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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Questionable citation of Wickedpedia by court opinion

Because of Wikipedia's unreliability on controversial issues, I have many times condemned authoritative citation of Wikipedia by court opinions, scholarly journal articles, etc.. On the Volokh Conspiracy blog, Eugene Volokh now has an article questioning citation of Wikipedia by a federal appeals court opinion:

Courts have cited Wikipedia over 300 times, and many of those cites are in my view just fine when the citation is for a tangential and uncontroversial matter. But the Seventh Circuit's use of Wikipedia in Rickher v. Home Depot, Inc., handed down Monday, strikes me as troubling.

The key issue as to one part of the plaintiff's lawsuit was the definition of "wear and tear." The plaintiff cited Webster's II New College Dictionary and Random House Webster's College Dictionary, which defined the term as “Depreciation, damage, or loss resulting from ordinary use or exposure” and “Damage or deterioration resulting from ordinary use; normal depreciation,” But the court disagreed:

Although it is true that dictionary definitions of “wear and tear” often employ the word “damage,” that does not mean that damage and “wear and tear” are synonymous. Wear and tear is a more specific phrase that connotes the expected, often gradual, depreciation of an item. See Wear and Tear, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wear_and_tear, last visited May 30, 2008.

[Wikipedia said -- ]

It is a form of depreciation which is assumed to occur even when an item is used competently and with care and proper maintenance. For example, friction may erode a hammer’s head. In the normal use of a hammer for its designed task erosion is impossible to prevent, and any attempt to eliminate this erosion would make the hammer useless. At the same time, it is expected that the normal use of a hammer will not break it beyond repair until it has gone through a certain amount of use.

A subtle difference, but one the Seventh Circuit thought to be quite important, and that does indeed appear to me important to the course of litigation.

More details are in Volokh's article. I have commented extensively in the comment thread under the article and I am continuing to add comments. Later I may hijack the thread for a tirade against Wickedpedia.



Technorati survey of bloggers

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Darwinist blog in Houston Chronicle

I don't think it is proper for mainstream media outlets to host one-sided blogs on controversial subjects, but the Houston Chronicle has a new Darwinist blog and another new blog on global warming, which is apparently also a one-sided blog. The website of the Texas Citizens for Science says,

NEW! 2008 July 28 - Texas Citizens for Science President Now Has a New Texas Evolution and Education Blog on the Houston Chronicle Website

Texas Citizens for Science President Dr. Steven Schafersman now has a new blog on the Houston Chronicle website named Evo.Sphere in which he will write columns about evolution and education in Texas. He shares this new blog with five University of Houston biology professors who will write about evolutionary science. The Chronicle has two other new science blogs named Atmo.Sphere that covers climate issues and Cosmo.Sphere that covers space science. These new blogs were initiated by Eric Berger, the Chronicle's science writer who has a blog named SciGuy.

The first five columns are now available.
New Blog about Evolution and Education in Texas

Did Thomas Jefferson Believe in Intelligent Design Creationism?"

Let's Explore "Explore Evolution"

The Disjunctive Duality of Science Distinction

Evolving Toward a Compromise

Future columns will cover "strengths and weaknesses" language for science standards in TEKS Rule 3A; the false equation of "Darwinism" with eugenics, racism, Hitler, and the Holocaust; analysis of ICR's legal theory of "academic viewpoint discrimination" for their justification of an expected lawsuit against the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; analysis of Chris Comer's legal theory of "illegal Texas Education Agency neutrality between evolution and Intelligent Design Creationism" as a justification for her lawsuit against the TEA; the E. coli bacteria multi-generational experiment, macromutations, historical contingency, and evolution; and the unjustifiable action of the Texas SBOE to refuse to write substantive and scholarly standards for the new Texas Bible course (which will continue to allow pseudoscience to be taught in various Bible courses).

The extreme one-sidedness of the blog is obvious from the description. I just hope that the Houston Chronicle strictly enforces a policy of no arbitrary censorship of blog visitors' comments. They are sure going to get a big piece of my mind if they do not.

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Another conspiracy theory about the Discovery Institute

First there was the "wedge document" conspiracy theory and now there is a conspiracy theory that the Discovery Institute is in cahoots with radical creationist Islamofascists. Timothy Sandefur said in an article on Panda's Thumb,

There’s an amusing dispute going on between the Discovery Institute and Little Green Footballs, the latter of which recently unveiled some very interesting details about links between Islamic and Christian creationists. Needless to say, the DI folks are demonstrating their usual haphazard acquaintance with the truth.

I agree that the dispute is amusing, but not for the reasons that Sandefur thinks. For starters, the Little Green Footballs blog is highly biased about this subject. Here are some things that Wikipedia says about LGF:
Little Green Footballs (LGF) is a political blog run by California web designer Charles Johnson. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Johnson -- who describes himself as "pretty much center-left before 9/11"[1] - transformed his blog's discussion of bicycle racing, programming, web design, and the occasional humorous news item into a very active discussion of the War on Terror, Islam and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Media observers have described the site as "right wing";[2] observes Johnson: "I'm not pretending I'm giving equal time to both sides. But I do think what I'm advocating, and what I believe in, is the right side."[3]

For "promoting Israel, and Zionism" and "presenting Israel's side of the conflict," LGF won the "Best Israel Advocacy Blog" award from the Jerusalem Post in 2005 [4]. According to Gil Ronen, a reporter for Internet news outlet, Israel National News:[5] "If anyone ever compiles a list of Internet sites that contribute to Israel’s public relations effort, Johnson's site will probably come in first, far above the Israeli Foreign Ministry's site." . . . .

R. J. Smith, writing in Los Angeles Magazine, stated that LGF is a "dysfunctional mix of beautiful photos Johnson takes on coastal bike rides and constitutionally protected hate speech" which "believes all Muslims are terrorists until proven innocent."[35]

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) called Little Green Footballs "a vicious, anti-Muslim hate site" and claims that the FBI has "investigated several threats of physical harm against Muslims posted by Little Green Footballs readers".[3]

Columnist Antonia Zerbisias has described LGF as a "virulently anti-Muslim/Arab website".[36]

Journalist Eric Boehlert has written that LGF "oozes disdain for Arabs and journalists (and most of all, Arab journalists)" and is "obsessed with proving that all MSM reporting from Iraq and the Middle East is biased in favor of Islamic terrorists."[37]

Columnist Andrew Sullivan described LGF as "enthusiastically pro-torture".[44]

Vanity Fair theater critic James Wolcott characterized the LGF community as "sort of like a disorganized Nuremberg Rally, a lot of angry ruffians with nowhere to go...."[45]

LGF blogger Johnson is also a co-founder of Pajamas Media. A better name would be "BVD media."

LGF has the following message for those who want to register to post comments:

LGF registration is temporarily closed. Please try again later. (We occasionally open registration during weekend afternoons, Pacific time.)

Also, Sandefur's article on Panda's Thumb is closed to commenting.

LGF says in an article titled "Audio: The Discovery Institute Collaborates with Turkish Creationists,"

Last year CBC radio had a segment devoted to Islamic creationism in Turkey, with some amazing revelations:

The Institute for Creation Research has been heavily involved with Turkish creationists for years, supplying propaganda and teaching materials and DVDs, to the point where Turkey’s school system has purged the teaching of evolution in favor of creationist pseudo-science.

The Discovery Institute is also “working closely with their Turkish counterparts,” and the DI’s David Berlinski (CBC mistakenly calls him “Paul”) explicitly says that Islamic creationists are allies of US creationists.

What is wrong about the DI working closely with "creationist" counterparts who share the same idea of doubting Darwinism? And what's wrong with Berlinski's statement that "Islamic creationists are allies of US creationists"? Isn't that what the preceding statement said, i.e., "The Institute for Creation Research has been heavily involved with Turkish creationists for years"?

Another LGF article drivels,

I did not “imply” the Discovery Institute was in league with Islamic radicals. I stated outright that the Discovery Institute is in league with Islamist creationists, a fact that is indisputably true, as we’ll see in a minute . .

(We can argue whether creationism is a “radical Islamic” position, but when even Islamist shill Inayat Bunglawala believes in evolution, it strongly suggests that the creationist position is a radical one).

Here Johnson contradicts himself -- he first says that the question of whether creationism is a "radical Islamic" position is arguable, then implies that he thinks the question is not arguable because even an "Islamic shill" believes in evolution.

And the egregious error: “slander” means a “false spoken statement.” The word for which Chapman was searching is “libel,” meaning a “false published statement.”

That is hardly an "egregious" error -- in informal usage (though not in formal legal usage), both libel and slander can be oral or written.

Johnson then quotes one of Berlinski's statements in a Turkish creationism conference sponsored by the Islamist AKP party’s Istanbul Municipal Authority:

Berlinski: There is astonishingly little experimental evidence in favor of Darwin’s theory. [This is] not about replacing Darwin’s theory, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon. But about areas that I find deeply challenging within biological theory itself, it may be rewarding to you to think about.

Johnson then quotes from a CBC interview of Berlinski:

Berlinski: I think these ideas, these ideas, are current everywhere. There’s a long interesting tradition of design theoretic arguments within Islamic theology that goes straight back to the 9th century. And there are outstanding figures within Islamic theology who participated in these discussions ... there’s no reason to be surprised, this is a very rich tradition. We need to get together, we need to talk. There needs to be an exchange, a current needs to flow.

This is a hot issue. We’re in the midst of a world-wide religious revival. I mean, historians 500 years from now will talk about the religious revival of the late 20th, early 21st century. There are a billion Muslims out there who are taking Islamic doctrine very seriously. Christianity too.

So on the basis of just those few statements by someone associated with the Discovery Institute (who, BTW, happens to be an agnostic), Johnson concludes that DI's agenda is religious:

Notice that despite the Discovery Institute’s frequent denials that their agenda is religious, here’s one of their main spokespersons waxing rhapsodic over a “world-wide religious revival.”

BTW, an article on the website of the National Center for Science Education says,

Adding to the creationism sightings around the world, Reuters (November 22, 2006) ran a story on Islamic creationism in Turkey, where "[s]cientists say pious Muslims in the government, which has its roots in political Islam, are trying to push Turkish education away from its traditionally secular approach." The main source of antievolution propaganda in Turkey is Harun Yahya -- a pseudonym probably for a pool of writers, headed by Adnan Oktar -- which, as Taner Edis told Reuters, "has managed to create a media-based and popular form of creationism." Efforts to popularize "intelligent design" in Turkey are lagging, Reuters suggests, because most Turks "see no need to avoid naming God," but Education Minister Huseyin Celik recently told CNN Turk that "intelligent design" should not be disregarded just "because it coincides with beliefs of monotheistic religions about creation." (emphasis added)

In fact, some Moslem fundies -- like some Christian fundies -- might even regard ID as blasphemous or sacrilegious because they might see it as implying doubt of god's word by suggesting that there is a need to provide evidence to support creationism. Ironically, the Turkish education minister said that ID "should not be disregarded just 'because it coincides with beliefs of monotheistic religions about creation' " whereas the Darwinists say that ID should be rejected for that reason.

Darwinists don't give supporters of ID (or other scientific or pseudoscientific criticisms of Darwinism) any Brownie points for repudiating creationists -- the Darwinists will use the term "intelligent design creationism" in any case. So supporters of ID have no reason to not be friendly towards creationists.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New blog link added to external link list in sidebar

Evolution Engineered.


Usage of term "Darwinism" ranks high on "Wingnut Index"

Daily Kos, one of the most visited blogs in America (now averaging around one million visits per day), says,

A decade ago, UC Riverside physicist John Baez developed the crackpot index to help when sorting letters sent to universities that promised to revolutionize science. His index (which was referenced in the Netroots Nation science panel by Ed Brayton) includes such items as 5 points for each mention of "Einstein," and 20 points for comparing yourself to Newton.

To bring the same sort of order to the missives that arrive at this site each day, here's the Daily Kos equivalent:
(only a sample of the index is shown for purposes of comparison):

The Wingnut Index

5 points
Each use of "Democrat Party."
Each use of "liberal elite."
Each declaration that kos readers should "leave America."

10 points
Each use of the phrase "hate site."
Each mention of Nazis, Commies, Reds, brownshirts or stormtroopers . . . .

15 points
Including "San Francisco" in letters that have nothing to do with San Francisco. . . .
Insisting that liberals "want America to lose." . . . .
Each alternate theory posed to replace evolution.
Each explanation for why global warming is a hoax.

20 points
Each use of "DemocRAT Party."
Each time the writer wishes the recipient would burn in hell . . .
Each use of the term "Darwinism."

50 point
Each serious, affirmative use of the term PUMA.
Sending a letter complaining about how kos is censoring you because you can't post thirty seconds after registering.
Sending a letter complaining about how kos is censoring you, when you've been booted by the community for 101 crappy comments.
Sending a letter complaining about how kos is censoring you, when you haven't bothered to register at the site.

100 points
Each use of the word "Bush" in association with "unrecognized genius."

If Darwinists don't like the terms "Darwinism" and "Darwinist," then they should cut the "I love Darwin" crap (T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.), the "Friend of Darwin" certificate crap (these certificates were handed out at a reunion of the Dover plaintiffs team), the Darwin-Lincoln crap, etc..

Maybe there should be a "politically correct batshit wingnuttery index" index (Fatheaded Ed Brayton's trademark expressions are "for crying out loud" and "batshit wingnuttery") --

100 points:

Using the term "intelligent design creationism."

Saying that evolution is central to biology.

Saying that Judge Jones is a Bush-appointed conservative church-going Republican.

Saying that the "Wedge Strategy" shows that critics of evolution are trying to turn the USA into a Taliban-type theocracy.




Monday, July 28, 2008

The blind leading the blind

Modified from the original in Slate magazine


There is now a big debate going on over the evolution of blind salamanders.[1] [2][3]

Darwin made important contributions to biology but I think that his followers are doing him a disservice by overrating his contributions and exposing him to a lot of criticism for his mistakes and a lot of condemnation for his negative influence on society in general. For example, I doubt that the Darwin-to-Hitler idea would be such a big thing if the Darwinists were not pushing Darwinism so hard.



Sunday, July 27, 2008

Washington Pest messes with biology texasbooks

Illustration by Doug Potter -- Austin Chronicle


A Washington Post article titled "Evolving Towards a Compromise" says,

A proposal before the Texas Board of Education calls for including the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution in the state's science curriculum. This initiative is understood by supporters and opponents to be a strategic effort to get around First Amendment restrictions on teaching religion in science class. The proposal is a new round in an old debate, and, if it fails, creationists will innovate once again, just as they have since the 1920s.

As Evolution News & Views has pointed out, the "strengths and weaknesses" idea is not new -- that language has been in the Texas state standards since the late 1980's. Ironically, though critics of Darwinism are not trying to add that language to the standards, the Darwinists are trying to remove it -- in testimony to the Texas House Public Education Committee, Texas Citizens for Science president Steven Schafersman said,
We scientists are worried that the School Board wants to damage science standards during their upcoming revision. Several members of the SB, including Chairman McLeroy, have stated their intention to keep the unscientific language of "strengths and weaknesses" in the standards, so as to be able to force teachers and textbooks to include unscientific and bogus "weaknesses" of scientific information that the Board members consider to be "controversial," such as evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and the age of the Earth, rocks, and fossils.

The Washington Post article continues,

If they succeed, there could be national implications: Because of Texas's sizable school population, the state curriculum can influence national standards. Book publishers don't want to produce multiple versions of the same text for different states or regions, so ideas that work their way into Texas's curriculum often end up shaping content in classrooms elsewhere.

"Multiple versions"? Only two versions -- one for atheists and one for fundies -- would be required at most. And if we can have two different kinds of automobile emissions certifications -- federal and California -- we can certainly have two different kinds of textbooks. When biology textbooks discuss evolution in only one chapter, writing two different versions of the textbook is easy. Biology textbooks that are "laced" with Darwinism -- like the textbooks adopted by the Dover school board (former board member Bill Buckingham said that evolution was discussed in 12-15 places in the book) -- might require a lot of rewriting.

Steven Schafersman also said in his testimony,

Most states allow individual school districts to adopt textbooks and instructional materials. Few states--14 I believe--have a central adoption policy. Texas is by far the largest adoption state. All the other large states--California, New York, Illinois, etc.--allow school district choice of textbooks . . . . Christian fundamentalists and other zealots with a political or ideological agenda are attracted to the Texas SBOE like flies to a corpse, because the office gives them enormous power to promote their beliefs in the public school system of Texas and other states (primarily in the U.S. South) that adopt textbooks written for Texas.

There is no reason for other states to adopt the Texas textbooks if they don't like them. Even if other textbooks cost a little more, that's no problem because the cost differential would be a very small part of the cost of running public schools. I have nothing but contempt for tightwad taxpayers who would sell their souls to the devil to save a few pennies on their tax bills.

We presume that the Texas challenge will be found to violate the Constitution and that scientists will never accept the watering down of evolutionary concepts in the classroom.

It is not inevitable that teaching or mentioning scientific (or pseudoscientific to some) criticisms of evolution in public schools will always be struck down by the courts. There is no constitutional separation of bad science and state. The courts should rule that the evolution controversy is non-justiciable, just as the courts treated the global-warming controversy as non-justiciable in Massachusetts v. EPA. 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). Court rulings on scientific issues in the evolution controversy are like court rulings on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Intelligent design and previous creationist debates appear to center on where humans came from.

Intelligent Design is not the only scientific (or pseudoscientific to some) criticism of evolution -- there are also non-ID criticisms of evolution.

A less public yet similarly powerful motive of activists is their belief that the materialist underpinnings of evolutionary theory harm children's values.

That is not a less public motive -- that is an important part of the debate. Of course, the influence of Darwinism on morality has nothing to do with the scientific merits of Darwinism and is not a good reason to not teach Darwinism.

For example, the defender of fundamentalism in the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," Williams Jennings Bryan, was motivated by his conclusion that Darwinism taught "the law of the jungle" and had led to World War I by subverting the morality of the Germans.

I have seen no evidence that Bryan blamed Germany for the start of WW I, but he did believe that Darwinism undermines morality.

More recently, "the Wedge," an infamous leaked strategy document of intelligent design proponents, suggests that advocates are not as concerned about the truth of evolution as they are about the underlying values they think it teaches.

"The Wedge" issue is just a conspiracy theory and guilt-by-association.

To assuage the type of concern articulated by William Jennings Bryan, teachers could tell students that even though evolutionary science talks about the survival of the fittest organism, it is not a model for how humans should treat each other. . . . . they could explicitly note that just because mutations in organisms are random, it does not follow that human morality is random.

But would Darwinists find such teaching in the public schools to be acceptable? The Darwinists are already in a state of denial -- despite overwhelming evidence -- of Darwinism's influence on Nazism. For example, the Anti-Defamation League denounced the Darwin-to-Hitler themes of the "Expelled" movie and Coral Ridge Ministries' "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" TV program, saying that Hitler did not "need" Darwin.

In the final analysis, this so-called "compromise" is not a compromise at all -- it does not teach or even inform students about the scientific (pseudoscientific to some) criticisms of Darwinism.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Suzan Mazur's online book about the "Altenberg 16" conference

In Chapter 2 (dated March 4, 2008) of an online book, science writer Suzan Mazur made hoked up predictions about a conference of 16 biologists and philosophers in Altenberg, Austria:

It's not Yasgur's Farm, but what happens at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria this July promises to be far more transforming for the world than Woodstock. What it amounts to is a gathering of 16 biologists and philosophers of rock star stature – let's call them "the Altenberg 16" – who recognize that the theory of evolution which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence. It's pre the discovery of DNA, lacks a theory for body form and does not accomodate "other" new phenomena. So the theory Charles Darwin gave us, which was dusted off and repackaged 70 years ago, seems about to be reborn as the "Extended Evolutionary Synthesis."

. . . .despite the fact that organizers are downplaying the Altenberg meeting as a discussion about whether there should be a new theory, it already appears a done deal. Some kind of shift away from the population genetic-centered view of evolution is afoot.

Mazur has been accused of "glamorizing" and "sensationalizing" the Altenberg conference. A lot of people were misled into having false hopes for the conference. Articles about the conference are here on Evolution News & Views and here on Panda's Thumb.

In the introduction of the online book, Mazur wrote:
No one knows how life began, but so-called theories of evolution are continually being announced. This book, The Altenberg 16: Will the Real Theory of Evolution Please Stand Up? exposes the rivalry in science today surrounding attempts to discover that elusive mechanism of evolution, as rethinking evolution is pushed to the political front burner in hopes that "survival of the fittest" ideology can be replaced with a more humane explanation for our existence and stave off further wars, economic crises and destruction of the Earth.

Hey, I thought that the issue here was supposed to be science, not ideology.

The introduction continued,

Evolutionary science is as much about the posturing, salesmanship, stonewalling and bullying that goes on as it is about actual scientific theory. It is a social discourse involving hypotheses of staggering complexity with scientists, recipients of the biggest grants of any intellectuals, assuming the power of politicians while engaged in Animal House pie-throwing and name-calling: "ham-fisted", "looney Marxist hangover", "secular creationist", "philosopher" (a scientist who can’t get grants anymore), "quack", "crackpot". . . . . .

First we had "theistic evolutionist" and now we have "secular creationist." And calling someone a "philosopher" -- oooh. That is really getting nasty.

Perhaps the most egregious display of commercial dishonesty is next year’s celebration of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species – the so-called theory of evolution by natural selection, i.e., survival of the fittest, that was foisted on us almost 150 years ago. . . . .

Scientists agree that natural selection can occur. But the scientific community has known for some time that natural selection has nothing to do with evolution. . . .

Saying that "natural selection has nothing to do with evolution" is wrong -- for example, we do know that natural selection is a driving force behind microevolution. The issue is that natural genetic variation and natural selection alone might not be enough to account for the diversity of living things.

The introduction continues,

I broke the story about the Altenberg affair last March with the assistance of Alastair Thompson and the team at Scoop Media, the independent news agency based in New Zealand. ... But will the A-16 deliver? Will they help rid us of the natural selection "survival of the fittest" mentality that has plagued civilization for a century and a half, and on which Darwinism and neo-Darwinism are based, now that the cat is out of the bag that selection is politics not science? That selection cannot be measured exactly. That it is not the mechanism of evolution. That it is an abstract rusty tool left over from 19th century British imperial exploits.

Or will the A-16 tip-toe around the issue, appease the Darwin industry and protect foundation grants?

Well, you seemed pretty confident about the A-16 when you wrote Chapter 2 -- you said, "despite the fact that organizers are downplaying the Altenberg meeting as a discussion about whether there should be a new theory, it already appears a done deal."

The website of the Darwin Day Celebration organization says of Massimo Pigliucci, one of the Altenberg 16 and an organizer of the conference,

The third member of the Board was Dr. Massimo Pigliucci who, also independently, initiated an annual Darwin Day event at the University of Tennessee, in 1997. Dr. Pigliucci became the Vice President.

Ironically, Mazur said above, "Perhaps the most egregious display of commercial dishonesty is next year’s celebration of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species." Small world, isn't it? Also, Pigliucci is the author of a book titled Denying Evolution:

"Denying Evolution" aims at taking a fresh look at the evolution–creation controversy. It presents a truly “balanced” treatment, not in the sense of treating creationism as a legitimate scientific theory (it demonstrably is not), but in the sense of dividing the blame for the controversy equally between creationists and scientists—the former for subscribing to various forms of anti-intellectualism, the latter for discounting science education and presenting science as scientism to the public and the media. The central part of the book focuses on a series of creationist fallacies (aimed at showing errors of thought, not at deriding) and of mistakes by scientists and science educators. The last part of the book discusses long-term solutions to the problem, from better science teaching at all levels to the necessity of widespread understanding of how the brain works and why people have difficulties with critical thinking.

Maybe this whole affair should be called Laughingstock Nation instead of Woodstock Nation.


Why courts should stay the hell out of the controversy

In a discussion of a London Review of Books article by Rutgers philosopher Jerry Fodor titled "Why Pigs Don't Have Wings," Michael Ruse said,

You are very naive – it has everything to do with creationism – of course, to deny adaptationism is not to endorse creationism – but to write a piece slagging off natural selection in that way, is to give a piece of candy to the creationists – I am sure that duane gish has already incorporated this into his talks of course natural selection has to work on an array of given things, but this is not to deny selection – especially not through fodor’s silly arguments about analogies – and certainly not adaptationism the point of course is that fodor did not simply write a technical piece on adaptation – he wrote a piece flamboyantly denying selection in today’s climate, where we have just had two ultra right supreme court justices appointed, I think his behavior is somewhere between stupid and wicked.(emphasis added)



Friday, July 25, 2008

Shameless ballyhoo about Darwin

Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, the founder of the analysis of heat conduction in solids. Also a great mathematician.

In a NY Times opinion piece titled "Darwinmania," Olivia Judson exults,

The party is about to begin.

In a week or so, the trumpets will sound, heralding the start of 18 months of non-stop festivities in honor of Charles Darwin. July 1, 2008, is the 150th anniversary of the first announcement of his discovery of natural selection, the main driving force of evolution. Since 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth (Feb. 12), as well as being the 150th anniversary of the publication of his masterpiece, “On the Origin of Species” (Nov. 24), the extravaganza is set to continue until the end of next year. Get ready for Darwin hats, t-shirts, action figures, naturally selected fireworks and evolving chocolates. Oh, and lots of books and speeches.

How can Darwinists object to being called "Darwinists" when so many Darwinists worship Darwin. Sheeesh.
I'm jealous. My own field of mechanical engineering -- even most of its specialties and many of its subspecialties -- has no central unifying principle and no single founding individual. My own specialty, heat transfer analysis, has the heat transfer modes of conduction, convection, and radiation, but only conduction has a single unifying principle, Fourier's Law, and a single founder, Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier. So maybe I should celebrate "Fourier Day" and get some "I love Fourier" items -- maybe a T-shirt, a coffee mug, and a bumper sticker.

Biologists have an inferiority complex as a result of the kind of attitude expressed by Lord Rutherford: "All science is either physics or stamp collecting." As a result of this inferiority complex, biologists are 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 supreme overarching underlying unifying theory of everything, Darwinism.

The article continues,

By 1858, Darwin had spent more than 20 years studying plants and animals and thinking about evolution. . . . But he had published nothing. (He had, however, published books on several other subjects, including an exhaustive study of barnacles, both living and extinct.) Then, in June of that year, Darwin received a package from a young man named Alfred Russel Wallace; in the package, Wallace enclosed a brief manuscript in which he outlined the principle of evolution by natural selection.

On July 1, 1858, Wallace’s manuscript, as well as a couple of short statements on natural selection by Darwin . . . . were read at a meeting of the Linnean Society in London. . . .

Of the material presented that night, the manuscript by Wallace is, in some respects, the more impressive: it is clearer and more accessible. Yet it is Darwin we celebrate; it is Darwin who, like a god in a temple, sits in white marble and presides over the main hall at the Natural History Museum in London. Why?

The reason is the “Origin” . . . .the “Origin” changed everything. Before the “Origin,” the diversity of life could only be catalogued and described; afterwards, it could be explained and understood. Before the “Origin,” species were generally seen as fixed entities, the special creations of a deity; afterwards, they became connected together on a great family tree that stretches back, across billions of years, to the dawn of life. Perhaps most importantly, the “Origin” changed our view of ourselves. It made us as much a part of nature as hummingbirds and bumblebees (or humble-bees, as Darwin called them); we, too, acquired a family tree with a host of remarkable and distinguished ancestors.
(emphasis added)

So the article says that the "Origin" (which as everyone knows is the book "On the Origin of Species") "changed our view of ourselves" -- i.e., Darwinism is not just a scientific idea but represents a worldview, a philosophy of life, and even a religion. And I don't know why Judson calls our putative ancestors "remarkable and distinguished"; while I don't think that the idea of being descended from monkeys -- or worse -- is anything to be ashamed of, I don't consider it anything to be proud of, either.

Darwinists seem to regard the idea of natural selection as a stroke of genius, but it is really just a mickey mouse idea -- all it says is that fitter organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce than less fit organisms. Duh. Natural selection does not compare to the genius and elegance of many of the ideas I have seen in engineering, science, and mathematics, e.g., (1) using complex-plane vectors to analyze AC circuits and (2) the Joukowski transformation of conformal mapping, where the aerodynamics of rotating cylinders is used to analyze the aerodynamics of fixed-wing airfoils.

Also, why is Wallace largely forgotten today? He made a lot of independent contributions to evolution theory and it was he who induced Darwin to finally write and publish "On the Origin of Species" after years of procrastination. Maybe the reason why Wallace is ignored is that it was his misfortune to not have the same official birthdate as Abraham Lincoln. LOL Well, at least he has not been forgotten by the Linnean Society of London -- a medal conferred by the society is named for both Darwin and Wallace.

The article "Darwinmania" is one of a series by Olivia Judson. Other articles in the series so far are listed below. I have already posted an article about "Let's Get Rid of Darwinism":

An Original Confession

Let's Get Rid of Darwinism

A Natural Selection



Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Station for Experimental Evolution

Historical note: The Station for Experimental Evolution merged with the Eugenics Record Office in 1920 to form the Carnegie Institution's Dept. of Genetics.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Darwinists' bad theory that they own the word "theory"

Update: I have been checking the definitions of "theory" in different places and it is apparent that this idea that a "scientific theory" is by definition well-supported and widely accepted has been concocted solely for the purpose of promoting the theory of evolution.

Darwinists are under the illusion that they can change people's perception of Darwinism by changing changing or restricting popular meanings of the word "theory." In the abstract of an article ironically titled "'Theory' in Theory and Practice," Glenn Branch and Louise S. Mead of the National Center for Science Education say,

Abstract A central obstacle to accepting evolution, both among students and the general public, is the idea that evolution is “just a theory,” where “theory” is understood in a pejorative sense as something conjectural or speculative. Although scientists and textbooks constantly explain that the scientific use of “theory” is quite different, the pejorative use continues to cause confusion, in part because of its deep roots in a popular, Baconian, understanding of science. A constructivist approach, whereby students are helped to examine the adequacy of their preconceptions about “theory” for themselves and to revise or replace them appropriately, is recommended.

For one thing, trying to change change or restrict popular meanings of a term, even just within a particular context such as a scientific context, is an unrealistic task and is going to create or increase confusion. Also, the level of confidence represented by the word "theory" is highly variable even within the scientific meaning of the word -- there can be "strong" scientific theories and "weak" scientific theories. Also, I think that this flexibility in meaning is necessary because otherwise there would be no terms to cover "theories" at all levels of confidence. Also, even if the word "theory" is just colloquially interpreted as meaning "guess," the word can be interpreted in a specific instance as meaning a "good guess" or a "bad guess" or anything in between. It is foolish to try to manipulate people's views of evolution by trying to create a special definition of the word "theory." When a word has a broad meaning or different meanings within a given context, people who want to convey a particular meaning need to do so by means of elaboration rather than by assuming that other people are going to interpret the word as having the intended meaning.
BTW, in mathematics, the term "theory" often means a branch of mathematics that has been rigorously proven. Some well-known mathematical theories are probability theory and set theory. A related word, "theorem," often means something in mathematics that has been proven, e.g., Pythagorean theorem and binomial theorem, but "theorem" does not always mean something that has been rigorously proven.

Branch and Mead discuss the controversy over adding the term "scientific theory" to the term "evolution" in the Florida state science standards:

. . . in Florida, just days before the state board of education was scheduled to vote on the new state science standards in 2008, there was a proposal to insert the phrase “the scientific theory of” before mentions of evolution. As the Orlando Sentinel reported, “By adding the word theory, which many opponents of the standards had argued for, the new version may appease those who do not view evolution as a scientific fact or those whose religious beliefs are in conflict with evolution” (Postal 2008). Clumsy, unnecessary, and apparently opposed by a majority of the writing committee, the revisions were accepted anyway, despite a valiant effort on the part of board member Roberto Martinez, who described the revisions as “an effort by people who are opposed to evolution to water down our standards” (Bhattacharjee 2008).

As the dust settled, though, it was increasingly clear that the revisions did not, after all, succeed in materially compromising the scientific integrity of the standards. Evolution was not invidiously singled out for attention: plate tectonics, cell theory, atomic theory, electromagnetism, and the Big Bang all received the same treatment.

Also, the final version of the Florida state standards gives its own non-dictionary definition of "theory," and -- as I indicated -- I think that is a wrong thing to do:

Recognize and explain that a scientific theory is a well-supported and widely accepted explanation of nature and is not simply a claim posed by an individual. Thus, the use of the term theory in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life. (page 50 of document, page 54 of pdf file)

Unfortunately, the debate over using the word "theory" in the Florida science standards completely pushed aside the debate over the outrageous statement "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology," which remains in the final version of the standards (page 89 of document, page 93 of pdf file).

Controversy over the meaning of "theory" also arose in the Selman v. Cobb County evolution-disclaimer textbook-sticker case, particularly in regard to the phrase, "evolution is a theory, not a fact." The complete statement of the textbook sticker was,

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

Selman noted that a version that was proposed by a teacher and approved by the administration (but ignored by the school board, in large part because the school board had already voted on language that their counsel thought was constitutional) said,

This textbook contains material on evolution, a scientific theory, or explanation, for the nature and diversity of living things. Evolution is accepted by the majority of scientists, but questioned by some. All scientific theories should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

The statement "Evolution is accepted by the majority of scientists, but questioned by some" is an example of how an intended meaning of the term "theory" can be narrowly specified.

On Evolution News & Views, Casey Luskin is starting a five-part series that discusses the following questions:

1. Are Darwinists correct to define "theory" as "a well-substantiated scientific explanation of some aspect of the natural world" or "a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence"?

2. Under such a strong definition of "theory," does evolution qualify as a "theory"?

3. Is it correct to call evolution a "fact"?

4. Is it best for Darwin skeptics to call evolution "just a theory, not a fact"?

5. All I wanted to say is that I’m a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism. How can I convey such skepticism without stepping on a semantic land mine and getting scolded by Darwinists?”

Also, in discussions of the study of evolution of Cit+ (citrate-eating) E. coli bacteria, there was a lot of confusion over the meaning of the word "goal." Zachary Blount, the lead author of the paper on the study, said that he believed that the Cit+ evolution was foreseen as a possible and desirable result of the experiment but it was "not a goal." To me, that is a definition of "goal" -- something foreseen as a possible (or sometimes even virtually impossible) and desirable result. For example, in a search for the Fountain of Youth, finding it is a "goal." So merely saying that Cit+ evolution was "not a goal" can be very misleading. The word "goal" needed to be qualified here, e.g., a secondary goal, a longshot goal, one of many goals, etc..

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Anti-Defamation League out of its league on Darwinism

The ADL's "Recommendations to RNC and DNC platforms" say,

(3) Creationism & “Intelligent Design”

Summary of Policy and Recommendations

Creationism, creation science and “intelligent design” theory are all religious theories of creation offered to explain the origins of the universe and are based on varying interpretations of the Bible.

ADL has consistently opposed these troubling initiatives – including so-called “Academic Freedom Acts,” which support the teaching and consideration of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

Advocating the right of students to learn science independently of religious doctrine honors the purpose and the promise of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ADL's opposition to criticisms of evolution goes well beyond merely opposing the "teaching" of those criticisms in the public schools -- the ADL has opposed evolution disclaimer statements in the public schools (going so far as to file an amicus brief in the Selman v. Cobb County evolution disclaimer textbook-sticker case) and denounced the Darwin-to-Hitler themes of the "Expelled" movie and the Coral Ridge Ministries' "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" TV program [1]. ADL national director Abraham Foxman was unable to show that Darwin did not influence Hitler, so he tried to argue that Hitler did not "need" Darwin ("O, reason not the need!" -- King Lear).
What does criticism of Darwinism have to do with anti-semitism or any kind of group intolerance (the ADL fancies itself as the champion of all supposed victims of discrimination, including gays who can enter civil unions or domestic partnerships but are denied the right to marry)? Absolutely nothing. And attempting to convert Jews is not one of the purposes of criticizing Darwinism; after all, some Jews -- especially orthodox Jews -- are among the biggest critics of Darwinism [2], [3], [4]. And I am surprised that anti-Darwinist Jews have not more frequently called out the ADL about the ADL's extreme pro-Darwinism. A prominent orthodox rabbi did apologize for the ADL's attack on Coral Ridge Ministries, at least partly because Christian fundies have been especially friendly towards Jews and Israel. Also, I am surprised by the ADL's support of gay marriage, because some orthodox Jews are extremely hostile towards gays -- they have committed violence against gay pride parades in Jerusalem.



Holocaust revisionism favors Darwinism

* "Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology"
-- the new Florida state science standards


The charge that Darwinism was a major cause of the holocaust is diminished to the extent that the holocaust itself is diminished, so logically it seems that Darwinists should support holocaust revisionism, but they don't. My holocaust revisionism is shunned by Darwinists as well as critics of Darwinism. The spreading Darwin-to-Hitler idea has finally given the Darwinists a very good reason to support holocaust revisionism. Even though the Darwin-to-Hitler link has nothing to do with the scientific merits of Darwinism, this link might be used as an excuse to avoid or minimize the teaching of Darwinism in the public schools.

One of the fundamental principles of my holocaust revisionism is that a "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews. Even today we don't know what a Jew is, and even if we knew, we could not possibly find them all or even find most of them and in an attempted holocaust we could not avoid a lot of inadvertent "collateral damage" to non-Jews. If there had been a real attempt by the Nazis to have a "systematic" holocaust, we would have heard a lot of complaints from holocaust survivors who believed that they were mistakenly identified as Jews and I am not aware of any such complaints.

In an article about the holocaust on Evolution News & Views, historian Richard Weikart portrays Darwinists as unethical, amoral "mad" scientists and philosophers:
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who endured the horrors of Auschwitz, astutely commented on the way that modern European thought had helped prepare the way for Nazi atrocities (and his own misery). He stated, "If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. I became acquainted," Frankl continued, "with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment--or, as the Nazi liked to say, of 'Blood and Soil.' I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers."


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Why my legal analyses are correct

The trolls here often quibble about my legal analyses. However, judges are fairly safe in making virtually any defensible legal analysis because the Supreme Court is not likely to review such an analysis, for the following reasons:

(1) Time constraints prevent the SC from accepting more than a tiny fraction of cases submitted to it for review.

(2) Some legal analyses based on SC precedents can be overturned only by overturning the precedent, and the SC would often be reluctant to do that.

(3) An SC ruling on a borderline legal analysis that is based on SC precedent might force the court to greatly complicate precedent and even create confused precedent, and the SC would often be reluctant to do those things.

The above arguments also apply to state supreme courts. I think that the above arguments would be good arguments to make in virtually any brief.

Here are examples of some of my legal arguments that trolls here have quibbled about:
(1) In lawsuits where there is voluntary cessation by the government, the Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001) decision says that the courts can dismiss the cases as moot and deny the plaintiffs an attorney fee award.

(2) In my smog impact fee lawsuits, California lost its federal-court tax-suit immunity by "leaving the sphere that is exclusively its own" (Parden v. Terminal Railway) by basing the fee entirely on the state's special status under federal auto emissions laws and regulations.

Also, a big problem with jackass judges is that they don't know how to cut the malarkey and get to the point so that they can make quick and fair decisions so that they can go on to the next cases.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Decision Imminent in "Fundy Schools v. UC" (ACSI v. Stearns)

It's about time. This lawsuit was filed way back in August 2005 and there has not been a final federal district court decision yet.

ACSI v. Stearns is a lawsuit by fundy students and fundy schools against the University of California over UC's denial of accreditation for fundy school courses that use particular Christian-oriented textbooks. I have discussed the lawsuit in several articles in this blog [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]. I also discussed the case in a comment thread on another blog.

WorldNetDaily reports that oral hearings have been held last week and that a final decision is expected in two or three weeks.

WorldNetDaily said,
Under the admissions guidelines to University of California colleges, in-state students must either score in the top two to three percent on standardized tests or complete a core curriculum of approved preparatory classes (called "a-g" classes) to be deemed eligible for entrance into the state university system.

I don't agree that the fundy students are necessarily required to be in the top two to three percent if not all of their "a-g" classes are approved -- these students should be given credit for the unapproved courses by passing SAT AP tests in the subjects of those courses. To me, the question of whether the students should be required to pass SAT Subject AP tests (or other standardized tests) to get credit for the unapproved courses should be one of the primary issues in the lawsuit but it appears that this issue has been largely ignored.

Burt Carney, an executive with the Association of Christian Schools International, said he's met with officials for the university system, and was told that there was no problem with the actual facts in a BJU physics textbook that was disallowed.

In fact, an ACSI report said, UC officials confirmed "that if the Scripture verses that begin each chapter were removed the textbook would likely be approved …"

I thought that UC dropped its objections to the physics textbook.

Because of the unusual approach of the fundy Bob Jones Univ. biology textbooks (a two-volume set), I proposed that the fundy students be required to get a satisfactory score on the SAT Biology AP test to get credit for the course. Of course, the Darwinist bigots are not satisfied with that proposal but want the fundy students to be completely excluded from UC. The introduction to the textbooks says,

Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling. This book was not written for them . . . . .

The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second . . . . . . . . . To the best of the author's knowledge, the conclusions drawn from observable facts and presented in this book agree with the Scriptures . . . .

The same encyclopedia article may state that the grasshopper evolved 300 million years ago. You may find a description of some insect that the grasshopper supposedly evolved from and a description of the insects that scientists say evolved from the grasshopper. You may even find a "scientific" explanation of the biblical locust (grasshopper) plague in Egypt. These statements are conclusions based on "supposed science." If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.




Sunday, July 20, 2008

What really happened in Dover and Cobb County



The Donut as hallucinated by Judge "Jackass" Jones (Kitzmiller v. Dover) and Judge "Cuckoo" Cooper (Selman v. Cobb County)

As you go through life, my friend,
whatever may be your goal,
keep your eye upon the donut,
and not upon the hole.

This poem, known as "The Optimist's Creed," has different versions. Here is another:

Twixt optimist and pessimist,
the difference is quite droll,
the optimist sees the donut,
the pessimist sees the hole.


Ironically, in both the Kitzmiller v. Dover and Selman v. Cobb County cases, the school boards -- far from trying to undermine evolution education -- had actually greatly strengthened it by adopting biology textbooks that emphasized evolution. To compensate for the adoption of strongly pro-Darwinist textbooks, the school boards adopted very brief evolution disclaimer statements -- oral in the case of Dover, a textbook sticker in the case of Cobb County -- as a sop to fundies and others who were opposed to Darwinism. In addition, the Dover school board provided ID books that were not required reading. These reasonable actions by the Dover school board are what Judge "Jackass" Jones called "breathtaking inanity."

A news article about the oral appeals court hearing in Selman said:
Cobb County appealed and was represented by Ernest Linwood Gunn IV, who opened arguments by directly assailing Cooper's ruling that religion was entangled with the stickers.

He pointed out that, under the county's old curriculum, Cobb barred courses teaching evolution in elementary and middle schools and allowed them only as electives in high school. Thus, he argued, the school board actually had taken pro-evolution action by using a new textbook that taught evolution.

"If they wanted to restrict the teaching of evolution, they would have done nothing," said Gunn.

He conceded that media attention and public controversy surrounding the decision to use the new textbooks spurred the sticker placement, a move meant to be sensitive to the concerns of Cobb parents who objected to the book's lessons on evolution.

The courts needed to view the evolution disclaimers in context and not in isolation.

Often the passage of time is needed to provide the perspective to see things clearly.

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Darwinist says "Let's Get Rid of Darwinism"

Good grief -- now they even have "I love Darwin" dog clothing. What won't they think of next?


In a New York Times opinion piece titled "Let's Get Rid of Darwinism," Olivia Judson says,

I’d like to abolish the insidious terms Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. They suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed. (The science would be in a sorry state if one man 150 years ago had, in fact, discovered everything there was to say.) Obsessively focusing on Darwin, perpetually asking whether he was right about this or that, implies that the discovery of something he didn’t think of or know about somehow undermines or threatens the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology today.

It does not. In the years ahead, I predict we will continue to refine our understanding of natural selection, and continue to discover new ways in which it can shape genes and genomes. Indeed, as genetic data continues to flood into the databanks, we will be able to ask questions about the detailed workings of evolution that it has not been possible to ask before.

Yet all too often, evolution — insofar as it is taught in biology classes at all — is taught as the story of Charles Darwin. Then the pages are turned, and everyone settles down to learn how the heart works, or how plants make energy from sunshine, or some other detail. The evolutionary concepts that unify biology, that allow us to frame questions and investigate the glorious diversity of life — these are ignored.

Darwin was an amazing man, and the principal founder of evolutionary biology. But his was the first major statement on the subject, not the last. Calling evolutionary biology “Darwinism,” and evolution by natural selection “Darwinian” evolution, is like calling aeronautical engineering “Wrightism,” and fixed-wing aircraft “Wrightian” planes, after those pioneers of fixed-wing flight, the Wright brothers. The best tribute we could give Darwin is to call him the founder — and leave it at that. Plenty of people in history have had an -ism named after them. Only a handful can claim truly to have given birth to an entire field of modern science.

How can Darwinists complain about being called "Darwinists" when they shamelessly worship Darwinism by means of Darwin Day celebrations, "I love Darwin" stuff (e.g., T-shirts, stickers, coffee mugs, and -- as shown above -- even dog clothing), "Friend of Darwin" certificates (conferred upon members of the Kitzmiller v. Dover plaintiffs team), celebrating the Lincoln-Darwin birthdate coincidence (the two men have nothing else in common), the Darwin-Wallace medal (conferred by the Linnean Society of London), etc.? And I have never heard a Darwinist who objects to the terms "Darwinist" and "Darwinism" repudiate this shameless worship of Darwin. BTW, I don't consider the Darwin-Wallace medal to be bad -- other medals are named for famous scientists, e.g., Fermi and Maxwell -- but it is part of Darwin worship, though just not bad like the other kinds.

One thing about the Wrights is that others independently developed the airplane at around the same time that they did. Samuel P. Langley's "Aerodrome" initially failed but later flew after being modified. Alberto Santos-Dumont and others in Europe independently developed airplanes.

BTW, Alfred Russel Wallace is often credited as being the co-discoverer of evolution theory but is generally overshadowed by Darwin. As noted above, the Linnean Society's medal is called the Darwin-Wallace medal.

Fourier's Law is indeed the fundamental concept underlying all of heat conduction analysis, but heat conduction analysis is not called "Fourierism," nor do heat transfer analysts celebrate Fourier Day, display "I love Fourier" stuff, etc.. LOL Well, maybe one of the reasons for that is that there are other modes of heat transfer, convection and radiation, that are defined by other principles.

Also, there we go again with that "evolution-is-the-fundamental-concept-underlying-all-of-biology" (as worded by the new Florida state standards) crap: "The evolutionary concepts that unify biology." That kind of slogan is just intended to be -- in the words of Kansas U. Prof. Paul Mirecki -- "a nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies."


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bills opposing restoration of Fairness Doctrine

This blog has several articles -- now listed under their own post-label, Fairness Doctrine -- about the Federal Communications Commission's now-dormant "Fairness Doctrine" for broadcasters. I also discuss the Fairness Doctrine on the Balkinization blog in four comments at the bottom of the comment thread under this post and in comments under this post. Basically, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to give reasonably balanced presentations of views on controversial issues. The main reason for my interest in the broadcasting Fairness Doctrine is that I feel that there should be a blogging Fairness Doctrine -- a law against arbitrary censorship of comments on blogs, with an exception for bloggers who post a prominent notice announcing that they practice such censorship. I generally oppose a broadcasting Fairness Doctrine because (1) it would be a great burden on broadcasters because of limited air time and (2) it would be difficult or impossible to distinguish between "liberal" and "conservative" views. However, IMO two "corollary" rules, the "political editorial" rule and the "personal attack" rule, which I discuss next, should be restored. Also, I think that there should be a rule -- which would probably be hard to enforce -- that all or some of the call-in comments on radio talk shows not be pre-screened.

The Fairness Doctrine had two "corollary" rules, the "political editorial" rule and the "personal attack" rule, which gave candidates and organizations free air time to respond to broadcasts that directly attacked them (including endorsement of an opposing candidate). These two corollary rules were not abandoned by the FCC along with the rest of the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980's but were eliminated (see comment at bottom of thread) by the DC Circuit federal appeals court in 2000 when the FCC failed to satisfy the court that the rules should be retained. IMO these two rules should be restored.

Bills aimed at blocking restoration of the Fairness Doctrine have been introduced in Congress. These bills have surprisingly large numbers of co-sponsors (in addition to the sponsor) -- HR 2905 has 207 and S 1748 has 35 (there is also a redundant S 1742). The wording of HR 2905 is typical:
To prevent the Federal Communications Commission from repromulgating the fairness doctrine.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2007'.


Title III of the Communications Act of 1934 is amended by inserting after section 303 (47 U.S.C. 303) the following new section:


`Notwithstanding section 303 or any other provision of this Act or any other Act authorizing the Commission to prescribe rules, regulations, policies, doctrines, standards, or other requirements, the Commission shall not have the authority to prescribe any rule, regulation, policy, doctrine, standard, or other requirement that has the purpose or effect of reinstating or repromulgating (in whole or in part) the requirement that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance, commonly referred to as the `Fairness Doctrine', as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees, 50 Fed. Reg. 35418 (1985).'.

It is not clear how these bills would affect the "political editorial" and "personal attack" rules. The bill refers to "the `Fairness Doctrine', as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees, 50 Fed. Reg. 35418 (1985).'," but as I noted these two corollary rules were not repealed at that time along with the rest of the Fairness Doctrine but were eliminated by the DC Circuit court in 2000. As I said, IMO these two rules should be restored. Also, as I said, I think that there should be a rule that all or some of the call-in comments on radio talk shows not be pre-screened. I am opposed to these bills because they do not give the FCC and the courts flexibility in dealing with the issue of fairness in broadcasting on controversial topics.

There is now an Internet petition in support of H.R. 2905 (I don't know why the petition does not express support of the companion Senate bills). For the reasons I stated, I am not signing it.

H.R. 2905 was referred to a House subcommittee on 6/28/2007 and has been stalled there ever since. On 10/01/2007, a proposed House resolution, H. Res. 694, which would require consideration of the bill by the Committee of the Whole House, was referred to the Committee on Rules. On 10/17/2007, a House petition (110-3) to discharge the Rules Committee from consideration of H. Res. 694 was introduced. The petition requires 218 signatures for further action but so far there are just 201 signatures and new signatures have slowed to a trickle -- there have been just seven signatures since 11/06/2007. I strongly suspect that the House is divided here along party lines -- the Fairness Doctrine tends to be supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. Last year the House voted 309-115 to amend an appropriations bill to prohibit the FCC from using that bill's funds to enforce a Fairness Doctrine, but the amendment was a silly political gesture because the current Republican-dominated FCC is not inclined to restore the Fairness Doctrine anyway and because the prohibition won't prevent the FCC from restoring the Fairness Doctrine in the future (I don't know if the Senate adopted the prohibition).

As for a Fairness Doctrine for blogs: even without a law, there are things that can be done to reduce arbitrary censorship of comments on blogs:

(1) -- The Internet culture needs to change so that such censorship is widely frowned upon.

(2) -- Courts, scholarly journals, the press, and other authorities should have policies against authoritatively citing blogs that are known to practice such censorship.

As I said, it is usually the most persuasive dissenting comments that get censored -- unpersuasive dissenting comments are usually allowed to stay to serve as examples of the supposed weakness of the opposition.

Various trolls have been goading me into breaking my no-censorship policy so that they can falsely accuse me of hypocrisy. For example, they have been gossiping here about my private affairs and have been posting blatant lies about objective facts (for example, Voice in the Urbanness has been cluttering up this blog by repeatedly posting the lie that Judge Jones told a newspaper that he was going to follow the law whereas Jones actually told the newspaper that the school board election results would not affect his decision).



Yes, Virginia, Fatheaded Ed Brayton is a demagogic stereotyping bigot

The Texas Citizens for Science website has the following announcement:

NEW! 2008 July 13 -- Science Education in Texas: Keeping It Religion-Free. Speakers to Highlight Dangers of Creationism Encroaching into the Public Schools.
The event is at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday evening, July 16, UT Austin Campus, Burdine Hall, Room 108.
Admission is free, and free parking is available at C Lot after 5:45 p.m. and in the LBJ Lot anytime.

Science education in Texas is under attack as never before, as evidenced by the recent ouster of State Director of Science Education Christine Castillo Comer for the offense of promoting science education. Now, as Comer pursues her lawsuit for wrongful termination, the Center for Inquiry-Austin, Texas Citizens for Science, and University of Texas Section of Integrative Biology invite the public to a forum on the fight to keep evolution at the forefront in science education.

One of the speakers was Fatheaded Ed Brayton:
Ed Brayton -- Yes Virginia, It Really Is All About Religion.

Brayton, founder and president of Michigan Citizens for Science, is the voice behind the popular blogs Dispatches from the Culture Wars and The Panda's Thumb. He will show, despite claims to the contrary by proponents, the solely religious nature of the Intelligent Design movement.

That is the most unscrupulous kind of stereotyping. That's like charging that Darwinism is solely about atheism or anti-religion, charges that to my knowledge no one has seriously made. That the organizers of the event would include a speech with such a theme speaks volumes about where they are coming from. Actually, IMO Ed's speech was ironically a good thing because it must have done some damage to the credibility of the whole event and the organizers.

Also, Ed is not the voice behind Panda's Thumb -- he is one of about 30 co-bloggers on Panda's Thumb and he practically never posts articles there. When he does post on Panda's Thumb, it is usually just to refer readers to specific articles on his personal blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars.



Friday, July 18, 2008

Darwinist disdainfulness

For larger image, click on the picture

Paleontologist Neil Shubin has made a big deal about the claim that Tiktaalik roseae, supposedly a transitional fossil between fish and tetrapods, has "wrist" bones in its limbs, but Casey Luskin complained that he was unable to find diagrams of these wrist bones in Shubin's literature about the fossil: the book "Your Inner Fish" and scientific papers. Sleazy PZ Myers then posted articles -- on both Panda's Thumb and his own Pharyngula blog -- containing the above comparative diagram of Tiktaalik's and tetrapods' limb bones, but instead of saying politely, "here is the diagram you were looking for, Casey," Sleazy PZ ridiculed Casey. Carl Zimmer also attacked Casey and Fatheaded Ed Brayton had to get in his licks, too. Yet another blogger attacked Casey. If this "wrist" homology is so important, then why didn't Shubin's literature have diagrams of it? Also, why are the bones labeled "radius," "ulna," "ulnare," and "intermedium" in the above diagram considered to be "wrist" bones? In humans, the "radius" and the "ulna" are "forearm" bones. It appears that only one of the limbs in the diagram, the rightmost limb, is shown as having bones that are homologous with human wrist bones -- these bones are labeled "other wrist bones," but they might just be "digits" bones.



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Judge Jones' disparaging statements violated ethics codes

Disparaging statements that Judge John E. "Jackass" Jones III made both inside and outside of court violated two codes of judicial ethics, the Code of Conduct for United States Judges from the Committee on Codes of Conduct of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, 2004 Edition of the Center for Professional Responsibility of the American Bar Association. The two codes have a lot of similarities and some differences -- in many cases the wording in the two codes is identical.

In the conclusion section of his Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion, Jones made disparaging remarks about the Dover school board defendants and Intelligent Design. His "breathtaking inanity" remark was especially disparaging:

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy . . .

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when consid ered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

Judge Jones' preceding unnecessary disparaging remarks have had a particularly chilling effect nationally on school boards' and legislatures' efforts to deal with the controversy over evolution education in the public schools.

In a Dickinson College commencement speech, Jones said that his Dover decision was based on his notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions:

. . . .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.

Judge Jones' preceding statements in his Dickinson College commencement speech were not only disparaging but were also plagiarized quote mines. His above statement was plagiarized from a book and omitted a key statement about the influence of radical Whig ideology, thus giving more weight to this "true religion" idea than the book gave.

Also, Jones made an abusive remark about having an attorney "have another unhappy day in this court and have his head handed to him":

But I am distressed by the fact that there is an expert report attached to the amicus brief. You know, if I open the gate and I tell him I want an expert report, that’s one thing. So I guess, you know, before we all start a plethora of filings, I’m telling you that to give it some thought, we can talk about it tomorrow, I could accept some argument on it if everybody wants to argue, and I can haul in counsel for the Discovery Institute. They have local counsel, in fact I think it’s Mr. Boyle’s firm who’s local counsel, and we can go through that, have Mr. Boyle have another unhappy day in this court and have his head handed to him, or I can just summarily strike it. I’m not going to take an expert report.

The following provisions of Canon 2 (A) of the ABA's Model Code of Judicial Conduct are especially applicable to Judge Jones' Dickinson College commencement speech (The Code of Conduct for United States Judges has a virtually identifcal provisions) --

A. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.


Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept restrictions on the judge’s conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly . . . . .

The prohibition against behaving with impropriety or the appearance of impropriety applies to both the professional and personal conduct of a judge. Because it is not practicable to list all prohibited acts, the proscription is necessarily cast in general terms that extend to conduct by judges that is harmful although not specifically mentioned in the Code. Actual improprieties under this standard include violations of law, court rules or other specific provisions of this Code. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.

Canon 3 B.(4) of the ABA Model Code says (provisions in the Code of Conduct for US Judges are substantially the same):

(4) A judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity . . .


The duty to hear all proceedings fairly and with patience is not inconsistent with the duty to dispose promptly of the business of the court. Judges can be efficient and businesslike while being patient and deliberate.

(5) A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status . . .

CANON 3 (C) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges says,

C. Disqualification.

(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances in which:

-- and the following form is provided (I took the liberty of filling it in):

NOTE: In September 1985, the Judicial Conference approved a form developed by the Advisory Committee on Codes of Conduct entitled "Notice Concerning Waiver of Judicial Disqualification" and authorized its distribution for consideration and possible adoption by the courts. The form is reprinted below.


FROM: The Clerk Date: XX / XX / 05

TO: XXXX (Counsel) XXXX (Counsel)


Canon 3D of the Code of Conduct provides (with exceptions not pertinent to this case) that when a judge is disqualified in a proceeding because "the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned", the judge may participate in the proceeding if all the parties and lawyers, after notice of the basis for the disqualification, agree in writing to waive the disqualification under a procedure independent of the judge's participation.

Unless a waiver is obtained from all parties and all counsel, Judge JOHN E. JONES III intends to disqualify in this proceeding because of these circumstances:


If you and your client(s) wish to waive the judge's disqualification, letters to that effect from you and from your client(s) must be sent to me within XX days of the date of this Notice. The letters should not be sent to the judge and copies should not be sent to other counsel. If all parties and all counsel submit such letters, this Notice and all responses will be made part of the record, as required by Canon 3D, and the judge will continue participation in the proceeding. If a waiver is not received from all parties and all counsel, this Notice and any responses will be kept under seal by the clerk and not shown to the judge, nor will the judge be informed of the identity of any party or lawyer who declined to waive the disqualification. If the disqualification is not waived, the case will be reassigned to another judge.

In a previous post, I showed that Judge Jones violated a judicial ethics code by telling a newspaper that his decision would not be affected by the results of the school board election. The statement implied that his decision would not be affected by repeal of the ID policy and hence was improper legal advice to the school board.

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