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.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Abolish the California waivers of federal pre-emption of auto emissions standards

As most people are aware, there is a federal law allowing the US Environmental Protection Agency to grant to California waivers of federal pre-emption of motor vehicle emissions standards. Other states have been allowed to adopt the California standards, and so far 11 states have done so and 5 states plan to do so. California plus these other states contain over half of the US population.

There is now a big flap over the EPA's denial of California's request for a waiver of federal pre-emption of greenhouse-gas -- mainly CO-2 -- emissions standards for motor vehicles. The reason for the denial is that the greenhouse-gas problem is global rather than local in nature. I agree with the waiver denial. I support improvement of auto fuel efficiency and limitation of greenhouse gases as much as anyone, but IMO a California waiver is not a legal way to pursue these goals.

IMO the California waivers should be abolished altogether. I explain why in this comment thread on the Volokh Conspiracy blog.


More breathtaking inanity from Judge Jones

An article in the St.Louis JewishLight.com website said,

The legal reasoning behind his ruling that "intelligent design" cannot constitutionally be taught as "science" in public schools, and the importance of Missouri retaining its Non-Partisan Court Plan to assure an independent judiciary were the subjects of a major address by Judge John E. Jones, a U.S. District federal judge serving in Pennsylvania. Jones spoke at a gathering of more than 150 people at an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of St. Louis, which was held at the Ethical Society last week.

In a brief interview with the St. Louis Jewish Light prior to his formal remarks, Jones, a Republican who was nominated to serve as a federal judge by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2002, said that major Jewish organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League "have been very supportive" of his ruling in a case arising in Dover, Pa., in which he found that teaching "intelligent design" as "science" in public schools violates the separation of church and state principle in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Jones has often said that judges should make decisions without regard to pleasing or offending anyone and now he is bragging that "major Jewish organizations" have been "very supportive" of his Dover ruling. In his speech at a national meeting of the Anti-Defamation League, he said,

A fundamental cornerstone of our justice system, and in fact of our federal and state government, is an independent judiciary. The concept requires judges to decide cases in front of them in a manner faithful to the law without fear or favor and free from political and external pressures.

Under his "judicial independence" doctrine, support from some Jewish organizations is of no more significance than opposition from Christian fundy and other organizations.

Also, I doubt that orthodox Jews have been "very supportive" of his Dover ruling -- opposition to Darwinism is widespread and strong among orthodox Jews.

In addition to his ruling in the intelligent design case, Jones strongly encouraged Missourians to retain the Non-Partisan Court Plan, which was adopted in 1940, under which judges in covered jurisdictions and higher courts are nominated on a non-partisan basis, for later appointment by the governor. "Your system assures that judges will not be subjected to pressures from those who supported them politically, and empowers them to make independent decisions in tough cases like the intelligent design and similar cases."

Even under this plan, the candidates for judgeships still need political support to be nominated -- even if that support is non-partisan -- and will still be subject to pressures from those who supported their nominations. And even without being pressured, a non-partisan judge can be as biased as any partisan judge.

Also, I don't see what is so special about this plan. On Los Angeles County election ballots, candidates for judgeships are non-partisan. Federal judicial nominees are chosen by partisan presidents but federal judges themselves are non-partisan.

Jones was pleased that the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and other Jewish groups support the retention of the plan, which has been under attack from various conservative groups in Missouri. "It would be a big mistake to eliminate a system which is the envy of much of the rest of the nation," Jones said.

"Envy"? What is there to "envy"? Any jurisdiction is free to adopt this Non-Partisan Court Plan, free of charge.

Jones, a native of Pennsylvania and a graduate of the Penn State School of Law, received the first John Marshall Award for Judicial Independence in recognition of his ruling.

Jones actually graduated from the Dickinson College Law School School of Law, which was affiliated with Penn State at the time merged with Penn State after he graduated. No big error.

So he is the first recipient of the John Marshall Award for Judicial Independence? Was the award created just for him?

Also, this award can easily be confused with the American Bar Association's John Marshall Award (with nothing about "judicial independence" in the name). The ABA's John Marshall Award has been conferred annually starting in 2001 and Jones has never received it. The John Marshall Award is conferred by the national ABA whereas the John Marshall Award for Judicial Independence is conferred by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. I hope that the national ABA takes action to have the latter award canceled or at least renamed.



Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ding Elsberry still obsessed with Cheri Yecke

This blog has many posts about Florida K-12 education chancellor Cheri Yecke (see post label list in the sidebar). Many of these posts were the result of Wickedpedia misinforming me that the position of Florida education commissioner that she sought was elective rather than appointive.

Wesley "Ding" Elsberry, in an article noting that she is leaving her Florida position, noted,

What I haven’t seen in any of the various places the story has run is Yecke’s association with antievolution. They mention that she presided over the 2003 rewrite of science standards in Minnesota, but do not mention how closely the process had to be watched to prevent antievolution content from being incorporated.

Ding, the source you cited did not say that she presided over the 2003 rewrite of Minnesota "science standards" -- the source said that it was a rewrite of Minnesota "academic standards" (which happened to include science standards). Just a fine point.

Well, Ding, maybe the reason why you haven't seen mention of Yecke's "association with antievolution" is that the newsmedia does not consider it to be newsworthy. Has it ever occurred to you that not everyone is as obsessed with "anti-evolution" as you are? That "association with antievolution" did not prevent Yecke from being one of three finalists for the position of Florida education commissioner out of 24 applicants considered qualified for the position.

Also, Ding, it generally appears that those who want their side to be taught dogmatically -- with not even a mention of the other side -- are the Darwinists. In fact, I have yet to see anyone say that creationism, intelligent design, and/or other criticisms of Darwinism should be taught dogmatically in public schools, though opinion polls show that some people think that.



Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How about a "BVD Patrol" badge for Fatheaded Ed et al.?

BTW, it was a major newspaper and not BVD-clad bloggers that exposed the Chris Comer ouster scandal by requesting pertinent documents by means of the Freedom of Information Act. So maybe there is some use for the traditional media after all.



John A. Davison's new blog added to link list

I have added Prof. John A. Davison's new blog to my list of external links and removed his "prescribed evolution" blogs from the list.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Judge Jones' doubletalk about Intelligent Design

Because I thought for various reasons that Judge Jones should not have ruled on the scientific merits of intelligent design or irreducible complexity, I have not paid much attention to the Dover opinion's section dealing with his rulings on those issues. However, an article in Evolution News & Views prompted me to have a closer look.

Judge Jones' Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion says,
After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. . . . (page 64 of opinion, emphasis added)

. . . . We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large . . . . Additionally, even if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design. (page 79, emphasis added))

So Judge Jones said that irreducible complexity is an argument that is "central to ID" and that he "takes no position" on whether "ID arguments may be true," and then he contradicts himself by taking the position that "Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large." And while he said that irreducible complexity is "central to ID," he also said that irreducible complexity "does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution." Sheeeesh -- give me a break.

Believe it or not, the Darwinists are still crowing about the Dover decision. The decision was extensively cited by a letter that biology professors sent to Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott and in an editorial in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

Labels: ,


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fatheaded Ed ridicules Discovery Institute's solicitation of donations

Fatheaded Ed Brayton has ridiculed the Discovery Institute for making an alleged "exaggeration" in soliciting donations. Ed, do you really think that your favorite organizations -- e.g., the National Center for Science Education, the ACLU, and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- do not do that sort of thing?

Here is the DI statement that Ed found fault with:

As a regular Evolution News & Views visitor, you have been continually informed of the ways in which leading Darwinists have unleashed an unprecedented wave of persecution, propaganda, and paranoia in an effort to strangle an idea that they insist is already dead.

Ed commented,

Is Rob Crowther really stupid enough to complain about paranoia in the same sentence he alleges an "unprecedented wave of persecution"? Apparently so.

Ed, Crowther was talking about the paranoia of the Darwinists and the persecution of the anti-Darwinists, so there is no self-contradiction here.



Friday, December 21, 2007

Famous movie supports holocaust revisionism

I have argued on this blog that a "systematic" holocaust of Jews was impossible because the Nazis had no reliable way of distinguishing Jews from non-Jews. Now I have found that a famous Oscar-winning movie, "Gentleman's Agreement," supports this argument.

Even the bible contains examples of Jews who were mistaken for goyim -- Moses and Esther. In the movie "Exodus," the British didn't suspect that Paul Newman was a secret Jewish agent. In one famous episode in the TV sitcom "All in the Family," Archie Bunker said that Jews had a secret way of identifying each other -- they changed to Anglo last names but kept their Jewish first names. Then Meathead piped up with another example, "Abraham Lincoln," and Edith responded, "I didn't know Lincoln was Jewish." And going the other way, Jesse Jackson mistakenly thought that Nixon aides John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman were Jewish.

I now don't believe that Ivy League universities ever had quotas for Jews. All the universities had to go by in applications was last names and maybe sometimes first names, and many non-Jews have German and Eastern European last names that sound Jewish, so the only good indicator would be a blatantly Jewish first name, like Moshe. And IMO the problem of mistaking non-Jews for Jews is even worse than vice-versa -- at least no discrimination results when Jews are mistaken for non-Jews.

I was astonished to learn that the whole theme of a famous movie, "Gentleman's Agreement," which won the "best picture" Oscar of 1947 and won two other Oscars and was nominated for five others, is about anti-semitism and the difficulty of distinguishing Jews from non-Jews. Wikipedia's description of the movie's plot says,

Philip Schuyler Green (Gregory Peck) is a widowed journalist who has just moved to New York City with his son Tommy (Dean Stockwell) and mother (Anne Revere). Green meets with magazine publisher John Minify (Albert Dekker), who asks Green to write an article on anti-semitism. After initially struggling with how to approach the topic in a fresh way, Green is inspired to adopt a Jewish identity ("Phil Green") and write about his own first-hand experiences. Green and Minify agree to keep it secret that Phil is not actually Jewish; since he and his family are new to New York and know almost no one, it should be easy to hide . . .

As Phil's research project proceeds, his childhood Jewish friend, Dave Goldman (John Garfield), moves to New York for a job and lives with the Greens while he looks for a home for his family. Housing is scarce in New York, but it is particularly difficult for Goldman, since not all landlords will rent to a Jewish family . . . .

As time goes on, Phil experiences several incidents of bigotry. When his mother becomes ill with a heart condition, the doctor discourages him from consulting a specialist with an obviously Jewish name, suggesting he might be cheated by the Jewish doctor. When Phil reveals that he is himself Jewish, the doctor becomes uncomfortable and leaves . . . .

Dave announces that he will have to quit his job because he cannot find a place for his family to live.

What? A Jew could not find a place to live in New York City, the place that Jesse Jackson called "Hymietown"? Certainly this movie is a gross exaggeration of the problems of prejudice and discrimination faced by Jews.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why the secrecy about Comer ouster?

Ousting Chris Comer has backfired -- she has become a Darwinist martyr. Why did they want to get rid of her anyway? She was obviously powerless -- she couldn't even keep her job. And why all the secrecy about her ouster? The Texans for Science Education Texas Citizens for Science reported, "Chris was forced to agree to a public non-disclosure or no-comment policy regarding her termination from TEA" (I wonder how the TSE got this confidential information). Also, initially, the information for the Austin American-Statesman articles that first exposed the story was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. I wonder why the anti-Darwinists in the TEA did not want to brag to the world about their great victory in ousting her for what appears to be a relatively minor offense.

Labels: ,


Darwinian just-so story: "deer-like" ancestor of whales

A news story says,

It sounds like a stretch, but a new study suggests that the missing evolutionary link between whales and land animals is an odd raccoon-sized animal that looks like a long-tailed deer without antlers. Or an overgrown long-legged rat.

The creature is called Indohyus, and recently dug up fossils reveal some crucial evolutionary similarities between it and water-dwelling cetaceans, such as whales, dolphins and porpoises.

And what are the main pieces of evidence linking this "deer-like" creature to whales?

The key finding connecting Indohyus to the whale is its thickened ear bone, something only seen in cetaceans. An examination of its teeth showed that the land-dwelling creature spent lots of time in the water and may have fed there, like hippos and whales. Also, the specific positioning and shape of certain molars connects Indohyus to the earliest whales, which are about 50 million years old, Thewissen said.

Some "missing link." If this is what passes for evidence of evolution, they can shove it.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Martin C wins cartoon contest

Martin C wins the cartoon contest with his caption entry, "Pardon me, ma'am, your biases are showing!" The prize is a guest post. Martin C, just enter your post as a comment below -- along with a title -- and I will post it as a guest post.


Comer should be reinstated and TEA policy clarified

Chris Comer emailed out a disclaimer saying that the Forrest lecture did not represent the policy of the Texas Education agency and in IMO the matter should have ended there. Comer has become a Darwinist martyr and IMO that is unacceptable. IMO she should be reinstated along with a statement that there was a misunderstanding and a clarification of TEA policy. IMO the TEA policy should be to either announce all public events related to science (along with a disclaimer stating that there is no TEA endorsement) or announce none. Picking and choosing which announcements to send out amounts to censorship of the announcements not sent out.



Sleazy PZ scapegoats NCSE staffer for Comer ouster

It is hard to believe, but Sleazy PZ Myers is scapegoating a staffer of the National Center for Science Education, a pro-Darwinist group, for the ouster of Chris Comer, the former science director of the Texas Education Agency.

In a post titled "Glenn Branch confesses!", Sleazy PZ says,

The man who wrote the email that got Chris Comer fired spills his guts on the issue.

Sleazy PZ has hit a new low.



Did Texas Education Agency overreact to Comer's email?

First we had the Dover Trap -- and now we have the Comer Trap!

As a result of the Chris Comer affair, I decided to subscribe to what I believe is the email list that Comer used to inform members of the public about the Barbara Forrest lecture -- though I am not sure. There is a blacked-out email address on the published copy of Comer's email and I presume that this address is that of this list. The email list's address is SCIENCE@LIST.TETN.NET and it is now being distributed by Irene Pickhardt (Irene.Pickhardt@TEA.STATE.TX.US), the Assistant Director of Science of the Texas Education Agency.

I just got my first email from the list. It includes an announcement of a lecture about global warming titled, "Beyond Science: The Economics and Politics of Responding to Climate Change" (the announcement is reproduced below). Like evolution, global warming is a controversial subject, even though the lecture appears to be mainly about responding to alleged global warming rather than about the existence, magnitude, and causes of global warming (in the same way, the Forrest lecture was mainly about politics and not about science). So IMO by the TEA "neutrality" standard used against Comer's announcement of Forrest's lecture, this announcement of a global warming lecture should also have not been distributed by the TEA.

IMO the TEA should either send out announcements of all public events related to science (along with a disclaimer saying that there is no TEA endorsement) or send out none. Picking and choosing which announcements to send out amounts to censorship of the announcements not sent out. Examples of public events related to science are the Discovery Institute's "Darwin v. Design" conferences, Richard Weikart's "Darwin to Hitler" lectures, and the "Answers In Genesis" lectures and conferences. IMO the TEA should even announce an Aryan Nations lecture claiming that Darwinism proves that non-Aryans are inferior, because no one could reasonably claim that the TEA endorses such a lecture.

The ouster of Chris Comer has completely backfired. I suspect that TEA gave her a lot of hush money to keep quiet about the circumstances of her departure, but then a muckraking newpaper, the Austin American-Statesman, upset the applecart by publishing confidential information obtained by the Freedom of Information Act.

Below is a copy of the announcement of the lecture about global warming:

--Beyond Science: The Economics and Politics of Responding to Climate Change
On behalf of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, the Energy & Environmental Systems Institute and the Shell Center for Sustainability, you are cordially invited to our upcoming conference:
Beyond Science: The Economics and Politics of Responding to
Climate Change
Saturday, February 9, 2008
James A. Baker III Hall
Rice University, Houston, TX
Registration at 7:30am
Closing Remarks and Reception at 6:00pm
The conference will bring together leaders committed to educating the public about the impact of global warming and discuss their experiences in crafting public policy in this area. In particular, we will focus on such issues as the economics of climate change, the costs and benefits of mitigation strategies, the role of emerging technologies, and the politics of international, national and subnational response strategies.

For more information and to register, please go to www.bakerinstitute.org/climatechange.cfm. For additional questions, email stpolicy@rice.edu or las1@rice.edu.

This event represents a collaboration at the Baker Institute between the Science and Technology Policy Program, the Energy Forum and the Health Economics Program.


Labels: ,


Monday, December 17, 2007

Fatheaded Ed attacks criticism of BVD-clad bloggers

David Hazinski said in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

Supporters of "citizen journalism" argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don't provide. While it has its place, the reality is it really isn't journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse [as typified by Fatheaded Ed Brayton et al.]. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.

The premise of citizen journalism is that regular people can now collect information and pictures with video cameras and cellphones, and distribute words and images over the Internet. Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people "journalists." This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a "citizen surgeon" or someone who can read a law book is a "citizen lawyer." Tools are merely that. Education, skill and standards are really what make people into trusted professionals. Information without journalistic standards is called gossip.

But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards. There are commonly accepted ethical principles — two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principles is voluntary. There is no licensing, testing, mandatory education or boards of review. Most other professions do a poor job of self-regulation, but at least they have mechanisms to regulate themselves. Journalists do not.

One of the few advantages of blogs as sources of information is that visitor comments can help make blogs "self-correcting" -- but this advantage obviously cannot work when bloggers arbitrarily censor comments.
It's just a matter of time before something like a faked Rodney King beating video appears on the air somewhere.

They are already doing that sort of thing -- distributing photos and videos of "happy slapping" and "bumfights." So far I am not aware of any attempt to frame the cops, but as the article says, "it's just a matter of time."

Citizen reports can be a valuable addition to news and information flow with some protections:

• Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.

• They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.

• Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff's auxiliaries are trained and certified.

Here are more suggestions:

In addition to the official news media, other authorities -- e.g., the courts and scholarly journals -- need to ban or regulate citation of blogs. Wickedpedia has a rule against citation of personal blogs but enforces the rule only for "crappy" blogs and not for "notable" blogs. No blog should ever be authoritatively cited unless the blog has a prominent notice pledging that there is no arbitrary censorship of comments.

I learned about Hazinski's article through the poster-child of BVD-clad blogging, Fatheaded Ed Brayton himself. Fatheaded Ed says,

But I would argue that blogging, at its best, does a considerably better job of reporting on and analyzing complex issues than the newspapers and networks do.

One problem is, of course, is that blogging is not always at its "best." And even at its best, blogging does not necessarily do a better job than -- or even as good a job as -- the official newsmedia. BVD-clad bloggers simply don't have the access that reporters for big news organizations have. Even the ability to instantly accept comments is not a blog advantage because a lot of online newspapers and networks accept comments -- and furthermore are much less prone to censor them.

Here's what Hazinski gets wrong: many of those "citizen journalists" are actually experts in their field, not merely experts in "journalism."

True, many bloggers are experts in the fields they blog about, but many are not. Ed, you are always pontificating about science and the law but you are not a scientist or a lawyer. In fact, by your own admission, you never even graduated from college.

Journalists often do not need to be experts in the fields they report about, because they quote the experts. And a journalist specializing in science reporting, for example, cannot be an expert in every scientific field.

Just take the coverage of the courts in the major media, which is nothing short of appalling. Sure, there are a few reporters who cover the courts whose work is good; Jan Crawford Greenburg in the print media is excellent, as is Nina Totenberg on radio and TV. But when a major Supreme Court ruling comes down, you're far more likely to hear serious, credible analysis of the case from Eugene Volokh, Jack Balkin, Stephen Bainbridge or any of a couple dozen other law professors who blog than you are from a reporter with a journalism degree but no background in the law.

The big advantage of popular law blogs like the Volokh Conspiracy and Balkinization is the comment threads. Those blogs might just as well be thrown out the window if they practiced arbitrary censorship of comments like you do.

Mr. Hazinski, how do you propose controlling what people can write on their own webpages?

Mr. Hazinski is not proposing controlling what people can write on their own webpages -- here is what he is proposing (reproduced from above):

• Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.

• They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.

• Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff's auxiliaries are trained and certified.

Ed wrote,

The whole time I was reading this guy's ode to self-aggrandizement, I kept having one thought repeat in my head: "I'm a very important person. People are afraid of me. I drive a Dodge Stratus." Get over yourself, Hazinski; you just ain't that important.

Where is the "self-aggrandizement"? I didn't see any. It looks like the article really struck a raw nerve with you, Ed. Anyway, it looks like he is quite a bit more important than you, Ed -- he got his article published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a big newspaper. Let's see you try it.

Related articles on this blog are here and here.

The backlash against BVD-clad blogging is growing.



A Tale of Two Lectures: "Creationism's Trojan Horse" v. "From Darwin to Hitler"

Barbara Forrest's "Creationism's Trojan Horse" lecture has been in the news lately because of the Chris Comer affair. Here is a video of one of Forrest's lectures (similar to her lecture in Austin).

Unfortunately, the video wouldn't work with my dial-up connection (maybe my connection is too slow). Here is a paper that Forrest recently wrote -- I presume that the paper is similar to her lectures.

Forrest's lecture mainly concerns the political and social issues of the evolution controversy rather than the scientific issues. Here (click on the online lecture on the webpage) is a video of another lecture that mainly concerns the political and social issues: "From Darwin to Hitler" by Richard Weikart (this video worked with my dial-up connection).

As I noted, both Forrest's and Weikart's lectures mainly concern political and social issues rather than scientific issues. Would Comer have sent out an "FYI" notice of the Weikart lecture?



Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chris Comer's "best butter" argument

The "best butter" story from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite parables. I am really surprised that the term "best butter" has not become a standard expression in the English language. I Googled the term "best butter" and nothing about the Mad Hatter's Tea Party turned up. I have to explain my meaning of the term each time I use it. Basically, the story ridicules the idea that it is OK to break a rule just for what speciously seems to be a "good" reason (but is not a good reason at all). Here is the "best butter" story:
The Hatter was the first to break the silence. `What day of the month is it?' he said, turning to Alice: he had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear.

Alice considered a little, and then said `The fourth.'

`Two days wrong!' sighed the Hatter. `I told you butter wouldn't suit the works!' he added looking angrily at the March Hare.

`It was the BEST butter,' the March Hare meekly replied.

`Yes, but some crumbs must have got in as well,' the Hatter grumbled: `you shouldn't have put it in with the bread-knife.'

The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and looked at it again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, `It was the BEST butter, you know.'

I am not saying that there is never a good reason to break a rule. I remember the story of a football player who was big for his age when he was growing up. When he was 11 years old, his father tried to enroll him in Pop Warner football. The coach told the father, "we have a rule. A kid's got to be 13." The father asked the coach, "have you seen him?" The coach took one look at the kid and said, "we've just changed the rule." The reason for breaking the rule here was clearly a good one and there is a clearcut, objective distinction between big and little kids, unlike Wickedpedia's arbitrary and capricious distinction between "notable" and "crappy" blogs.

Anyway, on to Chris Comer. The National Center for Science Education says,

Comer herself appeared on NPR's "Science Friday" on December 7, 2007, relating her story to the show's host, Ira Flatow. After receiving the e-mail announcing Forrest's talk, she said, "you know, I had a half minute and I said, gee, this is really interesting. And then, I looked up the credential on my computer, I Googled Barbara Forrest and I said, oh my goodness, this is quite a credential[ed] speaker. And then I thought to myself -- you know, I'm telling my biology teachers almost on a weekly basis, teach the curriculum, teach the evolution curriculum because it's part of the state-mandated curriculum. And now, I should be -- you know, I should be walking the talk here, and I -- there's nothing wrong with this e-mail, of course." Less than two hours later, a colleague was calling for her termination, and in the following week, she was effectively forced to resign.

As for credentials, college professors and Ph.D.'s are a dime a dozen. There is even a surplus of Ph.D.'s. And a lot of college professors and Ph.D.'s are bigots and crackpots. And a person's views should not be dismissed solely on the basis that the person lacks high credentials.

Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, has impressive credentials too. So would Comer have sent out an "FYI" announcement of one of his "From Darwin to Hitler" lectures?

Labels: ,


Chris Comer added more than "FYI" to forwarded email

Added by Chris Comer to the forwarded email

Image is from Dallas Morning News

The press only reported that Chris Comer added the initials “FYI” to the forwarded email and I thought that her email address was the only indication that the forwarded email came from her. The above excerpt from the email shows that she added more than just “FYI” — she also added her name, position, TEA address, phone, and fax. Also, the blacked out text under the TEA street address could be her TEA email address.

Needless to say, adding that personal information greatly enhanced the appearance of endorsement.

Ding Elsberry’s copy of the forwarded email does not show this personal information that she added.

Labels: ,


New Wickedpedia Scandal

A news article says,

Controversy has erupted among the encyclopedia's core contributors, after a rogue editor revealed that the site's top administrators are using a secret insider mailing list to crackdown on perceived threats to their power.

Many suspected that such a list was in use, as the Wikipedia "ruling clique" grew increasingly concerned with banning editors for the most petty of reasons. But now that the list's existence is confirmed, the rank and file are on the verge of revolt.
Revealed after an uber-admin called "Durova" used it in an attempt to enforce the quixotic ban of a longtime contributor, this secret mailing list seems to undermine the site's famously egalitarian ethos. At the very least, the list allows the ruling clique to push its agenda without scrutiny from the community at large. But clearly, it has also been used to silence the voice of at least one person who was merely trying to improve the encyclopedia's content.

"I've never seen the Wikipedia community as angry as they are with this one," says Charles Ainsworth, a Japan-based editor who's contributed more feature articles to the site than all but six other writers. "I think there was more hidden anger and frustration with the 'ruling clique' than I thought and Durova's heavy-handed action and arrogant refusal to take sufficient accountability for it has released all of it into the open."

Kelly Martin, a former member of Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, leaves no doubt that this sort of surreptitious communication has gone on for ages. "This particular list is new, but the strategy is old," Martin told us via phone, from outside Chicago. "It's certainly not consistent with the public principles of the site. But in reality, it's standard practice."

Meanwhile, Jimbo Wales has told the community that all this is merely a tempest in a teacup. As he points out, the user that Durova wrongly banned was reinstated after a mere 75 minutes. But it would seem that Jimbo has done his best to suppress any talk of the secret mailing list.

Whatever the case, many longtime editors are up-in-arms. And the site's top administrators seem more concerned with petty site politics than with building a trustworthy encyclopedia. "The problem with Wikipedia is that, for so many in the project, it's no longer about the encyclopedia," Martin wrote in a recent blog post. "The problem is that Wikipedia's community has defined itself not in terms of the encyclopedia it is supposedly producing, but instead of the people it venerates and the people it abhors."

I don't think that Wikipedia can heal itself -- I think it has passed the point of no return. Probably most people with any integrity have already left that organization. Most Wikipedia administrators and contributors are volunteers and they are not paid to put up with that crap.

There was a dispute over whether to add of Of Pandas and People -- the book that Judge Jones said could not even be mentioned in Dover classrooms -- to the Wikipedia list of "banned books." I suggested that the book be listed along with a note that the entry was disputed and links to external websites where the dispute was discussed or debated. My suggestion was rejected. The Wikipedia control freaks completely rewrote the whole banned books article to avoid listing Of Pandas and People.

As I pointed out in a previous post, a public school district went so far as to block Wikipedia on all of the district's computers.

Wikipedia's day has passed.



Friday, December 14, 2007

Comment on proposed Florida evolution education standards

The proposed Florida science education standards can be reached only by logging in on this webpage.

When you reach the webpage subtitled "Grade Level Site Map," click on the grade level of 9-12, then click on "Review Standards" for "Life Science Body of Knowledge." Then scroll about halfway down through the webpage, and between Benchmark SC.912.L.1.52 and Benchmark SC.912.L.2.1 you will see the following:

Evolution and Diversity.

A. Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.
B. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history.
C. Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change.

I clicked on the "Strongly Disagree" option and added the following comment:

"Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology"

Wrong. There are many areas of biology where evolution is irrelevant. A knowledge of evolution theory is needed in understanding some areas of biology, e.g., paleontology and cladistic taxonomy, but that doesn't necessarily mean that evolution theory is true in whole or in part. Evolutionary explanations are often perfunctorily added as a mere formality.

" -- and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence"

Study of the weaknesses of Darwinism should be added to the science standards. One weakness is called "irreducible complexity." Another weakness is co-evolution, the mutual evolution of two co-dependent kinds of organisms, e.g., bees and flowering plants. In co-evolution, unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., water, land, air, and climate, there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism may be initially absent.

"Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history."

Only in cladistic taxonomy. Evolution theory is not used in traditional Linnaean taxonomy, which is still popular, particularly outside of paleontology. Linnaean taxonomy was developed long before Darwin introduced his theory of evolution.

"Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change."

Both mutations and natural selection are necessary for evolutionary change and neither of the two is "primary."

I then clicked on the "Save Comment" button but got no indication that the comment was saved. Hence, as a precaution, I also emailed the above comment to the email addresses listed in this post.

The current Florida science standards do not mention the e-word. The infamous Fordham Institute (no connection to Fordham U.) state science standards report gave Florida an F for evolution.

Contrary to what the Darwinists say, science education is a democracy. Within the limits of the Constitution (and not the constitutional limits as interpreted by Judge Jones), we do not have to resign ourselves to sitting back and letting science education standards be dictated by bureaucrats, journalists, scientists (though their input is important), scientific organizations, the ACLU, politicians, and even judges (there are ways to get around judges' decisions on the matter).



Thursday, December 13, 2007

Letter to Texas Education Commissioner

I used this contact form to send the following letter to Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott. The subject area I selected on the contact form was "Commissioner of Education":

Letter to Education Commissioner Robert Scott

Re: Opposition to Letter from Texas University Biology Professors Defending Biological Evolution as a Central Pillar of Modern Science Education"

Though I feel that Chris Comer should not have been ousted, I am strongly opposed to the above letter from biology professors.

Comer is certainly not innocent. The Barbara Forrest lecture that Comer announced was not about science but was a false ad hominem attack on all critics of Darwinism, using guilt-by-association to vilify them as allegedly being part of a fundy conspiracy to create a Taliban-type theocracy in the USA. Forrest is a bigot who is trying to shut down discussion of the scientific issues. Forrest cannot stand discussion of the scientific issues because if Intelligent Design or other criticisms of Darwinism have scientific merit, then her conspiracy theory is irrelevant. What Comer did was like a government AIDS agency sending out an "FYI" announcement of a Fred Phelps demonstration. A "Darwin-to-Hitler" lecture might be more neutral, as it would not necessarily be an attempt to shut down discussion of the scientific issues. And I have seen no claim that Comer was even-handed about the "FYI" public-event announcements that she sent out. Finally, Comer violated the Texas Education Agency policy of neutrality on upcoming science standard reviews. There is good reason for the policy of neutrality -- in the future the TEA may have to implement a science curriculum that includes study of the weaknesses of Darwinism. Anyway, right or wrong, neutrality was the policy.

Earlier this year there was a “Darwin v. Design” conference at Southern Methodist University in Dallas — that conference got a lot of publicity because some Darwinist faculty members asked the administration not to hold it. If Chris Comer knew in advance about that conference — and there is a fair chance that she did — did she send out an “FYI” notice about it?

Also, you should forget about what that stupid judge in Pennsylvania said. He did not even write the ID-as-science section of the opinion -- the ACLU did. And he showed extreme prejudice against the defendants -- regardless of whether or not Intelligent Design is a religious concept -- by saying in a Dickinson College commencement speech that his decision was based on his notion that the Founders based the establishment clause on a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions. He said,

". . . this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state."
-- from



Larry Fafarman



The Darwinists may be better organized than their opposition, but a large proportion of the public feels that both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinism should be taught, and I think we are being heard.

Labels: ,


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Forrest's conspiracy theory & guilt-by-association principle

Previously I didn't give Barbara Forrest's crazy ideas much thought, but those ideas have come into prominence lately as a result of the controversy over Texas science education director Chris Comer's forwarding of an email announcing a lecture by Forrest, so I have lately given Forrest's ideas some more thought. Darwinists are claiming that Forrest's ideas are making a big contribution to the debate over teaching about evolution theory. Forrest's ideas are basically that the intelligent design movement is part of a fundy conspiracy to create a Taliban-type theocracy in the USA and that critics of Darwinism who are not part of this conspiracy are guilty of association with it. However, these same arguments that Forrest is using against ID can also be turned against Darwinism itself. Some Darwinists are using Darwinism to promote religious views, both atheistic and theistic (the courts have ruled that atheism is a religion for purposes of the First Amendment), so it can be charged that Darwinism is part of a conspiracy to promote religion. Then Darwinists whose support for Darwinism does not involve religion can be charged with guilt by association. Voila.


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a non-censoring blogger!

That's right, Iranian Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a brutal, tyrannical, anti-semitic, holocaust-denying homophobic dictator, is a non-censoring blogger. He even tolerates personal insults. It's all right here in this NY Times article.

He is eligible to join my Association of Non-Censoring Bloggers, but I am afraid to ask him to join -- there are too many crazies out there and having him as a member might have serious repercussions.

Mahmoud and I have a lot in common -- e.g., we are both holocaust revisionists and we both think that US support of Israel has been too one-sided. If he is a typical Moslem, he is probably also a Darwin doubter, like me.

In contrast to Mahmoud's no-censorship blogging policy, it is appropriate to present the Internet Censorship Hall of Shame:


Panda's Thumb, a multiblogger Darwinist blog

Thomson-Scientific Co., which lists Panda's Thumb in its ISI Web of Knowledge scientific database

Electronic Frontier Foundation, which approves of arbitrary censorship on blogs and holds that bloggers should have special privileges without responsibilities

Kevin Bankston, an unscrupulous EFF attorney who threatened to block emails that I send to other EFF staffers

Law X.O blog, formerly Law Blog Metrics. Sponsored by Thomson Tax & Accounting and Thomson West and affiliated with the University of Cincinnati. Refuses to post any of my comments.

Arbitrarily censoring bloggers Fatheaded Ed Brayton, Sleazy PZ Myers, and Wesley "Ding" Elsberry

Uncommon Descent, a multi-blogger anti-Darwinist blog. For the sake of fairness I must list one of my favorite blogs. At one time I would not even comment on UD because of the arbitrary censorship, but I changed my mind when I realized that I was cutting off my nose to spite my face.



Nosy newspaper shafted Chris Comer

I am actually starting to feel a little sorry for Chris Comer. Really I am. IMO she should have just gotten a slap on the wrist. She tried to leave her job quietly, but a nosy newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, used the Freedom of Information Act to pry into her privacy and expose her. She now has a widespread public image as a troublemaker who won't follow rules, and that image may make it difficult for her to find another job or maybe return to her old job.

Here is what the Texas Citizens for Science reported:

Texas Citizens for Science has known about the forced resignation of Texas Education Agency (TEA) Director of Science Chris Comer since November 6, but planned to keep this knowledge private until Chris's administrative leave was over. Chris was forced to agree to a public non-disclosure or no-comment policy regarding her termination from TEA. I can attest that Chris has said nothing publicly, although dozens of people and reporters knew about the forced resignation from the beginning from sources within the TEA. The Austin American-Statesman (see news article below) got around this policy by using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and have the TEA give them the relevant documents to write their story. Several reporters have had this story since November 9, but held back in respect to Chris Comer's wishes. (emphasis added)

Also, it is particularly fishy that the Texas Citizens for Science got advance inside information about Comer's resignation.

Labels: ,


Newspaperman slams BVD-clad amateur journalists


To "inane," "rambling," and "rarely updated" may be added unethical, dishonest, unreliable, bigoted, and censorial.


A newspaperman wrote,

And when you look at the internet business, what’s dangerous about it is that people who are clearly unqualified get to disseminate their piece to the masses. I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of the matter is ...someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can. They are not trained. Not experts. More important are the level of ethics and integrity that comes along with the quote-unqoute profession hasn’t been firmly established and entrenched in the minds of those who’ve been given that license. (emphasis added)

"Therefore, there’s a total disregard, a level of wrecklessness (sic) that ends up being a domino effect. And the people who suffer are the common viewers out there and, more importantly, those in the industry who haven’t been fortunate to get a radio or television deal and only rely on the written word. And now they’ve been sabotaged. Not because of me. Or like me. But because of the industry or the world has allowed the average joe to resemble a professional without any credentials whatsoever.

Good examples of these BVD-clad amateur journalists who pretend to resemble professional journalists are Fatheaded Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars), Sleazy PZ Myers (Pharyngula), and Wesley "Ding" Elsberry (Austringer). All three also blog on Panda's Thumb.

One of blogs' few potential advantages is that readers' comments can help make them "self-correcting." But this potential advantage doesn't work when bloggers arbitrarily censor comments.

Fortunately, blogs are not the only sources of news on the Internet -- professional news organizations also publish news on the Internet.

This post has more comments about BVD-clad amateur journalists.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"I'm from Missouri" do-it-yourself cartoon contest


Here is another version of my last cartoon, and this one is no exaggeration -- the sign actually states the theme of the Forrest lecture that Comer announced.

The contest is to suggest words for the sign and the cartoon caption. Example:


Caption: I'm just showing my even-handedness.

The reward for the winner will be a guest post opportunity.


PS: I just added the initials "FYI". That is a big improvement.

Labels: , ,


Florida education official abuses position to oppose Darwinism


An ousted Darwinist education official in Texas has an anti-Darwinist counterpart in Florida. A news article said,

The debate over evolution, creation and Florida's science standards has grown increasingly heated as a decision nears, and a state Department of Education manager who has waded into it now finds herself in hot water.

Selena "Charlie" Carraway, program manager for the department's Office of Instructional Materials, recently used her personal e-mail on personal time to send a missive urging fellow Christians to fight the proposal to include evolution as a "key idea" in the science curriculum.

But she invoked her position as a way to, in her words, "give this e-mail credibility." And that, it turns out, is a no-no.

"It is inappropriate for any department employee to use their public position to advocate their personal positions," department spokesman Tom Butler said Friday. "Ms. Carraway has been counseled."

That means human resources personnel met with Carraway and warned her not to do this again, but she remains on the job.

That's quite a different result than the one that befell the Texas Education Agency's director of science for a similar situation.

Last month, Christine Comer was forced to resign from her job in Texas after forwarding an e-mail announcement of a speech by an author who favored teaching evolution. In several articles, Comer blamed evolution politics for her fate in Texas, which also is reviewing its science standards.

Observers familiar with both situations said it looked like Carraway, more than Comer, had done something deserving of reprimand. They praised the Florida Education Department for acting with restraint.

"They behaved with much more proportionality," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education. "Indeed, Ms. Carraway should not use her public position to promote her religious position. ... Now she has a second chance, and hopefully she'll behave more responsibly."

Joe Wolf, president of the pro-evolution Florida Citizens for Science, agreed.

"I think she's allowing her religious beliefs to interfere with her public duty," Wolf said. "I wish she hadn't done it. But I think it's an internal matter."

Scott and Wolf both observed that such restraint can be difficult in this charged atmosphere.

Carraway did not respond to several requests for an interview. Butler said he confirmed that the e-mail in question, which has been widely distributed across Florida, came from her.

Here's how she introduced herself:

"My name is Charlie Carraway, and I'm a member of Sopchoppy Southern Baptist Church, Sopchoppy, Florida, but I also work for the Florida Department of Education as the Director of the Office of Instructional Materials," Carraway wrote. "That means I oversee the adoption process of books and materials in the state, and I work in close proximity to the folks in the Office of Mathematics and Science, who have been in charge of the revision of the science standards. I say all of this, obviously, to give this e-mail credibility."

Carraway detailed the proposed standards, which have won accolades from scientists, and provided ways to contact the State Board of Education.

"Once these become adopted standards and benchmarks, FCAT assessment will be based on them," she wrote. "Districts will not have a choice in teaching evolution as a theory, but will be expected to teach it as stated in these standards, big ideas, and benchmarks. ... Whose agenda is this and will the Christians in Florida care enough to do something about it?"

She ended by urging recipients to lobby against the standards, ending, "The least we can do is make sure evolution is presented to our children and grandchildren as a theory as it has been in the past. Hopefully, though, we can do better than that." Carraway was not part of the committee that recommended the science standards.

Carraway's statement "The least we can do is make sure evolution is presented to our children and grandchildren as a theory as it has been in the past" is alarming. It implies that the proposed new science standards are attempting to present evolution as more than just a theory.

And Comer is certainly not innocent. The Forrest lecture that Comer announced was not about science but was a false ad hominem attack on all critics of Darwinism, vilifying them as allegedly being part of a fundy conspiracy to take over the USA. Forrest is a bigot who is trying to shut down discussion of the scientific issues. Forrest cannot stand discussion of the scientific issues because if Intelligent Design or other criticisms of Darwinism have scientific merit, then her conspiracy theory is irrelevant. What Comer did was like a government AIDS agency sending out an "FYI" announcement of a Fred Phelps demonstration. A "Darwin-to-Hitler" lecture might be more neutral, as it would not necessarily be an attempt to shut down discussion of the scientific issues. And I have seen no claim that Comer was even-handed about the "FYI" public-event announcements that she sent out. Finally, Comer violated the Texas Education Agency policy of neutrality on upcoming science standard reviews. Right or wrong, that was the policy.

IMO it would have been better if Comer had also received just a slap on the wrist. Ousting her has backfired, as she has become a martyr in the minds of a lot of Darwinists.

Labels: ,


Monday, December 10, 2007

Fordham report's lead author is co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse!

Here is one that shocked me out of my wits: Paul R. Gross, a co-author — with Barbara Forrest — of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, is also the lead author of the fanatically pro-Darwinist Fordham Institute Report on State Science Standards (Fordham Institute has no connection to Fordham University). As many of us know, Creationism’s Trojan Horse promotes the preposterous theory that Intelligent Design is part of a fundy conspiracy to take over the USA. Even though evolution education accounts for only 3 points out of 69 in the Fordham report’s rating system, Gross threatened to drop Ohio’s overall grade from a B to an F because of Ohio’s evolution lesson plan.

The Fordham report has been used to pressure states into adopting excessively pro-Darwinist science education standards.

The fact that Gross is a co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse and the lead author of the Fordham Institute report is one of the worst conflicts of interest that I have ever seen.

Here is the letter wherein Gross threatened to drop Ohio's overall grade from B to F:
In the recent report, “The State of State Science Standards” (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2005), of which I am the lead author, we issued a grade of “B” for the Ohio standards. This was in recognition of documents unnecessarily long and with some errors, but dedicated, on the whole, to good and sufficient science content. My distinguished colleagues, members of the expert advisory committee, join me in the statement that follows.

The standards we reviewed present evolutionary biology well enough, and start it early enough, although the treatment is rather thin in relevant molecular genetics. In one benchmark, there is a mention of “critical analysis” of “aspects of evolutionary theory.” We gave Ohio the benefit of the doubt that such ordinarily innocuous words might raise in the current political climate. After all, modern evolutionary biology includes, in fact comprises, “critical analysis of evolutionary theory,” just as modern physics includes critical analysis of relativity and quantum theory. Serious science is a continuous critical analysis.

But the benefit of doubt we gave the benchmark may have been a mistake. Creationism-inspired “critical analysis” of evolutionary biology - as has been shown over and over again in the scientific literature, and recently in a Pennsylvania Federal Court - is neither serious criticism nor serious analysis. The newest version of creationism, so-called Intelligent Design (ID) theory, is no exception. Like its predecessors, it is neither critical nor analytic, nor has it made any contribution to the literature of science. Any suggestion that our “B” grade for Ohio’s standards endorses sham critiques of evolution, as offered by creationists, is false.

To the extent that model lessons are to be provided in Ohio as curricular guidance, lessons that refer favorably to, or incorporate, sham critiques of evolution, or bad science, or pseudo-science, the standards we reviewed are contradicted. That part of the state’s science education will be a failure. Moreover it will reflect badly on the entire standards undertaking, not just on biology and evolution. To devote scores of pages in the official standards to the principles of good science, and then to teach bad or pseudo-science in the classroom, is to defeat the very purpose of standards. If creationism-driven arguments become an authorized extension of Ohio’s K-12 science standards, then the standards will deserve a failing grade.

Paul R. Gross
University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus
University of Virginia



Update on ousted education official

This post is a follow-up to my post titled Darwinist hypocrites protest proper ouster of education official.

I originally thought that the Texas Education Agency’s gag rule was OK. Other public officials and employees work under gag rules — for example, California’s Brown Act prohibits members of a legislative body from privately communicating with each other to try to develop a consensus on something that they may later vote on. However, I have changed my mind about the TEA gag rule because of widespread opposition to the rule, even among anti-Darwinists. Anti-Darwinist William Dembski said on Uncommon Descent,

I’m still not clear about the details of the case, but if Comer’s firing were solely for supporting Forrest, this ought not to be.

Also, the anti-Darwinist chairman of the Texas Board of Education, Don McLeroy, said,
“As far as I’m concerned, (agency employees) can say what they want. They’ve got freedom of speech.”

OK, Chris Comer may be entitled to express her own biased opinions, but when sending out "FYI" notices of public lectures, conferences, and debates, she should send out notices of all relevant public events or send out none. To do otherwise is censorship. Would she send out an "FYI" notice of a "Darwin-to-Hitler" lecture by a bible-pounding holy-rolling fundy-type creationist crackpot? That is what Barbara Forrest is -- a crackpot. She is a crackpot conspiracy theorist.

Earlier this year there was a “Darwin v. Design” conference at Southern Methodist University in Dallas — that conference got a lot of publicity because some Darwinist faculty members asked the administration not to hold it. If Chris Comer knew in advance about that conference — and there is a fair chance that she did — did she send out an “FYI” notice about it?

If -- as many contend -- Comer is innocent and has a good case that she is a victim of discrimination, then why did she resign so quietly? Why didn't she fight to keep her job? I suspect that an investigation has turned up or would turn up more evidence of bias on her part. Anyway, the fact that she resigned and was not fired is going to hurt her if she tries to sue the TEA.

Labels: ,


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Judge John E. "the workman" Jones III


In a recent TV interview, Judge John E. Jones III said,

We operate in a very workmanlike way, believe it or not. We find the facts, as we did in this case, by listening to the testimony, and then we apply well-established law to those facts. It's a sequential process that is time-tested. Every judge does it in the United States.

Judge "I am not an activist judge" Jones has been criss-crossing the country giving lectures supposedly "educating" the public about how judges work but has actually been misinforming the public. Jones emphasizes the role of precedents and claims that the work of judges is "workmanlike," giving the false impression that there is only one decision that can be consistent with precedents whereas many different decisions can be consistent with precedents. Judge Jones is trying to duck criticism of his Dover decision by pretending that he was just following a set of instructions in a manual. If judges are just unskilled "workmen," then they should be paid like unskilled workmen.



Comment sent to Florida's science standards review

The state of Florida is accepting public comments for an upcoming review of the state science education standards. Not surprisingly, the future of the evolution education standards are a particularly controversial issue -- see here and here. I was not able to find a site for submitting general comments, so I sent the comment below to the following staffers designated as subject area contacts for the upcoming review:
Science: Lance King, Secondary Science Specialist, (850) 245-0667, Lance.King@fldoe.org
Science: Vie Vie Baird, Elementary Science Specialist, (850) 245-0758, Vievie.Baird@fldoe.org

I also sent the comment to members of the Polk County School Board because of a news article about their views about teaching about evolution. The school board members' email addresses are:


In contrast to my polite, benign comment, Wesley "Ding" Elsberry sent a blustering letter to the Polk County School Board.

Here is my comment:

I am opposed to the dogmatic teaching of evolution. I feel that both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution theory should be taught.

You should forget about the Fordham Institute's state science standards reports. These reports have vague criteria for rating the science standards (e.g., examples of the criteria are: expectations, purpose, audience; quality; seriousness), and the reports' ratings are subjective and arbitrary and have no correlation with student performance. Also, the Fordham Institute grossly overemphasizes evolution education -- for example, though evolution officially accounts for only 3 points out of 69 in the Fordham ratings, Fordham threatened to drop Ohio's overall grade from a B to an F because of Ohio's evolution lesson plan. Also, the Fordham report publishes state evolution education grades separately. The Fordham report is misused to pressure states into adopting excessively pro-Darwinist evolution education standards.

You should also forget about what that stupid judge in Pennsylvania said. He did not even write the ID-as-science section of the opinion -- the ACLU did. And he said in a commencement speech that his decision was based on his notion that the USA's Founders believed that organized religions are not "true" religions, clearly showing that he was prejudiced against the defendants, regardless of whether or not Intelligent Design is a religious concept.

I believe that evolution should be taught. I think it is important to know something about evolution because (1) such knowledge is part of being a well-educated person and (2) the concepts of evolution are used in some areas of biology (e.g., cladistic taxonomy and paleontology). However, IMO it is important to also know about the weaknesses of evolution theory -- that is also part of being a well-educated person. It seems that it is primarily the Darwinists who are in favor of just a one-sided, dogmatic presentation -- in contrast, the opponents of Darwinism generally appear to be flexible, believing that both sides should be presented. I rarely hear anti-Darwinists ask that only their side be taught. And if criticisms of evolution are not actually taught, there should be "evolution disclaimers" to reduce offense to people who for various reasons are opposed to the teaching of evolution, particularly the dogmatic teaching of evolution.

Also, there appears to be a "contrived dualism" where there are only two possibilities, evolution and intelligent design. However, there are many non-ID scientific (not pseudoscientific) criticisms of evolution. For example, the idea of co-evolution -- the mutual evolution of two co-dependent organisms, e.g., bees and flowering plants -- is a dilemma for evolution because in co-evolution, unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., water, land, air, and climate, there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism may be initially absent.



Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Justiciability of scientific questions

Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin wrote,

In order to encourage the judge to understand that it was not appropriate for a court to enter a discussion of whether ID is science, we wrote in Discovery’s legal amicus brief:
"While Amicus believes that there are good reasons to regard intelligent design as scientific, Amicus recognizes that the question itself may be non-justiciable. Questions are non-justiciable when there is “a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards.” Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267, 277-78 (2004). Even expert philosophers of science have been unable to settle the question, “What is science?” Still less is this question subject to “judicially discoverable and manageable standards.” Insofar as plaintiffs base their argument on the claim that design is inherently unscientific, and thus inherently religious, finding the scientific status of intelligent design non-justiciable would undermine plaintiffs’ case."

Also, you might want to re-read the 85 Scientist Amicus Brief we filed. It states nearly the same thing as the DI amicus, specifically stating that the Judge should not rule on whether ID is science:
The plaintiffs have invited this Court to determine the status of intelligent design as science. Because the definition of science and the boundaries of science should be left to scientists to debate, this Court should reject the relief requested by the plaintiffs, and affirm the freedom of scientists to pursue scientific evidence wherever it may lead.

In fact the very 1-sentence summary we give of this brief states, “The Nature of Science is not a Question to be Decided by Courts.”

As Casey Luskin pointed out, the issue of the justiciability of scientific questions did not actually have to be addressed in the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision because under the Lemon test the religious motivation of the school board members was sufficient to decide the case. Another way of avoiding scientific questions in Kitzmiller would have been to rule that -- under the endorsement test's "political insider/outsider" principle -- the evolution disclaimer served the purpose of reducing Darwinism's offense to the fundies and thus making them feel less like "political outsiders" (indeed, such reasoning was used in the Selman v. Cobb County opinion but the judge eventually ruled against the school district). However, it is possible that an evolution education case may arise where it would be necessary to decide scientific questions in order to decide the case on the merits. I was not aware that such a case could be dismissed on the grounds that the scientific questions are nonjusticiable.

There are various reasons why a scientific claim may be nonjusticiable, e.g., the claim may be unanswerable, imponderable, unfathomable, unprovable, unfalsifiable, contentious, a matter of opinion, beyond the expertise of judges, or the science may be subject to change. Judicial decisions on the merits of scientific claims can have profound and far-ranging consequences, e.g., such decisions can affect the reputations and careers of scientists, affect funding for research, and affect the direction of scientific research. For example, some physicists consider string theory to be unscientific, but a lot of physicists are doing research on it. Considering how the Darwinists have been crowing over a badly flawed anti-ID decision of a single judge, one can only imagine what they would do with, say, an anti-ID decision from the Supreme Court -- conversely, one can only imagine what the fundies would do with a pro-ID decision from the Supreme Court. What is worse, under Judge Jones' "contrived dualism" principle where the only two possibilities are Darwinism and ID, a ruling against ID could be interpreted as a ruling against all criticisms of Darwinism. Forcing the courts to decide a nonjusticiable scientific question just because such a decision is necessary to decide a case on the merits can have disastrous consequences. Darwinists who are applauding Judge Jones' ID-as-science decision are playing with fire.

Before now, I thought that the only judicial standard for deciding scientific questions in the courts was Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (92-102), 509 U.S. 579 (1993). But Daubert never mentions the possibility that a case could be dismissed on the grounds that a scientific question is nonjusticiable.

Anti-ID law scholar Jay Wexler said of Kitzmiller,

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.

. . . 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?

Biology professor J. Scott Turner said of Kitzmiller,

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 . . . courts are where many of my colleagues seem determined to go with the ID issue. . . I believe we will ultimately come to regret this.

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.

So in addition to the "political insider/outsider principle" of the endorsement test, there is another basis for avoiding ruling on scientific issues in court cases on evolution education: the scientific issues are nonjusticiable. Judge Jones, by calling the decisions of judges "workmanlike," tries to give the false impression that his decision was the only reasonable outcome of the Kitzmiller case. I have never heard anyone else describe the work of judges as "workmanlike," as though judges were following a set of instructions in a manual.

However, I disagree with some of Casey's statements in the article I cited. Casey said,

Some Darwinists are presently making the false assertion that Discovery Institute wanted Judge Jones to rule broadly on whether ID is science in the Kitzmiller case. All this comes in the wake of Judge Jones’ recent admissions regarding the activist nature of the Kitzmiller ruling. The Darwinist response to Judge Jones's admissions is revealing: Rather than defending the Judge Jones activist behavior in the Kitzmller ruling, Darwinists have implicitly conceded the activism by changing the subject, and attacking us for allegedly encouraging its activism.

The Darwinists were not conceding, implicitly or otherwise, that Judge Jones is an activist -- they were (1) criticizing the Discovery Institute for accusing Judge Jones of activism and (2) claiming that the DI had been inconsistent by encouraging him to rule on ID-as-science and then condemning him as an activist for doing so. However, as Casey shows, the charge of inconsistency is false.

Also, Casey said,

Whether ID is science goes to the "effect" prong of the Lemon test. But here's the important point to answer your question: if you find evidence for religious motives, the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard that no inquiry into the effect prong (i.e. whether ID is science) is necessary: "[i]f the law was enacted for the purpose of endorsing religion, ‘no consideration of the second or third criteria [of Lemon] is necessary.’" Thus it wasn't even necessary for Judge Jones to look at the effect of teaching ID (i.e. asking "is ID science?") if he found religious motives.

That was not the official reason the Supreme Court gave for not inquiring into the effect prong in Edwards v. Aguillard -- the official reason the Supreme Court gave was that the experts offered by the government did not participate in the enactment or implementation of the law in question:

. . . the postenactment testimony of outside experts is of little use in determining the Louisiana Legislature's purpose in enacting this statute. The Louisiana Legislature did hear and rely on scientific experts in passing the bill, but none of the persons making the affidavits produced by the appellants [p596] participated in or contributed to the enactment of the law or its implementation. The District Court, in its discretion, properly concluded that a Monday morning "battle of the experts" over possible technical meanings of terms in the statute would not illuminate the contemporaneous purpose of the Louisiana Legislature when it made the law

This reason for refusing to hear expert scientific testimony applies to the Kitzmiller case. Anyway, the conclusion is the same as Casey Luskin reached -- Judge Jones' decision to hear expert scientific testimony did not follow the precedent of Edwards v. Aguillard.



Sunday, December 02, 2007

Guidelines for monkey-trial defendants

It has been a long time since a school district has stepped up to the plate by making a monkey-trial test case. The last monkey trials involving public schools were Kitzmiller v. Dover, which was decided nearly two years ago, and Selman v. Cobb County, which was settled out of court when Cobb County took a dive nearly a year ago. Maybe the reason why things are so quiet is that schools boards have learned that they can easily get away with teaching criticisms of evolution by just teaching the criticisms in the name of teaching more about evolution -- e.g., by using the Discovery Institute's book "Exploring Evolution" -- and avoiding hot-button labels like "creation science," "intelligent design," and "teach the controversy." However, it now appears that the Polk County School Board in Florida may be ready to step up to the plate.

Here are my recommendations for school boards that want to make a monkey-trial test case:
(1) Adopt an evolution disclaimer. Other possibilities are: (i) adopting a curriculum that does not require evolution education (however, a local school district would have to require evolution education if the state science standards require it); and (ii) adopting science textbooks that downplay or ignore evolution. Ironically, the Kitzmiller v. Dover and Selman v. Cobb County decisions were against the evolution disclaimers of school boards that had adopted strongly pro-Darwinist biology textbooks -- some payback. I do think that evolution should be taught, but we badly need a court victory, and maybe one way to get it is by eliminating evolution from the official curriculum entirely. This idea of excluding something by not supporting it rather than by banning it is not new -- a previous example is Senator Stephen Douglas's "Freeport Doctrine." Reassure voters that leaving evolution education out of the official curriculum is just a temporary measure to create a test case. However, if you do adopt an evolution disclaimer, be sure that there is something to disclaim, i.e., evolution education as a major part of the official curriculum.

(2) Do not mention anything overtly religious in the evolution disclaimer. Do not mention intelligent design. Cobb County's evolution disclaimer would be a good choice.

(3) Urge the judge to use the endorsement test's "political insider/outsider" principle to rule that the evolution disclaimer serves the purpose of reducing Darwinism's offense to fundies and thus making them feel less like political "outsiders."

(4) Discourage the judge from using the disfavored, abominable Lemon test -- it is a sucking kiss of death. Federal courts are not required to use the Lemon test!

(5) Avoid a "Monday morning" battle of expert scientific witnesses. Do not hear expert scientific testimony before adopting the evolution dlsclaimer or other evolution education rule. Cite Edwards v. Aguillard, where the courts refused to hear such testimony. If the judge insists on hearing such testimony, bail out immediately!

(6) Don't worry about costs -- it's not your money. And remember that the same principle applies to lawsuits that applies to yachts -- "if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it." Blame the plaintiffs and their legal representatives for the costs of the lawsuit.

(7) If you bail out early, try using the Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001) precedent to avoid paying attorney fees to the plaintiffs.

(8) Disparage monkey trial precedents. Kitzmiller v. Dover is easy -- for example, you can point out that (i) the ID-as-science section of the opinion was ghostwritten by the ACLU and that (ii) the judge said in a commencement speech that his decision was based on his notion that the Founders believed that organized religions are not "true" religions. Point out that Selman v. Cobb County (not a true precedent because it was settled out of court after being vacated and remanded) and Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish came close to being overturned.

(9) Use courtroom drama. Print the Kitzmiller opinion on a roll of toilet paper and present it in the courtroom.

(10) Added 9-21-08 -- Argue that criticisms of evolution encourage critical thinking and that this is a secular purpose that is not a sham.

(11) Use this blog as a reference. This blog has dozens of articles about monkey trials and related matters.