Archive for Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ex-official helps erect anti-evolution billboard

March 23, 2006


Dave Penny isn't shy.

Everybody knows he thinks evolution is a bunch of hooey.

So when a group of Johnson County businessmen asked him to help put up a billboard that poked fun at evolution, he said OK.

"I'm just a point man," said Penny, who lives in Lawrence and served on the City Commission from 1989 to 1991.

The group's members, he said, don't want their names in the newspaper.

"They're not scientific types," he said. "They're businessmen. They don't want to get beat up like the State Board of Education did."

The billboard, near the 151st Street exit on Interstate 35 in Olathe, reads, "Evolution Is A Fairy-Tale For Grown-Ups," and cites a Web site:

Lawrence resident Dave Penny, who served on the transition team that, late last year, advised newly appointed Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, helped put up this billboard poking fun at evolution. The sign is on Interstate 35 near 151st Street in Olathe.

Lawrence resident Dave Penny, who served on the transition team that, late last year, advised newly appointed Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, helped put up this billboard poking fun at evolution. The sign is on Interstate 35 near 151st Street in Olathe.

The Web site promotes entropy, a concept it describes as ": a scientific law of nature. All things naturally tend to deteriorate over time, therefore nothing can naturally gain complexity."

Or, as Penny explained, in nature nothing goes from order to order; it goes from order to disorder.

"Nothing evolves," he said.

Penny, 61, graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1960s and worked for a subcontractor involved with the Apollo space program.

"We put a man on the moon," he said.

Penny also served on the State Board of Education-appointed transition team that, late last year, advised newly appointed Education Commissioner Bob Corkins. Team members served without pay, according to department spokesman David Awbrey.

Penny said he and the no-name group hope the billboard will fuel demand for a public debate on the merits of evolution.

Some in the group, he said, think in 2000 the Kansas-National Education Assn. stifled the debate in ways that helped defeat conservatives on the State Board of Education.

At the time, the 10-member board was evenly split between conservatives and moderates.

The conservatives won a 6-4 majority in 2004 and have since de-emphasized the teaching of evolution.

At K-NEA, communications director Cynthia Menzel denied having anything to do with derailing the debate.

"I don't know what he's talking about," Menzel said. "We're about education, the exchange of ideas, broadening one's horizons - I'll leave it at that."

Still, Penny argued that if more people had a better understanding of the issues surrounding evolution, they would be more inclined to uphold the state board's conservative majority.

"There's not been one, single public debate on this," he said. "All we're saying is 'OK, let's talk about it.'"

Penny said he's met with and challenged Steve Case, Leonard Krishtalka and Adrian Melott - all scientists at Kansas University who have been outspoken in their defense of evolution - to a public debate.

All three, he said, declined.

"As far as scientific credentials go," Penny said, "I don't think we're in the same ball park. I don't think they've ever produced a thing."

Efforts to reach Krishtalka and Case for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful. But Melott, a physics professor, scoffed at Penny's claims.

"I wouldn't debate him for the same reason I wouldn't debate someone who said the Earth was hollow," Melott said.

"He wants to gain credibility by making the arguments appear equal - putting them side by side in a debate - when they're not equal," he said.

Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a harsh critic of the movement to embrace intelligent design, dismissed Penny's call for a debate.

"If there are genuine arguments based on entropy, the place to make them is in well-researched, scientific papers," he said. "He won't do that; he won't play the game where it counts. He wants a public forum.

"This isn't about science; it's about public relations."

The Olathe billboard is the second put up by the Johnson County group, Penny said. The first was in Kansas City, Kan.

"I think it's been taken down," he said.

Penny said he didn't know how much the billboard cost.

"I'm not the one who's paying for it," he said.

The first billboard was featured in an article on the Kansas evolution debate in the February issue of Science magazine.


fossilhunter 12 years, 3 months ago

Multi - Now THAT's a list of scientists!

fossilhunter 12 years, 3 months ago

Does anyone else see the extreme irony in the statement, "They're not scientific types..." yet they are saying that scientists are doing bad science?!

xenophonschild 12 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Kelly Powell 12 years, 3 months ago

so if evolution is a myth then they should only use penicillan for infections...After all no dammed bacteria could "evolve" to be resistant.....Please olathe bussiness idiots, step on some rusty nails.

ben_ness 12 years, 3 months ago

"That's so bad it's freaking hilarious. In Olathe no less. Easily the most ass-backwards city in the state."

Bob - Not in the state, try: The most ass-backwards city in the most ass-backward state in the country. I think that is a more realistic assessment. What the hell is wrong with Kansas????? A sign like this, in Olathe no less, is why Kansas is the butt of jokes in the rest of the country.

fossilhunter 12 years, 3 months ago

That website is a hoot! I love the "scientists" link. Takes you to a creationist website where they list "scientists". Very, very few are in fields that have anything to do with anything that could be remotely considered relevant to the study of early life. I was surprised to see a couple of paleontologists on the list. I clicked on one and SURPRISE, he teaches at a Christian college in rural Tennessee. My middle school son has as much training in paleontology as he does, and apparently has published as many papers....wait, my son has published more because he has written a couple of articles on fossils for the middle school newspaper.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

This is a group of "know-nothing" businessmen, in addition to being too chickenhi to reveal their names.

neopolss 12 years, 3 months ago

I'm glad they declined his request for debate. Science should have nothing to do with politics. Let the research and findings speak what it needs to. Those who wish to ignore it or refuse to look at it can live in the dark. Science doesn't have all the answers, but it strives to use only what can be observed, not what is spiritual.

ksmattfish 12 years, 3 months ago

"They're not scientific types," he said. "They're businessmen. They don't want to get beat up like the State Board of Education did."

So they are afraid to publically voice their opinions? It's almost like they think the majority of folks would think they were crazy or something. Maybe they are less afraid of getting "beat up" by the science geeks, and more afraid of how it might affect their businesses.

Let's leave the science to the "scientific types", and religion to the religious types.

LawrenceKSisgreat 12 years, 3 months ago

anyone having problems geeting to any other site beside LJW and SunflowerBB this morning? I cant find a probem reporting number anywhere? I have not been able to get to any other sites since 5:30 am today. A real problem reporting # seperate from the customer support # would be nice.

Steve Mechels 12 years, 3 months ago


Are all believers in God so presumptious that that they believe a book written by men to be the absolute truth and the only possible way that God might have created?

If scientists could be wrong, then also those who transcribed the bible could be wrong. You can believe what you want, but when it comes to science we must deal with supportable theories.

Again, religion helps us to understand the why, and science helps us to understand the how.

CeeCee 12 years, 3 months ago

same here... LJW and SBB are the only sites I can get to. grrr....

Ember 12 years, 3 months ago

This is a prime example as to why paint ball guns were invented.

harryk 12 years, 3 months ago

Why can't these idiots get it straight?

The second law of thermodynamics states that in any process the entropy change must be zero or greater than zero IN A CLOSED SYSTEM!!!!!! The earth is NOT a closed system, it's constantly suppied with fresh energy from the sun.

(Does this guy believe in ghosts, vampiers, Big Foot, and the Loch Ness monster too?)

Kodiac 12 years, 3 months ago

You know what is freaking hilarious. If you actually go to the website listed, they insist they you give your real name and where you are at before they will respond to you otherwise you are not acting in "good faith". Someone ought to tell them that their website is being advertised by a bunch of hypocrites and people who are afraid to stand up for what they believe in...

weirdchemgirl 12 years, 3 months ago

It's a nice idea to sum up the idea of entropy in the tendency for things towards disorder. But in actual scientific studies, entropy is an energy factor. Laws state that energy is conserved. Nature dictates that certain things last longer than others. The things that last longer are therefore "surviving" and therefore sustaining a particular genetic strain over those that aren't. Is that increasing disorder? Not really, but if you sum the total energy of the loss due to order and the gain due to the loss of species, etc. they should even out and conserve all energy. Maybe that is the debate someone is looking for (I doubt it).

Steve Mechels 12 years, 3 months ago

Penny is obviously not a scientist either. The beliefs of the group and website regarding "entropy" show a complete lack of understanding of the concept. I won't go into details, but anyone interested just needs to google "define:Second law of Thermodynamics" or "define:Entropy" and you will find plenty of info.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

"The group's members, he said, don't want their names in the newspaper.

"They're not scientific types," he said. "They're businessmen. They don't want to get beat up like the State Board of Education did.""

&%$*ing cowards.

"Oh, I believe this strongly enough to put up an billboard, but not strongly enough to ADMIT to what I believe where it might earn me derision or cost me business. I'd rather take shots at what other people believe from the safe comfort of anonymity."

I respect those who have the courage to stand by their convictions. With the exception of Penny, these yayhoos aren't worth spitting on. He at least is open and not ashamed of what he believes.

If someone did agree to debate them, would they want hoods to cover their precious little faces and voice distorters to disguise themselves?

Hey, boys, if your convictions are so strong, why hide like scared little children? How IS life treating you, under the bed, there?

Big babies.

jonas 12 years, 3 months ago

The site that it links to is called "Answers in Genesis." And it doesn't prove anything scientifically. It's just more of the old stuff, that problems in the evolutionary theory are falsification of the entire theory, that mankind did not descend from apes (we know!) and that the only truth is a literal interpretation of the bible. You should read the one about the days in Genesis!

"In instance where someone has not accepted the 'days' of creation to be ordinary days, it is because they have not allowed the words of Scripture to speak to them in context, as the language requires for communication. They have been influenced by ideas from of Scripture. Thus they have set a precedent that could allow any word to be reinterpreted by the preconceived ideas of the person reading the words. Ultimately, this will lead to a communication breakdown, as the same words in the same context could mean different things to different people."

Brackets equal italics, empasis theirs.

Classic stuff!

Brian Laird 12 years, 3 months ago

I think we should start requiring licenses before someone is allowed to use the word "entropy" in a sentence. They should be required to state the correct second-law of thermodynamics and have some idea of its statistical origin.

For the 6.02 x10^23 time.... The second law does not say that the entropy of a system always increases - it says that the entropy of an isolated system always increases. These are very different statements and Mr. Penny doesn't seem to have a clue about the concept. Ice has a lower entropy than liquid water - so if Mr. Penny's interpretation were correct, ice would never form. Why people choose to trumpet their ignorance (on a billboard, no less) is beyond me. Before some people on this board accuse me - as they usually do - of "liberal namecalling", I am not saying that Mr. Penny is ignorant in general - he is probably a reasonably intellegent guy for all I know - he just is ignorant of science - especially thermodynamics. The bad thing about it is that he is using this ignorance as a tool to convert others to his ignorant view of science.

meine zwei Groschen.....

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 3 months ago

Boltzmann hit the nail on the head. The trouble is exactly as Krebs said; in a public forum, people believe this pseudo-scientific crapola. Ice is a good example, as are activation energies of chemical reactions, without which matter is stuck in an "entropy trough". In many cases, energy must be added to a system to increase overall entropy. Think of these as entropy "microdomains".

christie 12 years, 3 months ago

This guy is living proof:

"All things naturally tend to deteriorate over time, therefore nothing can naturally gain complexity."

"Nothing evolves," he said.

Obviously, he's been around too long and has deteriorated.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

And if anyone wants to know why our fair city has so many problems with the streets and sewers, Mr. Penny is an example of the "business-friendly" commissioners that used to be the norm until just a few short years ago. Evolution isn't the only thing he judges by strictly faith-based criteria. (Which includes lots of money-based criteria which give him lots of leeway for selling lots of concrete for the unlimited development he likes so much.)

ben_ness 12 years, 3 months ago

I will personally donate $1000.00 to the formulation of a coallition of scientists that are willing to take these jackasses on. Perhaps we could start by posting a billboard in Olathe countering this one.

fossilhunter 12 years, 3 months ago

ben - there are several groups out there using real science to debunk these guys. One of them is here.

And, in the few cases where the real scientists get run over by rhetoric, there's always the attorneys who come in and set things straight. Law is a lot like science. There are rules, review of facts, peers that review analysis and decisions. It's not gut and instinct.

ben_ness 12 years, 3 months ago

fossilhunter - Thanks for the link. I will check it out.

Holygrailale - I try to wrap my brain around this subject everyday. While I am not a scientist I try to remember if KS was always like this and was I just oblivious to it when I was younger, or if it has changed. KS will always be my home, that is why I feel comfortable criticizing current events. Besides the fact that these creationists would like to have the power to potentially brainwash my kids through public education I also wonder if these "businessmen" with their great business sense realize the financial implications of their assertions. Case and Point: After the Nextel/Sprint Merger, Nextel moved their corporate and some of their technical operations to the Kansas City area. Nextel's corporate hq was 2 blocks away from my previous home in Reston, VA. When they moved I started to notice an inordinate number of resumes floating through the system that had Nextel itemized as most current employer. When I spoke with these candidates regarding positions within the company I work for and why they had chosen to leave Nextel, I heard the same answer over and over again, "Are you kidding, I don't want to move my family to Kansas"

ben_ness 12 years, 3 months ago

Thanks multidisciplinary, I am MORE than happy to contribute. This billboard is sad. I wonder how many days it is going to be before it is on Letterman?

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

Badger and Bozo, too ironic for words: Anonymous posters complaining about people who do not reveal their identities.

Confrontation 12 years, 3 months ago

Gee, I'm sure proud to live in Kansas. I hope everyone from out-of-state sees this sign on their way through Kansas. It would serve as a good warning to keep their families far away from this ridiculous state.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

The day I take out a billboard with my political and religious views on it, I'll not only put up my name, I'll put up my picture.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

That's pretty much the response I was going to give to fellow anonymous poster Godot.

fossilhunter 12 years, 3 months ago

...they don't change. Don't you get it! They were made that way. Sheeeez. :-)

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

"This is a free and open forum to all.

Someone paid for the propaganda billboard and won't fess up?

Apples and oranges there Godot."

Maybe, maybe not.

I compare what these guys are doing to the 527 groups like When airs a commercial, runs an ad in a newspaper, or puts up a billboard, do we see the names of all the people who contributed? Do we see any name? No. What's the dif?

DaREEKKU 12 years, 3 months ago

The website is ridiculous. You can't use something you bash to prove your own rationale, it contradicts. If these people want to smack science in the face, why don't they get rid of ALL science in their lives. No more vaccine, no more medication, no more cars, no electricity, nothing...then we'll REALLY see Darwinism at it's finest! :-D

Kodiac 12 years, 3 months ago

Kind of curious comparison there Godot. Let's see one is a political activist group with a known liberal agenda trying to get certain people elected and influence public opinion and the other one is a religious group with a known conservative agenda trying to change the definition of science, change scientific laws, and influence public opinion. Wow. They are the same aren't they. So this is not really about science and actually understanding truth about the natural world. It is all about public relations and trying to force your beliefs onto others. I guess you are right, we don't really need to know who put it up there, we only need to understand that we are being manipulated by a pr campaign. Thanks for making us aware of this similarity Godot. I am sure whoever put the sign will be very appreciative of this.

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

Kodiac: Actually, that is what I meant.

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

What I don't understand is why people are so worked up over a sign? It is just a sign.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 3 months ago

"What I don't understand is why people are so worked up over a sign? It is just a sign."

It's just a confederate flag.

It's just a crucifix in urine.

It's just a swastika.

It's just a picture Virgin Mary made of elephant dung.

It's just a picture Virgin Mary made of beaver shots.

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

"It's the ignorance we have to fight. It's important that we not behave in an ignorant fashion in our response."

Well, then, judging by what the antagonists have posted on this board today, they have started out on the wrong foot.

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

holygrailale, I wasn't criticising them, or you. Who cares if some guys put up a billboard that says something you disagree with, and the only people who see the billboard are the ones who happen to take the time to read it, and maybe not even think about it, when they drive by that particular intersection in Olathe, Ks? Maybe they put it up at that intersection because they know there are a lot of people there who agree with them. It is an exercise of "preaching to the choir."

We'd have to have the LJW verify this, but my guess is that there are many, many more people reading the "anonymous posts" on this forum than will ever see that sign.

So, anonymous, shinonymous, if we say what we think without revealing our identities, who cares if we get the opportunity for free, or if we have to pay for it?

By the way, don't think for a minute that posting here is "free". We just save the LJW from having to pay for content.

jonas 12 years, 3 months ago

Godot: I think it's a little dissembling to deny the criticism inherent in your original post.

Still though, it's not really a valid comparison. First, there are few people actually trying to exhert an agenda into action. The purpose of the billboard was to try and influence people's thought, in an, in my opinion, intellectually dishonest fashion. If they're going to list a website as the only reference, they should put their advertisement into a forum more often viewed in proximity to web access. They are, thus, banking on the hope that no one will actually check their source for the claim, because that claim is spurious at best. The website that it links to has no scientific content, and more than that it has no content at all, just another advertisement for the real site: Now, why didn't they put that up?!DVVc3BQngJWKnPfyYMVrtJAg50tdPw1PmrCmko9a4ztr14yCHkMIFIVETjPxHfI4YUwIYCnfiSzg06rd2i3SCzxYAcM8W/vash%20laughing.gif?dc=4675401830455813961

The reason for their anonymity is to avoid repercussion from their opinions, and from their dishonesty. The reason we here on the forum maintain anonymity, is due to the yahoo effect. There's really no point in anyone here knowing who we are. I could print my name (have in fact, though backwards >B-)> and it still wouldn't matter because of none of you would know who I am.
Moreover, we're really not trying to force ourselves onto the public forum. If you think about it, you're claim that more people will see this forum (at the bottom of this column, of this random newspaper site, on the internet) than will see the billboard is patently false. With the traffic on I-35 every day many, many more people will see it, and almost all of them will remember it. It is a very visible sign, with a misleading message virtually everyone is able to read in the split second they might happen to glance at it.

I also happen to think that most people on a forum such as this lack the idea that we might influence the opinion of the others, overmuch. But that's a different cup of tea altogether.

jonas 12 years, 3 months ago

Chucke. That first line should read "their are few people HERE actually trying to exhert an agenda into action"

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

jonas, please name all the other signs at that intersection in Olathe, ks, and tell me the message they deliver. Surely you remember them all, right?

My point is this is just one sign. It is an opinion. I am amazed at the vehemence of the desire of many on this blog to obliterate that opinion.

local_support 12 years, 3 months ago

Let's go paint a giant purple phallus on it like they did on the KU sign near Manhattan.


pelliott 12 years, 3 months ago

I don't have a problem with a sign expressing their view, good for them. I don't care if it is local anonymous money or a mix from out of state. As long as it isn't my money or taxes paying for it. I have a problem with a religious issue affecting my kid's access to a good science education in a public classroom. I admire a lot of the parents who home school or who send their kids to a secular school because they want to. I hate them sending their secular bias down my throat and into the public schools.

xenophonschild 12 years, 3 months ago

Evolution is fact, not theory. This merely underscores that the fight to preserve secular thought against the forces of superstitious religions will be a long and rigorous one. In fact, if you had to condense all of history, at least European history, in the last thousand years into a single thought, it would be the struggle of reason to break free from the chains of religious control; of human beings to free themselves from domination by religion, and the advent of reason to spell the eventual doom of all superstitious mythologies.

Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, and the concommitant rise of empirical science, all the old sky-god religions - Christianity, Islam, Judiasm - are dead, they simply don't know it yet. No rational thinking person, in our era of relativity and quantum physics, should believe that an illegitimate Galiean peasant who managed to get himself executed two thousand years ago is God . . . or that an ignorant Bedouin camel drover is the messenger of God . . . or that an ancient Mesopotamian shepherd made a special convent with God.

Anyone who believes such nonsense is not a rational person, and is not worthy of consideration as such.

jonas 12 years, 3 months ago

Godot: Can't remember the last time I've hit that intersection. But the point is that you'd immediately notice it, and not remember it later. If you remembered it later, you might check it out and notice it's obvious bias. The point of something like this is to get the idea into peoples heads as "science counter proves evolution," not to get it into peoples heads "creationists will manipulate the truth to give their viewpoint credibility."

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

Go for it. Put together your money, and put up a sign. Its a free country.

pelliott 12 years, 3 months ago

I apoligize for the misuse of the word secular. I meant religious. Thank you for the correction. Those are dear. I never mind learning the meaning of a word, I of course do mind being wrong, especially since those mistakes cast upon the sea can come back in waves.

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