I'm from Missouri

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

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Report on Judge Jones' speech at KU

I previously announced that Judge John E. "I am not a lousy judge" Jones III was going to speak about the principle of "judicial independence" at Kansas University on September 26. This is the same topic as his speech to the Anti-Defamation League a few months ago. Of course, he is still exploiting this principle as a smokescreen for the purpose of trying to avoid legitimate criticisms of his decisions.

Judge Jones' KU speech was discussed on the Red State Rabble blog. His ADL speech gave only one example of an alleged challenge to the principle of judicial independence -- Phyllis Shafly's statement that his ruling "stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance" -- but the KU speech added some other examples as well. The Red State Rabble noted:

After he issued his ruling, Jones noted, he was called a "fascist judge" by television pundit Bill O'Reilly. Evangelist Pat Robertson told the citizens of Dover, who voted out the pro-ID majority on the school board, not to turn to God, "you just rejected him from your city."

Right wing activist Phyllis Schlafly wrote that Jones' ruling "stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance.”

Jones quoted a comment published on William Dembski's pro-ID Uncommon Descent blog as summing up this line of thinking on the role of judges and the courts:

This is all about Judge Jones. If it were about the merits of the case we know
we’d win. It’s about politics… Judge John E. Jones… is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks… appointed by GW hisself… Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies.

I think that Jones does not realize or pretends not to realize that a lot of the invective is just the result of people thinking that he was unfair.

Jones also repeated his view about the meaning -- or what some might consider to be a lack of meaning -- of the term "activist judge":

Jones said that after the ruling pundits called him an "activist judge, a label now applied to any judge with whose decision we disagree."

I think that Judge Jones' above statement really signifies that the term "activist judge" is now becoming more consistent with the general meaning of the term "activist" as being a person with an agenda who will stop at nothing in pursuit of that agenda. The Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines "activism" as a "doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue." Different factions trying to hijack the term "activist judge" for their own exclusive use have variously defined the term as meaning a judge who is a liberal, or a conservative, or a broad constructionist, or an originalist, or what have you.

The Lawrence Journal-World noted that Jones also took swipes at the general public:

“People do not really understand how the courts work in the United States,” he told the audience Tuesday.

After the decision, conservative pundits vilified him, he said, calling him “fascist” and predicting natural disasters.

For a week, federal marshals protected him from a constant barrage of death threats, he said. It’s happened to other federal judges in high-profile cases.

The problem stems from what Jones called “a creeping civic stupidity,” where the public, for whatever reason, thinks judges should bow to what politicians say or polls show.

No, Jones, the stupidity is yours, and it is not "creeping" -- see
Judge Jones, March of Slimes "activist judge" poster boy

The Thoughts from Kansas blog said -

-Jones set as a precondition of his visit that he wouldn't discuss the contents of his ruling nor the process of the trial. His ruling is comprehensive, and he clearly doesn't think there's much to add.

Well, just because there wasn't much to add doesn't mean that there wasn't much to debate, but given the short amount of time available for the speech and dialogue, it was probably necessary to set some priorities.

Thoughts from Kansas also briefly discussed the dialogue session held on the day after the speech:

In the speech and his question and answer period, Jones steered clear of commenting on any ongoing or future controversies. That was frustrating, but he did let down his hair once or twice. An audience member asked whether Casey Luskin's criticisms on behalf of the Discovery Institute had any validity. His answer was simply "no."

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Banning banned ID book from lists of banned books

Not happy that the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, the publisher of the banned ID book Of People and Pandas, got shafted in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the Darwinists are now trying to have this banned book banned from lists of banned books.

Some background information is provided in my previous post on this subject: "Unnoticed victory in Dover case: ID book not banned from school library".

There is now an editing war going on over the issue of whether to include the book in Wikipedia's "List of banned books". The book has been removed at least twice from the list.

What I say here should end the argument as to whether the book belongs in Wikipedia's list.

The American Library Association's Banned Books Week list includes "challenged" books as well as books that were actually banned. Challenges and bans against books in curricula as well as books in libraries are included. The books that appear in the ALA's 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 list are specially denoted in Wikipedia's"List of banned books."

The ALA says,


Between 1990 and 2000, of the 6,364 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom --

- - - - - - - -

419 [were challenges to] material “promoting a religious viewpoint.” (up 22 since 1999)

- - - - - - - -

Seventy-one percent of the challenges were to material in schools or school libraries.(2) Another twenty-four percent were to material in public libraries (down two percent since 1999). Sixty percent of the challenges were brought by parents, fifteen percent by patrons, and nine percent by administrators, both down one percent since 1999).

2. Sometimes works are challenged in a school and school library.

Since 419 is supposed to be the number of challenges of a specific type in the period 1990 to 2000, I don't know what is meant by "up 22 since 1999."

Anyway, it is probable that at least some of those 419 challenges were establishment clause challenges.

So, was Pandas "challenged"? Here is what the official complaint in the Dover lawsuit said --

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

So there it is from the horse's mouth.

As for the nitpicking argument that the ID policy was never really part of the curriculum because the court outlawed it before it could be implemented, the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion notes that the ID statement was read to Dover science classes on two occasions. This argument is not worthy of consideration, but I have an answer for it.

As for the nitpicking argument that the book should not be in the list because mentioning the book is not taboo in the Dover science classrooms, that is not worthy of consideration either.

The Pandas book has met all of the ALA's requirements for classification as a banned book, and then some. The book was banned from being an official part of the curriculum (it was not required reading but was recommended or suggested reading).

The book was BANNED. B-A-N-N-E-D. Try as hard as they might, the Darwinists cannot weasel out of this one.

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


If Peter Piper banned a bunch of batches of banned books, how many bunches of batches of banned books did Peter Piper ban?



Tuesday, September 26, 2006

End of "Dover Trap" in sight: HR 2679 passes House

Stop the ACLU reports that HR 2679, the Public Expression of Religion Act, passed the House today by the fairly large margin of 244 to 173. This bill would bar attorney fee awards to prevailing plaintiffs in establishment clause lawsuits. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law by Bush, the "Dover Trap" will be history. Hopefully that would put some starch into the spines of politicians and public-school officials who are now too easily intimidated by the Darwinists. As I said, I would prefer a fee cap on both establishment clause cases and free-exercise clause cases, but I consider HR 2679 to be much better than nothing.

Action is still pending on S 3696, the companion Senate bill. Your Senator may be contacted here.

My previous comments about HR 2679 are in the following articles:

Answer to ACLU letter opposing S 3696 (HR 2679)

HR 2679 now has Senate companion bill, S 3696

More Ed Brayton lies about HR 2679

Challenge to Ed Brayton and his pals

Hypocritical Ed Brayton still doesn't get it on HR 2679

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

Is the party almost over for ACLU and AUSCS?



Unnoticed victory in Dover case: ID book not banned from school library

It was noted on Panda's Thumb that the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case expressly stated that they were not seeking "to remove books from the school library." Hence, though the defendants lost, the 58 donated copies of the ID book Of Pandas and People could remain in the school library. It is unlikely that private parties' donations of anti-Darwinist books to public-school libraries will be challenged in the future in the courts, so such donations are a good way to get anti-Darwinism into the schools. These books might someday become as common as Gideon Bibles. The courts might even hold that the use of tax money to purchase one or a few copies per school library is constitutional, if such usage of tax money is ever challenged in court.

The Darwinists on Panda's Thumb and Questionable Authority have accused the Discovery Institute's John West of falsely claiming that the Kitzmiller decision banned the book Of Pandas and People from school libraries. I think that John West was right in claiming that the book was banned -- it was in fact banned from even being merely mentioned in science classrooms. However, his following statement wrongly implied that the book was banned from school libraries: "While I did not favor the Dover policy, the idea that it was an affront to the First Amendment to make Of Pandas and People available to students on a voluntary basis is simply Orwellian." Understandably, West might have been unaware that the plaintiffs expressly stated that they were not seeking to have the book removed from the school library.

West nominated the book for the dubious distinction of being the banned book of the year for the "Banned Books Week" event. The American Library Association, one of the co-sponsors of "Banned Books Week", said that the event covers "challenged" books as well as banned books:

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) is asked why the week is called “Banned Books Week” instead of “Challenged Books Week,” since the majority of the books featured during the week are not banned, but “merely” challenged. There are two reasons. One, ALA does not “own” the name Banned Books Week, but is just one of several cosponsors of BBW; therefore, ALA cannot change the name without all the cosponsors agreeing to a change. Two, none want to do so, primarily because a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted.

Also, the ALA says that a "challenge" to a book can include an attempt at removal from a curriculum as well as removal from a library:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.

So contrary to the claims of the Darwinists, Of Pandas and People is clearly eligible to be selected as a banned book of the year. However, apparently there is no special "banned book of the year" contest in the "Banned Books Week" event -- the books are just ranked according to the number of times that they are challenged.

It is quite obvious why I was banned from Panda's Thumb, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and Austringer (Wesley Elsberry's blog) -- the Darwinists there don't want me raining on their parades.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Ed Brayton is clueless about ID

It was bad enough when Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton was just posting his drivel on his own blog "Dispatches from the Culture Wars," but now he is posting his drivel as a guest writer on another website, Talk to Action. His article on that website shows that he doesn't have a clue about what intelligent design is:

The reality is that there is no "intelligent design theory" in the first place. ID is not a testable model or theory, it is little more than a collection of arguments against evolution, most of them taken directly from old creationist material but dressed up in new scientific-sounding language. Every one of those arguments was either a criticism of evolution (e.g. all of Wells' "icons of evolution") or required the failure of evolution as one of its logical steps in establishing itself as valid (e.g. Behe's "irreducible complexity" and Dembski's "explanatory filter"). Thus, when they said "we don't want ID taught, we just want the arguments against evolution taught" they were engaging in a tautology. Since "ID" and "the arguments against evolution" were one and the same, they were executing a classic bait and switch.(emphasis added)

Wrong, Ed. ID and the "arguments against evolution" are not one and the same. ID is specifically the idea that living things must have been designed because they are too complex to have evolved. There are arguments against evolution that have little or nothing to do with "design," intelligent or otherwise -- e.g., arguments concerning co-evolution and the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction.

Surprise, surprise -- efforts to redefine ID to encompass all arguments against evolution intensified after Judge Jones declared ID to be unconstitutional (in public-school science classrooms, at least).

I will agree with Ed on one point -- if a scientific theory or hypothesis is defined as a complete scientific explanation of some natural phenomenon, then ID is not a scientific theory or hypothesis. But there is no good reason why a criticism of a scientific theory must provide a complete alternative scientific explanation in order to be considered to be scientific itself.

Darwinism itself is in some ways not testable or falsifiable. If Darwinism were introduced for the first time today, I wonder if it would be accepted as a scientific theory or hypothesis.



Jonathan Wells accuses Darwinists of "intellectual larceny"

As I mentioned previously, the bloggers on the Panda's Thumb blog are doing a group review of Jonathan Wells' new book titled "A Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design," taking one chapter or section at a time. I think that the best chapter to be reviewed so far is Chapter 7. Wells said in Chapter 7, “Darwinists steal credit for scientific breakthroughs to which they contributed nothing,” and he calls this theft a form of “intellectual larceny.”

Wells said,

. . . . . most of the fundamental disciplines in modern biology were pioneered by scientists who lived before Darwin was born. These pioneers include the sixteenth-century anatomist Andreas Vesalius, the sixteenth-century physiologist William Harvey, and the seventeenth-century botanist John Ray. They include the seventeenth-century founders of microbiology, Robert Hooke and Anton van Leeuwenhoek; the eighteenth-century founder of systematics, Carolus Linneaus; and the eighteenth-century founder of modern embryology, Caspar Friedrich Wolff. Even paleontology, which Darwinists now treat as theirs, was founded before Darwin’s birth by Georges Cuvier.

Wells also said,

Generations of breeders have been darwined. Mendel has been darwined. Jenner and Semmelweis have been darwined. Fleming, Florey, Chain, and Waksman have been darwined. So have the real pioneers of modern biology. They’ve all been darwined.

And, of course, Pasteur was also darwined.

I think that there is a lot of truth in what Wells says. I think that all the hoopla over Darwin -- the big international celebration of Darwin's birthday and the frequent citing of Theodosius Dobzhansky's shopworn slogan, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” -- belittles the contributions that others have made to biology. So far as I know, there is nothing comparable in any other broad field of science or technology.

Most of the alleged examples of practical applications of Darwinism are the result of conflating macroevolution with microevolution. Most critics of Darwinism accept microevolution.

Darwinists have this thing about trying to establish a grand overarching unifying principle in biology. So far as I know, physics is the only other major field where there has been an effort to establish a "theory of everything".

Related articles on this blog are:

Darwinism is grossly overrated

Darwinism is grossly overrated II

My review of Chapter 3 of Wells' new book is at:

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



Sunday, September 24, 2006

There is no constitutional separation of bogus science and state

There has been a lot of debate lately about whether something called "the separation of church and state" actually exists in the Constitution (to me the phrase is just a catch-all term that covers the establishment and free exercise clauses of the 1st Amendment). However, one thing is certain but is often ignored -- there is no constitutional separation of bogus science and state.

A Columbia Law Review article titled "Lawful Design: A New Standard for Evaluating Establishment Clause Challenges to School Science Curricula", which claims to propose a "comprehensive standard of review for Establishment Clause challenges to science curricula," considers only whether courts are competent to review the scientific merits of scientific concepts in public-school curricula and what standards the courts should use for such a review and generally ignores the equally important question of when the courts should make such a review. The article, written by Charles Kitcher, a law student at Columbia Law School, won the 2006 E. Allan Farnsworth Student Note Writing Competition. The abstract at the beginning of the article says:

The teaching about the origins of life in American public schools has long been bitterly contested, and consensus on what theories are sufficiently reliable to warrant inclusion in science curricula -- as well as their constitutionality under the establishment clause -- remains elusive. The intelligent design movement has renewed these disagreements, and recently in Dover, Pennsylvania, a district court found that a school board's requirement of a statement making reference to intelligent design emanated from an impermissible purpose, violating the Establishment Clause. More controversially, the court examined the substantive reliability of intelligent design , and, in finding it deficient, raised a number of questions: Are courts competent to perform this kind of investigation? And if so, what standards should they use? This Note seeks to answer these questions by proposing a comprehensive standard of review for Establishment Clause challenges to science curricula. Drawing upon the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on the Establishment Clause as well as on the nature of scientific reliability in expert testimony, this Note not only explains why courts are fit to undertake such review, but fashions a standard for doing so, called "honest purpose and substantial reliability." The new standard can guide courts in their assessment of purpose as well as their substantive scrutiny of proposed curricula, ensuring that what is taught as science is not just educationally proper, but constitutionally proper as well.

The abstract says that the Dover case raised two questions, whether courts are competent to examine the scientific merits and if so, what standards should be used, but does not mention the important question of when the court should examine the scientific merits. Though parts of the article may suggest answers to the question of when, the article should have a special section devoted to this very important question and does not.

The first point I want to make is that for a number of reasons, courts should try to avoid ruling on scientific questions:

(1) The courts have no general legal or constitutional authority to rule on scientific questions.

(2) Many scientific questions are unfathomable, unanswerable, and contentious.

(3) Science is subject to change.

(4) Judges generally have no particular competence in scientific areas.

(5) Judges generally get to hear only a tiny fraction of all the arguments on both sides of a scientific question.

(6) A court ruling that an idea is unscientific can make it much more difficult for that idea to gain acceptance in the scientific community.

(7) A court ruling that an idea is unscientific can hurt the careers of the advocates of the idea. The threat of such career damage discourages innovation in scientific ideas. The string theory of physics, for example, is considered to be highly unscientific -- see here and here.

(8) Rulings on scientific issues greatly increase the time and expense for both the litigants and the courts -- a good reason for not ruling on scientific issues when it is not necessary.

In summary, I believe that courts should rule on scientific questions only when absolutely necessary to decide the case. Product-liability cases are a good example of a kind of case where ruling on scientific questions is often necessary.

Here are some contra-indicators of a need to rule on the scientific merits of a school science subject that is challenged in an establishment clause lawsuit:

(1) The motives of the public officials involved are solely and blatantly religious

This was apparently the case in Dover. There is a disagreement over whether the motivations of public officials should be considered, but so long as these motivations are considered under the purpose prong of the Lemon test, those motivations should be dispositive of the case when they are solely and blatantly religious. The Columbia Law Review article did concede that the judge's decision to unnecessarily rule on whether ID is science in the Dover case is controversial. Some people have the mistaken idea that the courts are required to or should rule on every issue presented to them, but the courts often don't think that way. Courts regularly dismiss cases or issues on very narrow grounds. For example, the Supreme Court dismissed the Marco DeFunis reverse discrimination case because he was about to graduate from the law school that had denied him admission (he had been admitted to the school because of a lower-court ruling), and dismissed the lawsuit against "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance because the plaintiff did not have legal custody of his biological daughter on whose behalf he brought the suit.

(2) The alleged scientific idea in question has no definite religious connotations

An example is the textbook sticker in the Selman v. Cobb County case. If it is established that the scientific idea in question has clear religious connotations, then it is necessary to determine if that idea has some scientific merit in order to establish whether there is a "legitimate secular purpose" that would justify an exception to the general rule that the government may not give the appearance of endorsing religion. However, if there are no religious connotations, then there is no need to establish such a secular purpose and so there is no need to determine whether or not the idea has some scientific merit. The Darwinists try to get around this by (1) defining all criticism of Darwinism as religious and (2) creating their own "contrived dualism" where there are only two alternatives: Darwinian evolution and what they call "intelligent design creationism." There is no constitutional separation of bogus science and state -- if an alleged scientific idea has no definite religious connotations, the courts have no authority to ban it from science classrooms regardless of how bogus it is as science.

(3) The idea is only mentioned in a disclaimer statement and is not actually taught. The idea can be blatantly religious and/or blatantly unscientific

An example is the evolution disclaimer statement that was at issue in the Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish case. This statement actually mentioned "the Biblical version of Creation." Under the "political insider-outsider" principle of the judicial "endorsement test", an evolution disclaimer serves the purpose of reducing offense to the fundies so that they will feel less like political "outsiders." Indeed, in the Selman v. Cobb County textbook sticker case, the judge ruled, ". . . .by presenting evolution in a manner that is not unnecessarily hostile, the sticker reduces offense to students and parents whose beliefs may conflict with the teaching of evolution" (the judge ruled against the stickers anyway). This "political insider-outsider" principle is discussed on pages 3-4 of attorney Edward Sisson's open letter on the Selman v. Cobb County textbook sticker case.

Also, the article does not really substantiate the abstract's claim that the "courts are fit to undertake" review of scientific merits. In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the Supreme Court described the courts' limitations in this area.

The establishment clause is a fortuitous, arbitrary and capricious means of banning ideas from public-school science classrooms. String theory is considered to be unscientific but gets a free pass because it does not have religious connotations. As I said, there is no constitutional separation of bogus science and state.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Jewish IDism

The Darwinian Fundamentalism blog reported three articles about ID that were published in the Fall 5767/2006 edition of Jewish Action. One of these articles, titled "The Faith of Darwinism and the Science of Intelligent Design" by Arnold Slyper, director of Pediatric Endocrinology at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, is pro-ID and has several errors. This article says:

Belief in Darwinism and religious life are truly incompatible.

. . . . it is vital that all Jewish high school students, Orthodox or otherwise, and whether in a public or Jewish school, be fully aware of the religious implications of classic Darwinism. It is also important that we refute the misconception that ID is a Christian idea. It is Jewish to the core and one of our fundamental beliefs.

Wow. Them's fighting words. However, there are many Jews who do not share those beliefs. Some Jewish organizations, particularly the Anti-Defamation League, have been particularly hostile to the teaching or even mention of criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools. The American Jewish Congress, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the American Jewish Committee were organizational co-plaintiffs in McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982), though some Christian clergy members were also co-plaintiffs; the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress filed amicus briefs in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987); and the ADL, the AJC, and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State jointly filed an amicus brief in the appeal of Selman v. Cobb County (now on remand in a federal district court). The ADL applauded the Darwinist Kitzmiller v. Dover decision -- in fact, the judge, Judge John E. Jones III, was a guest speaker at the annual meeting of the ADL national executive committee. I presume that these Jewish organizations' opposition to criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools is primarily motivated by church-state separation issues rather than scientific issues.

Slyper says,
The controversy [i.e., the Kitzmiller case] elicited little interest in the Jewish community.

See above. Also, the controversy in the Jewish community is discussed in an article titled "Evolution cases expose Orthodox vs. liberal rifts".

Slyper says,
By turning a blind eye to the debate, religious leaders are unwittingly giving credence to the type of arguments proposed by Judge Jones.

Religious leaders up to an including the pope have not turned a blind eye to the debate, but have been quite vocal about it.

Slyper says,
By World War I, many of the implications of social Darwinism, such as colonialism and the extremes of capitalism, had largely become untenable from both a political and moral standpoint. Nevertheless, the Jewish people were to experience first-hand the horrors of this theory when it resurfaced, unbridled, in Nazi Germany.

It was not just in Nazi Germany that social Darwinism continued after WW 1 -- the eugenics movement was quite active and influential in the USA between the world wars. See here, here, and here.

Also, Slyper's above statement about Nazi Germany contrasts sharply with ADL national director Abraham Foxman's vitriolic condemnation of a TV program that linked Darwinism to Nazism.

Also, as for the statement about colonialism, colonialism was still strong in the years between the world wars. Nations that had colonies held on to them, and some nations established new colonies -- e.g., Italy took over Ethiopia and Japan took over Manchuria. It was not until after WW 2 -- in some cases, well after WW 2 -- that colonialism was abandoned.

About Jewish Action magazine (from Wikipedia) --
Jewish Action is an American Orthodox Jewish magazine published by the Orthodox Union. The magazine generally presents a Modern Orthodox viewpoint . . . . .Published since 1940, it is printed quarterly, with a special Passover issue. Its regular quarterly editions have a mail readership of 50,000, and its Passover issue has a distribution of 100,000. Though generally sold via mail subscription, it is also distributed through retail stores and food outlets throughout North America.



Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Anti-ID legal scholar says Jones should not have ruled on whether ID is science

The Discovery Institute discusses an anti-ID legal scholar's upcoming lecture titled "Judging Intelligent Design: Should the Courts Decide What Counts as Science or Religion?" The abstract for this lecture says of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision,

The opinion's main problem lies in the conclusion that most evolution supporters were particularly pleased with -- namely, the judge's finding that ID is not science. The problem is not that ID is science. Maybe it is science, and maybe it isn't. The question is whether judges should be deciding in their written opinions that ID is or is not science -- a question that sounds in philosophy of science -- as a matter of law. On this question, the answer is "no," particularly when the overall question posed to the Court is whether teaching ID endorses religion, not whether it is or is not science. The part of Kitzmiller that finds ID not to be science is unnecessary, unconvincing, not particularly suited to the judicial role, and even perhaps dangerous to both science and freedom of religion. The judge's determination that ID endorses religion should have been sufficient to rule the policy unconstitutional.

As for the last statement above, "The judge's determination that ID endorses religion should have been sufficient to rule the policy unconstitutional," I partly disagree that ID endorses religion. ID makes no reference to any religious sources. I feel that the only apparent endorsement of religion is the term "intelligent design," which implies the existence of a supernatural designer. I think that the choice of the name "intelligent design" was unfortunate -- they should have stuck with names without religious connotations, e.g., irreducible complexity.

Anyway, after Judge Jones decided that ID appears to be an endorsement of religion, presumably one of the purposes of next judging the scientific merits of ID and irreducible complexity was to determine whether these ideas have any scientific merits that could be considered to be a "legitimate secular purpose" that would justify an exception to the general rule that the government may not give the appearance of endorsing religion. But what kind of "legitimate secular purpose"? Must it be an intended purpose of the school board? The Dover school board could not have had an intended secular purpose, because the testimony of some of the board members -- particularly that of William Buckingham, one of the two leading advocates of the ID policy on the board -- showed that they had no idea what intelligent design is. Could it be a perceived secular purpose, that is, a secular purpose that is perceived by the students and the general public? Judge Jones had already decided -- before addressing the question of whether ID is science -- that the students and the general public perceived the school board's ID policy as being a "strong endorsement of religion": the Kitzmiller opinion said, "We have now found that both an objective student and an objective adult member of the Dover community would perceive Defendants' conduct to be a strong endorsement of religion pursuant to the endorsement test. Having so concluded, we find it incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science." Or could the "legitimate secular purpose" be any conceivable secular purpose -- in this case, a finding that ID and/or irreducible complexity have some scientific merits? In the Kitzmiller trial, judging those scientific merits was the purpose of hearing the scientific testimony from experts who had not participated in the enactment of the Dover ID policy, but the Supreme Court indicated in Edwards v. Aguillard that such after-the-fact testimony could be considered to be just a pointless "Monday-morning battle of the experts" because it could not illuminate the school board's intended purposes. Should the intended or perceived purpose be considered at all, since different people have different purposes and what really counts anyway is the "effect"? How can a court decision be universally applicable if it is wholly or partly based on people's purposes or motives? The determination of purpose is part of the judicial "Lemon test", which has fallen into disfavor.

Anyway, I feel that (1) the courts have no general constitutional or legal authority to make decisions on scientific questions and (2) the courts are ill-suited for deciding scientific questions, and I therefore feel that such decisions should be avoided unless absolutely necessary for deciding a case, such as a product-liability case. I feel that judging the scientific merits of ID and irreducible complexity was not necessary in Kitzmiller. Judge Jones ignored an amicus brief submitted by 85 scientists urging him to refrain from ruling on the scientific merits of ID.

I think that attorney Edward Sisson has the right idea that the way to deal with these evolution-disclaimer cases is the "political insider-outsider" principle of the judicial "endorsement test". Under this principle, the government should be allowed to make statements of a possibly religious nature if doing so is necessary to prevent particular religious groups from feeling like political "outsiders." Right now, the atheists and those who believe that Darwinism is compatible with religion are definitely the ones who feel like the political "insiders." Not only is Darwinism the only explanation of life origins that is actually being taught, but any mention of criticism of Darwinism -- whether the criticism is religious or not -- has been banned by some court decisions. Since teaching evolution promotes atheism and/or the belief that evolution is compatible with religion, those who believe that evolution is incompatible with religion are entitled to an evolution disclaimer statement as a concession to their religious beliefs. Indeed, in the Selman v. Cobb County textbook sticker case, the judge ruled,

. . . . after considering the additional arguments and evidence presented by the parties and evaluating the evidence in light of the applicable law, the Court remains convinced that the Sticker at issue serves at last (sic) two secular purposes. First, the Sticker fosters critical thinking by encouraging students to learn about evolution and to make their own assessment regarding its merit. Second, by presenting evolution in a manner that is not unnecessarily hostile, the sticker reduces offense to students and parents whose beliefs may conflict with the teaching of evolution.. For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that the Sticker satisfies the first prong of the Lemon analysis.(emphasis added)

However, the judge ruled against the textbook stickers for other reasons.

Under this "political insider-outsider" principle, an evolution disclaimer could be upheld as constitutional without a ruling that any criticism of evolution has any scientific merit.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kenyan fundies soften demands about hominid fossil exhibit

In "Fundies in Kenya target hominid fossil exhibit", it was reported that Kenyan fundies were demanding that a hominid fossil exhibit either be removed altogether or moved to a less prominent location. Now they are only demanding that the interpretive inscriptions for the fossils be changed:

"We are objecting to the message that the fossil exhibits represent the scientific evidence of human evolution," said Bishop Boniface Adoyo, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, which claims to represents churches of 35 denominations with 9 million members. "They do not. Human evolution is still a theory and this cannot be called as evidence.”

. . . .It's not the exhibit itself the alliance opposes, Adoyo told Wired News, but rather its interpretation. A satisfactory solution, he said, would be to remove the words that would classify the fossils as "scientific evidence," displaying them instead as a history of other creatures, without connecting them to human beings.

Hopefully this apparent softening of demands will make it easier to reach a compromise.

And the Darwinists think that American fundies are a problem!



Living "missing link" discovered

There was a lot of hoopla recently over the discovery of the "missing link" fossil named "Tiktaalik", a fish with legs, that supposedly proved Darwinism to be true. Well, a living shark species that walks on fins has recently been discovered. A picture of the shark is here (it is the second picture in the series at the top of the article).



Darwinism is grossly overrated II

The purpose of this follow-up to "Darwinism is grossly overrated" is to add the following excerpt from an article by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute:

It is a simple task to find quotes from scientists or scientific organizations saying evolution is crucial or key to all of modern biology. Over twenty years ago an Australian anthropologist explained in a secular journal why he thinks this is true:

[M]any scientists and technologists pay lip-service to Darwinian Theory only because it supposedly excludes a Creator from yet another area of material phenomena, and not because it has been paradigmatic in establishing the canons of research in the life sciences and the earth sciences.[5]

This explains why Mr. Mooney’s statements about the grandeur of evolution are unlikely to impress those who are not already convinced of the accuracy of Neo-Darwinism. More recently, some eminent scientists—including some evolutionary biologists—are taking a different view. Writing in The Scientist, Philip S. Skell, member of the National Academy of Science and Emeritus Professor at Pennsylvania State University stated that, “my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution …. [and] [n]or did Alexander Fleming's discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin.[6] ”Skell goes on to report his experiences with evolution in empirical research:

I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No."

Skell finds many major discoveries in experimental biology were not aided by evolution. These include the discovery of the DNA double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries. If evolution won’t save the world, can it yield commercial benefits? In August, 2006, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne wrote in an article entitled “Selling Darwin” in Nature, explaining that the answer is again, “No”:

[I]f truth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn’t evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of ‘like begets like’. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.[7]

One of the two commercial uses Coyne does find for evolution includes “the use of ‘directed evolution’ to produce commercial products (such as enzymes to protect crop plants from herbicides).” “Directed evolution” is otherwise known as intelligent design.

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[5] Dr. Michael Walker, Senior Lecturer, Anthropology, Sydney University. Quadrant,
October 1981, page 45.

[6] Philip S. Skell, "Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to
experimental biology," The Scientist, Vol. 19(16):10 (August 29, 2005).

[7] Jerry Coyne, "Selling Darwin: Does it matter whether evolution has any commercial applications?," reviewing The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life by David P. Mindell, in Nature, Vol 442:983-984 (August 31, 2006)

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Judge Jones, March of Slimes "activist judge" poster boy

Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton, who has long claimed that the term "judicial activism" is meaningless, has posted on his blog an article titled "The Varieties of Judicial Activism" which cites a long treatise titled "The Origin and Current Meanings of 'Judicial Activism'". He also discusses the meaning of "judicial activism" here.

Those who have tried to define "judicial activism" have apparently never explained why judicial activism should be defined as being fundamentally different from any other kind of activism. In general usage, the term "activist" usually describes a person with an agenda who will stop at nothing in pursuit of that agenda. I feel that there is a need for a general catch-all term to describe the machinations of judges with agendas, and I feel that now there is no such general term. I think that there should be a catch-all term that covers all bad judicial practices, including arbitrariness, capriciousness, overreaching, abuse of discretion, violation of the absence of discretion, deciding issues that are not before the court, etc.. So for my purposes, I will define "judicial activism" as being such a catch-all term. Because "judicial activism" has no agreed-upon definition, people may define the term to mean anything they like.

Here specifically are some bad things that Judge "I am not a lousy judge" Jones did that fit my own definition of "judicial activism":

1. Deciding issues that are not before the court

Judge Jones banned all criticisms of Darwinism from Dover classrooms, even though only intelligent design was before the court -- in the conclusion section of the opinion, Jones said, inter alia, "we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants . . . . from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution."

2. Violation of absence of discretion

In his denial of book publisher Foundation for Thought and Ethics' motion to intervene, Judge Jones asserted that having a "purely economic" interest in the case was an unfavorable factor :

Plaintiffs accuractely submit that the United States District Courts for the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania have denied motions to intervene for lack of a sufficiently protectable legal interest in several instances where the proposed intervenors' only interest was an uncertain and purely economic one.(page 12, emphasis added)

Rule 24 (a) Intervention of Right of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure says, inter alia,
Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an action . . . . (2) 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.

"[A}n interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action" sure sounds like an economic interest to me. Though Rule 24(a)(2) did not require Jones to treat an economic interest as a sufficient reason to allow intervention, the rule did require him to treat it as a supporting reason for intervention, and he did not do so.

3. Interpreting authorities in ways that are not even suggested by -- and are even contrary to what is suggested by -- those authorities.

In interpreting the First Amendment's establishment clause, Jones said in a commencement speech at Dickinson College,

. . . this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state. (emphasis added)

There is nothing in the establishment clause that suggests such an interpretation -- in fact, such an interpretation of the establishment clause is absurd. Jones was making the self-contradictory claim that the Founders' purpose behind the establishment clause was to establish their own "true religion" -- as defined by Judge Jones -- as the official state religion! Jones' statement also shows hostility towards organized religion. Jones dared not put such a statement in the Kitzmiller opinion, but I think that a public statement made by a judge outside of court should be given the same weight as any statement that a judge makes inside the courtroom or in a written ruling.

4. Abuse of discretion

On pages 5-9 of his denial of FTE's motion to intervene, Judge Jones abused his discretion by ruling that the motion was "untimely." He emphasized the single negative factor, that several months had elapsed since the lawsuit was filed, while ignoring or dismissing the several major extenuating and mitigating factors: (1) - a huge 3-4 months before the start of courtroom testimony, (2) - the recently received plaintiffs' subpoena was the first indication to FTE that FTE's book "Of Pandas and People" would be central to the case, (3) - no new issues -- the book had already become central to the case, (4) - no new expert witnesses -- FTE apparently just wanted to bring back expert witnesses who had withdrawn, and (5) - FTE had been depending on expert witness William Dembski for representation and Dembski then withdrew. The claim that the parties already in the case would have had to start over from scratch if FTE had been admitted as an intervenor is utterly without foundation.

The above stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.

Under my reasonable definition of "activism," Judge Jones is the March of Slimes "activist judge" poster boy. It seems that all he can do to try to defend himself is say "I am not an activist judge" and "people term 'activist judges' judges they don't agree with" and accuse his critics of attacking the principle of judicial independence.


Question for Judge Jones and other worshippers of the founding fathers: If the founding fathers were so smart, then why was there a civil war over disagreements in interpretations of the Constitution? Looks to me like the founding fathers really screwed up big time. And these are the guys who we are supposed to let tell us how to live our lives?



Sunday, September 17, 2006

Judge Jones hides behind "judicial independence" issue

I have confirmed that there will be a "dialogue" session for Judge John E. "I am not a lousy judge" Jones III at Kansas University on Sept. 27, following his speech on Sept. 26. This speech and dialogue are part of a series called "Knowledge, Faith and Reason."

The title of his Sept.26 speech is, “Judicial Independence and Kitzmiller v. Dover et al.” I suspect that this speech will just be a rehash of his speech on the same subject at a national executive committee meeting of the Anti-Defamation League. In the whole speech to the ADL, he cited only one criticism that could be considered to be an attack on judicial independence:

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."

In the context of her January 2006 column, Schlafly's above statements could be interpreted as meaning that she only expected Judge Jones to be fair rather than expecting him to be biased in favor of her opinions. However, I cannot defend her judicial philosophy in general, because she supported House bills withdrawing federal court jurisdiction over the Pledge of Allegiance and the definition of marriage (she was right about one thing -- Article III of the Constitution does give Congress the right to restrict appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over certain kinds of cases).

Anyway, Judge Jones is obviously trying to discredit legitimate criticism of his Kitzmiller decision by falsely characterizing all criticism of the decision as being against judicial independence.

A related article on this blog is "False stereotyping of criticism of Judge Jones".

My very first article on this blog contains 20 criticisms of Judge Jones' rulings in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. A total of about a dozen articles on this blog -- about 10% of the total -- are devoted to criticizing him and his decisions. BTW, most of my criticisms of Judge Jones do not concern his rulings regarding the scientific merits of ID and irreducible complexity but concern his procedural rulings in Kitzmiller and his judicial philosophy. Anyway, the KU dialogue session is scheduled to last only 1½ hours and I think that he will probably steer it in the direction of the scientific merits of ID and irreducible complexity -- even though that is not the subject of the preceding day's speech -- because that is the area where he is least vulnerable because of the great complexity of the issues involved.

Why I changed Judge Jones' sobriquet from "I am not an activist judge" to "I am not a lousy judge":

In the conclusion section of the Kitzmiller opinion, Jones said,

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court.

Then later, he said on a radio talk show, "People term 'activist judges' judges they don't agree with." So why would he assert in the Kitzmiller opinion that he is not an "activist judge" if he thinks that the term only means that some people disagree with him? He might as well have asserted in the Kitzmiller opinion that he is not a "lousy judge." So my sobriquet for him from now on will be "I am not a lousy judge."

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

What is an "activist judge"?

A New York Times article describes an attempt to develop an "objective" standard for numerically ranking Supreme Court justices on a scale of activism. Justices are ranked on this scale according to how many times they have (1) voted to overturn a federal or state law and (2) voted to overturn one of the court's own precedents:

Lori Ringhand, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, examined the voting records of the Supreme Court justices from 1994 to 2005. Because judicial activism is a vague concept, she applied a reasonable, objective standard. In the study, which is forthcoming in Constitutional Commentary, justices were considered to have voted in an activist way when they voted to overturn a federal or state law, or one of the court’s own precedents.

As for the first issue, voting to overturn a law: if a law is blatantly unconstitutional, is it virtuous to vote against overturning it?

As for voting to overturn one of the court's own precedents, is that necessarily bad? I think that few people today would argue that it was wrong for the Supreme Court to overturn the "separate but equal" segregationist doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. And what if the precedential case and the new case are only partly similar -- then the decision of whether or not a justice voted to overturn precedent would be arbitrary. Also, in some judicial decisions, the justices might uphold one precedent and overturn another.

Judge John E. "I am not an activist judge" Jones III said, "People term 'activist judges' judges they don't agree with." Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton has been saying the same thing. Brayton absurdly argues that everyone who uses the term "activist judge" has no coherent definition for it and uses it inconsistently, and that therefore the only possible meaning of the term is that the person using the term does not agree with the judge:

. . . .the phrase "judicial activism" means whatever the person using it wants it to mean at any given time. The ADF [Alliance Defense Fund] uses it in many different ways, some of which apply perfectly to cases they claim to support and not to cases they deny. They simply have nothing approaching a coherent definition. All it means, as I've been saying for years now, is "I don't like that ruling." The actual use of the phrase is utterly incoherent . . . .

There is a problem that people do not agree on what the terms "activist judge" and "judicial activism" mean. I see no reason why "judicial activism" should be defined as being different from any other kind of "activism," a term that the Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines as a "doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue." So to me, "judicial activism" is any arbitrary, capricious, or overreaching judicial ruling or philosophy that is intended for supporting one side of a controversial issue. Most of Judge Jones' statements and actions that I have criticized in this blog eminently qualify as "judicial activism" under this definition.

Wikipedia gives the following definitions of "judicial activism":

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, judicial activism is "the practice in the judiciary of protecting or expanding individual rights through decisions that depart from established precedent or are independent of or in opposition to supposed constitutional or legislative intent". According to Black's Law Dictionary, judicial activism is "a philosophy of judicial decision-making whereby judges allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions, usu. with the suggestion that adherents of this philosophy tend to find constitutional violations and are willing to ignore precedent." Different legal scholars and judges may have different definitions of judicial activism.

Since Wikipedia's above definitions from two authoritative sources are a little narrow for my tastes, maybe I should not use the terms "judicial activism" and "activist judge" at all.



Friday, September 15, 2006

Ohio Board of Education meetings like Mad Hatter's Tea Party

As noted in "Quibbling over Ohio evolution education plans", the scandal-ridden Ohio Board of Education held publicly unannounced phony "emergency" discussions and votes on the previous evolution lesson plan in January and February. This month, a replacement plan was finally put on the agenda but was not voted on or even discussed, as described by the Ohio Citizens for Science:

On September 11, the Achievement Committee of the Ohio Board of Education considered the "Controversial Issues" Template, drafted by a staff member of the Ohio Department of Education. This was the final item on the agenda of the Achievement Committee meeting.

The document was distributed to committee members. After a pause, there was a motion for adjournment from Deborah Owens-Fink. Although the motion did not receive a second, the meeting was adjourned.
(emphasis added)

The full board met on September 12. The template was not discussed by the board at this meeting.

On September 11, the meeting was adjourned early by a motion that was not even seconded, let alone voted upon! How can anyone take these clowns seriously?

A CantonRep.com online news report about the meetings said,

The committee, which started its meeting more than 15 minutes late, originally was scheduled to meet for three hours but cut it down to two . . . .

Jim Craig of 2345 Bevington St. NW in Canton, who chaired the meeting, adjourned it without getting a second or taking a vote on motion to adjourn.

Critics accused Craig and other committee members of ducking the issue. They said those who support the teaching of intelligent design are delaying the vote because they don’t command a majority of the committee.

There we go again with that darned misconception that all scientific (or pseudoscientific, to some) criticism of evolution is intelligent design. This was supposed to be an objective news article.

One blog made the claim that 140,000 emails opposing the new Ohio lesson plan were sent in, but that figure seems doubtful because the bloggers had no way of knowing the number and because such a high number is doubtful, especially considering that there was not much advance notice that the plan would be on the agenda. The blog claimed that 20,000 of its own members sent in protest emails and that is possible because the blog had a fill-in submission form and so could count the emails, but that number seems high because the blog gave only about a week of advance notice.

The latest news is that the Board of Education has been accused of altering a July meeting's tape recording and minutes record. LOL

It looks like we are seeing the same kind of vacillation in Ohio that is going on in Kansas, where the state school board has reversed itself three times already on evolution standards and will probably reverse itself again because of the election of Darwinist board members.



HR 2679 passes Judiciary Committee

HR 2679 (Public Expression of Religion Act), the House bill that would bar attorney fee awards to winning plaintiffs in establishment clause lawsuits, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee and now moves to the House floor for a possible vote by the full House. If this bill and the companion Senate bill, S 3696, are passed into law, the "Dover trap" will be history -- rip-offs of the government such as occurred in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case and intimidation of the government such as occurred in Ohio and Lebec, Calif. (Hurst v. Newman) will be things of the past. Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton and other Darwinists must be having conniptions already.

The reactions of the ACLU and the AUSCS are here and here.

I would prefer a cap on attorney fee awards for both establishment clause cases and free exercise clause cases, but I think that HR 2679 is much better than nothing. Corrections to the law could always be made later.

Your Congressional representatives may be contacted through the following webpages:


House of Representatives

My previous comments about HR 2679 are in the following articles:

Answer to ACLU letter opposing S 3696 (HR 2679)

HR 2679 now has Senate companion bill, S 3696

More Ed Brayton lies about HR 2679

Challenge to Ed Brayton and his pals

Hypocritical Ed Brayton still doesn't get it on HR 2679

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

Is the party almost over for ACLU and AUSCS?



Thursday, September 14, 2006

Co-evolution redux

With all the hoopla about intelligent design, non-ID criticisms of evolution are often ignored. The overemphasis on ID has gotten so bad that there seems to be a "contrived dualism" where the only alternatives are Darwinism and ID, so many Darwinists figure that all they have to do is discredit ID and they're in like Flint.

Non-ID criticisms of evolution have a big advantage. 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 in public schools. Beautiful.

Sometimes I wonder -- would Darwinists emphasize the religious aspect of ID so much if they were not trying so hard to keep ID out of the public schools? I think that otherwise they would focus more on the scientific issues.

One example of a non-ID criticism of evolution is criticism concerning co-evolution. Co-evolution is defined as the mutual evolutionary influence between two kinds of organisms that become dependent on each other -- e.g., flowers and bees. Criticism concerning co-evolution is my favorite criticism of Darwinism, and one of the reasons is the simplicity of this criticism -- for example, criticism concerning the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction requires a good knowledge of genetics. It has been several months since I last discussed co-evolution and I think that it is time to revisit it. Co-evolution presents the following problems:

(1) Unlike the kind of evolution which is adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., land, water, and air, in co-evolution there is often nothing to adapt to because the co-dependent trait is likely to be initially absent in the other organism.

(2) Where the co-dependent traits in both organisms are harmful in the absence of the corresponding traits in the other organism, co-evolution is virtually impossible. Even where the traits are not harmful when the corresponding traits are absent, there is no selective advantage when the corresponding traits are absent.

(3) Often, co-dependent organisms can interact only in large numbers -- e.g., a bee visits many flowers and a flower is visited by many bees. Hence, it may be necessary for large numbers of both kinds of organisms to simultaneously appear in the same place at the same time.

(4) Often a co-dependent relationship consists of an "irreducibly complex" combination of pairs of traits rather than a single pair of traits -- e.g., a flower must both produce nectar and have colors and/or scents that attract pollinators, and the pollinators must be able to both consume the nectar and have the ability to detect the colors and/or scents. This compounds the problems presented by co-evolution and irreducible complexity. In some cases, the irreducible complexity involved in co-evolution could involve multiple organs, e.g., bees' digestive systems that process nectar and bees' sensory organs for seeing and/or smelling the flowers.

(5) Even if the problems of co-evolution and irreducible complexity or a combination of the two do not prevent evolution from occurring, they might slow it down. This slowdown could be a problem because some major evolutionary changes have at most just a few million years to take place.

The mechanisms of Darwinian evolution are natural genetic variation and natural selection. Intelligent design primarily raises questions about natural genetic variation whereas criticism of co-evolution primarily raises questions about natural selection.

Darwinists just talk in vague, nebulous terms like "mutual evolutionary pressure" instead of looking at the nitty-gritty details of co-evolution.

Co-evolution is a very important part of evolution and IMO has not gotten the attention it deserves.

Here are some references on co-evolution, from my first post on the subject:

One kind of pollination by insects is so specialized that the resonant vibration of the insect's wingbeating shakes loose the pollen -- this is called "sonication pollination" or "buzz pollination." See -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzz_pollination

The following reference describes -- among other things -- what I can only call "masturbatory pollination" -- a male wasp mistakes a flower for a female wasp:

The reward offered is not always food. There is a tropical orchid with flowers that look and smell like females of a certain species of wasp. Males of this species emerge a week before the females. A male who smells a flower of this orchid, think it’s a female wasp, gets closer and the flower looks like a female, lands on it and it feels like a female, tries to copulate, gives up in frustration, and goes on to the next thing that smells like a female, and ends up transferring pollen. -- from http://biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio303/coevolution.htm

The following reference describes co-dependence between deep flowers and long-nosed insects:




Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nice slaps in the big fat faces of Prof. Paul Mirecki and Judge Jones

Kansas University Prof. Paul Mirecki thought he was being innovative in November 2005 when he proposed a new for-credit course titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies,” but about 100 colleges and universities in the USA and around the world are now teaching courses that include these subjects, and without the disparaging course title. Many of these colleges and universities are American public institutions. For comments about these courses, see this article on Uncommon Descent.

After exposure of his Internet post that said that the new course would be a "nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies" created a furor, Mirecki was forced to cancel the course and resign as chairman of the religious studies department. For related stories, see the Lawrence Journal-World's "Evolution in Kansas" series.

In Kitzmiller v. Dover, Judge Jones was able to stop the mention of ID in the Dover Area school district, but he has not been able to stop the teaching of ID in public colleges and universities.

Also, IMO, to counter the overemphasis on intelligent design, courses specifically including non-ID criticisms of evolution -- e.g., criticisms concerning co-evolution and the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction -- should be offered.



Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lying to students about Archaeopteryx

This article is a follow-up to "Quibbling over Ohio evolution education plans".

An article in Panda's Thumb discusses the controversy over the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson plan's "creationist" claim that a growing number of scientists doubt or question the idea that Archaeopteryx is a transitional form between reptiles and modern birds (this lesson plan was dropped by the Ohio Board of Education in February):

a. An early version of the Critical Analysis lesson read: “Additionally, a growing number of scientists now doubt that Archaeopteryx and other alleged transitional fossils really are transitional forms.”

b. Of this sentence, ODE’s [Ohio Dept. of Education's] own staff science consultant said: “The underlined sentence is a lie.”

c. The accepted version of the above sentence became: “A growing number of scientists now question that Archaeopteryx and other transitional fossils really are transitional forms.” It’s still a lie.

d. Dr. Bobby Bowers, Deputy Superintendent, described this process that permitted numerous examples like the above by answering a question from Board member Robin Hovis (regarding the concerns of sixteen scientific and educational professional organizations that urged rejection of the lesson) by telling the Board: “I think you…would have to say that we have been as responsive as we possibly can be to the legitimate kinds of criticisms.” (8 March 2004.)

An especially noteworthy editorial in Geoscience Reports said,

Most of the public media and scientific community actively promote the theory that birds descended from dinosaurs. Though many scientists do not hold this view, some insist that birds are living dinosaurs. These ideas are primarily promoted among children — who lack the expertise, information or conceptual ability to analyze the arguments presented by individuals in positions of authority. They also lack the experience that is needed to challenge the popular paradigms.

This situation places an enormous burden on parents and teachers to keep themselves informed and to present a balanced view so that young people can learn to think and make choices regarding personal beliefs despite media and societal pressures to conform to the current views held by some scientists. Our students need to understand that change does occur among animals in our world but interpretations of those changes may hinge on selective data, preconceived ideas (our own, as well as those of others), popular theories, and numerous other biases.

An article about Archaeopteryx in the same issue said,

Recent research challenges the idea of linkage between dinosaurs or reptiles and birds . . . Despite all the conflicting data with respect to the linkage between dinosaurs/reptiles and birds, it seems clear that although Archaeopteryx is the best candidate, it is not the link.

.An article titled "Archaeopteryx -- is this bird a fraud?" discusses pro-and-con arguments as to whether or not the fossil was faked and whether or not it is a transitional form between reptiles and modern birds. For example, the article says,

In an article published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society in 1984 (Vol. 82, pp. 119-158) and called "The avian relationship of Archaeopteryx and the origin of birds", R. A. Thulborn argues that Archaeopteryx is not, in fact, a bird at all! From careful morphological analysis of birds, dinosaurs, reptiles and Archaeopteryx he concludes that Archaeopteryx is no more closely related to birds than several types of theropod dinosaurs including tyrannosaurids and ornithomimids.

A creationist website, Answers In Genesis, of course agrees that Archaeopteryx is not a transitional form between dinosaurs and modern birds but claims that the Archaeopteryx is a true bird rather than a dinosaur.



Quibbling over Ohio evolution education plans

In February 2006, in response to the December release of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision which banned intelligent design from public schools in the Dover Area school district in Pennsylvania, the Ohio Board of Education panicked and voted to drop its controversial "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, even though there was no lawsuit in Ohio and the plan did not include intelligent design. Critics of the plan claimed that it contained "creationist" arguments. The board initially voted in January to keep the plan. BTW, both the January and February proposals to drop the evolution lesson plan were introduced as phony "emergency" matters in order to give the sleazy board a lame excuse to avoid hearing public comments before voting. Anyway, the board said that it might later consider a replacement for the plan. A proposed replacement that the board is now considering, called "Controversy Template", challenges "everything." Board member Debra Owens Fink said that the new proposal "isn't a challenge to evolution, but is a challenge to everything. Teachers will be encouraged to have debates on all controversial topics." Well, at least Darwinists can't make their usual complaint that evolution is being singled out for criticism. LOL Also, I hope that this month's board vote on the issue is not another phony "emergency." The most important question is whether the new proposed plan is constitutional. The plan does not have to make sense to be constitutional. As Sir Thomas More said in the play "A Man for All Seasons," "the world must construe according to its wits. This court must construe according to the law."

BTW, I think that it is silly for the states to have their own K-12 education standards -- I think that we should have uniform national K-12 education standards. Uniform national standards would help assure uniform national preparation for college and would help prevent disruptions in the education of K-12 students who transfer from one state to another.



Monday, September 11, 2006

Kenneth Miller, bible-thumping Darwinist

A bible-thumping Darwinist? Isn't that an oxymoron? Well, Kenneth Miller is a Darwinist who just sounds like a bible-thumper sometimes in the way he talks about religion. A Lawrence Journal-World article about a speech he gave on Friday at Kansas University said:

Miller said religion and evolution are too often played as opposing forces and incorrectly identified as mutually exclusive . . . . .

But Miller said the root of the portrayal of religion and evolution as opposites may come from scientists who have an “anti-theistic interpretation of evolution,” a stance he disagrees with.

“People of faith are shooting at the wrong target. They should not be shooting at evolution itself,” he said . . . .

Instead of attacking evolutionary theory, the argument should be against the anti-theistic interpretation of evolution, he said.

I am not surprised at such comments coming from Ken Miller, but these comments have aroused a lot of controversy on various blogs. PZ Myers' Darwinist blog Pharyngula has a several posts on the subject with a total of about 300 comments, and many of these comments are long. The anti-Darwinist blog Uncommon Descent and the Darwinist blog Panda's Thumb also have some posts about the subject.

I certainly disagree with Miller's opposition to the teaching or even mention of criticisms of evolution in public school science classes -- he was the lead expert witness for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover and also was an expert witness for the plaintiffs in Selman v. Cobb County (the textbook sticker case). But I partly agree with him here -- I think that both Darwinism and the scientific criticisms of Darwinism should be judged solely on scientific merit but that it is OK to discuss their religious implications.

I think that Kenneth Miller certainly deserves a lot of the blame -- or credit, depending on your viewpoint -- for the one-sidedness of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. I think that his influence is clear in the following ruling in the Dover opinion:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.(page 136)

By telling people what their religious beliefs about Darwinism are supposed to be, Judge Jones conveniently dodged the question of whether people who oppose Darwinism because of religious beliefs were entitled to a concession to those beliefs in accordance with the political "insider-outsider" principle of the endorsement test. Also, I don't know why the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller and Selman risked having a theistic evolutionist as an expert witness -- it could have backfired.



Sunday, September 10, 2006

Judge Jones to speak at Kansas University

A Lawrence Journal-World article about a speech that Darwinist Kenneth Miller gave on Friday at Kansas University said,

The lecture was the first in the “Difficult Dialogues” series on “Knowledge: Faith & Reason,” presented by the Hall Center and the Biodiversity Institute.

Federal Judge John E. Jones III, who ruled in favor of the Dover plaintiffs, will speak Sept. 26.

The article noted that Miller also had a session of answering questions from the public on Saturday. I hope that Judge Jones also has such a session and that people in the audience will know the right embarrassing questions to ask him. I don't even know why Jones would risk participating in such a session.

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More about the "IBM and the Holocaust" fraud

In the introduction to "IBM and the Holocaust," author Edwin Black said that the display of IBM Hollerith machines at the US Holocaust Museum was what inspired him to write the book, which claimed that the machines were used to identify all the Jews of Europe. He wrote, "What made me demand answers to the unasked questions about IBM and the Holocaust? I confronted the reality of IBM's involvement one day in 1993 in Washington at the United States Holocaust Museum." According to an article in the Washington Jewish Week, Sybil Milton, a former senior historian at the museum, said that she recommended the Hollerith exhibit "to convey the unfeeling bureaucracies at work during the Holocaust" (indeed, the slogan "don't fold, bend, spindle, or mutilate" that was printed on IBM Hollerith cards was once a metaphor for unfeeling bureaucracies). But she also said, "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." Another Washington Jewish Week article quoted her as saying, "We were never out to harass any corporation. The aim here was to tell a story of how people, companies and even foreign companies are made complicit for multiple reasons in a process that would have taken place, perhaps, more slowly, but certainly would have happened in Nazi Germany."

An introduction to an interview of Edwin Black concerning the book said of the controversy over the book,

The range of the controversy can be gleaned from the pages of BusinessWeek alone, which in a March review excoriated the "illogical, overstated, padded, and sloppy" book for fostering "a new myth -- the automated Holocaust," and in an April commentary said the "enlightening" book "should be required reading for every first-year MBA student."

Black said in the interview, "Much of what could do with a computer during the late 20th century could be done with Hollerith machines, but slower." But the Hollerith machines were just not capable of identifying all the Jews of Europe, regardless of how much time was allowed. The machines could just handle comparatively small batches of cards at a time and could not correlate data on the billions of cards scattered across Europe. I found some descriptions of Hollerith machines and their functions -- some of these machines were probably more advanced than those the Nazis had. The "Tabulating Machine," for example, described as the largest and most complex Hollerith machine, was not capable of correlating data on different cards -- it could just read the card data and add them, subtract them, print tabulated reports, etc.. One machine with the ability to correlate data on batches of cards, the "Collator," which could merge and match cards, was described as "the most cursed" of the Hollerith machines: "Card jams were a mechanical nightmare requiring partial disassembly to extract mutilated cards. Read brushes were often ruined." There were other problems with this scheme of Jew identification, like finding the data for the cards and finding the people connected with the cards, but I need not go into those problems here. Anyway, this description of the Hollerith machines is a far cry from what Black described in his book: "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." How come IBM did not defend itself by saying that the Hollerith machines were incapable of doing what the book says they did?

Black also said in the interview,

Remember, IBM custom-designed the machines, custom-designed the applications and custom-printed the punch cards. There were no universal punch cards or machine wiring. Programs to identify Jews, Jewish bank accounts, barrels of oil, Luftwaffe flights, welfare payments, train schedules into camps, and even the concentration camp information -- all these had to be tailored for each application.

Wrong. As I noted in a previous post, IBM introduced universal (general-purpose) cards around 1928. The machines had a limited number of functions -- described above -- and did not need and could not have used custom-designing. Some cards intended for special applications had custom printing on them, but this printing was not necessary -- the Hollerith machines read the holes, not the ink.

Nor were the Nazis necessarily dependent on IBM USA for technical assistance and/or parts. IBM USA's German subsidiary Dehomag was very experienced -- Dehomag's founder acquired licenses to all of IBM's patents in 1910 and IBM took over Dehomag in 1922. The Nazis had hundreds or even thousands of the Hollerith machines and broken-down machines could have been cannibalized for parts. For comparison, American cars from the 1950's are still being used in Cuba.

It is obvious that controversy over IBM's role in the holocaust has focused on the IBM USA's business relationships with the Nazis and has largely ignored questions of the Hollerith machines' technological capabilities.

And I am still wondering where Black got those 100 "volunteer" researchers who helped him write the book. This is not the kind of work most people would want to do for a hobby. And then Black gets all the publicity and all the income.

Edwin Black is a charlatan, not a historian.

So far as I know, this book is the only publication that has addressed the question of how the Nazis could have reliably distinguished Jews from non-Jews according to the Nazi definition of the word "Jew" -- and the book fell flat on its face.