Powerful Texas politician, Warren Chisum, rejects modern astronomy?
Diane Vera printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri May 21, 2010 at 11:01:06 PM EST

Bruce Wilson's recent Talk To Action post, Rand Paul Was The Featured Speaker At Theocratic Constitution Party 2009 Rally, Thu May 20, 2010, references Bruce Wilson's own earlier AlterNet post Copernicus Was Wrong?: The Flat Earth Temptation, February 16, 2007. In the AlterNet post, he reported that a Texas Republican Party politician, Warren Chisum, a representative in the Texas State House, is an advocate of geocentrism -- the idea that the Earth is at the center of the universe and does not move.

In the above AlterNet post and in some 2007 TalkToAction posts, Bruce Wilson discusses the geocentrist views of some creationists, including some Christian Reconstructionists. This is certainly worth knowing about, given how dangerous the Christian Reconstructionists are. (See More From The Biblical Stoning & Legalized Slavery Movement by Bruce Wilson, Talk To Action, Fri Jan 25, 2008.) Thanks to Bruce Wilson for calling attention to the geocentrism of Chalcedon Foundation founder Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, among other people who have been highly influential in the religious right wing.

But it seems to me that Bruce Wilson, together with several other bloggers whom he has linked to, might be mistaken regarding Warren Chisum in particular. Digging into the sources of this story, I've found clear evidence that Chisum is a creationist and that he has been influenced by some fellow creationists who happen to be geocentrists as well as creationists. But I have not yet found any clear, unambiguous evidence that Chisum himself is a believer in or advocate of geocentrism. For the latter claim, I've found only one piece of evidence, whose significance is disputed by Chisum himself.

As far as I can tell, the sole evidence of Chisum's geocentrism seems to be a memo that was circulated by Warren Chisum, a copy of which (PDF) can be found on the Capitol Annex site. The memo was not written directly by Chisum himself, but is Chisum's forwarding of a memo from Georgia Representative Ben Bridges. The latter memo does not directly promote geocentrism itself, but cites some pages on a geocentrist website as containing alleged evidence for a creationist claim that evolution is not "secular science with no religious agenda" (hence legally eligible to be taught in public schools) but rather serves an alleged "religious agenda" because evolution was considered as an "alternate creation scenario" in some Kabbalistic Rabbinic writings.

But Chisum has apparently denied being a believer in geocentrism, according to a Texas news paper article Chisum a 'Fixed Earth' advocate? No by Bud Kennedy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 20, 2007. Copies of other relevant news stories can be found on the page The Warren Chisum-Ben Bridges Memo Controversy: Special Report on Anti-Science and Anti-Semitism in Texas by Steven Schafersman, February 16, 2007, on the website of Texas Citizens for Science. One of these other news reports is a Dallas Morning News story, "Chisum contrite over memo," by Linda Brooks and Robert T. Garrett, February 15, 2007, in which Chisum denies agreeing with the memo on anything other than its advocacy of creationism.

Another relevant news report is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story Anti-evolution memo stirs controversy by Jeremy Redmon, Thursday, February 15, 2007, in which Bridges, too, "denied writing or authorizing the memo" -- but, unlike Chisum, does voice general agreement with the memo, even while refusing to take responsibility for the details:

"I did not put it out nor did I know it was going out," Bridges said. "I'm not defending it or taking up for it."

The memo directs supporters to call Marshall Hall, president of the Fair Education Foundation Inc., a Cornelia, Ga.-based organization that seeks to show evolution is a myth. Hall said he showed Bridges the text of the memo and got his permission to distribute it.

"I gave him a copy of it months ago," said Hall, a retired high school teacher. "I had already written this up as an idea to present to him so he could see what it was and what we were thinking."

Hall said his wife Bonnie has served as Bridges' campaign manager since 1996.

Bridges acknowledged that he talked to Hall about filing legislation this year that would end the teaching of evolution in Georgia's public schools. Bridges said the views in the memo belong to Hall, though Bridges said he doesn't necessarily disagree with them.

"I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory," Bridges said. "I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie why teach anything?"

Another news report, the New York Times news story Lawmaker Apologizes for Memo Linking Evolution and Jewish Texts by Ralph Blumenthal, February 17, 2007, confirms that Marshall Hall is the actual author of the memo. Hall, who "said he had sent the memorandum to Mr. Chisum at the request of Mr. Bridges, whom he called a longtime friend and supporter. Mr. Chisum, in a letter accompanying the memorandum, said he distributed the memorandum 'on behalf of' Representative Bridges." Later, Chisum apologized for offending Jews and claims that he never took Bridges' memo very seriously. Chisum is quoted as saying, "I sincerely regret that I did not take the time to carefully review these materials and recognize that I may have hurt or offended some groups including some of my dear friends."

So, as far as I can tell, we don't yet have clear evidence that Chisum himself is a believer in or advocate of geocentrism. As far as I can tell so far, the only evidence for Chisum's geocentrism is the above-discussed memo (PDF).

Bruce Wilson's AlterNet post Copernicus Was Wrong?: The Flat Earth Temptation, February 16, 2007, cites, as its only sources for the statement that Chisum advocates geocentrism, the following blog posts: (1) Texas GOP memo: It's Jewish conspiracy that Earth revolves around sun by Glenn Smith, AlterNet, February 16, 2007, (2) the Daily Kos post Texas Republicans are anti-Copernicus, Friday, February 16, 2007, and (3) Bruce Wilson's own earlier Talk to Action post, Proving Geocentrism, lobbying for Apocalypse, Sat Feb 17, 2007. For these posts, in turn, the sources are:

  1. For Texas GOP memo: It's Jewish conspiracy that Earth revolves around sun by Glenn Smith, AlterNet, February 16, 2007, the sole source regarding Chisum's geocentrism is the above-discussed Chisum memo on the Capitol Annex site.
  2. The Daily Kos post Texas Republicans are anti-Copernicus, Friday, February 16, 2007, references only Warren "Anti-CopernicaChisum" by Glenn Smith, Thursday, February 15, 2007, on a website called the Burnt Orange Report, which in turn references only the memo on Capitol Annex, again.
  3. Bruce Wilson's own Talk to Action post Proving Geocentrism, lobbying for Apocalypse, Sat Feb 17, 2007, references only the above-mentiond Daily Kos post plus another Talk to Action post by Bruce Wilson, Copernicus Was Wrong : Reconstructionism & "The Flat Earth Temptation", Fri Feb 16, 2007.

Bruce Wilson's 2007 Talk to Action post Copernicus Was Wrong : Reconstructionism & "The Flat Earth Temptation" is very similar to his AlterNet post of the same name, with only small differences, including a slightly different set of sources. It does not reference Glenn Smith's AlterNet post, but, instead, references Warren Chisum: Science is a religion, too by Eric Berger, in the SciGuy blog on the Houston Chronicle site, February 15, 2007. Eric Berger's sole source regarding Chisum's own alleged geocentrism is another copy (page 1 and page 2) of the Chisum memo.

If there is any direct evidence that Chisum himself is a geocentrist -- as distinct from just evidence that he associates with his fellow creationists, some of whom are geocentrists -- I would be interested to see it.

On another subject: Thanks very much to Bruce Wilson, Rachel Tabachnick, and others here for keeping an eye on the New Apostolic Reformation. Like you, I certainly hope that the mass media will begin to notice its existence as a distinct religious movement soon.

I must admit that I have actually met one person in my life who believed that the world was flat. All the photographs taken from space, all the news about space programs, all that we are told about satellites were simply "lies." On what basis did he say that? "The Bibie says God's angels will stand on the four corners of the world." It is interesting that many reconstructionists are geocentric. I'm 60 years old, and have only met one "flat earther" in my life. It just goes to show that ignorance in the form of "I don't want to know" certainly does exist. But I also think your story goes to show we want to be sure someone espouses a certain view before we accuse them of holding it. I probably wouldn't agree with Mr. Chisum on very many topics, but he almost got the geocentric charge via guilt by association. Associations may be red flags, but never reason for an accusation. Guilt by association is just not playing fair.

by cloyd on Sat May 22, 2010 at 01:00:01 AM EST

- that's generally construed as endorsement, as far as I'm aware. If Mr. Chisum disagreed with the memo in question he shouldn't have promoted it. He's a politician. It's his job to be aware of such issues.

Chisum disavowed the memo in question after it provoked a scandal. Very well then - we have to take him at his word. But, Warren Chisum himself stepped in this.

It is probably impossible to ascertain what anyone truly believes. But Warren Chisum promoted the memo. That suggests he agreed with its message, and all the memo was dragging in tow - including Geocentrism.
Chisum could just as easily have promoted an ideological memo from British Petroleum, and the issue would be the same: endorsement.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat May 22, 2010 at 11:06:56 PM EST

I certainly agree with the poster's comments that guilt by association can be unfair and incorrect. At the same time, however, individuals who disseminate, depend on and use blanket ignorance and naivete as a power strategy should anticipate that they, too, will be classified in this way.

by Dr Lou on Sat May 22, 2010 at 10:47:46 AM EST
I think we are on the same wavelength. Red flags should not be ignored. They just do not prove. Furthermore, there is ignorance, meaning "I don't know," and there is Ignorance, meaning "I don't want to know." The second Ignorance is much more dangerous. We humorously talk about it with bumper stickers that say, "Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up." It is really a serious and dangerous issue.

by cloyd on Sat May 22, 2010 at 12:10:48 PM EST

Bruce Wilson wrote:

If Mr. Chisum disagreed with the memo in question he shouldn't have promoted it. He's a politician. It's his job to be aware of such issues.

That is true.  However, politicians typically have staffers who do a lot of their work for them.  I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of correspondence goes out, with a politician's name attached, that was in fact written by a staffer, and which the politician him/herself only glanced at.

Chisum should, of course, still be held accountable for stuff that goes out with his name attached.  But I wanted to bring his retraction to your attention.

Chisum disavowed the memo in question after it provoked a scandal. Very well then - we have to take him at his word. But, Warren Chisum himself stepped in this.

Indeed, that he did.

It is probably impossible to ascertain what anyone truly believes. But Warren Chisum promoted the memo. That suggests he agreed with its message, and all the memo was dragging in tow - including Geocentrism.

At the very least, it suggests that wacky creationists, including geocentrists, are a constituency he feels beholden to.  And that in itself is scary.

Chisum could just as easily have promoted an ideological memo from British Petroleum, and the issue would be the same: endorsement.

Agreed.  It is valid to be concerned about Chisum's seeming endorsement of something so wacky as geocentrism, whether or not he himself actually believes in it.

by Diane Vera on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:17:17 AM EST

To reiterate my position, it's impossible to know for sure what anyone believes, and beliefs can also change in an instant.

So, my policy is to pay attention to actions (such as endorsement) as possible indications of belief. That's usually the best we can do.


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