I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Unsupported Darwinist hype

Richard B. Hoppe wrote on Panda's Thumb,

Jeff McKee, professor of anthropology at the Ohio State University, was recently elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the anthropology section. According to the linked press release, the honor was “For distinguished contributions to paleoanthropology, evolutionary biology, and science education.”

That last, “science education,” has to refer at least in part to Jeff’s leading role in the intelligent design creationism wars at the Ohio State Board of Education from 2002 to 2006. Jeff was one of the stalwarts in that battle, standing firm in the face of unflattering comments from creationist former members Deborah Owens-Fink and Father Michael Cochran. Jeff was also a central figure in exposing the attempted subversion of the Ohio State University’s degree granting process by packing a creationist’s doctoral committee

Hoppe did not provide a shred of evidence that those things were factors in McKee's election as a fellow of the AAAS. And if anyone should get an award for "standing firm in the face of unflattering comments," it should be me.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Committees' final proposal for new Texas science standards now available

Merry Christmas, everybody.

The drafting committees' final proposal for the new Texas high-school science standards has apparently been available for a few days and I was not aware of it. The following announcement on the Texas Education Agency's latest (December 19) update of the main webpage for the new science standards was ambiguous about the availability of the final draft (it says, "Documents that reflect changes from Draft 2 to the committee recommendations and that explain the reasons for the changes will be posted soon" ):

Science TEKS Review Committee Recommendations to the SBOE

The following documents are the science TEKS review committee recommendations for revisions to the science TEKS. Documents that reflect changes from Draft 2 to the committee recommendations and that explain the reasons for the changes will be posted soon.

Click on each item below to download a PDF.

Kindergarten – 5th grade science
6th-8th grade science
High School science

The controversy is over the High School science standards.

Unfortunately, the final proposal for the high-school standards has neither the "strengths and weaknesses" language, which was in the first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy standards, nor the "strengths and limitations" language, which was in the second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics standards. However, this final proposal does have the word "limitations" in the biology standards:

(3) Scientific processes. . . . . .The student is expected to:

- - - -

(D) evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects or events

The addition of this "limitations" joker to the biology standards is especially significant because of the controversy over evolution theory. This "limitations" language in the final draft of the biology standards -- as well as the "strengths and limitations" language in the second draft of the biology standards -- blows a big hole in the Darwinists' theory that there is no controversy about evolution theory in the scientific community.

The paranoid Darwinists are “protesting too much” — as the saying goes — about words like “weaknesses” and “limitations.” Omitting those words would not prevent the adoption of textbooks that present weaknesses and/or limitations of evolution. The Darwinists are making a tempest in a teapot and a mountain out of a molehill.

As I said before, I recommended the term “strengths and criticisms.” “Criticisms” is a neutral, general term that covers limitations, real weaknesses, invalid criticisms (including pseudoscientific criticisms, which IMO should be studied by students as an educational exercise), criticisms of whole theories, and criticisms of imperfections in theories.

Another bad thing about the standards is that they redefine “scientific theories” as being “well-established and highly reliable explanations.” I have not seen “scientific theories” defined in this way in any standard dictionary. There are strong scientific theories and weak scientific theories. Also, the standards contain philosophies of science, which do not belong in state science standards.

Improper usages of the term "evolution" continue -- there is still talk of "geological evolution," "evolution of the universe," and "evolution of the Earth and planetary systems." The term "evolution" should not be applied to directionless changes (e.g., changes in continents) but should only be applied to developmental change (e.g., biological evolution) or changes that follow a pattern (e.g., stellar evolution).

I don't know why these recommendations are called "proposed recommendations" -- these are the committees' final recommendations. I also don't know why these recommendations are dated January 5, 2009.

These are only recommendations -- the state board of education does not have to accept them. The board can change the new standards at the January meeting by majority vote. It is believed that of the 15 members of the board, seven are in favor of the "strengths and weaknesses" language (and presumably would also support the "strengths and limitations" language and other similar language), six oppose the language, and two are undecided.

The main webpage for the proposed standards no longer has instructions for emailing comments on the standards but I presume that comments can still be sent to curric@tea.state.tx.us. Comments should probably also be emailed to the board of education at sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us. Instructions on how to participate in the board of education's January 21st oral hearing are here (you must register in advance -- beginning at 8:00 AM January 16 -- to testify). The Texas Freedom Network reported that board chairman Don McLeroy decided to limit the oral testimony period to four hours, which I think is really unfair, especially considering that a lot commenters spend a lot of time and/or money to attend the oral hearings. However, many of the commenters have turned the oral hearings into a public demonstration -- there is a lot of repetition of the same testimony, e.g., different commenters repeat over and over again the largely irrelevant point that many religious people see no conflict between evolution theory and religion.

Background information is in the two "Texas Controversy" post-label groups listed in the sidebar of the home page.

The Texas Freedom Network [1] and the National Center for Science Education [2] also have reports on the final drafts from the committees.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Darwinists are obsessed with Kitzmiller v. Dover

There is no better illustration of Darwinists' obsession with the Ktizmiller v. Dover case than Fatheaded Ed Brayton's article titled "Rick Warren's Bill Buckingham Moment." With so many other liars to choose from, why did Fatheaded Ed choose Bill Buckingham?

BTW, Bill Buckingham is a hero to me -- here is part of his testimony in the Dover trial. The Dover defendants should never have been asked for the source of the funds to purchase the copies of the book "Of Pandas and People" -- the donors were entitled to anonymity. [1]

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Is Vatican's pro-Darwinism an apology for persecution of Galileo?

I -- and probably a lot of other people -- thought that the issue of the Vatican's persecution of Galileo was settled in 1992 when the church apologized for the persecution. Not so. A news article said,

In May, several Vatican officials will participate in an international conference to re-examine the Galileo affair, and top Vatican officials are now saying Galileo should be named the "patron" of the dialogue between faith and reason. . . .

The Church has for years been striving to shed its reputation for being hostile to science, in part by producing top-notch research out of its own telescope.

Yes -- and the Vatican's former chief astronomer, George Coyne, said that Intelligent Design "belittles god."

In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared that the ruling against Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

But that apparently wasn't enough. In January, Benedict canceled a speech at Rome's La Sapienza University after a group of professors, citing the Galileo episode and depicting Benedict as a religious figure opposed to science, argued that he shouldn't speak at a public university.

But the church already apologized for the persecution of Galileo. Did the pressure to cancel that speech have anything to do with the decision to not invite anti-evolution scientists to speak at a Vatican-sponsored conference on evolution?
At a Vatican conference last month entitled "Science 400 Years after Galileo Galilei," the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Galileo was an astronomer, but one who "lovingly cultivated his faith and his profound religious conviction."

"Galileo Galilei was a man of faith who saw nature as a book authored by God," Bertone said.

The head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, which co-sponsored the conference, went further. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi told Vatican Radio that Galileo "could become for some the ideal patron for a dialogue between science and faith."

The legacy of the Galileo affair could be the reason why the Vatican is bending over backwards to accept Darwinism. That is something to think about when the Darwinists brag about the Vatican's acceptance of Darwinism.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Free Internet fax service

I have discovered a free Internet fax service, FaxZERO. I rarely have occasion to send a fax, so it is nice to have the free service.

The advantages of faxing are:

(1) Faster, easier and cheaper than postal mail.

(2) More attention-getting than emails.

(3) Immediate hard-paper copies -- printing is not necessary (if an electronic copy is needed, the document can also be sent by email).

(4) Unlike emails, cannot be blocked.

Conditions and limitations for the free version of the fax service are:

Ad on the cover page

Faxed documents may be plain text or in DOC (MS Word) or PDF format

One file per fax — maximum 3 pages

Maximum 2 free faxes per day (I don't know if this can be expanded by sending faxes from different email addresses from the same computer)

Fax phone numbers with area codes must be ten digits -- i.e., without a "1" prefix. If you include the "1", you will be asked to re-enter the number. Dashes are OK.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Choice of creationist to give inaugural invocation is condemned

The Darwinists are constantly crowing about popes, archbishops, ayatollahs, lubavitcher rebbes, witch doctors, sermons, encyclicals, fatwas, etc. that say that there is no conflict between evolution and religion. But now the hypocritical, intolerant Darwinists are trying to deny religious leaders complete freedom of expression about evolution by calling for discrimination against creationist religious leaders. Darwinists are condemning Obama's choice of a creationist pastor, Rick Warren, to deliver an invocation at Obama's inaugural ceremonies [1] [2] (the choice is also being criticized because of Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage). If Obama had chosen a Darwinist religious leader, would critics of evolution be complaining? I doubt it.

William Dembski said that theistic evolutionists are Intelligent Design's most implacable foes. Atheists don't have to "prove" that they believe in evolution -- it's expected of them. However, some theistic evolutionists feel the need to appease the Darwinist establishment by "proving" that they really believe in evolution, and they do so by persecuting critics of evolution theory. Ken Miller, the plaintiffs' lead expert witness at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, is the poster child of such theistic evolutionists. Winston Churchill defined an "appeaser" as "one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." Why should religious people show support for Darwinism when the Darwinists show such intolerance for religious people who do not support Darwinism?


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Call for boycott over Louisiana's "academic freedom" law

Gregory Petsko, president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has asked all scientific societies to boycott Louisiana because of that state's "academic freedom" law which allows the state's teachers to teach the scientific evidence both for and against the theory of evolution:
The ASBMB Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place in New Orleans in April 2009. We have longstanding contractual obligations that require us to meet in Louisiana next spring. But I think we need to see to it that no future meeting of our society will take place in Louisiana as long as that law stands, nor should we hold it in any other state (are you listening, Michigan and Texas?) that passes a similar law. And I call upon the presidents of the American Chemical Society, the American Association of Immunologists, the Society for Neuroscience, and all the other scientific societies around the U.S. and the world, to join me in this action and make clear to the state legislators in Louisiana, the governor of the state, and the mayor and business bureau of New Orleans that this will be the consequence.

— Gregory Petsko, “It Is Alive,” President’s Message, pages 3-4, ASBMB Today, August 2008. To read the entire article, select "Pages" in the top bar of the website, then click on pages 3 and 4. Use the slider bar at the side to scroll through the text -- you are likely to lose the page if you try using your keyboard's arrow keys to scroll through the text. The above quote is from page 4.

Such a boycott would be widely seen as an act of desperation and would be likely to backfire.
The Michigan "academic freedom" bill has failed to get out of committee. Texas has no pending "academic freedom" bill but there is now a big controversy going on over whether to retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas science standards (see two "Texas controversy" post-label groups in the sidebar of the home page).

Also, the above ASBMB Today issue has a related article, "Acdemic Freedom is a Good Thing, Right?", on pages 10-11. This article erroneously calls the Santorum Amendment "unsuccessful" -- it was not completely unsuccessful, because a modified version of the original Santorum Amendment was added to the Congressional report accompanying the "No Child Left Behind Law."



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Darwinists still crowing about Pyrrhic Dover victory

It may be hard to believe, but the Darwinists are today -- December 20 -- exultantly celebrating the 3rd anniversary of their Pyrrhic victory in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. [1] [2] . The Darwinists have even given the anniversary a name -- "Kitzmas" (I call it Kitschmas). The Discovery Institute's Evolution News & Views website has also marked the anniversary [3]. The Dover decision is not binding precedent outside of the Dover Area school district and the decision has aroused tremendous opposition to the dogmatic teaching of evolution. And the decision doesn't even have much value as non-binding precedent because it is just an unappealed decision of a single judge, and a bad decision at that. Several legal scholars -- including anti-ID and neutral legal scholars -- have severely criticized the decision. For example, anti-ID legal scholar Jay Wexler said that if one judge can practice philosophy of science, then what is to prevent other judges from doing the same? A judge could come along who says that Intelligent Design is a better explanation than evolution theory. IMO the main reason why there have been no new monkey trials in the three years since the Dover decision is that the opponents of the dogmatic teaching of evolution have learned how to "lawsuit-proof" criticisms of evolution.

The Dover decision was the result of factors that are not likely to be repeated: (1) the school board's selection of an obsolete ID book in which the terms "intelligent design" and "intelligent design proponent" were substituted for "creationism" and "creationist" respectively, and (2) a biased activist judge who copied the opinion's ID-as-science section nearly verbatim from the ACLU's opening post-trial brief and who showed extreme prejudice against ID and the Dover defendants -- regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept -- by saying in a Dickinson College commencement speech that his Dover decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions -- he said,
. . . this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state.

That Dickinson College speech alone was enough to completely discredit the Dover decision.

This blog has scores of articles about the Kitzmiller case and related subjects -- see the post-label list in the sidebar of the home page. Each post label represents up to 20 articles. The reason for the multiple listings of post labels for some subjects is that the Blogger.com template mode software that I am using is limited to 20 articles per post label. At first I didn't like this limit but I now like it because it keeps the post label groups at a manageable size.



Friday, December 19, 2008

Robert Frost poem about Darwin and Design

Robert Frost published the following poem in 1962, when there was much less controversy over evolution than there is now:

Accidentally on Purpose

The Universe is but the Thing of things,
The things but balls all going round in rings.
Some mighty huge, some mighty tiny,
All of them radiant and mighty shiny.

They mean to tell us all was rolling blind
Till accidentally it hit on mind
In an albino monkey in the jungle,
And even then it had to grope and bungle,

Till Darwin came to earth upon a year
To show the evolution how to steer.
They mean to tell us, though, the Omnibus
Had no real purpose until it got to us.

Never believe it. At the very worst
It must have had the purpose from the first
To produce purpose as the fitter bred:
We were just purpose coming to a head.

Whose purpose was it, His or Hers or Its?
Let's leave that to the scientific wits.
Grant me intention, purpose and design --
That's near enough for me to the divine.

And yet with all this help of head and brain,
How happily instinctive we remain.
Our best guide upward farther to the light:
Passionate preference such as love at sight.

Robert Frost, In the Clearing, 1962

Hat tip to Denyse O'Leary for the find.


Darwin Day called "new Christmas"

An editorial said,

I am not sure about your plans for Feb. 12, 2009, but I say: Start making them now. It will be an unusual day in history, the bicentennial of the births of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.

Doubtless my atheist -- sorry, "humanist" -- pals will be inviting me to Darwin Day parties; it's their new Christmas.

That's true about those disgusting Darwinist crackpots. In addition to the Darwin Day parties, there are the "I love Darwin" items (even including a doggie shirt), the "Friend of Darwin" certificates, the Darwin-Lincoln essay contests, etc..


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Florida teachers brainwashed with Darwinist dogma

A Florida news article says,

As her students study biology, Mann and her fellow science teachers at Sebring high and statewide will be learning the new science standards they will start teaching students next school year.

"It's a big changeover," Mann said.

The science curriculum across all grade levels will not just be different but more detailed compared to what is being taught.

Sebring High School Principal Toni Stivender recently attended the third in a series of four two-day workshops on the new math and science curriculum standards.

As for the new science curriculum being "more detailed," among the new details are (1) the outrageous cockamamie statement that "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology" and (2) redefining "scientific theories" as being "well-supported" and "widely accepted" by definition. The teachers are next going to feed these lies to the students.

The Florida science standards might be revisited before the end of 2011, so there is still hope.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

More breathtaking inanity from Judge Jones

A recent interview of Judge Jones by Jane Gitschier was published in PLoS Genetics. The interview was titled, "Taken to School: An Interview with the Honorable Judge John E. Jones, III." That is the first time I have seen the title "Honorable Judge" -- previously I have seen judges titled either "Honorable" or "Judge." And Judge Jones should be taken to task, not to school.

Too bad that Judge Jones was not interviewed by someone who knew the right questions to ask, like questions about the following:

(1) -- Jones' statement in his Dickinson College commencement speech that his Dover decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions.

(2) -- in the ID-as-science section of the opinion, Jones' one-sided nearly verbatim copying of the plaintiffs' opening post-trial brief while ignoring the defendants' opening post-trial brief and the plaintiffs' and defendants' answering post-trial briefs.

(3) -- his denial of the book publisher's motion to intervene.

Many other good questions are in this blog's numerous articles in this blog's post-label groups -- listed in the sidebar of the home page -- about Judge Jones and the Kitzmiller v. Dover case.

Judge Jones has dropped his previous policy of not commenting about the specifics of the Dover case.

Here are my responses to Judge Jones' responses in the interview:
Jones: by the '50s in the US, with Sputnik and the Cold War, there was a belief that we were falling drastically behind in science education and in other things, and you began to see a much more dedicated science component of education.

Yes, but I can't remember any emphasis on evolution education. I don't even remember studying evolution at all in high school biology in the early '60's.

Jones: However, in certain pockets of the United States, particularly the South, there were anti-evolution statutes still on the books, and starting in the late 1960s, there was a progression of cases…

Jones is exaggerating here. Though bills to ban the teaching of evolution were introduced in many states, only four states ever had laws banning the teaching of evolution (Oklahoma's law was repealed in the 1920's) and only two state legislatures passed resolutions against the teaching of evolution -- see this post for details.

Jones: . . .the [Supreme] Court [in Edwards v. Aguillard] said, “No, a studied examination of creation science indicates that it is nothing more than creationism labeled in a different way.”

Wrong -- the Supreme Court didn't say that. In Edwards v. Aguillard, the courts never ruled on the scientific merits of creation science. The district court refused to hear expert testimony on the scientific merits of creation science and that refusal was approved by the Supreme Court, which said,

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

Back to the interview:

Jones: I think laypersons apprehend that when we get a case, it's incumbent upon us to go into an intensive study mode to learn everything about it. Actually that is the wrong thing to do. The analogy is that when I have a jury trial in front of me, I always instruct jurors, particularly in this day and age when you can Google anything, not to do that. I don't want you to do any research or investigation. Everything you need to decide this case you'll get within the corners of this courtroom.

That policy of avoiding outside influences is OK in regard to facts that pertain only to a specific case, but I see no reason for avoiding outside influences regarding a broad general subject. After all, Jones admitted that he had already been influenced before the trial by the movie Inherit the Wind, and he even joked about watching the movie again during the trial to attempt to get additional historical perspective (though the movie is not a historically accurate depiction of the 1925 Scopes trial).

Gitschier: Regarding the Memorandum Opinion itself, I found parts of it astonishing. You used words like “mendacity,” “sham,” “breath-taking inanity of the board's decision.”

Jones: You should have been there.

Judges should avoid taking potshots at the parties.

Gitschier: It's almost like a command performance! There's no jury, it's not televised. All of these knowledgeable people…

Jones: Playing to an audience of one. Which was fascinating.

"Playing to an audience of one"? What conceit -- that statement shows Jones' lack of humility.

Gitschier: I want to address a very specific part of your Memorandum Opinion, which is defining science. What were you trying to do here?

Jones: First of all, both sides presented ample scientific testimony, and they asked me to decide that.

Again, Jones repeats his mistaken notion that he was obligated to rule on the scientific questions just because both sides asked him to.

Jones: the first test that the Court came up with is the Lemon test, Lemon v. Kurtzman [another Pennsylvania case regarding the reimbursement of Catholic schools by the state superintendent of schools].

What came out of Lemon were three prongs that judges have to look at. The first is: what is the purpose of the enactment? The second is: what is the effect of the enactment? And the third is: is there an excessive entanglement between religion and government?

A minor point: the third prong, excessive entanglement, is now often combined with the second prong, so the Lemon test is now often just a two-prong test. But an important fact about the Lemon test is that courts are no longer required to use it.

The endorsement test, boiled down to its essence, takes the first two prongs—the purpose and the effect prongs—and collapses them together, and just makes it easier to apply, although it is always hard to judge these cases.

Wrong -- the endorsement test is a completely separate test. Justice O'Connor's summary of what was to become known as the endorsement test was as follows, in her concurring opinion in Lynch v. Donnelly:

The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person's standing in the political community. Government can run afoul of that prohibition in two principal ways. One is excessive [p688] entanglement with religious institutions . . . . . The second and more direct infringement is government endorsement or disapproval of religion. Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. Disapproval sends the opposite message.

Back to the interview:

Jones: Remember, the opinion doesn't have precedential effect outside of Pennsylvania. In other words, I am a Federal District court with jurisdiction over this big middle of Pennsylvania, but I'm not the Supreme Court of the United States.

The opinion does not have precedential effect anywhere outside the Dover Area school district.

I have been speaking all around the US, but I don't go and try to say what I did in the opinion.

Wrong -- you just did go and try to say what you did in the opinion. You very thoroughly discussed specifics of the case.

What I developed was a passion for the concept known as “judicial independence,” meaning that concomitantly with the science education issue that I just raised, I don't think Americans understand how judges operate.

Wrong -- Americans do understand how judges operate. Judge Jones has been using the "judicial independence" idea to duck legitimate criticism of his Dover decision.

Recommended reading from the Judge:

Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson;

The Devil in Dover by Lauri Lebo;

40 Days and 40 Nights by Matthew Chapman.

Additional recommended reading: "Traipsing Into Evolution" by the Discovery Institute.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Kevin Padian the mad scientist

In the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, crackpot Darwinist scientist Kevin Padian was a plaintiffs' expert witness who testified with "evident fierce joy" about such things as reptilian jaw bones evolving into mammalian middle-ear bones. Also, he handed out "Friend of Darwin" certificates at a reunion of the Dover plaintiffs team.

In a Feb. 2008 article in Geotimes, Padian wrote,
It’s not the business of science to try to dissuade people from their religious beliefs. That’s one of many reasons why we don’t fund scientific initiatives to convert fundamentalists to accepting evolution. On the other hand, lots of fundamentalists spend time and effort trying to convince people that evolution is full of holes, and that anything connected with it is wrong — including the geologic timetable, radiometric dating, plate tectonic theory and the history of the Grand Canyon.

Padian is lying here. The federally funded website of the University of California's Museum of Paleontology, where Padian is a curator, gives teachers advice on how to use religion to promote acceptance of evolution. In fact, that scandal was the subject of an establishment clause lawsuit, Caldwell v. Caldwell [1] [2] [3]. Padian is also president of the board of directors of the National Center for Science Education, which has also been deeply involved in the scandal.

Also, in a forthcoming paper, Padian wrote,

As evolutionary biology in all its forms continues to bring forth amazing new insights from the origin of whales to the evolution of microbial resistance, one would think that the anti-evolutionists would have less to cling to each year, and that they would give up their arguments as disproven misapprehensions. They will not, despite recent victories against ID as science and the lunacy of 'creation science'. Creationists reject the notion of a rational universe because they believe that evolution depends upon the dominance of 'random processes' that allow no divine direction or teleological goal. This is the core of the resistance to evolution in America, and it will not go away anytime soon.

Evolution that allows "divine direction or teleological goal"? Padian is talking here like a theistic evolutionist! Why is Intelligent Design a violation of church-state separation while theistic evolutionism is not? That's topsy-turvy, considering that theistic evolutionism is expressly based on theism whereas ID is not.

Also, religious belief is not the "core" of resistance to evolution in America.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

More thoughts about the Cincinnati Zoo

The politically correct mainstream media almost always sides with the Darwinist extremists, but in a refreshing change, the Cincinnati Enquirer posted an editorial condemning the Cincinnati Zoo's cancellation of a combo ticket deal with the Creation Museum.

Here are some more of my thoughts -- along with some repetition -- about the cancellation of the combo ticket deal:
What if the zoo later adds an exhibit about evolution and there is a big protest over it? Because the combo ticket deal has been canceled, the zoo could not defend itself against the protest by pointing to the combo ticket deal as proof of tolerance of opposing views.

Unlike the Darwinists who protested the combo ticket deal, the zoo staff cannot live in an ivory tower where only simon-pure "science" is allowed -- the zoo staff has to be concerned about making money during difficult economic times. The zoo staff has already angered the fundies by canceling the combo ticket deal -- what are the chances that the zoo staff is going to anger the fundies even more by adding or even maintaining mention of evolution in the zoo exhibits? It's just a zoo -- it is not under any obligation to promote or teach evolution theory. This protest is going to backfire because now the zoo is going to try to avoid the evolution controversy altogether by avoiding mention of evolution. Other zoos are likely to get the message too.

I am fed up with Darwinists who are constantly sticking evolution in people's faces. Teaching evolution is not one of the primary functions of zoos. The primary functions of zoos are to display, study, and preserve wildlife.

This controversy has done the zoo much more harm than good. If the hypocritical Darwinists really cared about the zoo, they would have kept their mouths shut about the combo ticket deal with the Creation Museum.

If the combo ticket deal with the Creation Museum was so contrary to the zoo's mission, then how come the zoo staff didn't see a problem with it? The protesters had to come up with an insane "theory" that the combo ticket deal was an inside job by some creationist on the zoo staff.


Paul Gross pans David Berlinski's "The Devil's Delusion"

Paul R. Gross has written a negative book review of David Berlinski's book, "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions."

For starters, Paul Gross has no credibility with me. He is a co-author -- along with Barbara Forrest -- of the book "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design," which is about a ridiculous conspiracy theory that promoting ID is part of a plot by fundies to turn the USA into a theocracy. Also, as chief editor of the Fordham Institute's (no connection to Fordham University) report on state science standards, he threatened to drop Ohio's overall science grade from a B to an F just because of Ohio's evolution lesson plan that included weaknesses of evolution theory.

In contrast to Gross's negative review of the book, Amazon.com's customer reviews of the book are mostly favorable. There are now 67 customer reviews posted and the average rating by the customer reviewers is four stars, broken down as follows: 5 stars, 36; 4 stars, 15; 3 stars, 2; 2 stars, 4; and one star, 10. Also, the "product description" in the book's Amazon.com website makes some good points:
Product Description

Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness. And these authors are merely the leading edge of a far larger movement–one that now includes much of the scientific community.

“The attack on traditional religious thought,” writes David Berlinski in The Devil’s Delusion, “marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion.”

A secular Jew, Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:

Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
Not even close.

Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.

Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Close enough.

Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.

Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

Berlinski does not dismiss the achievements of western science. The great physical theories, he observes, are among the treasures of the human race. But they do nothing to answer the questions that religion asks, and they fail to offer a coherent description of the cosmos or the methods by which it might be investigated.



Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dover trial revealed "intellectually unhealthy situation," says paper

Here is another journal article to add to my already-long list of journal articles that are critical of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. The article, titled "Public Education and Intelligent Design," by Thomas Nagel, Philosophy and Public Affairs 36, no. 2 by Wiley Periodicals Inc. (2008), begins,

The 2005 decision by Judge John E. Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was celebrated by all red-blooded American liberals as a victory over the forces of darkness. The result was probably inevitable, in view of the reckless expression by some members of the Dover School Board of their desire to put religion into the classroom, and the clumsiness of their prescribed statement in trying to dissumulate that claim. But the conflicts aired in this trial -- over the status of evolutionary theory, the arguments for intelligent design, and the nature of science -- reveal an intellectually unhealthy situation. The political urge to defend science education against the threats of religious orthodoxy, understandable though it is, has resulted in a counterorthodoxy, supported by bad arguments, and a tendency to overstate the legitimate scientific claims of evolution theory. Skeptics about the theory are seen as so dangerous, and so disreputably motivated, that they must be denied any shred of legitimate interest.(pages 1-2 of pdf file)

I mostly agree. However, as for the "reckless expression by some members of the Dover School Board of their desire to put religion into the classroom, and the clumsiness of their prescribed statement in trying to dissumulate that claim," Albert Alschuler, a law professor emeritus at Northwestern University Law School, wrote,
The court offers convincing evidence that some members the Dover school board would have been delighted to promote their old time religion in the classroom. These board members apparently accepted intelligent design as a compromise, the nearest they could come to their objective within the law . . . . The court seems to declare, "Because we find that you would like something you can't have, we hold that you can't have anything."

That's not to say that the Dover school board did not make some big mistakes. The book "Of Pandas and People" was a very poor choice -- it was badly out of date and the words "intelligent design" and "intelligent design proponent" were substituted for "creationism" and "creationist" throughout the book in the publication of a new edition (of course, the Dover school board was unaware of this substitution of terms). Also, the "prescribed statement" that was read to the Dover science classes could have been worded better, and it was a bad idea to use the term "intelligent design" because the term implies the existence of a supernatural designer.

Thomas Nagel continues,

ID (as I shall call it, in conformity to current usage) is best interpreted not as an argument for the existence of God, but as a claim about what is reasonable to believe about biological evolution if one independently holds a belief in God that is consistent both with the empirical facts about nature that have been established by observation, and with the acceptance of general standards of scientific evidence. For legal reasons it is not presented that way by its defenders, but I think that is a mistake.(page 2 of pdf file)

I completely disagree with that interpretation -- it says that in the evolution controversy, ID is the only scientifically "reasonable" belief for those who believe in god. Also, though it is OK to consider the religious implications of ID, it should also be OK to ignore the religious implications of ID. I am a little interested in the religious implications of evolution and ID, but I am more interested in whether evolution and ID make sense from purely scientific standpoints. On the other hand, it seems that the Darwinists are only interested in the religious implications of ID -- they just keep asking questions like "who is the intelligent designer," "what does the intelligent designer look like," "who designed the intelligent designer," etc..

The contention seems to be that, although science can demonstrate the falsehood of the design hypothesis, no evidence against that demonstration can be regarded as scientific support for the hypothesis. Only the falsehood, and not the truth, of ID can count as a scientific claim. Something about the nature of the conclusion, that it involves the purposes of a supernatural being, rules it out as science. (page 3 of pdf file)

I suspect that the assumption that science can never provide evidence for the occurrence of something that cannot be scientifically explained is the principal reason for the belief that ID cannot be science; but so far as I can see, that assumption is without merit. (page 4 of pdf file).

One of the disturbing things about the public debate is that scientists engaged in it sometimes write as if the idea of fundamental problems with the theory [i.e., evolution theory] (as opposed to problems of detail in its application) were unthinkable, and that to entertain such doubts is like wondering whether the earth is flat. This seems to me, as an outsider, a vast underestimation of how much we do not know, and how much about the evolutionary process remains speculative and sketchy. (pages 4-5 of pdf file)

. . . both the inclusion of some mention of ID in a biology class and its exclusion would seem to depend on religious assumptions. Either divine intervention is ruled out in advance or it is not. If it is, ID can be disregarded. If it is not, evidence for ID can be considered. Yet both are clearly assumptions of a religious nature. Public schools in the United States may not teach atheism or deism any more than they may teach Christianity, so how can it be all right to teach scientific theories whose empirical confirmation depends on the assumption of one range of these views while it is impermissible to discuss the implications of alternative views on the same question?(page 14 of pdf file)

IMO, ideally the scientific teaching of evolution and its weaknesses should be done without regard to their religious implications, but it is practically inevitable that religious questions will be raised in science classes. At least the textbooks can avoid religious issues.

Even if evolution theory were an adequate explanation for the diversity of life, Intelligent Design would still be a possibility. Saying that ID is impossible says that the existence of a designer is impossible. Saying that the existence of a designer is impossible says that god is impossible. Saying that god is impossible violates the separation of church and state. Kitzmiller v. Dover says that ID is impossible, hence that god is impossible. Kitzmiller v. Dover therefore violates the separation of church and state. QED.

In order to teach about the history of the universe, the solar system, and life on earth it is indispensable to presuppose the falsity of fundamentalist epistemology. But the development of the theory of evolution did not depend on the assumption that design was impossible. On the contrary, it developed as an alternative to design, offering a surprising but illuminating account of how the appearance of design might have arisen without a designer. The conceivability of the design alternative is part of the background for understanding evolutionary theory. To make the assumption of its falsehood a condition of scientific rationality seems almost incoherent.(pages 14-15 of pdf file)

Good point. Intelligent Design makes a positive contribution to science by identifying biological systems that have the appearance of being designed, forcing scientists to try to explain how these systems that appear to be the products of design are actually the products of random mutations and natural selection. Another example: a lot of people have scoffed at my ideas about co-evolution (I have mostly called these ideas a "non-ID" criticism of evolution, though some of these ideas include ID), but my studies of co-evolution have definitely improved my knowledge and understanding of interspecies relationships (I have several articles about co-evolution in the two "Non-ID criticisms of evolution" post-label groups listed in the sidebar of this blog). Suppressing scientific and -- yes -- even pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution is anti-science and anti-intellectual.

Judge Jones cited as a decisive reason for denying ID the status of science that Michael Behe, the chief scientific witness for the defense, acknowledged that the theory would be more plausible to someone who believed in God than to someone who did not. This is just common sense, however, and the opposite is just as true: evolutionary theory as a complete explanation for the development of life is more plausible to someone who does not believe in God than to someone who does.(page 15 of pdf file)


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Friday, December 05, 2008

More lies from "Stupid Steven" Schafersman

As I have previously noted, "Stupid Steven" Schafersman is a member of the Earth and Space Sciences standards-drafting committee of the Texas Education Agency, president of the Texas Citizens for Science, a blogger on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog, and a habitual liar. He recently wrote on the Evo.Sphere blog,

Not one of the SBOE members has any real scientific knowledge, although several of the radical religious right members think they know quite a bit about science.

What does Stupid Steven consider to be "real scientific knowledge"? Here is biographical information about four of the seven "radical religious right" Texas board of education members:

Ken Mercer --

He earned a bachelor’s in biology from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Business Administration from UT-San Antonio.

Barbara Cargill --

. . . she taught biology in the Garland and Hurst-Euless-Bedford school districts between 1982 and 1991.

Cynthia Dunbar --

Cynthia Noland Dunbar currently teaches anatomy & physiology to high school juniors and seniors.

Dunbar obtained her undergraduate degree in biology and psychology from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Gail Lowe --

Lowe attended the University of Alabama. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in 1978. (the field of science is not specified)

Also, board chairman Don McLeroy, who is also a member of the seven, has a degree in electrical engineering. Engineering students generally take little or no college biology but they do take a lot of the physical sciences and mathematics. A lot of engineering itself consists of the physical sciences.

Also, for at least the third time, Schafersman ignored the ~10-year period that the "strengths and weaknesses" language was in the Texas textbook proclamations. Describing the recommendations he gave to the standards-drafting committees, he said,
Except for the bracketed examples of scientific explanations and the extra section for biology KS 7, the evolution section, each discipline got the same analysis and request about TEKS C3A, the controversial scientific method rule that has been "strengths and weaknesses" since 1998.

The "strengths and weaknesses" language was added to the textbook proclamations, which Schafersman called the "de facto" science standards, in the 1980's.

Also, Schafersman has been arbitrarily censoring all of my comments submitted to his posts on the Evo.Sphere blog, not just censoring them on a case-by-case basis. I complained about this to the Houston Chronicle staff, but they falsely claim that Evo.Sphere is an independent blog. On the contrary, the blog has the Houston Chronicle name on it and Houston Chronicle staffer Eric Berger set up the blog, invited Schafersman to be a blogger on it, made the decision to turn on comment moderation, and checks the blog for comments awaiting approval. I am now filing a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency. Although Schafersman is not a permanent full-time employee of the TEA, he is a member of a TEA standards-drafting committee and in that sense he represents the TEA. I am asking that Schafersman be barred from official positions in the TEA unless the Houston Chronicle prevents him from censoring comments without the approval of an unbiased Houston Chronicle staff member.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Greg "Osama bin" Laden and "Sleazy" PZ Myers call for national standards for evolution education

Laden and Myers are promoting the following resolution (apparently there is an opportunity to vote yes on the resolution but no opportunity to vote no):

National standards on the teaching of Evolution and the origins of life, decided on and created by top scientists from significant scientific organizations, should direct curricula of all schools nationwide, overriding any state laws on the subjects.

The Darwinists complain about Darwinism being singled out for criticism and now they want Darwinism to be singled out by having its own national standards for education. Sheeeesh. Give me a break.

I used to be in favor of national educational standards for the sake of uniformity and to avoid unnecessary duplication, but no more. I am now also in favor of doing away with state educational standards (except for the required numbers of courses in different subjects). The more centralized the standards for education are, the greater the opportunities for high-pressure special-interest groups to slant and dogmatize education. Textbook authors are -- or should be -- experts in their fields and should not need to be told how to write textbooks.



Monday, December 01, 2008

Cincinnati Zoo caves in to Darwinists

A news article says,

The Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum launched a joint promotional deal last week to draw attention to their holiday attractions.. . . .

The zoo pulled out of the deal Monday after receiving dozens of angry calls and e-mails about the partnership, which offered reduced prices to anyone who bought tickets to the zoo’s Festival of Lights and the museum’s Christmas celebration, Bethlehem’s Blessing. . . . .

Zoo officials said the promotion was intended to be no different than any other reduced-cost package deal the zoo offers with other institutions in the area, such as the Cincinnati Reds.

The combo ticket with the Creation Museum was just a one-month holiday-season promotion. What was the big deal?

Apparently this whole protest against this combo ticket was orchestrated by just one blogger, "Sleazy" PZ Myers.

The hypocritical Darwinists pretend to be concerned about science, but they have hurt the Cincinnati Zoo's ability to get more visitors, revenue, and publicity for the purpose of helping the zoo display, study, and preserve wildlife.

I am sure that the zoo is very grateful for the Darwinists' "help" in fulfilling the zoo's educational mission.

With "friends" like these, does the Cincinnati Zoo need enemies?

It will be some time before we learn all of the repercussions.

Again, info on how to contact the zoo is here.



Sleazy PZ's attack on the Cincinnati Zoo

Sleazy PZ Myers moans on his blog "Pharyngula,"

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and the Creation Museum have made a joint marketing agreement and are selling "combo tickets" to get into both attractions for one price.

The Cincinnati Zoo is promoting an anti-science, anti-education con job run by ignorant creationists.

Sleazy PZ has done everything but explain how the missions of the zoo and the Creation Museum are inconsistent or incompatible. Some of the commenters on PZ's blog have even raised the so-called "separation-of-church-and-state" issue! However, the courts have ruled that infringement upon church-state separation may be excused for a secular purpose that is not a sham, and helping to provide revenue, visitors, and publicity for the zoo is such a secular purpose.

Also, the combo-ticket deal is not permanent but is just a one-time promotion that is good through Jan. 4. The apparent reason for the combo-ticket deal is that both the Zoo and the Museum have special holiday-season events.

The Creation Museum is a $25 million facility and attracts a lot of visitors. Selling the combo-tickets to visitors to the Creation Museum -- who otherwise might not be interested in visiting the zoo -- generates a lot of revenue, visitors, and publicity for the zoo. I myself was not aware of the importance of the Cincinnati zoo -- I only knew it was the home of the last known passenger pigeon, "Martha," who died there in 1914. The Cincinnati area does not have a lot of big tourist attractions, so I don't see what is wrong with two big tourist attractions in the area teaming up. The zoo would be cutting off its nose to spite its face by canceling the combo-ticket deal. PZ and his narrow-minded followers show that they don't care about hurting the zoo's conservation and wildlife preservation efforts.

Also, the zoo and the museum are a good match -- the museum has a petting zoo and a lot of displays of prehistoric animals. The displays of prehistoric animals are certainly educational, regardless of any disputes over the ages of the fossils.

Sleazy PZ also posted his attack on Panda's Thumb.

Info on how to contact the zoo is here. I intend to contact the zoo to counter PZ's campaign against the combo-ticket deal. I urge others to do the same.