Leading Historian Would Vote for Hitler

He just flew in from New York...

He just flew in from New York…


Would you vote for Philip Hitler? Jonathan Zimmerman would. At least, that’s what he told the funny man on The Daily Show the other day.

It’s a pretty funny bit. But more important, it’s great to see our leading educational historian getting to yuk it up with Jon Stewart’s minions.

If you’re not up on the world of educational history, you may not know Jon Zimmerman’s work. But for historians, Zimmerman’s the king. Kind of like the Derek Jeter of educational historians, except Zimmerman shows no signs of quitting.

When I started my graduate work, Zimmerman’s book Whose America pointed me toward the study of culture-war issues in educational history. And now, as part of Zimmerman’s book series on the history and philosophy of education, I’m working with philosopher Harvey Siegel on a volume about the ups and downs of evolution education. So Zimmerman has been hugely influential in my career, and I’m sure every other ed historian out there could say something similar.

And now it looks as if he’s moving into the comedy business. Fantastic.


Jon Stewart and Richard Dawkins

What happens to us when we die?

Does religion make society better?

Doesn’t science rely on faith?

Can’t intelligent people be both scientific and religious?

These are some of the questions leveled at leading science-atheist Richard Dawkins by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show recently.

For all of us interested in issues of science and religion, the short interview is well worth watching.

Stewart asks Dawkins some zingers, such as whether the world will be destroyed by human destruction or through more natural causes.  He challenges Dawkins to explain why faith is a negative force for society, even though it often seems so benign.

“It’s very easy to look at the dark side of fundamentalism,” Stewart said. “ … Sometimes I think we have to challenge ourselves and look at the dark side of achievement.”

Is science a threat?

Dawkins said he felt a little more optimistic about it.

As always, Dawkins expresses himself well.  Stewart gave him plenty of friendly opportunity to defend his argument that faith is inherently dangerous.


Google Trends and Fundamentalist America

Fundamentalist America is aflutter.  One of Fundamentalism’s favorite sons made a big splash last week.

After David Barton’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to promote his new book The Jefferson Lies, the Beckite Blaze reported that the term “David Barton” had surged to number one on the list of trendy Google search terms.

When I followed up, I couldn’t confirm The Blaze‘s claim.  When I checked Google’s “Hot Searches” for May 2, 2012, Barton shows up as number nine.

The experience led to me tinker around a little bit with Google Trends.  Now, I know I need to apologize for my lateness at showing up to this party.  This is yet another example of the way I am far behind the times in finding out about the possibilities of the Google Mothership.

But I want to share a few of the interesting results for those outsiders interested in Fundamentalist America.  First, for those who are as backwards as I am, I’ll explain the premise a little bit.  Google Trends gives users a chance to find out how many people have Googled specific terms over time.  Today (May 5, 2012), many of the hottest search terms concern the recent death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch.  In general, it seems as if the biggest topics in the daily news tend to attract the most Google searches.

But Google Trends also lets us see what people are googling over time.  If we want to understand what googling Americans are interested in, it gives us a chance to find out.  Now, I won’t make any claims that these results are definitive.  We can’t know very much about the intentions of googlers.  But there are still a few interesting results that I want to share, just to give everyone something to think about.

For example, I checked the trends for terms in tandem and got some interesting results.  For instance, “evolution” has trumped “creationism” by a long sight for the past several years.  On the other hand, comparing the google history of “Bible” and “Origin of Species” shows a huge tilt toward Bible googlers.    And, in the past few years at least, Jesus has almost always been comfortably bigger than the Beatles.  In fact, “Jesus” as a search term has held a comfortable lead over most other topics I could think of, including “David Barton,” “atheism,” and even “cats,” although “cats” seemed to hold its own pretty well.

What does all this tell us about Fundamentalist America?  Not much, really.  But it does demonstrate the enduring popularity of Christian terminology on Google.  Of course, people Google all sorts of different terms for all sorts of reasons.  Are there any other term comparisons that can tell us something about the nature and meaning of life in Fundamentalist America?