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.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ed Brayton's strange arguments

In a post titled Steve Fuller's Strange Arguments, Ed "for crying out loud" Brayton responds to an old (Nov. 14, 2005) article by Steve Fuller that was a guest post on someone else's blog. Fuller was an expert witness for the defendants in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. Ed's post says,

(Fuller said)The US has always had a 'difficult' relationship with religion because of the traumatic origins of the nation. The original British settlers, especially in what became the liberal northern establishment, were wealthy dissenters (including Catholics and Jews) who were prohibited from political participation in their homeland. Henceforth, all attempts to impose a religious orthodoxy would be prohibited -- in the name of protecting religious freedom, of course.

Absolutely baffling. The original British settlers, especially in the north, were theocrats who were bothered that someone else had beaten them to the punch of establishing an official religion in England that wasn't theirs. England at the time was an Anglican theocracy and they wanted a Calvinist one, which is exactly what they set up when they got here, and Catholics and Jews were persona non grata. Religious freedom did not come until well over a century later.

Both Fuller and Brayton are off-base here. It is true that the Puritans of Massachusetts were noted for their religious intolerance, but in 1636, less than a decade after the Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Roger Williams founded the Rhode Island colony on the basis of religious freedom. Even Judaism was tolerated in Rhode Island -- a Jewish congregation was established there in 1658. Pennsylvania, founded in 1681, also had religious freedom. Anyway, it is wrong to attribute our culture to just what happened in colonial times.

Ed's post said,

(Fuller said)Thus, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the trial in which I testified, is classed as a civil rights case.

Only in the broadest sense of the word, in the sense that all cases involving a provision of the Bill of Rights are called civil rights cases. But Kitzmiller was an establishment clause case specifically, which means it does not require that someone's civil rights have been violated, only that the government, in this case the school board, has acted outside its constitutional authority.

Nitpicking again, Ed. The establishment clause does involve a "civil right" of individuals -- the right to not have one's religious sensibilities offended. And the federal law that was the basis of the attorney fee award in Kitzmiller is called the "Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976."

Ed's post said,

(Fuller said) The legal response has been characteristically thuggish.


Notice there is no argument here, only an ugly insult.

The ACLU was of course "thuggish" because that is part of its job. This thuggery of litigants' legal representatives is generally known as "zealous advocacy" -- an extreme example is here. But the big problem in the Dover case was that the judge was thuggish too. Examples of the judge's thuggery are the following: (1) The ~6000-word ID-as-science section of the opinion was virtually copied from the plaintiffs' post-trial opening brief while ignoring the defendants' opening post-trial brief and the plaintiffs' and defendants' post-trial answering briefs; and (2) his denial of the intervention motion of the publisher of Of People and Pandas, followed by his thorough trashing of the book in his written opinion.

Ed, post said,
(Steve said) The intellectual content of the ACLU's case against ID is largely based on fears about a right-wing religious takeover of the US school system.

This is utter nonsense. The plaintiff's case in Kitzmiller did not require any such argument, nor was one made.

Wrong. Defense expert witness Barbara Forrest did make that argument, particularly in discussing the so-called "wedge strategy."

Ed's post said,

(Steve said) Nevertheless, the ACLU's eagerness to pursue cases like Kitzmiller, especially given all the other civil rights violations in the US, reflects a profound lack of faith in the wisdom of elected local school boards to resolve these matters.


And pray tell, why should anyone have any such faith in the wisdom of elected local school boards?

And pray tell, Ed, why do you have faith in the "wisdom" of the Dover Area school board's failure to repeal the intelligent design policy prior to judgment to try to avoid payment of an attorney fee award to the plaintiffs? Apparently the only unbiased professional legal advice that the board got was to repeal the ID policy immediately. No, Ed, the opinions of the judge and the old board's defense attorneys -- who wanted to appeal the case -- on this matter were not unbiased. And contrary to your statements, the plaintiffs' attorneys declined to comment on this matter (they were biased anyway) and there was no evidence that the board's newly rehired solicitor gave the board any official legal advice on this matter. Sheeeeesh.

Ed said,

All it required was that this particular policy be found unconstitutional, regardless of whether any other school anywhere followed their example.

Then why did the Dover decision go well beyond what was necessary to find the Dover policy to be unconstitutional?

Ed said,

Why would we give credence to someone to make a judgment on what ought to be taught in a science classroom if they know little or nothing about science? We don't put medical diagnoses up for a vote of the public, nor do we take straw polls to decide what is wrong when our car doesn't work, we defer to the judgment of those trained in medicine or auto mechanics because they have a far better chance of actually knowing what they're talking about.

Ed, you seem to have pretty strong opinions in favor of Darwinism. What are your scientific credentials?

And you obviously have not heard of "shade tree" auto mechanics -- people who are not professional auto mechanics but who do a lot of their own work on their cars.

Ed's post said,

(Steve said)In this respect, the US provides a wonderful experimental environment for educational alternatives. Yet, this has not prevented an ingrained paranoid reaction to the slightest whiff of religion in the schools that serves, unwittingly, to stultify the spirit of free inquiry.


More nonsense. Those who advocate intelligent design are entirely free to do what scientists have always done when their ideas conflict with the consensus and are rejected by mainstream scientific opinion; they are free to do the hard work necessary to prove that consensus wrong.

Basically, the judge banned ID from public-school science classrooms on the grounds that it is a religious concept, not on the grounds that it is bad science. There is no constitutional separation of bad science and state. String theory has also been called bad science, but would a judge ban string theory from public-school science classrooms?

Ed said,

There have been many revolutions in science where a dominant theory was replaced by a "radical, innovative" new theory that was initially rejected by mainstream scientists; in not a single one of those situations was it required that they be taught in schools prior to their acceptance as an "affirmative action strategy" to provide recruits to help develop the theory.

The Dover school board's ID policy did not require that ID actually be "taught" in the Dover schools. Also, I presume that physics' string theory, which is not widely accepted, is actually taught in advanced physics courses in colleges and universities. Exactly what degree of acceptance in the scientific community must a theory achieve, Ed, before that theory may be taught -- or just mentioned -- in public-school science classes? How would that degree of acceptance be measured?

Ed said,

Indeed, his argument logically requires the same be done for each and every fringe idea in science, from the geocentrists to the flat earthers to the hollow earthers to the Raelians to Van Daniken's pyramidiocy to UFO cults and who knows what else.

Whenever the issue of critical analysis of evolution in public schools is raised, the Darwinists always bring up the shopworn straw-man arguments about flat-earth theories, astrology, alchemy, etc..

For someone who claims to be an expert on the Dover case, Ed, you have shown a lot of ignorance about the actual facts of the case, e.g., saying that the plaintiffs' arguments did not have a fundy conspiracy theory (there was one -- Barbara Forrest's) and implying that ID was actually taught in the Dover schools. I predict that unless you shape up soon, your forthcoming book about the case is going to be a colossal flop.

As I said, it is obvious why Ed kicked me off his blog -- he can't stand to have a commenter there who tells the truth.

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