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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reviews of reviews of "Monkey Girl"

The Amazon.com webpage on "Monkey Girl" has added some more reviews, including four more customer reviews (including one from me) and reviews from the Washington Post and "Booklist." Here I will review the Booklist review, the Washington Post review, and linked off-site reviews in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times:

BOOKLIST REVIEW (copyrighted by the American Library Association -- this review is right under the Washington Post review)

This review says,
Some see the 2005 case of Kitzmiller v.Dover, concerning a small-town school board's adding an "intelligent design" (i.e., anti-Darwinian) text to the ninth-grade science curriculum, as the second Scopes trial. But whereas evolution lost in 1925, it won in 2005.

Evolution didn't really "lose" in 1925. After the Scopes trial in Tennessee, only two other states, Arkansas and Mississippi, adopted "monkey laws," and the legislatures of two other states passed anti-evolution resolutions. Possibly the only other state that had a monkey law, Oklahoma, repealed it in 1926 (Wikipedia says that South Carolina and Kentucky also had monkey laws but I have been unable to confirm this). And evolution didn't really "win" in 2005, because the Kitzmiller decision was not appealed (and hence there is no higher-court decision) and because the controversy is now bigger than ever.

Hence, religion was central in the earlier, science in the later, trial.

Neither science nor religion was officially central to the Scopes trial. There was a little scientific testimony but the judge struck it from the official record, prosecutor William Jennings Bryan's religious testimony was also struck from the official record, and there was no judgment of the constitutionality of the "monkey" law. An account of the Scopes trial is here. Both science and religion were central to the Kitzmiller trial -- Judge Jones ruled that intelligent design is both religious and unscientific.

Humes' clear reportorial style and sympathy for all the principals in Kitzmiller (except, perhaps, for the school board's hired-gun lead attorney) ensure the high interest of both aspects of the book.

We should forget about this idea that Humes was sympathetic towards the pro-ID side.

BTW, as discussed here, here, here, and here, I had a run-in with those stubborn jackasses at the American Library Association -- the source of the Booklist review -- over their refusal to put Of Pandas and People on their list of banned books.



This review says,
. . . .critics of ID argue that it is merely a more sophisticated way of promoting "creation science," which rejects evolutionary theory in favor of a literal reading of the book of Genesis and therefore promotes the teaching of religion in public schools.

"Creation science," previously called "scientific creationism," is not based on a literal reading of Genesis, but is based on scientific (or pseudoscientific, to some) observation and reasoning.

In 2004, when the Dover, Penn., school board voted to require biology classes to use a supplemental textbook that promoted the theory of intelligent design rather than evolution, the conflict that erupted was about far more than semantics.

Of Pandas and People was officially a reference textbook, not a supplemental textbook. It was not required reading.

They brought their case, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, with the aid of the ACLU, the National Center for Science Education and lawyers from the Philadelphia firm Pepper Hamilton.

There were also plaintiffs' attorneys of record from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The NCSE assisted the plaintiffs but had no attorneys of record in the case.

Defending the Dover school board was a Michigan-based public interest law firm, the Thomas More Law Center, and, initially, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a nonprofit research institute that has tried to make ID a palatable alternative to evolutionary theory.

DI did not provide attorneys but provided expert witnesses for the defendants. Some of the DI's witnesses left as a result of a dispute with the TMLC and other DI witnesses stayed.

Although his own sympathies clearly are with the defenders of evolutionary theory, Humes makes a strenuous effort to be fair-minded.

I wouldn't call his effort "strenuous."

Judge John E. Jones III, a Republican, emerges as the hero in Humes's tale.

Judge Jones is actually a villain, not a hero. For example, several legal experts have criticized his decisions in the case, particularly his decision to rule on the scientific merits of intelligent design, and many of these critics apparently had no ax to grind -- in fact, one legal-expert critic, Jay Wexler, is openly anti-ID (several articles about legal experts' criticisms of the Kitzmiller decision are listed here). Jones did several bad or questionable things that are not mentioned in the book, e.g.: (1) in a commencement speech at Dickinson College, he showed great hostility towards organized religions by saying that they are not "true" religions; (2) he arbitrarily denied the intervention motion of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, the publisher of the book Of Pandas and People, and then after thus denying FTE a fair opportunity to defend the book, he thoroughly trashed the book in his written opinion; and (3) his opinion's ID-as-science section was virtually entirely copied from the plaintiffs' opening post-trial brief (the discovery of this copying probably came too late for consideration for inclusion in the book). There are numerous other criticisms of his rulings and other actions.

And there we go again with that trite "Republican churchgoing conservative Dubya-appointee" sort of stuff.

In his eloquent ruling for the plaintiffs, which should be read by every student of law, he noted, "This case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy."

Large parts of his "eloquent ruling" were ghostwritten by the ACLU et al.. And Judge Jones was the activist, not the school board. Contrary to claims that the school board members "knew" that their ID policy would be struck down by the courts, the board had almost no court precedent to use for guidance regarding evolution-disclaimer statements in public-school science classes.

Even before Jones issued his ruling, the citizens of Dover reached their own verdict: In the next school board election, "every one of the eight incumbents who favored intelligent design was ousted," Humes writes.

The school board elections were close and the defeat of the incumbents was at least partly attributed to taxpayers' concern about the cost of the lawsuit.

His story would have benefited from a more nuanced examination of Christian fundamentalism (and the ways in which it differs from evangelical Protestantism).

Is there any clear distinction between "Christian fundamentalism" and "evangelical Protestantism"? Aren't the two terms nearly synonymous?

. . .as Humes himself notes, you need not be a fundamentalist to have sympathy for the scriptural story of creation.

The scriptural story of creation is not the only alternative to Darwinism.

Humes's book is a compelling account of that struggle, and likely not the last salvo in the battle between evolution and intelligent design.

There we go again with that "contrived dualism," where it is assumed that ID is the only alternative to evolution.



This review says,
Citizens in more than two dozen states agitate to introduce the supernatural in public school science classes.

This is not just about the supernatural -- this is also about the weaknesses of Darwinism.

Why Americans continue to pit religion against science in a fruitless struggle most other developed nations abandoned long ago is the question at the heart of Edward Humes' compelling "Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul."

The evolution controversy is not just a pitting of religion against science. And an international opinion poll showed that there is widespread skepticism of Darwinism in many other developed nations. The list of this blog's articles about the evolution controversy abroad is here (i.e., the list of articles with the "evolution controversy abroad" label).

It was represented pro bono by the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.; its Web site identified its mission as being "to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square." It was, Humes notes, just one of the ironic elements in a frail defense case that had religious fingerprints all over it.

That is simply guilt by association. The plaintiffs' prosecution case had religious fingerprints all over it, too -- for example, Ken Miller, the lead plaintiff expert witness, was the author of "Finding Darwin's God -- A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution."

Alone among industrialized nations, America not only is steeped in religious faith but remains deeply suspicious of science. This is particularly true in the case of Darwin's nearly 150-year-old theory of evolution, which holds that all life on Earth shares common ancestors and developed through random mutation and natural selection over some 4 billion years.

As I said above, an international opinion poll showed widespread skepticism of Darwinism in many other developed nations.

Moreover, a majority of the public, including President Bush, says evolution and creationism (or intelligent design), should be taught in public-school science classes.

They do not necessarily want creationism or ID per se to be taught, but think that the weaknesses as well as the strengths of evolution should be taught.

This is the so-called balanced or equal-time approach to science that the U.S. Supreme Court most recently rejected in 1987.

In Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme Court rejected the equal-time approach but the SC has never ruled on evolution-disclaimer statements.

But opponents of evolution still try to employ it, partly because, in a nation with low scientific literacy, it appeals to Americans' sense of fair play and desire to hear both sides of a story.

What does a sense of fair play and desire to hear both sides of a story have to do with an alleged low scientific literacy? It seems that fair-minded people who are firmly convinced that Darwinism is correct would want others to hear both sides of the story in order to be able to decide for themselves.

For science educators, it is a battle for the minds of children who will have to compete in a world where a sound understanding of science will be the price of admission to a universe of new technologies.

The Darwinists have never adequately explained how there is a connection between international technological competitiveness and public knowledge and acceptance of Darwinism.

On Dec. 20, 2005, Judge John E. Jones III delivered a landmark verdict in the Kitzmiller case . . ."

"Landmark verdict"? I predict that the Kitzmiller decision will be just a footnote in history. As just an unappealed decision of a single judge, it would have little precedential value even if it were a good decision.

The ruling is binding only on the federal district that includes Dover, but it is seen as influential on school boards around the country.

I would bet my last dollar that the ruling is not binding precedent even in Jones' own Middle District of Pennsylvania federal court. The ruling is influential on school boards around the country mainly because of a fear of exorbitant awards of plaintiffs' attorney fees, but that fear is likely to end soon because there is a very good chance that Congress will soon ban or cap those fee awards in establishment clause cases (this blog's articles about those attorney fee awards are listed here).

A new term, emergence theory, has been bandied about as a possible successor to intelligent design.

I never liked that name "intelligent design" -- it has caused a lot of trouble because it implies the existence of a supernatural designer.



This is the most rabidly pro-Darwinist review of the bunch.

This review says,
The Dover case was more than simply a reflection of the poor state of the U.S. educational system or an illumination of how religion and science might collide in one small town. Instead, Humes explains, it was the latest salvo in a long-standing war on evolutionary thought that can be traced back to 1859 and Charles Darwin's seminal work on the subject, "The Origin of Species" — a book that, in the eyes of most believers, threatened to turn God's masterpiece into "nothing more than a happy accident … no better (or worse) than a marsupial or mollusk."

"Poor state of the US educational system"?

Certainly the science v. religion conflict has been a large part of the evolution controversy, but many of the critics of Darwinism -- including many scientific experts -- are not motivated by religion.

Humes points out that many faiths — Roman Catholicism, for example — have come to terms with evolution.

Prominent Roman Catholic cardinal Christoph Schoenborn has said that he wants to correct what he calls a widespread misconception that the Catholic Church has given a blanket endorsement to Darwin's theories.

Those who don't accept Darwin's premise often mischaracterize it; for instance, Darwin never said that human beings were descended from monkeys, despite this favored refrain of the creationists.

Darwin did say that human beings are descended from monkeys -- in fact, his "Origin of Species" was followed up by his "Descent of Man."

Humes also notes that those who embrace the Bible's account of human origins might find more contradictions or gaps there than they would like.

And those who embrace Darwinism might find more contradictions or gaps there than they would like.

Johnson exhibits little of the fire and brimstone of his creationist counterparts. But Humes demonstrates that beneath the gentle exterior lurks the mind of a trial lawyer, one bent on the destruction of evolutionary theory.

So criticisms of evolution may be dismissed as just one big conspiracy.

In Dover and elsewhere, the anti-evolution argument was carried forward by a bit of ingenious hocus-pocus called "intelligent design," a theory that is little more than creationism in new, more complicated clothing.

Intelligent design is radically different from biblical creationism -- irreducible complexity, DNA, bacterial flagella, etc. are mentioned nowhere in the bible.

The L.A. Times review of course also ignores the fact that there are non-ID criticisms of Darwinism.

In desperate efforts to counter criticisms of Darwinism, Darwinists often resort to misrepresentation, stereotyping, conspiracy theories, and charges of guilt by association.



Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

I read perhaps ten reviews of Humes' book. All but one hailed Humes as a supposedly objective reporter of events: and at the same time, somehow, a savior of Darwinism and a smiter of dissent. Or that was my impression.

The exception was Pamela Winnick's review in the Wall Street Journal, which got Humes all bent out of shape. But don't authors expect a few critical reviews?

But if the WSJ shifts away from its largely pro-Darwinist items of the last five years or so, it weakens the conventional establishment's Darwinism-as-dogma fortifications.

Catastrophe? Maybe. For no genuine scientific proof of Darwinism -- of a version of evolution which involves blind processes only, and mainly by random genetic variations plus natural selection-- no proof of that doctrine exists.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 1:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> I read perhaps ten reviews of Humes' book. <

Yes, Larry. But have you read the book?

Thursday, March 15, 2007 4:44:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Voice in the Wilderness said...

>>>>>> I read perhaps ten reviews of Humes' book. <

Yes, Larry. But have you read the book? <<<<<<<

It was Jim who made the statement, so maybe you should ask him.

As for myself, I can often evaluate a book without reading it. For example, I completely shredded "IBM and the Holocaust" without reading more of it than the introduction. A book can't be judged by its cover, but it can often be judged by its introduction. I also had some book reviews to help me.

You seem to think that "Monkey Girl" is a great book. Have you read it?

It is possible to determine that a book is bad without reading all of it, but it is not possible to determine that a book is good without reading all of it.

Friday, March 16, 2007 4:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> As for myself, I can often evaluate a book without reading it. <

You have shown no ability to evaluate any books whether you have read them or not.

> For example, I completely shredded "IBM and the Holocaust" <

You only shredded what was left of your credibility.

> You seem to think that "Monkey Girl" is a great book. <

From what did you derive this? I have made no comments about it.

> Have you read it? <

No. Nor have I said anything about it. I have only commented on your obvious ignorance. You seem to know even less about it than you do about law (If such a thing were possible).

Friday, March 16, 2007 5:14:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Voice in the Wilderness slobbered,

>>>>> You seem to think that "Monkey Girl" is a great book. <

From what did you derive this? I have made no comments about it. <<<<<<

Does the word "seem" mean anything to you? Why did you ask Jim if he had read the book, as if he had condemned the book by saying that he read one critical review out of ten reviews? What difference did it make whether or not he had read the book? Why did it matter to you whether or not he had read the book?

Friday, March 16, 2007 7:05:00 AM  

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