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.

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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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Promoting "teaching the controversy"

This post is mostly a summary of ideas that I have already discussed on this blog. [1] [2].

Some of the links below are to post-label groups of articles on this blog.

Scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms (or weaknesses) of evolution theory:

(1) Teaching scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution serves the bona fide secular purposes of broadening students' education, encouraging critical thinking, and increasing student interest. If students are mature enough to learn evolution theory, then they are mature enough to learn criticisms of the theory. Censoring these criticisms is anti-intellectual.

(2) Some of these criticisms are too sophisticated to be taught by laypeople, e.g., typical parents, Sunday school teachers, and non-science public school teachers. You have to know what you are doing when teaching such things as (1) the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction and (2) the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (even biology teachers are often not expert about this -- this is more in the realm of physicists and mechanical engineers).

(3) Point out that Intelligent Design is not the only (pseudo)scientific criticism of evolution. This blog has some non-ID criticisms of evolution, especially co-evolution, and there are others.

(3) Point out that Intelligent Design and other (pseudo)scientific criticisms of religion are based on scientific observations and scientific reasoning and thus are different from creationism, which is based on religious sources.

(4) Point out that even if the criticisms of evolution theory are wrong, they serve the important function of forcing scientists to confront weaknesses in the theory.

(5) Students may be told that some criticisms of evolution are not widely accepted in the scientific community.

Teaching evolution theory:
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(1) Teach the difference between microevolution and macroevolution.

(2) Teach that evolution is part fact and part theory. Microevolution is fact. Unless the evidence is deceiving us, the earth is old and changes through time and some common descent are facts. However, evidence that evolution was driven solely by natural selection and what we know as natural genetic variation is poor.

(3) Teach that knowing evolution theory is useful even if the theory is wholly or partly untrue. Much of biological literature uses the terms and concepts of evolution theory. Evolution theory is the basis of cladistic taxonomy, which is popular today, especially in paleontology. Too often students are told that they need to learn evolution because it is true -- they should be told that they should learn evolution whether it is true or not.

(4) Avoid teaching about the religious, social, philosophical, moral, etc. implications of evolution theory. These subjects are too sensitive to be taught in science class.

(5) Don't teach the idea that evolution is central to biology or similar nonsense.

(6) Don't spend excessive time on evolution. I don't know how much time should be spent on the subject, but a recent national survey of teachers shows that about 38% of respondents spend 11-20 hours or more on "general evolutionary processes," and that much time is clearly excessive. Many of these teachers spend additional time on human evolution.

(7) Try to teach it just once and then forget about it. Try to avoid repeatedly sticking Darwin in students' faces unnecessarily. Textbooks should confine evolution to one chapter.

For the courts:

(1) Declare evolution disclaimer statements to be constitutional.

(2) Declare that scientific issues in the evolution controversy are non-justiciable. Get out of the business of trying to micro-manage evolution education.

(3) Recognize that there is no constitutional principle of separation of pseudoscience and state. Don't allow people to misuse the establishment clause for attacking (pseudo)scientific ideas that they don't like.

(4) Rule that when a university denies accreditation to any course in a private high school because the sole or main textbook has a special viewpoint or narrow focus (e.g., the fundy-oriented biology texts in ACSI v. Stearns), then that university must deny accreditation to all courses in that subject that use sole or main textbooks that have a special viewpoint or narrow focus. Otherwise the courts are going to be turned into textbook accreditation agencies.

(5) Overturn Blum v. Stenson, which ruled that attorney fee awards in civil rights cases may not be reduced on the grounds that legal representation was by a non-profit organization (the ruling presumably also applies to any pro bono representation). The ruling was based on a misinterpretation of a Senate report, which only said that the attorney fee awards should not be reduced on the grounds that the claims are non-pecuniary and said nothing about non-profit or pro bono representation. Only court decisions cited by the report discussed non-profit and pro bono representation (no, Kevin, you pettifogging troll, citation of a court opinion does not mean automatic endorsement of the entire contents of the opinion, nor are readers of the Senate report responsible for reading the cited court opinions, you stupid dunghill, and furthermore the Senate report doesn't even tell readers that they need to read the court opinions for more information, you beetlebrained crackpot).

(6) Recognize that excessive time spent on monkey trials results in short shrift or no shrift for other cases.

For state science standards:

(1) Avoid trying to define or redefine terms like "scientific theory" -- this will only lead to confusion and misunderstandings.

(2) Avoid stating philosophies of science, e.g., stating that science is by definition testable and falsifiable. By that definition, a lot of evolution theory would not be scientific.

For Congress:

Put a maximum cap on attorney fee awards to plaintiffs in establishment clause cases. The threat of exorbitant attorney fee awards to plaintiffs -- e.g., the $1 million award in Kitzmiller v. Dover -- discourages legislatures and school boards from doing things that the courts might find to be constitutional. Even a very generous cap would be an enormous improvement over the present situation. For balance, also cap attorney fee awards in free-exercise clause cases.

For students:

In the debate over teaching the controversy, we have heard the least from those who are most affected -- the students themselves. Students should be encouraged to support teaching the controversy.

Well, have I left anything out? I hope not.

Also, a recent national survey of public school science teachers showed that 25% of respondents teach creationism or intelligent design, so the question is not only whether to teach these subjects but also how to teach them. Darwinists who bury their heads in the sand and pretend that these subjects are not being taught in public schools will miss an opportunity to influence how these subjects are taught. A report on the survey said,

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.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Candidates' views on teaching the controversy

An article in Nature magazine said,

Barack Obama accepted Nature's invitation to answer 18 science-related questions in writing; John McCain's campaign declined . . . . . . . Wherever possible, Nature has noted what McCain has said at other times on these topics.

Here are the answers on a question about evolution education:

Do you believe that evolution by means of natural selection is a sufficient explanation for the variety and complexity of life on Earth? Should intelligent design, or some derivative thereof, be taught in science class in public schools?

Obama: I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.

McCain said last year, in a Republican primary debate: "I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also." In 2005, he told the Arizona Daily Star that he thought "all points of view" should be available to students studying the origins of humanity. But the next year a Colorado paper reported him saying that such viewpoints should not be taught in science class.

It looks like John McCain has been very wishy-washy about the issue.
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It is generally well known that GOP V-P candidate Sarah Palin is in favor of teaching the controversy. Dem V-P candidate Sen. Biden has a mixed record on the issue -- one source said,

Evolution/Intelligent Design:
On an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Biden criticized teaching intelligent design in schools saying, "This is reversible, man. This is reversible. We don't have to go down this road. I refuse to believe the majority of people believe this malarkey!”

On the other hand, the Discovery Institute pointed out that Biden voted in favor of the "teach the controversy" Santorum Amendment in 2001.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Summary of criticisms of proposed Texas science standards


My original post about these standards was long-winded and had no summary of my criticisms. I am commenting here only about the high school standards.

A website for receiving comments about the proposed standards has not been posted yet.

(1) Create a core set of science standards that applies to all disciplines. Each discipline -- e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics -- now has a complete set of independent standards and there is no core set of standards. So, e.g., three of the disciplines define or discuss "theory" and others do not, two of the disciplines have the "strengths and weaknesses" language and others do not.

(2) Retain Rule 3A's "strengths and weaknesses" language, which has been in the standards for 20 years or more:

(A) The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.

This language is unfortunately missing in the proposed biology standards. Scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of prevailing theories should be taught by science teachers, not by unqualified parents, Sunday school teachers, etc.. Also, teaching weaknesses of prevailing scientific theories broadens students' education, encourages critical thinking, and increases student interest.

(3) Remove definitions and discussions of the term "scientific theory." These non-standard definitions are going to create chaos because textbooks tend to be tailored to suit Texas and hence are likely to adopt these definitions. The definition of "scientific theory" should be left to standard dictionaries.

(4) All philosophy of science and attempts to define the meaning of the word "science" should be removed. This stuff is too subjective, arbitrary and contentious to be included in state science standards.

(5) Correct inappropriate uses of the word "evolution." The word "evolution" generally connotes "development" or a pattern of "progression." The word should not be used to describe random and directionless change. So the expressions "biological evolution" and "stellar evolution" are OK, but "evolution of continents" is not.

(6) I see nothing wrong with directly mentioning human evolution in the standards, even though the science standards of only about 5 states currently directly mention it. Human evolution is not now in the proposed standards.

(7) The proposed standards do not have that outrageous cockamamie idea that evolution is central to biology, but I am going to speak out against this idea anyway in case someone tries to insert it.

(8) New item added 10/23/08 -- Reword the "strengths and weaknesses" language to say "scientific strengths and scientific and pseudoscientific weaknesses," which should exclude creationism and supernaturalism because those things do not pretend to be scientific.

IMO there should just be national standards and no state standards (only Iowa does not have any state science standards of its own) -- but that is a another matter.

General principles:

(1) There is no constitutional principle of separation of pseudoscience and state.

(2) The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If flat-earthers, geocentrists, etc. ever get enough political clout to have their ideas seriously considered for inclusion in science curricula, we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

The National Center for Science Education has an article -- with links to other websites -- about these proposed standards.

I have been commenting extensively on a Houston Chronicle Evo.Sphere blog article about the proposed standards.

I decided to make the first use of my "No trolls" (or "Please don't feed the trolls") symbol.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

"Expelled" movie DVD ad on Answers-in-Genesis website

Some young-earth creationists are unfriendly towards Intelligent Design and other scientific criticisms of evolution because they regard them as sort of blasphemous suggestions that the word of god needs scientific support. However, Answers-in-Genesis, a YEC website, often uses scientific arguments against evolution and sells Michael Behe's ID book "Darwin's Black Box" and the DVD of Ben Stein's ID movie "Expelled: No intelligence allowed." AiG's ad for the "Expelled" DVD is especially enthusiastic:

Special pre-release SALE! Get everyone you know to view this eye-opening documentary. Host a video party at your home! Order now to receive it immediately upon its worldwide release! (Ships beginning October 21)

The lie of evolution must be exposed!


The message of this top-quality expose' will both enthrall and shock you. Ben Stein's amazing, much-discredited (by evolutionists!) documentary is worthy of an Academy Award(R). But it will never receive one, because it reveals that America is losing some of its most important freedoms (academic freedoms, especially in tax-supported institutions) because of what atheistic evolutionists are doing. You will be astounded at what they have already done to squash educational freedom and mock God . . . . .
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A very popular “evolution-busting” tool to expose the lack of academic freedom in America’s schools today, we urge you to use it as a powerful resource for outreach. This film is an excellent springboard to tell people who the real intelligence behind the universe is: the Creator God of the Bible. Buy an extra copy and tell your pastor that the whole church—including the teens—must see it!

Professional review

“Expelled is a highly entertaining and riveting documentary . . . it’s one of those rare films that I urge you not to miss.”
— Ken Ham, CEO/President of Answers in Genesis–USA

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New "no trolls" symbol


OK, you lousy trolls -- the party's over.

IMO the above symbol is more accurate than the symbol with the dwarf -- in folklore, trolls are dwarfs or giants. IMO the Internet term "troll" was derived from the fishing term -- Internet trolling is like fishing for angry responses. In fishing, "troll" can mean a lure -- or a lure and line -- used in trolling.

IMO good titles for the above symbol would be "No trolls" or "Please don't feed the trolls."

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Proposed Texas science standards released

The long-awaited proposed Texas science standards (the science standards of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills -- or TEKS for short) have been released. These standards are especially controversial because of the following reasons:

(1) -- There is a large number of Darwin-doubters on the Texas School Board, including the board's chairperson, Don McLeroy.

(2) -- the ouster of the Texas Education Agency's science director Christine Comer, at least partly for violating the TEA's policy of neutrality by misusing her TEA email address to forward an announcement of a lecture about a conspiracy theory that critics of evolution are conspiring to take over the USA. She is now suing the TEA over her ouster. She has her own post label in the sidebar.

(3) -- efforts by Darwinists -- notably Steven Schafersman and his Texas Citizens for Science -- to remove language about teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. This language has been in the state standards for around 20 years or more.

(4) -- a map chart prepared by the National Center for Science Education and the Fordham Foundation (no connection to Fordham University) shows Texas as being only one of only eight states -- mostly in the Bible Belt -- that now has state science standards that only mention evolution "briefly, unclearly." The map chart shows the current science standards of all the other states (not counting Iowa, which does not have its own science standards) as treating biological evolution "straightforwardly and/or thoroughly." The proposed new Texas standards would move Texas into the category of states in the map chart that treat evolution "straightforwardly and/or thoroughly."

(5) -- Texas is one of the biggest single buyers of textbooks. In most states, textbooks are selected on a school-by-school or district-by-district basis, but textbooks are purchased on a statewide basis in Texas. Also, Texas has a lot of national influence on textbooks' contents because many states and school boards adopt Texas's selections. The new state science standards could influence the contents of future Texas textbooks.

I don't know of any Internet address for receiving comments about the proposed science standards -- an address will probably be established in the future.

The standards are divided up into three separate parts: high school, 6th-8th grade, and K-5th grade. I will comment only on the first two.
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High school standards:

(1) The high school standards are divided up into disciplines, e.g. , biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy. There are no overall standards covering all the disciplines -- this causes problems, as I discuss later. To add to the confusion, there are separate standards for chemistry, physics, and "integrated physics and chemistry."

(2) The word "evolution" appears 9 times in the high school standards, but only 6 of those appearances are wholly or partly in connection with biology (to see the appearances of a term in a PDF file, click on the binoculars icon in the top border). IMO the standards inappropriately use the term "evolution" in several non-biological contexts, e.g., evolution of the universe, evolution and properties of the integrated Earth and planetary systems, evolution of Earth's atmosphere over time, and geological evolution. I presume that the Earth and Space Science panel, which the fanatic pro-evolutionist Steven Schafersman of the Texas Citizens for Science was on, wrote these phrases that use the term "evolution." I decided to look up the definitions of "evolution" in the Merriam Webster online dictionary (I previously looked up the word "evolve" and the definitions were not very helpful). One definition of evolution is:

"a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state"

This is the usage associated with biology and IMO is the usage that most people are most familiar with. BTW, biological evolution does not always result in an increase in complexity -- for example, blind salamanders and fish are believed to have evolved from sighted salamanders and fish -- but the overall trend of evolution has been an increase in complexity and a change towards a higher or better state.

The M-W online dictionary also gives the following definition:

"a process in which the whole universe is a progression of interrelated phenomena"

The life of a star can be considered to be a "progression" of stages -- in fact, this is called "stellar evolution." I think that where changes follow a pattern of progression, the changes may properly be called "evolution." However, where the changes are just random and directionless, like the changes in continents, then IMO those changes are not properly called evolution. No one would ever speak of the "evolution of continents." So IMO instead of using only the term "evolution" to describe non-biological changes, IMO it is sometimes appropriate to use the terms "changes" or "evolution or changes."

(3) The "strengths and weaknesses" language -- which has been in the old standards for 20 years or more -- appears twice in the proposed new standards, but only in the standards for chemistry and astronomy (as noted, the standards are divided up into different disciplines). The language does not appear in the proposed biology standards.

(4) Though "evolution" (or "evolutionary") appears 9 times in the standards, 6 times wholly or partly in regard to biology, it is called a "theory" in only one place in the standards: "The student knows evolutionary theory is an explanation for the diversity of life"(page 9). In Florida, there was a big fight over whether to call evolution a "theory" in the state standards -- in a compromise, the word "theory" was added to evolution and other theories as well. What is not well known is that the Florida standards also redefined "scientific theory" as being a "well-supported" and "widely accepted" explanation. That is just not true -- there are "strong" theories and "weak" theories.

(5) Definition of the term "theory": The scientific meaning of the term is discussed in the biology, chemistry and physics standards. To search for the definitions, you must search for the plural word "theories" -- you will not find the definitions by searching for the singular "theory." Most of these definitions are not as bad as the Florida state standards' definition, which flatly defines "scientific theory" as being a "well-supported" and "widely accepted" explanation -- with no exceptions.

(6) -- fortunately, these proposed standards -- unlike the recently adopted Florida standards -- have no statement about evolution being central to biology or a similar statement. More about this below.

(7) There is a lot of repetition, redundancy, and inconsistency between the standards for the different disciplines. This creates confusion and misunderstanding -- for example, one could be reading a standard for an individual discipline and falsely assume that that standard applies to all of the science standards. I have already pointed out that the standards for the different disciplines have been inconsistent in retaining the "strengths and weaknesses" language. Is this a sneaky way of trying to hide the fact that the "strengths and weaknesses" language has been dropped from the biology standards? Lousy trolls are now going to quibble that no one would be dumb enough to think that a standard listed under a particular discipline would apply to the whole science standards. Well, if people were not that dumb, there would not be those big fat "Wrong Way" signs on the exits to freeways. If people were not that dumb, there would not be that "This is not the road to Fresno" sign in Kings Canyon National Park. Duh. And all these inconsistent standards are just a tower of babble (sic) that is virtually impossible to deal with. There should be at most just one definition of "scientific theory" (IMO definitions of that term should be left to dictionaries), one statement about "strengths and weaknesses," etc.. IMO these high school standards should just be scrapped entirely and new standards should be written by starting from a clean slate.

Grades 6-8 Standards:

The words evolution, evolve, evolved, and evolving do not appear. "Natural selection" appears twice. Co-evolution is mentioned: "describe the characteristics of two species that may adapt to one another through generations such as humming birds (sic) and tubular flowers or the Yucca moth and Yucca plant" (page 14). Other statements in the standards are related to evolution.

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I propose the following realistic goals for state science standards --

(1) -- keep out or remove statements about evolution being central to biology or unifying biology, that kind of thing. Fortunately, the proposed Texas science standards has no such statement. Unfortunately, the Florida state science standards that were recently adopted has the statement, "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology," and the controversy over that statement was overshadowed by the controversy over the finally-adopted proposal to call evolution a "theory." How could evolution be central to biology when 13% of respondents in a national survey of science teachers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that an "excellent" biology course could exist that does not mention Darwin or evolution at all (and presumably a larger percentage would agree or strongly agree with the statement that evolution is not central to biology)? What percentage of science teachers would agree with, say, a statement that an "excellent" physics course could exist that does not mention Newton's Laws of Motion? Some people's brains have been parasitized by that stupid 1973 paper titled "Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution" written by Theodosius Dobzhansky.

(2) -- add or keep language about teaching the teaching both the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories.

(3) -- discredit the National Center for Science Education and the Fordham Foundation/Institute as evaluators of evolution education standards. The NCSE is of course dedicated to the dogmatic teaching of evolution. Paul R. Gross, the principal author of the Fordham Foundation report, is a co-author -- with Barbara Forrest -- of "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse -- The Wedge of Intelligent Design," which is an absurd book about a conspiracy theory that critics of evolution are a bunch of fundies who are conspiring to take over the country. Gross Gross (sic) also threatened to drop Ohio's overall science grade from a B to an F because of the state's lesson plan for a critical analysis of evolution (letter posted Jan. 21, 2006 on the website of Ohio Citizens for Science). Let's get the foxes out of the henhouse.

(4) -- oppose attempts to redefine "theory" or "scientific theory" in the standards. The new Florida state science standards define "scientific theory" as being a "well-supported" and "wide accepted" explanation. That simply isn't true -- there are "strong" scientific theories and "weak" scientific theories. These attempts to redefine words tend to create a tower of babble (sic) where people cannot understand each other. It is OK for things like laws to give special definitions of words because everyone realizes that those definitions are for one-time use only (sort of like the term pro hac vice, "for this time only," meaning allowing an out-of-state attorney to participate in just a particular court case when the attorney is not licensed in the state).

My post The state of evolution education in the USA and an agenda for sane evolution education has more recommendations for evolution education.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Many organizations should not take sides in the evolution controversy

Unfortunately, many organizations that should be neutral about the evolution controversy -- including scientific organizations and religious denominations -- have taken sides in the controversy. Of course, taking sides is OK for an organization that is dedicated to taking sides in the controversy, e.g., the so-called National Center for Science Education, but when other kinds of organizations take sides, it is unfair to members who disagree with the position taken and there is often a false impression of the extent of members' support of the position -- in fact, in some cases a majority of members could oppose the position. A recent example of an organization which IMO has improperly taken sides is the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences -- an NCSE news report says,

The Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences recently issued a statement on creationism, beginning, "Canadian media report growing public pressure to introduce Creationism and its equivalent Intelligent Design (ID) in school curricula, hinting that Creationism/ID is a 'theory', thus suggesting that it shares common ground with science-based theories. Such reporting ignores the fundamental difference between faith and measurable facts. . . . .
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"Creationism and ID do not qualify as science, because the scientific method is not deployed and these ideas are therefore not theories or hypotheses in universally accepted scientific sense," the statement continues. "Hence, Creationism and ID do not belong in any K-12 science curriculum." The Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences describes itself as "the unified voice of more than 15 Canadian learned and professional earth science societies"; it represents more than 15,000 practicing earth scientists in Canada.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rabbis' pro-Darwinist letter on evolution education

A recent Chicago Tribune news article discusses the new Jewish Clergy Letter, which is a counterpart of the Christian Clergy Letter.

I discovered that both the Christian Clergy Letter and the Jewish Clergy Letter discuss only biblical creationism and do not mention scientific and/or pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution, including intelligent design. I made this discovery when comparing the two letters. Proposals to teach biblical creationism in the public schools are not taken seriously, so how much are these clergy letters worth? Not much. Their main purpose is to enable Darwinists to brag, "see how many clergy members are on our side (sort of)?"

Anyway, how much is there to teach about biblical creationism in a biology class? The biblical story of creation covers only about the first two pages of the bible, only part of that story is about the creation of living things, and the concepts of creation of living things are trivial -- "poof." There is nothing in the bible about irreducible complexity, the bacterial flagellum, blood-clotting cascades, co-evolution of obligate mutualism, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, etc.. BTW, what kind of credibility do the Darwinists have -- or should they have -- when they claim that these things are religious ideas?
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IMO the Jewish community's views on evolution and evolution education can be properly viewed only in the contexts of (1) Jews' relations with Christians, particularly fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, and (2) Jews' different views on the degree of Darwinism's influence on Nazi anti-Semitism. For example, Jews who are extremely hostile to Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals, e.g., the Jews in the Anti-Defamation League, also tend to be extremely hostile to the idea of teaching criticisms of evolution in the public schools because they view such teaching as an attempt to sneak Christianity into the public schools. This ADL view on evolution education has presumably also affected the ADL's view of the Darwin-to-Hitler controversy. Also, apparently the ADL blames Christianity for Nazi anti-semitism and doesn't want any of the blame shifted to Darwinism. On the other hand, the anti-Darwinism of Jewish Ben Stein -- of the movie "Expelled" -- and agnostic Jew David Berlinski is intensified by their belief that Darwinism was a major cause of Nazi anti-Semitism. I go over these issues in the following articles on this blog --
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]. These articles are all from the Darwin-to-Hitler post label groups (there are two such groups because I am limited to a maximum of 20 articles per post label) -- some of the articles do not concern the Darwin-to-Hitler issue per se but I filed them under the Darwin-to-Hitler post labels anyway to keep down the number of post labels. I may add another post label later. This blog has a list of post-label links in the sidebar of the home page (and also in the sidebars of the post-label groups of articles).

Here are some comments specifically about the Chicago Tribune article:

Carl Feit, the Ades Chair of Health Science at Yeshiva University in New York City and an ordained orthodox rabbi, said that compared with American Christianity, Judaism is largely untroubled by evolution.

That simply isn't true -- among orthodox Jews in particular, there is widespread opposition to the Darwinian theory of evolution.

IMO most people agree that evolution should be taught -- the big issue is whether evolution should be taught dogmatically or whether both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution should be taught.

"I would say that as Jews, being a minority, we're particularly sensitive to not having the views of others imposed on us," Oler said.

A lot of Jews feel that criticisms of evolution are their own views, not the views of others.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Judge Jones still on the lecture circuit

Judge John E. "Jackass" Jones III is still giving public speeches, at least occasionally -- I thought that by now he would have crawled back into his hole because of all the blistering criticism of his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. I previously reported that Jones is scheduled to be a "keynote" (sounds off-key to me) speaker at a conference titled "Darwin's Reach: A Celebration of Darwin's Legacy Across Academic Disciplines," to be held at Hofstra University in March 2009. Now I have learned that Judge Jones is scheduled to speak on Sept. 25 at Case Western Reserve University as part of a lecture series titled, "2008-2009 Year of Darwin and Evolution." BTW, critics of evolution and critics of court decisions about evolution are conspicuously absent from these events.
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I presume that his speeches now are -- like his speech at a national meeting of the Anti-Defamation League and his speech at Bennington College -- harangues about the virtues of "judicial independence" instead of attempts to defend his Dover decision in particular, like his "true religion" commencement speech at Dickinson College. What Judge Jones does not realize is that the principle of "judicial independence" can go only so far in justifying an unpopular decision -- the public is supposed to be generally supportive of the constitutional principles and laws that court decisions are supposed to be based upon. Megalomaniacal Judge Jones fancies himself as a white knight in shining armor -- or a Horatius at the bridge -- heroically defending the Constitution and the ideals of the Founders against the tyranny of the great unwashed majority. Where a decision is unpopular, the court opinion should at least argue persuasively that the decision was reasonable and fair, but the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion utterly failed to do this -- the majority of expert opinions in law journal articles and elsewhere were critical -- often harshly critical -- of the opinion.

A note about Judge Jones' nickname "Jackass": That is what Dover defendant Bill Buckingham called him in an interview on the PBS NOVA TV program about the trial, and I decided I liked the name -- it is brief, alliterative, and to the point.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Bibliography bluffing wrongly accepted as evidence in Dover decision


I discussed this issue in a previous post, and I am now raising the issue again in response to a recent Panda's Thumb post, which discusses the following statement by Casey Luskin:
. . . Judge Jones found that Behe’s claims that the immune system was irreducibly complex were refuted by a large stack of papers dumped upon him during cross-examination.

An introduction to a National Center for Science Education webpage that lists the titles of that large stack of papers (and also books and textbook chapters) says,
Scientific literature on the evolutionary origin of the immune system

This is the list of books, textbook chapters, and articles that were presented to Defense expert Michael Behe during cross-examination in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial about the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design." The cross-examination was conducted by Pepper-Hamilton attorney Eric Rothschild. Behe summarily dismissed the mass of scientific literature on the evolution of the immune system, despite the fact that it contradicted his previous assertion that the scientific community had "no answers" on the question. This episode was cited in Judge Jones's ruling against intelligent design, and various press accounts.

However, Rule 803(18) of the Federal Rules of Evidence says that statements in "learned treatises . . . may be read into evidence but may not be received as exhibits":
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(18) Learned treatises. To the extent called to the attention of an expert witness upon cross-examination or relied upon by the expert witness in direct examination, statements contained in published treatises, periodicals, or pamphlets on a subject of history, medicine, or other science or art, established as a reliable authority by the testimony or admission of the witness or by other expert testimony or by judicial notice. If admitted, the statements may be read into evidence but may not be received as exhibits.

The courtroom testimony shows that the literature was actually presented as an exhibit and even had an exhibit number, Plaintiff's Exhibit 743:

Q. Professor Behe, what I have given you has been marked Plaintiff's Exhibit 743. It actually has a title, "Behe immune system articles," but I think we can agree you didn't write these?

A. I'll have to look through. No, I did not.

Q. And there are fifty-eight articles in here on the evolution of the immune system?

A. Yes. That's what it seems to say.

And in violation of FRE Rule 803(18), the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion accepted this exhibit of "learned treatises" as evidence (page 78):

. . . .on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough." (23:19 (Behe))

Also, in my previous post on the subject, I said,

Some Darwinists have been arguing that the above rule barring learned treatises from being received as exhibits does not apply here because allegedly the issue was just the existence and authoritativeness of the publications and not whether the publications refuted Behe's claims. However, the final opinion assumed that the publications refuted Behe's claims, even though no statement from the publications was read into the record. As noted above, the final opinion said,

In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that is was not "good enough."

-- and the opinion later said,

We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large.

So the ultimate issue in the opinion was not whether the publications existed and were authoritative but was whether their evidence for the evolution of immune systems was "good enough" to refute Behe's claims -- and Judge Jones assumed that the answer was "yes," even though no statement from the publications was read into the record. And as Behe pointed out, the words "good enough" were not his but were the attorney's.

Actually, I did not need any court rule to tell me that there was something very fishy about admitting a stack of literature as evidence. Evidence is not supposed to be weighed by the pound.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Scientific criticism of evolution is excluded from Catholic conference

The Catholic News Service reports,

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Speakers invited to attend a Vatican-sponsored congress on the evolution debate will not include proponents of creationism and intelligent design, organizers said.

The Pontifical Council for Culture, Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana are organizing an international conference in Rome March 3-7 as one of a series of events marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species."

Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a philosophy professor at the Gregorian, told Catholic News Service Sept. 16 that organizers "wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific" and that discussed rational philosophy and theology along with the latest scientific discoveries.

Well, how in the hell can the conference be "strictly scientific" if "rational philosophy" and theology are going to be included?

He said arguments "that cannot be critically defined as being science, or philosophy or theology did not seem feasible to include in a dialogue at this level and, therefore, for this reason we did not think to invite" supporters of creationism and intelligent design.

Well, maybe you did not think to invite them, but you did think to not invite them. Without hearing all sides, the conference has no credibility.

The CNS news report continues,
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Father Leclerc was one of several organizers speaking at a Sept. 16 Vatican press conference about the congress, part of the culture council's "Science, Technology and the Ontological Quest," or STOQ project.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the other extreme of the evolution debate -- proponents of an overly scientific conception of evolution and natural selection -- also were not invited.

So they were not invited either. I suppose this means that theistic evolutionists like Ken Miller will be invited but atheistic evolutionists like Richard Dawkins will not.

The conference is going to hear only what it wants to hear.

The conference is also announced here.

Sleazy PZ Myers says,

The Vatican has announced that they are having an evolution congress, and that no creationists or intelligent design creationists will be invited. Isn't that sweet? They're still inviting a swarm of theologians, though, so their exclusion is all window-dressing, a transparent attempt to sidle medieval peddlers of superstitious nonsense up next to some serious science for a photo op and a little propaganda.

PvM says on the Panda's Thumb blog,

On Pharyngula, PZ Myers gives us his perspectives on the event. And while PZ has his usual fun with the attempt at combining science with theology, I believe that he is missing the point.

The Catholic Church, and especially the Jesuits, have been bitten by an anti-science stance more than once and have come to appreciate that a good theology needs to include scientific knowledge, not deny it. So while some churches have chosen to ignore science and embrace (Intelligent Design) Creationism, especially the Young Earth variant, the Catholic church, at least in this case, has rightfully rejected (Intelligent Design) Creationism from a conference which focuses on theology and science.

I find such a position quite refreshing even though I disagree with the Catholic Church on many of its teachings regarding the position of women, birth control etc.

The Darwinists seem perfectly comfortable with the presentation, discussion, and teaching of criticisms of evolution so long as it is not done by scientists or science teachers.

It is mostly the Darwinists who are pressuring the churches to take their side in the evolution controversy — there are the Clergy Letter Project (with a separate letter for rabbis now), the Darwin Sunday sermons, scientists volunteering to serve as "technical consultants" for the clergy, etc.. The Church of England is apologizing to Darwin and the Methodist church has passed pro-Darwinist resolutions. IMO this is a controversy that the churches should not take official positions on. Individual clergy members -- including high-ranking clergy members Cardinal Christophe Schönborn and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who both criticized evolution on scientific grounds -- have taken sides in the controversy, but I feel that they have done so as individuals and not as representatives of their churches.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How are sharia courts different from "rent-a-judge"?

I have no particular interest in this subject -- the only reason why I am posting this is that some stupid troll, in response to my article about some anti-Darwinist statements made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, made an ad hominem attack on the archbishop -- calling him a "bedwetter" and a "wuss" -- based on some statements that the archbishop made about enforcing decisions of sharia courts in the UK.

As pointed out by this article, the decisions of sharia courts are now enforceable in the UK only if both parties agree to arbitration by these courts. How is this fundamentally different from the "rent-a-judge" practice in the USA? In the USA, parties in a dispute who want to bypass the slow government courts -- which can take years to reach a decision -- can agree to "rent" retired judges at rates of up to several hundred dollars per hour. How can these "rent-a-judge" agreements work if the judges' decisions are not accepted as enforceable?

Also, Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy blog posted an article generally supporting the archbishop's statements about sharia courts. Anyway, even if one does not agree with the archbishop, his statements are hardly outrageous.

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


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Darwinist poor-mouthing about evolution education

Darwinists are always portraying themselves as the underdogs in science education whereas the opposite is true -- they are actually in the driver's seat and have a near monopoly on evolution education in the public schools.

In an abstract of an article in the Integrative & Comparative Biology journal, Kevin Padian says,

Although contemporary high school and college textbooks of biology generally cover the principles and data of microevolution (genetic and populational change) and speciation rather well, coverage of what is known of the major changes in evolution (macroevolution), and how the evidence is understood is generally poor to nonexistent.

Padian was a plaintiffs' expert witness at the Dover trial and handed out "Friend of Darwin" certificates at a reunion of the Dover plaintiffs team [1][2]

Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, says (see comment of 9/7/2008 1:51 PM CDT ) --
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. . . in our country's public schools, especially in Texas, evolution is being marginalized and avoided . . .

The reality appears to be quite a bit different.

Dover defendant Bill Buckingham said in an interview for a PBS NOVA program about the Dover trial,

In looking at the biology book the teachers wanted, I noticed that it was laced with Darwinism. I think I listed somewhere between 12 and 15 instances where it talked about Darwin's theory of evolution. It wasn't on every page of the book, but, like, every couple of chapters, there was Darwin, in your face again. And it was to the exclusion of any other theory.

An author of that biology textbook, fanatic Darwinist Ken Miller, testified at the Dover trial that versions of the book are used by about 35 percent of the high school students in the USA:

Q. Is this a textbook that's used in the Dover Area School District, to your knowledge?

A. My understanding, sir, is that it is.

Q. And is it used anywhere else besides Dover?

A. It is used in each and every one of the 50 states of the United States and several foreign countries.

Q. Do you know how many high schools use your biology book?

A. I can't give you a number in terms of the number of schools, but I have been told by my publisher that about 35 percent of the high school students in the United States use one or another of the various textbooks we've been discussing.

Also, this post shows that evolution gets a tremendous amount of attention in US public school science courses.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Are Darwinists really this clueless -- or are they just playing dumb?


That reminds me of a joke --

If people changed flat tires the way they fix computers, people would change one wheel at a time until the problem goes away.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Top UK educator opposes hard-sell teaching of evolution


WOULD YOU BUY A USED SCIENTIFIC THEORY FROM THIS MAN?

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Update #2: Prof. Reiss resigns from position of Royal Society's director of education.

Update: Prof. Reiss's proposal divides the Royal Society -- two Nobel laureates, other senior fellows call for his removal as education director.

The repercussions of Darwin's theory are finally coming home to roost in Darwin's home country. A news article says,

Creationism and intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons, according to a leading expert in science education.

The Rev Prof Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, said that excluding alternatives to scientific explanations for the origin of life and the universe from science lessons was counterproductive and would alienate some children from science altogether.
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He said that around one in 10 children comes from a family with creationist beliefs. "My experience after having tried to teach biology for 20 years is if one simply gives the impression that such children are wrong, then they are not likely to learn much about the science," he said . . . .

. . . . Reiss said he used to be an "evangelist" for evolution in the classroom, but that the approach had backfired. "I realised that simply banging on about evolution and natural selection didn't lead some pupils to change their minds at all. Now I would be more content simply for them to understand it as one way of understanding the universe," he said.

Reiss, who is an ordained Church of England minister, told the British Association Festival of Science in Liverpool that science teachers should not see creationism as a "misconception" but as an alternative "world view". He added that he was not advocating devoting the same time to teaching creationism or intelligent design as to evolution.

There are also those who have non-religious reasons for opposing hard-sell teaching of evolution.

We all know what hard-sell teaching of evolution is like: dogmatic teaching of evolution, constantly in-your-face, no-ifs-ands-buts-or-maybes, the evolution-is-central-to-biology nonsense, no weaknesses, no evolution disclaimer statements, brainwashing, spoon-feeding, no critical thinking allowed, the-only-criticisms-of-evolution-are-unconstitutional-creationist-criticisms, no compromises, if-you-don't-like-it-you-can-go-to-hell, those kinds of things. And it is an unfortunate coincidence in the USA that Darwinists can misuse the Constitution's establishment clause to attack the teaching of scientific (pseudoscientific to them) ideas that they don't like, and I doubt that Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders would approve of such misuse. There is no constitutional principle of separation of pseudoscience and state, and it is this misuse of the establishment clause that has enabled the Darwinist tail to wag the dog.

A recent national survey of science teachers in the USA showed that approximately 25% of respondents spend some time teaching creationism or intelligent design, but many or most of them teach those things just for the purpose of disparaging them.

Why can't evolution just be taught as a sort of imaginary or hokey idea that may be wholly or partly untrue but is nonetheless useful in organizing and conceptualizing biology? As an engineer, I know that engineers are comfortable using analysis methods that are not intuitively correct or accurate, e.g.: (1) the use of complex-plane vectors in the analysis of AC circuits and (2) using rotating-cylinder aerodynamics to analyze fixed-wing airfoil aerodynamics by means of the Joukowski transformation of conformal mapping.

Suggested further reading:

An op-ed written by Prof. Reiss.

A good overview of UK evolution education in the international context.

The Discovery Institute's take on the UK controversy.
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Church of England to "apologise" to Darwin

A news article says,

The Church of England will concede in a statement that it was over-defensive and over-emotional in dismissing Darwin's ideas . . . . .

The apology, which has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church's director of mission and public affairs, says that Christians, in their response to Darwin's theory of natural selection, repeated the mistakes they made in doubting Galileo's astronomy in the 17th century.

"The statement will read: Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practise the old virtues of 'faith seeking understanding' and hope that makes some amends."

I was not aware that the Church of England ever officially condemned either Darwin's or Galileo's ideas. The Catholic church officially condemned Galileo's ideas and apologized several years ago. It is possible that the Church of England was not even aware of Galileo's ideas because the Catholic church tried to suppress them.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, is not ready to "apologise" to Darwin -- the archbishop recently called evolution theory a "pseudo-science" and other nasty things.

Also, the United Methodist Church recently adopted some pro-evolution resolutions. IMO organizations should not take official positions on controversial issues where there is disagreement among the organizations' members.

Hat tip to FortheKids of the Reasonable Kansans blog for pointing out the article.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Victory against Internet censorship -- anti-spam law struck down

The Internet has been a great democratizing influence -- it gives all of us unprecedented opportunities to spread our ideas through emails, our own blogs, and vistor comments on blogs and websites. In contrast to the old ways of spreading ideas, spreading ideas by means of the Internet is fast, easy, and free or very cheap. Also, the Internet makes it easy to target messages to people who are interested in a particular subject. However, there are evil forces attempting to sabotage this democratizing influence, e.g.: (1)Visitors' comments on blogs and other websites are arbitrarily censored, including blogs and other websites that are authoritatively cited by court opinions, scholarly journal articles, and other authorities. (2) I have had on-topic links to my blog censored on the grounds that the links "advertise" or "peddle" my blog. (3) A crooked Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney, Kevin Bankston, threatened to block my emails to other EFF staffers. (4) And if you don't know about Wikipedia, I suggest that you see the articles under the Wikipedia post labels in the sidebar. (5) And Virginia has -- or more correctly, had -- a law against sending non-commercial spam emails. Fortunately this censorious law has just been struck down by the Supreme Court of Virginia. A news article says,
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RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 12) - The Virginia Supreme Court declared the state's anti-spam law unconstitutional Friday and reversed the conviction of a man once considered one of the world's most prolific spammers.

The court unanimously agreed with Jeremy Jaynes' argument that the law violates the free-speech protections of the First Amendment because it does not just restrict commercial e-mails — it restricts other unsolicited messages as well. Most other states also have anti-spam laws, and there is a federal CAN-SPAM Act as well, but those laws apply only to commercial e-mail pitches.

The Virginia law "is unconstitutionally overbroad on its face because it prohibits the anonymous transmission of all unsolicited bulk e-mails, including those containing political, religious or other speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Justice G. Steven Agee wrote.

Agee wrote that "were the Federalist Papers just being published today via e-mail, that transmission by Publius would violate the statute." Publius was the pseudonym used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in essays urging ratification of the Constitution . . . .

Lawyers for the state had argued that the First Amendment doesn't apply because the Virginia law bars trespassing on privately owned e-mail servers through phony e-mail routing and transmission information. The court rejected that characterization of the law.

That argument is ridiculous -- by that line of reasoning, junk postal mailers are trespassing on private mail slots and private mailboxes.

Attorney General Bob McDonnell said he was "deeply disappointed" and vowed to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

You are going to be even more disappointed when your appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court fails, bozo -- this decision of the Virginia Supreme Court looks airtight to me.

John Levine, a board member of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail and one of the state's expert witnesses in the Jaynes case, said he too was disappointed, but added that the ruling won't have broad repercussions because Virginia is the only state that prohibits noncommercial spam.

In 2004, Jaynes became the first person in the country to be convicted of a felony for sending unsolicited bulk e-mail. Authorities claimed Jaynes sent up to 10 million e-mails a day from his home in Raleigh, N.C. He was sentenced to nine years but is currently serving time in federal prison for an unrelated securities fraud conviction unrelated to the Virginia case, Wolf [Thomas M. Wolf, Jaynes' attorney] said.

Jaynes was charged in the spam case in Virginia because the e-mails went through an AOL server there. The Virginia Supreme Court last February affirmed Jaynes' conviction on several grounds but later agreed, without explanation, to reconsider the First Amendment issue. Jaynes was allowed to argue that the law unconstitutionally infringed on political and religious speech even though all his spam was commercial. Wolf said sending commercial spam is still illegal in Virginia under the federal CAN-SPAM Act. However, he said the federal law does not apply to Jaynes because it was adopted after he sent the e-mails that were the basis for the state charges.

There is a national do-not-call list for unsolicited telephone calls, but there is no national do-not-send list for junk postal mail. The reason for the do-not-call list is that unsolicited telephone calls are a real nuisance -- the phone can ring any time of day and you must either answer it or record a message. Junk snail-mail is much less of a nuisance but still needs to be sorted out and discarded. However, spam email is the least nuisance of all because it takes just an instant to delete it.

On AOL at least, those who want to block spam have several options, e..g., (1) a sender filter (e.g., allow email only from AOL members, allow email only from a custom sender list), (2) a words and phrases filter, (3) a content filter. Blocked emails can be automatically deleted immediately or be sent to a spam folder for review. There is simply no excuse for this stupid Virginia law. This stupid Virginia law could prevent people from receiving emails that they really want to receive.

A lot of people have the mistaken idea that this anti-spam law was justified by a supposedly unlimited right to "privacy" in one's own home. This email spam is a much smaller invasion of privacy than sending you to jail if kiddie porn is found in the privacy of your own home.

On the Internet, freedom of speech considerations should outweigh most other considerations. For example, I have proposed a blogging "fairness doctrine" law or custom which would prohibit or discourage arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments on blogs unless the blogger posts a prominent notice warning that visitors' comments are subject to arbitrary censorship. One of the reasons for this fairness doctrine is that comment space on blogs is unlimited and free, unlike comment space in newspapers, magazines, radio talk shows, etc.. Another reason is that blogs are often authoritatively cited by court opinions, scholarly journal articles, the established news media, etc., making accuracy and fairness of major importance.

I very rarely send unsolicited emails to that dunghill Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy blog but he sent me an email asking me to remove him from my email list. He was too lazy to hit the delete button to remove my email but he wanted me to go to the trouble of removing his name from my list. I told the lousy bum to go to hell. If spam emails were a real problem for the jackass, he would not have wasted time responding to mine, which he almost never receives.

Seriously, folks, isn't an unrestricted right to send our ideas over the Internet worth the minor bother of deleting spam? The freedom-of-speech right that you save may be your own. Yes, I know a lot of you think now that you would never send unsolicited email messages, but you might want to someday or you might join an organization that sends them. With millions of other voices out there, it is hard enough to make our own voices heard even without these efforts to censor our speech on the Internet.

Those who send email spam should be courteous to the recipients: (1) use a consistent sending address and (2) use very descriptive subject lines -- e.g., don't just say something like "this is something that you really need to know." I immediately delete emails with messages like "hello" if I don't know the senders.

IMO this ruling is airtight and Virginia is going to lose if it appeals to the US Supreme Court. Spam emails are constitutional for the same reason that it is constitutional to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is a fire -- the benefits of allowing it greatly outweigh the benefits of prohibiting it.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Study of Supreme Court's copying from briefs does not exonerate Judge Jones

This post is copied from two comments that I posted on a Volokh Conspiracy article titled, "How Much Do Supreme Court Opinions Borrow from the Briefs?" The article begins,

Over at the Glom, David Zaring flags an interesting new paper about Supreme Court opinionwriting: Pamela C. Corley, The Supreme Court and Opinion Content, Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 3, 468-478 (2008). Here's the abstract:
Do parties' briefs influence the content of Supreme Court opinions? The author contends that the parties, through the briefs submitted on the merits, have the ability to influence the content of opinions and, consequently, have the ability to influence the law. Utilizing plagiarism software, the author compares the parties' briefs with the majority opinion of the Court. The results indicate that there is a connection between the language of the parties' briefs and the language of the opinions, which means that parties have the potential to influence the law.

Here is the first of my two comments:
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Kenvee said (9.11.2008 9:20am) --
Anyone whose submitted more than a handful of briefs should have experienced at least a couple of cases where you recognize your arguments and phrases being used in the court's opinion. That's sort of the point of writing a brief -- the ideal would be for the court to just plug your brief wholesale into their opinion.

Wholesale verbatim or nearly verbatim copying of one side's brief -- as by adopting one side's brief as the opinion -- is severely frowned upon by the courts and can be grounds for reversal. This is discussed in an excellent paper titled "Analogical Legal Reasoning and Legal Policy Argumentation: A Response to Darwinist Defenders of Judge Jones' Copying from the ACLU" by the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin. The paper has the following quote from a Supreme Court opinion:

I suggest to you strongly that you avoid as far as you possibly can simply signing what some lawyer puts under your nose. These lawyers, and properly so, in their zeal and advocacy and their enthusiasm are going to state the case for their side in these findings as strongly as they possibly can. When these findings get to the courts of appeals they won't be worth the paper they are written on as far as assisting the court of appeals in determining why the judge decided the case. Judge James Skelly Wright quoted in United States v. El Paso Natural Gas Company 376 U.S. 651, 657, footnote #4 (1964) (internal citations and quotations omitted)

Luskin's paper addressed the issue of a particularly notorious case of a judge's one-sided copying of the briefs: in the Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design case, Judge John E. Jones III copied the ~6000 word ID-as-science section of the opinion nearly verbatim from the plaintiffs' opening post-trial brief while ignoring the defendant's opening post-trial brief and the plaintiffs and defendants answering post-trial briefs. The Discovery Institute's study of Judge Jones' copying covered only a comparatively small part of the opinion, the ~6000 word ID-as-science section, but this section is considered by many to be the centerpiece of the opinion. The most important part of this study is the side-by-side comparison of the texts of the opinion and the ACLU's opening post-trial brief -- percentage figures for copying can be very misleading. Because the original meaning of text can be retained after the text has been drastically altered by substitution of synonyms, insertion or deletion of superfluous or non-essential words, paraphrasing of statements, and/or scrambling of sentences and/or paragraphs, text-comparison computer programs are simply not a reliable means of comparing texts for similarity of ideas, particularly when the word-count correlation figure is low. The only reliable way of comparing two texts is by a side-by-side visual comparison. The Discovery Institute study placed corresponding statements from the two texts side by side for a visual comparison, and the high degree of correlation is apparent. An attempt was made to compare the two texts by means of a computer program, producing grossly erroneous results, as discussed in an article on my blog.

Other considerations are the extent of one-sidedness in the copying and whether the copying covers a whole issue of the opinion -- the copying studied in Kitzmiller v. Dover covered a whole issue, the ID-as-science issue. I would not go so far as to say that this Supreme Court study exonerates Judge Jones from charges of excessive one-sidedness in his copying of the ID-as-science section of the Dover opinion.

IMO verbatim or near verbatim copying from the briefs is OK so long as it is done even-handedly by addressing both side's arguments. By copying rebuttals as well as opening arguments, judges can be even-handed even while not doing any independent thinking. The argument that it is OK to ignore one side's arguments if those arguments have no merit does not hold water because if those arguments are that bad, then they should be addressed in order to refute them. Judge Jones showed no evidence that he read the ID-as-science sections of any post-trial brief other than the one that he copied from. Jones must have figured that he could get away with such one-sided copying because he knew the case was unlikely to be appealed because the pro-ID members of the board had been replaced by anti-ID members.

Of course, the Supreme Court could get away with wholesale copying where a lower court could not. It is noteworthy that Corley's study found that the Supreme Court is more likely to copy from the briefs in low-profile cases than in high-profile cases, because the court would understandably want to avoid being accused of excessive one-sidedness in high-profile cases. That's why we often see the Supreme Court thoroughly addressing the losing side's arguments in high-profile cases, e.g., "we find this argument to be unpersuasive ... blah, blah, blah." But Kitzmiller v. Dover had an extremely high profile, so Judge Jones' one-sided copying should have gotten much more bad publicity than it got.

Also, the Discovery Institute's Evolution News & Views website has the following articles about the one-sided copying in the Kitzmiller case --

Study Shows Federal Judge Copied ACLU Text in Dover Intelligent Design Ruling

Judge Jones on Copying ACLU: No Comment

Judges' Copying of ACLU "Highly Frowned Upon" by Courts

Backgrounder on the Significance of Judicial Copying

Judge Jones and the Shattering of Darwinist Illusions

Local Dover Media Promotes False Information on Judge Jones Study

Darwinists Desperate to Defend Kitzmiller Copying


Here is my second comment:

Also, there is a huge difference between copying rebuttals and copying opening arguments, because the rebuttals always address the opposing side's arguments whereas the opening arguments do not necessarily address the opposing side's arguments. Kitzmiller v. Dover's ID-as-science section was copied entirely from the ACLU's opening post-trial arguments alone, and that is super bad. As I said, there is not a shred of evidence that Judge Jones even read the ID-as-science section of any post-trial brief other than the one that he copied from. He figured he could get away with his extremely one-sided copying because he knew the case was not likely to be appealed.

The Darwinists are of course going to condemn me for criticizing their hero Judge Jones even though I am being quite generous to him by not expecting him to write his own original opinion but only expecting him to be even-handed in copying from the briefs.

Also, as I said, the use of text-comparison computer programs to try to determine the extent to which two different texts contain the same ideas is completely unreliable.

I assert that there is a lot more to this brief-copying thing than first meets the eye.


Of course, as always, my main position is that the courts should declare the evolution controversy to be non-justiciable.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Coincidence Theories" blog added to link list

I have added William Wallace's "Coincidence Theories" blog to the list of external links in the sidebar.

WW is looking for regular contributors. He says,

Currently, we have one member: William Wallace (founder). Gerry Rzeppa, retired, at least for now.

I am looking for others who might want to participate here either as commenters or a contributor.

If you’re interested in becoming a regular contributor, shoot an email to wwallace67 (a) gmail (d) com


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Heil Herr Führer Adolf Jones

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why should scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution be taught by parents and pastors who have no expertise in biology?

I am surprised that no one (at least not to my knowledge) has asked that question before.

Johnny: Please teach us about Intelligent Design.

Teacher: I can't do that -- Judge Jones said that it is unconstitutional to teach ID in the public schools. Just ask your parents or your pastor about it.

Johnny: But they don't know anything about biology.

Teacher: That's OK -- ID is just pseudoscience anyway.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Evolution education abroad is not what it is cracked up to be

Darwinists in the USA are propagandizing a myth that students in foreign countries are getting thorough educations in evolution and are therefore leaving American students behind in the dust. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A previous article in this blog exploded the myth that American students are not getting a lot of evolution education.

An article about evolution education in Canada said,

In all but one provincial science curriculum, evolution is relegated to a single unit in a Grade 11 or 12 elective course taken by a sliver of each graduating class. It would not be a stretch to say the majority of Canadian high school students graduate without ever encountering Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Only Quebec, which rolled out a new curriculum in 2004, includes evolution among key concepts in elementary school science classes and mandates a full unit of evolution in a compulsory Grade 7-8 science class. . . . .

Though Canadians have never pitted evolution against creationism in a court of law, we are squeamish about advancing evolution as part of the national education agenda. We look south of the border and want no part of the extremism that a confrontation over evolution inevitably generates.

“The whole discussion has been so tremendously skewed by a whole lot of raving idiots,” says Rev. Paul Fayter, a United Church minister and professor of science and religion at York University in Toronto, who advocates thinking “non-dogmatically” about origins. He’s as comfortable with a copy of the Bible as he is with Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

So is Denis Lamoureux, a devout evangelical Christian and confirmed evolutionist who teaches science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. “So how are we going to teach biology?” he asks. “Teach the science as metaphysically free as possible. In other words, keep God out of it, keep the atheistic world view out of it.”

I wholeheartedly agree. When I first became interested in the evolution controversy, I wanted to keep religion out of the discussion, but the Darwinists insisted on making religion an issue.

Also, the article describes how McGill University professor Brian Alters, who was a plaintiffs' expert witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, got his comeuppance:
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Returning from Dover, Penn., in December 2005, Brian Alters must have felt vindicated. As an expert witness in a widely publicized court case, Alters, a professor of evolution education at McGill University, helped persuade a judge that intelligent design (ID) — the idea that the complexity of certain natural phenomena is proof of a supernatural designer — was not a scientific theory, but “a religious view, a mere relabelling of creationism,” and that it had no place in Dover’s science classrooms . . . . .

Little did Alters know he would return to McGill’s Evolution Education Research Centre to find himself embroiled in a similar dispute. This time, the opposition was not a school board but a federal agency, the second-biggest grant-making institution in Canada, which declined funding for the evolution centre’s proposed study aimed at discovering what inroads ID had made in Canadian schools.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council said the review committee couldn’t find “adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct.”

LOL. Serves him right, the jerk. What goes around, comes around.

Also, the article says,

In the past decade, a sophisticated and well-funded attack on science curricula induced school boards in at least eight U.S. states to roll back the teaching of evolutionary biology.

On the contrary, this map chart shows that several states added or strengthened coverage of evolution in their science standards in the period 2000-2008 and that no states weakened or eliminated such coverage in that period. The map also shows that in 2008 the science standards of the overwhelming majority of states "treat evolution straightforwardly and/or thoroughly" and that no state science standards do not mention biological evolution at all (Iowa does not count because it does not have its own science standards) -- science standards in the remainder, eight states that are all in the Bible Belt except Illinois, mention biological evolution "briefly, unclearly." It is noteworthy that the sources for this map chart are the National Center for Science Education and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, two organizations which would be expected to be extremely stingy about giving state science standards credit for treating biological evolution "straightforwardly and/or thoroughly." Efforts to add critical analysis of evolution are often misinterpreted as efforts to reduce or eliminate the teaching of evolution.

Articles about evolution education in other foreign countries are listed under the "Evolution controversy abroad" and "Evolution controversy abroad (new #1)" post labels (these post labels are also listed in the sidebar).
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Monday, September 08, 2008

Is it constitutional to shout "fire" when there's a fire?

Is shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is a fire constitutionally-protected speech? According to the reasoning of the infamous Lemon Test, the answer could be no.

The Lemon Test, which is used in establishment clause cases, is usually divided up into (1) a "purpose prong" -- The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose, and (2) an "effect prong" -- The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. The Lemon test originally had a third prong, the "entanglement prong," i.e., the government action must not result in excessive "entanglement" with religion, but this prong is now usually or often incorporated into the "effect" prong.

Under a freedom-of-speech counterpart of the Lemon Test, which I will call the Lime Test, a court could rule that it is unconstitutional to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre when there actually is a fire. Here is how:

Warning people to escape a fire is a legitimate purpose that is "not a sham," and hence shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is a fire passes the Lime Test's "purpose prong." However, the effect of shouting fire might be people getting hurt in a stampede for the exits, so shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is a fire fails the Lime Test's "effect prong" and hence is unconstitutional.
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This is exactly the line of reasoning that was used in deciding the Selman v. Cobb County evolution disclaimer textbook sticker case. Judge "Blooper" Cooper decided that the stickers' purposes of (1) fostering critical thinking and (2) reducing offense to the fundies are "secular purposes that are not a sham," and therefore ruled that the stickers passed the Lemon Test's purpose prong. However, the judge ruled that the public perceived the stickers as endorsing religion and therefore ruled that the stickers failed the effect prong and were therefore unconstitutional. The problem here is that the rigid Lemon Test is divided up into two separate, independent "prongs," and so the judge could not consider whether those two secular purposes -- fostering critical thinking and reducing offense to the fundies -- outweighed the public perception of endorsement of religion, a perception that should not carry much weight because it basically concerns only a right to "not be offended" and which therefore should have been outweighed by the "critical thinking" factor, especially considering that criticisms of evolution were not taught or even specifically mentioned. The "reducing offense to the fundies" factor might be considered to be a tradeoff between offending fundies and offending non-fundies, but the fact that only evolution was actually taught greatly favored the non-fundies to begin with. In contrast, since a court would not actually use the hypothetical "Lime Test" in deciding the "shouting fire" case, a court would be free to decide that the purpose of warning people to escape a fire outweighs the risk that people could get hurt in a stampede for the exits. The Lemon Test is a kind of a double jeopardy -- if you don't get stabbed by one prong, you could get stabbed by the other. I guess that's why they are called "prongs."

In the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, Judge "Jackass" Jones did not express any opinions at all about whether the ID statement encouraged critical thinking or reduced offense to the fundies.

The courts have been very inconsistent and hypocritical about the issue of fostering critical thinking in the public schools. The goal of fostering critical thinking in schools was treated as a compelling state interest in deciding ACSI v. Stearns, the case concerning UC accreditation of fundy high school courses and textbooks, but was given short shrift in Selman v. Cobb County and no shrift at all in Kitzmiller v. Dover.
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Long blog article attacks me and this blog

Crackpot Darwinist Steven Schafersman, a blogger on the Houston Chronicle's new Evo.Sphere blog and president of the Texas Citizens for Science, has posted a long blog article devoted entirely to attacking me and this blog. The article has the impressive title, "How Evolution Education in Texas Can Prosper: Ignore the Anti-Evolutionists in Science Blogs." Devoting a whole big article to attacking me and my ideas shows that he considers my ideas to be a big threat.

Schafersman's article was posted recently -- on 9/5/2008 9:48 AM CDT -- and so far Sitemeter shows that I am still not getting very many referrals from the links in his article. When I am attacked in one of Sleazy PZ Myers' articles on the Pharyngula blog, I see a huge surge in the numbers of daily visits -- from the normal level of under a hundred visits to as many as around 400. Sitemeter now shows me getting a lot more referrals from Sleazy PZ's killfile
dungeon
-- where I am at the top of the list of banned commenters -- than I am getting from Schafersman's article.

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


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