pin. I am very tough skinned, and shall wear this with pride. I thanked CESE profusely for fighting the good fight against pseudoscience, and wished them luck with fighting the ongoing latest attempt at the sneaky underhandedness of the Intelligent Design Network of New Mexico, which is trying to introduce “Evidence Against Evolution” into the science classroom in the Rio Rancho school district. Kim thanked me profusely for all I had taught CESE. Here, Courtney Kangaroo looks on jealously as Kim Johnson “Pins” me with the Lifetime CESE Membership pin.

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A Visit to NMSR (New Mexican for Science and Reason)

Since NMSR has been active in promoting good science and fighting bad science, I took the opportunity to attend their monthly meeting. (Members from NMSR formed the core group of CESE.) Every month, a speaker is invited. The topics are far-ranging. This month was special. I got to meet someone who is a bit famous on his own accord – Professor MacAllister (Mac) Hull. Mac and I were on a first name basis immediately. Mac was the person in charge of creating the first explosive lenses used in plutonium fission devices - yes, the first atomic bomb that was detonated in New Mexico, and another one, “Fat Man,” dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Mac had not even been to college when he was drafted to work in Los Alamos. His job was to find out how to cast the explosive lenses so that they were essentially flawless. Obviously he did this. His initials were on every one of the 32 lenses on the plutonium bombs that were used. After the war, Mac went on to receive a PhD from Yale in physics. He had many interesting stories to tell, and he discussed with me his feelings concerning his involvement with the Manhattan Project. This was not easy on anyone involved, and I came away with a much deeper appreciation of the moral issues and complexity of feelings and resolution that each individual participant has had to live with over all these years. I won’t discuss Mac, personally, but will say that I admire him tremendously for what he took away from this project as a young man (21 years old). He went on to do many fine things. He is living history (and has a sense of humor to match mine - almost!). In this photo, Mac and I are trying to explain some of the finer nuances of particle physics to some of the audience members.

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Here is Mac and me, sharing a joke. Kim pretends to understand.

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The NMSR Science Watch Radio Show

The next day was time for the NMSR Radio Show, “Science Watch,” in which Dave Thomas and Kim Johnson co-host a fun half hour where they talk about interesting science discoveries, news media blunders, what’s happening in science, and a segment called “Creation Corner.” The show is on Saturdays, right after the news at 2:00 PM. KABQ 1350 AM is the station – and what a blast radio is! After being used to speaking to hundreds, even thousands of people in a live audience, I found that hosting a radio show is relatively easy and is fun. Our major topic was Scientology, although for the life of me, I cannot begin to understand how ‘scient’ or ‘ology’ have anything to do with the science fiction created by L. Ron Hubbard to get rich from. Still, there are many people who pay exorbitant amounts of money just to be taken for a pure ride in fantasy. Of course, the real problem is that people can be harmed. We discussed this in light of the Tom Cruise remarks on TV about psychiatry being hokey, or words to that effect. I provided a full history and all the secrets I knew about Scient Ology. People often spend millions of dollars for these “secrets” - especially movie stars, it seems! Let us hope that there were no people who actually took Tom Cruise seriously, but I am wise enough to know that this is a hope without basis. There are always people who take others seriously, just because the others have the stage. An interesting, but really bad phenomenon, not unrelated to ID creationism!

Here is Dave Thomas, making a few last minute notes for the show. (I, of course, didn’t require any notes.)

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Here is our engineer, Jenny O, laughing at herself for not figuring out one of the nuances of operating the “board.” I explained to her that I had learned it only after being around control boards for a long time and that she shouldn’t feel bad. After all, I am expert at all I participate in.

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Kim gave me an outline script, but I didn’t need it. Here I am sitting on the script and having a ball ad libbing to the radio audience. The feedback on my performance was, of course, outstanding. People in New Mexico are very appreciative of quality programming.

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The Rio Rancho Board Meeting

We were having so much fun, we almost forgot to attend the Rio Rancho School Board meeting to see about their new “Science Policy 401.” Dave Thomas has blogged about this previously on the Thumb, here, here, and here.

Although I tried to address the board about what I think is a very flawed policy, I was not allowed to speak. They said it was because I wasn’t a resident of Rio Rancho, but I think they may just be prejudiced against Ailuropoda melanoleuca like myself. Here is a photo showing Jesse Johnson and me trying to talk some sense into school board member Don Schlichte, who is a pastor at a local church at his day job. I recognized him immediately, having brushed up on local creationists prior to my visit.

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After the meeting, Courtney Kangaroo and I had it out on top of Schlichte’s desk. Ater just a few minutes of her same old broken record, I couldn’t take any more, and quickly left to prepare for some field work in the strange land called De-Na-Zin, way up in Navajo country. There, I am told, we will find compelling disproofs of creationist geology. You won’t want to miss that adventure!

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I’m off to rest for a few days. It’s been quite stressful, jetting back and forth between Australia and America. I wish these creationists would only attack one continent at a time!

I must thank Kim Johnson, and his extended family, for an excellent visit. I especially enjoyed munching on some fresh bamboo growing by the river behind Kim’s house. One must keep his thumb in the game, after all.