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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Movie's Darwin-to-Hitler theme and the ADL

There is a lot of controversy on the Internet now about the "Expelled" movie's Darwin-to-Hitler theme. To me, the best thing about this Darwin-to-Hitler stuff -- regardless of how true it is -- is that it is a nice slap in the big fat face (in the words of Kansas U. Prof. Paul Mirecki) of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL regards criticisms of Darwinism as extremely anti-semitic. I have not yet seen any ADL reaction to the movie.

The ADL has --
(1) -- called the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision a "victory for students." [1]

(2) -- had that crackpot Judge Jones as a guest speaker at a national executive committee meeting.[2]

(3) -- submitted an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs/appellees in the Selman v. Cobb County evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker case and gave an "Unsung Hero Award" to lead plaintiff Jeffrey Selman.[3]

(4) -- called students "the real winners" in the Great Cobb County Cop-out, where the Cobb County school board took a dive by settling out of court with the plaintiffs even though the school board was ahead (the district court decision was vacated and remanded because of missing evidence and the appeals court judges indicated at an oral hearing that they were leaning towards reversal).[4]

(5) -- condemned the Darwin-to-Hitler "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" TV show produced by Coral Ridge Ministries.[5]

(6) -- While condemning linkage of Social Darwinism to the holocaust, the hypocritical ADL has no qualms about linking "Christian antisemitic ideology" to the holocaust.[6]

(7) -- filed an amicus brief in Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578, 580 (1987), showing that ADL opposition to criticisms of Darwinism is not new (the American Jewish Congress filed a separate amicus brief).[7]


What in the hell does the evolution controversy got to do with anti-semitism? Ironically, orthodox Jews tend to be some of the biggest supporters of creationism and Intelligent Design.[8][9][10][11]



Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Scientific Theory of Co-evolution

The Darwinists charge that criticisms of Darwinism are not scientific. OK, I will try to make my theory of co-evolution sound more scientific:

Fundamental Theorem of Co-evolution of Total Co-dependence of Two Organisms:

In co-evolution of a co-dependent trait -- unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., land, water, and air -- there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism may be locally absent.

First Corollary:
Co-evolution by means of random mutation is virtually impossible where the co-dependent traits in both organisms are fatal in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism.

Second Corollary:

Even a co-dependent trait that is not fatal or harmful in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent trait provides no benefit in natural selection when the corresponding co-dependent trait is absent.

Third Corollary:

Two totally co-dependent organisms may have irreducibly complex sets of pairs of co-dependent traits involving multiple organ systems in one or both organisms -- for example, a bee must be able to both digest nectar and find flowers.

Fourth Corollary:

The Fundamental Theorem of Co-evolution of Total Co-dependence may be a barrier to evolution even where irreducible complexity is not.


Evolutions of predator-prey and parasite-host relationships are often presented as false proof of co-evolution. Evolution in these relationships does not require simultaneous mutations in the other organisms, and often it is better for the first organism if there is no corresponding defensive change in the other organism.

Actually, though, if "theory" is defined as a complete scientific explanation for some observed phenomenon, then these principles of co-evolution do not constitute a "theory" -- they are just criticisms of evolution theory. The same goes for Intelligent Design. However, there is no rule that says that a scientific theory may not be criticized without presenting a plausible alternative theory at the same time.



Thursday, March 27, 2008

Victory in Florida

An "academic freedom" bill was approved 4-1 by an education committee of the Florida state senate.

The priority should be to get rid of that stupid statement in the state science standards that says that evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology." That simply is not true.



The Devil in Darwinists

Another book about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, titled "The Devil in Dover: An Insider's Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-town America," written by a reporter who worked for the York Daily Record, is scheduled for release on May 13. The book's description on Amazon.com says,

"What happened in Dover is a tiny sliver, a broken shard of glass mirroring what plays out across the country. A war of fundamentalist Christian values versus secularism. A battle between evangelical fanaticism and tolerance."—from The Devil in Dover

In December 2004, following the Dover area school board's decision to teach intelligent design in ninth-grade biology classrooms, eleven parents sued, sparking a federal constitutional challenge. Lauri Lebo, a small-town reporter who covered the trial, knows not just the legal case and science, but the people on all sides of the divisive battle.

In The Devil in Dover, Lebo traces the compelling backstory of this pivotal case described by some as a perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violations, and an assault on American science education. In a community divided across unexpected lines, the so-called activist judge, a George Bush-appointed Republican, eventually condemned the school board's decision as one of "breathtaking inanity."

WOW! "Evangelical fanaticism"! "Religious intolerance"! "First Amendment violations"! "An assault on American science education"! "Devil in Dover"! "Dogma v. Darwin"! Them's fighting words! Maybe a better title for the book would be "The Great Satan in Dover."

The words "this pivotal case described by some as a perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violations, and an assault on American science education" were obviously borrowed from a Nature magazine book review by Kevin Padian. The NCSE website says of the book review,

. . . he also mentions a fourth book, by local reporter Laurie Lebo, to appear on the trial, which, he says, "promises even more lively details of this perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violation and the never-ending assault on American science education.'"

It is obvious that "Devil in Dover" is a sensationalistic book that tries to demonize the Dover school board. Prof. Albert Alschuler said in what I consider to be the best summary of the Kitzmiller case,

The court offers convincing evidence that some members the Dover school board would have been delighted to promote their old time religion in the classroom. These board members apparently accepted intelligent design as a compromise, the nearest they could come to their objective within the law. Does that make any mention of intelligent design unconstitutional? It seems odd to characterize the desire to go far as the law allows as an unlawful motive. People who try to stay within the law although they would prefer something else are good citizens. The Dover opinion appears to say that the forbidden preference taints whatever the board may do, and if the public can discern the board’s improper desire, any action it takes also has an unconstitutional effect. If board members would like to teach Genesis as the literal truth, the board may not direct teachers even to mention the anamolies (sic) in the theory of natural selection that the court itself recognizes. The court seems to declare, "Because we find that you would like something you can't have, we hold that you can't have anything."

The book "Monkey Girl," which was touted as the definitive book about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, has not done well -- the book's Amazon.com website has received relatively few customer reviews and relatively few answers to the question, "was this (customer) review helpful to you?" Other books about the case, Forty Days and Forty Nights and Traipsing into Evolution, attracted even less attention on Amazon.com. Michael Behe's The Edge of Evolution, for example, has attracted much more attention on Amazon.com. IMO the reason why the books about the case have not none well are (1) the decision has almost no precedential value because it is just a decision of a single judge and (2) the decision has been badly discredited -- even pro-Darwinist and neutral legal scholars have condemned it.



Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two-buck Chuck Hitwin


New Darwin-to-Hitler cartoons

-- a modification of a previous cartoon.


How about "Godwin mit uns"? From "Godwin's Law." LOL


These cartoons are dedicated to the Anti-Defamation League, which called the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision "a victory for students."



Sunday, March 23, 2008

Blog war over terms "artificial selection" and "natural selection"

There is now a big blog war going on over the meanings of the terms "artificial selection" and "natural selection." The blog war involves ID'ers Michael Egnor and Jonathan Wells and the Darwinist Panda's Thumb, Larry Moran, Mike Dunford, Mike the Mad Biologist, etc.. There is a lot of name-calling, most of it coming from the Darwinists, as usual.

Michael Egnor gives the following definitions of "natural selection" and "artificial selection":
Natural selection is selection in nature, presumably arising without intelligent agency. An example of natural selection would be the differential reproduction of organisms in nature, without the evident guidance of an intelligent agent.

Artificial selection is selection caused by intelligent agency. An example of artificial selection would be the intentional breeding of bacteria by a scientist in a research lab.

The distinction between natural selection and artificial selection is at least matter of definition, and perhaps there are empirical differences as well.

Yes, I certainly agree that "[t]he distinction between natural selection and artificial selection is at least matter of definition"!

I disagree with Dr. Egnor's definitions here. To me, "artificial selection" is "selective breeding," where humans handpick animals or plants for breeding, e.g., breeding short-legged sheep because of their poor ability to jump fences. The poor ability to jump fences is "fitter" for human purposes but is not necessarily "fitter" (or less fit) for the sheep. And sheep that can jump high fences are not necessarily fitter, because jumping high fences might result in greater exposure to predators.

"Natural selection" could be loosely defined as the selection of organisms by the environment instead of by humans, but there would then be many different kinds of natural selection involving both natural and artificial conditions, e.g., (1) natural selection in the wild under purely natural conditions; (2) natural selection in the wild under man-made conditions, e.g., man-made pesticides, the presence of non-native species that could only be introduced by humans; (3) a laboratory simulation of a natural evolution -- including a natural selection -- that could possibly occur under purely natural conditions; and (4) natural selection in a laboratory situation that could not occur in nature, e.g., where mutations are induced by massive doses of radiation or where there are synthetic or semi-synthetic antibiotics. So "natural selection" can be a very ambiguous term. To prevent confusion, maybe terms other than "natural selection" could be used in situations where the environment does the selection but the situation cannot possibly occur in nature.

Egnor continues,

What is the relationship between natural selection and artificial selection? There are two possibilities:

1) Natural selection is substantially different from artificial selection. If true, then breeding of bacteria in a research lab in order to study antibiotic resistance doesn’t depend substantially on the theory of natural selection.
2) Natural selection is substantially the same as artificial selection. If true, then breeding of bacteria in a research lab in order to study antibiotic resistance does depend substantially on the theory of natural selection. However, if natural selection is substantially the same as artificial selection, then biological change in nature (natural selection) is in some ways the same as biological change caused by intelligent agency (artificial selection). That’s an assertion that some of the evidence in evolutionary biology is consistent with intelligent design.
(emphasis in original)

That is specious reasoning that is solely based on Egnor's arbitrary definitions of terms. Egnor creates confusion by using the terms "intelligent design" and "intelligent agency" to refer to both the intelligence of humans and intelligence of unknown agents.



Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sleazy PZ expelled from prescreening of "Expelled"

The story is here in the NY Times and all over the Internet -- just Google "PZ Myers" and "Expelled." Not surprisingly, the NY Times article was written by Cornelia Dean, who has a long history of bias against criticism of Darwinism.[1][2][3][4]

As long-term readers of this blog know, Sleazy PZ Myers is an unscrupulous BVD-clad blogger who arbitrarily censors comments and commenters. I should know -- I am at the top of his "killfile dungeon" list of banned commenters.

IMO, prescreening "Expelled" was a bad idea. This incident involving Sleazy PZ is being used against the movie, and also a prescreening for Florida state legislators was criticized as violating the spirit of the state's sunshine laws because the legislators got a chance to see the movie before the public gets a chance to see it and comment on it.



Friday, March 21, 2008

Comment moderation enabled because of Anonymous's vandalism

I have temporarily (I hope) enabled comment moderation so that I can ask the following questions of Anonymous:

(1) Do you have nothing better to do with your time than to post gossip here about my private affairs? My private affairs include -- but are not limited to -- any alleged information concerning my relatives or acquaintances. My prohibition of such gossip is not an unreasonable restriction.

(2) Are you trying to show me that my edit warring on Wickedpedia was wrong? Do you show that by showing that you are as bad as or worse than I am?

(3) Are you unhappy with my policy of not moderating comments?

(4) Are you frustrated by your inability to comment on the issues and taking out your frustration by vandalism?


Hearing held in ACSI v. Stearns (Fundy Schools v. UC)

I have written several articles about the ACSI v. Stearns case. Here is an update I just got from ACSI:

On February 14, 2008, a federal judge in Los Angeles held a hearing on requests by both sides for Summary Judgment in the viewpoint discrimination case that ACSI and Calvary Chapel, of Murrieta, California, filed almost three years ago against the university system . . . The hearing lasted more than two hours as the judged asked each side a series of probing questions. It was clear from the questions that the judge was very familiar with the hundreds of pages of materials. Our attorneys have spent many hours reviewing the approximately 350,000 pages of materials [!] produced by the University of California as they prepared for the hearing. To read the brief our attorneys filed for the summary hearing and the plaintiff’s statement of facts, go to www.acsi.org/~UCcase. There you will also find a brief by five Catholic law school professors supporting our case.

Also, I asked why there was the possibility of a jury trial in the case, considering that the Constitution guarantees a jury trial only when the plaintiff seeks relief of monetary value. An ACSI attorney gave this response:
While there is no request for a monetary relief and the issues involve constitutional matters, I believe that a jury will be used to decide issues of fact. This may include special interrogatories (questions) presented by the court to the jury to decide. In addition, I would anticipate the jury would likely apply some of those facts to the jury instructions and reach other conclusions, ultimately the court will decide the questions of law.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2005, to be precise. The case should have been through the federal appeals court and maybe even the Supreme Court by now. The courts are just getting slower and slower -- for example, in Selman v. Cobb County, an appeals court took 16 months just to vacate and remand the district court decision because of missing evidence (Cobb County eventually took a dive by settling out of court). As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.

The ACSI lawsuit concerns textbooks and course outlines in several subjects, including non-science subjects -- I will concentrate here on the biology course. UC originally objected to the physics textbook because this textbook contains quotations from the bible, but UC may have dropped its objection to this textbook.

Because UC does not accept the fundy schools' textbooks, the fundy school students are expected to apply under the special admission program requiring them to be in the top 2-4% of high school grads instead of applying under the general admission program requiring them to be in the top 12.5-15%. That's ridiculous.

Here is how I think the court should rule, at least so far as the biology course is concerned:

(1) Because the fundy biology textbooks' approach -- based on an assumption that the bible is infallible -- is unorthodox, UC applicants claiming credit for the fundy biology course should be required to either (1) get a satisfactory score on the SAT AP Biology Test or (2) take a general biology course in college.

(2) The judge should rule that the evolution controversy is nonjusticiable.[1][2].

(3) The judge should reject a "Monday-morning battle of experts" who advised neither UC nor the plaintiffs. See Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 595-596. Judge Jones made the mistake of having a "Monday-morning battle of the experts" in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and now that mistake is being repeated in ACSI v. Stearns, which has a whole big bunch of expert witnesses.

Because the courts waste so much time on high-profile cases, low-profile cases are given short shrift. In my federal-court lawsuit against California and the US EPA over the grossly unconstitutional California "smog impact fee" (eventually thrown out by the state courts), California claimed federal-court immunity under the 11th amendment and the Tax Injunction Act. I argued that the state lost its immunity by "leaving the sphere that was exclusively its own" (Parden v. Terminal Railway of the Alabama State Docks Dept.) when the state based the smog impact fee entirely upon the state's special status under federal auto-emissions laws and regulations. California did not even attempt to rebut that argument but that dunghill Judge TJ "Mad" Hatter dismissed my suit without an oral hearing and without an opinion! I was later vindicated when a former top California air-quality official testified in state court that the fee required the approval of the US EPA.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Crazy Wickedpedia rules

A Wickedpedia rule says,

Editors should not make the mistake of thinking that if A is published by a reliable source, and B is published by a reliable source, then A and B can be joined together in an article to advance position C. This would be synthesis of published material serving to advance a position, which constitutes original research. "A and B, therefore C" is acceptable only if a reliable source has published this argument in relation to the topic of the article.

In other words, Wickedpedia bans the following reasoning as impermissible "original research":

(1) The American Library Association's definition of "banned book" includes books that have been banned from school curricula.

(2) Judge Jones banned the book "Of Pandas and People" from the curriculum of the Dover schools.

(3) "Of Pandas and People" is a banned book according to the ALA's definition.

You think I am kidding? A Wickedpedian control freak administrator said,

Nice piece of original research, which we do not allow here. Do you have some relibale non-partisan sources that state that the book is banned? -- Kim van der Linde

-- and then later,

Larry, your whole reasoning still is original research, how you want to twist it. Come up with that reliable non-partisan source that conforms that the book is banned and we talk further.

Also, the following rules are full of vague terms that the Wickedpedian control-freak administrators can use to "lawyer to death" those who disagree with them:

Self-published sources (online and paper)
Anyone can create a website or pay to have a book published, then claim to be an expert in a certain field. For that reason, self-published books, newsletters, personal websites, open wikis, blogs, forum postings, and similar sources are largely not acceptable.

Self-published material may, in some circumstances, be acceptable when produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications. However, caution should be exercised when using such sources: if the information in question is really worth reporting, someone else is likely to have done so.

Self-published sources should never be used as third-party sources about living persons, even if the author is a well-known professional researcher or writer; see WP:BLP#Reliable sources.

Articles and posts on Wikipedia may not be used as sources.

Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves
Material from self-published and questionable sources may be used as sources in articles about themselves, so long as:

it is relevant to their notability;
it is not contentious;
it is not unduly self-serving;
it does not involve claims about third parties;
it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the subject;
there is no reasonable doubt as to who authored it;
the article is not based primarily on such sources.

Wickedpedia sucks.



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Big blooper by Fatheaded Ed

This one is precious. Try to catch it before it goes away. Fatheaded Ed said,

You come into my home and say something vile about my mother and I'm throwing you out on my ass.




Saturday, March 15, 2008

More dirt on Eugenie Scott

In a section titled "Defuse the Religion Issue" in an article titled "Dealing with Antievolutionism", Eugenie Scott brazenly, hypocritically and cynically urged teachers to use religion in a one-sided way to promote Darwinism in the public schools, in violation of the establishment clause. She wrote,

Teachers have told me they have had good results when they begin the year by asking students to brainstorm what they think the words "evolution" and "creationism" mean. As expected, some of the information will be accurate and some will be erroneous. Under "evolution," expect to hear "Man evolved from monkeys" or something similar. Don't be surprised to find some variant of, "You can't believe in God" or some similar statement of supposed incompatibility between religion and evolution. Under "creationism" expect to find more consistency: "God"; "Adam and Eve," "Genesis," etc. The next step in constructing student understanding of concepts is to guide them towards a more accurate view. One goal of this exercise is to help them see the diversity of religious attitudes towards evolution.

After one such initial brainstorming session, one teacher presented students with a short quiz wherein they were asked, "Which statement was made by the Pope?" or "which statement was made by an Episcopal Bishop?" and given an "a, b, c" multiple choice selection. All the statements from theologians, of course, stressed the compatibility of theology with the science of evolution. This generated discussion about what evolution was versus what students thought it was. By making the students aware of the diversity of opinion towards evolution extant in Christian theology, the teacher helped them understand that they didn't have to make a choice between evolution and religious faith.

A teacher in Minnesota told me that he had good luck sending his students out at the beginning of the semester to interview their pastors and priests about evolution. They came back somewhat astonished, "Hey! Evolution is OK!" Even when there was diversity in opinion, with some religious leaders accepting evolution as compatible with their theology and others rejecting it, it was educational for the students to find out for themselves that there was no single Christian perspective on evolution. The survey-of-ministers approach may not work if the community is religiously homogeneous, especially if that homogeneity is conservative Christian, but it is something that some teachers might consider as a way of getting students' fingers out of their ears. (emphasis added)

Again, I urge readers to protest the decision of the University of New Mexico's Board of Regents to award an honorary degree to Eugenie Scott. Protests may be sent to:

Board of Regents

University president

Prof. John W. Geissman, led campaign to award degree



Friday, March 14, 2008

Fatheaded Ed again contradicts Judge Jones' "true religion" speech

Fatheaded Ed Brayton said,
Steven Waldman, editor-in-chief of Beliefnet, has a new book out called "FOUNDING FAITH: Providence, Politics and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America". I haven't read the book yet, though I hope to do so and to write a review of it, but he has two essays at the TPMCafe that seem quite reasonable to me. He seems to stake out much the same territory that Jon Rowe and I (and many others, of course) have for the last few years, arguing that the key founders do not fit easily into the simple categories of deist or Christian. (emphasis added)

Judge Jones said in his Dickinson College commencement speech,
. . . .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.

"This much is very clear," my eye.

Fatheaded Ed Brayton has never repudiated Judge "I am not an activist judge" Jones' "true religion" speech.



Protest of award of honorary degree to NCSE's Eugenie Scott

Panda's Thumb announced that the Board of Regents of the University of New Mexico has decided to confer an honorary degree on Eugenie Scott, the controversial head of the National Center for Science Education. One of Eugenie Scott's crimes has been her hypocritical and cynical use of religion to promote Darwinism in the public schools [1][2]. The Board of Regents should not presume to speak for the entire university community in regard to the controversy over evolution. IMO it is a bad idea to give honorary degrees to controversial people. Or at least such an honorary degree should be balanced by an honorary degree to the other side. How about an honorary degree for an ID’er?

Protests may be sent to the following email addresses:

Board of Regents

University president

Prof. John W. Geissman, led campaign to award degree


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sleazy PZ falsely accuses Casey Luskin of quote-mining

Sleazy PZ Myers posted an article charging that the following statement from an op-ed by the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin contains quote mines from a U.S. National Academy of Sciences booklet titled Science, Evolution, and Creationism:

In January, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences weighed in on this debate, declaring that "[t]here is no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution," because neo-Darwinism is "so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter" it.

Casey's two above quotes came from pages 52 and 16 of the booklet. Sleazy PZ charged that Casey's above statement misrepresents the NAS's position.

Here is the full context of the 2nd quote, from a comment by John Pieret on the Panda's Thumb blog:
Many scientific theories are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially. For example, no new evidence will demonstrate that the Earth does not orbit around the Sun (heliocentric theory), or that living things are not made of cells (cell theory), that matter is not composed of atoms, or that the surface of the Earth is not divided into solid plates that have moved over geological timescales (the theory of plate tectonics). Like these other foundational scientific theories, the theory of evolution is supported by so many observations and confirming experiments that scientists are confident that the basic components of the theory will not be overturned by new evidence. However, like all scientific theories, the theory of evolution is subject to continuing refinement as new areas of science emerge or as new technologies enable observations and experiments that were not possible previously. (emphasis added)

If the word 'it" at the end of Luskin's statement is changed to "them" so that the reference is to "basic facts of evolution" rather than "neo-Darwinism" (possibly including the details of evolution as well as the basic facts of evolution), then Luskin's statement is essentially the same as the second bolded statement above:

In January, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences weighed in on this debate, declaring that “[t]here is no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution,“ because neo-Darwinism is “so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter” [them].

So it appears that Luskin is at worst just guilty of a poor word choice. IMO any misrepresentation of the NAS's position was too subtle to have been deliberate.

In contrast to Luskin's innocent poor choice of a word, Judge Jones did some real quote-mining. Jones said in his Dickinson College commencement speech,

. . . 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." * (quote mines are shown in bold)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* Quotations from The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America by Frank Lambert (Princeton University Press, 2003).

The book that Jones quote-mined says,

How did the Puritan Fathers erecting their "City upon a Hill" transform into the Founding Fathers drawing a distinct line between church and state? The answer lies in the changing meaning of freedom in the concept of freedom of religion. To the Puritans who fled persecution, Massachusetts Bay represented the freedom to practice without interference the one true faith, which they based solely on the Bible, correctly interpreted. Thus religious freedom in the "City upon a Hill" meant freedom from error, with church and state, though separate, working together to support and protect the one true faith. Those who believed differently were free to go elsewhere and sometimes compelled to do so. The Founding Fathers had a radically different conception of religious freedom. Influenced by the Enlightenment, they had great confidence in the individual's ability to understand the world and its most fundamental laws through the exercise of his or her reason. To them, true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in the Bible but rather was to be found through free rational inquiry. Drawing on radical Whig ideology, a body of thought whose principal concern was expanded liberties, the framers sought to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state. (Quote mines are again shown in bold. Sorry for the long quote, but I wanted to give the quote mines some more context)

By failing to mention the "radical Whig ideology" that was mentioned in the book, Jones gave this alleged "true religion" of the Founders more credit for the establishment clause than the book gave -- the "radical Whig ideology" may have even been essential for the creation of the establishment clause. Even the book gave this "true religion" too much credit -- in establishment clause histories given in two Supreme Court decisions, Everson v. Board of Education (1947) and Engel v. Vitale (1962), this "true religion" is not even given honorable mention as a contributing factor (so much for Jones' emphasis on the importance of judicial precedent). In contrast to Casey Luskin, Judge Jones obviously deliberately misrepresented his source. Furthermore, Jones did not credit his source when he gave his speech. And most importantly of all, Judge Jones was supposed to show neutrality towards organized religion and he did not.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wikipedia edit war over Darwin-Lincoln birthdate coincidence

A dispute over whether to add the Darwin-Lincoln birthdate coincidence to Darwin's biography was one of the biggest edit wars in Wikipedia history:
Is sharing a birthday with Abraham Lincoln important enough to include in the Charles Darwin article, or is it a bit of trivia that has no place in an encyclopedia? As of 4 February 2005, there has been an eight week-long revert war over a single sentence. . . . . The discussions at Talk:Charles Darwin/Lincoln and LincolnArchive01, plus the arbitration pages amount to some 30,000 words, which is about the length of a short Agatha Christie novel.

An overwhelming majority of Wikipedians finally decided to omit the coincidence. One advocate of including the coincidence reverted the Darwin biography 37 times [1].

The solution under my proposed Wikipedia dispute resolution procedure would be to add the birthdate coincidence along with (1) a note that there is a dispute over whether including the coincidence is appropriate and (2) links to Wikipedian and external-website discussions and debates on the dispute.

Despite the triviality of the birthdate coincidence, the Darwin Day celebrations include a Darwin-Lincoln essay contest.

Ironically, we are not even sure of Lincoln's actual birthdate -- he was born on the frontier, where people tend to lose track of dates.



Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Greedy Darwinists want biology courses to be laced throughout with Darwinism

Teaching Darwinism dogmatically in the public schools is not enough to satisfy the Darwinists -- the Darwinists want Darwinism to be taught with everything in biology, even though Darwinism is clearly irrelevant in a lot of subjects in biology. The Darwinists just want the students to be constantly browbeaten with Darwinism. For example, the new Florida science standards say that evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology." And Bill Buckingham, a former Dover school board member, said in the PBS NOVA TV program about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case,
In looking at the biology book the teachers wanted, I noticed that it was laced with Darwinism. I think I listed somewhere between 12 and 15 instances where it talked about Darwin's theory of evolution. It wasn't on every page of the book, but, like, every couple of chapters, there was Darwin, in your face again. And it was to the exclusion of any other theory.

Greg Laden, a ScienceBlogs blogger, says,

These days, evolution tends to be compressed into a single textbook unit, and not discussed very much elsewhere in that text (this depends on the book). My suspicion is that by placing all of the discussion of evolutionary biology into one unit, it makes it easier for teachers to skip that chapter, or gloss it, or at least, deal with it as a very bad thing that is happening to them, work out some strategies to minimize the pain, and then move on.

In other words, when it comes to teaching evolutionary biology in the public school classroom, the creationists have won the battle: They've forced evolution into a corner, surrounded it, eviscerated, driven it into the swamp.

Since evolutionary biology actually relates to every other element of the life sciences, this is a terrible shame. Bowdlerizing every other part of the curriculum of any mention of evolution takes the life out of the life sciences. Details are taught without reference to ultimate explanation. The thread that would tie together a pedagogy to make it truly comprehensible and, in fact, awesome, is yanked out of the fabric of biology. Opportunities to skillfully explain, truly understand, fully appreciate the details of how life works are hidden from the students because evolution is forced into the closet of some specific chapter in the textbook, some specific week during the semester, some specific set of readings and maybe, but probably not even, a single experiment on the lab bench.

This would be like forcing the laws of motion into a single, oft skipped and always shortchanged lesson in an intro physics class, and otherwise never mentioning them.

The textbook that Buckingham described certainly doesn't have evolution "forced into the closet of some specific chapter in the textbook." And that textbook is co-authored by Ken Miller, who testified at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial that his biology textbooks are used by an estimated 35 percent of high school students in the USA.

As for Laden's analogy of "forcing the laws of motion into a single, oft skipped and always shortchanged lesson in an intro physics class," isn't that the way Newton's laws of motion are taught in intro physics classes? Should, say, the effects of the Newton's laws of motion on the parts of heat engines and electrical machines be discussed in the lessons on thermodynamics and electricity & magnetism, respectively?



Friday, March 07, 2008

Views about Judge Jones' "true religion" speech

Judge Jones blowing smoke -- and hot air.

I have often been accused of "misinterpreting" the following plain statements of Judge Jones' Dickinson College commencement speech:

. . . .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.

John West, a Discovery Institute senior fellow, said,
In the area of religion, Judge Jones is a long-time member of a Lutheran church in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. But his views on religion seem to be of the decidedly liberal variety and rather inhospitable to the views of more traditional believers. In a graduation speech to the students of Dickinson College in 2006, for example, he praised America's Founders for supposedly believing 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."

This amazing statement is worthy of further analysis. First, it falsely suggests that people must choose between believing in religious authority (such as the Bible) and "free, rational inquiry." Second, the statement implies that those who believe in the Bible or the teachings of their church are somehow anti-American because they reject the ideals of America's Founders.

In reality, and contrary to Judge Jones, most of America's Founders did not believe that the teachings of the Bible or churches were in conflict with the teachings of "free, rational inquiry." Indeed, as I argue in my book, The Politics of Revelation and Reason, the Founders generally believed that revelation and reason converged on same truths, especially in the area of morality. The Founders' belief in the agreement of revelation and reason supplied the basis for all citizens to enter the public square on an equal basis, regardless of their religious beliefs. In the Founders' system, so long as religious believers could offer secular reasons for their public policy proposals in addition to whatever religious reasons they might have, they had the right to be heard.

However, by insisting that belief in religious authority and belief in (secular) "rational inquiry" are opposed to each other, Judge Jones sets the stage for depriving traditional religious believers of their equal rights as citizens. If public policies must be justified in terms of secular reason, and if religious traditionalists are by definition opposed to this sort of "free, rational inquiry," then anything religious traditionalists propose must be constitutionally suspect according to Judge Jones.

Hence, if certain intelligent design proponents happen to be traditional religious believers, their policy ideas must be disqualified no matter what the secular reasons they offer for them -- because by definition those secular reasons cannot be genuine. This false dichotomy between faith and reason owes more to the French Enlightenment than the American Founding. And it explains far more about the inspiration behind Judge Jones' faulty ruling than the fact that he is a "church-going Republican."

West actually criticized Jones' speech more harshly than I did. My interpretation of Jones' speech was more literal than West's -- for example, I did not claim that Jones implied that "those who believe in the Bible or the teachings of their church are somehow anti-American because they reject the ideals of America's Founders" (though I would not be surprised if Jones believes that).

In contrast to John West and myself, William Dembski and Fatheaded Ed Brayton appeared to be concerned only with whether Judge Jones' statements about the Founders' religious beliefs were accurate or not, and did not appear to be concerned about the obvious fact that Jones showed extreme prejudice against Intelligent Design and the Dover defendants. Dembski said,

In his 139-page decision, Judge Jones revealed his deficiencies in science. In his commencement address described below, he reveals his deficiencies in history. Note the passage in bold (i.e., “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.") Who among our nation’s founding fathers believed that the essence of religion is an Enlightenment rationalism that eschews design? None of them. Even Jefferson would be on the ID side in the current debate (inalienable rights conferred on us by a creator is not the language of the French philosophes).

Fatheaded Ed Brayton said,

The more I see from this guy, the more I like him. Over the weekend, he gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Dickinson College. I like much of what he had to say (here Brayton quotes a York Daily Record news article -- the same article quoted by Dembski -- that is no longer available) --

“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,” said Jones, who was thrust into the national spotlight by last year’s court fight over the teaching of evolution in the Dover school district.

The founding fathers - from school namesake John Dickinson to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson - were products of the Enlightenment, Jones said.

“They possessed a great confidence in an individual’s ability to understand the world and its most fundamental laws through the exercise of his or her reason,” he said.

“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.”

This fits very well with the notion that Jon Rowe and I have been advocating for a couple years now, that the leading lights among the founders (the first four presidents, plus Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and a few others) were primarily “theistic rationalists”. All believed firmly in God, of course, but rejected most claims of revelation, believing that we could ascertain the truth about God and the universe through the use of our reason alone.

Fatheaded Ed also said,

. . .whether a given founding father was a Christian or not doesn't tell us anything about his position on separation of church and state. I pointed out that many of the most outspoken advocates of strict separation were Christians, particularly Baptists, who often found themselves jailed by Puritans and Anglicans in those colonies they controlled.

Of course, two-faced Fatheaded Ed sees no conflict between his above statement and Judge Jones' "true religion" speech.



Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New Florida science standards attacked in state legislature

The Florida Citizens for Science blog has several recent articles about legislative bills aimed at inserting an "academic freedom" provision into the state science standards' section about evolution education. I think that the priority should be to get rid of that statement in the new Florida science standards that says that evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology." That statement is just plain wrong.

I have taken dozens of engineering, science, and math courses and almost none had single fundamental underlying concepts, even in narrow disciplines. For example, heat transfer analysis has no single fundamental underlying concept -- only pure heat conduction in solids has a single fundamental underlying concept, Fourier's law of heat conduction. There is something called the "fundamental theorem of calculus" which is very important in integral calculus but which does not apply to differential calculus.

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 have been waging a prestige war against other branches of science by boasting that biology has something that the other branches don't have, a grand central unifying principle, evolution.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Even Jews have difficulty deciding who is really Jewish

I have argued that a "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews. A news article now says that even Jews have difficulty deciding who is Jewish:

One day last fall, a young Israeli woman named Sharon went with her fiancé to the Tel Aviv Rabbinate to register to marry. They are not religious, but there is no civil marriage in Israel. The rabbinate, a government bureaucracy, has a monopoly on tying the knot between Jews. The last thing Sharon expected to be told that morning was that she would have to prove — before a rabbinic court, no less — that she was Jewish. It made as much sense as someone doubting she was Sharon, telling her that the name written in her blue government-issue ID card was irrelevant, asking her to prove that she was she.



Saturday, March 01, 2008

Stupid Wikipedia manual

Someone had the stupidity to write a manual for Wikipedia editors, "Wikipedia: the Missing Manual." [1][2]. The only thing that people need to know about editing Wickedpedia is that editing it is a waste of time. Wickedpedia is a lost cause. Many schools and teachers prohibit students from using Wickedpedia as a source, and one school district went so far as to block Wickedpedia on all of the school district's computers, with the result that the students can't even use Wickedpedia to find other sources. I just hope that the dog on the cover chews up the book real good.

A lot of people have the mistaken idea that the main -- or even the sole -- cause of bias and error in Wickedpedia is the open editing, but a bigger cause is censorship of good edits by the Wickedpedian control freak administrators. It is this censorship by the administrators that prevents Wickedpedia from being self-correcting. For example, once I tried to add the book "Of Pandas and People," a book that a federal judge banned from public school classrooms, to the Wickedpedia list of "banned books." The Wickedpedian control freaks refused to accept the entry. As a compromise, I proposed listing the book along with a note that the listing was disputed and links to external websites where the dispute was discussed or debated. No soap. The Wickedpedians finally completely rewrote the whole banned books article just to avoid listing the book.

"Wikipedia: The Missing Manual" does not mention the quickest, easiest, and fairest way of resolving many Wikipedia disputes: give a brief description of the disputed item along with a statement that the item is disputed and links to external websites where the item is discussed or debated. The alternatives are edit wars and arbitrary censorship by Wickedpedian control freak editors. A preview of "Chapter 10: Resolving Content Disputes" (subtopic "Resolving Content Disputes Informally") says,

The first part of this chapter focused on ways to decrease the probability of getting into a content dispute. But if you're editing articles, such disputes are almost inevitable, unless no one else cares enough to edit the same articles. This section shows you what to do if someone disputes one of your edits, or disagrees with how you responded to one of his edits. When you're in a content dispute, your goal should be to resolve the matter informally. You usually try to reach an informal resolution by discussing the matter on the article talk page, as discussed on page xx.

With any luck, both you and the other editors who get involved in the discussion about content are reasonable, respectful of the other editors (who are also unpaid volunteers), and focused solely on what's best for Wikipedia. Taking that approach improves the chances of a successful outcome. If you find yourself disagreeing with another editor about content, start with the following suggestions. You'll be much less likely to need to use more formal methods to resolve matters.

Discuss Edits, Not Editors (page XX) stressed the importance of avoiding incivility, and assuming good faith. Those objectives hold even more true once a dispute is underway. Don't make disagreements a personal matter if you want to easily resolve content disagreements.

Remember that your goal is improve an article, not to win an argument. As the guideline Wikipedia:Etiquette (shortcut: WP:EQ) puts it, "Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. Ski instructors tell new students, If you"re not falling, you're not learning." In Wikipedia, when you edit articles, you should consider your errors (when pointed out) as an indication that youre learning. There's absolutely nothing wrong if your changes to an article weren't perfect. What's absolutely wrong is defending something because you did it and another editor didn't like it, and you think that somehow you have to defend the edit simply because it's yours.

The stupid author of this book is living in a dream world that has no connection to reality.