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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Many physicians skeptical of Darwinism

Uncommon Descent brought to my attention a fairly recent poll of physicians' opinions about evolution. I am really surprised that I did not know about this 2005 poll before. I guess the problem was that I just searched for polls of scientists and did not search for polls of physicians.

The actual poll results are here. The first question, Q1, was, "what religion are you?" Questions Q2-Q5 are not specified. The poll results for questions Q6-Q10 may be seen by clicking on the boxes on the left sidebar. A lot depends on how the questions were asked. For example, when asked, "What are your views on evolution -- accept, reject, or undecided," 78% responded, "accept"; when asked "do you agree more with evolution or more with intelligent design -- evolution, intelligent design, or no opinion," 63% responded "evolution," and when asked, "What are your views on the origin and development of human beings?", only 38% said, "humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement" (the other choices were guided evolution, were created in present form, and "I don't like to think about such matters"). What I can say is that these results show much lower support for evolution theory than I have seen in other polls of professionals in scientific or technological fields. I think that all of the recent publicity about the evolution controversy may be having an effect on the opinions of such professionals by causing them to think more about the issue. A large number of them probably previously took evolution for granted but when they carefully examined it they did not find it convincing -- that is what happened to me. Also, when the results of polls are widely publicized, there may be a "bandwagon" or "critical mass" effect: when people see that a fairly large number of their peers are questioning evolution, they are more likely to question evolution themselves. Anyway, how can the Darwinists say that there is no controversy when such large percentages of physicians -- who are well trained in biology -- reject or doubt Darwinism?

Despite the great importance that is attached to scientific and technological professionals' opinions about evolution (particularly such professionals who work in the field of biology, and physicians fall into that category), these professionals are rarely polled on the subject. Prior to this 2005 poll, the next most recent reliable poll of such professionals that I am aware of is a 2002 poll of scientists in Ohio. In that poll, 90 percent of respondents said that intelligent design is not supported at all by scientific evidence, but for reasons stated above, this figure is subject to sudden drastic change. In contrast to the infrequent polling of these professionals, the general public has been polled about evolution several times a year. Darwinists of course scoff at the large percentages of the public that question evolution or favor teaching criticism of evolution in the public schools. One would think that the Darwinists would want to counter that public questioning of evolution by sponsoring polls of scientific and technological professionals, but maybe the Darwinists are afraid of what such polls might reveal -- and this poll of physicians shows that such fear is justified. This poll of physicians shows that the opinions of scientific and technological professionals may be starting to shift towards anti-Darwinism, and anti-Darwinists should try to take advantage of this apparent trend by sponsoring other polls of such professionals and by publicizing the results of such polls.

There have been letter-signing campaigns as well as formal opinion polls in this area -- there is the Discovery Institute's campaign called "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism", which now has over 600 signatures from professionals in science and technology; the "Project Steve" of the National Center for Science Education; and "Physicians and Surgeons Who Dissent from Darwinism", from Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity. These letter-signing campaigns are of course no substitute for formal opinion polling. One of the advantages of the opinion polls is that peer pressure is absent because these polls are anonymous.



Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Evolution controversy is reminiscent of Bob Dylan song

In the evolution controversy, both sides try to stereotype, pigeonhole, and misrepresent the other side. For example, the anti-Darwinists use "quote mining" in an alleged effort to misrepresent Darwinists and the Darwinists insist that intelligent design is just "repackaged Creationism" (never mind that the Bible does not mention irreducible complexity, bacterial flagella, blood-clotting cascades, etc.). All of this stereotyping, pigeonholing and misrepresentation is reminiscent of a Bob Dylan song titled "All I Really Want to Do," which has the following lyrics:

I ain't lookin' to compete with you,
Beat or cheat or mistreat you,
Simplify you, classify you,
Deny, defy or crucify you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

No, and I ain't lookin' to fight with you,
Frighten you or uptighten you,
Drag you down or drain you down,
Chain you down or bring you down.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I ain't lookin' to block you up
Shock or knock or lock you up,
Analyze you, categorize you,
Finalize you or advertise you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don't want to straight-face you,
Race or chase you, track or trace you,
Or disgrace you or displace you,
Or define you or confine you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don't want to meet your kin,
Make you spin or do you in,
Or select you or dissect you,
Or inspect you or reject you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I don't want to fake you out,
Take or shake or forsake you out,
I ain't lookin' for you to feel like me,
See like me or be like me.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

I can just hear Bob Dylan's drawling, off-key voice now --
"All I really want to do-o-O-O-O-O ....."




Monday, June 26, 2006

HR 2679, the bill barring attorney fee awards in establishment clause lawsuits

This is a follow-up to my article titled, "Is the party almost over for ACLU and AUSCS?"

The official stated purpose of HR 2679, titled "Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005", is "[to] amend the Revised Statutes of the United States to eliminate the chilling effect on the constitutionally protected expression of religion by State and local officials that results from the threat that potential litigants may seek damages and attorney's fees."

I think that the bill's above title and stated purpose are misleading -- they imply that the bill concerns the free exercise and free speech clauses whereas the bill really concerns the establishment clause. Under the free exercise and free speech clauses, state and local officials have a constitutionally protected freedom of expression of religion as individuals, but these public officials' use of governmental authority to express religion is restricted by the establishment clause.

Hearings on the bill were recently held by the House Subcommittee on the Constitution. Testimony in supporting the bill is here and testimony opposing the bill is here. Oddly enough, the testimony supporting the bill did not even mention the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, one of the most egregious examples of the abuse of attorney fee awards in establishment clause cases.

Ed Brayton's blog "Dispatches from the Culture Wars" has a recently posted article about this bill. I would post the following comments on Ed Brayton's blog, but I have been banned there. Like Panda's Thumb's head honcho Wesley Elsberry, Ed Brayton's attitude is, "it's my way or the highway," so he does not allow comments that disagree with his positions.

Ed Brayton said,
It's not by accident that the very first clause of the first amendment forbids the establishment of religion.

Wrong. The order in which rights and protections are presented in the Bill of Rights has nothing to do with their relative importance. If there were any truth to that claim, the NRA would be proclaiming to high heaven that the right to keep and bear arms is the second amendment out of the ten in the Bill of Rights. The free exercise clause is in the 1st amendment because of this clause's association with the free speech clause, and the establishment clause is there too because of its association with the free exercise clause. The establishment clause does not rank very high in my book because it is usually just a "right to not be offended" clause, and such a right does not even explicitly exist in the Constitution.

Ed Brayton said,
Naturally, the religious right wants this bill to pass very badly because it would make it far more difficult for plaintiffs to bring suits against the government. And remember, they can only be awarded legal fees if they win the suit. What that means, in essence, is that the religious right is trying to rig the game. They lose such cases often in court and that frustrates them. So rather than develop better arguments to compete on a fair playing field, they want to rig the rules of the game to make it more expensive for the other side to play the game.

Wrong. The game is now rigged against the government. The present system encourages the ACLU et al. to be extravagant and wasteful in their lawsuits, and the threat of exorbitant attorney fee awards is used to blackmail government entities into doing the bidding of the ACLU et al.. In Kitzmiller v. Dover, there was a horde of 9-10 plaintiffs' attorneys of record and at least five of them were in the courtroom on every day of the six-week trial. The final negotiated award to the plaintiffs was a cool $1 million, and this was supposed to be a "bargain" because the original calculated bill was over $2 million. Ed Brayton and the other Darwinists over at Panda's Thumb (Ed Brayton is also a PT blogger) see nothing wrong in this. Outside attorneys working for the ACLU work for free and all attorney fee award money goes to the ACLU et al.. Attorney fee awards are a bonanza for the ACLU that provide a large part of the ACLU's income.

Marc Stern, representing the American Jewish Congress ..... testified before the committee ........ he testified against the bill ........ As he points out, the legislation has clearly not been well thought out. It actually declares that only injunctive relief can be issued by the courts -- the courts wouldn't even be able to make declaratory judgements in such cases.

Permanent injunctive relief automatically includes declaratory relief in the form of a finding that the plaintiff was wronged by the defendant, so the only declaratory relief that would be barred by HR 2679 would be declaratory relief unaccompanied by other forms of relief. In civil rights cases where there is a violation that can never be repeated or that is very unlikely to be repeated, permanent injunctive relief could be considered to be pointless and a court might grant just declaratory relief or could just declare the case to be moot. I think that courts should have the option of granting unaccompanied declaratory relief in these cases.

I think that this provision restricting the courts to injunctive relief in establishment clause cases is mainly aimed at awards of damages, but AFAICT awards of damages have not been a problem in establishment clause cases. If damages are awarded in such cases, it is usually just nominal damages (usually just $1 per plaintiff), and IMO nominal damages should not count as true damages or a separate kind of relief because nominal damages are really just tokens of vindication of other claims for relief.

Stern also notes that this legislation unfairly tips the balances against one side in court proceedings without regard to the merit of their claims. As an example, let's say a teacher decides to lead her class in prayer (despite the multiple court rulings that forbid this in the public schools). If the school allows her to do so and the family of one of the students in her class files suit on establishment clause grounds, they must bear the full cost of the litigation........

But let's reverse the example. Let's say that the school refuses to allow the teacher to lead her class in prayer and the teacher decides to sue, claiming that this ruling violates her right to free speech and free exercise of religion. Because the suit is on grounds other than the establishment clause, this legislation would not apply and the teacher could recover the legal costs if she wins the suit, while those objecting to the policy on the other side, because their suit would be on establishment clause grounds, would not.

I think the example of the teacher who sues the board for not allowing her to lead school prayer is very unrealistic, because school prayer involves the subtle coercion of both teacher authority and peer pressure and the courts generally greatly oppose coercion in religious matters. And I think that the danger of abuse of the civil rights attorney fee award statute is far greater in establishment clause suits than in free exercise suits. The free exercise clause has been used to sue the government for coercion of individuals or religious groups (as requiring teachers to teach evolution and subjecting religious groups to laws prohibiting discrimination in employment) and for unequal access of religious groups to public facilities and government benefits, but no one has ever used the free exercise clause to sue the government for not displaying religious symbols, not requiring school prayer, not requiring the teaching of creationism, etc., because these things are discretionary with the government where they are not prohibited or restricted by the courts. Critics of HR 2679 claim that this bill unfairly singles out establishment clause lawsuits but have presented no examples of exorbitant attorney fee awards in free exercise lawsuits or other kinds of civil rights lawsuits. Nonetheless, I think that a compromise bill that would cap attorney fee awards (including limits on hourly rates and how many attorneys may charge for their time) for both establishment clause and free exercise lawsuits would be a good idea -- this would prevent any possible inequities between these two kinds of suits and would provide for reasonable compensation of plaintiffs for legal costs involving the most egregious violations; an example of a fee capping statute is 18 USC §3006A (the dollar amounts in this statute are from 1964 and are badly in need of adjustment for inflation). Where violation of these clauses is truly egregious, the plaintiffs should not need a hell of a lot of legal representation. However, I think that the present bill is better than nothing because the abuse of attorney fee awards in establishment clause lawsuits has gotten out of hand. The ACLU, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Darwinists, etc., shed crocodile tears over governments' burden in paying exorbitant fee awards in establishment clause cases and then turn around and use the threat of these awards to blackmail governments into doing their bidding.

Some commenters on Ed's blog have even suggested that HR 2679 is unconstitutional. That is of course nonsense, because there is no constitutional right to attorney fee awards or free representation in civil rights cases (however, the courts have held that indigent defendants are entitled to free legal representation in criminal cases, win or lose). In fact, before the civil rights attorney fee awards law was passed in 1976, there were no such awards for civil rights attorneys.

One thing I have been wondering about is that there appears to be nothing in 42 USC §1988(b) that prohibits an award of attorney fees to the defendant if the plaintiff loses in a civil rights lawsuit. It is generally assumed that only the plaintiff is eligible for the award, but that seems very one-sided.



Friday, June 23, 2006

Quote mining

I never heard the term "quote mining" before I started studying the evolution controversy. The term means pretty much the same as "quoting out of context" or "cherry picking quotes." A Wikipedia article about quote mining says,

The term is particularly used by scientists to denounce proponents of creationism, because creationists present long lists of quotes by scientists allegedly acknowledging their criticisms. To quote Theodosius Dobzhansky's famous 1973 essay Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution:

Their [Creationists'] favorite sport is stringing together quotations, carefully and sometimes expertly taken out of context, to show that nothing is really established or agreed upon among evolutionists. Some of my colleagues and myself have been amused and amazed to read ourselves quoted in a way showing that we are really antievolutionists under the skin.

A website called Anointed-One.net has compiled dozens of quote mines under the heading "Quotes by Famous Evolutionists", and Talkorigins.org has a section titled "The Quote Mine Project" which discusses these quote mines in their original contexts. Also, Apologetics Press describes the following books/booklets of quote mines: (1) a 157-page 1977 book titled Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter, with almost 200 quotations from the writings of prominent evolutionists; (2) a 20-page 1984 booklet titled The Quote Book, with over 100 quotations; and (3) That Their Words May Be Used Against Them, described as "a massive, 487-page, hardback book containing quotations from the evolutionary literature on subjects that range from the Big Bang to the corrupt fruits of a life based on belief in evolution.....each quotation is accompanied by bibliographic documentation regarding author, source, date, etc.." In the evolution controversy, the anti-Darwinists are not the only ones who quote mine -- Pope John Paul II's statement that "evolution is more than just a hypothesis" is a well-known quote mine used by Darwinists.

Darwinism particularly lends itself to quote mining because: (1) many scientists themselves are skeptical of Darwinism but won't openly admit it; (2) many evolutionary concepts are so highly questionable that scientists find themselves playing the devil's advocate when arguing in support of them; and (3) there is great disagreement among scientists in regard to different versions of the theory of evolution, and so scientists are often very critical when discussing the versions that they disagree with -- this is especially true in regard to the conflict between phyletic gradualism and punctuated equilibrium..

Law is another field that lends itself to quote mining, because court documents are always citing precedents and other legal references. However, quote mining is less effective in law because the sources of the quotes are usually easy to find on the Internet or in law libraries. Here is what must be the Lost Dutchman Mine of quote mines in the field of law, from the Supreme Court case of Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001):

And petitioners’ fear of mischievous defendants only materializes in claims for equitable relief, for so long as the plaintiff has a cause of action for damages, a defendant’s change in conduct will not moot the case. (emphasis added)

Incredibly, some commenters on this blog have interpreted the above sentence as meaning that the Supreme Court meant -- among other things -- that a claim for nominal damages (typically $1 per plaintiff) is alone sufficient to prevent a case from being declared to be moot! This interpretation means that in any lawsuit where a claim for nominal damages may be made (and maybe some other lawsuits as well), the plaintiff(s) could positively prevent mootness just by claiming nominal damages! LOL Furthermore, the primary subject of the above sentence is equitable relief, not damages, and damages were not even an issue in the case. Talk about dictum!

Mining is an occupation, so I think that the term "quote mining" was coined because it implies making sort of an occupation out of finding quotes. I feel that "quote mining" is not necessarily a negative thing -- after all, we have all heard of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and people are always quoting famous and not-so-famous people. In the controversy over censorship of Confederate symbols, there are "quote mine" wars where, for example, racist quote mines of Confederates are countered by racist quote mines of Unionists ( Abraham Lincoln is a popular source, but William T. Sherman is a pretty good source, too).


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Herr Fuhrer Esley Welsberry's Big Lie

The Darwinists want people to believe that the current taboo against even mentioning criticism of evolution in public schools is just payback for past prohibitions of the teaching of evolution in public schools. Herr Fuhrer Wesley Elsberry, head honcho over at Panda's Thumb, wrote,
Following the Scopes trial in 1925, popular belief held that the antievolutionists had suffered a defeat and were in retrenchment. This was not so. In the next few years, over twenty other states passed legislation similar to Tennessee’s Butler Act, with the effect of banning the teaching of evolutionary biology in public schools in those states.(emphasis added)

Saying that over twenty other states actually "passed" legislation similar to Tennessee's Butler Act appears to be a gross exaggeration. Here is what the Wikipedia article on the Scopes Trial says:

The trial did not stop the anti-evolution movement. Before Dayton only the South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Kentucky legislatures had dealt with anti-evolution laws or riders to educational appropriations bills. In 1927 there were thirteen states, both North and South, that considered some form of anti-evolution law. At least forty one bills, riders, or resolutions were introduced into the state legislatures, with some states facing the issue repeatedly. While most of these efforts were rejected, both Mississippi and Arkansas put anti-evolution laws on the books after the Scopes trial.

Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 101-102 (1968), notes that bills to ban the teaching of evolution were introduced in twenty states in the period 1921-1929, but lists only four states as actually having had such laws on the books -- Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. In addition, Epperson notes that during that period the Florida and Texas legislatures adopted resolutions against teaching the "doctrine of evolution" (that is what the Epperson opinion called it -- we haven't yet figured out if evolution is a theory or a fact, and here the Supreme Court called it a "doctrine"). The Oklahoma law was repealed in 1926, the Tennessee law in 1967, and the Arkansas and Mississippi laws were struck down by Epperson in 1968. This list might not be complete, as it is partially based on an ACLU report of 1937. Here is what Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 101-102 (1968), actually says --

Only Arkansas and Mississippi have such "anti-evolution" or "monkey" laws on their books [see footnote 8]. There is no record of any prosecutions in Arkansas under its statute. It is possible that the statute is presently more of a curiosity than a vital fact of life in these States.

Footnote 8. Miss.Code Ann. 6798, 6799 (1942). Ark.Stat.Ann. 80-1627, 80-1628 (1960 Repl. Vol.). The Tennessee law was repealed in 1967. Oklahoma enacted an anti-evolution law, but it was repealed in 1926. The Florida and Texas Legislatures, in the period between 1921 and 1929, adopted resolutions against teaching the doctrine of evolution. In all, during that period, bills to this effect were introduced in 20 States. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Gag on Teaching 8 (2d ed., 1937). (emphasis added)

In addition to the above laws that banned the teaching of evolution outright, Arkansas and Louisiana had laws requiring balanced teaching of evolution and creation science. These laws were struck down by the courts in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education , 529 F. Supp. 1255 (1982)

All of the states mentioned by name above are part of what is generally known as the Bible Belt, and all the states mentioned above that actually had anti-evolution laws or legislative resolutions are -- with the exception of Florida -- in a contiguous group of states in the Southwestern and South-and-mid-central parts of that belt.

Ironically, the term "Bible Belt" was coined by H.L. Mencken in a newspaper report about the 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee. He described the region as "this bright, shining, buckle of the Bible belt." H.L. Mencken was represented by the fictional newspaper reporter E.K. Hornbeck in the play and movies titled "Inherit the Wind".

The name "Herr Fuhrer Esley Welsberry" (pronounced "Velsberry") was coined by Elsberry critic John A. Davison. According to my own experience with Elsberry, it is an accurate description.

A related article on this blog is "Anti-Darwinism strengthens outside Bible Belt".



Friday, June 16, 2006

Attorney's open letter on Selman v. Cobb County textbook sticker case

Uncommon Descent reported an open letter that Edward Sisson, an attorney, wrote about the Selman v. Cobb County case. Below is a revised copy of an email I sent in response --

Re: Your open letter on Selman v. Cobb County decision --


I liked your draft letter on the Selman v. Cobb County case and I would like to add a few comments.

First, I agree with the following excellent points that you made --

(1) The fact that evolution and only evolution is taught shows that the pro-evolution people are the real favored insiders.

(2) Your statement, "It is deeply disturbing that the trial court felt that failure to give the pro-evolution side absolute monopoly control was equal to sending a message to the pro-evolution side that they are 'political outsiders.' "

(3) The plaintiffs in these pro-evolution lawsuits should be required to show that their beliefs about evolution are based on their own independent evaluations of the scientific data as opposed to being based on blind acceptance of the opinions of scientific experts (indeed, in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the defendants were expected to have made independent studies, and no less should be required of the plaintiffs).

Now for some of my own observations --

According to the district-court opinion in the Selman case, the plaintiffs' view that they were political outsiders was based on the perception that the school board had "sided" with citizens who had allegedly presented a 2300-signature petition and letter urging adoption of the stickers. However, I just read the "Plaintiffs' Pretrial Brief" of the Selman case and could find no specific mention of the alleged petition! This pretrial brief's only statement that might have referred to this petition was vague mention of a "citizen complaint." The brief said (page 3), "Lindsey Tippins brought the citizen complaint to the Board and expressed concern about the section of science textbooks that taught evolution. Redden Dep. at 23-25." Also, this reference is just to a deposition rather than an exhibit of the "citizen complaint" in the case file. Hence, it may be presumed that the plaintiffs' perception of outsider status at the time this pretrial brief was filed was not partly based on the alleged 2300-signature petition. Also, I feel that what matters is what the plaintiffs knew about the history of the stickers and not what other citizens might have known about that history.

Also, I feel that an effort should be made to make establishment-clause decisions universally applicable, so I am against the idea of decisions being based on the particular conditions of the case, e.g., the motives of the public officials, the motives and perceptions of the local citizens, and the local history of the alleged violation, but that is how the Lemon test works.

Also, when cases are remanded in the California state courts (including the municipal and superior courts), the party that lost in the lower court is given the option of requesting a different judge. I think that this is a good idea because the original judge would of course tend to be biased in favor of his original decision. I wonder why litigants in the federal courts are not given this option.

My blog has the following articles concerning the Selman case --

What happened to the Cobb County textbook sticker case?

"Traipsing into breathtaking inanity" II: analysis of Selman v. Cobb County

Sticker shock -- appeals court ducks textbook sticker case

Close votes in Freiler case show shakiness of Selman and Kitzmiller decisions

Aptly named "Lemon test" sucks

Disclaimer sticker for Selman v. Cobb County opinion



Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ann Coulter's new book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism"

Ann Coulter's best-selling new book unfortunately has a title that makes it sound like a fundamentalist screed: "Godless: The Church of Liberalism." However, the book might be interesting reading for those on both sides of the evolution controversy, because -- according to Uncommon Descent -- almost half of it is devoted to science and evolution. An ad for the book says --

Coulter uncovers the essential truth about Darwinism that liberals won't confront: It is bogus science.

After a century and a half of examining the fossil record, Coulter states, evolution's proponents have failed to substantiate its claims, and instead one supposed piece of evidence after another has been exposed as a hoax.

But liberals cling devotedly to Darwinism, Coulter says, because they desperately need to disprove the possibility of God's existence at any cost -- and will accept no challenges to their "official religion."

I am really surprised to find myself on the same side as the fundies in this debate over evolution. And I certainly strongly disagree with Ann Coulter's support for school prayer.

Ed Brayton's blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars attacked Coulter in an article titled, "Ann Coulter Crosses the Line":

I didn't think it was possible for me to despise Coulter any more than I already did, but a friend just emailed me a link to this article from Media Matters wherein she compares herself to H.L. Mencken. And that just crosses my line..... Mencken is the finest essayist America has ever produced. Coulter is a carnival barker on the midway of right wing politics. She's not fit to sweep up the ashes from his cigar.

However, I think that Ed is the one who has crossed the line here. Coulter was not the one who initiated the comparisons to other well-known people -- the interviewer did that when he called her the "opposite of Michael Moore," the well-known Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker. And Ed wanted to show off that he is so-o-o-o sophisticated that he knows that "Mencken is the finest essayist America has ever produced." Ed, Ann Coulter has at least become a #1 best-selling author on eBay, which is more than can be said of you.

Also, the book has aroused controversy outside of science and evolution -- an article titled "Hillary lashes out at Ann Coulter" says:

Coulter writes in a new book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," that a group of New Jersey widows whose husbands perished in the World Trade Center act "as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them."

She also wrote, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

Coulter appeared Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, and reiterated her stance, saying the women used their grief "to make a political point."

Her criticism was aimed at four New Jersey women whom she dubbed "The Witches of East Brunswick," after the town where two of them live.

They have spent the years since the 2001 terror attacks supporting an independent commission to examine government failures before the attack, and in the 2004 presidential campaign they endorsed Democrat John Kerry.

Calling for an independent commission to examine government failures before the attack hardly sounds like they were "enjoying their husbands' deaths." I think that Coulter did cross the line this time, and unfortunately those remarks may hurt her credibility. There is a proposal to ban her book in New Jersey. Her attacks on the 9-11 widows are further discussed here.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Anti-Darwinism in the UK

A common urban legend is that anti-Darwinism is a uniquely American phenomenon (and there are doomsday predictions that this anti-Darwinism is going to turn the USA into a "third world" country). Nothing could be further from the truth.

An article in the Guardian Unlimited describes anti-Darwinism in UK schools. This article says,

Most of the next generation of medical and science students could well be creationists, according to a biology teacher at a leading London sixth-form college.* "The vast majority of my students now believe in creationism," she said, "and these are thinking young people who are able and articulate and not at the dim end at all. They have extensive booklets on creationism which they put in my pigeon-hole ..... it's a bit like the southern states of America."

*"Sixth-form colleges" are schools for people in the 16-18 age range. These colleges are described here and here.

My thanks to Answers in Genesis for bringing this article to my attention.



Friday, June 09, 2006

Anti-Darwinism strengthens outside Bible Belt

In the past, anti-Darwinism was strongest in the Bible Belt states because of its association with religion, particularly fundamentalism. However, intelligent design has loosened that association, which I think is the reason why we now see anti-Darwinism growing strong in other parts of the country.

Until the Pennsylvania case of Kitzmiller v. Dover, all of the most important court cases involving governmental public-education rules banning Darwinism, disclaiming Darwinism, or promoting criticisms of Darwinism originated in the Bible Belt of the South. The first was the famous Scopes "monkey" trial in Tennessee in 1925. Since then there have been the following important evolution-education cases from Bible Belt states of the South (the year of the final or latest decision is given, followed by the highest federal court to decide the case -- SC for Supreme Court, App.Ct. for appeals court, and Dist.Ct. for district court):

Arkansas -- Epperson v. Arkansas (1968-SC), McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982-Dist.Ct.)
Louisiana -- Edwards v. Aguillard (1987-SC), Freiler v Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education (2000-App.Ct.)
Georgia -- Selman v. Cobb County (2006--Appt.Ct. remanded to Dist.Ct. -- still pending)

A few significant court cases involving evolution education in the public schools originated outside the Bible Belt, but all of these other cases were anti-Darwinist lawsuits.

Also, the Discovery Institute noted growing state-level support for teaching criticism of evolution in the public schools, and a lot of this support is outside the Southern Bible Belt states --

Columbia, SC – The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee (EOC) will vote Monday, June 12, on whether to give final approval to science standards for biology that require students to summarize how scientists “investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” The standards were approved unanimously by the South Carolina Board of Education on May 31. Four other states (Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and New Mexico) already have science education standards encouraging critical analysis of evolution.

Note: An article in Panda's Thumb disputes the above statement about South Carolina, but concedes, "Edited to add: It was brought to my attention that the science curriculum does actually contain one sentence about 'critical analysis' that was added a year ago, so the DI press release isn’t technically untrue."

Of the four states listed in the above DI press release, Kansas is arguably a Bible Belt state, but it is outside the South. One of the states listed above, Pennsylvania, is Judge Jones' own state, bearding the lion in his den. Other states outside the Bible Belt -- e.g., Ohio and Michigan -- have also had efforts to create state education standards encouraging critical analysis of evolution.

Despite the Darwinists' claim that the Kitzmiller decision was the coup de grace to the anti-Darwinist movement, that movement is still very much alive, as was Mark Twain when he said, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." It is good to see that there are lots of public officials with enough backbone to stand up to the threats of lawsuits against education standards that encourage critical analysis of evolution. A member of the Ohio Board of Education said, "let them sue us." Now that's the spirit!



Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ed Brayton falsely labels Michigan bill "pro-ID"

According to Ed Brayton, the following language in the Michigan legislature's HB 5251 is "pro-ID":

10) Not later than August 1, 2006, the state board shall revise the recommended model core academic curriculum content standards in science to ensure that pupils will be able to do all of the following:

(a) Use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution.

(b) Use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and to formulate arguments for or against those theories.

Nothing in the above bill mentions or even implies ID -- the bill only talks generally about using scientific methods to argue against evolution. There are arguments against evolution that have nothing to do with design -- I have presented some such arguments in this blog (arguments concerning co-evolution, chromosome counts, and the propagability of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction). Of course, if the Darwinists can succeed in persuading enough people to believe that (all criticisms of evolution) = ID = creationism, then the Darwinists can succeed in discrediting all criticisms of evolution and having them banned from public schools.

It is obvious why I was banned from Ed's blog -- he can't stand to have anyone there who tells the truth. I could try to post comments there under false names, but it would not do any good because the comments would be deleted anyway.

I agree with Ed about the Michigan legislature's unfairness of allowing short public notices of hearings and giving special treatment to some public commenters: special advance notice of the hearing and more time to speak than opposing commenters. However, even California's Brown Act, possibly the most stringent open-meetings law in the USA, evidently does not apply to the state legislature: the preamble of the Brown Act says, "54950 In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly." Anyway, Ed, where were you when Herr Fuhrer Esley Welsberry (pronounced "Velsberry") of Panda's Thumb banned further discussion of my idea that the Ohio Board of Education should have heard public comments before rather than after voting on the evolution lesson plan, his reason being that he was not aware that any of the Ohio public commenters had complained about it?

If the Michigan legislators are concerned about the possible expense of a lawsuit, my article titled "Often the best defense is a good offense" has suggestions for minimizing the expense. And certainly a big state like Michigan should not be intimidated by the potential expense of a little lawsuit.

Another Darwinist fallacy is that ID is not scientific. The principal scientific component of ID, irreducible complexity, is based on scientific observations, and irreducible complexity deals with the probability and possible mechanisms of the evolution of complex biological systems that appear to be irreducible. Something does not have to be testable, falsifiable, and a complete explanation of observed phenomena in order to be considered to be scientific -- macroevolution theory is not testable or falsifiable. Something can be just a criticism of a scientific theory and still be scientific.



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Adulation of Judge Jones

The bloggers and commenters on Panda's Thumb and Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars have really gone off the deep end in heaping praise on Judge John E. Jones III, the lousy judge who decided the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. An article on Panda's Thumb describes Jones' speech to the Anti-Defamation League as "fantastic," and a comment under that article says, "Can someone nominate this guy for the Supreme Court?" And under an article titled "Judge Jones on Judicial Independence" in Ed Brayton's Dispatches, one commenter wrote, "H.E.R.O. -- look up the definition: it should be amended to include this man's picture," and another commenter wrote, "Damn, maybe we can get Judge Jones to run for President! I don't care which party either." Also, Ed Brayton wrote that critics of the Dover decision "are so driven by their anger at not getting the outcome they wanted that they have blinded themselves to one of the fundamental aspects of how Federal courts operate. " That statement may be true of Phyllis Schlafly, a principal target of Jones' speech. However, much of the criticism of the Dover decision has been directed not at the outcome but rather at how that outcome was reached, and Ed Brayton pretends that this kind of criticism does not exist.

Also, a straw man created by Ed Brayton in another article, "Prediction: Next Attack on Judge Jones", really takes the cake. Ed cited the following item from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Edward Madeira, a senior partner with Pepper Hamilton L.L.P., which represented Dover plaintiffs, described Jones as the perfect ambassador for a more visible judiciary.

"God bless him," said Madeira, who serves with Jones on a state panel on judicial independence. "He came out of the case with a real concern about the lack of understanding of the role of the judiciary and has become a person who spends time very effectively talking about it."

Ed then adds,

I predict that this will be used for the next wave of attacks on Jones from his shrill and often absurd opponents (Phyllis Schlaffly, Casey Luskin, Jonathan Witt, Michael Francisco, Seth Cooper, Joe Manzari, and others). They're going to scream about the alleged conflict of interest because Jones serves on a judicial independence panel with a partner in the law firm that represented the plaintiffs in Dover.

Good grief! Where's the "conflict of interest," Ed? How could Judge Jones be influenced by serving on the same such panel as this attorney? By your tight standards regarding conflict of interest, it would be virtually impossible for a judge and a local attorney to serve on the same such panel. Still, though, the attorney's praise of Judge Jones -- saying "God bless him" -- does seem indiscreet.

Here are my own opinions about Judge Jones:

"Judge Jones flunks history and philosophy as well as law and science"

"Judge Jones is hot speaker on the lecture circuit"

"Judge Jones the hypocrite"

Judge Jones gets dishonorable mention in the following article:

"NYC Mayor Bloomberg's commencement speech took swipe at ID"

My condemnations of Judge Jones' rulings in Kitzmiller v. Dover are on:

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



Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Often the best defense is a good offense

The Darwinists are already crowing that they have won the court battle against evolution disclaimers in the public schools, but here is all that they have actually achieved:

(1) -- Kitzmiller v. Dover, a badly flawed, unreviewed district-court opinion that is not worth the paper it is printed on. And factors that grievously hurt the Dover defendants -- e.g., the Of People and Pandas book, the religious motivations of the defendants, and the issue of intelligent design -- would not necessarily be present in other evolution-disclaimer cases (particularly not the Pandas book).

(2) -- the Selman v. Cobb County textbook-sticker case, which is back at square one because the appeals court remanded the case to the district court because a petition and a letter that were allegedly given to the school board were missing. In oral hearings in the appeals court, the judges indicated that they were leaning towards reversal for reasons having nothing to do with the missing petition and letter.

(3) -- Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education. The case came within one vote of being granted a rehearing en banc (rehearing by the full appeals court) and within one vote of being granted certiorari by the US Supreme Court. All of the dissenting appeals court justices and two of the three dissenting Supreme Court justices joined in long dissenting opinions that protested the denials of rehearing en banc and certiorari.

So, with the dozens of state legislatures and thousands of school boards across the USA, why have no more of them challenged the Darwinists and the ACLU et al. by enacting evolution disclaimers of their own? If the legislatures and school boards are waiting for the final outcome of Selman, the only one of the above cases still pending, they are going to wait a long time, perhaps forever.

I think that any new evolution disclaimer rule should follow the evolution disclaimer textbook sticker used by Cobb County. This sticker has the best chance of passing the scrutiny of the courts, for the following reasons: (1) this disclaimer does not mention anything religious; (2) this disclaimer does not specifically mention any challenge to Darwinism; and (3) this disclaimer is just a sticker in a textbook, hence students would not be subjected to the possible discomfort or embarrassment of listening to or avoiding oral presentations of an evolution disclaimer.

One of the big fears of school boards and legislatures is the potential liability for a seven-figure award of attorney fees to the plaintiffs if the plaintiffs win (the plaintiffs' attorneys in Kitzmiller initially calculated over $2 million in fees and settled for $1 million). But there are a number of ways to hold these costs down --

(1) Argue that according to the precedent of Edwards v. Aguillard, the court should refuse to hear testimony from expert witnesses who had not participated in the enactment of the evolution disclaimer and who therefore had not influenced the legislature or school board.

(2) If the judge insists on having expert testimony, suggest that the expert testimony in the transcripts of the Kitzmiller trial be used. Indeed, Judge Jones said that one of the purposes of the Kitzmiller trial was to save future court costs in lawsuits addressing many of the same issues. If Cobb-County type textbook stickers are used, a lot of the expert testimony in Kitzmiller -- e.g., the parts dealing with intelligent design and the Of People And Pandas book -- would not be applicable.

(3) Argue against billing for an excessive number of plaintiffs' attorneys. In Kitzmiller, there were 9-10 plaintiffs' attorneys of record and at least 5 of them were in the courtroom on every day of a six-week trial. The law authorizes only "reasonable" attorney fees, and having so many attorneys is not reasonable.

If it becomes apparent early in the litigation that the above strategies are not going to work, then -- under the precedent of Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001) -- the legislature or school board can avoid liability for attorney fees by voluntarily repealing the evolution disclaimer. See this article for details.

Also, there is another big reason why the legislators or school board members should not worry about the expense -- it's not their money! And the money should not be a consideration for states and big, rich school districts.

Hopefully, that Congressional bill to bar awards of attorney fees in establishment clause cases will pass and then these fees will no longer be an issue.

The Thomas More Law Center, which represented the Dover defendants for free, should be contacted to ask for help. The TMLC is probably eager to compensate for its loss in the Kitzmiller case -- the TMLC was especially disappointed that Kitzmiller was not appealed.

Finally, if the legislature or school board waits for public pressure before adopting an evolution disclaimer, that will only make matters much worse. An alleged petition and an alleged citizen's letter were the basis for the ruling against the school district in Selman.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Darwinists' insistence that ID is creationism

A continuing theme of the Darwinists is their insistence that intelligent design is just creationism in disguise. Recent examples of this insistence are here on Panda's Thumb and here and here on Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton's blog. Furthermore, the religious motivations of a few leading ID proponents are used to stereotype all proponents of ID as religiously motivated.

Unfortunately, I am banned from commenting under my real name on those blogs, so I am restricted to posting my comments here.

A big reason for this insistence is, of course, that since creationism is identified with religion, anything identified with creationism is therefore religious and subject to attack by means of the establishment clause if taught or even mentioned in the public schools. The Darwinists have perverted the establishment clause into a means of attacking scientific ideas that they disagree with. Whether or not ID has religious connotations is irrelevant so far as its scientific merits are concerned. The Darwinists are just taking out their hostilities by attacking the kiddies, who are the victims of the censorship of criticism of Darwinism in the public schools. Also, as a result of the attacks on ID in the public schools, the Darwinists can now brag that a judge supported the claim that ID is just creationism.

This insistence that ID is creationism is one reason why I have preferred to concentrate on non-ID challenges to Darwinism, e.g., challenges concerning co-evolution, the propagability of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction, and chromosome counts. These challenges do not involve the issue of "design." With no design, there is no supernatural "designer." With no supernatural designer, there is no religion. With no religion, there can be no violation of the establishment clause. Simple. Unfortunately, the Darwinists have also been insisting that all challenges to evolution are forms of ID, but that is of course ridiculous.



Friday, June 02, 2006

NYC Mayor Bloomberg's commencement speech took swipe at ID

At a commencement speech at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a swipe at intelligent design, just as Judge John E. Jones III did at a commencement speech at Dickinson College. Mayor Bloomberg said in his speech:

Today, we are seeing hundreds of years of scientific discovery being challenged by people who simply disregard facts that don't happen to agree with their agendas. Some call it "pseudo-science," others call it "faith-based science," but when you notice where this negligence tends to take place, you might as well call it "political science.".........You can see "political science" at work when it comes to global warming........You can see "political science" at work with respect to stem cell research....... Was there anything more inappropriate than watching political science try to override medical science in the Terry Schiavo case?

And it boggles the mind that nearly two centuries after Darwin, and 80 years after John Scopes was put on trial, this country is still debating the validity of evolution. In Kansas, Mississippi, and elsewhere, school districts are now proposing to teach "intelligent design" - which is really just creationism by another name -- in science classes alongside evolution. Think about it! This not only devalues science, it cheapens theology. As well as condemning these students to an inferior education, it ultimately hurts their professional opportunities.

At least Mayor Bloomberg's speech is not as offensive as Judge Jones' speech. Bloomberg is just a politician and as such is not expected to be neutral or objective. However, judges are expected to be neutral and objective on issues that come before them, but Judge Jones' commencement speech at Dickinson College showed that he has a hostility toward organized religion that would prevent him from being neutral and objective in establishment clause cases -- he said: "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." (emphasis added) Jones should be disqualified from deciding establishment clause cases and his Kitzmiller decision ought to be rescinded and the case retried.

Despite Bloomberg's claim that school districts are now proposing to teach intelligent design, intelligent design was not actually being taught in Dover, Cobb County, and Tangipahoa Parish -- all places where gag orders by the courts prohibited evolution disclaimers in the public schools. The only "religion" that was and is being taught in those places is Darwinism. As for ID hurting the students' professional opportunities, that is generally not true. Most students are still being taught Darwinism, and scientists can continue to use the concepts and tools of Darwinism even while believing that all or part of it is untrue, in the same way that electrical engineers use complex-number math in the analysis of AC circuits even while being aware that the math bears little or no physical relationship to the circuits -- in particular, the reactance, which is the magnitude of the imaginary component of the impedance vector in the complex plane, is especially remote from any physical relationship to the AC circuits because the reactance is a calculated quantity based on a circuit's inductance, capacitance, and AC frequency. Also, I believe that the concept that macroevolution was driven solely by natural genetic variation and natural selection has no practical application in science or technology. I will concede that other concepts of evolution theory are useful in biology, but I feel that they are not absolutely necessary -- for example, the chronological order of fossils can be an aid in taxonomic classification, but it is not necessary to assume that species evolved into other species.

A media report on Bloomberg's commencement address is here.