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.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Kenneth Miller the hypocrite

Kenneth Miller, who was an expert witness for the plaintiffs in both the Kitzmiller v. Dover and the Selman v. Cobb County (evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker) cases, doesn't really care about the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, because his own belief in Darwinism is based on religion. If Darwinism were purely scientific, Miller would not have to invoke his belief in god to support it -- no scientist would write a book with a title like "Finding Copernicus's God -- A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Heliocentrism" (a spoof on the title of one of Miller's books, with "Darwin" replaced by "Copernicus" and "Evolution" by "Heliocentrism"). Heliocentrism, just like evolution theory, is contrary to the bible; the bible says that the earth was created first and that the heavenly bodies were created afterward, implying that the earth is supposed to be the center of the universe. Miller just wants the courts to abuse the church-state separation principle to suppress scientific ideas that he disagrees with. The following review of the Discovery Institute's new book "Traipsing into Evolution" exposes the truth about this hypocrite (the reviewer says that the Dover decision is "one of the most irresponsible I have ever read") --

"Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller V. Dover Decision" is a response to Judge Jone's decision. Having read most of the trial transcript, I must conclude that this book is on target. My only complaint is the book is far too brief; many more problems exist with the decision that could have been included. It is very clear in his opinion that the Judge does not like Darwinism Skeptics as people. The judge in his decision largely accepted everything the ACLU said as true, and most everything the other side said as false (or he ignored it). This decision is one of the most irresponsible I have ever read (and I have read many court decisions). The Judge used numerous labels that he never clearly defined, or defined accordingly to his narrow purpose. An example is "creationist" and "evolutionist," and then concluded the creationists were the bad guys and evolutionists were the good guys. Reality is far more complex. For example, Dr Michael Behe, who the judge labeled a "creationist" testified that he was an evolutionist (he accepted common ancestry). It was the existence of the cell that Behe concluded Darwinism has difficulty explaining. Behe believes life beyond the cell could have evolved by mutations and natural selection. Conversely, Kenneth Miller testified that he was a creationist "in the ordinary meaning of the word" yet the judge labeled him an evolutionist. The difference between these scientists (both Roman Catholics and both labeled creationists) is in the degree of creating they have concluded that naturalism can achieve. It is obviously difficult to draw a clear line between the two theistic evolutionists, Behe and Miller, yet the judge did just that. This is important because the judge ruled that ideas given the creationist label cannot be taught in the public schools, and those given the evolutionist label can. The fact is, Kenneth Miller's ideas are clearly creationist as he explained in detail in the second half of his book "Finding Darwin's God." The judge thus ruled that Miller's theistic evolution creationism can be taught in the schools but Behe's theistic evolutionism creationism cannot. The court, contrary to the constitution, has ruled which religious ideas are orthodox, and thus OK to teach, and which religious ideas are forbidden. It is exactly because of rulings such as this why separation of church and state is a very good idea. Now we have state sectioned religion!
-- review written by "The Professor." From



Chromosome counts and evolution

It seems that people are so busy debating about intelligent design that they do not have time to consider other scientific challenges to evolution theory, if they are even aware that other scientific challenges exist. It seems that all I see in the news is ID, ID, and more ID. The Darwinists have created a "contrived dualism" of their own -- they are saying that if ID is false, then Darwinism must be true. Two non-ID challenges to evolution theory that have already been discussed in this blog concern co-evolution and the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction.

Another non-ID challenge to evolution theory are the questions concerning the mechanisms and genetic effects of the evolution of different chromosome counts in different species and varieties of species. The Talkorigins website tries to give some answers to these questions, but these answers are not adequate. Talkorigins says that chromosome counts can change by the breakup or joining of individual chromosomes or by the phenomenon called "polyploidy" where multiple copies of all the chromosomes are created, but this does not seem to be a good explanation for the great variation in chromosome counts (Talkorigins gives examples as low as 5 and as high as 512). Also, these means of changing the chromosome count could not contribute much to evolution because no new genetic material is created -- in particular, organisms created by polyploidy are similar to their parents. Also, polyploidal organisms are often sterile, and in any case polyploidy would initially be a barrier to sexual reproduction. Furthermore, polyploidy would create great problems in future evolution because there is not just one set of genes but multiple sets of genes that must evolve through genetic variation, and the issue of dominant and recessive genes would arise in such future evolution.



Thursday, April 27, 2006

Barbara Forrest and the Dover Decision

There is a theory going around now that the expert-witness testimony of conspiracy-theorist Barbara Forrest was a major factor in the Dover decision, but there is no guarantee that she will testify in any future trial or that another judge will accept her arguments. See Panda's Thumb and Uncommon Descent.

If the Dover decision was in fact based to a great extent on Forrest's conspiracy theory about a fundy "wedge strategy," then that decision is on very shaky ground indeed. It is like a conspiracy theory that Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and even Darwinist Kenneth Miller's book "Finding Darwin's God -- A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution" are part of a "wedge strategy" to turn the US into a theocracy.

Supporters of the Dover decision have a grossly overoptimistic view of its future precedential value. It is just an unreviewed decision of a single federal district-court judge. A few years ago the 9th circuit federal court of appeals, the largest federal circuit except for the Federal circuit based in Washington DC, had a rule that no district-court opinion could be cited in any court of the 9th circuit, but I don't know if this rule is still in effect. And those of us who oppose the decision will be trying our best to so discredit it that no one will want to cite it -- for example, see "Traipsing into breathtaking inanity -- absurd rulings in Dover Intelligent Design case" on this blog.

The two recent court decisions concerning criticism of Darwinism in the public schools, Kitzmiller v. Dover and Selman v. Cobb County (the evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker case), are apparently breaking new legal ground -- and it looks like very shaky ground. So far as I can see, these are the first two cases where things that mention nothing or almost nothing that is religious and that contain no religious symbols were nonetheless held to be government endorsements of religion. The Cobb County textbook stickers said nothing of a religious nature and the only thing in the Dover case that had any religious connotation was the word "design," because this word implies the existence of a supernatural "designer." It appears that an appeals court is leaning towards reversing the Selman v. Cobb County decision (see here and here), wedge strategy or no wedge strategy. The Dover decision relies heavily on Selman (Selman is cited 15 times in the Dover opinion), so a reversal of Selman would put a serious dent in Dover.



Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Views on Intelligent Design

Because several commenters here have asked for my views on intelligent design, I decided to write this post. Because I did not want to create confusion by having two original posts on the same subject, I was considering placing this message on the comment thread that I have already established for discussing ID and irreducible complexity, but I decided that it would be better to make a new post instead. Copies of comments or complete discussions that were posted on the other ID thread are of course welcome under this new post.

Of course, I still believe that Judge Jones should not have ruled on the scientific merits of ID in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case -- see "Traipsing into breathtaking inanity -- absurd rulings in Dover Intelligent Design case." This belief is not based on my view that ID has scientific merit -- I would feel the same way about anti-evolution arguments based on the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which I feel do not have scientific merit.


Claim -- ID is just a religious concept -- it is just creationism in disguise
Answer -- I think that the name "ID" is unfortunate because it implies the existence of a "designer," and then people start asking questions like "who is the designer?" and "what does the designer look like?", and it often does no good to explain that ID is not supposed to speculate about a designer. I think that it would be much better to stick to names like "irreducible complexity." I don't even like to use the name ID, but I am afraid that if I don't, some people might not know what I am talking about.

Claim -- ID is not a scientific "theory" or "hypothesis"
Answer -- If scientific "theory" and "hypothesis" are defined as complete scientific explanations for natural phenomena, then I agree that ID is not a scientific "theory" or "hypothesis." But why should science be arbitrarily limited to complete scientific explanations? Why cannot a naturalistic criticism of a scientific theory also be considered to be scientific ? Often, describing why something does not work can be as important as introducing something that works or appears to work. When Thomas Edison was accused of not making progress in his efforts to invent a practical electric light, he said, "I've made lots of progress -- I now know lots of things that won't work."

Claim -- ID, unlike evolution, does not make predictions and is not testable or falsifiable.
Answer -- Because macroevolution in progress cannot be directly observed, the "predictions" that evolution theory makes about macroevolution are just predictions of likely future finds of more circumstantial evidence of macroevolution -- for example, the fossil record is used to make predictions of likely future finds of "missing link" fossils. And evolution theory is not testable or falsifiable at all in regard to the claim that macroevolution was driven solely by natural genetic variation and natural selection. In many ways, evolution theory is no more scientific than ID and is often even less scientific than ID because evolution theory often strays beyond what can be proven or supported by scientific evidence. If evolution in fact occurred solely by "natural" occurrences, then those occurrences would have been either extremely unlikely or not "natural" in the usual sense.

Claim -- ID is the only scientific (or pseudoscientific) challenge to evolution theory
Answer -- Of course, Darwinists do not make this claim outright -- they only imply it because the Dover decision explicitly banned only ID. Some other challenges to evolution theory involve -- (1) co-evolution, (2) the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction, and (3) the mathematical probability of evolution.

Claim -- raising doubts about evolution theory is going to hurt the technological competitiveness of the USA
Answer -- Most practical applications of the theory are based on microevolution, whereas the big controversy is over macroevolution. Also, scientists can still use the tools and concepts of evolution theory even while believing that all or part of the theory is untrue, in the same way that electrical engineers use complex-number math to analyze AC circuits even though the complex numbers and complex-plane vectors bear no direct relationship to the physical quantities of the circuits. Furthermore, many foreign countries have ID movements of their own -- see
http://messageboards.aol.com/aol/en_us/articles.php?boardId=558015&articleId=12673&func=5&channel=News (note -- most of the URL links on this webpage do not work just by clicking on them because parts of the links are not highlighted in blue -- it is necessary to copy and paste the complete link. On the link to the reports on Australia, Eastern Europe, Germany, etc., just clicking on the link will work but will bring up the wrong webpage -- it is necessary to copy and paste the entire link including the part that spilled over into the next line )

Claim -- ID is scientifically vacuous and makes no worthwhile contribution to science.
Answer -- Even if ID is false, it nonetheless expands scientific knowledge, and the questions raised by ID could lead to important scientific discoveries. We should not place artificial boundaries on scientific inquiry.

Claim -- the concept of "exaptation" has completely refuted ID
Answer -- "Exaptation" is the concept that features that evolve for one function may be converted to serve another function and that hence many of the parts of irreducibly complex systems may have come ready-made or nearly so. However, exaptation does not change the fact that all of the parts of an irreducibly complex system must come together simultaneously in their final forms to create the complete system, and that is very unlikely. Also, a feature that is already serving an essential or important function may not be available to help form the irreducible system unless a duplicate is created.

Also, the scientific merits of ID are discussed in the Discovery Institute's book "Traipsing into Evolution" and online in "Dover in Review" by DI's John West.



Monday, April 24, 2006

Disappearing comments. Also, html tags and registered bloggers

There has been a problem with comments disappearing from the ends of comment threads in this blog. And sometimes these comments will appear in the comment submission screen ( reached by clicking on the comment count at the bottom of each opening post ) but not in the normal comment-thread viewing screen ( reached by clicking on the list titled "Recent Posts" on the left side of the homepage). I recommend going to the comment submission screen to maybe get a complete or more complete list of comments. Also, on some of my recent comment submissions, I was not emailed the normal comment submission notification. Also, on Panda's Thumb I noticed that comments would mysteriously disappear and re-appear. This all reminds me of the following joke: Bill Gates says, "If the auto industry were like the computer industry, cars would get 1000 miles per gallon and cost $100." The auto industry answers, "If the auto industry were like the computer industry, brakes would work 99 percent of the time." I recommend saving copies of your comments in case you have to resubmit them.


UPDATE: The problem of disappearing comments appears to have cleared up -- apparently it was caused by a very long delay in posting comments. Another blogger reported also experiencing problems at the same time. Still, though, there appears to be some delay in posting comments on the normal viewing screens, so the best chance of seeing the latest comments is by viewing the comment-submission screens. Anyway, I just love this blog! No longer do I have to bang my head against the wall trying to get my ideas posted on Panda's Thumb and other Internet forums.

Also, a short note was added to the discussion of html tags.


Also, the instructions for this blog say that there are very limited choices for html tags for comments. The only ones that work or are supposed to work are bold, italics, and a, but I find that a alone does not work but that the a href=" option does work. The a option is equivalent to the url option. On the a href=" option, spaces between the quote marks and the URL link are not allowed. The "strong" tag is the same as the "b" tag and the "em" tag is the same as the "i" tag.

Also , the names of some of the commenters are underlined in the comment headings -- this indicates that the commenter is registered on this blog service, www.blogger.com . Clicking on the name will bring up the commenter's profile and links to the commenter's blogs and other websites.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Comment thread for Intelligent Design and Irreducible Complexity


I have placed a new post on the general subject of Intelligent Design. I did not want to create confusion by having two threads on the same subject, but I felt it was best to make a new post. Copies of comments or complete discussions already posted on this thread are of course welcome under my new post. I am leaving this thread open for those who wish to continue their discussions here.


I am establishing this thread for the benefit of those who wish to discuss ID or IC on this blog. Apparently there is a need for some neutral ground where commenters who have been censored by other blogs may freely discuss these issues. The establishment of this thread is not meant to discourage the discussion of ID or IC when appropriate in the contexts of other threads. Also, this thread is not like Panda's Thumb's infamous "Bathroom Wall" -- comments discussing ID and/or IC in other threads will never be moved here.



Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Propagability of beneficial mutations -- another little-known non-ID challenge to Darwinism

Sometimes when a challenge to something is making little or no progress, it is time to try another challenge. Critics of Darwinism have begun to realize that they have put too many eggs in the intelligent-design basket and are looking for other challenges to Darwinism. For example, the challenge based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been revived, but this is a very poor challenge to Darwinism and should be avoided.

There are some non-ID challenges to Darwinism that have hardly been touched upon in the evolution debate. I have already presented one little-known non-ID challenge to Darwinism -- what I called the "co-evolutionary paradox." Another little-known non-ID challenge to Darwinism is the difficulty of propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction. This difficulty is discussed in an article titled, "Sexual Reproduction: A Continuing Mystery to Evolutionists." This article presents a lot of good points but unfortunately does not discuss the very important topic of dominant and recessive genes. Nonetheless, this article gives some background in a much-neglected subject. This article obviously has a religious ax to grind, but that does not make the scientific arguments any less valid. The article has a good list of references to articles in prestigious scientific journals.

Also, there is a propaganda campaign to mislead and confuse the public about what ID really is. Falsely equating ID with creationism is only part of this campaign. This campaign also tries to give the false impression that all challenges to Darwinism that are presented in scientific terms are parts of "ID." Nothing could be further from the truth -- as shown in this blog, there are such challenges to Darwinism that have little or nothing to do with ID. This campaign to mislead and confuse the public has intensified as a result of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, where ID was the only such challenge that was banned by name (though other such challenges were implicitly banned by the prohibition against "disparaging" or "denigrating" evolution theory).



Sunday, April 16, 2006

Censorship on Panda's Thumb and the AOL Message Boards

Panda's Thumb is probably the biggest, most active blog dealing with the evolution controversy. Its staff members are Darwinists or neo-Darwinists. I have frequently been banned from Panda`s Thumb, forcing me to change my posting name there several times, and many of my posts there have been deleted. Though I personally consider arbitrary censorship to be a very bad idea, I nonetheless concede that blog owners and staffers have the right to practice it, but I expect Panda`s Thumb to be more tolerant because it received a web award from Scientific American magazine. PT's staff claims that I was banned and deleted because I was using multiple names, but the opposite is true -- I used multiple names because I was being banned and deleted. I was afraid to tell the truth because I figured that PT's staff would get even madder at me if I accused them of arbitrary censorship. It makes no sense that I would go to the trouble of preparing long posts -- including a lot of time spent on research -- and then invite deletion of the posts by using multiple names. I think that one of the reasons why I was banned was that the many heckling reply comments I was getting that contained nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks were creating a nuisance.

America Online has been practicing arbitrary censorship on the AOL message boards by deleting posts and occasionally suspending AOL members ( I was suspended at least once, and had to call up AOL just to log back on ). I feel that AOL has no right to do this because the AOL message boards are semi-public rather than private forums and because most of the commenters on these boards are paying AOL members ( non-members can comment by obtaining an AOL email address through http://www.aim.com ).

My biggest motivation for creating this blog, "I'm from Missouri," was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and Internet forums. Censorship here will be avoided -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. This blog uses a free blog service, http://www.blogger.com

My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

A bit of trivia about the slogan, "I'm from Missouri -- you`ll have to show me": "Show Me State" is the official state nickname of Missouri. The nickname shows that Missourians are proud of the slogan`s skepticism. Many decades ago I saw a BBQ sauce brand named "I'm from Missouri," but at the time I did not know that the name had a double-meaning ( the name also reflects the fact that Kansas City -- most of which is in Missouri -- and St. Louis are famous for BBQ ).



Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Co-evolutionary Paradox

All the hoopla over intelligent design has created the widespread false impression that it is the only actual or possible scientific (or pseudoscientific, to some) criticism of evolution theory -- there are others. For example, criticism can be based on co-evolution, but this criticism has hardly been touched upon.

One of the main arguments used against irreducible complexity -- the main scientific concept of ID -- is "exaptation," the idea that parts of an irreducibly complex system had other functions before becoming part of the system, e.g., jawbones supposedly evolved into middle-ear bones. However, "exaptation" does not change the fact that all the parts of the system must simultaneously come together in their final forms to create the irreducible system, and that is unlikely. Also, parts that previously had essential functions would not be available to help create the irreducible system unless duplicates or modified duplicates could be created. Nonetheless, despite these problems, opponents of ID claim that ID has been completely refuted by the principle of exaptation and for other reasons. However, the following arguments against natural co-evolution may be harder to counter than ID.

Co-evolution is defined as the mutual evolutionary influence of two kinds of organisms -- e.g., bees and flowering plants -- that become dependent on each other. The big problem with co-evolution is that often there is nothing to adapt to because the corresponding feature is likely to be initially absent in the other organism. In contrast, the fixed physical features of the environment — e.g., water, land, air, and climate -- are always there to offer an immediate advantage to individual organisms that adapt to them.Suppose that a bee and a flowering plant just by some great coincidence happen to have mutations creating corresponding features that would give a mutual advantage in co-evolution. But if the bee and the flowering plant are separated by many miles and/or many years in time, as is likely, the mutations would do neither of them any good because the bee and the flower would never meet, and the mutations might actually be detrimental to the bee and/or the flower. Actually, what would be necessary is that large numbers of the bees and flowers possessing the corresponding beneficial mutations would miraculously have to simultaneously appear in the same place, because a single bee visits many flowers, and each flower is visited by many bees.

One kind of pollination by insects is so specialized that the resonant vibration of the insect's wingbeating shakes loose the pollen -- this is called "sonication pollination" or "buzz pollination." See -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzz_pollination
Some other examples of extremely specialized mutual dependence (this mutual dependence is called "mutualism") are in http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/0305/0305_feature.html
-- and --



Traipsing into breathtaking inanity -- absurd rulings in Dover Intelligent Design case

New Item Added on 4-27-06: Item #20

Many Darwinists have praised Judge Jones` written opinion and procedural rulings in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case as flawless and brilliant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many flaws can be found without even considering Jones` reasoning on the issues of whether ID is science and whether ID appears to be an endorsement of religion. Flaws in Jones` rulings on those issues are presumably covered in a new book titled "Traipsing into Evolution," prepared by the Discovery Institute. My criticisms below concentrate mainly on the other flaws in Jones` rulings. The page numbers shown refer to the Dover opinion. The Dover opinion is on http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/all_legal/2005-12-20_kitzmiller_decision.pdf and other documents in the case may be found on http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/ .
While lavishly praising Judge Jones' rulings, the Darwinists have been very intolerant of criticism of those rulings, acting as if the losers do not have the right to criticize.
Here are my criticisms of Judge Jones` rulings in the Dover case --
(1) For perhaps only the second time in American history (the Selman v. Cobb County evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker case was possibly the first), a judge ruled that something — irreducible complexity in this case — that makes no mention of anything related to religion and that contains no religious symbols constitutes a government endorsement of religion. Whether or not irreducible complexity is bogus science is irrelevant, because there is no constitutional separation of bogus science and state.
(2) It was not necessary to rule on the scientific merits of ID at all. Jones had the following other options: (i) ruling against the defendants solely on the basis of their religious motivations, or (ii) ruling that irreducible complexity is not religious because it does not mention anything related to religion. An additional reason for ruling on narrow grounds was that the original defendants could not appeal because they were voted off the school board. If the new school board -- consisting mostly of anti-ID members who had replaced former pro-ID members -- had rescinded the ID policy and offered a complete out-of-court settlement before the release of the decision, Jones would arguably have had grounds for declaring the case to be moot.
(3) Jones arrogantly assumed that his opinions are conclusive and that other judges should not bother to independently judge the same issues. The Dover opinion said, “[W]e will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.“(pages 63-64) Presumably one of the reasons for this ballyhoo of the Dover opinion was that Judge Jones knew that the case was not likely to be appealed and hence the opinion would likely have little intrinsic precedential value as just an unreviewed district-court opinion.
(4) Jones‘ blanket prohibition of any scientific criticism of Darwinism in Dover public-school science classes directly contradicts the Supreme Court‘s following statement in Edwards v. Aguillard: “We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught.“ In the conclusion section of the Dover opinion, Jones said that one of the three prohibitions that he intended to include in the official order was a prohibition against “requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the theory of evolution“ (Page 138. This specific prohibition was not actually included in the official order, but that is beside the point).
(5) Though the case was supposed to be about intelligent design in general and not about a particular book about intelligent design, Jones treated the book selected by the Dover school board, Of Pandas and People, as central to the case. There are several books about ID, but I believe that only one other book about ID was discussed in the case, Darwin`s Black Box by defense expert witness Michael Behe. The name of the Pandas book appears 74 times in the 139-page opinion, about half the appearances concerning the book`s contents and about half concerning the school board`s selection of the book. A large part of the Dover opinion is essentially a highly unfavorable book review of Pandas.
(6) Jones denied the Pandas book publisher‘s motion to enter the case as an intervenor and then he thoroughly panned the book in his written opinion. Jones called the motion untimely, even though the motion was filed only a month after the plaintiffs subpoenaed the publisher, Foundation for Thought and Ethics, and a whopping four months before the start of the trial. The publisher should have been admitted as an intervenor to give it the right to file an independent appeal, if for no other reason. Considering that the book was thoroughly trashed in the written opinion and that the publisher had no opportunity to file an independent appeal, the claim that the publisher‘s interests were adequately protected is especially hollow. Court documents on the publisher's motion to intervene are here. In a comment thread titled "Jon Buell and the Dover ruling" , I demolished Judge Jones' reasons for denying the publisher's motion to intervene, particularly in my last comment in the thread ( I commented under the name LarryFarma ).
(7) Jones rejected an amicus brief from the Discovery Institute on the grounds that this brief was a “back door“ way of introducing the "unrebutted" ideas of Dembski and Meyer — who had withdrawn as expert witnesses for the defense — into the case file. A revision of DI`s amicus brief was later admitted to the record. Jones accepted a brief that replied to DI`s amicus brief ( briefs replying to amicus briefs are expressly prohibited only at the Supreme Court level ) and amicus briefs carry far less weight than oral trial testimony, so there was no advantage to using this “back door“ approach. References -- http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/index.php?path=all_legal%2Famicus/
(8) The Dover opinion gauged public opinion about the school board‘s ID rule by counting editorials and letters to the editor in local newspapers (pages 58-63). Jones` counts of the editorials and letters were made on the basis of whether or not they mentioned religion, so an editorial or letter asserting that ID is not an endorsement of religion counted the same as one asserting that ID is an endorsement of religion. A less meaningful way of gauging public opinion on this issue could scarcely be imagined. The Dover opinion presented very little precedent for this public-opinion polling method of counting editorials and letters to the editor (page 62).
(9) Showing blatant prejudice, the Dover opinion said that the answer to the question of “whether ID is science … can likely be predicted“ by the opinion‘s determination that “both an objective student and an objective adult member of the Dover community would perceive Defendants‘ conduct to be a strong endorsement of religion pursuant to the endorsement test “ (page 63). The two analyses -- on whether ID is science and whether an objective observer would perceive ID as an endorsement of religion -- are supposed to be completely independent, and the results of one are not supposed to "likely predict" the results of the other. For example, astrology and alchemy are not science but an objective observer would probably not perceive them to be endorsements of religion.
(10) The Dover opinion quoted a normally-privileged attorney-client message that was received by the defendants and used this message to bash them, and gave no explanation as to how this message lost its privilege (pages 111-112). It was revealed in the trial testimony that the defendants gave the message to the plaintiffs ( I have no idea why -- the message was very damaging to the defendants )
(11) Jones created confusion by stating in the conclusion section that three specifically-worded prohibitions were going to be included in the official order and then including only one of them in the official order (pages 138-139). The two omitted prohibitions were not covered by the one prohibition that was included.
(12) Jones appeared to take unfair advantage of the fact that the ousted original school board members and their legal representatives had no chance to have the decision reviewed by a higher court. Jones might have shown more restraint in his written opinion had there been a reasonable chance of appeal.
(13) Jones said that the school board election results -- where pro-ID members were replaced by anti-ID members -- would have no effect on his decision. This statement constituted giving unnecessary legal advice to the new school board members and possibly helped discourage them from considering a former board member`s proposal -- presented at the first meeting of the new board on Dec. 5 -- to seek an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiffs.
(14) Jones pandered to both the ID policy`s opponents and concerned taxpayers by accusing the defendants of "activism" (while denying that he himself was an activist), "breathtaking inanity," and dragging the students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District "into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources." (pages 137-138). He should not have put his negative personal opinions of the defendants into the opinion. He wrote the opinion to be -- in the words of Kansas University Prof. Paul "Evil Dr. P." Mirecki -- a "nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies."
(15) The Dover opinion contains dogmatic statements of opinion on questions that are really philosophical rather than legal or constitutional. For example, the Dover opinion says --
"Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator. " (page 136)
(16) Jones apparently signed the plaintiffs‘ original calculated $2 million+ attorney fee award request, even though there was no need for him to do so because the parties had reached an out-of-court settlement of $1 million. One of the plaintiffs‘ attorneys admitted that the purpose of having the judge sign the request for the larger amount was to help blackmail other school boards in the future.
(17) Only "reasonable" attorney fee awards are allowed under the law, but Jones never said that he was going to reduce the plaintiffs` calculated fee award on the grounds that they had a grossly excessive number of attorneys of record, 9-10, with at least five of those attorneys being in the courtroom on every day of the 6-week trial ( see ttp://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/13928874.htm ). In contrast, the defendants had just 4 attorneys of record -- three from the Thomas More Law Center and one local attorney ( who might not have played an important role in the case ).
(18) There ought to be a general principle that judges should not rule on the scientific merits of ideas unless doing so is absolutely essential to reach a decision in the case. Such rulings are essential in, say, product liability cases, but -- as shown above -- such a ruling was not essential in the Dover ID case. Courts have no general legal or constitutional authority to settle disputes on scientific issues, and the courts are ill-suited to settle such disputes, e.g., the Supreme Court said in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, "....there are important differences between the quest for truth in the courtroom and the quest for truth in the laboratory. Scientific conclusions are subject to perpetual revision. Law, on the other hand, must resolve disputes finally and quickly." Eighty-five scientists filed an amicus brief in the Dover case urging the judge to refrain from ruling on the scientific merits of ID.
(19) If Judge Jones had followed the precedent of the Edwards v. Aguillard creation-science case, he would have refused to hear expert witness testimony on the grounds that none of the expert witnesses had participated in or contributed to the enactment of the Dover school board's ID policy. The syllabus of Edwards v. Aguillard said, "The District Court, in its discretion, properly concluded that the postenactment testimony of these experts concerning the possible technical meanings of the Act's terms would not illuminate the contemporaneous purpose of the state legislature when it passed the Act. None of the persons making the affidavits produced by appellants participated in or contributed to the enactment of the law. Pp. 594-596." (the "appellants" were government officials of Louisiana). The Dover school board members showed that they were motivated by religion and furthermore that they could not possibly have intended a legitimate secular purpose because their testimony showed that they did not understand what ID really is. There is no such thing as an "unintentional" purpose -- purposes are by definition intentional. So there was no purpose in judging the scientific merits of ID to see if ID had some "unintended" secular purpose.
(20) New Item (added 4-27-06) -- Ironically, the Dover decision, itself just an unreviewed district-court decision, relies very heavily on other unreviewed district-court decisions. Two other unreviewed district-court decisions, McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education and Selman v. Cobb County (now under appeal), were named in the Dover opinion 28 times and 15 times, respectively ( I say "named" rather than "cited" because the name may sometimes appear more than once in a single citation). In comparison, two Supreme Court decisions, Edwards v. Aguillard (incorrectly named Edwards v. Arkansas in the first citation) and Epperson v. Arkansas, were named in the Dover opinion just 35 times and 18 times, respectively. An unreviewed opinion of a single district-court judge will reflect that judge's unrestrained prejudices, whims, and eccentricities. Furthermore, when a district-court decision is unreviewed, there is of course no review of criticism of that decision, and some of a judge's reasoning in the opinion may have been a complete surprise. District-court opinions' value as precedent is so questionable that the huge 9th circuit federal court of appeals had a rule -- I don't know if this rule is still in effect -- prohibiting citation of a district-court opinion in any court of the 9th circuit. Hence, the Dover opinion's numerous citations of McLean and Selman would not have even been allowed under this 9th circuit rule, which still might be in effect.


"The world must construe according to its wits. This court must construe according to the law." -- Sir Thomas More, in the play "A Man for All Seasons."



Friday, April 14, 2006

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