Dover Ain't Over III -- update on Fundies v. UC (ACSI v. Stearns)
Wendell Bird is the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, so saying "Wendell Bird v. UC" is like saying "ACLU v. Dover" ( or even "Judge Jones v. Dover"). The Darwinists are very upset that the ACLU is widely regarded as the plaintiff in establishment clause lawsuits -- the Darwinists insist that the ACLU's mascots are the real plaintiffs. However, I presume that the plaintiffs in ACSI v. Stearns can afford to pay their way and are therefore not mascots, even if Bird and the other plaintiffs' attorneys are representing them for free (I don't know).
The following facts are noteworthy: (1) UC did not claim that students who used the Christian-school textbooks were not adequately prepared to study science at the college level, and (2) UC did not claim that anything was wrong with the science textbooks except for their religious viewpoint (one of the biology texts has a section on creationism but also has a section on evolution).
IMO this trial is about to repeat the same mistake that was made in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case: a "battle of the experts" and possibly a ruling on scientific issues. A post on this blog gives several reasons why the courts should try to avoid ruling on scientific issues. This is going to be just another of what the Edwards v. Aguillard opinion called a "Monday-morning" battle of the experts, i.e., testimony from experts who did not directly influence the actions which led to the lawsuit and which therefore cannot illuminate the motives of those who took those actions. Also, because this is a free exercise clause suit and not an establishment clause suit, it doesn't matter whether the challenged material in the science books is scientific or not or religious or not (actually, because this is a free exercise case, a ruling that tne material is religious might actually be to the advantage of the plaintiffs). Actually, most of the expert witnesses listed in the Panda's Thumb article are not scientists, and that is because many of the challenged textbooks are not science textbooks.
The Panda's Thumb article makes some criticisms of one of the biology books, though these criticisms are of no consequence in ACSI v. Stearns if UC did not raise them. For example, the article says,
Chapter 1 is botany, done in the way of old-fashioned Linnean taxonomy plus an ag- and industry-heavy “practical” view of plants.
Linnaean taxonomy is hardly "old-fashioned" -- it is still very popular, especially outside of paleontology, and has not been replaced by the newer evolution-based cladistic taxonomy. The Wikipedia article on Linnaean taxonomy says,
Though the Linnaean system has proven robust, expansion of knowledge has led to an expansion of the number of hierarchical levels within the system, increasing the administrative requirements of the system (see, for example, ICZN), though it remains the only extant working classification system at present that enjoys universal scientific acceptance.(emphasis added)
The Panda's Thumb article says,
Back to the “traditional” biology on p. 89:The taxonomic work of Linnaeus was very successful. His basic system is still used today, although there is disagreement among taxonomists as to the number of kingdoms that exist, as Table 5.3 shows.
Table 5.3, by the way, asserts the the five-kingdom model of Plants, Animals, Protists, Fungi, and Monera is the “[s]ystem predominantly used today” (p. 90). If you believe that, I’ve got a covered bridge to sell you. [I thought that the bridge for sale was supposed to be the Brooklyn Bridge, not a "covered" bridge.]
However, Wikipedia says,
Originally, Linnaeus established three kingdoms in his scheme, namely Plantae, Animalia and an additional group for minerals, which has long since been abandoned. Since then, various life forms have been moved into three new kingdoms: Monera, for prokaryotes (i.e., bacteria); Protista, for protozoans and most algae; and Fungi. This five kingdom scheme is still far from the phylogenetic ideal and has largely been supplanted in modern taxonomic work by a division into three domains: Bacteria and Archaea, which contain the prokaryotes, and Eukaryota, comprising the remaining forms. This change was precipitated by the discovery of the Archaea. These arrangements should not be seen as definitive. They are based on the genomes of the organisms; as knowledge on this increases, so will the categories change. (emphasis added)
So it looks like the fundy text's five-kingdom model might still be reasonable and has the advantage of some stability. When I was in high school in the early 1960's, we were taught the original "three"-kingdom scheme, actually a two-kingdom scheme because the "minerals" kingdom is obviously invalid -- so we were taught that there were just the animal and plant kingdoms.
The Panda's Thumb article faults the book for not giving the correct height of the world's tallest known tree -- but the article's Wikipedia citation for the correct height says that this tree was discovered in Summer 2006!
Panda's Thumb also reports that Michael Behe, the lead plaintiffs' expert witness at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, is on the expert witness list for ACSI v. Stearns.