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Here’s a confession you are unlikely to hear at your next class reunion. Brown turned me into the right-wing religious fundamentalist I am today. That’s not the way I would describe myself, but it is how, very likely, many Brown alums would describe me. In brief, I’m an Orthodox Jew who argues for seeing political conservatism as a product of the blueprint of moral reality found in the Bible. And this happened to me at Brown, notwithstanding its reputation for secular liberalism.
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credit: Luke Best

Twenty years after graduation, I’m a seasoned professional conservative. I’ve been the literary editor of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review and now serve as a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, which, thanks to its advocacy of intelligent design, is probably the country’s most hated think tank. My latest book, due out in June, is How Would God Vote? Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative. You get the idea.

No parents, I assume, ever sent their child to Brown in the hope of inspiring a radical political and religious turn to the right. That would include my own liberal and secular Jewish parents, who were startled to realize the effect college was having on me. In high school, I wasn’t content to be just a liberal. In the very Republican suburb of Los Angeles where I grew up, I wore hippie attire and a long beard, though I got rid of the facial hair in time for orientation week at Brown. By that time, I considered myself a socialist and was present, in Birkenstocks, for the school year’s first meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America, held in a room in Hope College. Over my bed in Emery-Wooley hung a poster of Karl Marx. My freshman roommate, a lacrosse player from Long Island, seemed to think I was a pretty asinine seventeen-year-old. He was probably right.

By the summer of 1984, still asinine, I found my politics had been transformed. I was a youth delegate to the Republican National Convention in Dallas, which nominated Ronald Reagan for a second term. A noteworthy incident at the convention was the burning of a U.S. flag outside Reunion Arena by a Communist Youth Brigade member. He was arrested (with my hearty approval) and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled, in Texas v. Johnson, that anti-flag-burning statutes were unconstitutional.

What had happened to cause this political conversion? When I was a sophomore, a junior on whom I had a mad crush had a theory on this question: “You’re just a contrarian,” she said. “You’re an anti-chameleon. Whatever other people around you say, you’ll say the exact opposite.” I laughed and half-agreed.

We’ll call her Tamara, to protect her privacy now that she’s a responsible adult with a family. Back then she was a semiotics concentrator who despised Republicans, took offense at being called a “girl” instead of a “woman,” smoked cigarettes over cups of greasy coffee at Loui’s, and consumed books by such French theorists as Derrida, Barthes, and Foucault. By Tamara’s own measure, these habits would make her a regular conformist at Brown in 1984, at least among students in the humanities.

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David Klinghoffer was a columnist for the Daily Herald while a student at Brown.

 

For Brown at that time was pervaded by a delightful atmosphere of addled liberalism. I loved it even as I opposed it, and still look back with fondness and nostalgia. I wouldn’t rule out sending my own kids to such a college. That may seem paradoxical coming from someone who today is a very conservatively inclined father of five, but as I hope this essay will show, an atmosphere of provocation and challenge does not necessarily lead to one political or religious end.

For a lot of students back then, Brown in 1984 was the platform for sticking it to everything that is traditional in our “patriarchal” culture, as they called it. If you think of a father as a symbol—or a “signifier,” as the semiotics crowd liked to say—then knocking him on his back was exactly what lefty campus activism boiled down to.

When I arrived on campus in 1983, for example, the boiling controversy was over whether to invite the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps back to campus, almost twenty years after it had been abolished there. In 1984, students voted to demand that University Health Services stock suicide pills in case of nuclear war—a theoretical measure since everyone knew Brown officials would never terrify our parents by going along with the plan. But again, upsetting Dad was the point of the whole episode.

Nor was the revolt against the paternal limited to politics. The theme of the most fashionable humanities scholarship was to indict the patriarchy by accusing the great fathers of literature—the classic authors—of racism, sexism, and homophobia. This may sound like a cartoon, but at Brown in the mid-1980s, it was commonplace. Yes, I delighted in all this craziness. What I most value in it now is that it provoked me, arousing my suspicion. If so many people were so intent on decrying the patriarchy, on insisting that every traditional meaning transmitted by Western tradition was arbitrary and meaningless, then maybe the precise opposite was true. The more I was told that there was no singular Truth to be obtained from the great tradition that went before us, the more I was inspired to seek out the forbidden.

This is, I think, an overlooked aspect of a good education that conservatives, not least the religiously conservative, often forget. Education is not indoctrination. The purpose of college isn’t to program students with accepted doctrines, turning them into clones of their teachers and parents, but to provoke them to think for themselves. Brown, true to its best tradition, did this for me.

Beginning with my sophomore year, everything that happened confirmed my new direction. I became the lone and reviled conservative columnist for the Brown Daily Herald. In my inaugural column, I wrote about an experience I’d had at the Third World Center. One afternoon, Tamara and I had wandered in and discovered that President Howard Swearer was in the building, about to have a meeting with students. We ambled down the hall to the entrance of the room where the meeting would take place, only to be stopped by a young woman. She looked us up and down. “Sorry, you can’t come in,” she said, adding that because Tamara and I were not “Third World” students, we were not welcome. We were barred from entering a university facility because we were white.

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David Klinghoffer was often vilified on campus for his polemic columns in the Brown Daily Herald. When prohibited from attending a meeting between Third World students and President Howard Swearer, he railed in the newspaper against antiwhite racism (near left). His conservative columns earned him a job at William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review after graduation.

 

With a barely concealed glee at having discovered liberals in the act of discriminating on the basis of skin color, I wrote an inflamed column denouncing this antiwhite racism. I invoked Martin Luther King Jr. and the ideal of race-blindness. Warming to the subject, I pointed out that there was something wrong with Brown’s—and many other universities’—approval of exclusively black fraternities and sororities. I lamented that at mealtime in the Ratty, you would see students of different races sitting at separate tables.

Why couldn’t we all be friends? Why did no one protest politically correct racial separatism?

After the article appeared in the Herald, I returned to my room in Andrews Hall to find obscene graffiti on my door: F**K YOUR RACIST A**. Students poured forth enraged letters to the editor, almost every one condemning me. Because I was a resident counselor for a group of freshmen living in the basement of Andrews, the dean in charge of first-year students called me into her office to chastise me. As I understood it, I stood accused of racism for protesting racism. Subsequently, the dean appointed a student committee to oversee my counseling. The last name of the undergraduate who headed the committee was Kafka, proof that God, or possibly the dean of first-year students, had a wicked sense of humor.

I was shunned. I was a pariah. And I thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Political conservatism often leads to religious tradition. We live today in a world stripped of what was, in the pre-modern era, an instinctive awareness of the sacred. Thanks to Darwin and other influences, from the mid-nineteenth century on, the truth of religion could no longer universally be taken for granted. My own emerging conservatism at Brown drove me to reexamine my inherited faith. I took my search to the Brown Hillel. At this Jewish gathering place, which was then housed in a barn-like white building on Brown Street, students of various denominations would gather. It was a sweet, humble, welcoming place without pretensions. Its emphasis was less on religion than on culture. I was brought there at first by, of all people, the object of my unrequited infatuation: Tamara.

Most people whose college experience changed their lives will tell you that their fellow students had the profoundest effect on them. That’s what happened to me. Raised secular Jewish in Texas, Tamara had as a high school student lived for a year in England, where she’d fallen in love with a boy who was an Orthodox Jew. This led to a wild crush on both him and on traditional Judaism. As a result, she’d become an Orthodox Jew and exchanged her English name for the Hebrew Tamara.

To me there was something irresistibly exotic about Tamara. Here was a girl who addressed groups as “y’all” and scorned the liberal Judaism we had both grown up in. Yet politically she was left-wing, and she enjoyed shocking me with her opinions. Bisexuality was a favorite theme of hers. In this, she had been influenced by her study of “theory,” which made a big fuss of romanticizing unconventional sexual practices. I remember once pointing out to her over lunch at Hillel that, in the book of Leviticus, homosexuality is prohibited as an abomination. She was so offended by this that she rushed out of the building in tears.

I was charmed by the contradictions she encompassed, no less than by her adorable freckles. We would be sitting in Loui’s, the surrounding air thickened by fumes of stuff frying in lard, with her latest incomprehensible semiotics paper about some dead Frenchman between us. While I joked about how impossible I found it to understand the jargon-heavy writing that was considered the norm in her classes, she would delightedly sneer at the non-kosher food in front of me. “Even the coffee here is trefe [non-kosher],” she would say.

It was partly my envy of her commitment and partly a simple desire to have an excuse to spend time with her that motivated me to try out Orthodox Judaism. I started attending religious services at Hillel. There, I perceived that the Orthodox prayer group, or minyan, had something in its loud-spirited worship that I hadn’t come across before. A friend of mine who is an art critic once told me that he first came to appreciate the most austere abstract painting when he was visiting a gallery that had some highly praised but in fact mediocre specimens on the wall. By chance in his pocket he had a postcard with a Jackson Pollock painting on the front. He held the postcard up beside the painting on the wall, and the difference immediately struck him. The Pollock had a “buzz” to it, he said, a buzz of crackling energy and life.

Orthodox prayer buzzed. When Tamara and her friends sang the sixteenth-century mystical hymn “L’chah Dodi” (“Come, My Beloved”), welcoming the Sabbath on Friday night, the urgency of their singing was that of the bridegroom running to meet his bride, which is exactly the symbolism that the hymn was written to evoke. This was nothing like the staid, dutiful singing at the Reform temple where I had grown up, which recalled not the excitement of the bridegroom but the boredom of grade-school kids reciting a multiplication table. Tamara and her friends stirred something in me spiritually that previously had lain asleep.

My attraction to Tamara led me to take first halting steps toward rethinking my assumptions about what makes for religion that lives, or buzzes, and religion that seems already dead. The Bible, I’ve since realized, has a precedent for everything that’s really interesting in life and this is no exception. My discovery of my Jewish religious roots, however, raised disturbing questions about my personal identity, questions that would drive me to further rethink basic questions about faith, questions that Tamara, true to form, didn’t hesitate to boldly, even rudely, articulate.

“You’re not even Jewish,” she sneered at me in her arch, teasing way. And she was right, strictly speaking. Though I had been raised in an ethnically Jewish home, I had been adopted as an infant, and my birth parents were non-Jews. Tamara advised me to visit a local Orthodox rabbi for advice on the question of my converting formally to Judaism.

When I went to visit the rabbi, he gave me a book to read but little other encouragement. Conversion in Jewish thinking is not a light matter, and I’m sure he could see that I was not ready to make any radical changes in my way of life, the kind that Judaism asks. That would come later.

What was important for me was the irritant that Tamara had planted in my soul, the question about myself—was I a Jew or not?—that stayed with me until I finally resolved it years later. At Brown, though, Tamara suggested that since I was staying in Providence for Passover—she would be out offeat.Kling.web04.jpg town—I should share a seder meal with a local Orthodox family. Always eager to ingratiate myself with her, I did so, joining a family associated with the outreach-oriented Chasidic sect Chabad. I can’t say I was enamored of the experience, but something one of the other guests told me turned out to be a turning point in my life. He was a young man from Brooklyn, studying to be a rabbi.

He noticed that I understood little of the Haggadah, the seder text, and he tried to explain a fundamental point of it. At Passover, he said, every Jew should see himself as if he was part of the Exodus from Egyptian slavery that the festival recalls. Judaism, like Jungian psychology, postulates a sort of racial memory passed down through generations, not in books but through something like spiritual genes. Nervously, I broached to the young man the subject of my adoption. It seemed that, as far as racial memories go, I was out of luck, I said. I had no claim on Jewish genes, but I realized at that moment that I wanted them.

My new friend looked warmly at me and issued a sort of prophecy. “I’m not sure what God has in store for you,” he said, “but I’ve got a feeling that someday you may become a convert. Do you know what a neshamah is?” I said no. “It’s a soul. Every soul contains a spark from God. All the sparks belonging to all the Jews who would ever live were present at Mt. Sinai. All the converts who would ever live were there, too. When one of these sparks is born in the body of a gentile, it seeks to return to God.”

That was the first time the thought entered my mind that God might have a particular plan for my soul. In Hebrew, the word for this minute divine attention to and involvement in the details of our lives is Hashgachah. In English, it is, of course, Providence.

The unexpected influence of Brown continued to follow me when I left the city of Providence. I was still a spiritual dabbler, not yet committed to Judaism. But after graduation, a batch of clips from my columns for the Herald got me my job at National Review. At the time, NR was a haven of traditional-minded Catholics, a tribute to the spiritual influence of the founder, Bill Buckley. A young woman I met and dated there, the daughter of a professional right-wing Catholic anti-abortion activist, filled a Tamara-like role for me. Once again, I was involved with a girl whose spiritual life I envied.

Wanting what she had, a relationship with God, I considered Catholicism but ultimately was provoked by spiritual envy to look more deeply at the religion I had inherited by default from childhood, Judaism.

Now that I’m a father, I wonder whether my children would benefit from going to Brown. A conservative and religious parent might prefer to see his son or daughter attend a piously traditional college. But a parent shouldn’t expect a smart and independent young person to emerge as if from a printing press, inked with exactly the same thoughts and impressions every other student emerges with.

Education, as Judaism understands it, is both provocative and unpredictable, as the case of Abraham, the first Hebrew patriarch and prophet, demonstrates.

Shortly before Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to his son and spiritual heir, Isaac, Abraham and Sarah moved to the Philistine city of Gerar. Why would this father of all Jewish fathers subject his son’s earliest upbringing to the influence of a city that was urbane, cosmopolitan, and secular, a city where, Abraham observed, “There is but no fear of God in this place”? Apparently, as Jewish rabbinic interpreters have suggested, it was because Abraham valued the challenge the city would pose to Isaac. Spiritual growth is aided by provocation.

But as with any growth, a good education takes unexpected twists and turns. The Hebrew word Torah, which broadly means “teaching,” hints at this. Educators may wish to plant certain ideas in their students, but what happens, in fact, is unpredictable. Ideas can grow in the most fantastically unexpected directions. I believe that a traditionalist father or mother should consider the advantage that Abraham saw for his son Isaac in being challenged by neighbors holding views diametrically opposed to those of his parents. There is a danger in this, of course. But so too is there a risk in subjecting your child to a monotonous upbringing surrounded by mirror images of his parents. The risk is boredom. The risk is also the possibility that the child will never learn how to defend his tradition. When he finds it challenged after formal education is over, he may find that he lacks any intellectual armor to ward off blows from hostile secularists.

For my children, I hope for a firm commitment to their tradition, but grounded in independent thought and strong enough to answer critics. Maybe Providence will lead them to Brown.

David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. His new book, How Would God Vote? Why the Bible Commands You to be a Conservative, will be published in June.





Comments (29)
02/04/08
 
I don't get it. You had the hots for some girl (sorry, woman) and it made you suddenly decide that a millenia-old book was a literal explanation for creation of the Earth? I was also raised in a liberal Jewish home and got sick of the liberal establishment in my college years, but it only made me grow to be a non-hypocritical liberal (read: atheist).
 
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02/05/08
 
Check "Jews, God & History" by Max Dimont. There are various schools of history to communicate life, and I don't blame David one bit for paying attention to what Martin Buber had to say about the relationship each person has with G_d.
 
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02/07/08
 
Oh Thou who Man of Baser Earth didst make, 
And who with Eden didst devise the Snake; 
For all the Sin wherewith the face of Man 
I blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give ... And take! 
 
Khayyam/Fitzgerald make so much more sense than your rant. The RC concept of original sin (so illogical as conceived)takes on logical meaning only when it is applied to those who, in good conscience, consider themselves doing good when they fill the minds of children with the drivel of religion before they reach the age of reason. 
 
“All the greatest seekers after God – such as Socrates – have been heretics. All disbelieved in the current conception of God and in the official explanations of the workings of his providence; but this disbelief is in the nature of faith, because they felt that nothing could be more acceptable to the true God then the search for him which they had undertaken: hence the faith of heresy is more profound than the faith of orthodoxy.” F. B. Money-Coutts
 
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02/07/08
 
Klinghoffer works for an organization that engages in serious omissions and gross distortions of published scientific evidence that supports contemporary evolutionary theory and refutes Intelligent Design, which it claims is not creationism; a viewpoint not recognized by mainstream scientists such as Brown University professor of biology Kenneth Miller and others. Regrettably it also indulges in ad hominem attacks upon its critics, including Miller. The National Center for Science Education has some excellent resources documenting the Discovery Institute's anti-intellectual conduct: 
 
http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=8
 
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02/09/08
 
One of Klinghoffer's colleagues at the Discovery Institute, William Dembski, another Senior Fellow, has been caught recently in stealing copyrighted material from Harvard University and then subsequently lying about it in a coverup. Details can be found here: 
 
http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2007/12/discovery-institute-dembski-copyright.html 
 
Klinghoffer ought to be ashamed of himself for working with a bunch of liars, thieves and idiots, whose crypto-Fascist agenda for a future United States has been exposed already by several philosophers and biologists working with the National Center for Science Education.
 
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02/11/08
 
Bravo, John Kwok and Allister Francis Fraser. You have shown yourself to be very good students of Goebbels. 
 
Man's inhumanity to man is seemingly as old as the hills. Now, at least premises are being presented as to why this is the case, but those who seemingly know better go on defense from the get go. 
 
Sequences of cause and effect can be initiated, or perpetuated. 
 
This is a place to start, but those who could not be bothered will continue to close their eyes to those variables which do not fit into their conclusions which were arrived at before data arrived. 
 
You can check, "The Black Book of Communism" or "Doctor Zhivago" as to what people are capable of.
 
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02/12/08
 
David Klinghoffer has written a splendid piece for the alumni magazine. He has tackled a subject of deep personal and human significance. Yet, seemingly, he’s also challenged the received wisdom of political correctness. I commend the editors of the alumni magazine for even letting David’s piece see the light of day. 
 
Reading the comments that it has generated thus far, however, is a bit distressing. Are these comments, for the most part, the fruit of liberally-educated people?  
 
Why is it that some progressives might be tolerant of boorishness from trendy terrorists but not with thoughtful comments from religious traditionalists? What’s the deal? Do post-modernists not see that our own presuppositions about what might be true might get in the way of truthful discussion? 
 
Some, for sure, may not agree with David. So be it. But make your point with a becoming grace. At least, exude the qualities of educated people who have had the good fortune to have been educated at a great place of learning and not a ministry of indoctrination.
 
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02/12/08
 
Dear David Lincoln, 
 
Oddly enough, I have referred to Klinghoffer's colleague William Dembski as the Josef Goebbels of the Intelligent Design movement elsewhere, most notably at Amazon.com (Indeed, Dembski acted just like Goebbels in asking Amazon.com to remove a harsh, but accurate, review of his latest book back in December. It was restored within a day of its "retraction", after I issued Dembski an ultimatum, threatening to ask former Brown provost Robert Zimmer - currently president of the University of Chicago - to investigate the possibility of revoking Dembski's Ph. D. degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago since Dembski has devoted virtually his entire career to attacking critics like Brown professor of biology Ken Miller in lieu of pursuing serious, credible research in mathematics.). At the Panda's Thumb website (www.pandasthumb.org), Dembski has affectionally been referred to as an acolyte of "Saint Goebbels".). So, in defense of both Allister Francis Fraser and myself, the real "Nazis" have been those like David Klinghoffer, William Dembski, and their Discovery Institute colleagues (In the interest of full disclosure, I was a Reagan supporter on campus years ago, and now regard myself as a fan of Barry Goldwater's, strongly believing in a Libertarian version of conservatism.). You ought to ask Klinghoffer why he wishes to associate himself with his crypto-Fascist colleagues at the Discovery Institute.
 
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02/12/08
 
Dear David Lincoln, 
 
My friend Abbie Smith had some rather amusing things to say about Bill Dembski's "tirade" against me at Amazon.com: 
 
http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2007/12/expelled-for-amazoncom-review.html 
 
It is well worth reading since Dembski's Discovery Institute "scholarship" wouldn't pass muster at Brown or any other reputable college or university period (Indeed, Dembski was thrown out of Baylor University for using his "post-doc" as a means to promote Intelligent Design, instead of pursuing serious, credible research in mathematics.). The same is true for his Discovery Institute colleagues, Michael Behe, a Lehigh University professor of biochemistry (who has been harshly criticized too by our very own Ken Miller) and Jonathan Wells, a disciple of Reverend Moon. Given such high standards of "scholarship" present at the Discovery Institute, you can imagine how highly I value Klinghoffer's.
 
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02/12/08
 
Wow. Instead of arguing for or against evolution or creationism...let's take a look at Mr. Klinghoffer's spiritual journey. That's what I find interesting. Especially since I grew up Catholic and became an Orthodox Jew eight years after graduation. I grew up in a center-right household, and found myself a real outsider at Brown. I personally admire Mr. Klinghoffer's strength of conviction at that age. I'm also envious-- I wish I had it too, instead of feeling as though I had to hide who I really was. 
 
And...I think I remember John Kwok from school.
 
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02/13/08
 
Dear Renee, 
 
I think I remember you from school too. While I do thank you for your quite thoughtful observation, I have to disagree. Why? Klinghoffer takes rather obvious delight in his essay noting that his organization - the Discovery Institute - is the most hated one in the United States, and that it promotes Intelligent Design. I'm not sure whether many fellow Brunonians realize that his organization wishes to promote a future political agenda for the United States - which is clearly stated in its infamous "Wedge Document" - that is more akin to the fictional portrayal of a United States ruled by a religious totalitarian dictatorship in Margaret Atwood's celebrated novel "The Handmaid's Tale" than it is to the Founding Fathers' vision of the United States.  
 
To be perfectly honest, I wish I was joking about the Discovery Institute's crypto-Fascist orientation, but it has been amply demonstrated at the National Center for Science Education website (www.ncseweb.org), Panda's Thumb (www.pandasthumb.org), and elsewhere. 
 
So I think it's important to realize that Klinghoffer's "spiritual journey" has led him to become part of an organization whose mission should be strongly opposed by fellow Brunonians interested in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and a federal government that's not influenced by the views of one religious minority or another.
 
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02/13/08
 
Hey, John! 
 
Thanks for the heads-up. I'll have to look at Discovery Institute's website, and this "Wedge Document" sounds intriguing. Because of (rather than in spite of) my religious views, I do firmly believe that the wonders of science don't at all conflict with the Torah view of the world. As a graduate of Brown's Physics department and a former high school science teacher, my husband (Jeff Levene '84) has no problem teaching science for the same reason. 
 
Crypto-Fascist orientation? Yikes! I better take a look at these various sites so I can understand the above dialogue better.
 
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02/13/08
 
Renee, 
 
You won't find the Wedge Document at the Discovery Institute website. They denied its existence for some time after it was unearthed. I believe a copy of it is posted at the National Center for Science Education's website (www.ncseweb.org). 
 
You can find additional examples of Bill Dembski's intellectual dishonesty here: 
 
http://www.talkreason.org/articles/shenanigans.cfm 
 
Again, so much for sound "scholarship" from Dembski and his Discovery Institute colleagues, including, I presume, Klinghoffer.
 
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02/13/08
 
Renee, 
 
The entire text of the "Wedge Document" can be found here: 
 
http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html 
 
Incidentally, the Discovery Institute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, is known now as the Center for Science and Culture. 
 
There may be portions of the document that may seem as innocuous as a copy of the Bill of Rights, for example, but if you read it carefully, you ought to find it as distressing as any Fascist propaganda written by the likes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Goebbels or Benito Mussolini.
 
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02/16/08
 
Renee (and others), 
 
Here's some additional information regarding Bill Dembski's theft of copyrighted material from Harvard University: 
 
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/12/peter_irons_makes_billy_dembsk.php#more 
 
After reading this e-mail exchange between attorneys Irons and Gilmore (who is Dembski's attorney), you ought to wonder about the lack of intellectual honesty that is rampant within the Discovery Institute (which includes Klinghoffer as one of its Senior Fellows). This really makes my point that Klinghoffer's organization is actually a band of "liars, thieves and idiots" as I've noted here before.
 
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02/18/08
 
I agree with Renee's original message. Most of these comments are missing the point of the article. I am not an orthodox Jew, but I can relate to someone who takes seriously his humanity, his tradition, and his relationship with God/the Infinite/the Mystery. This article is about the education of a young man at Brown - education in the fullest sense of the word. You don't have to agree with his views, or his faith, but the sincerity of his search is to be applauded. The relationship between reason and faith are poorly understood, particularly at Brown, but David offers a glimpse on how the two are related. Faith, without reason, reduces man to mere indoctrination. Reason, without faith, doesn't actually say anything about what matters most in our lives. This is one of the best articles I have read and I applaud the alumni magazine for publishing it.
 
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02/19/08
 
Dear Anujeet, 
 
Would you make such an excellent, persuasive defense on behalf of Klinghoffer if he was instead, another "conservative" Brunonian, George Lincoln Rockwell (He was president of the American Nazi Party.)? Since Klinghoffer has reminded us that he is a Senior Fellow of the "most hated" think tank here in the United States, then we ought to understand why the Discovery Institute is "most hated". We should also wonder whether he does offer "the sincerity of his search" in trying to come to terms with his orthodox political and religious views. Having offered some useful online resources documenting the "crypto-Fascist" orientation of Klinghoffer's organization, I hope that you and other fellow Brunonians will take special note of them, before thinking anew of applauding "the sincerity of his search".
 
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02/20/08
 
Let me get this straight. The Discovery Institute wants to advance the instruction of intelligent design in schools and the organization you cited, the National Center for Science Education, has the exact opposite goal - to advance the instruction of evolution. This isn't fascism. This is democracy. I say kudos to both groups. This is no different than the debate on global warming. The majority of the scientific community believes there's a problem (as do I). There's a minority that believes otherwise. What's wrong with believing in something and wanting to advocate passionately for it? In any case, this is all still a distraction. The ideological goals of the Discovery institute do not, at all, detract from the core message in the original article. I am not "defending" the author because he is a conservative. I am struck by his story because I know people who have had similar experiences, regardless of their political persuasion. I think the author is talking about stuff that is real.
 
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02/21/08
 
Dear Anujeet, 
 
May I suggest that you read Donald Prothero's "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters" (especially Chapters 1 to 3 and 16) or Niles Eldredge's "The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism" to understand why the Discovery Institute's advocacy of Intelligent Design creationism poses a threat not only to our future religious and intellectual freedom, but especially as well, to our future economic survival. As I noted in my earlier posts, the National Center for Science Education - which I joined last year - has been documenting the Discovery Institute's crypto-Fascist behavior for years (Other websites which are also doing this include www.pandasthumb.org and www.antievolution.org, to name but a few.). Indeed, one of its former staffers, biologist Wes Elsberry, has published extensively on the Discovery Insitute's anti-intellectual, anti-democratic behavior for years. So has one of the Discovery Institute's current trustees, philosopher of science Barbara Forrest, especially in her book - coauthored with biologist Paul Gross - "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design". I hope you will give me the credit which Renee has done by alerting her and other fellow Brunonians to the Discovery Institute's crypto-Fascist behavior. 
 
Last, but not least, you will find philosophically much in common between denial of evolution and denial of global warming, especially from fellow conservatives like fellow Brunonian Charles Colson, among others. 
 
So, in conclusion, I strongly disagree with your most recent concluding point about Klinghoffer's essay. Having been subjected recently to Discovery Institute censorship by Klinghoffer's colleague Bill Dembski, I must conclude that Klinghoffer's inane recounting of his Brown political odyssey is but a clever, quite well-written, piece of Discovery Institute propaganda.
 
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02/21/08
 
Dear Anujeet, 
 
You may find of interest too this list of books which I have posted at Amazon.com: 
 
http://www.amazon.com/Why-Evolution-Is-Science-amp-Creationism-Isn-t/lm/R1288DTMHQJI13/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full 
 
One of them currently is Ken Miller's "Finding Darwin's God". His newest book - which has not been published yet - will discuss quite a few of the issues I have raised in my posts here.
 
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02/27/08
 
Goodness. Maybe we switched places.  
 
Although I didn't have to "consider" Catholicism as you did, having been brought up Catholic. 
 
My stepfather is no longer alive to sign off on this note I am sending in, but he would have certainly been thrilled had Brown inspired me to make "a radical political and religious turn to the right", and he hoped that as long as I got a good education *anywhere*, exposure to more of the world than I had experienced at home would lead me to adopt the same political philosophy he had. 
 
I became a liberal at Brown, but not due to an unbalanced exposure to liberal students/staff (btw did you check out the Econ dept. while you were at Brown? We were students at approximately the same time and I don't recall seeing any Karl Marx posters hung up in Robinson Hall.)  
 
I was ill while at Brown with a then-undiagnosed condition and so spent a lot of time alone; I really don't think I could have caught liberalism like some sort of contagion. But as I matured and had the opportunity to read and study, I became very concerned about the problems facing the disadvantaged, nationally and internationally. 
 
I became more liberal still after graduation, when I involuntarily joined the ranks of U.S. citizens who have been diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, who need expensive treatment to avoid taking up residence somewhere six feet under, and who are probably never again going to be able to obtain private health insurance coverage.  
 
Not coming from a wealthy family or having financial resources other than what I would have earned had I been able to embark on a career, this was something of a problem...oops, I mean "challenge". The new word for unmitigated personal disaster is challenge! 
 
I hoped for the day when I was well enough to work full-time outside the home for a large employer who might be able to cover me, but that day didn't come.  
 
Part-time flexible-hours work at home, or attempting to write a book, for example, while potentially easier on my battered body, won't get me coverage and would thus be a death sentence.  
 
I have to admit that when I was diagnosed with systemic lupus in December of 1985, I had hope of the U.S. solving its health care crisis and making sure that every citizen had access to the medical care they need.  
 
But I'm still waiting, waiting, waiting to start my life, and suddenly now I have grey hairs (or I did. I plucked all three actually. Don't tell.)  
 
I don't understand a lot of things, like why my medications cost more per year than I could have earned in a lifetime, or why we spend over 2x per capita on health care than any other nation and yet leave people uncovered, under-covered, or trapped in strange little-known bottlenecks like the one I'm in. 
 
I remember a line in Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities" that went something like "A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested." As far as I am concerned, a liberal is a conservative who got sick. 
 
Unfortunately, I'm pretty sick now (was in the ER last Friday), so that's all I can write at the moment.  
 
I didn't get to have kids, but if I did have them, and if I also won Lotto, I would happily send them to Brown. I'd just tell them to steer clear of yours unless they felt like an argument!
 
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03/14/08
 
I'm not sure the article was properly titled. David did not tell us much about why he's a right-wing religious conservative, but a great deal of why he became a conservative Jew. Bravo. Glad he's happy. 
 
I would be more interested in how he managed to graduate from an Ivy League university and suspend belief in science, or delude himself into the acceptance of I.D. as science. I'd recommend anyone interested in this topic read your own Ken Miller's "Finding Darwin's God". It is brilliant. 
 
David's alumni magazine review might have also enlightened us as to why he has chosen to embrace the Republican party, which is closely aligned with conservative Christians, who only seem to need David around long enough to see the fulfillment of the Rapture, the salvation of said Christians alone, and the firey death of all Jews. Gee, in his place, I'd feel a bit used. But that's just me. 
 
I think David learned a lot of other skills during his time at Brown that would enable his keen mind to clearly process Republican logic. Such as: 
 
1. God loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton. 
 
2. We need to mold a world view in which no one need ever feel any obligation to anybody else. 
 
3. Where we need a culture of victimhood, but where the only real victims are hard-working, white males. 
 
4. Saddam Hussein was GOOD when Reagan armed him, BAD when Bush's daddy made war on him, GOOD when Cheney did business with him, BAD when Bush needed a diversion from the country focusing on his failing to get Bin Laden. 
 
5. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and VietNam is vital to a spirit of international harmony. 
 
6. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest priority is enforcing United Nations resolutions against Iraq. 
 
7. A woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug companies can make decisions and unproved claims affecting all mankind without regulation. 
 
8. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans benefits and combat pay. 
 
9. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex. 
 
10. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money. 
 
11. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to Americans is socialism. 
 
12. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools. 
 
13. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying us into an unjust war resulting in the deaths of thousands is solid defense policy. 
 
14. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages, spying on Americans, and censoring the internet. 
 
15. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need all of our prayers for recovery. 
 
16. It is vital to invade and occupy an Arab country in order to shove democracy, freedom, and liberty down their throats, but the ACLU, fighting to preserve these freedoms for Americans, is a corrosive sinister Communist plot.  
 
The God of Abraham was kept quite busy in Judges knocking those who had fallen into apostasy up side the head. May He teach you better lessons than you appear to have learned at Brown.
 
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03/21/08
 
I read with great interest Mr. Klinghoffer's account of his unusual spiritual journey and how he imagines his stay at Brown influenced his personal choices along the way. The one aspect that mars the story, however, is Mr. Klinghoffer's association with the Discovery Institute. It is truly a shame to have the name of Brown and D.I. even mentioned in the same piece. The Discovery Institute promotes the Wedge Document, which is aimed at bring fundamentalist religion into the U.S. school classrooms trumped up as a kind of mystical "pseudo-science" called Intelligent Design. Teaching I.D. in the classroom as science has nothing to do with democracy or teaching the controvercy. It is nothing short of promoting an insidious lie, which seeks to undermine the very foundations of modern biology. The fact that The Brown Alumni Magazine was misused to plug a book by a Fellow of the Discovery Institute is disgraceful. 
 
Mary Endress 
Faculty of Biological Sciences 
University of Zurich, Switzerland
 
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03/25/08
 
This is not an academic debate. That's a common naive assumption that you've been encouraged to make. The creation science propaganda campaign (which employees Klinghoffer) is not one group of scientists debating another. The scientific community has strenuously resisted for decades spending any time at all addressing the creation science campaign, they want to study it even less than you do, and yet every single biological science research and teaching organization has eventually been forced to issue a statement of the obvious: no part of the creation science campaign (which most definitely includes ID and Klinghoffer's work) is part of science. They've eventually acknowledged that the sucess of the creation science propaganda campaign is permanently confusing the general public's understanding of the whole of science, what science is and how its done. It is not just the NSTA, it is essentially the entire scientific community telling you that any version of creation science is disingenuous, deceitful, not part of academic discourse. The creation science propaganda campaign targets the general public, not the scientific community. Their deceit even extends to misrepresenting academic freedom as a right to force the academic community to accept any argument, no matter how flawed.  
 
Klinghoffer's implicit claim that Orthodox Judaism requires rejection of evolution is false. Klinghoffer doesn't have any friends in the biology departments of Yeshiva U. The survey hasn't been done, but its obvious that the proportion of reverends supporting creation science far outstrips the proportion of rabbis who've been fooled. 
 
Read the article. Klinghoffer's told us why he's making his living doing this. He enjoys tweaking the nose of authority. He enjoys the attention. If everyone became luddites tomorrow he'd feel compelled to become an evolutionary biologist the next day. The only excuse that the BAM staff has for printing this is to give us this insight.
 
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03/25/08
 
Dear Mike (and Mary), 
 
I agree completely with your observation that the BAM staff erred in granting Klinghoffer space to discuss his inane, crypto-Fascist philosophy; indeed I e-mailed Norman Boucher immediately to protest once I had obtained my BAM issue in the mail. Recently I tried reasoning with him via personal e-mail correspondence. Not surprisingly, it failed. 
 
In conclusion, I observed: 
 
"You have no philosophical or moral basis period to continue supporting and promoting Intelligent Design. Not when there are equally religiously devout people like eminent ecologist Mike Rosenzweig, cell biologist Ken Miller, molecular biologist Francis Collins, and invertebrate paleontologist Keith Miller, to name but a few. Otherwise, if you insist on continuing to do so, then I must conclude that your 'education' at Brown University was an utter waste of both your time - and the university's." 
 
Approximately twenty years ago, a graduate school mentor of mine, Mike Rosenzweig, a devout Conservative Jew (His Ph. D. dissertation advisor was the legendary Robert MacArthur, who used the ample knowledge he acquired from his A. M. degree in Applied Mathematics from Brown University, in ushering a mathematical revolution in ecology back in the 1950s.), published an article in a leading Jewish publication explaining why evolutionary biology is valid science and why he sees no conflict between his devout religious beliefs and his desire for excellence in ecological research. I told Klinghoffer to read it. Judging from his inane commentary, I am certain that he never will.
 
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03/25/08
 
No, Klinghoffer isn't going to "convert" any time soon. The creation science scam provides a comfortable income, and as long as the anti-science paranoia of extreme Christian fundamentalists can be stoked there'll be plenty of donation money coming into groups like Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, etc. The purpose of speaking out is for the benefit of the general public who might otherwise uncritcally accept their assertions, and assume an academic debate was going on. When these naive people are also in a position to affect public policy some harm can be done. For instance, surveys make plain that something about one third of secondary school science teachers are, at least, sympathetic with teaching some version of creation science, despite what any teachers association might say. Teachers associations, for their part, continue to be somewhat naive in their approach to blocking creation science by not explicitly addressing the disingenuous "teach the controversy" scam.
 
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03/25/08
 
Dear Mike, 
 
In my correspondence with Klinghoffer, I noted that the current principal of my high school alma mater, New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School, has banned the teaching of Intelligent Design; a position that I noted was quite sensible since Stuyvesant is regarded by many as the foremost American high school devoted to the sciences, mathematics and engineering. However, Klinghoffer didn't get it, and thought that I was "obsessed" about my high school (I reminded him that I had mentioned frequently such notable Brown alumni as ecologist Robert MacArthur, my friend, cell biologist Ken Miller, and New York Times science editor Cornelia Dean; indeed I probably spent more time referring to them than to my high school. Speaking of Ms. Dean, she is the one who wrote the excellent article in The New York Times published late last week (3/21/08) on how a biologist was "expelled" from a private screening of the pro-Intelligent Design "documentary film" "EXPELLED".).
 
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11/07/09
 
http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/John_Kwok
 
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04/02/10
 
Let me get this straight -- your sexual frustrations in college, reliance on other people to do your thinking for you, psychotic belief in scripture, combined with your weak self-confidence and knee-jerk pseudo-rebellious nature to form an adult who heads up an organization who wants to teach American children about talking snakes and men who walk on water. OK. Nevermind, I get it.
 
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