I'm from Missouri

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

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New hacker's tool for fighting Internet censorship

The "About Me" subheading on this blog says, "My biggest motivation for creating this blog was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums," so obviously the subject of Internet censorship is a very important one to me. For several months, I used "anonymous proxies" (e.g., hidemyass.com) and false names to get around Panda's Thumb's efforts to block my comments, but I finally gave up because the PT staff was trying to block my ideas as well as me. Also, I found that some websites -- e.g., Wikipedia -- have developed the ability to detect and block anonymous proxies. This was a particular problem in my efforts to wage edit wars on Wikipedia. One could of course ask a friend to forward a message, but that would require bothering a friend. However, software has now been developed that can turn any computer into an anonymous proxy. An article in the New York Times says,

Published: November 27, 2006

TORONTO, Nov. 21 — Deep in a basement lab at the University of Toronto a team of political scientists, software engineers and computer-hacking activists, or “hactivists,” have created the latest, and some say most advanced tool yet in allowing Internet users to circumvent government censorship of the Web.

The program, called psiphon (pronounced “SY-fon”), will be released on Dec. 1 in response to growing Internet censorship that is pushing citizens in restrictive countries to pursue more elaborate and sophisticated programs to gain access to Western news sites, blogs and other censored material . . . . . . .

Psiphon is downloaded by a person in an uncensored country (psiphon.civisec.org), turning that person’s computer into an access point. Someone in a restricted-access country can then log into that computer through an encrypted connection and using it as a proxy, gain access to censored sites . . . . . .

“Now you will have potentially thousands, even tens of thousands, of private proxies that are almost impossible for censors to follow one by one,” said Qiang Xiao, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley.

Instead of publicly advertising the required login and password information, psiphon is designed to be shared within trusted social circles of friends, family and co-workers. This feature is meant to keep the program away from censors but is also the largest drawback because it limits efforts to get the program to as many people as possible.

The software is also designed to allow users to post on blogs and other Web sites like Wikipedia, which has been a problem for some other anticensorship programs.

Banning commenters is often done by means of IP addresses. One of the problems with IP-address bans is that often several people share the same IP address or IP address range. Anyway, I don't need to get into a long discussion of IP addresses here.

Of course, one of the drawbacks of the "psiphon" program is that the computer you are using as an anonymous proxy must be logged onto the Internet. Another drawback is that the site you are hacking may eventually learn the IP address of the computer that you are using as a proxy and block that address. However, a lot of people are logged onto the Internet most of the time and you could have several Internet users to choose from. Also, "psiphon" of course cannot prevent your comments from being deleted after posting or being held up for "moderation" before posting (but psiphon should prevent your comments from being singled out for moderation).

The "user guide" and the source code are not yet available on http://psiphon.civisec.org/ but should be available soon -- the program is scheduled for release on December 1. I am looking forward to seeing how effective it is as a means of bypassing commenter bans.



Monday, November 27, 2006

"The Controversy" is heating up in the UK

A current BBC news article reported,

Science teaching materials deemed "not appropriate" by the government should be allowed in class, Education Secretary Alan Johnson has been urged.

Chemistry teacher at Liverpool's Blue Coat School, Nick Cowan, says the packs promoting intelligent design are useful in debating Darwinist evolution.

Education officials insist intelligent design is not recognised as science.

It argues that evolution cannot explain some things so the universe must have had an intelligent creator.

The packs were sent out to 5,000 secondary schools by a group of academics and clerics known as Truth in Science.

The Truth in Science lesson plan pack is available online.

The Truth in Science pack is also discussed in an article in the Guardian Unlimited. As usual, I think that there is too much emphasis on intelligent design at the expense of other scientific (pseudoscientific to some) criticisms of evolution theory. In particular, I wish that my pet subject of co-evolution were getting more attention -- it is now almost completely ignored.

More discussion is on the Pharyngula and Red State Rabble blogs.

An organization founded by Darwinist Richard Dawkins is also planning to send promotional literature to UK schools. Answers-in-Genesis-UK says that it "does not send unsolicited literature to schools."

For more of my articles on the controversy in the UK, just scroll to the very top of the blog screen and enter "UK" in the search window in the top border.



Saturday, November 25, 2006

Big blog war started by Robert Pennock's speech at UCSD

A big blog war was started by Casey Luskin's initial post about a speech by Darwinist Robert Pennock at the University of California -- San Diego. Many blogs have become involved in this blog war, but among the principal participants have been blogs by Darwinists Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, and Larry Moran. One of Larry Moran's posts in particular, Flunk the IDiots, caused quite a stir -- this post proposed that Darwinism Doubters be denied college entrance. Brayton and Myers are mostly in sharp disagreement but do agree on one thing -- their unsupported claim that most of the rejection and skepticism of Darwinism is the result of religious fundamentalism. Ed Brayton wrote,

The average 18 year old, even ones who have gone through advanced biology in high school, know virtually nothing about evolution. There is no active choice going on with these students. In most cases, there is little more than a vague notion that evolution means no god and therefore must be wrong. That is the primary reason why most people reject evolution, it has nothing at all to do with weighing two sides on the basis of the evidence and choosing one. (emphasis added)

PZ Myers wrote,

Please note: Moran did not say that all Baptists should be flunked or refused admission. This was not a comment about religion, directly. It was a statement that the ignorant "40% of the freshman class [who] reject Darwinism" did not deserve admission. I suspect, though, that even Ed Brayton realized that the reason these 40% oppose basic evolutionary biology was almost certainly and entirely due to their religious upbringing, and that a policy like that would be a de facto barrier to practitioners of certain extremist religious sects.(emphasis added)

I think that both Ed Brayton and PZ Myers have a hard time conceiving that rejection and skepticism of Darwinism could be based on reason rather than faith.



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Darwinist Richard Dawkins goes off the deep end

The Sunday Times in Britain reports,

RICHARD DAWKINS, the Oxford University professor and campaigning atheist, is planning to take his fight against God into the classroom by flooding schools with anti-religious literature.

He is setting up a charity that will subsidise books, pamphlets and DVDs attacking the “educational scandal” of theories such as creationism while promoting rational and scientific thought.

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

“The enlightenment is under threat,” Dawkins said. “So is reason. So is truth. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organised ignorance. We even have to go out on the attack ourselves, for the sake of reason and sanity.”

LOL. Dawkins makes it sound like the sky is falling or something. It would be no great loss if evolution theory fell out of favor -- the origin of species would once again be in the long list of things that we have no scientific explanation for.

The response of Answers in Genesis is here.



Creationism and intelligent design in Turkey

The info is in this AOL article. Interesting reading.

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Ed Brayton states opinion as fact

Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton tries to give the illusion of broad knowledge and even omniscience by frequently stating opinion as fact. For example, he says,

(quoting Larry Moran)" If students entering university have already made up their minds that evolution should be rejected, then that's a serious problem. It's not a question of ignorance. Those students have made an active decision to choose superstition over science."

This, of course, is nonsense. The average 18 year old, even ones who have gone through advanced biology in high school, know virtually nothing about evolution. There is no active choice going on with these students. In most cases, there is little more than a vague notion that evolution means no god and therefore must be wrong. That is the primary reason why most people reject evolution, it has nothing at all to do with weighing two sides on the basis of the evidence and choosing one.

Ed cites no studies to support any of his above extraordinary statements.



Tests show that cat did not give birth to dogs

Tests have disproven a claim that a cat gave birth to dogs. PZ Myers hailed the claim as proof that Darwinism is true:

The Creation-Evolution Wars are over

We've finally got the piece of evidence they've all been asking for: a cat giving birth to a dog.

It's only a matter of time until my attempts to hatch a bird out of my fish eggs succeed.

PZ did not even wait for the test results to come in. Don't count your chickens before they hatch.



Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Dover": the movie

Variety magazine has reported that there is serious consideration of making a movie about the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial:

Paramount Pictures has hired Ron Nyswaner to pen the screenplay for "Dover," based on the landmark 2005 trial that stopped a Pennsylvania school board from teaching "intelligent design" . . . .

Nyswaner, who penned upcoming Naomi Watts starrer "The Painted Veil," said he will rely on trial transcripts, interviews and news coverage in writing the script for "Dover."

Nyswaner's statement that he will rely on trial transcripts, interviews and news coverage could be an indication that he is planning to write a screenplay of verifiable historical accuracy. I think that would be a mistake -- I think that most people would not be interested in just seeing a politically correct rehash of what they saw in the news. The movie "Inherit the Wind" was highly fictionalized, so why shouldn't this new movie also be?

Below are some ideas for this screenplay. All of these ideas except the last one have some connection with verifiable historical fact:

1. Judge Jones actually said that he was considering re-watching the movie "Inherit the Wind" for "historical context" that might help him in his decision. So show Jones watching the movie and making a monkey of himself by guffawing at the caricatured fundies in the movie.

2. Jones is booed and hissed at his "Founders' true religion" speech at Dickinson College. Someone points out to Jones that the college seal that he is standing behind, which was designed by the two Founders who started the college, has a picture of an open bible.

3. There were actual charges that the newly elected board members were in cahoots with the ACLU. This could be played up in the movie.

4. In a collusion scheme with the plaintiffs, Judge Jones is promised a kickback of part of the attorney fee award. The following actions are part of this scheme:

a. Jones accepts an excessive number of plaintiffs' attorneys of record -- 9-10, with at least 5 in the courtroom on every day of a six-week trial.

b.. Jones accepts a huge number of plaintiffs' expert witnesses in order to help create a long trial.

c. The plaintiffs' attorneys wait several months before subpoenaing the Foundation for Ethics, the publisher of the book Of Pandas and People, in the hope of delaying FTE's filing of a motion to intervene. When FTE finally files the motion after receiving the subpoena, Jones rules that the motion was "untimely" (Jones also gave other phony reasons for denying the motion).

d. By saying that the school board election results would have no effect on his decision, Jones gives the newly elected board members another excuse to not repeal the ID policy prior to the release of the decision. Jones privately concedes that he would be obliged to dismiss the case if the new board repealed the ID policy prior to release of the decision.

5. The plaintiffs and Judge Jones bribe someone in exchange for a copy of a confidential memo that the school board's original attorney sent to the board. When this memo is introduced in court, a defense attorney leaps to his feet and indignantly shouts "obbbb-JEC-shun!" -- just like in the Perry Mason shows.

6. The plaintiffs and their attorneys renege on their promise to pay a kickback to Jones. Jones can do nothing without risking exposing his own guilt.

Any other ideas for the screenplay -- as well as ideas for the name of the movie -- would be welcome.



Saturday, November 18, 2006

Darwinists' "peer review" fetish

The issue of "peer review" is now a hot topic, with articles and threads on Uncommon Descent, Panda's Thumb, Evolution News & Views, and The Questionable Authority.

Darwinists have made a fetish of peer review, frequently charging that there are no or few peer-reviewed papers that challenge Darwinism. Yet there are no widely accepted standards for peer review. Theoretically, a Journal of Criticism of Darwinism could be established for the express purpose of publishing peer-reviewed criticisms of Darwinism.

The terms "peer review," "peer reviewed," and "peer-reviewed" appear 21 times in Judge Jones' Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion. It is noteworthy that neither that opinion nor any other decision in the case was peer-reviewed prior to release. An appeal might be considered to be a form of peer review, but there was no appeal in Kitzmiller.



Friday, November 17, 2006

Hypocritical Eugenie Scott says that science and ideology should not mix

The Lawrence Journal-World reported,

“My concern is that science not be hijacked,” said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which opposes the teaching of religious views in science classes. “It’s too important to be associated with an ideological concern.”

In the ongoing battle between evolution and intelligent design, Scott told a Kansas University audience Thursday night, science as a discipline shouldn’t be part of the battle’s landscape.

Rather, Scott said, science’s only concern is with the empirical observation, testing and recording of the ways of the natural world.

If there is a fight to be waged, she said, it should be between those who believe some nonmaterial force helps shape the world — including intelligent design proponents — and those who philosophize the purity of the natural, observable world.

The truth is that no organization has done more to mix science and ideology than Eugenie Scott's own NCSE. The NCSE has a full-time position titled "Faith Project Director" and a news release said,

Lawsuit Alleges that Federally-Funded Evolution Website Violates Separation of Church and State by Using Religion to Promote Evolution --

San Francisco, CA— A California parent, Jeanne Caldwell, is filing a federal lawsuit today against officials of the National Science Foundation and the University of California at Berkeley for spending more than $500,000 of federal money on a website that encourages teachers to use religion to promote evolution in violation of the First Amendment.

“In this stunning example of hypocrisy, the same people who so loudly proclaim that they oppose discussion of religion in science classes are clamoring for public school teachers to expressly use theology in order to convince students to support evolution,” said Larry Caldwell, President of Quality Science Education for All, who is co-counsel in the suit with the Pacific Justice Institute ......

The lawsuit also alleges that the website is being used to further the religious agenda of a private organization, the National Center for Science Education (NSCE), which has a “long history of religious advocacy” on the evolution issue. According to the suit, the NCSE, which helped design the website, provides religious “outreach” programs and “preaching” on evolution to churches, all aimed at convincing people of faith that there is no conflict between their religious beliefs and evolution.



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"The Republican War on Science"

IMO the book "The Republican War on Science" by Chris Mooney makes some good points but also has some serious flaws.

The book's chapter on the opposition to Darwinism was a very poor choice as the sample chapter for the book's official website. This chapter does not even attempt to show that this opposition has any significant harmful or potentially harmful effects. In fact, this opposition benefits science by forcing scientists to confront the weaknesses of Darwinism.

This chapter overemphasizes the religious motivations of some Darwinism Doubters and repeats the shopworn "wedge document" conspiracy theory.

This chapter admits,

Granted, ID diverges in some respects from earlier forms of American antievolutionism. It certainly isn’t synonymous with “creation science,” which provided an allegedly scientific veneer for the biblically based belief that the earth is only between six thousand and ten thousand years old.

Darwinists have deliberately created tremendous confusion by conflating the terms "intelligent design," "creationism," "creation science" (also called "scientific creationism"), and "critical analysis of evolution." That's intellectual dishonesty -- these terms have different meanings and connotations. Darwinists have even coined the term "intelligent design creationism" -- that's like "evolution theory atheism."

Also, creation science does not necessarily try to show that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old -- there is also old-earth creationism.

One webpage of the book's official website says,

In the White House and Congress today, findings are reported in a politicized manner; spun or distorted to fit the speaker’s agenda; or, when they’re too inconvenient, ignored entirely. On a broad array of issues—stem cell research, climate change, abstinence education , mercury pollution, and many others—the Bush administration’s positions fly in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus.(emphasis added)

Abstinence education is not a scientific issue but is a political and social issue.

John Horgan of the New York Times summed up the book this way --
As the title indicates, Mooney's book is a diatribe, from start to finish. The prose is often clunky and clichéd, and it suffers from smug, preaching-to-the-choir self-righteousness. But Mooney deserves a hearing in spite of these flaws, because he addresses a vitally important topic and gets it basically right.



Saturday, November 11, 2006

Official summary of "Jail-4-judges" proposition was incredibly biased

This is a follow-up to my article titled "Fraudulent election results for "Jail 4 judges" proposition?".

Ballot propositions often have official summaries that appear on the ballot or in official ballot guides published by the government. It goes without saying that these official summaries must be neutral -- a single biased word could swing the whole vote. The official South Dakota summary -- called the "Attorney General Explanation" -- of the Amendment E ("Jail-4-judges") proposition was so badly biased against the proposition that there was a lawsuit to have the explanation changed, but the court required that only one word be changed ( an obvious case of the fox guarding the chicken coop ).

I will now examine some individual parts of the Attorney General Explanation for Amendment E. First, consider the following statement:

The proposed amendment is retroactive. The special grand jurors may penalize any decision-maker still alive for decisions made many years ago.

No provision in Amendment E says that, and any such interpretation of Amendment E would be unenforceable because ex post facto laws are prohibited by Art. 1, Sec. 9 of the US Constitution.

The explanation says,
If approved, the proposed amendment will likely be challenged in court and may be declared to be in violation of the US Constitution. If so, the State may be required to pay attorneys fees and costs.

Official summaries of propositions should never speculate about the likelihood or possibility of lawsuits. For one thing, such speculation raises fears of big legal expenses, but even a lawsuit with multi-million dollar legal expenses would have a negligible fiscal impact on a state, even a low-population state like South Dakota.

The Attorney General Explanation for a gay-marriage amendment, Amendment C, that was on the same ballot did not mention that that amendment also carried a big risk of lawsuits. Amendment C says, "Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in South Dakota. The uniting of two or more persons in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other quasi-marital relationship shall not be valid or recognized in South Dakota." The Attorney General Explanation for an abortion referendum on the same ballot also warned about lawsuits and that too was wrong.

California's famous Proposition 13 resulted in at least three lawsuits but I doubt that the official summary for that proposition warned of the likelihood or possibility of lawsuits. One of the lawsuits against Prop 13 was heard by the US Supreme Court: Nordlinger v. Hahn, 505 U.S. 1 (1992). There was also a lawsuit against Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2 proposition, which was struck down by the US Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996).

The Attorney General Explanation says,

Citizens serving on juries, school boards, city councils, county commissions, or in similar capacities, and prosecutors and judges, are all required to make judicial decisions.. Their decisions may be reversed on appeal, or they may be removed from office for misconduct or by election. However, they cannot be made to pay money damages for making such decisions. This allows them to do their job without fear of threat or reprisal from either side.
The proposed amendment to the State Constitution would allow thirteen special grand jurors to expose these decision makers to fines and jail, and strip them of public insurance coverage and up to one-half of their retirement benefits, for making decisions which break rules defined by the special grand jurors. Special grand jurors are drawn from those who submit their names and registered voters.

Just for the hell of it, why not just add the governor and the state legislature to that list of individuals and groups who "are all required to make judicial decisions"? With the term "judicial decisions" so broadly defined, is there any rational basis for excluding the governor and the state legislature from the list?

BTW, the legislature's resolution against Amendment E, passed way back in February, also claimed that Amendment E applies to all of these individuals and groups:

WHEREAS, if approved by the voters, Amendment E would actually allow lawsuits against all South Dakota citizen boards, including county commissioners, school board members, city council members, planning and zoning board members, township board members, public utilities commissioners, professional licensing board members, jurors, judges, prosecutors, and all other citizen boards; . . .

Here is what Amendment E actually said:

1. Definitions. Where appropriate, the singular shall include the plural; and for purposes of this Amendment, the following terms shall mean:

- - - - - - - - - -

b. Judge: Justice, judge, magistrate judge, judge pro tem, and all other persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity.

So if you are not a justice, judge, magistrate judge, or judge pro tem and you don't want Amendment E to apply to you, then the solution is simple -- just don't claim to be shielded by judicial immunity.

Also, as I have already pointed out, the state legislature should not have voted on Amendment E because the proposition was created by a "direct" initiative, which means that the proposition is supposed to go directly onto the ballot rather than going to the legislature first.

According to the Jail-4-Judges website, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's summary of the proposition was as follows, but I don't know if he actually approved this summary because the proposition never qualified for the California ballot:

"JUDGES. RESTRICTIONS ON JUDICIAL IMMUNITY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Supersedes existing judicial immunity and creates three 25-member 'Special Grand Juries' empowered to: determine if a judge may invoke judicial immunity in a civil suit; indict and, through a special trial jury, convict and sentence a judge for criminal conduct; and permanently remove a judge who receives three adverse immunity decisions or three criminal convictions. Disallows immunity for deliberate violations of law, fraud, conspiracy, intentional due process violations, deliberate disregard of material facts, judicial acts outside the court's jurisdiction, unreasonable delay of a case, or any deliberate constitutional violation."

A webpage on the Jail-4-Judges website also has a long condemnation of the SD attorney general's "explanation."

The official California voter pamphlet has neutral summaries of the propositions along with debates between the supporters and opponents of the propositions. That is the proper way to do it.

The question here is not whether Amendment E is good or bad but whether the government followed fair and legal procedures in handling the proposition. The answer to the latter question is a resounding no.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

PZ Myers continued to misrepresent Wells, has finally stopped

This is a follow-up to my post titled Sleazy PZ Myers is caught quote mining.

PZ has finally stopped claiming that Wells misrepresented Ballard and I don't like to beat a dead horse, but I do want to set the record straight. Also, PZ and his supporters never admitted that Wells was misrepresented but they just moved on (PZ's latest post on Wells is here}.

After it was pointed out that PZ misrepresented Wells' book by ignoring the text on pages 30-31, PZ tried to defend himself by falsely claiming that pages 30-31 also misrepresented Ballard:

I'm afraid my quote [of the call-out of page 35] was accurate. Wells did distort the quote to suit his ends. He quotes Ballard elsewhere in the article [pages 30-31], too, but it's more of the same: he's trying to twist Ballard's words into some kind of refutation of the facts, to lie about what a distinguished dead (and therefore unable to rebut him) biologist had to say about the similarities of embryos. The point of Ballard's paper was to argue for the diversity of gastrulation mechanisms, but right there in the paper, in the paragraph above the one Wells' selectively quoted, he affirms that "the pharyngula stage…is remarkably uniform throughout the subphylum." -- from Pharyngula blog.

PZ's above claim that Wells' discussion on pages 30-31 ignores the similarity of vertebrate embryos at the pharyngula stage is false. Here is what Wells said on page 31 --

So vertebrate embryos start out looking very different, then they become somewhat similar midway through development (though not as similar as Haeckel made them out to be) before diverging again. Embryologists call this pattern the "developmental hourglass." (Figure 4) (my emphasis)
-- from image of page 31 posted on the Pharyngula blog.

The statement that "they become somewhat similar midway through development" is of course a reference to the pharyngula stages. All Wells did was substitute the words "somewhat similar" for Ballard's "remarkably uniform." This is not a serious misrepresentation of Ballard. And Tim McGrew has pointed out that another publication of Ballard supports Wells' statement that the vertebrate embryos are only "somewhat similar" at the pharyngula stage:

Some of these actual pharyngulas have a tailfin and some do not. Those which are tetrapods have lung buds, the fish pharyngulas lack them. They all have a liver, to mention an organ at random, but the livers of fishes, birds and mammals are interestingly different in detail even at the pharyngula stage. Arteries can be compared easily but there is little uniformity in the veins. Most conspicuously, the circumstances and needs for respiration, nutrition, and excretion at this stage have been met by a good many structures of a temporary nature, aptly referred to as scaffolding tissues, which are in bold contrast in the different classes of vertebrates. -- – from William Ballard, Comparative Anatomy and Embryology (Ronald Press, 1964), p. 69
-- from comment in thread following this blog article (I tried to create a direct link to the comment but it didn't work, and no date is given but only the time, 6:13 PM. It is one of the last comments in the thread).



Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fraudulent election results for "Jail 4 judges" proposition?

In a Zogby poll of likely South Dakota voters conducted around 9/20/06, 67 percent said that they intended to vote for Amendment E (the "Jail 4 judges" proposition), only 19.8 percent said that they intended to vote against it, and 13.2 percent were "not sure." The poll's margin of error was +/- 4.5 percent.

However, on election day, 11/07/06, Amendment E lost, which is a little surprising, but voters do sometimes change their minds. However, what was a big surprise was the margin of defeat -- 89 percent to 11 percent. No, those figures are not a mistake.

Does it seem probable that such an unbelievably large percentage of voters would change their minds in the few weeks before the election?

Some opponents of Amendment E have argued that the big discrepancy between the Zogby poll and the election results is due to a misleading question that Zogby asked. Here is the question that Zogby asked:

Amendment E called the Judicial Accountability Amendment will be on the ballot this November. The amendment would allow the creation of a citizen's oversight committee or special grand jury which would hear complaints of alleged judicial misconduct against judges. If a judge is found guilty three times of having engaged in judicial misconduct, he or she would be removed from office and could never serve in any judicial capacity in South Dakota again. Will you vote for Amendment E or will you vote against Amendment E?

What is misleading about that question? And how could any informed voter in South Dakota have been unfamiliar with Amendment E? Amendment E was national news (that is how I found out about it). Amendment E must have been a big issue in South Dakota for a long time, because it was way back in February that the state legislature took the very unusual step ( and IMO improper and arguably illegal step -- Amendment E was a "direct" proposition that was supposed to go directly on the ballot without going to the legislature first ) of passing a resolution opposing the proposition. The resolution passed both houses unanimously. which certainly must have caught people's attention. And what was there to talk about in South Dakota besides abortion and Amendment E?

I think it is time for a new poll with the following questions:

(1) How did you vote on Amendment E?

(2) Did you change your position on Amendment E before the election, and if so, when and why?



Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ex-Justice O'Connor moans about threats to judicial autonomy

An AOL news article about retired Supreme Court Justice O`Connor said,

"I'm increasingly concerned about the current climate of challenge to judicial independence," O'Connor told a gathering of state judges from around the country Friday. "Unhappiness with judges today is at a very intense level."

The judiciary is the weakest of the three branches of government, she said, and therefore the one with "the greatest need to be defended."

The judiciary is certainly not the weakest of the three branches of government. On constitutional questions, court decisions can be overturned only by constitutional amendment, and amending the constitution at the federal level is a very cumbersome process -- there has not been a significant new federal constitutional amendment since the 18-year-old vote was ratified in 1971 (the only amendment since then was a trivial one on Congressional pay). If the issue is not constitutional, a court decision is virtually impossible to overturn. Federal judges have tenure and protection from pay cuts. I would say that the executive branch is the weakest branch -- it can be easily thwarted by either of the other two branches.

The article continues,

The executive and legislative branches have become the attackers, so "the principal defenders are going to have to be the people of this country," with lawyers taking the lead, she said.

O'Connor, who retired in January after 24 years on the nation's highest court, spoke just days before South Dakota voters consider the "Jail 4 Judges" initiative. It would create a citizens' grand jury that could authorize lawsuits or criminal prosecutions against judges based on their rulings.

Actually, in South Dakota it is just the opposite -- the people are the attackers and the legislators are trying to defend the judges. Both houses of the legislature voted unanimously in favor of a resolution opposing the "Jail 4 Judges" ballot proposition, also known as Amendment E. However, a recent Zogby poll showed 67% support for Amendment E -- hopefully it will pass.

A related article on this blog is Backlash against judges.



Sunday, November 05, 2006

Nazi Social Darwinism: Aryan breeding program

This breeding program is described in an AOL news article.

Funny, but those purebred Aryans in the pictures could be mistaken for Jews.



Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sleazy PZ Myers is caught quote mining

Update (11-07-06): Here is another PZ response to Wells

Some time ago, I wrote a review of Sleazy PZ Myers' review of the 3rd chapter of Jonathan Wells' recent book, "A Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design." I did not have my own copy of the book and was entirely dependent on Sleazy PZ's erroneous description of Chapter 3, resulting in some serious errors in my review. Now it is apparent that Sleazy PZ misrepresented Chapter 3 by quote mining a so-called "call-out" statement in a box on page 35 while deliberately ignoring text on pages 30-31 clarifying the call-out statement.

The "call-out," which includes quotations of biologist William Ballard, says,

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." -- William Ballard, Bioscience, 1976 (emphasis added)

The text on pages 30-31 says,

Dartmouth College biologist William Ballard wrote in 1976 that it is "only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence," by "bending the facts of nature," that one can argue that the cleavage and gastrulation stages of vertebrates "are more alike than their adults."(emphasis added)

Images of page 35 and pages 30-31 are on PZ's Pharyngula blog.

The distinction between the above terms "early emrbryo stages" and "cleavage and gastrulation stages" was central to one of PZ's criticisms of the book -- PZ claimed that the term "early" falsely implied that the statement applied to the pharyngula stage as well as earlier stages. A discussion between PZ and "forthekids" shows that PZ has been aware for a long time of the difference between the page 35 "call-out" and the text on pages 30-31 -- see this, this, this, and this. Conveniently, PZ chose to make a big deal about the "call-out" statement on page 35 because of its prominence and chose to ignore what the text actually says on pages 30-31. IMO, that call-out statement should not even have been a call-out in the first place because to most people that statement has significance only in the context of the text. The only reason why PZ noticed that the call-out statement is ambiguous and possibly misleading is that he is a specialist in the field of evolutionary development biology.

Near the end of PZ's original review of the 3rd chapter of Wells book, he says:

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.

Actually, that sounds like a pretty good description of PZ's review.

Here are two excerpts of my review of PZ's original review of Chapter 3:

. . . .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.

. . .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.

Here are suggestions for further reading:

Myers' original review of the 3rd chapter of Wells' new book is posted here and here (the main article should be the same in both locations but the comments are of course different).

My review of Myers' original review (my review has some serious errors that are attributable to Myers' review).

Myers' rebuttal to charges that he misrepresented the book.

Jonathan Wells' response to the controversy.

This blog thread has a discussion of the controversy (the controversy is not the topic of the main article -- discussion of the controversy starts a few comments down in the thread).

Uncommon Descent has discussions here and here.



Thursday, November 02, 2006

Darwinism and global warming

It is unfortunate that the evolution controversy has become associated with the controversies over other scientific issues, notably global warming, stem cell research, and mercury pollution control, because the Bush administration and the Republican party unfortunately do give the appearance of being anti-science in dealing with these other issues. An AOL news article says,

WASHINGTON (Nov. 2) - Two federal agencies are investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research, a senator said Wednesday.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he was informed that the inspectors general for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "coordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming.

A major difference between the evolution and the global warming controversies is that being wrong on global warming could result in environmental and ecological disaster whereas being wrong on evolution could not cause any significant harm. For example, global warming could result in widespread loss of wildlife, flooding of low-lying coastal areas, and more hurricane activity. On the issue of global warming, I think it is better to be safe than sorry.

Another difference between evolution and global warming is that the former has religious implications whereas the latter does not.

It is well known that Bush endorses the teaching of criticisms of Darwinism alongside Darwinism and IMO his endorsement is definitely not helpful because of his administration's sad record on other scientific issues.



Blair's comments on evolution education controversy in UK

An AOL news article says,

A row broke out in Britain earlier this year after a private foundation that funds several schools in northern England was accused of teaching creationism in science classes.

The foundation said it taught evolution but said creation beliefs could be mentioned in some scientific discussions.

In an interview with New Scientist magazine, Blair said talk of some British schools teaching creationism was sometimes hugely exaggerated.

"I've visited one of the schools in question and as far as I'm aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way," he said.

"If I notice creationism becoming the mainstream of the education system in this country then that's the time to start worrying," he said.

Blair, who is due to give a lecture on the future of British science on Friday, said science was almost as important as economic stability to the future of the British economy.

"If we do not take the opportunities that are there for us in science then we are not going to have a successful modern economy," he said. "We will be out-competed on labor costs."

If Blair's last statement above was intended to mean that teaching evolution is necessary for a successful modern economy, I think he was wrong.

For more info about the evolution education controversy in the UK, just enter "UK" in the search window in the top border of the blog screen (you must be scrolled to the very top of the screen).



Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Darwinist hypocrites really not concerned about good science education

As I have pointed out, there are good reasons for teaching Darwinism in the schools, e.g.: (1) knowing Darwinism is an important part of being a well-educated person and (2) some scientists need to know Darwinism in order to understand cladistic taxonomy and some scientific papers. However, by insisting that Darwinism be taught dogmatically, the Darwinists are increasing the risk that teachers, schools, school districts, and states will just try to avoid the controversy by teaching little or nothing about Darwinism.

Furthermore, students could become distrustful of scientists and disillusioned about science if the weaknesses of Darwinism are not taught or mentioned in public-school science courses. And scientists can use the concepts and tools of Darwinism even while disbelieving all or some of the theory, in the same way that engineers use imaginary-number mathematics in the analysis of AC circuits and aerodynamics while being aware that the mathematics has no intuitive connections to the physical systems.