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.

Friday, June 29, 2007

"Blogswarm" topic: Is the separation of church and state patriotic?

An article on a blog named "Blog Against Theocracy" says,

We're going to be holding another blogswarm during the Fourth of July week, July 1-4.

A blogswarm is where a group of bloggers from all venues agree to post on the same topic. Our loosely framed topic for this swarm is "the separation of Church and State is patriotic." But this is about blogging, and we're not trying to herd anyone. Post on church/state separation, against theocracy, and you're participating.

I don't see the advantage of having a lot of blogs post on the same topic at the same time, but I nonetheless intend to participate. Instructions telling bloggers how to participate in the blogswarm are here.

"Blue Gal" emphatically claims that First Freedom First is not a sponsor of the blogswarm, but the sidebar of the FFF website includes the blogswarm's logo shown above. FFF includes many prominent organizations -- it is a partnership of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, and the list of supporters includes the American Jewish Committee and the American Humanist Association. The list of supporters also includes the infamous National Center for Science Education and the presumptuously named Scientists and Engineers for America, and unfortunately their support for FFF reflects their efforts to misuse the establishment clause to suppress criticism of Darwinism in the public schools. The name "First Freedom First" may be catchy but IMO it wrongly implies that the establishment clause and the free exercise clause are more equal than other Bill of Rights' protections just because these clauses appear first. In fact, IMO the establishment clause is one of the least important of the Bill of Rights' protections because it often just involves a "right" to not be offended, a right which is not even in the Constitution.

Anyway, I am going to jump the gun on the blogswarm by discussing the blogswarm topic right now. To address the question, "Is the separation of Church and State patriotic?", it is necessary to first answer the questions "What does the term 'separation of church and state' mean?" and what does "patriotic" mean? To some people, "separation of church and state" means an impenetrable "wall" of separation and to some other people the concept does not even exist in the Constitution. To me, the term has just been a catch-all term covering the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. In Lynch v. Donnelly (465 U.S. 668, 673), the Supreme Court said that the term is just a "metaphor" and that it has "'never been thought either possible or desirable to enforce a regime of total separation.' Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 760 (1973)". Also, Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lynch, which established the endorsement test, said that the government can run afoul of the establishment clause by showing disapproval of religion as well as by endorsing religion. I think that I will use the term "separation of church and state" less in the future because it has become vague in meaning and is being misused.

People on both sides of the church-state separation issue are trying to make themselves appear to be more patriotic than others by trying to identify their own religious views with those of the founding fathers. As a result, the founding fathers have been portrayed as virtually everything from a bunch of bible pounding, holy rolling fundies to a bunch of godless blasphemous atheists.

And what does "patriotic" mean? Does it mean supporting the nation or supporting the American ideals of freedom and democracy? In foreign countries, there is no correlation whatsoever between the degree of "separation of church and state" and the existence of freedom, democracy, tyranny, etc.. For example, countries or regimes with no "separation of church and state" range from the UK, which has a lot of freedom and democracy, down to the tyrannical Taliban.

I long thought the concept of "separation of church and state" to be innocuous at worst but I now see it as an instrument of tyranny that is being misused to attack scientific (or pseudoscientific) criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools. There is no constitutional separation of bad science and state, so Darwinists are attacking criticisms of Darwinism by exploiting the fortuitous historical fact that many of the criticisms of Darwinism have been religious in nature. The Darwinists ignore the fact that a lot of criticisms of Darwinism are not religious at all -- e.g., criticisms concerning co-evolution and the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction. The Darwinists argue that intelligent design is religious because it implies the existence of a supernatural designer. However, with non-ID criticisms of evolution, there is no supernatural designer. With no supernatural designer, there is no god. With no god, there is no religion. With no religion, there can be no real violation of the establishment clause.

Also, I am annoyed by what I consider to be some other recent misuses of the establishment clause -- e.g., the ACLU of Southern California's threat to sue Los Angeles County over a tiny cross in the county seal. That's really nitpicking.

Do I think that we would be better off without the establishment clause? No. But I think that we need to be more sensible in how we apply it.



Thursday, June 28, 2007

Double standards for holocaust deniers/revisionists

Unfortunately, a person's holocaust denial or revisionism tends to strongly influence how others regard that person's views on other controversial issues, e.g., Darwinism and abortion. For example, when I talk about Darwinism, some people who agree with my anti-Darwinist views overlook my holocaust revisionism, but many of the same people would make ad hominem attacks against my holocaust revisionism if I supported Darwinism. Conversely, Darwinists tend to condemn my holocaust revisionism because I am an anti-Darwinist but would tend to overlook my holocaust revisionism if I were a Darwinist. This situation is so bad that someone told me that he and his colleagues wanted to cite this blog but were afraid of being associated with a holocaust revisionist. This kind of obsessive double standard for holocaust deniers/revisionists is evident in the case of a German opponent of abortion who is also a holocaust revisionist, and an anti-Semitic holocaust revisionist at that (my holocaust revisionism is not anti-Semitic). A blog article says (embedded links omitted),
Despite the revelation that Lutheran pastor Johannes Lerle is a vicious antisemite sentenced to jail in Germany for the crime of incitement by denying or minimizing the Holocaust, the American religious right and pro-life movement continues to cast him as a martyr imprisoned for opposing abortion.

Notwithstanding the fact that translations of Lerle's antisemitic writings have been posted on the website Free Republic, a new thread has appeared, yet again casting him as a martyr. At this point, having been fully informed of the kind of man he is, one must assume the moderators of the site approve of what he stands for; posts of an anti-conservative nature get taken down in minutes.

Bill Dembski also has been informed of the facts, and even though RWP has placed comments on uncommondescent.com alerting them to Lerle's views, a post by Dembski claiming Lerle was being persecuted either for creationist or anti-abortion views still remains up, with no disavowal from site management. Again, uncommondescent removes other objectionable material rapidly. RWP has emailed lifesitenews about their story, . . . . . and to their credit, it was retracted within 24 hours.

Now fringe wingnut site Stop the ACLU has gotten in on the act.

At what point does the Religious Right's continued support of Lerle, now the truth about him is widely available on the internet, become a tacit endorsement of his antisemitism?

BTW, I feel that Lerle is being unfairly persecuted because I have seen no evidence that any of his statements -- though anti-Semitic -- are incitements to violence.

Also, in the above article, we see arbitrary censorship of comments rear its ugly head again. So far as I can see, I am the only Internet user who has consistently campaigned against arbitrary censorship of comments (no, ViW, censorship of gossip about the private affairs of the blogger is not arbitrary).

A person's views on one controversy and his/her views on another controversy should be regarded as strictly separate, except where there is a direct link between the two controversies. My views about evolution have nothing to do with my views about the holocaust, except for my view that the establishment's views on both controversies are dogmas.



Fatheaded Ed's blatant hypocrisy

I saw the following exchange in the comment thread under an Ed Brayton blog article about the campaign to restore the fairness doctrine for broadcasting:

Ed Brayton: Nice try Larry. I don't know how long it's gonna take to sink through your thick skull that you are not allowed to comment here, period.

ard falten: appears to be a lot of censoring going on right here -- makes it quite hipocritical for you, ed, to be whining about a new fairness doctrine as a censorship tool.

Ed Brayton: What censorship has gone on here? And even if there was, how would that make me a hypocrite?

I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes.

Also, one commenter actually proposed that all related comments be deleted in order to destroy the evidence --
Actually, I think you'd be completely justified in deleting our comments responding to him. I'd hate to lose that one above, though (posted June 28, 0924), as I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out -- frequently not the case with my own writing. But if I notice one of my responses vanished along with someone else's, I'll hold my tongue -- or at most, complain via e-mail. I hope and expect that most of your other readers would do the same.

Sick, sick, sick.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is the Constitution the supreme law of the land or not?

Over on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, a commenter named "BruceM" made the following astute observation about the recent Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation decision on taxpayer standing to sue under the Constitution's establishment clause:

Can anyone cite me to ANY writing by ANY founder that says or implies that a 'standing' requirement should trump an unconstitutional law or application of law?

I responded,
Excellent point. The Constitution is supposed to be the supreme law of the land. To follow a "standing" requirement at the expense of the Constitution is like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.

Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.

In my lawsuits against the grossly unconstitutional "smog impact fee," I used to wonder why the opposing attorneys and sometimes the judges (when the judges even bothered to express an opinion at all) were quibbling over trivial procedural rules when I was charging that there was a gross violation of the Constitution.

I think that we just need to throw out a lot of precedents and just go back to first principles.



Fairness doctrine for broadcasters

There has been a fair amount of publicity lately about a campaign to restore the fairness doctrine for broadcasters. Rep. Maurice Hinchey's website has an undated notice announcing that he will soon be re-introducing a bill called the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA), which would restore the fairness doctrine as well as change the rules for media ownership. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has proposed a companion bill in the Senate. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), chairman of the House subcommittee on domestic policy, announced he would hold hearings on the media, which would include looking at restoring the fairness doctrine. However, a previous House version of MORA in the last Congress, H.R. 3302, had only 16 co-sponsors, a small number for the House, which has 435 members.

The fairness doctrine for broadcasters is discussed here and here, and also on Uncommon Descent and Fatheaded Ed's blog.

For various reasons, I am opposed to an unlimited fairness doctrine for broadcasters. I think that a requirement of, say, equal time for "conservative" and "liberal" talk shows would be too great a burden for broadcasters. Also, it is often difficult to define what is "liberal" and what is "conservative." However, I am in favor of an "equal time" or "right to reply" rule requiring that individuals who are personally attacked on a broadcasting station be given a few minutes to respond. The case in which the Supreme Court upheld the fairness doctrine, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC (1969), was about such a requirement that an individual be given an opportunity to respond. In Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo (1974), the Supreme Court inexplicably struck down a similar "right to reply" law for newspapers. These two cases are discussed here (Red Lion is item #5 and Miami Herald is item #8).

A common argument against restoring the fairness doctrine for broadcasters is that we have an abundance of broadcasting stations today, but that argument does not hold water. Some stations are going to be more popular than others and there is nothing in the First Amendment that says that the more popular stations are more equal than others in regard to a right to control what reaches the largest audiences. Also, ownership of broadcasting stations is concentrated in a few hands (that is also an issue which MORA seeks to address). Still, though, I feel that the disadvantages of an unlimited fairness doctrine for broadcasters outweigh the advantages. This specious argument of an abundance of sites is also raised in opposition to my proposal for a fairness doctrine for blogs.

My proposal of a fairness doctrine for blogs -- which would generally prohibit arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments -- is based on the following points: (1) the doctrine would not be a burden to bloggers because comment space is unlimited; (2) some blogs have become de facto major public forums; (3) blogs are being authoritatively cited by court opinions, official news services, etc.; and (4) BVD-clad bloggers are seeking special privileges -- e.g., a "reporter's privilege" that would allow them to keep their confidential sources secret -- and so should accept some responsibilities. I have also proposed a fairness-doctrine exemption for bloggers who post prominent notices saying that they practice arbitrary censorship. A fairness doctrine for blogs is eminently fair, practical, constitutional, democratic, and ethical.

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Egregious censorship on Panda's Thumb

This has got to be the most brazen case of censorship I have seen on the Internet -- a PT blogger made a long reply to a visitor's comment and then deleted the comment! The visitor at Panda's Thumb was named "Anonymous." The unscrupulous PT blogger, Timothy Sandefur, left the following message:

Update: “Anonymous” has been identified as Larry Fafarman, who has been banned from PT for his many abuses. PT is, of course, private property and its owners (of whom I am not one) determine the rules to be followed on it. Thus his comment has been removed.

Wrong. I am not Anonymous, and -- as I have shown -- there is no way to identify messages from me anyway. And yes, PT is "private," but that does not mean that it is not subject to government regulation. For example, an environmental law or regulation can be practically the equivalent of confiscation of "private" land. There is no reason why a government cannot enact a "fairness doctrine" prohibiting arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments on blogs. In Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, the Supreme Court ruled that the FCC "fairness doctrine" for private broadcasters is constitutional, and a fairness doctrine for blogs would be even more constitutional because blogs -- unlike broadcasting stations -- have unlimited space for visitors' comments.

As a blog where flagrant arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments is practiced, PT is totally undeserving of its blogging awards and authoritative citations.

Arbitrary censorship on blogs is anti-intellectual, unscholarly, unethical, unconstitutional, and extremely rude.



Nitpicking, hairsplitting ruling on taxpayer standing to sue

The Supreme Court has decided the Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation case, which was described as follows:

Aimed originally at a series of White House-sponsored regional conferences on federal aid to religious groups, this lawsuit turns on whether taxpayers have the right to sue over a federal program that supports religion through actions of the President and Executive Branch, rather than with funds specifically earmarked by Congress.

There was no majority opinion, but the majority judgment was that taxpayers do not have standing to sue over a federal program that supports religion through an Executive Branch funding allocation instead of through a Congressional funding allocation. IMO that is a nitpicking and hairsplitting distinction.

The case syllabus says,
ALITO, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and KENNEDY, J., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS, J., joined. SOUTER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. (page 5 of pdf file)

Alito's plurality opinion begins,

This is a lawsuit in which it was claimed that conferences held as part of the President's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because, among other things, President Bush and former Secretary of Education Paige gave speeches that used "religious imagery" and praised the efficacy of faith-based programs in delivering social services. The plaintiffs contend that they meet the standing requirements of Article III of the Constitution because they pay federal taxes. (page 6 of pdf file)

IMO it seems frivolous to file a lawsuit over what Pres. Bush and a cabinet member said at conferences -- however, that is a side issue.

Alito continued,

It has long been established, however, that the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the Federal Government. In light of the size of the federal budget, it is complete fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm. And if every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any Government expenditure , the federal courts would cease to function as courts of law and would be cast in the role of general complaint bureaus.
In Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968), we recognized a narrow exception to the general rule against taxpayer standing. Under Flast, a plaintiff asserting an Establishment Clause claim has standing to challenge a law authorizing the use of federal funds in a way that allegedly violates the Establishment Clause. In the present case, Congress did not specifically authorize the use of federal funds to pay for the conferences or speeches that the plaintiffs challenged. Instead, the conferences and speeches were paid for out of general Executive Branch appropriations. The Court of Appeals, however, held that the plaintiffs have standing as taxpayers because the conferences were paid for with money appropriated by Congress.
The question presented here is whether this broad reading of Flast is correct. We hold that it is not. We therefore reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.
(pages 6-7 of pdf file)

As I said, IMO this distinction between Executive Branch funding allocation and Congressional funding allocation is nitpicking and hairsplitting. Scalia, in a concurring opinion joined by Thomas, said that the court should either poop or get off the can:

The Court's taxpayer standing cases involving Establishment Clause challenges to government expenditures are notoriously inconsistent because they have inconsistently described the relevant "injury in fact" that Article III requires. Some cases have focused on the financial effect on the taxpayer's wallet, whereas Flast and the cases that follow its teaching have emphasized the mental displeasure the taxpayer suffers when his funds are extracted and spent in aid of religion. There are only two logical routes available with respect to taxpayer standing. If the mental displeasure created by Establishment Clause violations is concrete and particularized enough to constitute an Article III "injury in fact," then Flast should be applied to (at a minimum) all challenges to government expenditures allegedly violating constitutional provisions that specifically limit the taxing and spending power; if not, Flast should be overturned. (pages 4-5 of syllabus)

This view echoes the dissenting opinion of Justice Harlan in Flast:

I am quite unable to understand how, if a taxpayer believes that a given public expenditure is unconstitutional, and if he seeks to vindicate that belief in a federal court, his interest in the suit can be said necessarily to vary according to the constitutional provision under which he states his claim.

. . . .Apparently the Court, having successfully circumnavigated the issue, has merely returned to the proposition from which it began. A litigant, it seems, will have standing if he is "deemed" to have the requisite interest, and "if you . . . have standing, then you can be confident you are" suitably interested. (citation omitted)

Ironically, if an alleged establishment clause violation does not involve any tax money at all -- e.g., a government decision to allow a privately donated religious display on public property -- the standing of citizens to challenge that alleged violation is not questioned. IMO tax money should never be an issue of standing to sue in civil rights lawsuits.

BTW, IMO the idea that an aggrieved party might not have standing to sue is one of the ugliest concepts in jurisprudence. Because of a technicality, my car was exempt from the grossly unconstitutional $300 California "smog impact fee" on out-of-state cars and thus supposedly I had no standing to sue over the fee, but I felt that my mental suffering that resulted from the threat of this diabolical fee qualified me as an aggrieved party entitled to sue (anyway, I never told the courts that I hadn't paid the fee, so this issue never came up).

The courts often paint themselves into corners by means of bad and/or inconsistent precedents and it is sometimes best for the courts to forget about precedent and start with a clean slate.

Related articles about the Hein case:

"Establishment clause case illustrates arbitrariness of our courts"

"Taxpayers' standing to sue in establishment clause lawsuits "



Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Student loses "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case

I think it is unfortunate that the student plaintiff lost the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case in the Supreme Court. The story is here.

As I said, I think it is bad to teach kids that arbitrary censorship is OK. It is argued that this censorship in schools is OK because kids are impressionable and should not be exposed to bad influences. But one of the worst influences that we can expose them to is the idea that censorship is OK. The Darwinists have obviously learned the lesson that censorship is OK.


European proposal to anathematize criticisms of Darwinism

The Brussels Journal says,

. . . next Tuesday, the Council of Europe (CoE), Europe’s main human-rights body, will vote on a proposal which advocates the fight against creationism, “young earth” and “intelligent design” in its 47 member states.

According to a report of the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly, creationists are dangerous “religious fundamentalists” who propagate “forms of religious extremism” and “could become a threat to human rights.” The report adds that the acceptance of the science of evolutionism “is crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies.”

“Creationism, born of the denial of the evolution of species through natural selection, was for a long time an almost exclusively American phenomenon,” the report says.

“Today creationist theories are tending to find their way into Europe and their spread is affecting quite a few Council of Europe member states. […] [T]his is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism, synonymous with attacks of utmost virulence on human rights."

. . . . According to the CoE report, America and Australia are already on their way towards becoming such undemocratic theocracies where human and civic rights are endangered . . . .

Though one may disagree with people who take the Book of Genesis literally (believing that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh), surely secularist political organizations telling people what they may or may not believe, constitute a far greater threat to human rights than religious institutions telling their faithful how to vote. In the voting booth people are free to do what they like, whilst in contemporary Europe people are no longer free to publicly voice their own, deeply felt opinions in public.

A quote from Reuters, 25 June 2007:
Europe’s main human rights body on Monday cancelled a scheduled vote on banning creationist and intelligent design views from school science classes, saying the proposed resolution was one-sided. […] Guy Lengagne, the French Socialist member of the Assembly who drew up the report, protested after the Parliamentary Assembly voted to call off the debate and vote, and to send the report back to committee for further study. […] Deputies said the motion by the Christian Democratic group of parliamentarians also won support from east European deputies, who recalled that Darwinian evolution was a favorite theory of their former communist rulers.

The committee report is titled "The dangers of creationism in education".

A Council of Europe website says,
[26/06/2007 17:00:00] Parliamentary Assembly Culture Committee has said it would like to see its report, ''The dangers of creationism in education'', on the agenda of the Assembly’s next plenary session, in October. In a declaration adopted on 26 June, the committee protested against the ''confused and probably irregular'' conditions of yesterday’s plenary vote to refer the report, by Guy Lengagne (France, SOC), back to committee, and said the problem of creationism in teaching was a ''politically topical question'' which ought to be discussed.

A Council of Europe press release says,

The PACE culture and education committee rapporteur Guy Lengagne (France, SOC) today said he was ‘flabbergasted’, ‘appalled’ and ‘shocked’ by the PACE decision to refer back to committee his report on the dangers of creationism in education. ‘I can only see this as a ploy on the part of people who will use any means they can to combat the theory of evolution and impose creationist ideas. What we have here is the makings of a return to the Middle Ages, and too many members of this human-rights-based assembly fail to see it’.

A Reuters UK news report said,

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Europe's main human rights body on Monday cancelled a scheduled vote on banning creationist and intelligent design views from school science classes, saying the proposed resolution was one-sided . . .

. . . Some conservative groups in the United States, both religious and secular, have long opposed the teaching of Darwinian evolution in public schools but U.S. courts have regularly barred them from teaching religious views of creation.

Pressure to teach creationism is weaker in Europe, but an Assembly committee got active because a Muslim creationist book has appeared in several countries.

Guy Lengagne, the French Socialist member of the Assembly who drew up the report, protested after the Parliamentary Assembly voted to call off the debate and vote, and to send the report back to committee for further study.

"I have enough experience of parliamentary procedure to know that this is a first-class burial (for the report)," he said . . . .

The proposed resolution said the Council of Europe's 47 member states should "firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection." . . .

. . . . The resolution would not have been binding on member states.

Well, at least it is nice to know that the resolution would not have been binding on member states.



Another arbitrarily censoring blogger: Jason Rosenhouse

Touchy Jason Rosenhouse, blogger on the Evolution Blog and also a blogger on Panda's Thumb, said that his main reason for banning me from the Evolution blog was that he was offended by my post titled "Funny, he doesn't look like a Jew. Who knew?". Jason wrote,
I've been barely tolerating you as it is, but you are not going to be using my blog to promote holocaust denial and anti-semitism. You are no longer welcome to comment here. I understand now why so many other bloggers have seen fit to ban you in the past.

None of my posts here are anti-Semitic. And I was not using Jason's blog to promote my holocaust revisionism -- I did not discuss the holocaust on Jason's blog and I did not link to any of my blog articles about the holocaust.

Jason said,

I've long had a policy of allowing people to post whatever comments they wanted at this blog, as long as they weren't vulgar or libelous. But your behavior in this thread has been so obnoxious and your remarks so idiotic that you have forced me to reevaluate that policy.

Here are some of my "vulgar," "libelous," and "obnoxious" remarks on Jason's blog:

There are always those self-appointed cyberbullying blogosphere goons who won't even give a commenter a chance to respond before they make a disparaging remark.

IMO Behe should apologize for quote-mining Coyne and you should apologize for charging that he "doctored" quotes and that his EoE ["The Edge of Evolution"] book quote-mined Carroll.

It is one thing to argue that Behe is wrong and something else entirely to charge that Behe quote-mined Carroll. I am astonished that I need to explain this difference to you people.

I can't believe this. I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland -- maybe at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party -- trying to reason with characters who are completely irrational and nonsensical.

"I will not be replying to any further comments from you. " Thank you -- I don't think I could stomach any more of your arguments.

You are just talking through your hat, Jason.

Those remarks don't sound very vulgar, libelous, or obnoxious to me.

The real reason why Jason kicked me off his blog was that he was upset that I had completely demolished his claim that two particular quotations in Behe's new book "The Edge of Evolution" were quote mines. A lot of the other commenters could do nothing but make their usual insults and ad hominem attacks against me.

An introduction to Jason's article, posted on Panda's Thumb, said of "The Edge of Evolution,"

A new ID book, a new selection of yummy delicious quote-mines to ponder. EoE offers up quite the little smorgasbord.

All that Jason provided on this "little smorgasbord" of "yummy delicious quote-mines" was just two quotations in EoE that were not quote mines at all. The Darwinists can dish it out but they can't take it.

Fatheaded Ed Brayton had to throw in his two cents worth in a post titled "Behe Caught Quotemining":

Jason Rosenhouse has the details. Fafarman shows up in the comments to disagree with him, which is pretty much prima facie proof that Jason got it right.

These stupid Darwinists have distorted the meaning of the term "quote mine" beyond recognition. The only way that these Darwinists could make the charge of quote mining in EoE was by making up all sorts of things that were not in the contexts of the quotations. To these Darwinists, any quotation whose use they don't like is a "quote mine."

Jason has unwittingly done me a favor -- my SiteMeter shows that his condemnation of this blog has backfired by actually increasing this blog's traffic. Once here, people can see how reasonable this blog really is.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Council of Europe attacks criticisms of Darwinism

IMO governments (or governmental entities) should not unnecessarily take sides in a scientific dispute. Sometimes the government cannot avoid taking sides in a scientific dispute, e.g., in a product-liability lawsuit and in deciding what action to take on greenhouse gases. Unfortunately we have seen Judge Jones unnecessarily take sides in the evolution controversy and that mistake is about to be repeated in the fundy schools' lawsuit against the Univ. of California. Now, sadly, a committee of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has issued an official report titled, "The dangers of creationism in education". Also, unfortunately Germany attempted to ban holocaust denial and revisionism throughout the European Union -- IMO governments should also abstain from taking sides in disputes about history.

Discussions about the Council of Europe's report are on Uncommon Descent and Panda's Thumb.



Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cartoon caption contest


When I first saw the above cartoon over at Uncommon Descent, I thought it was pretty tasteless, but then I thought that it would make a good subject for a cartoon caption contest. The cartoon was posted on UD under the title, "The Slippery Slope of Enforcing Darwinism in the Classroom?" Here are my own suggestions for a caption:

Survival of the fittest

Predator-prey arms race

I warned you not to get me into trouble with Judge Jones

Weeding out those who are unfit to compete in the global economy


The prize for the winner of this caption contest will be an invitation to post a guest article on this blog.



Darwinist reporter makes mountain out of molehill

NY Times reporter Cornelia "Corny" Dean, who has a bad reputation for flagrant pro-Darwinist bias in her news articles, said in a recent news article,
The officers of the National Association of State Boards of Education are reviewing their election procedures, after a nominee’s withdrawal left them with only one candidate for the office of president-elect: a member of the Kansas school board who supported its efforts against the teaching of evolution.

The candidate did not support "efforts against the teaching of evolution" -- the candidate supported efforts to teach both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.

The review will not be completed before balloting ends next month. In a letter to board members, the officers said they had established a group to recommend changes for their consideration at their annual meeting in October.

How can new rules be retroactively applied to an election?

The Kansas candidate is Kenneth Willard, a Republican who voted with the conservative majority in 2005 when the school board changed the state’s science standards to allow inclusion of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism.

Those science standards did not expressly call for inclusion of intelligent design in the science curriculum.

Voters replaced that majority, but Mr. Willard, an insurance executive from Hutchinson, retained his seat. If he becomes president-elect of the national group, he will take office as its president in January 2009.

When they learned Mr. Willard would be unopposed, some scientists and others urged state boards, each of which has one vote, to write in other candidates. But the association’s bylaws make no provision for write-in votes.

I was told that the proposed write-in candidate, an Ohio Board of Education member, is not eligible to be elected NASBE president because he has no experience serving on NASBE committees.

In a telephone interview, W. Bradley Bryant, the president of the association and parliamentarian of the Georgia state board, said he believed that Robert’s Rules of Order would advise treating a write-in “as a vote that was never cast.”

Sounds good to me.

Mr. Bryant, however, said the board had not made a decision.

In their letter to board members, the officers said they espoused diversity of views and tolerance as core values for their organization and for education. But Mr. Bryant said it would be a mistake to assume that meant that the group took a position on the teaching of creationism or related ideas in science classes.

Mr. Bryant, who would not say where he stood on the issue, said it had never arisen in his years on the national board.

If the NASBE has never or not lately taken a position on the teaching of creationism or related ideas in science classes, why should the NASBE start doing so just because of the election of Willard?

This whole thing would probably not even be in the news if it were not for the fanatic pro-Darwinism of Corny Dean. For the following reasons, I would not be alarmed even if I were a Darwinist:

(1) The NASBE does not have that much power or influence -- the state boards are independent of the NASBE;

(2) The NASBE president probably does not have that much power in the organization;

(3) It's a short-term position, and

(4) As I noted above, the NASBE has never or not lately taken a position on creationism or related ideas and I see no reason why the NASBE should take such a position just because of the election of Willard.



OK, blogs are "private" property. So what?

The main argument that has been presented against my proposed "fairness doctrine" for blogs (i.e., a prohibition of arbitrary censorship of blog visitors' comments) has been that blogs are "private" property. Until now, I have countered that argument by claiming that blogs are "public" property. I thought that my counter-argument was reasonable because some private things are quasi-public. However, I now realize that it is better to just concede that blogs are completely private, because being completely private does not mean that the government does not have the power to regulate them. The government is always telling us what we can and cannot do with private property, e.g., zoning and environmental laws -- which are often extremely burdensome -- tell people what they can do with their private land.



Saturday, June 23, 2007

Another anti-ID scholar condemns Dover decision

Many people believe that the only people who disagree with the anti-intellectual, unscholarly, and totalitarian Kitzmiller v. Dover decision are bible pounding, holy rolling fundy-type creationist crackpots. Judge Jones certainly believes that. He has accused the decision's critics of being opposed to judicial independence and "the rule of law" and said that they call him an "activist judge" only because they are unhappy with the result of the decision and for no other reason. However, I have pointed out that there is an anti-ID scholar -- Jay Wexler -- who has publicly condemned the decision, and now I have found another. In addition to these two, there are several apparently neutral scholars who have also publicly condemned the decision.

On Evolution News & Views, Casey Luskin discusses a recent Christian Century magazine article written by Darwinist J. Scott Turner, a biology professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. Casey says,
Turner sees the Kitzmiller v. Dover case as the dangerous real-world expression of the intolerance common in the academy: "My blood chills ... when these essentially harmless hypocrisies are joined with the all-American tradition of litigiousness, for it is in the hand of courts and lawyers that real damage to cherished academic ideas is likely to be done." He laments the fact that "courts are where many of my colleagues seem determined to go with the ID issue” and predicts, “I believe we will ultimately come to regret this."

Turner justifies his reasonable foresight by explaining that Kitzmiller only provided a pyrrhic victory for the pro-Darwin lobby:
Although there was general jubilation at the ruling, I think the joy will be short-lived, for we have affirmed the principle that a federal judge, not scientists or teachers, can dictate what is and what is not science, and what may or may not be taught in the classroom. Forgive me if I do not feel more free.

(J. Scott Turner, Signs of Design, The Christian Century, June 12, 2007.)

By way of review, here is what Jay Wexler said about Kitzmiller v. Dover. His announcement of a lecture said,

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.

In a law journal article, Wexler added,

. . . if one judge can practice philosophy of science, what is to stop others from doing the same? Perhaps the next judge to hear an ID case will decide that science simply means "the process of searching for the best logical explanations for observed data." In that case, schools might be allowed to teach … ID… Is this really a can of worms that ID opponents want to open?

Actually, the science-as-ID section of the Dover opinion was not even written by the judge -- it was written by the ACLU.

My response to Wexler's above statement was,

In Wexler's above statement, he appears to be concerned only about judges hearing other ID cases. But what about judges hearing cases concerning non-ID criticisms of evolution, such as criticisms concerning co-evolution and the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction -- or even the Second Law of Thermodynamics? After all, the SLOT is not a religious concept, and it is a law, not just a theory. Also, the now-defunct Ohio critical analysis of evolution lesson plan contained some very specific non-ID criticisms of evolution. IMO it is noteworthy that the Darwinists kept threatening to sue Ohio but never did. Anyway, without design, there is no designer. No designer, no god. No god, no religion. No religion, no establishment clause violation.

Many Darwinists have the mistaken belief that the ID-as-science ruling of the Dover decision was an inevitable "slam dunk" shoo-in. The Darwinists just got lucky this time. Judge Jones is a churchgoing Bush-appointed Republican conservative and maybe he was just bending over backwards to try to show that he was "impartial." He bent over so far backwards in an attempt to show his impartiality that he said in a Dickinson College commencement speech that organized religions are not "true" religions. Maybe next time the judge will be a godless blasphemous fundy-hating Clinton-appointed Democratic liberal atheist who will also bend over backwards to try to prove his impartiality.

Luskin pointed out that Turner "laments the fact that 'courts are where many of my colleagues seem determined to go with the ID issue.'" There is no constitutional separation of pseudoscience (or bad science) and state, so some people are misusing the so-called "separation of church and state" for the purpose of trying to suppress scientific ideas that they disagree with. One of the worst offenders in this regard is the hypocritical theistic evolutionist Ken Miller. He says that his own belief in evolution is supported by his religion, yet he urges the courts to use the so-called "separation of church and state" principle to suppress the views of ID proponents whose belief in ID is not supported by religion. Ken Miller was the lead expert witness for the Dover plaintiffs and also was an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Selman v. Cobb County evolution disclaimer textbook sticker case. IMO the plaintiffs in those cases showed real chutzpah by choosing a theistic evolutionist as an expert witness in lawsuits charging that including criticism of evolution in public-school science courses violates the separation of church and state.



Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fatheaded Ed gossips about himself: No degree

Ed Brayton says,

The National Center for Science Education is looking for someone to replace Nick Matzke as their public information director (Nick is going to Berkeley in the fall to do his PhD). . . . If I had a degree, I'd throw my hat into the ring . .

In this credentialist age, pontificating about legal and scientific subjects the way Ed does when one does not have even just a bachelor's degree is almost considered to be presumptuous. A psychology professor's explanation of why well-educated people tend to do better than poorly educated people on intelligence tests was, "you can't be a genius if you don't know anything," and that statement applies in spades to Ed.

Also, it looks like Darwinist Nick Matzke is doing the same thing that anti-Darwinist Jonathan Wells did -- going back to school to learn better ways of attacking the opposition.



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It is wrong to teach kids that censorship is OK



Cartoon is courtesy of Uncommon Descent. This is not a legacy that Judge Jones should be proud of, but he has been criss-crossing the country giving speeches that brag about it. He now claims that his speeches are not about the Dover decision itself but are in support of judicial independence and "the rule of law," but the fact is that he would have no audience were he not well known for having made that decision.


It just struck me that one very important factor that has not been considered in monkey trials is the effect of teaching kids that it is OK to arbitrarily censor even the mere mention of ideas that we disagree with. The same impressionability that makes kids susceptible to believing pseudoscience -- or even believing religion -- also makes them susceptible to accepting the idea that such arbitrary censorship is OK, which IMO is by far the worst of these susceptibilities in potential for long-term deleterious consequences -- it would give people tendencies to be intolerant and accept a fascist government. I am really kicking myself for not seeing this angle before. We should oppose arbitrary censorship wherever it raises its ugly head. Also, I am wondering why we have been hearing little or nothing from the people who are most affected by the censorship of criticism of Darwinism in the public schools -- the students themselves.

A Georgetown Law Journal article by Kevin Trowel says,
The challenge of education in a democracy is to balance individuality and autonomy with the needs of the state. The state requires that students become members of society, and it serves this goal by "encourag[ing] the political virtues so that [children] want to honor the fair terms of social cooperation in relation with the rest of society." To avoid homogenization, the "political virtues" must include "toleration and mutual respect, and a sense of fairness and civility" . . . .

. . . Civic education, therefore, must provide students with the tools to be active, critical, political, but tolerant citizens. This will sometimes put the goals of a system of civic education in conflict with the desires of individual groups or communities.
(page 882 of journal, page 28 of pdf file)


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Funny, he doesn't look like a Jew. Who knew?

Professor Eugene Volokh


Idiot-savant Eugene Volokh, a blogger on the popular Volokh Conspiracy blog, is just one in a long line of well-known people of Jewish descent who I never even imagined had Jewish ancestry. People like him strengthen my argument that a "systematic" holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no reliable way of identifying Jews. There are blond-and-blue-eyed Jews and black Jews. There are all kinds of Jews.
Volokh said in a Wall Street Journal article,
Modest amounts of anti-Semitic speech and unfair criticism of Israel, it seems to me, can strengthen American Jews' self-identity as Jews, and thus indirectly both support the preservation of the American Jewish community as a community, and strengthen support for Israel . . .

. . . If anti-Semitic speech became too common, these community-strengthening effects may be decreased (for instance, if American Jews became afraid to be publicly identified as Jews) or might be swamped by harmful effects (again, such as violence, ostracism, discrimination or fear suffered by individual Jews). But my sense is that at modest levels, the existence of this speech in America is a net positive (not an unalloyed positive, but a net positive) both for Israel and for the American Jewish community. And we are talking these days about such modest levels, if one looks at the big picture of Jewish existence in America today.

So far I have tried to be purely descriptive: I have tried to describe what I think is an existing phenomenon, a phenomenon that is positive for Israel and for the American Jewish community as a community. (I should say that I'm a relatively assimilated Jew who doesn't care as much about the American Jewish community as a community as some do; I'm much more concerned with the welfare of individuals, Jewish or not, than with the welfare of the community. Still, even I see some value, so long as anti-Semitism does exist, in America and elsewhere, in protecting Israel and preserving American Jewish institutions.)

Now, though, let me shift to the prescriptive: I think that this phenomenon ought to further strengthen American Jews' support for free speech, including for free speech by anti-Semites and unfair, bigoted critics of Israel. (I think we should support such free speech even without this phenomenon, but I hope this phenomenon strengthens such support in others.)

Well, Gene, maybe someday your support for free speech will extend to blogs.

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History of "smog impact fee" reveals governmental corruption

I have frequently discussed the former flagrantly unconstitutional "smog impact fee" that California collected on certain out-of-state vehicles in the period 1990-99. I just found a California state senator's article about the fee:
California's Illegal Smog Impact Fee by Senator Maurice Johannessen

The California Court of Appeals on October 1 [1999] declared unconstitutional California's $300 Smog Impact Fee imposed on vehicles brought in from other states.

For five years I've sought to eliminate this fee from the books. I've introduced three repeal bills and argued relentlessly that the fee is unconstitutional, only to be shuffled aside by the all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee . . .

I told my colleagues how the fee violates both the state and federal constitutions and that we better repeal it before the State gets into deep legal trouble. . . .

. . . Did the California Legislature listen? No. My colleagues chose to ignore a Legislative Counsel Opinion that declared the fee illegal. They refused to look at a 1994 Florida Supreme Court ruling which tossed out a similar fee. Furthermore, lawmakers took no heed to an April 1996 trial court ruling which also threw out the fee. . . .

. . . Over a million people [actually about 1.7 million] have paid this fee during the last ten years, but many will not get their money back because only those who paid the fee within the last three years can file for a refund. And to make matters worse, the State has no intention of notifying anyone that they have a right to apply for a refund.

This is dead wrong and I find this whole scenario unconscionable! First, the State knowingly and willfully exacted an unfair tax on people moving to California. Second, they refused to repeal it when told the fee was unconstitutional. Then, the State continued to collect and spend the ill-gotten gain, and finally, after the legal appeals were decided, the State said it would only reimburse those who figure it out on their own that they are eligible for a refund . . .

. . . if the State won't refund everyone who was forced to pay the illegal tax, I will introduce new language in my SB 230 to require the State to make complete reimbursement.

California eventually passed legislation for full reimbursement -- with interest -- to everyone who paid the fee.

BTW, the vehicle tax that was declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court was not emissions-based.

Another article against the fee, written by another state senator, is here.

Considering that there were about 1.7 million victims of the fee over the years, how did this abominable tax from hell last so long? Certainly more than a few people wondered why they had to pay this fee when their out-of-state vehicles were required to pass the same smog checks as comparable California-certified vehicles and they were sometimes required to pay hundreds of dollars for repairs if their vehicles failed the checks. The problem was that these people had no voice because they were not organized, and organizations that could have helped them did not lift a finger to do so. In 1995, the powerful Auto Club of Southern California (which Wikipedia says is a $3 billion outfit) informed me that they asked the governor to veto the fee when it was introduced in 1990. I told them that the new lawsuits against the fee were a good opportunity to inform their members about the fee but they inexplicably refused to do so. Also, the ACLU of Florida was a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the unconstitutional vehicle tax in Florida and so I urged the ACLU of Southern California to inform its members about the smog impact fee and their response was, "we don't have the resources for this." The ACLU-SC has the "resources" to sue Los Angeles County over a tiny cross in the county seal (the ACLU only threatened to sue but I presume that it was not an idle threat) but did not have the "resources" to even just inform its members of a big grossly unconstitutional tax that over a million people had paid.

No, ViW, Kevin Vicklund, Bill Carter, etc., I am not interested in hearing about what a wonderful thing the smog impact fee was.


Law requires preservation of email records!

A lot of people have the idea that all emails are just worthless pieces of junk and so it is OK to block emails that are sent to others. For example, Kevin Bankston (bankston@eff.org), a sleazy unscrupulous staff shyster of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, threatened to block my emails addressed to other EFF staffers. However, under a law called the Presidential Records Act, emails are considered to be vital records that must be preserved. An AOL news article says,
WASHINGTON (June 19) - E-mail records are missing for 51 of the 88 White House officials who had electronic message accounts with the Republican National Committee, the House Oversight Committee said Monday.

The Bush administration may have committed "extensive" violations of a law requiring that certain records be preserved, said the committee's Democratic chairman, adding that the panel will deepen its probe into the use of political e-mail accounts.

The committee's interim report said the number of White House officials who had RNC e-mail accounts, and the number of messages they sent and received, were more extensive than previously realized.

The administration has said that about 50 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts during Bush's presidency. But the House committee found at least 88.

The RNC has preserved e-mails from some of the heaviest users, including 140,216 messages sent or received by Bush's top political adviser in the White House, Karl Rove . However, "the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials," said the interim report, issued by committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. . .

"Given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC e-mail accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing e-mails," the report said, "the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive."

The records act requires presidents to assure that "the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance" of their duties are "adequately documented ... and maintained," the report said . . .

. . . Congressional Democrats are investigating whether White House officials used RNC e-mail accounts to conduct overtly political, and perhaps improper, activities such as planning which U.S. prosecutors to fire and preparing partisan briefings for employees in federal agencies.

Anyway, considering that these emails are supposed to be preserved, I wonder why people would use these emails for conspiratorial purposes.



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jerry Coyne's review of "The Edge of Evolution" in New Republic

Michael Behe's new book, "The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism", is about intelligent design. Intelligent design is not one of my favorite subjects, but I feel compelled to comment on this book because it has created such a big stir -- it was released only about two weeks ago and there are already dozens of articles about it. One of the more prominent and widely discussed articles about the book is a review of the book by Darwinist Jerry Coyne in the New Republic magazine. Not surprisingly, the Uncommon Descent blog has several articles that are critical of Coyne's review, but it was surprising that Darwinist blogger Jason Rosenhouse wrote an article that is highly critical of Coyne's review. I have not read any of the book myself -- this article here is strictly a review of Coyne's book review.

The article begins by discussing the anti-ID disclaimer statement signed by Michael Behe's Lehigh University colleagues. Coyne says,
To my knowledge, such a statement is unique. Biology departments do not customarily assert publicly that they support a theory known for more than a century to be true.

No, the statement is not unique. Faculty members at three Iowa universities signed anti-ID statements. Unlike the Lehigh university statement, the Iowa statements did not expressly target an individual faculty member, but one of the authors of the Iowa State University statement said that it targeted an ISU faculty member, Guillermo Gonzalez. The ISU statement was signed by 124 ISU faculty members.

. . . this disclaimer is perfectly understandable. For in this department resides Michael Behe--that rara avis, a genuine biologist who is also an advocate of "intelligent design." And Lehigh University does not wish to lose prospective students who bridle at the thought of studying miracles in their science courses.

The numbers of applicants and the SAT score averages of admitted students have actually increased at Lehigh University in recent years.

More damaging than the scientific criticisms of Behe's work was the review that he got in 2005 from Judge John E. Jones III. After an ID textbook called Of Pandas and People was proposed for biology classes at a high school in Dover, Pennsylvania, a group of local parents brought suit against the Dover Area School District and some of its members . . . . The case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District et al., dubbed by some "the Scopes trial of our century," included luminaries from both the scientific camp and the ID camp battling it out in front of Judge Jones. With his scientific credentials, Behe was the key witness for the defense.

Jones's 139-page verdict for the plaintiffs was eloquent, strong, and unequivocal, especially coming from a churchgoing Republican.

There we go again with that "churchgoing Republican" crap. That means nothing -- Jones might have been bending over backwards to try to show that his background did not bias him against evolution and in favor of ID. This "churchgoing Republican" bent over so far backwards that he said in a Dickinson College commencement speech that organized religions are not "true" religions.

The coup de grace to the already badly discredited Kitzmiller opinion was delivered by the Discovery Institute's revelation that the opinion's touted ID-as-science section was ghostwritten by the ACLU. Judge Jones copied the ID-as-science section virtually entirely from the plaintiffs’ opening post-trial brief while ignoring the defendants’ opening post-trial brief and the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ answering post-trial briefs. There is no evidence that Judge Jones did any independent thinking here. There is no evidence that Jones even read any of the post-trial briefs other than the one that he copied from. The unsupported argument that the reason why he ignored the defendants’ arguments was that he thought they were weak is no excuse because if he thought those arguments were weak then he would have had all the more reason to present them in order to refute them. The Darwinists can praise the Kitzmiller opinion until they are blue in the face but it won't persuade any judge that it is a good opinion.

Also, Darwinist Jason Rosenhouse wrote,

So what does he (i.e., Coyne) do with the space that might have been dedicated to, you know, presenting some facts useful for assessing Behe's arguments? He presents an argument from authority. And which authority did he find to make it clear the flagellum is the product of evolution?

Indeed, the whole problem of the evolution of cilia was argued before Judge Jones in Harrisburg, who ruled that there was no convincing evidence that evolution could not have produced this structure, making legal doctrine from something biologists already knew.

Are you kidding me? In a paragraph meant to impress people with the idea that Behe is snowing nonscientists with a wealth of technical detail, Coyne uses as a counterargument that we managed to convince a Judge that the flagellum evolved? This is embarrassing.

Actually, as noted above, Judge Jones didn't even show that the ACLU "convinced" him of anything -- he just blindly copied the ACLU's ideas.

Coyne then writes,
What has Behe now found to resurrect his campaign for ID? It's rather pathetic, really. Basically, he now admits that almost the entire edifice of evolutionary theory is true: evolution, natural selection, common ancestry. His one novel claim is that the genetic variation that fuels natural selection--mutation--is produced not by random changes in DNA, as evolutionists maintain, but by an Intelligent Designer.

I am certainly not an expert on Behe's ideas, but I have not heard any claims that Behe ever rejected any of the claims of Darwinism except the claim that evolution is driven mainly by random mutation.

Evolution by selection, then, is a combination of two steps: a "random" (or indifferent) step -- mutation -- that generates a panoply of genetic variants, both good and bad (in our example, a variety of new coat colors); and then a deterministic step -- natural selection -- that orders this variation, keeping the good and winnowing the bad . . . . Creationists equate the chance that evolution could produce a complex organism to the infinitesimal chance that a hurricane could sweep through a junkyard and randomly assemble the junk into a Boeing 747. But this analogy is specious. Evolution is manifestly not a chance process because of the order produced by natural selection -- order that can, over vast periods of time, result in complex organisms looking as if they were designed to fit their environment.

Natural selection cannot produce order by itself. Before there can be a complex organism for natural selection to act upon, that complex organism must first be produced.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is rampant, a mutation has arisen in the gene producing hemoglobin that helps ward off malaria. The striking thing about this mutation, known as the sickle-cell mutation, is that it somehow reduces the chances of contracting malaria when its carriers have one copy of the gene (like most organisms, we have two copies of every gene, one on each of our two sets of chromosomes), but it causes sickle-cell anemia when the carriers have two copies . . . .

. . . .According to Behe, malaria shows that random mutation is insufficient to explain biological complexity. He disparages the defensive sickle-cell mutation and similar mutations, saying that they "are quintessentially hurtful mutations because they diminish the functioning of the human body" (does successfully resisting malaria really diminish the function of our body?) and that they are "not in the process of joining to build a complex, interactive biochemical system."

Behe is wrong here. Sickle-cell anemia is a very bad adaptation for its victims but is a good adaptation for its carriers because it gives them resistance to malaria. From just the standpoint of Darwinism, what counts here is not survival of individuals but survival of the species. And even the sickle-cell anemia victims may survive long enough to reproduce -- Wikipedia says that older studies show that victims live to an average age of 40-50 years. As Coyne says, "This example shows that natural selection does not necessarily produce absolute perfection."

Coyne wrote,

Behe buttresses his conclusion by describing how the AIDS virus evolved to outwit not only the strategies of the human immune system but also powerful anti-viral drugs. Again he sees little evolution of complexity: "HIV has killed millions of people, fended off the human immune system, and become resistant to whatever drug humanity could throw at it. Yet through all that, there have been no significant basic biochemical changes in the virus at all" . . .

. . . Evolutionary theory predicts only that parasites will adapt, not how they will adapt. In fact, both the malaria parasite and the HIV virus have undergone sufficient "biochemical change" to make them almost completely adapted to withstand both human drugs and the immune system.
(emphasis in original)

Most creationists and other critics of Darwinism accept microevolution because microevolution is an observed fact, but Behe here appears to even be attacking microevolution. And Coyne's statement "Evolutionary theory predicts only that parasites will adapt, not how they will adapt" is wrong. For example, malaria has not adapted to the resistance that sickle-cell anemia gives to its carriers and victims (even if such an adaptation were possible, maybe it would not significantly increase the rate of transmission -- I don't know). And species that fail to adapt often become extinct.

IDers never produce their own "scientific" explanation of life. They just carp about evolution.

That is a trite Darwinist argument. Why can't a theory be criticized without introducing a complete alternative theory at the same time? When Thomas Edison was charged with not making any progress in his efforts to create a practical electric light, he replied, "I've made lots of progress -- I now know lots of things that don't work." And what good are the mechanisms of Darwinism if those mechanisms are unproven and implausible?

Proteins represent strings of building blocks -- amino acids -- and the cooperation between some proteins requires that sets of amino acids in one protein interact rather precisely with sets in another. Such precise protein-protein interactions, says Behe, could not have been formed by "numerous, successive, slight steps," because such Darwinian evolution would be wildly improbable . . .

. . . Wrong. If it looks impossible, this is only because of Behe's bizarre and unrealistic assumption that for a protein-protein interaction to evolve, all mutations must occur simultaneously, because the step-by-step path is not adaptive. Yet Behe furnishes no proof, no convincing argument, that interactions cannot evolve gradually. In fact, interactions between proteins, like any complex interaction, were certainly built up step by mutational step, with each change producing an interaction scrutinized by selection and retained if it enhanced an organism's fitness.
(emphasis added)

But Behe's point is that the intermediate mutational steps do not "[enhance] an organism's fitness" and hence are not "scrutinized by selection," and without selection a step is not likely to be "retained" by a population that is large enough to make it likely that the species will proceed to the next step by random mutation.

After all, commercial corn, greyhounds, tomatoes, and turkeys were redesigned by humans, not the Intelligent Designer, and since humans cannot produce miracle mutations, we are limited to selecting whichever ones arise--that is, random ones.

Coyne is here arguing against is own position. Natural selection, like breeding by humans, is "limited to selecting whichever ones [i.e., mutations] arise -- that is, random ones."

. . .Behe has never published a paper supporting intelligent design in any scientific journal, despite his assertion in Darwin's Black Box that his own discovery of biochemical design "must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science," rivaling "those of Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrodinger, Pasteur, and Darwin."

Egads -- did Behe ever make so immodest a statement?

As we know from the fossil record, the multiple features of organisms that make them look designed -- say, the feathers, legs, and wings of birds -- did not appear instantly and simultaneously, but evolved gradually.

It has been observed that many organisms appeared suddenly in the fossil record without precursors and continued virtually unchanged until the present day or until they became extinct.

. . . questions about the goals, the powers, and the limitations of the Designer are precisely what must be answered if ID is to become scientific.

What is "scientific" about answering philosophical or theological questions?

Behe waffles when confronted with the testability problem of ID and turns it back on evolutionists, saying that "coming from Darwinists, both objections [the lack of predictions and the untestability of ID] are instances of the pot calling the kettle black."

A lot of Darwinism's so-called "predictions" are not predictions at all but are just observations that discoveries are consistent with the theory. And something can be scientific without being able to predict anything beyond what is already known. For example, we don't need Newton's laws of gravity and motion to predict that dropped objects will fall and their rate of fall. Galileo's experiment of dropping stones of unequal mass from the Leaning Tower of Pisa demonstrated that objects of different mass fall at the same rate (assuming wind resistance is not a factor), before Newton's laws showed the reasons for this phenomenon: acceleration is equal to force divided by mass and gravitational force is directly proportional to mass, so the effects of increased mass and increased gravitational force exactly cancel each other out.

One of the great joys of science is that we never know what will happen next. Who could have guessed twenty years ago that dinosaurs probably became extinct after a giant meteorite collided with Earth and produced a "nuclear winter"? IDers would deprive us of this essential excitement, urging us to stop working when we come up against the hard problems and to ascribe our difficulties to God.

IDers have urged no such thing.


As I have said many times, the nearly exclusive focus on ID as a criticism of Darwinism has almost produced a "contrived dualism" where Darwinism and ID are considered to be the only possibilities. As I have also said many times, there are also non-ID criticisms of Darwinism, e.g., criticisms concerning co-evolution, the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction, and chromosome counts. None of these three non-ID criticisms questions the effectiveness of the Darwinian mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection.



Monday, June 18, 2007

ICON-RIDS: an association of non-religious pro-ID scientists & scholars

Listen up, Judge Jones! To counter your idea that all Darwinism Doubters are just a bunch of bible pounding, holy rolling fundies, a new organization has been formed: International Coalition of Non-Religious ID Scientists & Scholars -- or ICON-RIDS for short!

"ICON-RIDS" -- that's a catchy acronym! Reminds me of my old organization that opposed the grossly unconstitutional $300 California "smog impact fee" on out-of-state vehicles -- CAUSTIC (Committee Against Unconstitutional Smog Taxes In California). And it was indeed a caustic organization -- one staffer in the state legislature called my campaign against the fee a "vendetta."

ICON-RIDS sounds like a good organization -- I have long believed that the Darwinists have been misusing the Constitution's establishment clause to suppress scientific ideas that they disagree with. The Darwinists call scientific criticism of Darwinism "pseudoscience," but since there is no constitutional separation of pseudoscience and state, the Darwinists exploit the so-called separation of church and state instead. What the Darwinists have actually done is establish Darwinism as a state religion. So those who are trying to remove Darwinism as a state religion are "disestablishmentarians," which would make the Darwinists opposing them "antidisestablishmentarians."


The mail must go through -- why not emails too?

An AOL news article said,

The Army said Friday that it has opened an investigation into the recent discovery of 4,500 letters and parcels -- some dating to May 2006 -- at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] that were never delivered to soldiers.

And it fired the contract employee who ran the mailroom . . . .

Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, commander of Walter Reed, said he ordered a team of 20 to 40 soldiers and civilians to launch an around-the-clock operation to screen, survey and forward all the letters and parcels. Items addressed to soldiers still at Walter Reed were being hand-delivered Friday night, he said.

"This delay is completely and absolutely unsatisfactory," Schoomaker said . . .

The acting Army surgeon general, Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, said there have not been any complaints about delayed mail delivery at other Army medical centers. Even so, she said she ordered an immediate review and inspections of mail room procedures and supervisory controls at other medical centers.

Note that the Army did not waste any time in delivering the mail after the hold-up was discovered.

An unscrupulous staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Kevin Bankston, bankston@eff.org, threatened to block my emails addressed to other EFF staffers. If I were another EFF staffer, I would be hopping mad at him for making that threat and I would have sent me an apology.

If that sleazebag Bankston doesn't like the way we do things in this country, maybe he should move to Italy. A June 2003 newsletter noted (page 5),

The Italian Post has always been something of a puzzle to us. A few years ago they had such a backlog of undelivered mail that they simply burned several warehouses-worth of it. Rumors in the market recently hinted at improvement.

Blocking emails sent to others should be a federal crime, just like robbing the postal service. Email robbers should go straight to jail. Do not pass "Go." Do not collect $200.



Saturday, June 16, 2007

New thoughts on email netiquette

I was recently debating with myself over whether I should send courtesy copies of a particular email to particular people. I was asking myself if those people would be mad at me for "spamming" them with an unsolicited email (some people have gone so far as to define "spam" as any unsolicited email, particularly when sent to a non-acquaintance). It then occurred to me that if I know that my email is on a subject of particular interest to particular people because the subject concerns their jobs, their organizations, or their special interests, then it would actually be inconsiderate and rude of me to not send them courtesy copies to let them decide for themselves whether the email is of interest to them. Also, it is often rude to talk about people or organizations behind their backs. Seriously, how long does it take to handle an unwanted email when the subject line is descriptive and the email's text has a good introduction? A few seconds at most. And it often takes no more than a minute or two to read an entire email. How can such a small potential loss of time be compared to the possibility of missing an important idea or piece of information? In comparison, snail-mail letters often don't have good subject lines on the envelope and it takes some time to open the envelope and unfold the letter. And one of the great advantages of the Internet is that sending courtesy copies is easy and cost-free! There are a lot of Luddites out there who oppose progress by trying to prevent themselves and others from taking full advantage of the Internet (e.g., that unscrupulous Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney, Kevin Bankston, bankston@eff.org, who threatened to block my emails addressed to other EFF staffers).

I welcome all emails on subjects that are of interest to me, even when I disagree with the emails. You don't learn anything by burying your head in the sand. As a professor of psychology said in explaining why well-educated people tend to do better than uneducated people on intelligence tests, "you can't be a genius if you don't know anything."

Our screwed-up Internet culture is badly in need of reform.



Friday, June 15, 2007

Darwinist law journal article about monkey trials: "Evolution and the Holy Ghost of Scopes: Can science lose the next round?"

A while back, a reader here brought to my attention a Darwinist Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion article about monkey trials: "Evolution and the Holy Ghost of Scopes: Can science lose the next round?" by Stephen A. Newman. I decided instead to review another article in the same journal edition. Looking at the opening sentence of the Newman article gives some idea of why I was not eager to review the article: "The society that allows large numbers of its citizens to remain uneducated, ignorant, or semiliterate squanders its greatest asset, the intelligence of its people." Furthermore, this article has no new information or ideas that I have not already covered in this blog. Also, because the article is of no particular interest to me, I especially feel no obligation to review it because this blog gets little or no credit for being an authority on legal issues concerning evolution education. This blog has about 150 articles specifically about those issues and there are many related articles (see sidebar for post labels). Also, many of this blog's articles are well researched and contain many references, unlike a lot of other blogs, which contain little or nothing more than the blogger's personal opinions. Yet when I asked the Law Blog Metrics blog to announce this blog as an authority on these legal issues, I was rudely ignored -- meanwhile, the Law Blog Metrics blog announced a law blog that contains practically nothing but complete copies of news articles. Also, some people won't cite this blog because of my holocaust revisionism. Ironically, once I decided to review Newman's article, I became more and more deeply involved and this article is one of the longest if not the the longest of over 400 articles that I have posted on this blog.

Newman's pro-Darwinist bias is clear. The article gushes,
I will not attempt to set forth the arguments for the correctness of Darwin's theory of evolution. That has been done, with painstaking thoroughness, in many books and articles that can only be deemed completely dispositive of the issue. The theory of evolution, with some modern modifications to Darwin's formulation of it ("neo-Darwinism" today), has few peers in science. Darwin's theory ranks with those of Galileo and Newton in the history of scientific thought. One hundred fifty years of research following the 1859 publication of Origin of Species has established the theory as a foundational contribution to our understanding of the natural world. (page 3)

Challenges to the teaching of evolution are challenges to reason itself -- in science, the theory of evolution has unquestioned primacy. One preeminent twentieth century geneticist's statement, quoted in recent literature, succinctly sums up academic sentiment: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Evolution, academics say, is not a theory in the commonplace sense of that term; it is so well documented that it is scientific fact. (page 43)

Leonard Susskind, professor of theoretical theoretical physics at Stanford University, notes the "silly spectacle of the Kansas school board ... debating the scienitific merits of one of the greatest products of the human intellect: Darwin's theory of natural selection."
Intelligent design, on the other hand, has been roundly repudiated. Professor Daniel C. Dennett calls intelligent design "one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science."
(pages 43-44 of pdf file)

Consciously favoring ignorance over reason might, and should, grate on anyone who values knowledge and uses his brains for a living . . . . Scientific knowledge can be ignored, of course; Justice Scalia proved that in his dissent in Edwards. But other justices may value their (highly evolved) intelligence, and strongly resist the triumph of ignorance over reason that a ruling undermining the teaching of evolution would represent.(page 44)

In his above statements, Newman ignores the fact that there is no constitutional separation of ignorance (or stupidity) and state. Also, many judges do not want to settle scientific questions if they can avoid it -- for example, after being corrected by an attorney in an oral hearing on a lawsuit over regulation of greenhouse gases, Justice Scalia answered, "Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist. (Laughter) That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth." There are many reasons why judges should try to avoid deciding scientific questions.

As I have said before: For a theory that many Darwinists regard as a stroke of genius, Darwinism is surprisingly mickey mouse. All that Darwinism tells us is that natural selection -- the idea that fitter organisms are more likely to survive than less-fit organisms -- occurs (duh) and that random mutation occurs (duh again). Biologists have an inferiority complex because of the kind of attitude expressed by Lord Rutherford: "All science is either physics or stamp collecting." Because of this inferiority complex, biologists are waging a prestige war against other branches of science by boasting that biology has something that other branches of science don't have, a grand overarching unifying "theory of everything," Darwinism.

The article discusses the Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish (page 15-16) and Selman v. Cobb County (pages 16-17) decisions that struck down evolution disclaimers, but like every other law journal article I have seen that discussed these cases does not mention how close these decisions came to being reversed. Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish came within a single vote of getting an en banc (full court) appeals court rehearing and within a single vote of getting Supreme Court review, and the dissenting judges and justices wrote long dissenting opinions attacking the decision. In Selman v. Cobb County, the appeals court judges strongly indicated in an oral hearing that they were leaning towards reversal of the decision but then vacated and remanded it, and the case was finally settled out of court when the school board took a dive in December (the Newman article is not up-to-date because the out-of-court settlement is not mentioned). Judge Frank Hull, one of the three panelists in the Selman appeal, questioned how the federal district court could have found the evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker's language misleading to biology students when there was no evidence to support that view. And Judge Carnes, another panelist, told a plaintiffs' attorney, "Your difficulty is that you've got to take something that actually is reflective of the content of this textbook you like so much, and say it violates the First Amendment." These facts about Freiler and Selman are an "I'm from Missouri" exclusive. How these important facts can be ignored in these law journal articles is beyond me -- for example, in abortion case decisions, the voting splits of the courts and the dissenting opinions are very closely watched and analyzed. Newman's failure to mention the close votes in Freiler is especially surprising because a large part of his article discusses how the changing composition of the Supreme Court could affect future decisions concerning evolution education. Of the three justices who voted to review Freiler (four votes are normally needed to grant certiorari), two -- Scalia and Thomas -- are still on the court, and two conservative justices, Roberts and Alito, have since been added to the court. Also, the near misses in Freiler and Selman expose the myth that Kitzmiller v. Dover was a "slam-dunk" case. It is widely believed that the Dover Area school board members "knew" in advance that they were going to lose and that the school district therefore "deserved" to be socked with the exorbitant $1 million plaintiffs' attorney fee award. Anyway, a "slam-dunk" case should take maybe an hour to decide, at most.

The article says of the teachers in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case:

The local science teachers rebelled. They refused to read the statement to their classes on the grounds that intelligent design is not true science and that the book Of Pandas and People is not a valid scientific resource. In a letter addressed to the Board they wrote, "[It is] our considered opinion that reading the statement violates our responsibilities as professional educators as set forth in the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators." Due to the teachers' refusal, administrators at the high school read the statement to the students. (pages 17-18)

. . . they [i.e., the teachers] refused to even stay in the room when the statement was being read by school administrators to ensure that students did not think they endorsed its message. (page 23)

LOL. The teachers left the room to "ensure" that students did not think they endorsed the ID statement, as if their own refusal to read the statement to the class was not proof enough of that!

The article of course fails to mention that the teachers were reneging on a prior agreement with the board that Pandas could be used as a "supplemental" text instead of a "companion" text. The ID statement informed the students that copies of Pandas were available in the school library. Also, apparently there is nothing in the "Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators" requiring teachers to follow school board policies that they disagree with. Also, the Darwinists see no inconsistency between their support of these teachers and their support of John E. Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District (1994), where the 9th Circuit federal court of appeals ruled that a teacher could be required to teach Darwinism even if it conflicted with his beliefs. However, I think that the Dover teachers should have been given some say in the wording of the ID statement and that the statement unnecessarily disparaged Darwinism.

I was unaware that the books "Darwin's Black Box" and "Darwin on Trial" were banned from a school library. Newman wrote,

Consider the experience of two librarians who received copies of two intelligent design books, Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe and Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson, as donations to their high school collections. When the librarians refused to put the books on the library shelves, they were accused of censorship . . .

The donor complained to the School Board, which appointed a committee to investigate the matter. The committee recommended that one book be accepted by the library. It deadlocked on the other book. The Board of Education then heard from a variety of people, including scientists, parents, teachers, and ministers, who explained the difference between censorship and legitimate selection processes. Ultimately, after a three month battle, the Board supported the librarians and voted to reject both books. The librarians wrote about their experience in order to warn others in the field about the conflicts they might face from this sort of book donation tactic by anti-evolutionists. One wonders how often local librarians elsewhere yield to such pressure and quietly add these volumes to their school collections.
(pages 21-22)

Newman really went off the deep end here by approving the banning of these two books from a school library. The Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin cited the following ruling of the Supreme Court:

Petitioners [the school board] rightly possess significant discretion to determine the content of their school libraries. But that discretion may not be exercised in a narrowly partisan or political manner . . . Our Constitution does not permit the official suppression of ideas . . . If petitioners intended by their removal decision to deny respondents access to ideas with which petitioners disagreed, and if this intent was the decisive factor in petitioners' [school board's] decision, then petitioners have exercised their discretion in violation of the Constitution. Board of Educ. v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853, 870-71 (1982).

Also, the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover did not even attempt to have the ID book "Of Pandas and People" banned from the school library but only sought to have the book and the book's mention -- along with the rest of the ID statement -- banned from the science classrooms. In opposing the Rutherford Institute's application to intervene in the case, the Dover plaintiffs actually bent over backwards by arguing against banning the book from the school library:

. . .Applicants can allege a colorable constitutional claim only by mischaracterizing plaintiffs’ complaint. Applicants claim that plaintiffs “seek to remove supplemental textbooks from the school library.”. . .This misreads the complaint, which seeks only to remove the book Of Pandas and People from the High School’s ninth grade biology class. See Compl. at 22-23. (Prayer for Relief). The mischaracterization is not surprising because the Third Circuit distinguishes removing books from a library and removing books from a classroom: “‘special characteristics of the school library make that environment especially appropriate for the recognition of the First Amendment rights of students,’ for the library, unlike the school classroom, is a place for voluntary inquiry and study.” See Kreimer v. Bureau of Police for Town of Morristown, 958 F.2d 1242, 1254 (3d Cir. 1992) (Plaintiffs’ Response to Rutherford Institute Motion to Intervene, pp. 10-11. Filed February 4, 2005)

The Darwinists are of course going to again move the goalposts for the definition of "banned book." Before, the Darwinists claimed that Judge Jones did not really ban "Of People and Pandas" because he only removed the book from classrooms but did not remove it from the school library. Now the Darwinists are going to hocus-pocus that "Darwin's Black Box" and "Darwin on Trial" were not really "banned" from a school library but were merely "rejected" by what Newman calls "legitimate selection processes." Or they will hocus-pocus that these two books do not officially qualify as "banned books" because they were not banned by a judge. I am not going to waste my time trying to get those Wikipedia control freaks to add these two books to the Wikipedia list of "banned books."

The Newman article also discussed the judicial independence controversy:

Another part of the anti-evolution strategy is to join in right wing political attacks against the judiciary. These attacks, focusing on judges who do not subscribe to the conservative religious agenda, have been strident, coupling charges of "judicial tyranny" and a judicial "war on faith" with demands for impeachment of judges and threats of reprisals. (page 24)

Judge Jones has tried to discredit criticism of his Kitzmiller decision by accusing the critics of being opposed to judicial independence and "the rule of law." He has been criss-crossing the country giving his critics "civics lessons" about judicial independence and "the rule of law." He has also charged that his critics call him an "activist judge" merely because they disagree with his Kitzmiller decision.

Newman's article said,

An anti-evolution case could be a vehicle for the abandonment of the Lemon test. (page 41)

Yes -- in his dissent against the denial of certiorari to Freiler, Justice Scalia said, "I would grant certiorari in this case if only to take the opportunity to inter the Lemon test once for all."

The Newman article said,

Several other Justices have expressed reservations about Lemon over the course of its existence, although the case has not been disavowed by a Supreme Court majority up to this point. Lower courts regard it as binding authority, even though, as one circuit court put it, it has been "widely criticized and occasionally ignored." (page 41)

In 1993, Scalia wrote in a concurring opinion,

. . .no fewer than five of the currently sitting Justices have, in their own opinions, personally driven pencils through the creature's heart...and a sixth has joined an opinion doing so........When we wish to strike down a practice it forbids, we invoke it....when we wish to uphold a practice it forbids, we ignore it entirely . .

So according to Scalia, in 1993 at least 5 and maybe 6 justices -- a majority -- had condemned the Lemon test. And the Supreme Court can hardly complain about lower courts ignoring the Lemon test when the Supreme Court itself has done so on occasion.

The Newman article says,

What Scalia would replace Lemon with is not clear, but it certainly would be a more pliant test permitting considerable latitude to government to recognize, encourage, and even promote religion (pages 41-42)

That's ridiculous -- no establishment clause test "promotes" religion. IMO the Lemon test is inappropriate for evolution education cases because the motivations of public officials can be a deciding factor under this test, and as a result it is impossible to establish any universally applicable rule. Some other establishment clause tests are the endorsement test, the coercion test, and the neutrality test. Sometimes combinations of tests are (mis)used in decisions -- e.g., the Kitzmiller decision used the Lemon test and the endorsement test. Sometimes the endorsement test is considered to be incorporated into the Lemon test. However, one of the problems with having different tests to choose from is that instead of choosing the best test, judges might tend to choose the test that gives the results they want. This tendency was noted by Justice Scalia when he said of the Lemon test, "...When we wish to strike down a practice it forbids, we invoke it....when we wish to uphold a practice it forbids, we ignore it entirely.... " The same Rutgers journal edition has an article titled, "Van Orden, "Inconsistent Guideposts: Van Orden, McCreary County, and the Continuing Need for a Single and Predicable Establishment Clause Test". I may review that article in the future.

IMO evolution disclaimers are constitutional under the endorsement test because they make those opposed to Darwinism feel less like "political outsiders" and also because evolution disclaimers should have a low level of scrutiny under the establishment clause because they don't actually teach criticisms of Darwinism.

The Newman article says,

A final concern with the Scalia dissent concerns a matter he simply ignores: stare decisis. Whatever the fate of the Lemon test, the fact remains that twice the Supreme Court has ruled anti-evolution statutes to be unconstitutional. Both cases were decided by substantial majorities. The history of the campaign against evolution was clearly shown in these cases to be religiously based; it continues to be religiously based today. (page 42)

Often cases on the same subject are substantially different, so a court is not necessarily being inconsistent when it rules in different ways in different cases on the same subject. One of those two Supreme Court decisions, Epperson v. Arkansas, was about a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution; the other, Edwards v. Aguillard, was about balanced treatment of evolution and creation science. Evolution disclaimers, which don't actually teach criticism of evolution, are different again.

If we adhered strictly to stare decisis, then the separate-but-equal segregationist doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson -- decided by a solid 8-1 majority -- would still be with us. IMO, one of the considerations in whether to overturn precedent is whether such overturning would result in substantial tangible losses (as opposed to psychological losses) to those who have relied on the precedent. Ironically, fundy schools stand to lose a lot financially if the courts allow criticism of Darwinism in the public schools, because presumably one of the reasons for attending a fundy school is to avoid the one-sided teaching of Darwinism in the public schools. I wonder -- if a law were passed requiring that creationism and only creationism be taught in the public schools, would the fundy schools be among the plaintiffs challenging the law? LOL

The Newman article says,

The values of education and academic inquiry are especially likely to be respected by members of the nation's highest court. Few government institutions rely as heavily on personnel who have attended the nation's foremost universities as does the U.S. Supreme Court. Five of the nine justices are Harvard Law School graduates (Roberts, Kennedy, Souter, Breyer, and Scalia), two graduated from Yale Law School (Alito and Thomas), and one each from Columbia (Ginsberg) and Northwestern (Stevens). The colleges they attended are similarly elite: Harvard, Princeton, Standford, Cornell, the University of Chicago, Georgetown, and Holy Cross. Some have served as law school faculty members. Allowing the teaching of evolution to be undermined betrays the academic values -- values widely shared in soclety -- that helped the Justices attain their present status atop the nation's legal pyramid. Again, it is not impossible to ignore those values: Justice Scalia has distanced himself from his own academic roots by his dissent in Edwards and by denigrating his highly educated and professionally trained colleagues as merely part of a ruling professional "elite." (pages 45-46)

Yes, I too have noted the Supreme Court's grotesque overrepresentation of Ivy League law school grads (Stevens is the only grad of a non-Ivy League Law school) and Harvard Law School grads in particular (BTW, Ginsberg also attended Harvard Law School but graduated from Columbia Law School). Also, Harvard and other Ivy League law schools are overrepresented in court citations of law journal articles.

The Newman article says,

The strength of the religious right in the nation's politics, and two new appointments to the Court, raise the possibility that the precedent that last supported the teaching of evolution, Edwards v. Aguillard, will not survive. A new ultraconservative set of justices, including Justices Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Scalia, forms a block that might adhere to Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion in Edwards. (pages 51-52)

So Newman is admitting here that these monkey trials are not "slam-dunk" cases for the Darwinists. One thing is for sure and that is that the Supreme Court is not going to be hearing a case on public-school evolution education anytime soon -- there are now no such cases on the horizon. Selman v. Cobb County was on the horizon until a few months ago but -- as I said -- the school board took a dive. There is the fundy schools' lawsuit against the Univ. of California but that involves only private schools and not public schools. Also, the wheels of justice (or injustice) turn very slowly nowadays -- for example, after Selman was decided by the district court, it took 16 months for the appeals court to decide just to vacate and remand the decision because of missing evidence. There is a fair chance that Scalia will be replaced before another evolution education case reaches the Supreme Court.