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.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The state of evolution education in the USA and an agenda for sane evolution education

Click on image to enlarge

Map chart is from New York Times. Iowa, which appears to be the last holdout against mentioning evolution, has no state science standards of its own. Note that between 2000 and 2008 some states actually removed or weakened mention of human evolution.


Click on image to enlarge

Table 1. Hours that percentages of teachers spend on different topics. From "Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait" by Michael B. Berkman, Julianna Sandell Pacheco, Eric Plutzer

A discussion accompanying the above table says,

Overall, teachers devoted an average of 13.7 hours to general evolutionary processes (including human evolution), with 59% allocating between three and 15 hours of class time (see Table S1). Only 2% excluded evolution entirely. But significantly fewer teachers covered human evolution, which is not included as an NSES benchmark. Of teachers surveyed, 17% did not cover human evolution at all in their biology class, while a majority of teachers (60%) spent between one and five hours of class time on it. (continued below the fold)
Those teachers who stressed evolution by making it the unifying theme of their course spent more time on it. Overall, only 23% strongly agreed that evolution served as the unifying theme for their biology or life sciences courses (Table S2); these teachers devoted 18.5 hours to evolution, 50% more class time than other teachers. When we asked whether an excellent biology course could exist without mentioning Darwin or evolutionary theory at all, 13% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that such a course could exist.

Creationism in the classroom: We also asked teachers whether they spent classroom time on creationism or intelligent design. We found that 25% of teachers indicated that they devoted at least one or two classroom hours to creationism or intelligent design (see Table 1). However, these numbers can be misleading because while some teachers may cover creationism to expose students to an alternative to evolutionary theory, others may bring up creationism in order to criticize it or in response to student inquiries. Questions that simply ask about time devoted to creationism, therefore, will overstate support for creationism or intelligent design by counting both those who teach creationism as a serious subject and those holding it up for criticism or ridicule. We asked a series of supplemental questions that provided some additional insight into the character of creationism in the classroom. Of the 25% of teachers who devoted time to creationism or intelligent design, nearly half agreed or strongly agreed that they teach creationism as a “valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species.” Nearly the same number agreed or strongly agreed that when they teach creationism or intelligent design they emphasize that “many reputable scientists view these as valid alternatives to Darwinian Theory” (see Table S3).

On the other hand, many teachers devoted time to creationism either to emphasize that religious theories have no place in the science classroom or to challenge the legitimacy of these alternatives. Of those who spent time on the subject, 32% agreed or strongly agreed that when they teach creationism they emphasize that almost all scientists reject it as a valid account of the origin of species, and 40% agreed or strongly agreed that when they teach creationism they acknowledge it as a valid religious perspective, but one that is inappropriate for a science class.

There is a lot more information in the article.

I find the above chart and table to be disturbing. The above chart of the USA shows that most state science standards "treat evolution straightforwardly and/or thoroughly," which IMO is not bad in itself, but the table shows that many teachers appear to spend excessive time teaching evolution and that too few teachers teach opposition to evolution, and many of those few who do teach opposition to evolution just disparage that opposition. The table shows that a horrendous figure of 38% of teachers spend more than 10 hours on evolution, but maybe this figure is not so bad if a lot of that time is spent on related subjects, e.g., genetics and population dynamics. Also, it looks like the time spent on "human evolution" is in addition to the time spent on "general evolutionary processes," which makes the situation even worse. Despite the widespread belief that a lot of teachers avoid evolution completely because of personal beliefs and/or to avoid antagonizing students, parents, and others, the table shows that only 2% of the surveyed teachers do not teach evolution at all. Some teachers would not teach evolution if government policy did not require it -- in Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District, the courts rejected a public-school teacher's claim that he should not be required to teach evolution because teaching it was against his religious beliefs. I am pleased that only 23% of the teachers in the survey strongly agreed that evolution served as the unifying theme for their biology or life sciences courses. As for the teachers teaching creationism and/or ID, it is commonly believed that teaching creationism in the public schools is illegal and some people even falsely believe (per Kitzmiller v. Dover) that it is illegal to teach ID, but court rulings against teaching those things might be considered to apply only to government policies and not to the actions of individual teachers.

I don't even remember studying evolution at all in my high school biology courses in the early 1960's. I don't think that the neglect of evolution in my biology courses was due to any hostility towards evolution -- I think that evolution was something that most of the students just took for granted -- IMO it was just that evolution was not considered to be all that important. Today, learning evolution is more important because it is the basis of cladistic taxonomy, which has become important in just the last few decades.

Unfortunately, those of us who favor sanity in evolution education don't seem to have an agenda of goals for reforming evolution education. Here is a proposed agenda for such reform:
(1) Legalize evolution disclaimer statements. This is a strong possibility because two federal court decisions against evolution disclaimers, Selman v. Cobb County and Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish, came close to being overturned. The infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision of insane Judge "Jackass" Jones is out of the picture. Evolution disclaimer statements should be considered to be constitutional unless they say something like, "if your textbook contradicts the word of god, the textbook is always wrong," or if the teacher gets out a bible and starts pounding it and prays for forgiveness for the sin of teaching the blasphemous theory of evolution.

(2) Get rid of that outrageous "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology" (Florida science standards) statement and similar statements, whether in government science standards or in biology textbooks. Saying that evolution is central to biology just because evolution was supposedly the means by which species originated is like saying that design and manufacturing are central to engineering because they are the means of creating engineered objects. Design was just a small part of my undergraduate mechanical engineering program (it was just a senior design project) and there was no manufacturing course at all! Most of the engineering courses consisted of engineering analysis. As I noted, I am pleased that only 23% of the teachers in the survey strongly agreed that evolution served as the unifying theme for their biology or life sciences courses. That stupid 1973 paper by Theodosius Dobzhansky, "Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution," has parasitized the brains of the Darwinists.

(3) The courts should get the hell out of the business of micro-managing evolution education and stay out. This means you too, Judge "Jackass" Jones (Kitzmiller v. Dover) and Judge "Blooper" Cooper (Selman v. Cobb County). Except for outright religious creationism, issues in evolution education should be declared to be non-justiciable.

(4) Reject textbooks that don't confine evolution to a single chapter but that keep it constantly in students' faces. Avoid biology textbooks such as the one by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, which Kitzmiller v. Dover defendant Bill Buckingham described as being "laced with Darwinism" because he counted Darwinism appearing in 12-15 places in the book.

(5) Maybe reduce the amount of time that teachers spend on evolution education. The above table suggests that many teachers devote an excessive amount of time to evolution (as I said, some of the time may be spent on related subjects, e.g., genetics and population dynamics). Never having studied evolution in school, I don't know from personal experience how long it should take to cover the subject, but I do know that Kevin Padian must have covered the subject adequately in just one day in courtroom testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, with time to spare because he also spent a lot of time criticizing creationism and ID, particularly ID. It should not take very long to teach students what they need to know about evolution. Students who want to learn more about evolution can study it in college.

(6) IMO science teachers should not lecture about or discuss evolution theory's impacts or implications concerning religion, philosophy, ethics, etc.. See this article. IMO these subjects are too sensitive and contentious to be discussed in science classes.

(7) Make the weaknesses of evolution theory a part of the official curriculum. This is a longshot goal because it is bound to be resisted by claims that it is an attempt to introduce religion into the curriculum. The above table shows that a significant minority of teachers already teach opposition to evolution, though not necessarily in a positive way.



Saturday, August 30, 2008

Darwinists' obsession with "Of Pandas and People"

"Of Pandas and People" is the Intelligent Design book that was central to the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. The court focused on the book even though the case was supposed to be about ID and not about a particular book about ID -- the only thing that was special about the book was that it happened to be the ID book that was selected by the Dover school board. Though there are many other books that discuss and promote ID, the Darwinists are -- more than 2½ years after release of the Kitzmiller decision -- still obsessed with "Of Pandas and People." To the Darwinists, this book is the ID movement's equivalent of the bible, the koran, the torah, and Chairman Mao's red book.

Panda's Thumb has a new article titled "Padian’s Takedown of 'Of Pandas and People,'" with a link to Kevin Padian's expert oral testimony and visual slides presented at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. If the Darwinists' case against ID is so heavily dependent on attacking just a single book, then their case must be very weak indeed.

Ironically, after fighting so hard to keep even the mere mention of ID out of public school science courses, the hypocritical Darwinists may now be trying to introduce ID into public school science courses just for the purpose of attacking it. A comment on the Panda's Thumb article said,

Calyptephile | August 24, 2008 8:05 PM |
I teach high school biology and I will be using some of these slides this fall. A huge “thank you” to Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke for sharing such tremendously useful diagrams for teachers like me to use in the continuing struggle to get students to realize that transitional fossils really do exist! The more these kinds of tools are put into high school teachers’ hands, the better.



Friday, August 29, 2008

Is evolution theory important in medical research, or not?

Darwinists often talk about the great importance of evolution theory in medical research. About how medical advances are among the greatest spinoffs of the theory. And that Darwin doubters ought to be denied medical treatment.

Now a Darwinist is trying to excuse the paucity of Nobel medicine/physiology prizes awarded for work in evolution by pointing out that there is no Nobel prize category expressly for the field of "biology." A book review that Norman Levitt wrote about Steve Fuller's book Science v. Religion: Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution says,

Fuller complacently views the ascendancy of evolutionary thought as a “rhetorical” rather than a “scientific” development. His principal evidence? The paucity of Nobel Prizes awarded for work on evolution! Of course, he never pauses to consider that under the idiosyncratic organization of the Nobel awards, there is no prize for biology as such. Biologists are smuggled in under the “Medicine and Physiology” category, which is just expansive enough to accommodate ethologists like Lorenz or Tinbergen, but not hard-core evolutionary theorists.

I don't want excuses. Is evolution theory important in medical research, or not? It looks like the answer is no.

The above quote from the book review is also in an article in Panda's Thumb.

BTW, the heading of the book review has an error -- Rutgers Univ. is in New Jersey, not New Brunswick. A campus of Rutgers is in a town named New Brunswick in New Jersey. However, people not familiar with Rutgers might be misled into thinking that it is in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.



Thursday, August 28, 2008

Judge Jones dodged question of whether ID fosters "critical thinking"

Judge "Jackass" Jones' infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision is a dubious "gift" that keeps on giving -- over 2½ years after the release of the decision, I am still finding more flaws in it.

My point in this post is that the Kitzmiller opinion never answered the question of whether or not Intelligent Design fosters "critical thinking," and the answer to that question is crucial in determining whether or not the Dover school board's ID policy passes the "purpose prong" of the Lemon test.

A paragraph in the Dover opinion says (pages 88-89),

After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents', as well as Defendants' argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, ID's backers have sought to a void the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID. (pages 88-89)

I quoted the entire paragraph to show the contexts of the individual statements that I am next going to analyze:

Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents', as well as Defendants' argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum.

The expression "accepting for the sake of argument" normally means that a position about something has been stated and an exception to that position is being made "for the sake of argument" -- but Judge Jones did not previously state any position on whether ID encourages critical thinking, so his statement "for the sake of argument" makes an exception to a position that does not exist. And Judge Jones does not support his statement that ID would have utterly no place in a science curriculum even if it does encourage critical thinking. He is essentially saying that encouraging critical thinking has no place in a science curriculum. Simply put, Judge "Jackass" Jones is an anti-intellectual pseudo-intellectual who is opposed to encouraging critical thinking in our public schools.

Moreover, ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID. (emphasis added)

It is not clear whether Judge Jones is here trying to support his preceding statement that ID "has utterly no place in the science curriculum" -- the word "moreover" implies that he is starting a new topic. He still does not express any opinion here as to whether ID encourages critical thought -- he only says that encouraging critical thought is not the "goal" of the IDM (ID movement), just as Zachary Blount said that evolution of citrate-eating E. coli bacteria was "not a goal" of the long-term evolution experiment (but saying that Cit+ evolution was "not a goal" does not mean that it was not possible). BTW, if a mere one-minute evolution disclaimer statement in public-school science classes threatens to "foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID," then evolution theory must be a pretty weak theory indeed.

The Kitzmiller opinion says much later on pages 130-131,

Although as noted Defendants have consistently asserted that the ID Policy was enacted for the secular purposes of improving science education and encouraging students to exercise critical thinking skills, the Board took none of the steps that school officials would take if these stated goals had truly been their objective. The Board consulted no scientific materials. The Board contacted no scientists or scientific organizations. The Board failed to consider the views of the District's science teachers. (pages 130-131)

Jones' above statement again says nothing about whether or not ID actually encourages critical thinking skills. And if a purpose of ID is to encourage critical thinking skills, it does not matter whether ID is scientifically valid or not. Also, Jones' above statement does not support his previous statement (pages 88-89), "Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents', as well as Defendants' argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum." Also, another decision on an evolution disclaimer, Selman v. Cobb County, said that the school board's failure to seek out expert opinion was excusable because criticism of evolution was not actually taught:

Relying heavily upon McLean v. Arkansas Bd. of Educ., 529 F.Supp. 1255 (E.D.Ark.1982), a case in which a balanced treatment statute was held unconstitutional, Plaintiffs also assert that the Court should infer a purpose to advance religion by the School Board's failure to seek out expert opinion from scientists before adopting the Sticker. McLean, however, is distinguishable from the instant case because McLean involved a statute requiring the teaching of creation science, which was a substantial change to the curriculum. In this case on the other hand, the Sticker only speaks generally about evolution and does not change the curriculum. While the School Board may have acted more prudently by consulting educators and scientists to determine whether evolution should properly be referenced as a theory, fact, or combination thereof, and to get expert opinion regarding what impact, if any, the Sticker might have on the teaching of evolution, the School Board's failure to do so does not prove that the School Board sought to advance religion. (emphasis added)

Finally, it would help if Jones' statements about the "critical thinking" issue were in one place rather than being unnecessarily separated -- one important discussion about the issue is on pages 88-89 and another is on pages 130-131.

Anyway, the fact is that Judge Jones never states any position on whether or not ID encourages "critical thinking." But it would be difficult for him to argue that ID does not encourage "critical thinking," considering that he spent several days hearing expert testimony on the question of whether ID is science.

The question of whether ID encourages critical thinking -- a question that Judge Jones weaseled out of answering -- is crucial in the "purpose prong" analysis of the Lemon test, because even something that is partly religious in nature can pass the purpose prong if there is a secular purpose that is not a sham, and encouraging critical thinking is such a purpose. Selman v. Cobb County, which was about an evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker, says (page 21),

"The purpose prong of the Lemon test asks whether government's actual purpose is to endorse or disapprove of religion." Lynch, 465 U.S. at 690 (O'Connor, J., concurring). To survive this Establishment Clause challenge, the Sticker in dispute must have a "clearly secular purpose." Wallace, 472 U.S. at 56, Bown v. Gwinnett County Sch. Dist., 112 F.3d 1464, 1469 (11th Cir.1997). However, the purpose of the Sticker "need not be exclusively secular." Bown, 112 F.3d at 1469 (citing Lynch, 465 U.S. at 681 n. 6). The Sticker runs afoul of the Establishment Clause only if it is "entirely motivated by a purpose to advance religion." Wallace, 472 U.S. at 56, King, 221 F.3d at 1278, Bown, 112 F.3d at 1469. Thus, it logically follows that a state-sponsored message may satisfy this first prong "even if it is motivated in part by a religious purpose." Adler, 206 F.3d at 1084 (quoting Wallace, 472 U.S. at 56)). However, the religious purpose must not be preeminent. Stone, 449 U.S at 41.

The court should defer to a state's articulation of a secular purpose, so long as the statement is sincere and not a sham. Edwards, 482 US. at 586-87.
(emphasis added)

As for the statement, "the religious purpose must not be preeminent," I assert that incidental religious connotations, which basically just involve a "right" to not be offended (though this "right" is implicit in the establishment clause, so I cannot say that this "right" does not exist here), should not be permitted to override the importance of encouraging critical thinking in students.

Selman v. Cobb County was settled out of court after being vacated and remanded by the appeals court and is therefore not a legal precedent, but it nonetheless contains a lot of useful information and ideas.

The judge in Selman ruled that the evolution disclaimer in question in that case fostered "critical thinking" (pages 24-25):

Fostering critical thinking is a clearly secular purpose for the Sticker, which the Court finds is not a sham. First, it is important to note that prior to the adoption of the new textbooks and Sticker and the revision of the related policy and regulation, many students in Cobb County were not being taught evolution or the origin of the human species in school. Further, the School Board was aware that a large population of Cobb County citizens maintained beliefs that would potentially conflict with the teaching of evolution. Against this backdrop, the Sticker appear to have the purpose of furthering critical thinking because it tells students to approach the material on evolution with an open mind, to study it carefully, and to give it critical consideration. The other language on the Sticker, which states that evolution is a theory and not a fact, somewhat undermines the goal of critical thinking by predetermining that students should think of evolution as a theory when many in the scientific community would argue that evolution is factual in some respects. However, the testimony of the School Board members persuades the Court that the School Board did not seek to disclaim evolution by encouraging students to consider it critically. Rather, the School Board sought to encourage students to analyze the material on evolution themselves and make their own decision regarding its merit. (pages 24-25) (emphasis added)

BTW, I disagree with the statement in bold. If only part of evolution is a theory, then evolution as a whole is a theory, and if evolution were entirely factual, telling the students that it is a theory would just be lying to them, not undermining critical thinking.

Though Selman is mentioned 15 times in Kitzmiller, Judge Jones did not explain why Kitzmiller differed markedly from Selman on some important issues.

Html versions of Kitzmiller and Selman are here and here, respectively. The html versions are more readable -- less scrolling is required -- but don't have page numbers like the pdf versions do (some html opinions have page numbers, but these do not).

Fostering critical thinking in school is not just a matter of developing critical thinking skills -- opportunities for critical thinking stimulate student interest and help students learn and retain the material by using what they have learned.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Creationist outfit goes off deep end

"O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen."
I Timothy 6:20-21, KJV

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
II Corinthians 10:5, KJV

-- from the banner of the home page of the website of the Creation Science Association For Mid-America.


A previous post is about an article by Tom Willis in the newsletter of the Creation Science Association For Mid-America. A new article by Tom Willis -- titled "Evolutionists should not be allowed to roam free in the land" -- in the CSAFMA newsletter says,

Evolution is the apologetic system of the end time religion. It will not be eradicated. Well, not until the antichrist kills all of them in order to promote and make way for worship of himself.

Even then, it will not be the sane people (Christians) who will kill all the evolutionists, it will be the criminally insane folks who worship the antichrist, who will, incidentally, as the Bible predicts, be an Assyrian. Guess who will make up the bulk of the group who kills all the evolutionists! And what is the dominant religion in ancient Assyria and the rest of the countries to be allies of the antichrist? Hint: Every nation named in the Bible as a follower of the antichrist is Muslim today. Thus, it is my theory that it will not, of course, be Christians who kill all the evolutionists, but Muslims who delight in killing both evolutionists and Christians.

Nevertheless, I find it instructive and entertaining to analyze what should be done with evolutionists before their end comes. After all, they are manifestly the most dangerous and destructive people on the planet (well, OK, Muslims are strong competitors). Using their religion to dominate education, they have, as previously pointed out, killed more people than anybody in history . . . . .
We have learned:

Evolutionists are largely incompetent

They are largely unproductive leaches (sic) on the productive members of society, else they are totally destructive.

Where they have achieved, or even sought, political power they have virtually always been extremely dangerous to any opponents of their religion, even while pretending they do not have a religion, or pretending they are Christian.

They make it perfectly clear that they are at war and intend to remain at war with Christians and any other opponents of their religion.

Even where they have not achieved the power that their philosophical cousins (communists and Nazis) held, if you pay attention, they tend to make it clear that they believe that Christians, and any other opponents of their faith, ought to be eliminated.

Clearly, then, "evolutionists should not be allowed to roam free in the land." (emphasis in original) All that remains for us to discuss is "What should be done with evolutionists?" For the purposes of this essay, I will ignore the minor issue of Western-style jurisprudence and merely mention possible solutions to the "evolutionism problem," leaving the details to others:

Labor camps. Their fellow believers were high on these. But my position would be that most of them have lived their lives at, or near the public trough. So, after their own beliefs, their life should continue only as long as they can support themselves in the camps.

Require them to wear placards around their neck, or perhaps large medallions which prominently announce "Warning: Evolutionist! Mentally Incompetent -- Potentially Dangerous." I consider this option too dangerous.

Since evolutionists are liars and most do not really believe evolution we could employ truth serum or water-boarding to obtain confessions of evolution rejection. But this should, at most, result in parole, because, like Muslims, evolutionist religion permits them to lie if there is any benefit to them.

An Evolutionist Colony in Antarctica could be a promising option. Of course inspections would be required to prevent too much progress. They might invent gunpowder.

A colony on Mars would prevent gunpowder from harming anyone but their own kind, in the unlikely event they turned out to be intelligent enough to invent it.

All options should include 24-hour sound system playing Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris reading Darwin's "Origin of Species, or the preservation of Favored Races by Means of Natural Selection." Of course some will consider this cruel & unusual, especially since they will undoubtedly have that treatment for eternity.

Wow. I wonder what he thinks of Judge Jones.

But is Tom Willis really more bigoted than the Darwinists who push hardline evolution education policies -- dogmatic, hard sell, constantly in-your-face, evolution-is-central-to-biology, no weaknesses, no disclaimer statements, no-ifs-ands-or-buts, all-criticism-of-evolution-is-just-unconstitutional-religion, brainwashing, spoonfeeding, no-compromise kinds of policies? And is he really more bigoted than the Darwinists who persecute Darwin doubters in academia and government?

A list of CSAFMA newsletter articles is here. The newsletter dates back to 1992.



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yoko v. Expelled federal lawsuit drags on

I reported in a recent post that the state court copyright suit is continuing, with a denial of a preliminary injunction but a requirement that the defendants answer the complaint. Only the record companies are plaintiffs in the state court suit.

I mistakenly thought that there was a final decision in the federal case last month, but the July 17 report of what I thought was the final decision turned out to be a grossly overdue report of the June 2 denial of a preliminary injunction. I thought that the case was virtually over when the motion for a preliminary injunction was denied. The opinion denying a preliminary injunction was 23 pages long -- far longer than what this frivolous lawsuit deserved -- and appeared to thoroughly cover all of the issues. There did not seem to be much to add. Now I find a July 1 court order that says, "The last day for the completion of all discovery except expert discovery is October 31, 2008." What in the hell is there to discover? The facts of the case were never disputed -- the only issues are conclusions of law. A collection of documents in the case is here (continued below the fold).
As I have said many times, judges make time for high-profile cases by giving short shrift or no shrift to low-profile cases. In judges' allocation of time to different cases, the losses of the many fund the payoffs for the lucky few, just like at any honest racetrack. The courts should place strict limits on the amount of time that judges may spend on individual civil cases. The courts have page and/or word-count limits on the lengths of briefs (these limits can be exceeded with permission of the court), so why not limit the amount of time that judges can spend on individual civil cases? I propose that plaintiffs be charged high extra fees when such time limits are exceeded and that those extra fees be used to pay for hiring more judges and magistrates and to assist pro se litigants.



How could these parasites' life cycles evolve?

Click on picture to enlarge

This and the following illustrations are from the website of Prof. Matthew Bolek of the Dept. of Zoology at Oklahoma State Univ.


How could the complex life cycle of the above parasite evolve by means of a random process when it is impossible to even imagine a process for such evolution?

Other extremely complex parasitic relationships and life cycles of parasites are described in another post. Parasitologists should be among the leading Darwin doubters, but we have not heard much if any Darwin-doubting from them.

The following text accompanies the above picture:
Trematodes have some of the most complex life cycles in the animal world and usually include three hosts. Our current studies concentrate on trying to understand the evolutionary avenues for and constraints on the transmission of these parasites to their amphibian hosts. Currently we are investigating two aspects of amphibian trematode life cycle evolution: 1) we are comparing the differences in life cycle strategies among closely related congeners and mapping those similarities and differences on current phylogenetic hypotheses, and 2) we are examining the role of anuran tadpoles in the truncation of trematode life cycles from three to two hosts.

We work on the avenues for and constraints on transmission of frog lung flukes (Haematoloechus spp.) and the role of second intermediate hosts in these life cycles. Most frog lung fluke life cycles have been shown to use odonates as second intermedite (sic) hosts. However our studies in Nebraska indicate that there is a lot of variation in the use of second intermediate hosts among congeners of frog lung flukes. See frog lung flukes.
(shown and discussed below)

Click on picture to enlarge

Four representative frog lung flukes. Haematoloechus coloradensis and H. complexus are second intermediate host specialists where the cercaria can attach to any body region of aquatic arthropods. Haematoloechus parviplexus is a second intermediate host specialist and can only infect dragonfly by passively entering the rectal breathing apparatus, whereas H. longiplexus is intermediate in its host specificity and can infect dragonflies as well as damselflie.(sic)


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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Puny school district may step up to monkey-trial plate

That reminds me -- Chief Justice John "Ump" Roberts just loves baseball analogies.

A news article said,

Weed, Calif. --

Butteville Union Elementary School District trustees, as well as school administrators, are considering adding “intelligent design” to the school’s seventh-grade science curriculum.

In a discussion on an information/action agenda item, “Evolution versus Intelligent Design Taught in the Classroom,” during the district’s board meeting last Wednesday, trustees agreed to seek legal counsel regarding the issue.

“I think this will be a big issue in the Supreme Court before long,” said board president Stephen Darger, a practicing attorney and former police officer. “Maybe it will be with this school.”

It is a rural school district with just one elementary school with only 152 students in grades K-8 and just 9 full-time classroom teachers.

As the saying goes, if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it, but the school district is not even asking the price of a monkey trial, because school funds could not be used to fund legal counsel:
Hart also reported that he has been in contact with an attorney from Redding and suggested that board members seek advise (sic) as to legal ramifications. It was also reported that school funds could not fund either legal counsel or the proposed program.

Of course, the school district could probably get pro bono legal representation, but there would also be the risk of an award of attorney fees to the plaintiffs. Maybe being so poor is an advantage -- the school district may be too poor to be worth a lawsuit by the ACLU et al.. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip.

The article says,

School principal and superintendent Cynthia McConnell reported that teachers would not be legally required to teach intelligent design, or anything other than state education requirements.

Here are some options for the school district:

(1) Make the curriculum addition "lawsuit-proof" by calling it "strengths and weaknesses" or "teach the controversy" instead of "intelligent design."

(2) Just add an evolution disclaimer, which is much easier to defend than actually teaching criticisms of Darwinism. Two decisions against evolution disclaimers, Selman v. Cobb County and Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish, came close to being overturned.

A lot of people are hungry for another public school monkey trial that would hopefully overturn or counteract the infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, which has been used for more than 2½ years to browbeat critics of Darwinism, even though it is just an unappealed decision of a single crackpot judge who said in a commencement speech that organized religions are not "true" religions and who copied the opinion's ~ 6000-word ID-as-science section nearly verbatim from the ACLU's opening post-trial brief. IMO the reason why no new monkey-trial lawsuits have been filed in the 2½+ years since the Dover decision is that school districts and legislatures have learned how to "lawsuit-proof" criticisms of evolution in the public schools.

One of my posts here has recommendations for monkey-trial defendants. This blog also has lots of other posts with information and ideas that could be useful to monkey-trial defendants -- just see appropriate post labels in the sidebar.

BTW, there are some errors in the news article. The article said,

. . .two rural California public high schools contended that the Pennsylvania ruling by Judge John E. Jones, an appointee of President Bush, opened the door to the possibility of teaching intelligent design in philosophy or religion classes.

But the new strategy was immediately struck down when a high school in Lebec, Calif., a rural town north of Los Angeles, terminated one such course as part of a court settlement involving 11 law suits. As a result, a hearing scheduled before a federal judge in upcoming days was cancelled.

In a similar case just days later Frazier Mountain High, a rural school district outside of Fresno, with pressure from lawsuits and Americans United, settled the issue with the agreement to halt its intelligent design course and to never again offer a class that promotes creationism.

There was only one lawsuit, Hurst v. Newman, which had 11 plaintiffs (that's probably where the number "11' came from). Lebec and Frazier Mountain High School are both in the El Tejon Unified School District just north of Los Angeles County, in the southern end of Kern County.

Also, it's Edwards v. Aguillard, not Aguillar.

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Open forum

Following the example of other blogs, I decided to have an open forum. Visitors may sound off here on any topic of interest to them. Any comment may -- with the approval of its author -- be selected for a new post. I think that an open forum is a better idea than having guest bloggers because (1) having guest bloggers could result in an excessive number of posts and (2) having guest bloggers discriminates against those not invited to be guest bloggers.

The rule against gossip about my private affairs applies here. However, because my obligation to answer any comment here is especially low, lies about objective facts will be allowed (yes, ViU, now is your big chance to say that Judge Jones told a newspaper that he was going to follow the law instead of telling them that the school board election results would not affect his decision).


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Imagine -- "Imagine" copyright suits are not over

This blog has a total of 29 articles (counting this one) about the federal and state "Imagine" copyright suits under the following two post-label lists (I am limited to a maximum of 20 posts per label): here and here.

A news article reported that the judge in the state court suit has (1) denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and (2) required that the defendant answer the complaint. The ruling is here.

I thought that this whole thing was essentially over when the federal judge denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. I felt that the federal judge's final decision in favor of the defendants was so anticlimactic that I did not even report it on this blog. (there is no final decision yet in the federal court case -- the Uncommon Descent article and the linked press release, both dated July 17, were just greatly overdue reports of the June 2 denial of the motion for a preliminary injunction)
Actually, because the US Constitution gives Congress jurisdiction over copyrights and interstate commerce, I question the authority of a state court to take any kind of action to enforce a copyright, including any action that applies just to a state.

The name "supreme court" here is a misnomer -- this state court is a trial court of original jurisdiction.

Yoko Ono & sons were plaintiffs in the federal suit but not the state suit -- here the plaintiffs are just Capitol Records and EMI records. I don't know if the federal court decision has been appealed -- one probably needs a PACER account to find out.

Also, I wonder why the article did not mention the federal court suit. Also, the state court ruling did not mention the federal court suit. The new Rule 32.1 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure requires all federal courts to allow citation of unpublished opinions (I presume that the final opinion of the federal case is unpublished), but I don't know the citation rules of the NY state courts.

Also, the title of the news article, "Sampling a song can be fair use, rules US court," is wrong -- it is a state court, not a US court.

There once was a lady named Yoko,
who had a mind that was quite loco.
When she tried to sue,
she later did rue,
'cause the lawyers she faced were pro bono.

Imagine there are no copyrights,
it isn't hard to do.
Nothing to cause court fights,
no reason for to sue.
Imagine all the people,
staying out of court --

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the tip.



Review of final decision in ACSI v. Stearns

I have a new post label for ACSI v. Stearns. Post labels are listed in the sidebar.

Previously, I said that I was not going to do any more analysis of ACSI v. Stearns because I concluded that the case should be declared non-justiciable and that the court should require that no special viewpoints -- including non-Christian viewpoints -- be allowed in any sole or main textbooks in UC-accredited high-school courses and that special viewpoints in those courses be allowed only in supplemental materials. My reasons for this conclusion are given here. However, I have now decided to post an analysis here. The reasons for my change of mind are: (1) a lot of misinformation about the decision is being posted on the Internet, particularly on Kevin Vicklund's blog; and (2) it is another opportunity to take a swipe at lousy judges, something I just love to do.

The only rejected textbook that I investigated very much was the Bob Jones Univ. 2-volume biology textbook. I finally agreed with UC's decision to reject this textbook -- I feel that the textbook's introduction just went too far when it said, "If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them." That statement discourages critical thinking and promotes spoonfeeding Christian dogma to the students. Even if one thinks that the bible is always right, it can be a useful mental exercise to try to figure out why the bible could be wrong. In the introduction, that statement not only attacks evolution but even attacks the possibility that a "'scientific' explanation of the biblical locust (grasshopper) plague in Egypt" could be correct. At least the more commonly quoted statement from the introduction, "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second," is open to the possibility that science could be correct and the bible wrong. I never liked the BJU biology text's introduction and I now feel no need to defend it because I decided that the case should be declared to be non-justiciable.

The final opinion is here. The review here is not intended to be complete -- I just touch upon what I consider to be the most important points:

The plaintiffs were: Calvary Chapel Christian School ("Calvary"), five Calvary students, and the Association of Christian Schools International ("ACSI") (page 1)

Definition of "summary judgment"

IMO the definition of "summary judgment" (page 2) is too vague and the term "summary judgment" should be eliminated from the law. "Summary judgment" supposedly means that there are no "genuine" issues concerning claims or material facts. But it is often necessary to thoroughly review facts and claims to determine that they are not "genuine" issues, and this thorough review is not "summary." There is no clear dividing line between summary and non-summary judgments. This decision here is called a "summary judgment," yet the decision thoroughly reviews five UC course rejections (pages 12-18). IMO all motions for final decisions should be titled "motion for final decision" to distinguish them from other kinds of motions.

Some plaintiffs' expert reports rejected as untimely

Defendants rejected more than 175 courses proposed by ACSI schools during the relevant time period -- only 38 rejections were challenged by the ACSI (page 8). The plaintiffs' expert witness reports analyzing each of the 38 challenged course rejections were rejected as untimely -- the reports were submitted in June 2008 and the discovery deadline passed in July 2007 ("Plaintiffs recently disclosed expert conclusions" -- pages 8-9). Plaintiffs conceded that they did not prepare for the 38 as-applied challenges (i.e., challenges to UC rejections of individual courses) because they expected the court to rule in their favor on the facial challenges (i.e., broad principles).(page 9). That was really careless. Only four challenged Calvary course rejections and one challenged non-Calvary course rejection were left for the court to review -- plaintiffs' expert reports for these courses were timely. (page 9)

ACSI's "associational standing"

After a lot of convoluted legal reasoning (pages 3-7), the opinion concludes (page 7),

Accordingly, ASCI does not have associational standing to pursue as-applied claims based on individual course rejections.

IMO this is just plain wrong -- IMO this was just a consolidation of 38 individual claims by ACSI members and ACSI has a right to be a legal representative on these claims. Anyway, this issue of ACSI's associational standing was rendered moot when the plaintiffs' expert reports on the 38 UC rejections were rejected as untimely.


The opinion said,
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs waived any animus argument when Plaintiffs' counsel stated "We do not intend to argue the case based on proving animus" at the hearing on the parties' first round of summary judgment motions (Tr. of Feb. 14, 2008 MSJ Hearing 39.) Plaintiffs dispute this argument, explaining that they did not intend to argue animus until this Court used that term to describe the punishment of disfavored viewpoints prohibited by National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 524 U.S. 569, 587 (1998). (page 10)

Now I am really confused -- why did the plaintiffs waive any animus argument at the first round of hearings on summary judgment motions in February 2008? A news article said,

The lawsuit against UC alleges that the university accepts courses from other schools taught from a particular viewpoint, such as feminist, African-American or countercultural, so the school can't discriminate against "a viewpoint of religious faith."

The original complaint goes into further detail on pages 44-55.

Wasn't this claim of discrimination against Christian viewpoints -- and also Christian content -- an animus argument? And this claim seems to me to be one of the best animus arguments that the plaintiffs could make. I thought that this claim was central to the lawsuit.

The opinion said,

Regardless of whether Plaintiffs waived this issue, they fail to present evidence of animus sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact . . . . .

Here, Plaintiffs provide no evidence of animus
(pages 10-11)

Well, as I said, I thought that UC's general pattern of approving textbooks and courses with narrow non-Christian viewpoints and content while rejecting textbooks and courses with Christian viewpoints and content was evidence of animus.

Plaintiffs essentially argue that Defendants had no rational basis for their actions and therefore they must have been motivated by animus. (page 11)

The opinion does not counter this argument.

This argument adds nothing to the constitutional analysis; if Defendants had no rational basis, the Court need not reach the issue of animus.(page 11)

Well, the Court has here reached the issue of animus by deciding that the Plaintiffs provided no evidence of animus, so contrary to the above statement, the Court reached the issue of animus without first deciding that the Defendants had no rational basis.

Anyway, the reason why the Court would not reach the issue of animus if the defendants' had no rational basis is that the lack of rational basis would be sufficient to decide the case, not that the animus issue is unimportant.

Accordingly, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to this issue. Defendants' decisions to reject the courses challenged by Plaintiffs were not motivated by animus.

As noted above, the judge said that he was not even supposed to decide the question of animus, and here he is ruling that the Defendants were not motivated by animus. The judge wants to have his cake and eat it too. I don't know what charges of animus the plaintiffs made now, but I am disappointed that the judge did not rule here on the original complaint's charge that UC discriminated by accepting textbooks and courses with narrow non-Christian viewpoints and content while rejecting textbooks and courses with Christian viewpoints and content.

Rational basis review of five UC course rejections

Here is where the opinion reviews the five UC course rejections -- four Chapel courses plus one non-Chapel biology course -- where the plaintiffs' expert reports were accepted as timely (pages 12-18). I lost interest in this section when I decided that the case should be declared non-justiciable. However, I may later read and maybe review Michael Behe's expert report on the biology textbooks. Kevin Vicklund got screwed up on this section of the opinion -- he said, "The untimely expert witness reports excluded as untimely, ACSI had no admissible evidence that any of the four [actually five] courses were unreasonably rejected" (the "reasonableness" section on Kevin's blog). The judge held that plaintiffs' expert reports for 38 other courses were untimely but held that plaintiffs' expert reports for these 5 courses were timely. Anyway, I am glad to see that pettifogging troll and cyberbully (he is always trying to get me kicked off of other blogs) Kevin Vicklund has his own blog now -- hopefully this means that he will have less time to troll this blog.

The National Center for Science Education's website has a good collection [1] [2] of documents for ACSI v. Stearns up to October 2007. To see later documents other than the final decision, a PACER account may be needed.

Well, we had Judge "Jackass" Jones (Kitzmiller v. Dover), Judge "Blooper" Cooper (Selman v. Cobb County), Judge TJ "Mad" Hatter (Fafarman v. Calif. and US EPA -- smog impact fee case), and now we also have Judge "Bozo" Otero (ACSI v. Stearns).

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

"If you don't criticize Darwinism in our schools, we won't think in your church"

That's a common taunt from the Darwinists. Sort of along the same line as, "if you don't piss in our pool, we won't swim in your toilet."

Here is an article that says that church attendance can actually increase student GPA's! LOL I am not recommending church attendance, though, which I consider to be mostly a waste of time. The article says,

(Aug. 19) - If you want to boost your teenager's grade point average, take the kid to church. Or, a new study suggests, find some similar social activity to involve them in.

Researchers found that church attendance has as much effect on a teen's GPA as whether the parents earned a college degree. Students in grades 7 to 12 who went to church weekly also had lower dropout rates and felt more a part of their schools.

On average, students whose parents received a four-year college degree average a GPA .12 higher than those whose parents completed high school only. Students who attend religious services weekly average a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services, said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa.



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More thoughts on the Cit+ E. coli evolution experiment

Prospector A: What are you looking for?
Prospector B: The Lost Dutchman Mine. But finding it is not a goal.

I have established a new post label for the Citrate-eating E. coli evolution experiment. Post labels are listed in the sidebar.

Whether evolution of Cit+ (citrate-eating) E. coli bacteria was an initial "goal" (I use the standard definition of "goal," and there are such things as secondary goals, longshot goals, incidental goals, etc.) when the long-term E. coli evolution experiment began in 1988 has not been established, but it occurred to me that Cit+ evolution must at least have become a "goal" sometime along the way because the experimenters must have been checking for the appearance of Cit+ bacteria because the Cit+ bacteria were detected when they were only 0.5% of the population at about 31,500 generations.

Also, someone suggested that the popular name for the first mutation (~20,000 generations), the "potentiating" mutation, is wrong, because the name implies that this first mutation was a pre-requisite for the second mutation and there is no evidence (at least so far as I know) that it is a pre-requisite. Below is part of a comment that I posted on another blog in response to another comment:
"If the cit+ mutation had occurred first, wouldn't we be calling the later potentiating mutation the cit+ mutation instead? "

I prefer saying that a mutation "became established" as opposed to saying that a mutation "occurred" -- some mutations, particularly mutations that occurred in one of the last generations of a daily population, might have been lost when only one percent of each daily population was used to start the next day's population.

The first mutation, the so-called "potentiating" mutation, was a "silent" (unexpressed) mutation that became established at around 20,000 generations (~ 9 years); the second mutation, which was expressed as the Cit+ trait, became established at around 31,500 generations (about 5 years later). The "potentiating" mutation is apparently very unusual because the Cit+ trait appeared in only one of the 12 lines of bacteria -- the second mutation is apparently relatively common because the Cit+ trait appeared repeatedly when the experiment was re-run starting with frozen samples from generations containing the "potentiating" mutation (generations numbered 20,000 or later). Because the second mutation is fairly common, the Cit+ trait probably would have appeared in the other 11 lines of bacteria if the first mutation were common. IMO there is no evidence that the first mutation was really a "potentiating" mutation in the sense of being a pre-requisite for the second mutation, so IMO you are right in questioning use of the term "potentiating" to describe the first mutation.

It also occurs to me that it was wrong to call the first mutation "silent" and the second mutation "expressed," because either mutation would be silent in the absence of the other. So maybe it would be best to use the names "mutation A" and "mutation B," respectively, for the first and second mutations.



Fundy influence on Israeli education is a real problem

In Israel, fundy influence on education is a real problem, not the imaginary problem that it is in the USA. It makes all of our talk about how fundy high school graduates are unprepared for college work and about how evolution disclaimer statements threaten our technological competitiveness sound really silly.

A Los Angeles Times article titled "In Israel, religious schools get a boost" says,

The yeshivas, criticized by secular Jews for failing to include subjects deemed key to modern life, benefit from new state funding.

JERUSALEM -- -- Yossi Ravitz, 22, hasn't had a class in math, science, civics or English since he was a boy. But he believes the rigor of his religious studies equips him for any subject he might need to tackle later in life . . . .

Haredi Jews, as the ultra-Orthodox are known here, won the latest skirmish. Parliament last month legalized state funding for high school-age boys' yeshivas while reclassifying them as "culturally unique" schools, exempt from the obligation to add on a basic secular curriculum.
The new law undermined a Supreme Court ruling that by Sept. 1 would have cut off the back-channel financing the yeshivas have received for decades.

For its foes, the measure legalizes "publicly funded ignorance," as the newspaper Haaretz railed in an editorial. The Supreme Court, calling the law "inexplicable," predicted it would be struck down if challenged.

"What was fitting for the 18th century does not fit in the 21st," said Avshalom Vilan, a member of parliament from the leftist Meretz party. "It is unacceptable that a high school graduate will enter the work force with fourth-grade math."

The debate is part of a broader struggle often obscured by Israel's armed conflicts with Arab neighbors. Secular Israelis, who rule the nation, see in the ultra-Orthodox an assault on the rational, modern and democratic world they embrace. Haredi Jews believe secular Israelis have undergone a dangerous assimilation -- a separation of Jews from Judaism -- that threatens to contaminate religious children. . . . .

About 90,000 haredi Jews study in Israeli yeshivas. Girls, expected to work as adults and bear the children of perpetual religious scholars, take secular subjects along with religious ones until they graduate.

What little secular education haredi boys get ends in primary school.

I don't think that the educational policies in Arab and Moslem countries could be anywhere near as bad as that. Ironically, the USA is a big supporter of Israel despite the vast differences in cultures and educational policies between the two countries.

In the USA, stingy crackpot judges -- including, but not limited to, "Jackass" Jones (Kitzmiller v. Dover), "Kook" Cooper (Selman v. Cobb County), and "Bozo" Otero (ACSI v. Stearns) -- who have refused to begrudge the fundies and other Darwin doubters even a single morsel ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Anyway, these fundy schools in Israel do not appear to have harmed Israel's technological competitiveness very much -- for its size, Israel is considered to be a high-tech powerhouse.

"I'm always kicking their butts -- that's why they don't like me."
-- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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24 alleged "myths and misconceptions" about evolution

I found a fairly old (April 16, 2008) article in New Scientist magazine titled "Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions" . These 24 alleged myths and misconceptions are discussed in 24 separate sub-articles. Each of the 24 sub-articles has its own comment thread and there is also a comment thread for the main (introductory) article. Most of the comments are old but recent comments are continuing to trickle in. I was going to comment here on some of the articles but decided that there is just too much material, though I may comment here about the articles later. Anyone who wants to post a comment here about the articles is of course welcome to do so.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Proposed names for four categories of non-justiciability

I previously proposed two kinds of non-justiciability, "intrinsic" (or "inherent" or "absolute") non-justiciability and "prudential" non-justiciability. Now I would like to propose names for two more categories of non-justiciability, "legal" and "negatable" non-justiciability. In the post where I introduced the "intrinsic" and "prudential" categories, I described the characteristics of "legal" non-justiciability but just did not give this category a name. Except for "legal" non-justiciability, the concept of non-justiciability has been largely ignored in the law profession. The concept of non-justiciability deserves far more attention from the law profession than it has gotten. Here is a rundown of my proposed four types of non-justiciability:

(1) "Legal" non-justiciability: This is non-justiciability that is due solely to legal and constitutional considerations. This category includes the following issues: mootness, ripeness, political questions, advisory opinions, committed to agency discretion, Const. Art. III standing (i.e., injury-in-fact, injury traceable to challenged action, injury redressable by courts), state immunity under 11th amendment, "sovereign immunity" (an obsolescent concept), stare decisis, res judicata & collateral estoppel, barred by statute, not authorized by statute, court rules of standing, common law, and general custom. BTW, the rules for Art. III standing are IMO an overly narrow interpretation of the "cases" and "controversies" terms of Art. III -- anything can be a "controversy," including a hypothetical or moot question.
(2) "Intrinsic" (or "inherent" or "absolute") non-justiciability -- this is non-justiciability that is due to unavoidable factors that are intrinsic in the question itself. This category includes the following factors: unanswerable, imponderable, unfathomable, unprovable, unfalsifiable, supernatural, occult, contentious, a matter of opinion, beyond the expertise of judges, insufficient evidence, too much evidence for the court to review, a need to rely on the opinions of biased experts, and -- in general -- arbitrary and subjective decisions are required. The classic example of an intrinsically non-justiciable question is the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. IMO the following questions are also intrinsically non-justiciable: evolution theory, global warming theory, and string theory.

(3) "Prudential" non-justiciability -- this concerns questions where there are no "legal" or "intrinsic" barriers to decisions but where issuing a decision may be unwise because of potential harmful effects. The concept of "prudential" non-justiciability is similar to the idea that freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre. Prudential non-justiciability requires the weighing of different costs and benefits. Here is a purely hypothetical example of "prudential" non-justiciability: Suppose that a large majority of the public perceives all criticisms of Darwinism to be religious in nature, and hence banning a particular evolution disclaimer in public schools is justified under the establishment clause (I am ignoring the fact that even religious evolution disclaimers are arguably constitutional under the endorsement test). However, a decision to ban the disclaimer could adversely affect the reputations, careers, and research funding of scientists who are critical of Darwinism. Hence, banning the disclaimer would be the scientific equivalent of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre.

(4) "Negatable" non-justiciability -- this is where an ostensibly non-justiciable question can be transformed into a justiciable question by means of a special argument, an unrequested decision, or by changing the issue. The classic example is King Solomon's "split the baby" decision. Solomon was faced with a non-justiciable question: deciding which of two claimants was the true mother of a baby (this was before DNA testing). He transformed a non-justiciable question into a justiciable one by proposing to divide the baby into two equal parts. Another example of negatable non-justiciability is the ACSI v. Stearns case, where fundy high schools claimed that the Univ. of California discriminated against them by approving non-Christian textbooks with special viewpoints while rejecting textbooks with Christian viewpoints. This case has many of the characteristics of "intrinsic" non-justiciability described above. However, the case becomes completely justiciable if the courts decide to discriminate against nobody by discriminating against everybody, i.e., ruling that no textbook with a special viewpoint may be used as a sole or main textbook, a ruling that was not suggested by any of the parties in the case. Yet another example of negatable non-justiciability was my federal-court lawsuit against the grossly unconstitutional California "smog impact fee" on incoming out-of-state vehicles. Federal court lawsuits against state taxes are normally barred by the Tax Injunction Act and/or the 11th Amendment. However, I argued that California lost its federal-court tax suit immunity by "leaving the sphere that was exclusively its own" (Parden v. Terminal Railway of the Alabama State Docks Dept.) by basing the fee entirely on the state's special status under federal emissions laws and regulations, and I was vindicated when an expert testified in state court that the fee required the approval of the US Environmental Protection Agency. BTW, as I have frequently pointed out, there were no oral hearings and no opinions at either the district court or appellate levels in my initial lawsuit against the smog impact fee, and that was a crime.

A given question can possess any combination of the above non-justiciabilities. A question can even possess all four kinds of non-justiciability: legal, intrinsic, prudential, and negatable. A question can be non-justiciable in one court but justiciable in another court.

Unfortunately, often a ruling of non-justiciability can have the same effect as a ruling on the merits. The issue of non-justiciability may need to be considered in combination with other factors. Often, the question of justiciability can be avoided entirely by deciding a case on narrow grounds -- e.g., Judge Jones could have based his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision entirely on the religious motivations of the Dover school board members and thus avoided the question of the justiciability of the evolution controversy. IMO these different principles of non-justiciability -- legal, intrinsic, prudential, and negatable -- should be officially recognized by the courts to help in applying these principles where appropriate. IMO the courts are more inclined to apply particular principles where those principles have officially recognized names.

IMO the courts should make more use of this concept of non-justiciability. Judges should have the humility to recognize that their opinions are just a few among many and that even where making a decision requires a lot of legal training, others legal professionals might honestly and fairly reach decisions different from theirs. Also, rulings of non-justiciability could be the basis of compromise decisions and out-of-court settlements.



Sunday, August 17, 2008

2nd Law of Thermodynamics and evolution, again

"By viewing evolution as the motion of energy flows toward a stationary state (entropy), evolution can be explained by the second law of thermodynamics, a law which conventionally describes physical systems. In this view, a cheetah serves as an energy transfer mechanism, and beneficial mutations allow the animal to transfer more energy within its environment, helping even out the energy." Image credit: Rob Qld. -- from PhysOrg.com.


The Second Law of Thermodynamics has been used to argue both for and against evolution theory. In this article, the SLoT is used to argue for evolution theory:
(PhysOrg.com) -- Often, physics and biology appear as different worlds, from a scientist’s point of view. Each discipline has its own language and concepts, and physicists and biologists tend to look at the world in different ways – not least being from inanimate and animate perspectives.

But at the core of these two sciences is the concept of motion. As a biological ecosystem evolves by the process of natural selection, it disperses energy, increases entropy, and moves toward a stationary state with respect to its surroundings. Similarly, as energy flows in various physical phenomena, they too cause biological systems to move toward stationary states with respect to their surroundings, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. Whether an object is animate or inanimate, science does not seem to make a distinction. In both cases, energy flows toward a stationary state, or a state of equilibrium, in the absence of a high-energy external source.

In this way, explain Ville Kaila and Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki, the second law of thermodynamics can be written as an equation of motion to describe evolution, and, in doing so, connect biology with physics. Their study, “Natural selection for least action,” is published in the Proceedings of The Royal Society A.

BTW, to see all the visitors' comments below the article, either turn off the "Rank Filter" at the top of the comment list or set it at 1.

The SLoT really has nothing to do with evolution. The SLoT mainly concerns physical properties that are uniformly distributed in homogeneous substances and the transfer of heat and work between those substances and their surroundings. Probably the most popular statements of the SLoT are the following:

Kelvin statement: It is impossible to construct an engine, operating in a cycle, whose sole effect is receiving heat from a single reservoir and the performance of an equivalent amount of work.

Clausius statement: It is impossible to carry out a cyclic process using an engine connected to two heat reservoirs that will have as its only effect the transfer of a quantity of heat from the low-temperature reservoir to the high-temperature reservoir.

I previously discussed the SLoT in this article.



More comments about Comer

Former Texas Science Director Christine Comer has her own post label in the sidebar.

The Texas Education Agency has filed a motion to dismiss Comer's wrongful termination lawsuit. This so-called "motion to dismiss" is also partly a motion for summary judgment because it addresses the merits of the complaint as well as arguing that Comer does not have standing to sue.

IMO TEA's decision to dump Comer was a mistake. She has become a Darwinist heroine and martyr whose ouster is now being exploited to try to justify the persecution of critics of Darwinism. The National Center for Science Education even made a YouTube video about her. However, because dumping her is now a fait accompli, I think it is now necessary to justify dumping her even if dumping her was a mistake.

Comer's complaint claims that the TEA's policy of neutrality towards creationism is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard that teaching creationism in the public schools is unconstitutional. However, even assuming arguendo that the TEA has a duty to inform the public of this ruling of the Supreme Court, Comer's use of her TEA email account to forward the announcement of the Forrest lecture still does not pass muster because the lecture did not just condemn creationism but also condemned Intelligent Design, and only one federal judge ruled that teaching or mentioning ID in public school science classrooms is unconstitutional, and that ruling applies only to the Dover Area school district. Part of the forwarded announcement of the lecture said,
In her talk, Forrest will provide a detailed report on her expert testimony in the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board trial as well as an overview of the history of the “intelligent design” movement.

Forrest's lecture is described in more detail here.

Questions concerning evolution education are topics of upcoming public hearings and the TEA has the right to have a policy of neutrality on those topics and expect TEA employees to abide by that policy. TEA employees should be officially neutral because they are civil service employees as opposed to being elected officials or political appointees. In addition to the ID issue, Comer's forwarding of the Forrest lecture announcement also compromised the TEA's image of neutrality on the following other topics that are likely to come up in the public hearings:

(1) -- whether to retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the state science standards -- this is now a big issue.

(2) -- whether to teach or mention non-ID criticisms of evolution.

(3) -- consideration of evolution content in the selection of biology textbooks. In Texas, the state supplies textbooks to the local school districts and there is a wide range of different ways that evolution is treated in different textbooks.

(4) -- whether to add evolution disclaimer stickers to the textbooks. This is a particularly important issue in Texas because the state provides the textbooks for the local school districts. Alabama state law requires evolution disclaimer stickers. A district court in Georgia ruled against evolution disclaimer stickers in Selman v. Cobb County, but an appeals court vacated and remanded the decision and the case was finally settled out of court.

(5) -- whether to add to the state standards a statement to the effect that evolution is central to biology, or adopt a textbook that makes such a statement. There was a big controversy over the new Florida science standards' statement that "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology," but that controversy was completely overshadowed by the controversy over whether to call evolution a "theory" in the state standards.

There once was a lady named Chris,
whose presence we surely don't miss.
She so raised our ire
that were she on fire,
upon her we wouldn't even piss.



Clergy Letter Project now recruiting rabbis

The story is in an article on the website of the National Center for Science Education.

A February 10, 2007 article in the Rocky Mountain News said,

In a comment on the weblog pandasthumb.org, [Clergy Letter Project founder] Zimmerman said that the clergy letter was explicitly limited to Christian clergy. "Since it is fundamentalist Christian ministers who have been shouting to the American people that they must choose between religion and science, it seemed reasonable to have thousands upon thousands of Christian clergy assert otherwise." He went on, "It simply wouldn't be very persuasive to have leaders of other religions saying to Christians that Christian fundamentalist ministers are not speaking for all Christians."

He also wrote, "The Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday are not designed to change the minds of fundamentalists. Rather, our goal is to educate the vast majority of Christians who, if told they have to choose between religion and modern science, are likely to opt for religion."

But Evolution Sunday has a broader purpose than the letter, and next year Zimmerman plans to actively recruit members of other faiths. He's even thinking about changing the name to "Evolution Weekend." Watch for it in 2008.

Zimmerman's assumption that criticizing Darwinism is just a Christian fundy thing is just plain wrong -- a lot of Jewish and Muslim fundies also criticize Darwinism.
At least the Jewish Clergy Letter is not as bad as the Christian Clergy Letter, which says,

We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.




Saturday, August 16, 2008

Texas-funded online charter school declares evolution optional

The Texas Observer blog says,

The Texas Education Agency has approved the expansion of an online charter school that allows students to skip lessons on evolution, the Observer has learned. With the addition of several new regions (Corpus Christi, Austin, and San Antonio), the Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest now can enroll up to 1,500 students in the eastern half of Texas for grades K-8.

The school, which receives public funding and operates under state rules, uses a curriculum developed by K12 Inc, a publicly traded company co-founded by Bill Bennett, the conservative former secretary of education and drug czar. (Bennett served as the chairman of K12 Inc. until 2005, when he stepped down over remarks he made suggesting that aborting black babies would reduce the crime rate.)
According to K12 and the Virtual Academy’s Web site, learning evolution is optional:

How does K¹² teach Evolution?

The concepts of evolution and creationism do not come up in grades K-2. In later grades, we teach evolution as a theory broadly accepted in the scientific community as an organizing theory of biology. We believe that a complete education includes understanding the basics of what this theory is about, even if one disagrees with it. K¹² emphasizes that parents have every right to explain to their children why they do or do not accept the theory and what they believe instead, including the concept of creationism. If parents aren’t interested in any teachings surrounding the theory of evolution, they can skip these lessons.

There we go again with that "organizing (or central or unifying or whatever) theory of biology" hogwash. I am ready to have a conniption fit every time I see it.

IMO a complete education also includes understanding the basics of Intelligent Design and other scientific or pseudoscientifc criticisms of evolution.

Online schools often cater to homeschooling parents, many of whom are Christian conservatives who believe in creationism. The Virtual Academy appears to be marketing its evolution-optional policy as a selling point.

The dogmatic hard sell of evolution in the public schools -- avoiding weaknesses, describing evolution as "central to biology," and not allowing evolution disclaimer statements -- is a major factor in parents' choice of homeschooling.

Nonetheless, the Texas Virtual Academy receives public funding and must abide by Texas’ education standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). It’s the law. The TEKS require that each “student knows the theory of biological evolution.”

In the case of homeschooled students, it is impossible to enforce a requirement that evolution be taught.

“Parents could opt out of those classes but their child is still held responsible for learning the curriculum,” said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe. “[T]hey need to do so with the understanding that their child could still be tested over that material.”

She said she’s never heard of a public school advertising an opt-out policy for evolution.

The above warning should be in K¹²'s above statement about evolution but is not. Parents are taking a big risk when they skip the lessons in evolution. Evolution is a big part of the College Board's AP biology exam and is likely a big part of the College Board's SAT Biology Subject Test and other standardized tests. Students may also need a knowledge of evolution for biology courses in college -- for example, evolution is important in cladistic taxonomy. As I said before, one can know and use evolution theory while believing that some or all of it is untrue.

As I said, I don't even remember studying evolution in my high school biology classes in the early 1960's, but evolution is much more important now, considering that it is the basis of cladistic taxonomy. Still, though, there is no question in my mind that the importance of evolution is now often grossly exaggerated.

The Texas Citizens for Science website says,

NEW! 2008 August 15 - Texas Education Agency Approves Expansion of Online K-8 Education for Texas Virtual Academy Using the Anti-Science K12 Curriculum Once Promoted by William Bennett

Texas Citizens for Science President Dr. Steven Schafersman is preparing a column that exposes the anti-science K12 curriculum used by the new Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA) at Southwest Schools in Houston, Texas. The TXVA was designed to funnel public tax money to Christian Fundamentalist and Biblical Literalist families who homeschool their children, and now it has just been approved by the TEA for use in large cities throughout the state. The TXVA uses the discredited K12 curriculum once promoted by William Bennett, which avoids the e-word and allows parents to keep their children ignorant of evolutionary biology.

That last statement in bold simply isn't true -- according to the preceding quote from the K¹² website, the K¹² curriculum includes evolution and even teaches it "as a theory broadly accepted in the scientific community as an organizing theory of biology," and the K¹² website adds, "We believe that a complete education includes understanding the basics of what this theory is about, even if one disagrees with it."

The TCS article says,

The TEA plans to help homeschooled students remain undeducated about evolution by keeping state 10th-grade end-of-course biology exams free of evolution questions (except having a few "weaknesses" of evolution questions).

For starters, the TEA is not supposed to "plan" any kind of policy -- the TEA is only supposed to implement policies and is supposed to be neutral about the evolution controversy. And even if evolution were eliminated from state 10th grade end-of-course biology exams, evolution would remain in the College Board tests in biology and in college courses in biology.

The column will be linked here soon, but for now please see the News Articles and Editorials that have covered this topic since 2001.

TCS President Schafersman had dealt with this topic in a 2003 article, and he thought the danger was over, but this ugly, smelly beast did not die a natural death, but kept out of sight until the Commissioner of Education could release it to the thousands of families that want to give their children a religious, anti-scientific education at public expense.

2001 and 2003? Before the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, I wasn't even aware that a big controversy over evolution was going on. The Kitzmiller decision was a pyrrhic victory for the Darwinists -- it has almost no precedential value but it has aroused a hornets' nest of opposition to the dogmatic teaching of Darwinism in the public schools. In my case, bashing Judge Jones has become sort of a hobby with me.



Friday, August 15, 2008

Still more "central to biology" claptrap

An article titled "Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait", whose Penn State authors are not even biologists but are political scientists, says,

The National Academy of Sciences calls evolution “the central concept of biology” [6], and three respected national organizations have provided model high school curriculum guidelines with evolution as a unifying theme [7–9] . . . ..

Community pressures place significant stress on teachers as they try to teach evolution, stresses that can lead them to de-emphasize, downplay, or ignore the topic [20]. This is particularly true of the many teachers who lack a full understanding of evolution, or at least confidence in their knowledge of it. Such a lack of confidence can lead teachers to avoid confrontations with students, parents, and the wider community. They may, for example, not treat evolution as the class's organizing principle, or may avoid effective hands-on activity to teach it, or not ask students to apply natural selection to real life situations [19] . . . . .
Those teachers who stressed evolution by making it the unifying theme of their course spent more time on it. Overall, only 23% strongly agreed that evolution served as the unifying theme for their biology or life sciences courses (Table S2); these teachers devoted 18.5 hours to evolution, 50% more class time than other teachers. When we asked whether an excellent biology course could exist without mentioning Darwin or evolutionary theory at all, 13% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that such a course could exist.

Well, it's good to know that "only 23% strongly agreed that evolution served as the unifying theme for their biology or life sciences courses," though a larger number might think that evolution is the unifying theme. And assuming one hour per class, 18.5 hours devoted to evolution amounts to nearly four weeks! That's disgusting. I don't even remember studying evolution at all when I was in high school in the early 1960's.

. . . .there are three widely circulated documents that serve as guidelines at the national level [6–8] . . . . all three of these reports expect and recommend a substantial investment in evolutionary biology and evolution-related topics. All expect science teachers to “provide evidence that evolution has attained its status as a unifying theme in science”[12].

However, the article reported some positive news:

Our survey of biology teachers is the first nationally representative, scientific sample survey to examine evolution and creationism in the classroom. Three different survey questions all suggest that between 12% and 16% of the nation's biology teachers are creationist in orientation. Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a “young earth” personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light. The number of hours devoted to these alternative theories is typically low—but this nevertheless must surely convey to students that these theories should be accorded respect as scientific perspectives.

These Darwin-doubting biology teachers have at least some knowledge of biology and do not fit the stereotypes of Darwin doubters as being ignorant rednecks and hillbillies.

The statement that evolution is "central to biology" simply isn't true. There are lots of things in biology where evolution is simply irrelevant. That "central to biology" statement is at least partly intended to be -- in the words of Kansas Univ. professor Paul Mirecki -- "a nice slap in the big fat face of the fundies" and other critics of evolution theory. Opponents of Darwinist dogma need to make opposition to this "central to biology" claptrap a top priority.

The following chart is from the article:

Figure 2. High School Biology Teachers' Personal Beliefs Concerning Human Origins, Compared with a Representative Sample of the General Public, Spring 2007

Our teachers were each asked a question about their own personal beliefs about human origins. This question is identical to a question that major polling organizations have asked members of the general public since 1981 [2]. Figure 2 compares the results for our sample of teachers surveyed during March and April of 2007 with the results of a public opinion poll conducted for Newsweek on March 28–29 of 2007 (see Table S4). Among the biology teachers, 16% believed that human beings were created by God in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years (and an additional 9% declined to answer). Although this is a far smaller proportion than found among the general public (48%), our data demonstrate substantial sympathy for the “young earth” creationist position among nearly one in six members of the science teaching profession. The teachers who chose the “young earth” creationist position devoted 35% fewer class hours to evolution than all other teachers (Table S5).