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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The breathtaking inanity of Ed Brayton

Ed Brayton posted on his blog what he thinks is "the perfect retort to all this Darwin leads to Hitler crap":

"And on 9/11, the World Trade Center was knocked down by creationists who hate evolution. What's your point?"

What's YOUR point, Ed?

Ed himself admitted that there is a link between Darwin and Hitler.



A review of PZ Myers' review of Chapter 3 of Wells' new book

Note: This review has some serious errors because of PZ's misrepresentation of the book -- see Sleazy PZ Myers is caught quote mining.

This post is a follow-up to PZ Myers, the Ann Coulter of Darwinism". Here I will make some specific criticisms of Myers' review of Chapter 3 of Jonathan Wells' new book, "A Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design." His review was posted in two places, here and here.

I wrote this review because I wanted to see for myself if Chapter 3 of Wells' book is really as bad as PZ said it is. I found serious flaws in the book, but I also found flaws in PZ's review and in a scientific paper written by W.W. Ballard.

This review of PZ's review is divided into three parts: "Obsession with Darwin," "Ernst Haeckel's influence on Darwin," and "Recapitulation theory and vertebrate embryology."

Obsession with Darwin:

PZ's review says,

Another feature of Wells' book, and creationists in general, is the obsession with Charles Darwin.

No one is more obsessed with Charles Darwin than the Darwinists themselves. Just look at the huge Darwin Day Celebration -- I think it's disgusting. They are even linking Darwin and Lincoln just because the two happen to have the same official birthdates -- the two men have virtually nothing else in common. And though Darwinists celebrate Darwin's birthday, many Darwinists feel offended when they are called "Darwinists."

Ernst Haeckel's influence on Darwin:

Wikipedia says of "recapitulation theory,"

First espoused in 1866 by German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, the theory has been discredited in its absolute form, although recognized as being partly accurate . . . . The theory claims that the development of the embryo of every species repeats the evolutionary development of that species fully. Or otherwise put: each successive stage in the development of an individual represents one of the adult forms that appeared in its evolutionary history.

PZ quotes from Wells' book:

"…von Baer’s view 'was confounded with and then transformed into' the evolutionary doctrine that the embryos of higher organisms pass through the adult forms of lower organisms in the course of their development. It was this evolutionary distortion of von Baer’s work that Darwin considered the strongest evidence for his theory."

PZ then comments,

There’s that Wells sleight of hand again. Haeckel’s ideas about recapitulation (this idea of embryos passing through the adult forms of ‘lower’ organisms, which even Haeckel did not hold as simple-mindedly as Wells pretends) would be very difficult to find in the Origin of Species, which was published in 1859…note the date of Haeckel’s work.

Probably the best indication that Haeckel did not "simple-mindedly" hold those ideas about recapitulation is that he probably faked the embryo drawings to support those ideas. Wikipedia says,

Haeckel advanced the "recapitulation theory" which proposed a link between ontogeny (development of form) and phylogeny (evolutionary descent), summed up in the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". He supported the theory with embryo drawings that have since been shown to be oversimplified and in part inaccurate, and the theory is now considered an oversimplification of quite complicated relationships. It is thought that Haeckel deliberately faked the images to get more support for his ideas.

PZ also quotes from Wells' book,

"In the 1860’s, German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel (pronounced “heckle”) made some drawings to illustrate this distorted view, and Darwin relied on the drawings in later editions of The Origin of Species and in The Descent of Man (1871)."(my emphasis added)

PZ then comments,

Pore through the Origin, and you won’t find reference to Haeckel’s theory (later editions cite him once), and you certainly won’t find any reliance on his drawings.

PZ quoted the later editions' citation of Haeckel:

Professor Haeckel in his Generelle Morphologie and in other works, has recently brought his great knowledge and abilities to bear on what he calls phylogeny, or the lines of descent of all organic beings. In drawing up the several series he trusts chiefly to embryological characters, but receives aid from homologous and rudimentary organs, as well as from the successive periods at which the various forms of life are believed to have first appeared in our geological formations. He has thus boldly made a great beginning, and shows us how classification will in the future be treated.

PZ asserts that the above paragraph does not mention recapitulation theory, but the statement that in drawing the embryos Haeckel received aid from "homologous and rudimentary organs, as well as from the successive periods at which the various forms of life are believed to have first appeared in our geological formations" might have been a reference to recapitulation theory. Anyway, Darwin does not elaborate here, and if PZ is correct that this is Darwin's only reference to Haeckel, then Wells must have been wrong when he said that Darwin considered recapitulation theory to be the strongest evidence for his own theory of evolution.

As for Wells' claim that Haeckel's faked data is still used in biology textbooks, I have no idea about that.

Recapitulation theory and vertebrate embryology

Here I agree with PZ that Wells quote-mined a scientific paper. However, I think that the paper itself was not accurate and created a lot of confusion.

Here is the quote mine in Wells' book,
It is “only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence,” by “bending the facts of nature,” that one can argue that the early embryo stages of vertebrates “are more alike than their adults.”

And here is the result that Wells' apparently concluded from that quote mine:

The strongest evidence for Darwin’s theory was embryology, but Karl Ernst von Baer, who laid out the laws of development, did not think they supported evolution, and Ernst Haeckel twisted and distorted von Baer’s laws and faked his data to support Darwinism. He was wrong, and the earliest stages of vertebrate embryos do not resemble one another at all, so Darwinism was built on a false foundation, and they’re still using Haeckel’s faked data in our textbooks (emphasis added)

Here is the quote-mined section of the scientific paper, "Problems of gastrulation: real and verbal," by WW Ballard, (1976) Bioscience 26(1):36-39 -- words that I added for clarity are shown in bold:

In the gastrula stage, which comes before the pharyngula stage, we can only say that the embryos of different species within a single taxonomic class are more alike than their parents. However, only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence can we claim that "gastrulas" of species in different taxonomic classes -- e.g., a shark, salmon, frog, and bird -- are more alike than their adults.(words in bold are words that I added for clarity)

It is clear that Wells quote-mined Ballard's scientific paper. The paper said that the gastrula-stage embryos of different species either tend to be more alike or less alike than their parents, depending on whether or not the species are of the same taxonomic class. Wells misinterpreted this as meaning that all early stage embryos of different species are less alike than their parents and that therefore the "earliest stages of vertebrate embryos do not resemble one another at all" (he didn't define what he meant by "earliest"). Wells did not mention the observation that embryos of different species of vertebrates tend to become similar at the pharyngula stage before diverging again. Also, Wells did not explain what all of this has to do with "recapitulation theory." And Wells, Ballard, and PZ often did not make it clear that they were talking just about vertebrates.

However, because the structures of the adult forms and early embryo forms of organisms are radically different, statements that the early embryos of two species are "more alike than their parents" or "less alike than their parents" are often meaningless. I assert that Ballard created tremendous confusion here by speaking in those terms.

I think that Wikipedia has come to the rescue. On a webpage titled "Embryogenesis", Wikipedia says about a very early stage in embryo development,

The zygote undergoes rapid cell cycles with no significant growth, producing a cluster of cells that is the same size as the original zygote. Depending mostly on the amount of yolk in the egg, the cleavage can be holoblastic (total) or meroblastic (partial).
Holoblastic cleavage occurs in animals with little yolk in their eggs, such as humans and other mammals who receive nourishment as embryos from the mother via placenta or milk. On the other hand meroblastic cleavage occurs in animals whose eggs have more yolk; i.e. birds and reptiles. Cleavage thus creates a very uneven distribution of cells concentrating at the animal pole of the zygote.

The different cells derived from cleavage (up to the blastula stage) are called blastomeres.

So according to Wikipedia, the main deciding factor in development at this stage is the amount of yolk in the egg and not -- as Ballard claimed -- the taxonomic class of the species. This webpage describes other differences in embryo development in the very earliest stages.

Finally, Wikipedia says of the pharyngula stage in vertebrates,

The embryonic development of all vertebrates shows remarkable similarities at the embryonic stage called the pharyngula. At this stage they all contain a:

dorsal hollow nerve cord
post-anal tail, and
a series of paired branchial grooves.

So Wells was wrong or misleading here, but I feel that PZ Myers and Ballard were less than clear. As for Wells' claim that recapitulation theory is wrong and therefore does not support evolution theory, Wikipedia says -- as I noted -- that recapitulation theory is now considered to be only partly true. So Wells apparently was partly right, but for the wrong reasons. Also, as noted above, Wells was apparently wrong about Darwin considering recapitulation theory to be the strongest evidence for his theory (assuming that Darwin made no references to Haeckel other than the one PZ reported).

I have often been accused of over-relying on Wikipedia, but what else can I do? I need to get answers quickly in subjects about which I know nothing or almost nothing, and I have generally found Wikipedia to be objective, fair, comprehensive, and accurate.



Wednesday, August 30, 2006

PZ Myers, the Ann Coulter of Darwinism

Well, I hope that I have talked enough about the holocaust for a while. I don't like to dwell on that unpleasant subject -- I just wanted to help set the record straight. Now onto something different.

Ann Coulter has a bad reputation for being caustic, but she doesn't hold a candle to Darwinist PZ Myers.

PZ Myers, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, is a blogger on Panda's Thumb and also runs his own blog, "Pharyngula." His review of the 3rd chapter of Jonathan Wells' new book, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design," has been posted on both blogs, here and here. The review of the 3rd chapter is part of a group review of the book by the bloggers on Panda's Thumb. PZ charges Wells with quote mining a scientific paper, and I agree with the charge (I have some major objections to the scientific paper that Wells quote-mined, but that is another matter). PZ also charges that the 3rd chapter's claim that Darwin relied upon Ernst Haeckel's embryology is false. PZ gets very abusive in the review:

I could stop here. With that one example, Wells is exposed as a disreputable scoundrel, a sloppy ideologue whose “scholarship” is untrustworthy and willfully distorted. You simply cannot believe one word he says. I will go on a little further, though, and try to explain some of the ideas he has treated so shabbily.

-- and --

I keep looking for a word to summarize this book, and I keep coming back to “dishonest”; devious, unethical, deceitful, underhanded, shifty, false, and untrustworthy would also fit. I predict that in the coming reviews of other chapters in "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design" by my colleagues at the Panda’s Thumb, they’re all going to be using permutations of that concept of contemptible fraudulence to express their feelings about Wells.

PZ could have made his points without being so abusive -- additionally, his last sentence above shows a lack of an open mind about the other chapters of the book. This kind of invective is not out of character for PZ -- he once said in a comment on Panda's Thumb,

Please don’t try to tell me that you object to the tone of our complaints. Our only problem is that we aren’t martial enough, or vigorous enough, or loud enough, or angry enough. The only appropriate responses should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many schoolboard members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians.


I admit to using abusive language myself, but usually only in response to personal attacks against me. PZ's apparent confidence that such excesses will not hurt his career as a college faculty member speaks volumes about the clout that Darwinists have on college campuses. One of these days, however, PZ might find that, like Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki, he has gone too far. Mirecki wrote in a semi-public Internet forum that his new for-credit course whose title labeled creationism and intelligent design as "mythologies" was a "nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies." As a result of that remark, Mirecki was forced to cancel the course and resign as department chairman. Lawrence Journal-World's "Evolution in Kansas" series has a good collection of articles about Mirecki's adventures.



The absurd book "IBM and the Holocaust"

A recent book titled "IBM and the Holocaust", which I discussed in a previous post titled "Holocaust mythologies", makes the absurd claim that the Nazis were able to identify all the Jews of Europe by using primitive Hollerith card reading and card sorting machines to cross-correlate data stored on billions of IBM Hollerith punched cards. The book was generally panned by reviewers, but not for the reasons that I mentioned. Surprisingly, though, the book won an award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors as a work of general non-fiction.

One reviewer said,

Is Mr. Black really correct in his assumption that without I.B.M.'s technology, which consisted mainly of punch cards and the machines to tabulate them, the Germans wouldn't have figured out a way to do what they did anyway? Would the country that devised the Messerschmitt and the V-2 missile have been unable to devise the necessary means to slaughter millions of victims without I.B.M. at its disposal?

BTW, the above review incorrectly states that Herman Hollerith
was a German immigrant. He was born in the USA to German immigrant parents.

Also, another reviewer said,

The key question, in any case, is not whether I.B.M. sold Germany its equipment but whether, as alleged, it made the Final Solution part of its "mission" and whether its relationship with Germany in any way "energized" or significantly "enhanced" Hitler's efforts to destroy world Jewry. On the first point, Black never even attempts to substantiate his accusation -- a scandalous omission considering the gravity of the charge.

The first point above refers to the following statement in the book's introduction:

IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler's program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success. (emphasis added)

This book is a blood libel against IBM USA.

An article titled "A Secret, Not Too Secret" discusses the unusual secrecy about the book prior to release for sale.

The introduction to the book said,

With few exceptions (see Bibliographical Note), the Holocaust literature is virtually devoid of mention of the Hollerith machines—in spite of its high profile display at the United States Holocaust Museum.

However, I found an article titled "Counted for Persecution, IBM's Role in the Holocaust" that predates release of the book and that contradicts the book's claims. The article quotes Sybil Milton, former senior historian of the research institute of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, as saying, "We have no proof that the Hollerith was ever used to target individuals for deportation lists."

How could something that seems so central to the Holocaust -- the question of how the Nazis identified the Jews -- have been virtually ignored for decades? The holocaust is usually defined as being "systematic," but to have a "systematic" holocaust of Jews, there's got to be a reliable way of distinguishing Jews from non-Jews -- there are no two ways about it.

Also, none of the book's reviewers seem to have any understanding of how primitive the IBM Hollerith machines were as data-processing devices. All the machines could do was just read and sort a few punched cards at a time. The machines were not programmable, they could not store data, they could not search large databases, they could not network with other IBM machines, and by the standards of modern computers the machines were as slow as molasses at the South Pole in the dead of winter. The data storage medium, punched cards, was extremely bulky. In summary, these machines were completely incapable of doing what the book claims they did. The book says, "Jews could not hide from millions of punch cards thudding through Hollerith machines, comparing names across generations, address changes across regions, family trees and personal data across unending registries." LOL What a joke. The Hollerith machines were a tremendous improvement over hand methods but were nonetheless prehistoric so far as modern data processing is concerned.

Also, the book's claims that the IBM cards had to be custom-designed for the Nazis' purposes and that the cards "could only be designed, printed, and purchased from one source: IBM" are utterly false. A standard general-purpose Hollerith card -- with 80 columns and 12 rows of punch locations --- was introduced in 1928 and can be used for any data recording purpose. The Nazis did not need IBM's assistance or permission to use the Hollerith machines for any purpose. IBM USA had a German subsidiary that was perfectly capable of handling any details. And census-taking is a legitimate function for any government, though the Nazis overemphasized the Jewish data thing. It is not as though IBM had sold Zyklon B poison gas to the Nazis, for example.

I will not concede that the Nazis could have carried out a "systematic" Jewish holocaust even with modern electronic technology like modern computers and the Internet. A great deal of the data that the Nazis needed was simply either not available or was too hard to find. In many cases, the fact that many people had the same names would have created confusion. It was simply a case of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) --- the quality of the output cannot be better than the quality of the input. I will concede that with DNA testing the Nazis would have been able to identify people with a common ancestry (DNA testing is used to test for American Indian ancestry to determine eligibility for tribal membership and associated benefits), but that issue is moot because DNA testing was not available to the Nazis. Also, I cannot understand why the Nazis did not immediately tattoo all Jews that they found so that those Jews would need to be identified only once --- apparently only concentration camp inmates were tattooed. There is an awful lot about official holocaust history that does not make any sense at all.

Here is the one book that claims to have solved the great mystery of how the Nazis identified the Jews -- and it fell flat on its face.



Monday, August 28, 2006

Brayton admits Darwin-Hitler link

While condemning a TV program that links Darwin to Hitler, Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton himself admitted that there is such a link! Ed admits on his blog that Hitler used "scientific language" to support Nazi policies:

Even if one does not take the position that Christianity is to blame for Hitler (and that is my position), the fact that Hitler repeatedly and explicitly justified his plans by reference to Christian history and theology proves, at the very least, that Hitler used whatever ideological means he had at his disposal to defend and justify his actions. And that clearly undermines the argument that Darwinism led to Hitler and supports instead the idea that Hitler simply used scientific language when speaking to one audience and religious language when speaking to another.(emphasis added)

In another post, Brayton argues that Hitler was really a creationist. But even assuming that Hitler was a creationist, that does not mean that Darwinism or Social Darwinism did not influence the social policies of the Nazis. And if Hitler publicly used Darwinism or Social Darwinism to help gain support for his social policies, does it really matter whether or not he personally believed in Darwinism?

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, argued that linking Darwin to Hitler "trivializes" the holocaust because "Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people." Whether or not Hitler "needed" Darwin has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether Hitler used Darwin. Perhaps if Hitler had been told that he didn't really "need" Darwin in order to plan the holocaust, Hitler might have impatiently answered like an exasperated King Lear, "O', reason not the need!"

I think that the reason for strong kneejerk Jewish support of Darwinism is that many Jews think that teaching or even mentioning criticism of Darwinism in public schools violates or threatens the separation of church and state. For example, the ADL applauded the Darwinist Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, and Judge John E. Jones III, the judge who decided the case, gave a speech to the ADL. In the Supreme Court case of Edwards v. Aguillard(1987), the ADL and the American Jewish Congress et al. filed separate amicus briefs opposing equal time for creation science and evolution in the public schools. In another equal-time case, McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education(1982), a district-court case which was not appealed, three Jewish organizations were listed among the organizational plaintiffs (Christian denominations were also represented but only by individual plaintiffs, including local bishops of some denominations). The ADL and the American Jewish Congress filed separate amicus briefs in the appeal of the Selman v. Cobb County (2005) evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker case. I think that the Darwinists are afraid that exposing the Darwinism-Nazism link would erode Jewish opposition to the teaching or mention of criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools.

In a bizarre twist, Jeffrey Selman, the lead plaintiff in the Selman v Cobb County textbook sticker case, associated criticism and skepticism of Darwinism -- as opposed to Darwinism itself -- with the holocaust. An article in the Cleveland Jewish News said,

When a federal judge in Georgia ruled last week that a local school board's decision to put a small sticker on its science textbooks labeling evolution "a theory, not a fact" was unconstitutional, Jeffrey Selman said it was primarily an American issue.

Still, he said, he could not help but view it through the lens of his Jewishness.

"Look what happened in Germany," said Selman, one of a group of parents that sued the Cobb County school board to have the stickers removed.

"The German Jews said, 'We're Germans. We'll be fine.' The next thing you know, they were opening the oven doors for us."

In response to Jeffrey Selman's preceding remarks, John West of the Discovery Institute said,

. . . .it is simply Orwellian for defenders of Darwin to try to suggest that criticism of Darwin's theory can in any way be tied to the Holocaust -- especially when critics of Darwin were some of the most vocal opponents of the sort of eugenics policies championed by the Nazis and leading American defenders of Darwin's theory!

Among the "most vocal opponents" of Social Darwinism was William Jennings Bryan, the famous prosecutor in the Scopes monkey trial of 1925.

A comment on Uncommon Descent quoted the following astute observation:

"Some assert that Hitler got his antisemitism from the church -- as if the church ever taught that the blond-haired blue-eyed Aryans were the master race and needed to get rid of the Jews to preserve their racial purity."

I am not arguing that Darwinism should be scrapped just because of its influence on Nazism. I am just arguing that history should be studied objectively, letting the chips fall where they may.

Labels: ,


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Holocaust mythologies

So far I have concentrated on the evolution debate but I have pretty much exhausted that subject, so I finally decided to post an article on the holocaust.

Holocaust revisionism is by far the biggest taboo in our society. As soon as you question official holocaust history, people will smear you as a neo-Nazi and anti-Semite and will refuse to hear what you have to say on other subjects. Lunatic Iranian president Mahmoud What's-his-name was at least right about one thing -- saying that the holocaust has been exalted above god, religion, and the prophets. When you try to contradict official holocaust dogma, it doesn't matter how reliable your information sources are or how logical your arguments are -- you are going to be denounced as a crackpot.

My criticism of official Holocaust dogma consists of two parts here -- one concerns the official death counts for Auschwitz and the other concerns the issue of Jew identification.


Despite claims that official holocaust history is based on "meticulous" Nazi records, there have been wild inconsistencies in something as simple as the number of deaths at Auschwitz. Official figures have been as low as 1 million and as high as 4 million. Nizkor says,

"Deniers often use the 'Four Million Variant' as a stepping stone to leap from an apparent contradiction to the idea that the Holocaust was a hoax, again perpetrated by a conspiracy. They hope to discredit historians by making them seem inconsistent. If they can't keep their numbers straight, their reasoning goes, how can we say that their evidence for the Holocaust is credible? One must wonder which historians they speak of, as most have been remarkably consistent in their estimates of a million or so dead. In short, all of the denier's blustering about the 'Four Million Variant' is a specious attempt to envelope the reader into their web of deceit, and it can be discarded after the most rudimentary examination of published histories."

However, it took many decades for official holocaust historians to reach a consensus that the correct figure was likely in the range of 1-1.5 million. The official holocaust historians' excuse that they knew all along what the correct figure was does not hold any water.

Jew Identification:

Also, I assert that a "systematic" Jewish holocaust was virtually impossible because the Nazis had no reliable way of distinguishing Jews from non-Jews. We don't even know what a Jew is. Is a Jew someone who practices Judaism? Someone who eats kosher food, observes the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, and goes to synagogue? Or is a Jew just someone who is a descendant of someone who did those things? How much Jewish blood does a person need to be defined as a Jew? It seems that if there had been a Jewish holocaust, we would have heard some complaints from who believed that they were mistakenly identified as Jews. Also, it seems that a lot of non-Jews would have been afraid that they would be mistaken for Jews.

This issue of Jew identification should be central to the study of holocaust history, but this issue is generally ignored by both mainstream holocaust historians and holocaust revisionists. For the most part, it is just assumed that the Nazis "just knew" who the Jews were -- this is just like the "just-so" stories of evolution theory. There are various theories of how the Nazis identified Jews, but these theories are all very fishy. It is argued that the Jews lived in ghettos and shtetls, but supposedly many of the Jewish victims of the holocaust were assimilated Jews. It is argued that Jews were identified by "informers," but there could not have been enough informers to account for more than a tiny fraction of the alleged 6 million Jewish victims of the holocaust, and the Nazis could not have trusted these informers. It is argued that Jews were identified by "Jewish-sounding" last names, but many non-Jewish German and other non-Jewish European names sound Jewish (just ask Jesse Jackson -- he thought that Nixon's aides Ehrlichman and Haldeman were Jewish). It is argued that Jews carried Jewish "papers" -- but it is doubtful that Europeans at that time carried any kind of identification (even here in the USA, the driver's license or a facsimile has become the de facto ID). It is argued that the Nazis kept "meticulous" genealogical records, but most of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust lived in other countries that did not have the Nazis' obsession with identifying Jews. The drastic changes in the national boundaries of Europe that occurred after WW I also made record-keeping extremely difficult, and even the pre-Nazi records of Germany itself were probably poor in regard to Jewish genealogy. There were no fingerprint records or anything like that to aid in identification. The Nazis just rounded up victims en masse -- there was no time for individual identification. A lot of people were scattered by the war, making identification even more difficult. Since Jews were hard to identify, it seems that the Nazis would have permanently marked any that were found (e.g., by tattooing them), rather than depending on unreliable means of ID like Star of David.armbands.

A fairly recent book titled "IBM and the Holocaust" argues that the Nazis identified all the Jews of Europe by using Hollerith card-reading and card-sorting machines to cross-correlate data stored on billions of IBM Hollerith punched cards, but those primitive machines obviously did not have such data-processing capability -- all they could do was just read and sort a few cards at a time. Also, a lot of the data for the cards would have been difficult or impossible to collect. The introduction to the book says,

Only after Jews were identified could they be targeted for asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and ultimately extermination. To search generations of communal, church, and governmental records all across Germany -- and later throughout Europe -- was a cross-indexing task so monumental, it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.

In fact, a Jewish source -- Washington Jewish Week --- completely contradicts the book by claiming that the Hollerith machines were not used to identify individual Jews:

Milton [former senior historian at the U.S. Holocaust Museum] adds today, "We have no proof that the Hollerith was ever used to target individuals for deportation lists. It was a back-up system because it was too broad a system, providing aggregate counts of population groups," she explains. "However, when they would check a deportation list against what is known as the number of Jews in a town, then the Hollerith list would provide the evidence that, 'Yes, this figure is reasonable. We know we have X number of Jews, X number of Roma [Gypsies] registered' in a town like Heidelberg, and therefore, we know that this might have been used as back-up material."

The book "IBM and the Holocaust" was not intended to be a scholarly work --- it was designed to sell, as is evidenced by its sensational, defamatory and unsubstantiated charge that IBM USA had a "mission" to help exterminate European Jews. The only worthwhile contribution of the book was to raise a question that both mainstream historians and holocaust revisionists have been ignoring: how were the Jews identified?

Even the bible has examples of Jews who were mistaken to be non-Jews -- Moses and Esther.

I am now bracing myself for a flood of comments containing no rational arguments but lots of insults and ad hominem attacks.


"I'm from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." Willard Duncan Vandiver, US Congressman from Missouri



Friday, August 25, 2006

The shafting of FTE in the Dover case -- Brayton and Elsberry are wrong again

Eight months after it was decided, the Kitzmiller v. Dover case continues to generate a lot of controversy. The controversy now is over a Discovery Institute article -- titled "A Textbook Case of Judicial Activism" -- that condemns Judge Jones' shabby treatment of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), the publisher of the book Of Pandas and People. Ed Brayton's response to the article is here and Wesley Elsberry's response is here. There are two issues here: (1) Jones' denial of FTE's motion to intervene and (2) Jones' denial of FTE's motion to quash the plaintiffs' subpoena of the manuscript for FTE's new book, The Design of Life.

Regarding denial of the motion to intervene:

(1) In regard to the issue of timeliness of the motion to intervene, the following factors existed:

(a) The motion to intervene was filed a huge 3-4 months before the scheduled start of the courtroom testimony.

(b) Intervention would not have introduced significant new issues to the case -- the book Of Pandas and People had already become central to the case.

(c) Intervention would probably not have introduced new expert witnesses -- FTE just wanted to bring back an expert witness who had already been deposed, William Dembski.

(d) Before receiving the plaintiffs' subpoena, FTE had no reason to believe that the book would be a significant issue in the lawsuit. The lawsuit was supposed to be about ID and not about a particular book about ID. After receiving the subpoena, FTE acted with reasonable speed.

(2) Judge Jones wrongly stated that "purely economic" interests are not grounds for intervention. Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure says that a situation of "Intervention of Right" exists "when the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and the applicant is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties."(emphasis added) That sounds like an economic interest to me.

(3) As to whether FTE's interest was "adequately represented by existing parties," the opposition of the defendants' counsel -- the Thomas More Law Center -- to FTE's motion to intervene raises serious doubts about that. If TMLC was really serious about defending the book, then logically TMLC would have welcomed the help of the world's foremost authority on the book -- the FTE -- and the FTE's attorneys. In retrospect, the defendants' failure to appeal shows that FTE's interests were not adequately represented.

(4) FTE was depending on expert witness William Dembski to represent its interests and then he withdrew from the case.

(5) Jones cited several precedents where a motion to intervene was denied but did not specifically cite a denial of intervention where a product of the would-be intervenor was directly targeted by the plaintiffs as happened in the Dover case.

(6) It is ridiculous to argue that news reports and William Dembski (a contract employee of FTE) could have or should have kept FTE fully informed of the Dover case. In particular, there is no way that news reports or Dembski could have kept FTE informed of the plaintiffs' secret strategies.

(7) As the world's foremost authority on the book that had become central to the case, FTE was also a very strong candidate for "permissive intervention," FRCP Rule 24(b).

FTE's motion to intervene should have been granted on the basis of the following guidelines from precedents cited in the denial of the motion (pages 6-7):

"[W]here a party takes reasonable steps to protect its interests, its application should not fail on timeliness grounds." . . . . . . . .The Third Circuit has instructed that in determining whether a motion to intervene is timely, three factors . . should be considered: "(1) the stage of the proceedings; (2) the prejudice that delay may cause the parties; and (3) the reason for delay." (citations omitted)

Regarding denial of the motion to quash the subpoena:

Elsberry claimed that FTE and its contract employee, William Dembski, were obligated to give the draft manuscript of The Design of Life to the plaintiffs because Dembski had "cited" the manuscript in his expert witness report. However, to “cite” a source usually means to quote or paraphrase something contained in that source, but all Dembski did was just mention the existence of the manuscript. Apparently Dembski's only purpose in mentioning the manuscript was to help show his familiarity with the book’s previous edition, the 2nd edition of the book Of Pandas and People — he said, “Having worked so closely in revising, expanding, and updating the second edition of this book, I feel I know it better than anyone.” In the end, Judge Jones required FTE to give the manuscript to the plaintiffs but prohibited the plaintiffs from publicly disclosing the manuscript's contents.

In addition, Elsberry continued to kick a long-dead horse: a false charge that a new member of the Dover school board was guilty of a conflict of interest. That false charge was withdrawn immediately when the true facts were presented.


It is fairly obvious why Ed Brayton and Wesley Elsberry kicked me off their blogs, Dispatches From the Culture Wars and Panda's Thumb (a multiblogger blog but I am informed that Wesley is the official owner) respectively -- they don't want to have a commenter around who is willing and able to completely refute them. Wesley has not kicked me off his personal blog -- Austringer -- yet, but I have only recently started to post comments there.



Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Evolutionary biology" becomes extinct on list of college majors

A recent New York Times article reported, "Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students."

Actually, I don't see what the big problem is, because as the article also notes, "references to evolution appear in listings of other fields of biological study." The list of acceptable fields also includes "26.9999 Biological and Biomedical Sciences, other."

Of course, the money-grubbing ACLU smelled another opportunity for a big attorney-fee award rip-off -- the NY Times article said, "Jeremy Gunn, who directs the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that if the change was not immediately reversed 'we will certainly pursue this.' " Yeah -- big church-state separation issue.

Different theories have been propounded to explain the extinction of the "evolutionary biology" listing. Some think that the cause was just a clerical error while others think that the fundies are responsible.

Frankly, I don't understand why anyone would want to have the words "evolutionary biology" on his/her diploma. It sounds overspecialized and could be a particularly bad liability if evolution theory ever falls into disfavor.

I am not just singling out "evolutionary biology" for criticism -- there are other overspecialized and/or unnecessary college-major fields out there. As an engineer, I know that "aerospace engineering" ( similar classifications are "aeronautical engineering" and "astronautical engineering") -- which is a job classification of the US Dept. of Labor as well as a college major -- is a particularly useless classification. Broadly, an "aerospace engineer" is any engineer who works in the aerospace industry, regardless of discipline, and most of the degreed engineers in the aerospace industry do not have aero degrees. Few universities grant degrees in aerospace or aeronautical engineering, and the courses in AE programs are mostly just mechanical engineering courses. I knew someone with an aero degree who said that he regretted not having a mechanical engineering degree instead because the aero degree made it hard to get jobs that he was qualified to perform.

Panda's thumb has more information and thoughts about the absence of "evolutionary biology" from the list.



Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Culture war over "Darwin and Hitler" is in full swing

This is a follow-up to my post, "First Darwin and Lincoln, and now Darwin and Hitler".

A news article in the website of the Anti-Defamation League reported,

ADL Blasts Christian Supremacist TV Special & Book Blaming Darwin For Hitler

New York, NY, August 22, 2006 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today blasted a television documentary produced by Christian broadcaster Dr. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries that attempts to link Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to Adolf Hitler and the atrocities of the Holocaust. ADL also denounced Coral Ridge Ministries for misleading Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute for the NIH, and wrongfully using him as part of its twisted documentary, "Darwin's Deadly Legacy."

Here is a hodge-podge of my own thoughts:

Why is the ADL concerned only about Collins? There are probably other people appearing in the show who do not want to be in it, either.

A BIG question -- what could Collins have possibly said that could be interpreted as supporting the theme of this TV program? I am really curious. Honest.

I think that under the "fair use" doctrine, Collins and others might not have any legal recourse if Coral Ridge Ministries insists on including them in the program against their will. According to Wikipedia, one of the questions for determining whether quoted material is covered by fair use laws is: "the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes." For example, I don't think that a quotation of Collins could legally be used to endorse a product without his permission.

Are the TV show's interpretations of history wrong just because they happen to support the agenda of those who produced the show?

To me, the most important question is whether the historical facts presented in the show are accurate. Which historical facts are selected and how they are interpreted are different matters.

Even if Darwinism is true, that is no reason to avoid examining Darwinism's social consequences. We know that there has been something called "Social Darwinism," and it is fair to examine the influence it might have had on Nazism, letting the chips fall where they may. The study of history benefits from the presentation of different viewpoints, even if some of those viewpoints are biased.

While condemning linkage of Social Darwinism to the holocaust, the hypocritical ADL has no qualms about linking Christianity to the holocaust. A speech published on the ADL website says of the holocaust, "The motivation was ideological. The racist-antisemitic ideology was the rational outcome of an irrational approach, an approach that was a cancer-like mutation of the Christian antisemitic ideology that had sullied Christian-Jewish relations all through their two millennia of coexistence." (from a speech that Yehuda Bauer gave to the German House of Representatives in 1998).

There is no question in my mind that Social Darwinism or something similar influenced the Nazis, but I feel that this TV show exaggerates that influence. And I don't feel that this influence counts against Darwinism -- Darwinism should be evaluated just on its own scientific merits.

ADL's Foxman does not explain how the show insults the Nazis' victims. All he said was, "Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people." But the ADL was silent when a book titled "IBM and the Holocaust" claimed that Hitler needed IBM's help to carry out this plan.

The ADL's Foxman has apparently not even seen the TV program but has already passed judgment on it. His opposition to the program is just "political correctness."

To the ADL, anything that in its opinion "trivializes" the holocaust is verboten. The ADL does not own a copyright on historical interpretation of the holocaust. The ADL has its own ax to grind and should not be taken seriously.

Would the ADL have objected to this TV program if the ADL did not support Darwinism? The ADL supports Darwinism mainly because the ADL views teaching or even mention of criticisms of Darwinism in public schools as a violation of the separation of church and state. The ADL strongly supports the Darwinist Kitzmiller v. Dover decision and Jewish groups have in various court cases filed amicus briefs opposing the teaching or even mention of criticism of Darwinism in the public schools.

I don't think that Social Darwinism directly caused the holocaust, but I do think that Social Darwinism helped inspire the Nazi programs for eliminating mentally and physically impaired people, homosexuals, etc.. So I think it can be argued that social Darwinism helped create a "slippery slope" of believing that it was morally OK to exterminate undesirables and that this slippery slope was a contributing cause of the holocaust.

This attempt to link Darwin and Hitler is not new. Wikipedia says,

. . . . .some pre-twentieth century doctrines subsequently described as Social Darwinism appear to anticipate eugenics and the race doctrines of Nazism. Critics, particularly proponents of creationism, have frequently tried to link evolution, Charles Darwin and Social Darwinism in the public mind with racialism, imperialism and eugenics, making the accusation that Social Darwinism became one of the pillars of Fascism and Nazi ideology . . . .

What about the Darwin Day Celebration's efforts to link Darwin and Lincoln? Isn't that propaganda too? There is infinitely less connection between Darwin and Lincoln than there is between Darwin and Hitler -- the only thing that Darwin and Lincoln really share in common is the same official birthdate. I'll bet that Darwinists are thanking their lucky stars that Darwin and Hitler do not have the same birthday.

For more information and thoughts, I recommend that readers see Panda's Thumb, Uncommon Descent, and Dispatches from the Culture Wars, which are listed in the URL link list in the left sidebar of the home (main) and archive pages (but not the individual-post pages). An Uncommon Descent article on the subject is here.



Monday, August 21, 2006

Hypocritical Ed Brayton outdoes himself

Glib Fortuna of the Stop the ACLU (STACLU) organization hit the nail right on the head in ridiculing Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton's treatment of the recent ACLU v. NSA surveillance decision:

Hypocrisy at a rolling boil — in the very post that he accuses others of judging court rulings based solely on the result, he giddily does just that EVEN after admitting how atrocious this one is.(emphasis in original)

Here is what Ed -- who has added a smirking mugshot of himself to his blog -- said in that "very post":

Taylor, a Federal judge in Michigan's eastern district, has granted the plaintiffs' request for an injunction against the NSA's warrantless surveillance programs. That, of course, will mean she will immediately be branded a judicial activist, a liberal ideologue, and a terrorist sympathizer by the STACLU crowd (without any actual legal analysis of the opinion, of course; the mere fact that she did something they don't like is all the proof they need, facts and legal reality be damned) . . . . . . I'm just beginning to read the ruling now, so I'll have more analysis later.(emphasis added)

-- and in the very same post, Ed says,

Will the ruling stand up? Frankly, I doubt it. I think it should, but I don't think it will. It will be immediately appealed to the 6th circuit court of appeals, where I think that even if the court agrees with her on the basic premise, they will probably knock the case down on the basis of standing.

So there it is -- Ed said that he thinks the ruling "should" stand up not because he thinks that the reasoning is sound (he had not even read the decision when he made this statement), but because he likes the result. He did just what he accuses others of doing.

In other posts, Ed said much the same thing:

Here's Jack Balkin's analysis of Judge Taylor's ruling in the NSA warrantless wiretapping lawsuit. He likes the outcome, doesn't like the rationale and isn't sure it will survive an appeal. I tend to agree with him.(emphasis added)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It is pointless and absurd to scream about how wonderful a ruling is because you like the outcome if the result is that its weak reasoning gets it easily overturned on appeal, which is exactly what I predict will happen. We can certainly make the case that the result reached is a good result, and I've done so. But all of that does no good if it gets overturned.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I said it was a "fascinating" decision, and it certainly was. I said that her handling of the state secrets privilege was both "creative" and "clever", and indeed it was.

These examples are taken from here, here, and here
Well, Ed, you didn't think that there was anything "fascinating," "creative" or "clever" about my literal interpretation of Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In fact, you kicked me off your blog permanently because of that interpretation, which you never denied was literal -- you disliked my interpretation only because it differed from your preconceived notion of what Rule 12 is supposed to mean. Since then, you and your followers have taken cowardly potshots at me from the safety of your blog, even devoting entire posts and threads to attacking me and my ideas.

Ed has also repeatedly claimed that the only reason people could possibly have for disagreeing with the Kitzmiller v. Dover ID decision is that they don't like the result.

Ed, you are a hypocrite, liar, bigot, ignoramus, scoundrel, and general all-around worthless piece of crap, and words are hardly adequate to describe my contempt for you.

BTW, I happen to agree with the ACLU v. NSA decision, and one of my reasons is that I disagree with the federal rules of judicial standing, which have no express constitutional basis. I will discuss this in another article.



Sunday, August 20, 2006

First Darwin and Lincoln, and now Darwin and Hitler

In a previous post, I pointed out that the Darwin Day Celebration website identifies Darwin with Lincoln. Now there is a TV program that identifies Darwin with Hitler (it is a good thing that Darwin and Hitler do not have the same birthday).

I think that it is certainly OK to discuss the political, social, and philosophical implications and consequences of Darwinism and scientific criticisms of Darwinism. However, Darwinism and scientific criticisms of Darwinism should be judged on the basis of their scientific merits alone. A lot of people just can't keep issues separate when it is appropriate to do so. For example, for a long time I have wanted to post my doubts about official Holocaust history but I have refrained from doing so because of fear of hurting my case against Darwinism. There are trolls on this blog who have tried to discredit my arguments against Darwinism by pointing out my opposition to California's grossly unconstitutional "smog impact fee," which was declared to be unconstitutional by the courts.



Saturday, August 19, 2006

Judge says OK Ten Commandments display is OK

The Okies in Muskogee now have a good reason to be glad -- a court has ruled that a Ten Commandments monument at a county courthouse in Oklahoma is constitutional.

The courts have ruled in different ways in cases involving displays of the Ten Commandments and other symbols of a religious nature on public property. The unpredictability of court decisions in these cases in particular helps show the need for barring or capping attorney fee awards in establishment clause cases. The threat of an exorbitant attorney fee award in an establishment clause lawsuit often deters govermment entities from doing things that the courts might find to be constitutional, and in establishment clause cases that do go to trial, exorbitant fee awards heavily penalize government entities for innocently having guessed wrong about how the courts would rule. Two cases where the courts have come close to ruling particular evolution disclaimers to be constitutional are Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish(2000) and Selman v. Cobb County (now on remand in a federal district court). Only hypocrites like Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton -- who runs the "Dispatches from the Culture Wars" blog -- and other bloggers over on Panda's Thumb see nothing wrong with these exorbitant attorney fee awards in establishment clause cases.

BTW, the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the defendant in the OK case, misrepresented a motion made by the ACLU:

The ACLU had originally submitted a motion to the court requesting that its name be held in confidentiality so that the public and any jury would not know that it was behind the suit. The request became moot when the case went to trial without a jury.

Of course, it would have been impossible to hold ACLU's name in "confidentiality," especially considering that the ACLU was a plaintiff-in-name and not -- as in so many lawsuits -- an unnamed plaintiff-in-fact just providing legal representation for a mascot or mascots (and even then the ACLU's name could not be held in confidentiality). What the motion asked for was a prohibition on telling the jury about the ACLU's other lawsuits or activities.



Superfundy Pat Boone

Pat Boone has got to be the most strait-laced, tight-assed, puritanical bible-pounding fundy in America. He concluded a recent article with the words,

As I said, I've only scratched the surface. This space isn't big enough to say all that must be said about what this ACLU malignancy is doing to America, so I'll pick up here next week.

Meanwhile, pray for America – before this gang stops you!

Here is what he means by the words, "only scratched the surface." LOL

But we both support HR 2679 (Senate version is S 3696), the Public Expression of Religion Act, which would bar attorney fee awards in establishment clause cases. Will wonders never cease? I personally would prefer a cap on fee awards in both establishment clause and free exercise clause cases, but I see a need to send a message to the ACLU et al. that these establishment clause rip-offs and blackmails will no longer be tolerated.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Linking Lincoln myth to Darwin myth

The organizers of the Darwin Day Celebration have really been making a big deal about the coincidence that Lincoln and Darwin have the same birthdate (actually, the exact birthdate of Lincoln might be uncertain because he was born on the frontier, where they might have lost track of the date). The website for the Darwin Day Celebration gushes,

Lincoln and Darwin -- The Emancipators' Legacies

These two great men were born on the same day, in the same year: Sunday, February 12, 1809. . . . . . Lincoln freed American slaves from physical servitude while Darwin freed the human mind from the bonds of supernatural dogma.

IMO, linking Lincoln to Darwin is a bad idea. For one thing, they really had nothing in common other than their official birthdates. Also, Lincoln is not universally admired. He is often blamed for widespread flagrant violations of civil liberties and for the Civil War. Lincoln hardly deserves credit for emancipating the slaves -- the Emancipation Proclamation was mainly just a war measure that was issued for the purpose of helping to save the Union. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln said that he had no objection to a proposed irreversible constitutional amendment -- which had already passed Congress and been submitted to the states for ratification -- that would have permanently barred the federal government from interfering with slavery in the states. And Lincoln -- like many other prominent politicians of his day -- publicly espoused racist views. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln said,

"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position."

As for the statement, "Darwin freed the human mind from the bonds of supernatural dogma," Darwin does not deserve any credit for that. Scientists that preceded him -- notably Copernicus and Galileo -- did that, at great personal sacrifice in the case of Galileo, who was persecuted by the Catholic church.

If Darwin and Lincoln did not fortuitously have the same birthdates, probably no one would have ever thought of connecting the two men. And IMO, associating Lincoln with Darwin does nothing to enhance the image of Darwin or Darwinism.

Anyway, this Darwin Day Celebration website makes it clear that Darwinism is acquiring all of the trappings of a religion or cult.



Thursday, August 17, 2006

Darwinism is grossly overrated

Things have gotten so bad that knowledge and even acceptance of Darwinism is now considered by many to be a litmus test for "scientific literacy." Consider the following examples:

(1) The University of California denied accreditation to a Christian high school's biology course because the textbooks criticize Darwinism and say things like, "If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them."

(2) The Executive Summary of the 2005 Fordham Foundation (no connection to Fordham Univ.) report on state science standards gave the Kansas evolution standards a rating of "not even failed" because they included weaknesses of Darwinism.

(3) An organization with the misleading grand-sounding title "National Center for Science Education" is dedicated exclusively to promoting the teaching of Darwinism and suppressing the teaching of criticisms of Darwinism. Also, many state Darwinist organizations have misleading titles like "Ohio Citizens for Science."

(4) A New York Times op-ed piece that is critical of the Kansas evolution standards is titled, "How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate."

(5) We keep hearing fearmongering warnings that American ignorance and rejection of Darwinism threatens the country's international technological competitiveness.

The irony of all this is that Darwinism is one of the most useless theories around. I assert that with the exception of micro-evolution, which has actually been observed, knowledge of evolution is not necessary in the study of biology. In an article titled, "Does Nothing in Biology Make Sense Except in the Light of Evolution?", Jerry Bergman says,

Although Darwinists often talk about the central importance of “evolution” in gaining a basic understanding of the natural world, my research reveals that the daily work of both scientific education (and in most scientific research), evolution is rarely mentioned or even a concern. This has been my own experience as a research associate involved in cancer research in the department of experimental pathology at the Medical College of Ohio and a college professor in the life and behavioral science area for over 30 years.

The Talk.Origins website's statement that "teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without the periodic table of the elements" is a gross exaggeration:

Claim CA042:
Evolution does not need to be taught in science classes. The important parts of biology, such as how organisms function, how they are classified, and how they interact with one another, do not depend on evolution.

Biology without evolution is natural history, not biology. There is a great deal of important information in natural history that should be taught, but evolution is the unifying idea that ties it all together, allowing one not only to know the facts but to understand them and to know where the facts come from. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without the periodic table of the elements.

There is nothing more fundamental to biology than Linnaean taxonomy, and this taxonomy preceded Darwinism and even Lamarckism. A more recent classification system, cladistic taxonomy or cladics, is conceptualized in terms of evolution, but such conceptualization can be regarded as just a convenience. And even if an important biological concept is considered to be part of evolution theory, scientists can use the concept even while believing that all or part of evolution theory is untrue, in the same way that engineers use complex-number mathematics in the analysis of AC circuits and aerodynamics while being aware that the analysis has no physical relationship to reality. For example, in the Joukowski transformation of conformal mapping, the aerodynamics of a rotating circular cylinder is used to analyze the aerodynamics of wing airfoils. And in AC circuit analysis, the complex-plane impedance vector in particular has no direct relationship to the physical entities of the circuit.



Wednesday, August 16, 2006

False stereotyping of criticism of Judge Jones

Criticism of Judge Jones has been falsely stereotyped as arguments that he should have based his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision on political considerations and public opinion polls. Staff members of the Discovery Institute -- who have been among Jones' most prominent critics -- have never made such an argument. The bloggers on Uncommon Descent -- probably the biggest anti-Darwinist blog -- have to my knowledge never made such an argument. I have certainly never made such an argument on this blog. A recent online article says,

What the right resents is what the framers of the Constitution intended—a judiciary able to serve as a counterweight to popular passions. Conservatives oppose the appointment of any judge who, like many great Supreme Court justices in the past—Hugo Black, Earl Warren and Harry Blackmun come to mind—might confound the expectations of the presidents who appointed them. John Jones, who was active in Pennsylvania Republican politics before his appointment by Bush in 2002, is such a judge.

So far, apparently the only prominent commentator who has been cited as arguing that Jones should have based his Dover decision on "popular passions" is Phyllis Schafly. Not even Pat Buchanan, who called Jones a "Neanderthal," made that argument. Judge Jones said in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League,

. . . . under the banner "Judge's unintelligent rant against design," Ms. Schlafly authored a January 2006 column and within her column she noted that, and I'm quoting here, that I "owed my position as a Federal Judge entirely to the evangelical Christians who pulled the lever for George W. Bush in 2002" and that I, I'm still quoting here, "stuck the knife in those who brought me to the dance in Kitzmiller versus Dover Area School District."

Also, Schlafly's article that criticized Judge Jones uses many other arguments as well. The above quotations of her article are mainly just quote mines intended to create a false stereotype of criticism of Judge Jones and his Dover decision.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Answer to ACLU letter opposing S 3696 (HR 2679)

Here are my answers to points raised in a recent ACLU letter to the Senate urging opposition to S 3696, the Public Expression of Religion Act of 2006 (the House version is HR 2679), a bill that would ban attorney fee awards in establishment clause lawsuits:

If this bill were to become law, Congress would, for the first time, single out one area protected by the Bill of Rights and prevent its full enforcement. The only remedy available to plaintiffs bringing Establishment Clause lawsuits would be injunctive relief.

I think that limiting remedies to injunctive relief would not be of much benefit to government entities because "real"damages (as opposed to "nominal damages," usually just $1 per plantiff) are rarely granted in establishment clause cases. There also may be some cases where "real damages" would be appropriate, as where the plaintiff suffers serious persecution because of an establishment clause violation or as a result of bringing an establishment clause lawsuit. So I agree with the ACLU's opposition to this limitation.

Congress long ago determined that attorneys’ fee awards in civil rights and constitutional cases, including Establishment Clause cases, are necessary to help prevailing parties vindicate their civil rights, and to enable vigorous enforcement of these protections. (emphasis added)

"Long ago" was 1976 -- not very long ago in terms of the age of the republic.

The elimination of attorneys’ fees for Establishment Clause cases would deter attorneys from taking cases in which the government has violated the Constitution; thereby leaving injured parties without representation and insulating serious constitutional violations from judicial review.

The term "insulating" in "insulating serious constitutional violations from judicial review" is an exaggeration. Financially-challenged injured parties can always be represented by pro bono attorneys and/or nonprofit organizations such as the ACLU. The American Bar Association's rules on pro bono representation say, "[b]ecause service must be provided without fee or expectation of fee, the intent of the lawyer to render free legal services is essential" (emphasis in original), but add, "the award of statutory lawyers' fees in a case originally accepted as pro bono would not disqualify such services from inclusion under this section. Lawyers who do receive fees in such cases are encouraged to contribute an appropriate portion of such fees to organizations or projects that benefit persons of limited means." Also, the ABA urges attorneys to perform a minimum average of 50 hours of pro bono work per year, and many states and state bar associations require or expect attorneys to perform a minimum amount of pro bono work and/or contribute to legal aid services. Of course, there is a lot of demand for pro bono representation in criminal cases as well as civil cases and the prospect of a fee award would help encourage an attorney to provide "pro bono" representation in a civil rights case. However, because of these attorney fee awards, "pro bono" representation in civil rights cases looks a lot like contingency-fee representation, where attorneys get nothing other than a percentage of any damages awarded (however, pro bono attorneys -- unlike contingency-fee attorneys -- are urged to donate at least part of any fees received). Also, under the Supreme Court decision of Blum v. Stenson, the courts are not even allowed to reduce fee awards on the grounds that the legal representation was pro bono and/or from a non-profit organization.

By eliminating attorneys’ fees for prevailing parties, this problematic legislation makes it much more likely that plaintiffs will be unable to challenge actions that courts would otherwise find unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause.

And because of the threat of exorbitant attorney fee awards, government entities are often discouraged from doing things that the courts would otherwise find to be constitutional under the establishment clause. Government entities are further discouraged by the high unpredictability of establishment clause cases. Also, unless the lawsuit is ruled to be frivolous, the government entity is not eligible for an attorney fee award when the plaintiff loses the case, and the government entity's own legal expenses can be a hardship for financially poor government entities. I personally would prefer a cap on fees in both establishment clause cases and free exercise cases, but I feel that just a ban on fee awards in establishment clause cases is better than nothing.

Quite intentionally, the bill penalizes plaintiffs who can prove that the government has engaged in unconstitutional conduct. Therefore, the legislation has the predominant purpose of promoting government-sponsored religion, and the effect of discouraging plaintiffs from bringing meritorious Establishment Clause cases. Such a bill raises serious constitutional concerns and must be opposed.

There are no constitutional issues involved. There is no constitutional right to an attorney fee award. Before 1976, there were no statutory attorney fee awards in civil rights cases.

This bad congressional policy serves to create a dangerous double standard by favoring cases brought under the Free Exercise Clause, but severely restricting cases under the Establishment clause.

Agreed! This double standard would be particularly dangerous in a situation where there is a risk of both an establishment clause lawsuit and a free exercise lawsuit, as where an individual or group is seeking government permission to express religious belief on public property -- the government would risk an establishment clause lawsuit by granting permission and a free exercise lawsuit by denying it. Indeed, in some situations a lawsuit may be almost unavoidable. I feel that this dual risk of lawsuits is a good argument in favor of the alternative of a fee cap on both establishment clause and free exercise clause lawsuits, but we need to start somewhere, and I feel that the current bills are a good place to start.

despite proponents’ assertions to the contrary, attorney’s fees are not awarded in Establishment Clause cases as a punitive measure.

Whether or not these fee awards are intended to be punitive, they are highly punitive in effect. Seven-figure and upper six-figure fee awards far exceed any conceivable fine or damages in these cases. Paraphrasing Shakespeare's Juliet, "What's in a name? What we call an exorbitant attorney fee award rip-off, by any other name would stink as bad." The Darwinists even have a name for this rip-off -- they call it the "Dover Trap."

Also, it is highly disingenuous of the ACLU to claim that these fees are not punitive when the ACLU regularly uses the threat of these fees to intimidate government entities into doing the ACLU's bidding. Also, in some situations, a government entity would be punished merely because it had to choose -- as shown above -- between an establishment clause lawsuit and a free exercise lawsuit.

Also, the lack of limits on these fee awards encourages plaintiffs to be extravagant and wasteful. In the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the plaintiffs had: 9-10 attorneys of record, with 5 attorneys -- including 2-3 partners -- from Pepper Hamilton; at least 5 attorneys in the courtroom on every day of a six-week trial; and six expert witnesses (though there was no charge for the expert witnesses, the large number of them greatly extended the lengths of the trial and the discovery phase). It is past time to end this extortion racket.

The award of fees in Establishment Clause cases is not a means for attorneys to receive unjust windfalls -- it is designed to assist those whose government has failed them.

These awards can pay attorneys for meeting their "pro bono" obligations and so can be windfalls for attorneys. The awards can also be windfalls for the ACLU and similar organizations, e.g., in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the ACLU and Americans United for Church and State split about $750,000, the entire remainder of the award after deduction of expenses.

Extra comments:

So far there has been no indication that the ACLU supports the plaintiffs in the suit against the University of California. As I said, I think that the plaintiffs have a very strong case. Of course, those who think that the former Dover school board members ought to be soaked for the attorney fee award agree with a judge's decision to grant personal immunity to the UC officials involved.

I first turned against the ACLU when the ACLU of Southern California gave no support at all to the fight against the flagrantly unconstitutional $300 "smog impact fee" levied on incoming out-of-state vehicles. In contrast, the ACLU of Florida represented the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against an unconstitutional tax on out-of-state vehicles in that state. That was very inconsistent of the ACLU -- you can't depend on that organization for anything.

Something I would love to see: a lawsuit with the ACLU on one side and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State on the other. LOL It could happen.



Darwinists mine quotes, too

The Wikipedia article on quote mining described it as something that anti-Darwinists do to Darwinists, but the Darwinists do plenty of quote mining themselves. An Arkansas newspaper reported,

While most Republican candidates for higher office in November say they don’t think intelligent design should be required curriculum, they say that because of “academic freedom” teachers should be allowed to address the subject in class . . . . . .

One of the assembly’s officers, former state lawmaker Gunner DeLay of Fort Smith, is the Republican candidate for attorney general.

DeLay said he wrote a paper in law school on what he says is a teacher’s “right to academic freedom” under the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution to teach subjects that are “scientifically valid.”

He said that could include intelligent design.

“The basis of my paper was that although legislative mandated efforts to teach creation science or intelligent design have been struck down, the courts have left open teaching those theories under an instructor’s First Amendment right to academic freedom,” DeLay said.

Such protected speech would have to have a “scientific basis,” DeLay said, adding that a science teacher “could not come in and say we’re all born under a cabbage leaf.”

"The old creation science is the new intelligent design. And yes, I think it’s scientifically valid,” DeLay said.

The title of a Panda's Thumb post citing this newspaper article triumphantly crows, "The old creation science is the new intelligent design." Talk about quote mining. Here was a statement by an obscure politician and a Darwinist repeats it as though it were the gospel truth.

Anyway, in regard to the newspaper article, I am glad to see that some major candidates for top state offices in Arkansas are in favor of teaching the controversy and have not been deterred by setbacks in Dover (PA), Kansas, Ohio, and elsewhere.



Sunday, August 13, 2006

Judge Jones fell for "bad courtroom theater"

There is now a big controversy over an incident that occurred during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial -- the dumping of a stack of literature in front of defense expert witness Michael Behe.

Here is how Behe himself described the incident and the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion's subsequent ruling:

(quoting Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion) In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough." (23:19(Behe)).

Several points:

1) Although the opinion's phrasing makes it seem to come from my mouth, the remark about the studies being "not good enough" was the cross-examining attorney's, not mine.

2) I was given no chance to read them, and at the time considered the dumping of a stack of papers and books on the witness stand to be just a stunt, simply bad courtroom theater. Yet the Court treats it seriously.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4) This is the most blatant example of the Court's simply accepting the Plaintiffs' say-so on the state of the science and disregarding the opinions of the defendants' experts. I strongly suspect that the Court did not itself read the "fifty eight peer reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system" and determine from its own expertise that they demonstrated Darwinian claims. How can the Court declare that a stack of publications shows anything at all if the defense expert disputes it and the Court has not itself read and understood them?

-- -- from "Whether Intelligent Design is Science -- A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District", pages 6-7

BTW, what Behe said in 1996 in his book Darwin's Black Box was not that "science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system," as falsely claimed by Judge Jones, but was, "We can look high or we can look low in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.”.

The attorney cross-examining Behe told him,
Q. Professor Behe, what I have given you has been marked Plaintiff’s Exhibit 743 . . .

Since no statement from the stack of "learned treatises" was read into the record as evidence, the stack was merely received by the court as an exhibit, even though the Federal Rules of Evidence's Rule 803(18) -- shown below -- expressly states that such literature may not be received as exhibits:

The following are not excluded by the hearsay rule, even though the declarant is available as a witness:

- - - - - -

18) Learned treatises. To the extent called to the attention of an expert witness upon cross-examination or relied upon by the expert witness in direct examination, statements contained in published treatises, periodicals, or pamphlets on a subject of history, medicine, or other science or art, established as a reliable authority by the testimony or admission of the witness or by other expert testimony or by judicial notice. If admitted, the statements may be read into evidence but may not be received as exhibits.

Some Darwinists have been arguing that the above rule barring learned treatises from being received as exhibits does not apply here because allegedly the issue was just the existence and authoritativeness of the publications and not whether the publications refuted Behe's claims. However, the final opinion assumed that the publications refuted Behe's claims, even though no statement from the publications was read into the record. As noted above, the final opinion said,

In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that is was not "good enough."

-- and the opinion later said,

We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large.

So the ultimate issue in the opinion was not whether the publications existed and were authoritative but was whether their evidence for the evolution of immune systems was "good enough" to refute Behe's claims -- and Judge Jones assumed that the answer was "yes," even though no statement from the publications was read into the record. And as Behe pointed out, the words "good enough" were not his but were the attorney's.

Actually, I did not need any court rule to tell me that there was something very fishy about admitting a stack of literature as evidence. Evidence is not supposed to be weighed by the pound.

Darwinists think that they are the world's greatest legal experts. Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton permanently kicked me off his blog, "Dispatches from the Culture Wars," because he did not like my interpretation of Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On Panda's Thumb I cited a Supreme Court ruling that actually supported the position of Lenny Flank and he responded by sneering, "when did you become a lawyer, Larry?"

BarryA, an attorney blogger over at Uncommon Descent who initiated this discussion, said,
There are more than enough good state court judges and lawyers to fill every federal vacancy. There is never a reason to settle for a mediocrity like Jones. – which is probably an insult to mediocrities. Of course, the senator spoils system in which the President often defers to home state senators to make recommendations is partly to blame. The president has to get his nominees through the Senate, and a single senator from the state in which the vacancy is located can derail a nomination (I’ve seen it happen). This is an absurd practice that should be ended.

Allowing senators to block home-state judicial nominees has even been given a name -- the "blue slip" policy. BarryA aptly defined "federal judge" as "a lawyer who knows a senator." The saying "it's not what you know, it's who you know" is trite but true.

Pat Buchanan accurately labeled Judge Jones a "Neanderthal." I would call Judge Jones a "Piltdown Man," i.e., a phony or a fraud.

This controversy is also discussed here, here, and here.



Friday, August 11, 2006

International poll on evolution

An international opinion poll of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries was reported by FOXnews. The poll results are shown on Panda's Thumb. The countries polled were the USA, Japan, Turkey, and countries in Europe and the Mediterranean. Turkey showed the lowest public acceptance of evolution and the USA was second lowest.

I wonder why the poll was so narrow geographically and culturally. All the countries polled were European except for the USA, Japan, Turkey, and the possible exception of Cyprus, and all are overwhelmingly or predominantly Christian except for Turkey and Japan. According to the poll results, the European countries with the greatest public acceptance of evolution are in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Japan is also among the countries with the highest acceptance of evolution.

At least these poll results help correct the common misconception that rejection and skepticism of evolution are mainly American phenomena. And contrary to the fearmongering of the Darwinists, the international differences shown in this study would not be great enough to threaten the international competitiveness of the USA even if public acceptance of evolution had anything to do with that competitiveness.

The FOXNews article also discussed the US trends over the years:

The study found that over the past 20 years:

— The percentage of U.S. adults who accept evolution declined from 45 to 40 percent.

— The percentage overtly rejecting evolution also declined, from 48 to 39 percent.

— And the percentage of adults who were unsure increased, from 7 to 21 percent.

At the outset, it should be noted that caution should be used in comparing the results of different polls because a lot depends on what questions are asked. In a recent formal poll of physicians, the same people were asked different questions about belief in evolution and the results were markedly different, e.g., when asked, "what are your views on evolution -- accept, reject, or undecided," 78% responded, "accept," and when asked "do you agree more with evolution or more with intelligent design -- evolution, intelligent design, or no opinion," 63% responded "evolution." The above poll results in FOXNews show that the public acceptance of evolution in the US has held fairly steady over the past 20 years, assuming that the poll questions were essentially the same. I find that result to be a little surprising because I thought that all the recent publicity about the evolution controversy would have resulted in a significant increase in public skepticism of evolution because people who formerly took evolution for granted would supposedly have started questioning it and seen how many flaws it really has (that was certainly the case for me).

Also, it is unfortunate that formal polls of scientists' -- particularly biologists' -- opinions about evolution have been scarcer than hens' teeth, because the opportunity to observe trends in scientists' opinions has been lost. Despite the great importance that is attached to scientists' -- particularly biologists' -- opinions about evolution, there is no great effort to correct this lack of opinion polls.

The FOXNews article also said,

But the problem is more than one of education — it goes deeper, and is a function of our country's culture and history, said study co-author Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif.

"The rejection of evolution is not something that will be solved by throwing science at it," Scott said in a telephone interview . . . .

Scott says one thing that will help is to have Catholics and mainstream Protestants speak up about their theologies' acceptance of evolution.

"Their theologies' acceptance of evolution"? So far as I know, no mainstream Christian denomination has a doctrinal or official position on evolution. And one of the Darwinists' favorite quote mines is Pope John Paul II's statement that "evolution is more than just a hypothesis."

Also, the hypocritical National Center for Science Education shamelessly uses religion to promote Darwinism while at the same time condemning alleged religious motivations of critics of Darwinism -- see "Hypocritical Darwinists shamelessly cozy up to religion" on this blog.

Labels: ,