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What The Republicans Say And What The Republicans Do

Donald Trump, who seems to have begun a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in order to get people to pay more attention to him, claims to have fired his top strategist, Roger Stone, because Stone “wanted to use campaign for his own publicity”.

In similar news, Rick Santorum, who told the audience during the first of two Fox News GOP presidential debates on Thursday that, “I know we have a president who wants to do whatever he wants to do, and take his pen and his phone and just tell everybody what he thinks is best, but the reason America is a great country, the reason is because our compassion is in our laws, and when we live by those laws and we treat everybody equally under the law, that’s when people feel good about being Americans, and I put forth an immigration policy that is as strong in favor of the folks who are struggling in America the most than anybody else,” accused the Fox News moderators of the debate of being “a little long winded and a little convoluted”.

Also in GOP campaign news, Carly Fiorina responded to the controversy over Donald Trump’s habit of making extremely insulting attacks against practically everyone he encounters by saying that she would be a better presidential nominee than Trump because, “We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches.”

Aides to the Jim Gilmore for President campaign were unable to confirm whether their candidate, after declaring that “We have to be prepared to defend the American people, prepare them for a long war,” has been briefed about the fact that the current year is 2015, not 2001.

Senator Lindsey Graham, around whom rumors have swirled that he may soon run for President ever since he declared that he is running for President, explained his policy on energy, saying, “When it comes to fossil fuels, we’re going to find more here and use less.” Apparently, Graham’s plan is to take the additional fossil fuels that will be found under his initiatives, and put them all in a gigantic vat alongside the Potomac River with a big sign on it, reading “Not For Burning”.

Corporate Insider Exposes Opponents of CEO Pay Disclosure as “Petty Guardians of Self-Interest”

Earlier this week, the Securities and Exchange Commission finally — after a five year delay — allowed the implementation of a 2010 federal law requiring America’s largest publicly-chartered corporations to disclose the ratio of the pay of their CEOs to the pay of their average workers.  Due to further SEC intransigence, the won’t actually see any of these reports until 2018 — eight years after the requirement was passed into law.  Why has the SEC delayed, delayed, and delayed action at every possible step, when the ratio of public comments to the SEC regarding implementation is an astonishingly high 3,000 comments for the measure for every 1 comment against it?  The answer is that to the SEC, some comments matter more than others.  Some people matter more than others.

It’s possible for us to peek behind the curtain at the inside game behind the delay of this rule, thanks to the fascinating public comment of Lee S. Webster. Lee S. Webster is not an ordinary person like you or I. He was a leader at the Society for Human Resource Management, a professional organization that supports hiring, firing and employee management in corporate America, and before that, Webster worked as a leader in the ExxonMobil and Pepsi corporations. He’s no socialist. He’s not writing as an anti-corporate figure. Webster has a history as a corporate insider, which makes his letter all the more telling.

Webster writes to indicate his support for implementation of the CEO pay disclosure law. But more than that, he describes the action of corporate forces to “quash” an earlier attempt at implementing CEO pay disclosure. When news got around about an attempt by a committee of business leaders to draft standards for CEO pay disclosure, the committee’s work was quickly brought to an end. According to Webster’s letter, “entrenched,” “collusive,” “anti-competitive” corporate leaders held an off-the-record meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to stop CEO pay disclosure from the inside. Webster asserts that the same colluding corporate leaders, eager to protect their padded wallets, have been behind the delay of CEO pay disclosure.

Webster’s allegations have not received any attention from the professional broadcast news media. To help his account see the light of day, I’ve placed the full text of Webster’s letter below.

December 1, 2014
Elizabeth M. Murphy, Secretary US Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street, NE Washington, D.C. 20549-1090
Via Email:

Re: File Number S7-07-13 – Dodd-Frank Act Pay Ratio Disclosure Mandate; Proposal for a Safe Harbor Disclosure Process

I write as a twenty year practitioner and an expert in human resources. I have also spent my career in various leadership roles in large public organizations. I offer my support for the proposed rule regarding the CEO Pay Ratio. Moreover, I have signed the document that NSFM submitted and support as well its table 1 that indicates the recommended disclosures. Any effort to fully implement the parts of the Dodd-Frank Act on Executive Compensation, Risk Management, and Corporate Governance would be a great benefit to investors, employees and even consumers of the products and services of the effected companies. I come at this issue as someone who also attempted to encourage companies to become more transparent in their organizational structures and their management of workforce issues. I believe that the same entrenched organizational leaders that oppose the full expression of the Dodd-Frank Act, were largely the same leaders who quashed my efforts as well.

As the former Director of HR Standards Development for the Society for Human Resource Management and the Chair of the ISO Technical Committee 260, I oversaw the development of American National and ISO standards in human resources from 2008 to 2013. One area of inquiry we pursued was the development of an American National Standard that we called, “Investor Metrics.” This standard would help public companies capture and report to their owners those material workforce management metrics that investors should know before making investment decisions. The opportunity then, as now with the Dodd-Frank Act, was to establish consistent, comparable, and credible measures that were publicly reportable to the investment community. Over 160 participants from HR, finance, accounting, and academic communities worked for 18 months to develop this document.

However, the same forces that I expect to oppose the full implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, met at the US Chamber of Commerce in October 2012 to pressure me and those developing this standard to stop this work. The attendees, many of whom were the CHROs or government relations executives from F500 companies and nonprofit associations, argued that investors were not interested in workforce performance/management data. Although many had clearly not read the draft standard, they argued that the metrics were impossible to gather, that they are not “material” disclosures, and to disclose this information would create risk for their companies. The metrics in question were similar to the Safe Harbor factors that are under discussion in File Number S7-07-13. Also note that these attendees did not want to improve the draft standard. They instead wanted the work to stop and no further mention be made about it, especially to the SEC.

In my opinion, their true desire was to stifle free inquiry into ways to create value for investors and to avoid the direct accountability to CHROs that would and should emerge from providing the investment community honest and timely information about their human resource practices, including pay. As the NSFM document shows, having an accurate and comparable description of the management structure and the organizational architecture of public companies is essential in order to fully understand and respond to the complexity of the Dodd-Frank pay ratio. I believe reason they demanded that this meeting be “off-the-record” and that they refused to let anyone who supported these HR disclosures participate was to shield these collusive and anti-competitive views from the public. It would be a historic shame for the SEC to permit the same petty guardians of self-interest to succeed in denying investors the Safe Harbor information they need to make the wisest decisions possible about the quality of the governance practices of publicly traded companies.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my views.

Sincerely, Lee S. Webster, JD/MBA

Former Director, HR Standards, SHRM

Can We Stamp Money Out Of Politics… With A Stamp?

The other day, when I looked at my change from the grocery store, one bill stood out in particular. It was a one dollar bill, and right next to the face of George Washington, there was printed, in red ink, the message: Stamp Money Out Of Politics: Amend The Constitution”. I’d never seen this message before, but it certainly got my attention, so I decided to research where the bill had come from.

stamp money out of politicsLooking more closely at the stamped message, I saw that there was a web address there, but I couldn’t quite make it out, as the ink was smudged. Still, it wasn’t hard to find the site online. A simple Startpage search for the phrase “stamp money out of politics stamp” brought me to the site Stamp Stampede.

It turns out that Stamp Stampede, which is dedicated to spreading opposition to unlimited campaign finance through independent expenditures by commercial corporations, was founded by Ben Cohen, one of the founders of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. The inspiration for Stamp Stampede came in part from Occupy George, a similar activist effort in which red messages about income inequality are stamped on dollar bills.

Is Stamp Stampede an effective form of activism? In its ultimate goal, to get corporate money out of our democratic process, it hasn’t worked yet. However, that one stamped dollar bill did get me to take notice of the cause, and to write about it, spreading word of it to you. So, it’s been successful at least in moving the issue forward that one additional step…

… which is more than will get done if we just sit around and fume in private about how corrupt the American electoral system has become.

Common words that sound like embarrassing bodily conditions

















What other words belong on this list?

Ted Cruz Talks Tough About ISIS, Then Goes On Vacation

ted cruz summer vacationSenator Ted Cruz had tough words last night for the Islamic State – also known as as ISIS. During one of two presidential debates for Republican presidential candidates, Cruz seemed to suggest that he would never waver in his fight against ISIS if he won the 2016 election. “What we need is a commander in chief that makes clear, if you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, then you are signing your death warrant,” he said.

What Cruz didn’t say is that, while fighters from ISIS push forward, he just started a month-long vacation yesterday, approved by the Republicans who control Congress. Is it possible to sign a death warrant while sipping on daiquiri in a poolside lounge chair?

Never give up! Never surrender! Except when you need to take a break!

The Right Wing Art Degree Context Of Dawn Perlmutter’s “Expert” Testimony About Ritual Murder

Yesterday, I described the huge gulf between wild assertions being made of a blue moon Wiccan ritual murder down in Pensacola, Florida and the actual facts that are publicly known about the case of the killing last week of Voncile Smith and her sons Richard and John. Police are saying that they believe the crime is a ritual murder because:

– the murder took place during the same week as a blue moon… but three days before the blue moon. On the same day, tools were reported stolen from a shed on Hilton Head Island. Are we to believe that this was a case of ritual tool theft?
– the killings were done with a gun, a hammer, and a blade of some kind the cutting the victims’ throats… but since when are hammers and guns parts of Wiccan ritual assemblages, and are we to believe that every cutthroat is a Wiccan?
– the position that the bodies were found in, details of which have not been released to the public.

Today, Allie Conti, a writer for the web site wrote an article in which she interviewed “Dawn Perlmutter, an expert on ritual killings”. Perlmutter told Conti, “These ritual murders happen a lot more than people realize. I guarantee if that sheriff is saying it’s a ritualistic killing, he has good reason for saying that. They know enough to know if a body’s been positioned a certain way. I’m sure that the sheriff has good reason to call it a ritual killing, and I doubt very much he would be exploiting that case in any way whatsoever.”

That’s a very confident statement for someone to make about a criminal case that so far is distinguished by the discrepancies between allegations and the available evidence. This confidence led me to wonder: Just who is this Dawn Perlmutter? What kind of education and training has she received that makes her so confident in declaring that the murders in Pensacola last week were ritual killings?

One thing we know is that Dawn Perlmutter has not herself been to the crime scene in Pensacola. So how can she be so sure that the murder is a ritual killing?

I looked up Dawn Perlmutter’s background. It wasn’t a quick and easy search, because Perlmutter has placed a large number of short profiles about herself online, and these blurbs don’t provide many specific about what she has actually accomplished. It seems clear that Perlmutter tried to establish a little consulting business operating under the name The Institute for the Research of Organized & Ritual Violence, and then under the name Symbol Intel, specializing in “the research, analysis and investigation of symbolic and ritualistic crime”. It’s also fairly clear that the consulting didn’t go very well. The web sites for these businesses limped along for a while, and have now gone defunct. Still, Perlmutter keeps publishing articles as if she is an established expert in her field.

Upon what, exactly, is that expertise based?

dawn perlmutter ritual murder expertDawn Perlmutter is fond of describing herself as having a “Doctor of Philosophy” degree from New York University. What she doesn’t like to admit is that her PhD was not in forensics, or criminal justice, or anthropology, or religious studies, but from the Department of Art and Art Professions. She describes herself as having a “master’s degree from American University”, but doesn’t share with her audience that her degree from American University was a Master of Fine Arts degree – the kind of degree that teaches you how to make art.

In short, Dawn Perlmutter has none of the academic education or professional training required to understand a crime scene. She may have done some reading on the use of ritual theory in art, but that is not at all the same thing as understanding the workings of ritual in a religious setting, much less in a criminal setting. If Dawn Perlmutter is considered to be an “expert on ritual killings” by some people, it’s because she promotes herself as such, not because she has any actual expertise in the matter.

This practice of asserting false expertise in identifying ritual murders is nothing new. In his book Satanic Panic, Jeffrey S. Victor identified others, in the 1980s, who represented themselves to the police as experts in Satanic ritual killings, when in fact, they didn’t really know very much about Satanism, about ritual, or about crime. The consequences of their hollow certainty was serious. Innocent people were sent to prison for long periods of time, convicted of Satanic ritual abuse that never actually happened, only to be exonerated years later, after the modern day witch hunt faded away.

Back in the 1980s, those who whipped up false stories about widespread Satanic ritual crimes were motivated by a confluence of religious and political zeal. The same appears to be true of Dawn Perlmutter.

Perlmutter doesn’t only write about alleged ritual killings. She also launches herself onto the public stage – almost exclusively in pro-Republican media, to champion right wing ideology. To understand where Perlmutter’s interest in ritual leads her, consider her comments about what she sees as an unjustified sanctification of Michael Brown, a young African-American man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Perlmutter seems to approve of the killing in this case. The unacceptable ritualism, in her opinion, came from protesters who demonstrated against the killing. She writes, “The quintessential symbol of the Ferguson incident is ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ which is both a hand sign and a symbol. It has become the protest meme for Ferguson and has been extremely effective in perpetuating the national myth that Michael Brown had his arms up surrendering when he was shot by Officer Wilson. This lie was essential to the legend that transformed Michael Brown from a felon to a folk saint. Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is the emblem of black victimhood and racist cops. Everyone from small children to the elderly, from Rams football players to members of congress have raised their arms making the gesture to demonstrate their solidarity with Michael Brown and the protesters in Ferguson. The gesture has become a rallying cry for this new anti-police movement. It will soon escalate to a sacred ritual practice in the veneration of the new saint Michael Brown.”

This kind of zealous right wing anger is typical for Dawn Perlmutter. She appears in the habit of complaining about liberals and working with right wing media outlets like Fox News and the Washington Times, where she is quoted talking about the political agenda of her symbolic services, saying, “We’re trying to get things out that, because of political correctness, are not allowed to go out.” Of course, Dawn Perlmutter’s right wing ideas are allowed to “to go out”. Her opinions are extreme, but they’ve been put in print and on-screen many times.

She has appeared, for instance, as a guest on the YouTube channel of Jamie Glazov, the author of a book with the title United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror. Glazov is also editor of FrontPage, a web site where Perlmutter’s words have been published amid articles with titles such as Obama Is A Traitor, It’s A No Brainer and Obama Alters Pledge Of Allegiance In Compliance With Islamic Law. Perlmutter herself asserts that the United States is now in the middle of a centuries-old holy war against Islam, and writes that to deny this obvious truth is to put our country at risk.

It’s possible, of course, that the murderer in Pensacola is a Wiccan. It’s also possible, though, that the murderer is a Sufi, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a Rastafarian, or an atheist. I don’t know. If anyone does know who the murderer is, and what motivated the killings, they aren’t talking.

For anyone to claim that they know for sure something about this crime, when they haven’t seen the evidence themselves, in order to exploit the murder to support their political and religious ideology, is cruel and dishonest.

Why the overdue SEC rule will underestimate the gap between CEO and worker pay

In 2010 — five years ago — the U.S. Congress passed into law a requirement that publicly-traded corporations must publicly reveal the gap between the pay for their CEOs and the pay for the rest of their employees. It wasn’t until yesterday that the Securities and Exchange Commission finally followed the law and enacted a regulatory rule for corporations to follow (read the text of the rule as of 2013 here).  The SEC delayed further compliance by decreeing that corporations won’t have to make disclosures until 2018 — eight years after Congress passed the requirement into law.

The two Republican members of the SEC, after drawing out the process as long as they could, voted against compliance with the law.  Let’s not pretend, however, that the public opinion is split.  It’s not, as a SEC summary of 307,012 submitted comments into 13 categories of opinion reveals. Every single one of those submitted comments supports the enactment of the rule — and a number chide the SEC for delaying action so long.  What are the numbers of comments opposing enactment of the rule?  About a hundred, offered by paid officials at large and wealthy corporations, like the Garmin corporation of Switzerland, or by interest groups for chief executives like the National Association of Corporate Directors.  The three Democratic commissioners, with great reluctance and after great delay, are following the law and the comments of the 307,012.  The two Republican commissioners, in voting against implementation of the rule, are struggling against the law and standing instead with the comments of the hundred.  This is what plutocracy looks like.

Data collection will be incomplete: only corporations with over a billion dollars in annual revenue must comply.  More importantly, when reporting finally occurs after eight years of delay, the ratio of CEO to average worker pay will underestimate the gap.  As outlined in page 23 of the rule, the compensation of independent contractors, subcontracted workers, temporary workers and “leased workers” will not be counted.  These stand among the most vulnerable and exploited of workers for massive multi-billion-dollar corporations.  In the 2013 version of the rule, the pay of workers for a corporation who live outside the United States were to be counted.  In the version of the rule approved yesterday, corporations are allowed to exclude these workers from the count.

Why are these exclusions important?  One important word on the subject: sweatshops.  If the large number of subcontracted or “leased” workers who make $5 a day in third-world sweatshops are included in the count, many corporations’ median wages would be exposed as abysmal.  We should therefore be unsurprised to find that the “American Apparel & Footwear Association,” featuring corporations dependent on sweatshops among its members, has opposed the rule so strenuously.  When, three years from now, eight years late, you start to see CEO-to-average-worker ratios, remember those workers who linger in dark shadows, uncounted.

Fact Check: Is There Really A Killer Satanic Wiccan Blue Moon Cult In Florida?

The Allegations:

– Pensacola police allege that three murder victims found in a house last Friday were killed as part of a Satanic or Wiccan ritual related to the “blue moon” that took place that day.
– A neighbor referred to the killings as part of a “weird, satanic cult, witchcraft whatever”.
– Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan cited the nature of the wounds the victims suffered and the positions their bodies were found in as evidence that the murders were performed by somebody who practices “witchcraft”. Also cited as evidence of this theory was the identity of a “person of interest” who has “a faith or religion that is indicative of that”. “It’s witchcraft, I’ll say that right now,” said Morgan.
– Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Andrew Hobbes told reporters that, “It appears that this might be connected to some type of Wiccan ritual killing and possibly tied to the blue moon,”.
– Keyan Milanian of the Daily Star writes that, “The three are thought to have been the victims of satanists like those in film The Wicker Man”.

wicker man pensacola florida blue moon wiccan murders

The Facts:

– Voncile Smith, aged 77, and her sons Richard Smith and John Smith were found dead on Friday – the day of the blue moon.
– All of the victims had their throats cut and had been attacked with a claw hammer. One victim suffered a gunshot wound in the head as well.
– A blue moon is nothing more than the second of two full moons taking place within a single month. A blue moon isn’t bigger, or brighter, or a different color, or in any other way different from a regular full moon.
The Domestic Witch lists eight different blue moon rituals for Pagans and Wiccans, and though one of them does involve 13 safety pins, not one of them involves killing anything.
– The Pagan Springwolf describes a blue moon ritual that involves a bubble bath, but contains no throat-slitting, attacks with hammers, gunshots, or any other form of violence whatsoever.
– There is no record of any Pagan, Wiccan, Satanic, or other ritual performed during blue moons that involves killing people.
– The condition of the bodies and one victim’s absence from work leads police to believe that the victims were killed on Tuesday last week, not on Friday.
– There have been many instances of people being murdered by having their throats cut, being bludgeoned with hammers, or being shot in the head, completely outside of any ritual context. For example, this March, a man in Wisconsin killed a woman by hitting her in the head with a hammer and then cutting her throat. The murderer was neither a Wiccan nor taking part in a ritual.
– The Wicker Man is a fictional horror movie based upon a fictional novel, in which practitioners of a pre-Christian Celtic religion, not practitioners of Satanism, burn a man alive inside a gigantic wooden statue. No one in the Wicker Man was attacked with a hammer or was shot in the head with a gun.

Counting Waves

Littlefield Memorial Baptist Church has given us some homework:

Littlefield Memorial Baptist Church sign reads: Find Out How Much God Loves You: Go Count Ocean Waves

Count ocean waves? OK:




Four, Five, Six.

God’s love?

Donald Trump Brags That He Has The Endorsement Of America’s Most Apathetic Citizen

Beada Corum was born three years after women gained the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. She has had the right to vote for over 70 years, but has decided never to get involved in her country’s democratic process.

For all her life, Beada Corum has been sitting on the sidelines, not caring enough about what happens to her country to go through the simple process of registering to vote.

In 17 presidential elections, she hasn’t bothered to participate.

Now, at the age of 92, Beada Corum of Knox County, Tennessee has finally decided to put forth the small amount of effort required to take responsibility as a citizen of the United States by registering to vote for the first time.

“We got a good country but it’s going downhill so fast and we need somebody in there who can straighten it out,” said Corum, after spending almost three quarters of a century not lifting a finger to contribute to good government.

She says that registering so that she can vote for Donald Trump.

Trump is bragging about her endorsement.

donald trump apathetic

Did Stephen Hawking Really Say that Believers in God are Standing on Ground as Solid as Scientists?

This morning, J. Clare Peteet posts the following in a comment to Irregular Times:

J Clifford, science admits it cannot tell us what caused the Big Bang….

The famous astrophysical scientist, Stephen Hawking, says, “Anyone who chooses to believe in a Universal Creator is standing on ground as solid as a scientist who denies Creative Purpose as First Cause. Because of the laws these same scientists have discovered, there is absolutely no way to tell what made it happen. Whatever you choose is an act of pure faith.” *

…*could not find the source of the Hawking quote but it is found numerous times through Google in association with articles

Is this really true? Did Stephen Hawking really say that there is “absolutely no way to tell” what made the universe happen? Did Hawking really say that believers in God as the “First Cause” are standing on ground as solid as scientists who deny the existence of a creator? Let’s look into this; it’s time for a fact check.

The asterisk Peteet provides is the first inkling of trouble. A renowned scientist issues a quote rebuking scientists and uplifting religion, the source can’t be found, but the quote is nevertheless found “numerous times” via Google search? That’s odd, since actual contemporary quotations tend to link to sources, which tends to promote the sources to the top of Google rankings.

To look into this further, I decided to search Google myself and see if I could find the original source. A search for this quote, or any sufficiently long subquote, consistently leads to just 18 results (the first page of Google’s results provides an estimate of “42 links,” but these include many redundant links to the same discussion forum posts. A Yahoo/Bing search returns just 2 links, which are included in the set below). These results are:

2015: hardwarezone, boardreader, golivewire, blogspot, irregulartimes
2014: pdxradio, news24, thecoli, youtube, reddit
2013: tumblr, facebook
2012: tumblr, tumblr, tumblr, topix
2011: none
2010: huffingtonpost

and one more:

“Years” before 2011: Larry Leonard

This last link is the most important, for two reasons.  First, in an article he posted to Oregon Magazine in October 2011, Larry Leonard notes that “originally under the pen name, Eric Blair, this piece first appeared in print years ago.”  This makes Larry Leonard the first known user of the phrase that Peteet shared with Irregular Times this morning.  Second, in his article Leonard does not use quotation marks.  Here’s the entirety of all paragraphs, in order, in which Leonard discusses Stephen Hawking:

Stephen Hawking holds the Lucasian chair at Cambridge University in England. In the end of his classic book, A Brief History of Time, Mr. Hawking states that based on the physical facts presently known by science, one may feel free to believe in a Creator or not, as one wishes. No scientist, he says, has the information necessary to prove a conclusion in this regard either way.

Most scientists today probably do not believe in God. They believe their disbelief is logical. The greatest scientist on earth, the man who sits in the chair first occupied by Isaac Newton, says, in effect, that they are fools to be sure.

So, we have established two basic facts, here. First, the greatest living astrophysical scientist, Stephen Hawking, says that anyone who chooses to believe in a Universal Creator is standing on ground as solid as any scientist who denies Creative Purpose as First Cause. Because of the laws these same scientists have discovered, there is absolutely no way to tell what made it all happen. Whichever one you choose, says Hawking, you are performing an act of pure faith.

This means that the massive crowd of doubting educators, liberal politicians and media types are supported by but one concept. Hawking allows God, and Genesis could be a training paper for basic astrophysics and evolutionary biology. All that is left to the idiot secular progressives is the biblical description of the time it took for all this to happen. And, this brings up the sweetest irony of them all.

There are two important pieces of information here.  First, Larry Leonard cites a source: the conclusion to Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time.  Second, Leonard writes out the paragraph regarding “anyone who chooses to believe in a Universal Creator” without quotation marks.  Leonard isn’t quoting Stephen Hawking.  Checking my own copy of A Brief History of Time, I can confirm that Hawking didn’t actually write those words in his book.  I’ve looked at the conclusion for other editions of A Brief History, and those words aren’t present there either.  These are Leonard’s words, reflecting what Leonard thinks Stephen Hawking has to say.

As you can see for yourself by following the links I’ve provided, every single other website using Leonard’s words has put quotation marks around them.   The witting or unwitting culprit is probably the late Hollywood producer David L. Wolper, who wrote the second-oldest article in 2010.  It appeared on the popular website Huffington Post and was the first to place quotation marks around Larry Leonard’s words, making them appear to be Stephen Hawking’s.

Conclusion: Stephen Hawking did not actually write the paragraph placing scientists and creation believers on the “same ground.”  The quote attribution is false.

With that said, let’s turn to a more fundamental substantive question: was Larry Leonard’s interpretation of A Brief History of Time correct?  Does Stephen Hawking actually believe that believers in a God of creation are standing on ground just as solid as scientists who don’t share that belief?  Does Hawking really say that there is “absolutely no way to tell” what made the universe happen?

In short, no.  I enourage you to read A Brief History of Time for yourself, in which:

* Stephen Hawking only uses the phrase “First Cause” once in the first chapter to his book, using it to describe others’ theological arguments — not his own — that the universe must have had an origin at some finite time 6-7 millenia in the past;

* Hawking shares an anecdote regarding a visit to the Vatican for a cosmological conference:

“Throughout the 1970s I had been mainly studying black holes, but in 1981 my interest in questions about the origin and fate of the universe was reawakened when I attended a conference on cosmology organized by the Jesuits in the Vatican. The Catholic Church had made a bad mistake with Galileo when it tried to lay down the law on a question of science, declaring that the sun went round the earth. Now, centuries later, it had decided to invite a number of experts to advise it on cosmology. At the end of the conference the participants were granted an audience with the Pope. He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference – the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation. I had no desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I feel a strong sense of identity, partly because of the coincidence of having been born exactly 300 years after his death!”

Hawking continues to discuss throughout the book his idea that spacetime has no boundary, and therefore no discrete beginning, and therefore no need for a creator.  This is a direct contradiction of Larry Leonard’s depiction of Hawking’s book, because Hawking as a scientist is indeed attempting to use science to explain origins in a way that the fake Hawking quote says is impossible to do.

* Hawking does not conclude his book by telling scientists that they cannot possibly understand why the universe exists.  On the contrary, he spends the last page of the last chapter of his book chastising scientists for not trying hard enough to explain the origins of the universe:

“Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why…. However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientsts.  Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist.  If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would know the mind of God.”

Stephen Hawking comes right out and says at the end of the book that scientists can know and should try to know what made the universe happen, and that the answer should be a product of human reason.  This is, again, a direct contradiction of the interpretation of Hawking made by Larry Leonard in his not-quote.

But “Aha!,” some of you may be thinking.  What about that last sentence?  What about Hawking’s notion that, after the successful development of a scientific theory of the origin of the universe, “then we would know the mind of God?”  Isn’t that an endorsement of the idea of a creator of the universe?

No, it’s not.  Last year, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo pressed Hawking about his enigmatic last sentence in A Brief History of Time.  Does that sentence imply that Stephen Hawking believes in God the creator of the universe?  Hawking’s response was emphatic:

“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist. …Religion believes in miracles, but these aren’t compatible with science.”

There you have it.  Not only is the supposed quote of Stephen Hawking not actually real, but Stephen Hawking actually believes the exact opposite of what the fake quote implies.

As this morning’s Google search indicates, the fake Stephen Hawking quote has had little purchase in the past but has been gaining increasing circulation in the last two years.  I hope that this article puts the claim, and the fake quote, to rest.