I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sleazy PZ Myers caught lying

Mike S. Adams, an invited speaker at the University of Minnesota - Morris, charged that Sleazy PZ Myers' following account of the Q&A session following Adams' speech is false:

“…a fellow with a darker complexion and a long ponytail raised his hand to ask a good question, one that was actually very close to what I was going to ask as I was working my way up towards the room. He pointed out the fundamental inconsistency in Adams' conversion story—it didn't make sense that a good liberal would, in anger at feminism, abandon all liberal principles to so whole-heartedly embrace all of the completely contrary principles of conservative extremism (his answer: it was complicated, and there was more to the story than he'd been able to tell—I bet). The questions were just starting to warm up and drill down into Adams' hypocrisy, when one of our local ringleaders, who had jumped up out of his seat when Mr. Radical Ponytail had raised his hand, abruptly cut off the questions.”

The problem for Professor Myer (sic) is that – perhaps unbeknownst to him – the speech was videotaped. The videotape – taken by the school newspaper – will clearly show two things:

1. The man who asked the question about my conversion was white.
2. After I answered the white man’s question, the darker man in the ponytail asked a question about civil liberties, which I answered. He was not prevented from asking a question by a “local ringleader.”

In subsequent posts on his blog Pharyngula, here and here, Sleazy PZ never denied that his above account of the Q&A session is false, and there is the videotape proof that his account is false.

IMO Adams was unfair in thinking that Sleazy PZ was obligated to ask him a question. However, Sleazy PZ had boasted that he was going to ask Adams some tough questions and even asked Pharyngula's readers to suggest questions to ask Adams:

I'm not sure I'll be able to make it to his talk, but if I can, suggest some good questions I can ask him. I'm tempted to ask him to simply expound on the distinction between micro- and macro-evolution, so that he can scuttle himself with his own words…although I suspect his talk itself will be sufficiently foolish on its own.

Sleazy PZ's blog Pharyngula is unfortunately a very popular blog, averaging about 20,000 hits per day, which I believe is about three times the traffic that Panda's Thumb and Uncommon Descent, which are popular multiblogger blogs, get (to see the site meter statistics on his blog, just click on the little rainbow-colored square near the bottom of the left-hand sidebar) . Sleazy PZ even has his own article on Wikipedia.

For more of my posts on Sleazy PZ, just enter "PZ" in the search window in the top border of the blog screen (you must be scrolled to the very top to see the window).



Audio copy of evolution debate in Ohio

The audio copy is here.

Guests: Tom Sawyer, candidate for State Board of Ed; Ken Miller, biologist, Brown University; Deborah Owens-Fink, candidate for the State Board; Chris Williams, biochemist



Monday, October 30, 2006

Cladistic taxonomy: weird spinoff of Darwinism

Darwinists have generally been unable to articulate any reason(s) why Darwinism should be taught at all, let alone why Darwinism should be taught dogmatically. They usually just make a vague statement that teaching Darwinism is necessary to maintain the USA's technological competitiveness, or something like that.

Here are some good reasons for teaching Darwinism:

(1) Being familiar with Darwinism is part of being an educated person because it is widely accepted among scientists.

(2) For scientists, knowing Darwinism is necessary for understanding cladistic taxonomy and some scientific papers.

One reference says about cladistic taxonomy,

The Linnaean system is still used in some branches of biology. But in other branches, and particularly in vertebrate paleontology, it is rapidly being replaced by a system referred to as cladistics or phylogenetic systematics. Cladistics was invented by the German entomologist Hennig in the 1950s, but the basic methods of cladistics were devised in the 19th century by philologists attempting to reconstruct the histories and interrelationships of European languages.

Another reference says,

The basic idea behind cladistics is that members of a group share a common evolutionary history, and are "closely related," more so to members of the same group than to other organisms. These groups are recognized by sharing unique features which were not present in distant ancestors. These shared derived characteristics are called synapomorphies.

Note that it is not enough for organisms to share characteristics, in fact two organisms may share a great many characteristics and not be considered members of the same group. For example, consider a jellyfish, starfish, and a human; which two are most closely related? The jellyfish and starfish both live in the water, have radial symmetry, and are invertebrates, so you might suppose that they belong together in a group. This would not reflect evolutionary relationships, however, since the starfish and human are actually more closely related. It is not just the presence of shared characteristics which is important, but the presence of shared derived characteristics. In the example above, all three characteristics are believed to have been present in the common ancestor of all animals, and so are trivial for determining relationships, since all three organisms in question belong to the group "animals." While humans are different from the other two organisms, they differ only in characteristics which arose newly in an ancestor which is not shared with the other two.
(emphasis in original)

So a starfish is more related to humans than to jellyfish? Is this the sort of stuff they are talking about when they say that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"?

Of course, there is some arbitrariness in traditional Linnaean taxonomy as well. For example, it is somewhat arbitrary to regard bats and cetaceans as mammals with some avian and ichthyic features, respectively, rather than as birds and fish with mammalian features. But cladistic taxonomy carries the arbitrariness to a whole new level.



Scientist said that Tiktaalik discovery created two new "missing links"

The first comment under my post about the Gogonasus fossil said,

YES! Two new gaps in the fossil record for the Cretinists! ;)

One scientist who is not laughing at this joke is Farish Jenkins, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and curator of vertebrate paleontology at Harvard University, who was one of the lead researchers in the Tiktaalik project. An article in the Harvard Gazette said,

Though Tiktaalik has been widely referred to as a "missing link," Jenkins said he thinks the term is a bit of a misnomer and concurs with those who said its discovery just creates two new missing links, one on each side.




Sunday, October 29, 2006

Scientists' open letter attacks Ohio school board candidate

A New York Times article describes an open letter from Case Western Reserve University scientists that attacks Ohio Board of Education candidate Deborah Owens Fink.

The bias of the article is immediately apparent. For example, the article says,

Elsewhere in Ohio, scientists have also been campaigning for candidates who support the teaching of evolution and have recruited at least one biologist from out of state to help.

The above statement implies that Owens Fink and some other candidates are opposed to the teaching of evolution. This is not the case -- Owens Fink and some other candidates are not opposed to the teaching of evolution but want to include a critical analysis of evolution in the curriculum. The above statement would have been more correct to say that scientists have been campaigning for candidates who are opposed to including a critical analysis of evolution in the curriculum.

The NY Times article also states opinions as though they were facts, e.g.,

Although researchers may argue about its details, the theory of evolution is the foundation for modern biology, and there is no credible scientific challenge to it as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth.

My replies to the above statement are in Darwinism is grossly overrated, Darwinism is grossly overrated II, and Darwinism is grossly overrated III.

Red State Rabble has a complete copy of the scientists' letter, which says,

Current Board Member Deborah Owens Fink has referred to the National Academy of Science, the nation’s most prestigious scientific body, as “a group of so-called scientists”, and more generally to all scientists as a “dogmatic community”.

So she called them names -- so what? She has probably been called everything in the book.

According to the NY Times article, she did not specifically remember calling the NAS "a group of so-called scientists": "Dr. Owens Fink . . . said the letter was probably right to say she had dismissed it as 'a group of so-called scientists.' 'I may have said that, yeah,' she said."

The scientists' letter said,
During her tenure on the State School Board she has continued to sideline important issues associated with improving public education in her effort to debase and distort the teaching of science in high schools while attempting to cast controversy on biological evolution in favor of an ill-defined notion called Intelligent Design that courts have ruled is religion, not science.

ID was not part of the Ohio evolution lesson plan that the Ohio Board of Education deleted in February. ID is specifically the idea that some biological systems are too complex to have evolved solely by what we consider to be natural means -- there was nothing about that in the lesson plan and in fact the lesson plan expressly denied that teaching ID was one of its purposes.

Also, I have seen no evidence that she "sidelined" other important issues or that she tried to "debase and distort" the teaching of science in general.

And ID was ruled to be religion by a single judge, not "courts."

. . .our views thus reflect the views of the majority of the science community in Northeast Ohio

Case Western Reserve University has a minority of the scientists in Northeastern Ohio.

This letter is full of lies.

I don't see what these scientists are bellyaching about. Millions of tax dollars per year are spent on evolution research. For example, scientists get public funding for fossil hunts that could turn out to be wild goose chases. And there is no evidence that fossil hunting produces technological spinoffs of benefit to the public -- the fossil hunts mostly just pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake.

Scientists who argue that criticisms of Darwinism are absurd ought to put their money-grubbing mitts where their mouths are by signing a pledge to never accept one dime of research money for anything that directly addresses those criticisms, e.g., research into determining the evolvability of irreducibly complex biological systems.

For more info on the situation in Ohio, just enter "Ohio" in the search window in the top border of the blog screen. You must be scrolled to the very top to see this window.


Dear National Science Foundation,

I would like a grant of one billion dollars for a research program to show that criticisms of my theory are so ridiculous that they are not even worthy of consideration.


Prof. Charles Darwin



Friday, October 27, 2006

Anti-Darwinism in the UK II

This post is about two recent articles in The Independent and the Guardian Unlimited concerning the evolution controversy in the UK.

The Guardian Unlimited article says,

The rest of us can savour the antics of Baptist churches and Deep South demagogues as one of our greatest voyeuristic pleasures - the pornography of the politically literate.

Anti-Darwinism is a national movement, not just a movement in the "Deep South."

The Guardian article says,
Every time a film crew comes back with footage of tele-evangelists milking their flocks, the seductive thought that there is no moral difference between Christian fundamentalism and Islamism becomes a little more appealing.

To my knowledge, except for some death threats against Judge Jones and an alleged attack on Kansas Univ. Prof. Paul Mirecki, no anti-Darwinist has committed or threatened to commit an act of terrorism on behalf of anti-Darwinism.

The Guardian article says,
To be told that it is easier for creationists to get at children in Britain than the US is as shockingly incongruous as opening a paper and reading that more prisoners are executed in Devon than Texas.

The first statement may seem incongruous but it is true. The Wikipedia article on English "academies" says --

Since 2000, "Academy" in England can mean a type of secondary school which is independent but publicly funded and publicly run . . . .

In return for an investment of 10% of the Academy's capital costs (or £2m, whichever is less), the sponsor is able to input into the process of establishing the school including its curriculum, ethos, specialism and building (if a new one is being built), and the power to appoint governors to the Academy's Governing Body . . . .

The programme of creating Academies has also been heavily criticised for handing schools to private sector entrepreneurs who in many cases have no experience of the education sector -- most notoriously, the Evangelical Christian car dealer, Sir Peter Vardy, who has been accused of pushing the teaching of creationism in two academies he sponsors in Gateshead and Middlesbrough (the latter being The King's Academy). This is also linked to the wider concerns held in the education sector as to the growing role of religion in the school system being promoted by the New Labour government in general, and Tony Blair in particular, with many Academies being sponsored either by religious groups or organisations/individuals with a religious bias.

More details are here (another Guardian Unlimited article).

The Guardian article says,
The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches accept evolution, although there are signs from polls that the people likely to found Muslim schools do not.

Wrong. The Catholic church certainly has not completely accepted evolution theory and there is controversy over the extent to which the Anglican church has accepted the theory.

The Guardian article says,
As in the United States, old-time creationism is dressed up in the pseudo-scientific garb of intelligent design.

Would Darwin have propounded his theory if he knew what we know today?

The Guardian article says,
. . .a federal judge ruled that a Pennsylvania school board's policy of teaching intelligent design in high-school biology class was unconstitutional because it was clearly a religious idea that advances 'a particular version of Christianity'.

His judgment showed that the great push by American Christians to challenge Darwin was doomed to fail . .

How could a single judge stop a movement as big as the challenge to Darwinism? He hardly even slowed it down. Also, as for the statement that ID "advances 'a particular version of Christianity,'" there are many ID supporters who are not motivated by Christianity or any other theistic religion, just as there are many Darwinists who are not motivated by the religion of atheism.

BTW, the name of the author of the Guardian Unlimited article is Nick Cohen. Sounds like a Jew to me. Maybe he has a grudge against Christianity.

The article in The Independent is more like a news article than the Guardian Unlimited article -- which is obviously an opinion piece -- but is also obviously slanted, too. For example, the article in The Independent says,

When a Pennsylvania school board tried to introduce the controversy last year it was slammed by the courts.

The Pennsylvania school board's action was "slammed" by a single judge, not by the "courts."

The article in The Independent also says,

Last year Dr Behe had to admit in a US courtroom . . . . that such [irreducibly complex] organisms could be the result of evolution . . .

I am not aware that he made any such admission.

Also, in several places the article states opinion as though it were fact.



Thursday, October 26, 2006

Another quote mine

An AOL news article on the honeybee genome research project says,

"This DNA sequence is a major step toward answering a basic question of social evolution: at the genomic level, what does it take to engineer an advanced colonial insect?" said Edward Wilson, of Harvard University in a commentary on the research.

"Engineer"? A Freudian slip? The above quote is another entry for those books "That Their Words May Be Used Against Them" and "Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter."



Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Update on evolution education issue in Ohio

Some background information is in my article titled "Evolution education is a hot potato in Ohio".

The Akron Beacon Journal reported the following statements from the District 7 and District 8 candidates for the Ohio Board of Education:

What is your stand on the proposed "Controversial Issues Template" that provides teachers guidance on teaching controversial subjects? The plan has had support from Deborah Owens Fink, among others on the state school board. They said it would elevate discussion on controversial issues.

Many scientists criticize it, saying it would create the illusion of controversy where it doesn't exist and also could open the door for religion-based challenges to evolution. (The state school board recently voted to end discussion of the guidelines, although one member said he intends to keep it alive.)

District 7 candidates

Jones: I see nothing wrong with the proposed "Controversial IssuesTemplate." Teaching controversial subjects should be explored. Who gave scientists the ultimate authority? If you put two or more scientists in a blue room they could not agree on the color.

Kovacs: Biology teachers know best how to teach their subject. My campaign proposes something far more controversial than creationism: Teach students to think for themselves. This can be accomplished by creating elective classes in philosophy and funding courses in philosophical ethics. The division of sciences must be maintained.

Owens Fink: Those opposed to this template have likely not read it. It was developed to provide teachers and students with tools to improve classroom instruction, prepare them for the global economy. It could be used to discuss Darwinian thought... or any area such as social studies to discuss immigration policies or Iraq.

Sawyer: I support teaching evolution. It is grounded in numerous basic sciences and is itself a foundational life science. By contrast, creationism in its many forms is not science but theology. And while faith is important to most Americans, its interpretation is best left to our many diverse faith communities.

District 8 candidates

Cain: The state school board just voted to remove the "Controversial Issues Template" and I support that removal.

Craig: The template has not been proposed. It was distributed... by the Ohio Department of Education staff, for the (state school board's) achievement committee... to look at. While I believe it is a great idea to have students think, I have had no students, teachers, administrators or parents say that we need this type of lesson plan.

So what candidate Craig seems to be saying is that no students, teachers, administrators or parents have said that we need to have students think.

District 7 candidate Deborah Owens Fink is the incumbent and has been one of the Board of Education's chief advocates of including critical analysis of evolution in the curriculum. Tom Sawyer, one of her election opponents, says above that he is opposed to teaching creationism in the public schools, but none of the proposed lesson plans included creationism or even intelligent design. Also, even though it was Darwinists who persuaded Sawyer to run, his campaign website is giving a very low profile to the evolution issue -- the issue is not even mentioned on the website's homepage or on a webpage titled "About the Campaign." A backpage has links to news articles that discuss this issue. One particularly informative article listed here says,

Some of the scientists rallied like-minded people across the country to flood the e-mail boxes of school board members, urging them to reject a proposed template for teachers to follow when covering controversial issues such as global warming, stem-cell research and evolution.

Board President Sue Westendorf said she's received between 25,000 and 30,000 e-mails.

However, the above statements could be misleading because a significant fraction of those emails could have come from those who support the proposed template. Darwinists are not the only ones who can rally the faithful.

Also, well-known fanatic Darwinist Ken Miller is scheduled to give seven pre-election speeches across the state in three days on the subject, "Science, God, & Intelligent-Design: Why all three matter in the 2006 Ohio elections." Also, Ohio State University will be hosting a panel discussion and a series of lectures on the controversy in the period November 1-3. It is apparent that Ohio is now considered to be a key state in the controversy over evolution education in the public schools.



Monday, October 23, 2006

Update on S 3696

As I previously reported, HR 2679, the House version of the Public Expressions of Religion Act (PERA), the bill that would bar attorney fee awards to winning plaintiffs in establishment clause lawsuits, passed by a wide margin, 244 to 173. Sadly, however, a broadcast email from the StoptheACLU Coalition said that the outlook for the Senate version, S 3696, is not good:

To our disappointment, the U.S. Senate is not expected to pick up this legislation in a brief lame duck session after the November 7th election; however, if you are concerned that this bill gets a hearing before the official end of the 109th Congress, contact Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist by either calling his office at (202) 224-3344 or fax at (202) 228-1264 and urge him to push for a vote on Senate Bill 3696 prior to adjournment.

We urge you to contact your two U.S. senators and ask them to vote YES on SB 3696, should it come up for a vote.

I sent the following email to the StoptheACLU Coalition:

I am very disappointed to learn that the outlook for S 3696, the Public Expression of Religion Act (PERA), the bill that would bar attorney fee awards to winning plaintiffs in establishment clause cases, is not good.

I think that a bill that would cap attorney fee awards in both establishment clause and free exercise clause lawsuits would have many of the same benefits as the current version of S 3696 and have a much better chance of passage. It is much harder to argue against a prohibition of exorbitant fee awards than against a complete prohibition of fee awards.

A fee cap law would still allow attorney fee awards for the worst establishment clause abuses, e.g., school prayer. I am opposed to school prayer because it invades the privacy of religious belief. I am afraid that PERA as now written could lead to a great increase in efforts to impose school prayer.

Also, there are some situations where there may be threats of both establishment clause and free-exercise clause lawsuits -- e.g., where a person or private group tries to publicly express religious belief. Government prohibition of such expression could lead to a free-exercise suit and government allowance of such expression could lead to an establishment clause suit. Capping fees for both kinds of suits would strike a balance.

What would be a good fee cap? I feel that a clear-cut violation of one of those clauses -- e.g., an attempt to impose school prayer -- should cost the plaintiff almost nothing. However, even a generous cap, say, 80 hours @ $300/hr. or $24,000, which at 40/hrs. week would provide for 1 full week of court time and 1 full week of office time, would be an order-of-magnitude improvement over some of the past awards which have been in the range of $1 million. Any establishment clause suit that would require more time from the plaintiffs' attorneys would be so marginal as to hardly be worth worrying about. If more attorney time than this is needed, plaintiffs and/or their pro bono legal representatives should be on their own. I think that the cap should be in terms of hours instead of dollars in order to allow for different pay rates and inflation. Also, I think there should be an allowance for the extra fees of appeals.

I think that even a strong supporter of the current versions of S 3696 and HR 2679 could support my fee cap idea because half a loaf is better than none. These fee awards have gotten out of hand and something needs to be done promptly.


Larry Fafarman

BTW, there are two "StoptheACLU" outfits -- StoptheACLU and StoptheACLU Coalition.

The Senate and House versions of the bill appear to be identical except for a section titled "Effective Date" in the House version (more about this section later). I am somewhat disturbed by these bills' provisions intended to benefit the Boy Scouts (the following provision is for suits against the federal government but there is a similar provision for suits against state and local governments):

(b) Definition- As used in this section, the term `a claim of injury consisting of the violation of a prohibition in the Constitution against the establishment of religion' includes a claim of injury resulting from--

(1) a veterans' memorial's containing religious words or imagery;

(2) a Federal building's containing religious words or imagery;

(3) the presence of religious words or imagery in the official seal of the United States and in its currency and official Pledge; or

(4) the chartering of Boy Scout units by components of the Armed Forces of the United States and by other public entities, and the Boy Scouts' using Department of Defense and other public installations.

I don't think that this provision would give much protection to the Boy Scouts, because suits against government benefits for the Boy Scouts are likely to be based on the 14th Amendment and the free-exercise clause as well as the establishment clause. As for the Boy Scouts' discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual orientation, I think that the Boy Scouts are still entitled to free use of public facilities under the following conditions: (1) such use is not exclusive or preferential and (2) such use is at no expense to the government. An example would be the use of public school facilities after school hours. On the other hand, I feel that the Boy Scouts are not entitled to exclusive or preferential use of a public facility for free or at a discounted rental price. And I feel that this is not just a matter of the Boy Scouts' practice of discrimination -- I feel that no private organization is automatically entitled to a benefit that costs the government money, whether or not that organization discriminates and whether or not similar organizations receive a similar benefit. The Sea Scouts recently sued the city of Berkeley, Calif., for discontinuing free berths for the Scouts' boats in the city's marina (the Sea Scouts are now paying for a single berth costing $500/month). The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Scouts and the US Supreme Court declined to review the decision. Also, the ACLU sued San Diego, demanding that the city end the Boy Scouts' leases of Balboa Park land at $1/yr. and Fiesta Island land for free. After a federal district court judge ruled against San Diego, the city decided not to appeal and to give the plaintiffs nearly $1 million in attorney fees and court costs. I wonder how they ran up such a big legal bill because I presume that there was no expert witness testimony, unlike the situation in Kitzmiller v. Dover (original bill over $2 million, negotiated down to $1 million).

The House version's section titled "Effective Date" says,

This Act and the amendments made by this Act take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act and apply to any case that--

(1) is pending on such date of enactment; or

(2) is commenced on or after such date of enactment.

Applying the bill to pending lawsuits is of course unfair because past decisions of the plaintiffs and their legal representatives (concerning whether to sue or appeal, whether to represent the plaintiffs, etc.) would be based on the rules existing when those decisions were made.



Saturday, October 21, 2006

Backlash against judges

It looks like arrogant judges who think that they can get away with anything may soon get their comeuppances. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported:

DENVER — Judges across several Western states could soon face new limits on their authority and threats to their independence, as conservatives campaign for ballot measures that aim to rein in what they describe as "runaway courts."

Frustration among the right has been building for years, especially since the high court in Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Politicians and pastors have accused judges of ignoring the public will and legislating from the bench . . . . .

South Dakota's Amendment E would have the most sweeping effect; it has drawn opposition from conservatives and liberals — including, in a rare show of unanimity, every member of the state Legislature.

Under the amendment judges in the state could lose their jobs or assets if citizens disliked how they sentenced a criminal, resolved a business dispute or settled a divorce. "We want to give power back to the people," said Jake Hanes, a spokesman for the measure.

A special grand jury would evaluate citizen complaints against judges — and judges would not be presumed innocent. Amendment E explicitly instructs jurors to "liberally" tilt in favor of any citizen with a grievance, and "not to be swayed by artful presentation by the judge."

Amendment E is titled "Judicial Accountability Initiative Law" (J.A.I.L.). The campaign website is here and the state legislature's resolution opposing the amendment is here. It is noteworthy that the resolution contains statements having nothing to do with the merits of the proposed amendment, e.g.,

WHEREAS, Amendment E was drafted by a resident of California and the petitions were circulated by paid out-of-state persons; and

WHEREAS, the Amendment E petition failed to get more than a few thousand signatures in California, and thus was never submitted to California voters; and . . . . .

South Dakota, like California, has a "direct" initiative (proposition placed directly on ballot) but no "indirect" initiative (proposition submitted to the legislature first). It seems that by voting on a resolution on Amendment E, the S.D. legislature was treating this proposition as though it had been created by an indirect initiative. I have lived in California for many years and seen dozens of propositions and to my knowledge the state legislature has never voted on a resolution regarding any one of them. I think that it was grossly improper of the S.D. legislature to vote on Amendment E.

Also, I think that the S.D. legislature is rather hypocritical about claiming to have a high respect for judicial decisions, because a recently enacted hard-line S.D. anti-abortion law was intended to be a direct challenge of Roe v. Wade.

The initials of Amendment E's title, J.A.I.L., are also the initials of the organization pushing the amendment. Maybe about 10 years ago, when I was fighting California's abominable motor-vehicle "smog impact fee," I participated in a J.A.I.L. demonstration at a courthouse -- there was just a handful of demonstrators. I never expected the organization to get as far as it has today.

I fired off the following letter to the L.A. Times in response to the article --

I wonder how much of public resentment of judges is the result of bad personal experiences with judges. I am not just talking about disagreement with the judges' decisions -- I am talking about gross malpractice on the part of judges, e.g., issuing decisions without opinions, arbitrary and capricious decisions, and apparent collusion with attorneys, particularly government attorneys. I have experienced all of these things as a pro se (self-represented) litigant. Complaints about bad personal experiences with judges should not just be dismissed as "sore loser" reactions -- attorneys have told me that judges are prejudiced against pro se litigants. Also, judges often make time for high-profile cases by giving short shrift to low-profile cases.

This resentment of judges might be a threat to judicial independence, but I think that this resentment also has a silver lining. For example, the Los Angeles Superior/Municipal Court's new special office for assisting pro se litigants could be an indication that the judges are starting to feel the heat.

The author of the article sent the following reply --

thanks for your interest in the article --

i think you're absolutely right. my sense is that the leaders of the movement to rein in judges have broad ideological objections to the way the courts are run. but they get support from the masses because people like yourself have had bad experiences in court, either in trials or in settling divorces or even something as simple as trying to pay a traffic ticket or reschedule jury duty

in any case, i appreciate your taking the time to write ---.

There are several articles in this blog on the subject of "judicial independence." The blog search window appears to be working again, so it is only necessary to enter those words in the window. The blog search window is in the top border of the blog and is not visible unless you are scrolled to the very top.



Friday, October 20, 2006

Hoopla about another "missing link" discovery

The Darwinists' jubilation over recent discoveries of "missing link" fossils is a sign of growing desperation. A few months ago, there was a lot of hoopla about a fossil called "Tiktaalik" and now there is a lot of hoopla about a fossil called "Gogonasus".

PZ Myers enthused,

One of the success stories of evolutionary theory is that we keep finding these organisms that fit so well into an evolutionary framework, and another is that these discoveries lead to further predictions. Gogonasus is no exception: its discovery in Australia suggests that there ought to be more transitional tetrapodomorphs waiting to be found there, and the researchers have already started looking for them.

What is the big "prediction" here? That where a particular fossil is found, similar fossils are likely to be found? How does that prediction compare, say, with Einstein's theory of relativity's prediction that stars' apparent positions would shift during a solar eclipse as a result of the bending of light by the sun's gravity?

Also, "transitional" or "intermediate" species like Tiktaalik and Gogonasus have been known for a long time. For example, the fossil Archaeopteryx has characteristics of birds and reptiles, and monotremes today have characteristics of mammals, birds, and reptiles (BTW, some scientists are now doubting that Archaeopteryx is a transitional form). So why all the hoopla about Tiktaalik and Gogonasus?

Also, though these transitional or intermediate species provide evidence of "changes through time," they provide little or no evidence of the mechanisms that caused these changes.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

TV debates on intelligent design v. evolution

Evolution News & Views has information on TV debates on ID v. evolution (broadcast times for Part 2, a link to a transcript of Part 1, etc.)



Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Darwinist Richard Dawkins' speech at Kansas Univ.

A Lawrence Journal-World news report on Richard Dawkins' recent speech at KU said,

“I know you here are in the front-line trench against powerful forces of darkness,” Dawkins told a more-than-full audience at Kansas University’s Lied Center Monday night. “I salute the science teachers of Kansas. Fight the good fight.”

The good fight, Dawkins said, was one in favor of the science of evolution rather than the “rotten logic” of intelligent design and creationism, he said.

Wow -- "powerful forces of darkness." And the Darwinists condemn the fundies for pushing those Darwin-to-Hitler theories!

And "rotten logic" of intelligent design and creationism? There is "good" logic and "bad" logic, that sort of thing, but "rotten" logic? Dawkins is really getting desperate.

BTW, the LJW report falsely identifies Dawkins as a physicist -- he is an evolutionary biologist.

“I.D. is granted immunity from the rigorous standards of science,” he said.

Wrong. ID, unlike Darwinism, makes no claims beyond what can be demonstrated by science.

Those gaps in theories are what scientists fill with research, with their lives’ work. It’s also what creationists and intelligent design proponents fill with a divine being.

“If you don’t understand something, forget it,” Dawkins said. “Just say God did it. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away.”

ID and other scientific criticisms of evolution theory actually spur scientific research by forcing scientists to confront weaknesses in the theory. For example, research to determine possible evolutionary pathways for irreducibly complex systems is really ID research or ID-inspired research. Suppression of scientific criticism of evolution theory is anti-science and anti-intellectual.

The Red State Rabble reported,

Early on in his talk, Dawkins cited British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle as saying that the probability of producing life from evolutionary processes was about same as finding that a fully operational Boeing 747 jumbo jet had been assembled by a tornado passing through a junkyard.

Turning that argument back on itself, Dawkins observed that any designer must be at least as complex as the objects designed.

"God," Dawkins said to loud applause, "is the ultimate 747."

An atheist saying, "god is the ultimate 747"? That is strange.

One blogger reported that infamous KU Prof. Paul Mirecki was in attendance. Mirecki wrote on a semi-public Internet forum that his new course describing ID and creationism as "mythologies" would be a "nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies." Mirecki's misadventures are described in several articles in the "Evolution in Kansas" series of Lawrence Journal-World.

Dawkins' speech at KU is also discussed here, here, and here.



Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Museum exhibit on evolution is one-sided

A Philadelphia Inquirer news article about a traveling evolution exhibit that originated in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City said:

Though preparations began before controversy erupted in Dover, Pa., the exhibit nevertheless devotes ample space to the debate.

A continuous video loop features various biologists explaining how Darwin's theory is supported by science, contrary to the concept (supported by the Dover school board) that the diversity of species is the work of an intelligent designer.

The designers of the exhibit cannot claim that there is no debate, because they did give one side of the debate. They should either give both sides of the debate or neither. An article in Natural History, a magazine published by AMNH, presented both sides of the debate, so why shouldn't an AMNH exhibit also present both sides?

Also, the second quoted sentence from the news article is biased because it said that Darwin's theory is supported by science but mentioned only the Dover school board as support for intelligent design. The article failed to note that intelligent design (as well as other criticisms of evolution theory) is at least supported by scientific observations and some scientists. Actually, it might not even be correct to say that ID was "supported" by the Dover school board, because some of the board members said that they did not bother to learn about ID because it was not actually being taught to the students.

There are other examples of bias in the news article. The following statements in bold should have been presented as opinion rather than as fact:

The state of science knowledge in this country particularly vexes Eldredge, the exhibit curator, whose own work has been erroneously used by creationists to discredit Darwin.

Working with the late Stephen Jay Gould, Eldredge proposed that evolution was not a steady, gradual process, as Darwin believed, but one marked by bursts of activity in between long periods with little change. Yet that is a minor disagreement in the context of a widely accepted theory that shaped modern biology.

Also, the news article said of Judge John E. Jones III, who decided the Kitzmiller v. Dover case,

Jones himself later saw the show in New York and may see it again in Philadelphia, he said in an telephone interview.

"It's very hard to get Charles Darwin out of my mind," Jones says.

It's very hard to get Charles Darwin out of his mind, he says? According to Red State Rabble, that is not what he said in a speech at Kansas University on September 26:

Despite intense interest in the case, Jones did not say much in his talk about the Dover trial, the details of which, he said, were rapidly receding from his memory as he hears and rules on new cases.

"There are only so many parking stalls in your head," he joked. "You have to make space for new cars to pull in."

If Jones got rid of some of the rocks in his head, he would make more room for ideas.

Also, during the Dover trial, Jones said that he was considering seeing again the historically inaccurate movie "Inherit the Wind" to help give him a "historical perspective" that might help in deciding the case. The movie pokes fun at fundies who oppose Darwinism. So outside of court, Jones has apparently been getting just a one-sided view of the debate. To get a more balanced picture, maybe Judge Jones should visit the creation museum that is scheduled to open in Kentucky next year. Who knows, he might even some day regret his decision to rule on the scientific merits of intelligent design and irreducible complexity.



Monday, October 16, 2006

"Creationist" Kansas school board scapegoated for alleged damage to state economy

A Lawrence Journal-World news article reported,

Topeka — Calling her an “elitist” and a “big-government liberal,” the state school board’s chairman on Friday criticized Gov. Kathleen Sebelius over her proposal to strip the board of its power to set education policy.

Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican who is part of the Kansas State Board of Education’s conservative majority, took the Democratic governor to task for suggesting that its adoption last year of science standards seen as anti-evolution had damaged Kansas’ economic development efforts . . . . .

"I expect a big-government liberal like our governor to oppose conservative politics. But to infer that the State Board of Education is responsible for the lack of economic development in Kansas is laughable,” he [said].

That's like blaming the demise of Southern California's aerospace industry on the University of California's rejection of Christian-school biology courses that use particular "creationist" biology textbooks.

The last I heard, the high-tech aviation industry in the Kansas city of Wichita, the "Detroit of the general aviation industry," was doing fairly well.

Maybe Gov. Sebelius thinks that businesses' choices of states for locations should be based on the Fordham Institute's map of evolution education ratings. Most of the "failed" and "marginal" states on this map are in the "Bible Belt" and the Midwest, but Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin are among the "failed" states and there was a lot of publicity about the controversy over Ohio's proposed lesson plan for a critical analysis of evolution.

Gov. Sebelius criticized the state rather than the state's detractors. I don't think that she is going to get many votes that way.



Anti-Darwinism in Europe

Anti-Darwinism in Europe is described here and here.

One thing is for sure -- the claim that a critical analysis of Darwinism in US public schools would necessarily put the US at an international competitive disadvantage, which was always a very weak argument, has been shown to be utterly without foundation.



Sunday, October 15, 2006

Evolution education in Iowa

The Republican Party of Iowa State Platform says,

We support the teaching of alternative theories on the origins of life including Darwinian Evolution, Creation Science or Intelligent Design, and that each should be given equal weight in presentation.

Also, a news article reported,

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Bob Vander Plaats said he believes intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in schools.

Vander Plaats made the comments during a meeting with students on the Iowa State University campus Tuesday. He had not discussed the issue with his running mate, Jim Nussle [candidate for governor], he told the students, but he believes the two ideas warrant equal time in the classroom.

"If we are going to teach evolution, there is another viewpoint and one that holds pretty good too (evolution) in regards to creation," Vander Plaats said. "I think that is something that I would want to visit further along with Jim Nussle in regards to 'Where are you at on that?' But my viewpoint is I would like to give both of these (time in the classroom)."

However, the state GOP platform's and Vander Plaats' above statements might be moot because the Iowa Department of Education's science standards are based on national standards:

Iowa school districts' science standards are aligned with the National Science Education Standards. The science content network team used the national science standards' content categories to organize the studies reviewed. These categories include Inquiry, Life Science, Physical Science, Earth/Space Science, Science & Technology, and History of Science. (my comment: it is often stated that Iowa has no state science standards, but that is not a completely accurate statement)

Because Iowa science standards are based on the national standards, Iowa is the only state in the USA that was not included in the Fordham Institute's 2005 report on state science standards (the Fordham Institute and the Fordham Foundation have no connection to Fordham University). IMO the report overemphasizes the evolution education standards -- though these standards are assigned just a maximum 3 points possible out of a maximum possible overall score of 69 points for all the science standards, evolution is given special emphasis in the "executive summary." Also, the evaluations of the evolution standards were unreasonable -- two states, Kansas and Ohio, were condemned just for including critical analysis of evolution in the standards. Kansas's evolution standards rating was "not even failed" (see the end of the executive summary of the report), and the report's principal author threatened to downgrade Ohio's overall science score from "B" to "F" just because of the evolution standards (see "Statement from the Authors of the Fordham Report", posted on January 21). I don't have any faith in the Fordham science standards ratings in general, as they do not take student performance into account (and one study claimed that these ratings have no correlation with student performance) and the evaluation questions are too vague, arbitrary, and subjective: e.g., expectations, purpose, audience; quality; seriousness; and inquiry.

On the one hand, I tend to favor uniform national science standards because individual state & local science standards result in non-uniformity and unnecessary and wasteful duplication. On the other hand, I tend to favor individual state & local science standards because they offer the best opportunities for introducing critical analysis of evolution into the curriculum.

The Iowa state Republican party's support for creationism and intelligent design is not unusual. Last year, USA Today reported,

Republicans and conservatives are divided over intelligent design. Seven state Republican parties — Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas — have "anti-evolutionist" platform planks that support teaching creationism and/or intelligent design, according to the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education.

But the national GOP platform does not mention it. In Pennsylvania, says party spokesman Josh Wilson, "there are Republicans on both sides" and it has never come up at a state committee meeting.

A few conservatives in Congress have aligned themselves with intelligent design.



Saturday, October 14, 2006

New crackpot Darwinist outfit in UK

The homepage of the website of the British Centre for Science Education says:

The British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) is a new international group of individuals formed to act as an umbrella organisation, with the primary purpose of stopping the teaching of Creationism in UK state schools . . . .

The United Kingdom is faced with a highly organised, well-funded coalition of fundamentalist Young Earth Creationist groups . . . .

The creationist movement receives money and assistance from other parts of the world including Australia, through Creation Ministries International and Creation Research International and the United States, through such organisations and individuals as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, the Discovery Institute, and Howard Ahmanson, the American billionaire recluse who also funds the Discovery Institute . . . . .

In particular, the movement is targeting the teaching of biology, physics, geology and geography in British schools, either directly within the lessons or through guest speakers and Christian Unions. Their actions undermine or subvert the teaching of these subjects and can result in the failure of pupils to pass their exams . . . .

The position has become so serious that two well respected and established British universities, Leeds and Leicester, are introducing compulsory remedial courses to undo the damage done . . . .

. . . . the movement includes extreme political objectives, one of which is the replacement of democracy with a theocracy based on its extreme religious opinions. Howard Ahmanson was, for a quarter of a century, on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation which advocated the murder of those that disagreed with its fundamentalist religion, and the re-introduction of slavery. Ahmanson funds the Discovery Institute, which has a clear agenda to take political power and he is also deeply involved in the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.




No pecking order in Bill of Rights

Some stupid fatheads have this crazy notion that the order of listing of the protections in the Bill of Rights has something to do with their relative importance. So these idiots reason that the establishment clause and the free-exercise clause are the most important protections in the Bill of Rights because they are first in the list. So an outfit with the stupid name "First Freedom First" says of the Constitution's framers , "So strong was their commitment to religious freedom that they enshrined it in the first sentence of the Bill of Rights." The establishment clause often just involves a "right" to not be offended, which is not even in the Bill of Rights. Sheeesh.



Thursday, October 12, 2006

S 3696 has 18 co-sponsors

I discovered that S 3696, the Senate version of the bill that would bar attorney fee awards to winning plaintiffs in establishment clause cases, has 18 co-sponsors in addition to the sponsor, for a total of 19 supporters, close to one-fifth of the Senate. That's not bad. In fact, it's pretty good.

One reference currently says that S 3696 has only 5 co-sponsors. This reference's list of co-sponsors notes, "Cosponsorship information sometimes is out of date." Well, duh. All of the 13 co-sponsors added in September are missing.

The House version of the bill, HR 2679, has already passed the House by the comfortable margin of 244-173. HR 2679 had only 66 sponsors when it passed, a relatively small fraction of the number of yes votes received, so I think there is hope for S 3696.

Some people were saying just a short time ago that these bills didn't have a chance.

As I have said many times, I do not consider these bills to be ideal. For example, I think that a cap on fee awards for both establishment clause and free-exercise clause lawsuits is a much better idea than a ban on fee awards in just establishment clause lawsuits. But I consider these bills to be much better than nothing. If these bills are enacted into law, the "Dover trap" nightmare will be over.

Also, legislators and school board members need to be informed that it is possible for them to win "monkey" trials concerning criticisms of Darwinism in official public-school curricula. For example, the Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish evolution disclaimer case came within a single vote of being granted an en banc (full court) appeals court rehearing and within a single vote of being accepted for review by the Supreme Court, and there is a good chance that the Selman v. Cobb County textbook sticker case will eventually be decided in favor of the school board.

In opposing these bills, Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton has been arguing that fundy organizations also benefit from fee-shifting: "There have been lots of cases where conservative Christian legal groups have sued the government for violating the constitution, won, and been reimbursed for expenses just like the ACLU." However, the fundies' lawsuits are normally based on the free-exercise clause (and maybe also the free speech clause) and not on the establishment clause -- I couldn't imagine the fundies suing the government for endorsing Christianity. And if the fee awards in establishment clause cases are banned, then who is going to lead a campaign to get revenge on the fundies by getting the fee awards banned in free-exercise cases too? The ACLU? The Americans United for Separation of Church and State? Even the atheists have benefited from the free exercise clause -- the courts have held that atheism is a "religion" for purposes of interpreting constitutional protections.



Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Evolution education is a hot potato in Ohio

I last reported the Ohio evolution education situation in this article. The present situation is described here, here, here, here, and here. If you are confused, welcome to the club. Here is the history, as well as I can piece it together:

In early January, following the release of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision on December 20, the Ohio Board of Education held a non-agenda phony "emergency" vote on whether or not to keep a controversial "critical analysis" evolution lesson plan, and voted to keep the plan.

In February, the board held another phony "emergency" vote on whether to keep the lesson plan and this time voted to delete it, but also passed a resolution titled "Resolution 31" that asked the board's achievement committee to determine what language, if any, should replace the deleted lesson plan.

A replacement plan, called a "controversial issues template," was on the agenda for the September achievement committee meeting. Copies of the plan were distributed to committee members, but there was no discussion and no vote on it. Also, the plan was not considered at the meeting of the full board on the next day.

The template and Resolution 31 were not on the agenda for the October board meeting, but in a third phony "emergency" vote, the board voted Tuesday to repeal Resolution 31 (someone should sue the living crap out of the Ohio BOE for abusing the "emergency" exceptions of the Ohio open meetings laws). The motion approved by the board said,

RESOLVED, That the Achievement Committee of the State Board of Education, having recommended no response to Board Resolution 31 referred to it in February 2006, is hereby discharged from further consideration of Resolution 31 and anything arising therefrom, including the template for teaching controversial issues.

Though the board repealed Board Resolution 31, there was no report of any vote to reject the template that was proposed at the September board meetings. Jim Craig, co-chairman of the achievement committee, said Monday that the template may go on the department's web site for four to six months to test public reaction. So the board may still have something up its sleeve. One thing that the board members have staring them in the face is the fact that a large percentage of the public -- possibly a majority -- is in favor of teaching the weaknesses of evolution as well as evolution. School-board election races where evolution education was a major issue have been close. Anyway, Darwinists who think that this issue is going away anytime soon have another thing coming.

The reaction of John West of the Discovery Institute is here.

In other news, the Michigan state Board of Education unanimously decided to not include intelligent design in the state's education guidelines. However, Dick DeVos, the state's Republican gubernatorial candidate, said last month that he is in favor of teaching intelligent design along with evolution in science classes, though he said the decision should be left up to local school districts.

I think that there is a need to distinguish between (1) the inclusion of the actual teaching of criticisms of evolution in official curricula and (2) the inclusion of "evolution disclaimers" in official curricula.


And it's slower in Ohio, too --



Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Judge Jones' lame excuses

The Lutheran magazine, in an article reporting an interview of Judge John E. "I am not a lousy judge" Jones III, said,

Some critics thought Jones went too far in ruling on whether intelligent design is science or not. “Both sides asked me to render a decision on that precise issue,” he said. “Had I not done so, there was every chance that this same issue would have arisen before another tribunal."

How could a federal judge be so ignorant -- or pretend to be so ignorant -- of basic judicial principles? A judge is not required to rule on something just because both sides asked for a ruling. And judges are not supposed to make rulings just for the purpose of allegedly saving other courts the possible task of judging the same issue in the future. And if the issue comes up again in another court, that other court would have to rule independently on the issue anyway because the Dover decision is not controlling precedent.

“I didn’t think a school district somewhere else should be exposed to the costs and fees that the Dover School District ended up paying (more than $1 million) as a result of my ducking that issue.”

I am sure that you have the everlasting gratitude of other school districts.

There is an easier way of preventing school districts from getting ripped off like this in the future: a bill -- which recently passed the House by a large margin -- that would prohibit the award of attorney fees to winning plaintiffs in establishment clause cases.

You could have followed the precedent of Edwards v. Aguillard, where the Supreme Court approved the district court judge's refusal to hear expert witness testimony on the grounds that such testimony would not have illuminated the purposes of legislators. I believe that some of the Dover school board members said that they did not even need to understand intelligent design themselves because it was not actually being taught to the students.

John, you are able to bullshit ignoramuses like Ed Brayton but you can't bullshit me because I know how the courts operate -- judges couldn't care less about saving the litigants or the courts any time, money, and trouble. I remember one environmental lawsuit where the plaintiffs failed to give the federal and state governments a required 60-days notice of intent to sue. The plaintiffs corrected that defect by giving the required 60-days notice after the lawsuit had commenced and the district court later ruled against the defendant. However, the appeals court dismissed the case because the 60-days notice had not been given prior to filing the lawsuit, and the Supreme Court upheld that dismissal! See Hallstrom v. Tillamook County, 493 U.S. 20 (1989). The dissenters on the Supreme Court said, "The Court fails to recognize ... that there is no necessary connection between a violation of that statute [the statute requiring 60-days notice] and any particular sanction for noncompliance."

Jones said critics should “read the court transcript” rather than making an “abstract” critique.

So you are saying that your critics should read through six weeks of courtroom testimony before criticizing your decision? That's absurd.

They make much of my being a Republican judge who didn’t rule the way they would like.

Wrong. It is mostly the decision's supporters who have made much of your being a "conservative church-going Republican" who didn't rule the way that the decision's opponents would like.

Anyway, John, it looks like you have plumb run out of excuses.



Monday, October 09, 2006

Mixing evolution controversy with other controversies is a bad idea

Answers in Genesis reported:

AiG was actively witnessing and distributing thousands of materials at the annual National Education Association (NEA) teachers convention in Florida in July. For 10 years, AiG, through a public school teacher, has manned the “Creation Science Educator’s Caucus” booth at the world’s largest gathering of educators. Through many generous AiG supporters, we saw thousands of dollars’ worth of DVDs, books and booklets get directly into the hands of thousands of teachers.

At the booth, AiG boldly displayed three large banners. One of them stated: “Gay marriage: who determines what marriage should be?” At the bottom of the banner it declared: “Genesis is literal history—God created them male and female.” It was a clear message that the origin of marriage is in the book of Genesis.

But what caused the biggest stir -- and what had NEA officials making unreasonable demands on us -- was AiG’s small “gay marriage” booklet. The NEA leadership demanded that the AiG booklet be moved to a back table. Apparently, some people were “offended by it.”

Criticisms of Darwinism are having a hard enough time without being unnecessarily mixed with other controversial issues.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Darwinism is grossly overrated III

"Darwinism is grossly overrated" and "Darwinism is grossly overrated II" are here and here, respectively.

Uncommon Descent now has a complete copy of Philip Skell's article titled "Why do we invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology", which was quoted in "Darwinism is grossly overrated II." The discussion continues in another article on Uncommon Descent.

I think that this attempt to have a grand overarching unifying principle -- Darwinism -- in biology is partly a prestige war against other areas of science. Atomic theory explains a lot in chemistry -- for example, it explains the Periodic Table and the different kinds of chemical bonds. Physicists are looking for their own "theory of everything" and the most popular candidate appears to be superstring theory, but many scientists regard string theory as unscientific.

My own mechanical engineering specialty of heat transfer analysis appears to have no grand unifying principle. Heat transfer is subdivided into three different modes: conduction, convection, and radiation. The unifying principle of conduction is Fourier's Law. Convection and radiation do not have any single unifying principles, although the Stefan-Boltzmann Law is especially important in radiation. So I decided to try to come up with a single unifying principle for heat transfer analysis so that I could say something like the Dobzhansky statement about evolution: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." And I came up with the following statement: "Nothing in heat transfer analysis makes sense except in the light of the Clausius statement of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics." A simple version of the Clausius statement is that "heat cannot of itself flow from a colder to a hotter body" (a more detailed version says, "It is impossible to construct a cyclic refrigerator whose sole effect is the transfer of energy from a cold reservoir to a warm reservoir without the input of energy by work"). And unlike Darwinism, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is a law, not a theory. LOL I also looked at the so-called "Zeroth" Law of Thermodynamics -- "When two bodies are each in thermal equilibrium with a third body, all three bodies are in thermal equilibrium with each other." But in that case there is no heat transfer, so I scratched that idea.



Saturday, October 07, 2006

More on judicial independence

Some of us are old enough to remember the billboards that said, "Impeach Earl Warren." Now there is a sudden new widespread interest in the issue of judicial independence, as evidenced by articles here, here, and here. This sudden new interest in this issue could not have come along at a better time for Judge John E. "I am not a lousy judge" Jones III, the judge who wrote the infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. It now appears that the "judicial independence" argument is his sole defense of the decision. A few days ago he gave a speech about judicial independence at Kansas University, and according to Thoughts from Kansas he agreed to come to KU only on condition that he would not discuss the contents of his ruling or the process of the trial. At least once before he made an attempt to address an issue directly concerning the case, when he made the following asinine statement in a commencement speech at his alma mater, Dickinson College:

.....we see the Founders' ideals quite clearly, among many places, in the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This of course was the clause that I determined the school board had violated in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. While legal scholars will continue to debate the appropriate application of that clause to particular facts in individual cases, this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state. (emphasis added)

And while speaking those words, Judge Jones was standing behind a lectern that had the college seal in front. The college seal -- designed by the founding fathers who started the college -- has a picture of an open bible and the Latin college motto which means, "Religion and learning, the bulwark of liberty."

I guess that Judge Jones decided that his above statement went over like a lead balloon.

Judge Jones' paranoid claims that he is a victim of threats to judicial independence trivialize the real threats to judicial independence. One of these real threats is so-called "jurisdiction stripping" -- legislative acts which attempt to remove the powers of the courts to hear certain kinds of cases. I consider federal court jurisdiction over all constitutional cases to be one of the foundations of our systems of checks and balances. The counterbalances of this judicial power are the power of Congress and the states to amend the Constitution and -- in extreme cases -- the power of Congress to impeach judges and remove them from office. Though the Constitution expressly gives Congress the power to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, IMO there is nothing in the Constitution that explicitly or implicitly gives Congress the power to limit the jurisdiction of the lower federal courts, though it is widely believed that Congress has such power. A lot of judges and other public officials just make up rules that have no basis in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution.



American Library Assoc. advice on "Pandas" book is unauthorized practice of law

Below is a copy of an email that I sent to a list of around 40 addresses -- shown at the bottom -- consisting of the plaintiffs' attorneys of Kitzmiller v. Dover (Pepper-Hamilton, the ACLU, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State), the Dover Area School Board, and the staffs of the American Library Association, the Discovery Institute, and the Dover Area School District administration. This email address list is much longer than the one I gave in Email campaign to have "Of Pandas and People" officially designated as a "banned book"; this new list includes addresses from the old list. I urge supporters to use this longer list to take full advantage of the Internet for widely disseminating their views on this matter.

Reply to email from Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Deputy Director,
Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

In a message dated 10/3/2006 2:47:14 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, dstone@ala.org writes:

>>>>>> The Office for Intellectual Freedom, which implements ALA's policies concerning intellectual freedom, does not believe the court's judgment in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District lawsuit constitutes a ban of the book, Of Pandas and People.

We rely upon the court's published opinion for our conclusion. The opinion plainly states the court's order:

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.

In reading the court's order, we cannot identify an order or directive to remove the book Of Pandas and People from the Dover school library, or any specific order which prohibits Dover teachers from using "Of Pandas and People" in the classroom, should they choose to do so for educational purposes that do not violate the Constitution's Establishment Clause. The court's decision to bar the school board from requiring science teachers to refer to Intelligent Design, a religious theory of creation, in classrooms dedicated to the teaching of science, is not an order to remove or ban the book "Of Pandas and People" from Dover's school libraries or classrooms.

To all:

In the above statement, the American Library Association is officially telling the Dover science teachers that in certain circumstances they are free to use the "Pandas" book for educational purposes in the classroom. The writer of the above statement indicates that she is speaking for the ALA and not just for herself. IMO giving this legal advice to the Dover teachers is an unauthorized practice of law by a government-chartered organization.

One of the demands in the official complaint of the Kitzmiller plaintiffs was for "an injunction .... requiring the removal of Of Pandas and People from the School District’s science classrooms." The Kitzmiller opinion's failure to specifically address this demand does not mean that the book was not in fact banned from science classrooms. In fact, the only reasonable interpretation of the Kitzmiller opinion is that the book was in fact completely banned as educational material in science classrooms, because the opinion ruled that the book is an unscientific book of a religious nature.

Finally, whether or not the book can legally be used by Dover science teachers on their own is irrelevant to the question of whether the book is a "banned book" according to the ALA's definition. The ALA's definition of "banned book" includes books that are banned from school curricula, and the Kitzmiller decision banned even the mere mention of the book from the curriculum of the Dover Area School District. The "ID Policy" that the court completely banned was a school district requirement for reading a statement to the students that included a suggestion that they read the book: "The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves."

Larry Fafarman
Los Angeles


Emailing list:




Friday, October 06, 2006

Yet another Darwin-to-Hitler book!

I have already discussed two Darwin-to-Hitler books on this blog, in Book links Darwin to Hitler and Another book links Darwin to Hitler. Now I have discovered yet another Darwin-to-Hitler book: From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. This book is discussed on Panda's Thumb.

I wonder why Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman recently had a conniption fit over the Coral Ridge Ministries' TV special titled "Darwin's Deadly Legacy", which linked Darwin to Hitler. One would think that Foxman would be accustomed to this stuff by now.



Thursday, October 05, 2006

Suppression of criticisms of evolution backfires

The Darwinists are crowing over their little "victory" in the Kitzmiller case, but the ironic truth is that suppression of criticisms of evolution in schools undermines evolution education and science education in general. The courts have not only banned the actual teaching of criticisms of evolution, but in some decisions -- the well-known Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the lesser-known Selman v. Cobb County case, and the poorly-known Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish case -- have even banned brief evolution-disclaimer statements in schools.

For the following reasons, I support the teaching of evolution in all schools:

(1) Evolution theory has long been widely accepted in the scientific community. Knowing something about evolution theory is part of being a well-educated person.

(2) A knowledge of evolution theory helps biologists understand scientific papers and modern cladistic taxonomy. On the other hand, I strongly disagree with the shopworn slogan that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

However, suppression of criticism of evolution has the following deleterious effects:

(1) When the courts prevent schools from compromising among different groups by teaching or mentioning opposition to evolution in addition to teaching evolution, then schools often compromise in the only way they can -- by teaching little or nothing about evolution.

(2) Lack of candor about the weaknesses of evolution theory undermines student interest and trust in science.



Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reply to answer to email requesting "banned book" status for "Pandas"

Re: Email campaign to have "Of Pandas and People" officially designated as a "banned book"

I strongly suspect that others who sent emails supporting the above campaign got the same answer that I did from the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

In a message dated 10/3/2006 2:47:14 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, dstone@ala.org writes:

Dear Mr. Fafarman,
Thank you for your letter. We appreciate hearing from people who are interested in the issue of censorship, book challenges, and the freedom to read.

It is not our policy to issue press releases every time we are made aware of a challenge to a book in a library or school. If we were to do so, we would sadly have very little time for any other endeavors.

To: Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Deputy Director, Office for Intellectual Freedom,
American Library Association

Normally I would agree with you, but here I am not just asking for a press release stating that a book has been challenged or banned -- I am asking for a press release (or at least a prominent announcement posted on the ALA website) of a correction of your erroneous publicly-released claims that Of Pandas and People has not been banned. In addition to your response to me shown here, Mike Dunford, in reporting a conversation with you, said on his blog that you answered "we wouldn't consider it that way" when he asked you if you felt that the Kitzmiller ruling would qualify Of Pandas and People as a "banned" book.

Moreover, there is an additional obstacle preventing us from complying with your request that the ALA designate Of Pandas and People as 'officially banned.' The Office for Intellectual Freedom, which implements ALA's policies concerning intellectual freedom, does not believe the court's judgment in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District lawsuit constitutes a ban of the book, Of Pandas and People.

We rely upon the court's published opinion for our conclusion. The opinion plainly states the court's order:

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. (emphasis added)

The website of the American Library Association makes it very clear that the ALA defines the term "ban" as including the removal of books from curricula as well as libraries.

The "ID Policy," which was banned by the above statement, is described as follows on page 2 of the Kitzmiller opinion:

"On December 14, 2004, Plaintiffs filed the instant suit challenging the constitutional validity of the October 18, 2004 resolution and November 19, 2004 press release (collectively, "the ID Policy")."

The "November 19, 2004 press release" was an announcement by the school district that teachers would be required to read to 9th grade biology classes a statement (pages 1-2 of opinion) that included the following sentence:

"The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves."

So Pandas was mentioned in a statement that was an official part of the school district's curriculum. Banning the ID policy banned the statement from the curriculum, and banning the statement not only banned the book itself from the curriculum, but banned the mere mention of the book from the curriculum. Also, the Kitzmiller opinion referred to the ID policy as a "curriculum change" 48 times! "Curriculum Committee" appears 24 times in the opinion and "curriculum controversy" appears 9 times. The name of the book appears 75 times in the opinion, with about half the appearances concerning the book itself and about half concerning the school board's actions in selecting the book.

As if that were not enough, there is also the fact that the plaintiffs' official complaint demanded removal of the book from science classrooms:

b. an injunction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 prohibiting the defendants from implementing their intelligent design policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, and requiring the removal of Of Pandas and People from the School District’s science classrooms; (bold added) -- page 23

If nothing else, that counts as at least a challenge.

Furthermore, the judge stated that he was quite aware that the plaintiffs were seeking removal of the book from science classrooms (as he should have been aware -- removal of the book was one of the
reliefs demanded by the plaintiffs):

"It is therefore clear to the Court that Plaintiffs only seek to remove the book Of Pandas and People from the Dover Area School District's science classrooms, and not from its school libraries." -- page 10

However, the judge nowhere stated in his published final opinion that he was denying the plaintiffs' demand for removal of the book from science classrooms, so by implication the demand was granted. This conclusion that the demand was granted is consistent with the opinion.

In reading the court's order, we cannot identify an order or directive to remove the book Of Pandas and People from the Dover school library, or any specific order which prohibits Dover teachers from using "Of Pandas and People" in the classroom, should they choose to do so for educational purposes that do not violate the Constitution's Establishment Clause. The court's decision to bar the school board from requiring science teachers to refer to Intelligent Design, a religious theory of creation, in classrooms dedicated to the teaching of science, is not an order to remove or ban the book "Of Pandas and People" from Dover's school libraries or classrooms.

The issue here is whether the book was banned from the curriculum, so it does not matter what the teachers could do on their own outside the curriculum. And according to the Kitzmiller decision, there is no way that science teachers could use the book in science classrooms without violating the Establishment Clause, because the judge ruled the book to be an unscientific book of a religious nature.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the book was banned from science classrooms, even if such a ban was not explicitly stated in the final opinion.


Larry Fafarman

We will continue to inform the public that Of Pandas and People was challenged for inaccuracy in 1993, but retained following a reconsideration process.

Sincerely yours,

Deborah Caldwell-Stone
Deputy Director
Office for Intellectual Freedom
American Library Association
50 East Huron Chicago, IL 60611


The ALA's petty rule that a book is not considered to be banned by a court unless the court opinion expressly bans the book reminds me of an anecdote about a football player who was always big for his age when he was growing up. When his dad tried to enroll him in Pop Warner football when he was 11, the coach said, "we've got a rule -- a kid's got to be 13." The dad asked the coach, "have you seen him?" The coach took one look at the kid and said, "we just changed the rule."



Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sky-is-falling op-ed about evolution education

A Washington Post op-ed titled "Waging War on Evolution", by Paul A. "Chicken Little" Hanle, screamed,

By teaching intelligent design or other variants of creationism in science classes at public schools -- or by undercutting the credibility of evolution -- we are greatly diminishing our chances for future scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations, and are endangering our health, safety and economic well-being as individuals and as a nation ......

The opposition to evolution discourages the development of entire high-school classes of future scientific talent .....

Nations that value open inquiry and use scientific criteria in education, research and industry will outperform those that do not. If we are to continue to be leaders in the global economy, we must teach science, not religion, in the science classroom.

How does censorship of criticism of evolution theory show esteem for "open inquiry"?

I agree that biologists sometimes -- but not always -- need to know something about evolution theory. For example, cladistic taxonomy, unlike the earlier Linnaean taxonomy, uses concepts from evolution theory. However, it never hurts to teach the weaknesses of evolution theory, because biologists can always use the concepts and tools of the theory even while believing that all or part of it is untrue, in the same way that engineers use complex-number math in aerodynamics and AC circuit analysis even while being aware that the math has no connection to reality -- for example, in the Joukowski transformation of conformal mapping, the aerodynamics of rotating cylinders is used to determine the aerodynamics of wing airfoils. Also, students should learn about evolution theory just because it is a prevailing theory among scientists. Anyway, even if future biologists do not get a good evolution education in high school, they can always learn about evolution in college. And if anything is going to undermine student interest in careers in biology and science in general, it is scientists' lack of candor about the weaknesses of evolution theory.

My thanks to Lawrence Selden of the Darwinian Fundamentalism blog for bringing this op-ed to my attention. His blog discusses this op-ed here.