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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Holocaust denial called "the most vulgar aspect of anti-Semitism"

A BBC news article said,

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews, distancing himself from a bishop who denies the Nazis used gas chambers.

Briton Richard Williamson was among four bishops whose excommunications were lifted by the Pope last week.

Bishop Williamson said recently: "I believe there were no gas chambers".

Jewish leaders, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, reacted angrily to the rehabilitation of the bishop, saying it had harmed Catholic-Jewish dialogue. . . . .

Nobel Peace Prize winner and death camp survivor Elie Wiesel said that the Pope, by lifting the excommunication of the British-born cleric, had given credence to "the most vulgar aspect of anti-Semitism".

. . . . On Tuesday, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel -- the supreme Jewish governing body in the country -- broke off official ties with the Vatican in protest over the Pope's decision.

Haifa Chief Rabbi Shear Yishuv Cohen, chairman of the Rabbinate's commission, told The Jerusalem Post that he expected Bishop Williamson to publicly retract his statements before links could be renewed.

Here the entire Catholic church is being blamed for the holocaust views of just one Catholic bishop. This shows the tremendous pressure that people are under to conform with holocaust dogma.

My own position is that a "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews.

Deborah Lipstadt's blog has a number of articles about the controversy.



Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Dover mystery -- why sixty library copies of same book -- solved

I always wondered why the Dover school board purchased sixty copies of the same book, "Of Pandas and People," which was not required reading, just to stick them all in the library where they would mostly all just sit there. Since the books were just being deposited in the library and were not required reading, it would have made much more sense to purchase a variety of books to present a variety of viewpoints, maybe even pro-Darwinist viewpoints. And with all sixty volumes being of the same book, the plaintiffs could focus on attacking just that one book, which was especially unfortunate because the book was very vulnerable to attack because of its creationist roots (in fact, the current edition of the book was created by replacing "creationism" and "creationist" by "intelligent design" and "intelligent design proponents," respectively, in a previous edition). And the biased, gullible judge, Judge "Jackass" Jones, went along with the plaintiffs' strategy of making Pandas a big issue in the case, despite the fact that Pandas is only one of many books about Intelligent Design. So -- why did the board purchase sixty copies of the same book?
The answer is that the board originally wanted to use the book as a "companion text," so probably wanted each student to have a copy. The Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion says,

. . . .at the August 2, 2004 meeting, Buckingham opposed the purchase of "Biology," which was recommended by the faculty and administration, unless the Board also approved the purchase of "Pandas" as a companion text. Only eight members of the Board were present on August 2, 2004 and the initial vote to approve the purchase of "Pandas" failed on a four to four vote with Buckingham, Harkins, Geesey, and Yingling voting for it. . . . .. After Buckingham stated that he had five votes in favor of purchasing "Pandas" and if the Board approved the purchase of "Pandas," he would release his votes to also approve the purchase of "Biology," Yingling changed her vote and the motion to approve the purchase of "Biology" passed. . . . . At trial, Buckingham testified that at the meeting he specifically said "if he didn't get his book, the district would not get the biology book." (citations to testimony omitted)

Later, a compromise with the teachers changed Pandas from a "companion" text to a classroom "reference" text, and the copies of Pandas were eventually placed in the library:

Despite the fact that the teachers strongly opposed using "Pandas" as a companion text, they agreed that "Pandas" could be placed in the classroom as a reference text as a compromise with the Board.

The teachers reneged on the compromise by refusing to read the official statement announcing the presence of the Pandas books in the library. Maybe the teachers might have agreed to read the statement if the school board had accepted the teachers' recommendations for the wording of the statement -- nonetheless, to me it is pretty clear that the teachers acted in bad faith.

Later, the official statement referred to other, unnamed books about Intelligent Design:

Administrators were thus compelled to read the statement to ninth graders at Dover High School in January 2005 because of the refusal by the teachers to do so. (citation of testimony omitted) The administrators read the statement again in June 2005. By that time, Defendants had modified the statement to refer to other, unnamed books in the library that relate to ID; however "Pandas" remains the only book identified by name in the statement. Defendants offered no evidence concerning whether the other books can be found in the library, including whether they are placed near Pandas.

One of the problems was that the school board members were too clueless to know that Intelligent Design is only one of many criticisms of evolution theory.

Anyway, that is the story of why there were sixty copies of the same book in the library.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The hypocrisy of theistic evolutionism

A New Republic article by Jerry Coyne says of theistic evolutionists Karl Giberson and Kenneth Miller, authors of Saving Darwin and Only a Theory respectively,

Together, "Saving Darwin" and "Only a Theory" provide an edifying summary of the tenets and the flaws of modern creationism, the former dealing mainly with its history and the latter with its specious claims. If these books stopped there, they would raise a valuable alarm about the dangers facing American science and culture. But in the end their sincere but tortuous efforts to find the hand of God in evolution lead them to solutions that are barely distinguishable from the creationism that they deplore . . .(page 1)

If rational scientific evolution theory is sufficient to explain the diversity of life, then why did Giberson and Miller find it necessary to add a supernatural explanation, "the hand of God"?
. . . . Miller opts for theology. Although his new book does not say how God ensured the arrival of Homo sapiens, Miller was more explicit in "Finding Darwin's God." There he suggested that the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics allows God to intervene at the level of atoms, influencing events on a larger scale:

The indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay.

In other words, God is a Mover of Electrons, deliberately keeping his incursions into nature so subtle that they're invisible. It is baffling that Miller, who comes up with the most technically astute arguments against irreducible complexity, can in the end wind up touting God's micro-editing of DNA. This argument is in fact identical to that of Michael Behe, the ID advocate against whom Miller testified in the Harrisburg trial[Kitzmiller v. Dover].(emphasis added) It is another God-of-the-gaps argument, except that this time the gaps are tiny.
. . . .(page 4)

The idea that "Goddidit" is synonymous with the idea of "God-of-the-gaps."

I have wondered why Michael Behe's Intelligent Design is often considered to be a violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state while Kenneth Miller's theistic evolutionism is not, even though the two are often virtually indistinguishable.

Although Giberson and Miller see themselves as opponents of creationism, in devising a compatibility between science and religion they finally converge with their opponents. In fact, they exhibit at least three of the four distinguishing traits of creationists: belief in God, the intervention of God in nature, and a special role for God in the evolution of humans. They may even show the fourth trait, a belief in irreducible complexity, by proposing that a soul could not have evolved, but was inserted by God . . .

Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause, Giberson and Miller pick and choose what they believe. At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board.
(page 6)

Maybe this "double standard" could be called "Cafeteria Christianity." Anyway, I don't agree with Coyne's notion that all criticisms of evolution are irrational.



Monday, January 26, 2009

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation actually opposed barring taxpayer suits against executive branch

I assert that contrary to popular opinion, Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, which I last discussed here, actually ruled in favor of allowing establishment-clause taxpayer suits against the executive branch and ruled against a distinction between Congressional and executive-branch spending in such suits. As I pointed out, the Hein opinions show that a 6-3 majority of the justices expressly opposed making a distinction between Congressional and executive-branch spending authorizations in regard to taxpayer standing in establishment clause cases, yet it is assumed that the court ruled in favor of this distinction! Following the line of reasoning -- based on the "Marks rule" discussed below -- that produced this crazy result, if Roberts and Kennedy had joined Scalia's opinion instead of Alito's, then Alito's resulting lone opinion in favor of this distinction would have overruled the other eight justices' opposition to this distinction!

Hein, is a "plurality opinion" decision, i.e., there is no majority opinion. Wikipedia says about plurality-opinion decisions,
In Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188 (1977), the Supreme Court explained how the holding of a case should be viewed where there is no majority supporting the rationale of any opinion: “When a fragmented Court decides a case and no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the assent of [the majority], the holding of the Court may be viewed as that position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds.” Marks, 430 U.S. at 193.

However, the Supreme Court has said that the courts have found it difficult or impossible to apply this "Marks rule" or have disagreed about whether the Marks rule should be applied in specific instances. In Nichols v. United States, 511 U. S. 738, 745-746 (1994), the Supreme Court said,

In Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188 (1977), we stated that "[w]hen a fragmented Court decides a case and no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the assent of five Justices, `the holding of the Court may be viewed as that position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds . . . .' " Id., at 193, quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 169, n. 15 (1976). This test is more easily stated than applied to the various opinions supporting the result in Baldasar. A number of Courts of Appeals have decided that there is no lowest common denominator or "narrowest grounds" that represents the Court's holding. See, e. g., United States v. Castro Vega, 945 F. 2d 496, 499-500 (CA2 1991); United States v. Eckford, 910 F. 2d 216, 219, n. 8 (CA5 1990); Schindler v. Clerk of Circuit Court, 715 F. 2d 341, 345 (CA7 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1068 (1984). Another Court of Appeals has concluded that the holding in Baldasar is Justice Blackmun's rationale, Santillanes v. United States Parole Comm'n, 754 F. 2d 887, 889 (CA10 1985); yet another has concluded that the "consensus" of the Baldasar concurrences is roughly that expressed by Justice Marshall's concurring opinion. United States v. Williams, 891 F. 2d 212, 214 (CA9 1989). State courts have similarly divided. [n.10] The Sentencing Guidelines have also reflected uncertainty over Baldasar. [n.11] We think it not useful to pursue the Marks inquiry to the utmost logical possibility when it has so obviously baffled and divided the lower courts which have considered it. This degree of confusion following a splintered decision such as Baldasar is itself a reason for reexamining that decision. Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U. S. ___, ___ (1991) (slip op., at 18-19); Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 24-25 (1973). (emphasis added)

And in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 325 (2003), the Supreme Court said,

In the wake of our fractured decision in Bakke, courts have struggled to discern whether Justice Powell's diversity rationale, set forth in part of the opinion joined by no other Justice, is nonetheless binding precedent under Marks. In that case, we explained that "[w]hen a fragmented Court decides a case and no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the assent of five Justices, the holding of the Court may be viewed as that position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds." 430 U. S., at 193 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). As the divergent opinions of the lower courts demonstrate, however, "[t]his test is more easily stated than applied to the various opinions supporting the result in [Bakke]." Nichols v. United States, 511 U. S. 738, 745-746 (1994). Compare, e. g., Johnson v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Ga., 263 F. 3d 1234 (CAll 2001) (Justice Powell's diversity rationale was not the holding of the Court); Hopwood v. Texas, 236 F. 3d 256, 274-275 (CA5 2000) (Hopwood II) (same); Hopwood I, 78 F.3d 932 (CA5 1996) (same), with Smith v. University of Wash. Law School, 233 F. 3d, at 1199 (Justice Powell's opinion, including the diversity rationale, is controlling under Marks).

The Marks rule ought to be repudiated and each plurality-opinion decision should be interpreted on a case-by-case basis. Here is my interpretation of the Hein decision:

(1) There is no distinction between Congressional and executive-branch spending authorizations in regard to taxpayer standing in establishment clause cases. The Hein opinions show that a 6-3 majority of the justices expressly supported this position.

(2) Scalia's recommendation -- joined by only Thomas -- that taxpayer standing in establishment clause cases be completely eliminated -- i.e., a recommendation that Flast v. Cohen be overturned -- was just that, just a recommendation, and should be treated as dictum rather than an opinion of the court.

(3) The 3-justice "judgment of the court" (Alito's opinion) should be re-labeled "dissenting opinion" and the 4-justice "dissenting opinion" (Souter's opinion) should be re-labeled "judgment of the court."

(4) In accordance with the above rulings, the Freedom From Religion Foundation should have been granted standing to sue.

The Wikipedia article about plurality opinions has some errors. The Wikipedia article said,

. . .the plurality opinion did not receive the support of half the justices, but received more support than any other opinion.

In Hein, the opinion called the "judgment of the court" was a three-justice opinion and the opinion called the "dissent" was a four-justice opinion. Some consider Justice Powell's one-man opinion in Bakke to be the opinion of the court.

It is crucial to note that plurality opinions are not binding. They are often treated as majority opinions, because by the time a similar case is considered, a 5th Justice has come around. However, in reality, they are just interesting dicta, showing continued flux and ambivalence on the part of the Court.

Wrong -- plurality opinions are often treated as binding. A plurality opinion in Hein is treated as binding. Also, the above statement is self-contradictory -- majority opinions are binding, so a plurality opinion is binding if it is treated as a majority opinion.

Here is an article about the Marks rule.

Hopefully someday the Supreme Court will throw out the stupid taxpayer-standing idea completely. As I said, there is no fair way to apply this idea because some establishment clause violations are taxpayer-funded while others are not. There are other reasons why the taxpayer-standing idea is bad.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Effect of Texas science standards on textbooks

One of the main concerns about the new Texas science standards' rules concerning evolution is what effect these rules are likely to have on textbook selection both in Texas and elsewhere. IMO many predictions of this effect are exaggerations and I want to set the record straight here.

Here are some excerpts from the Texas textbook statutes:

Sec. 31.023. TEXTBOOK LISTS. (a) For each subject and grade level, the State Board of Education shall adopt two lists of textbooks. The conforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education and contains material covering each element of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level in the student version of the textbook, as well as in the teacher version of the textbook, as determined by the State Board of Education under Section 28.002 and adopted under Section 31.024. The nonconforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that:

(1) meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education;

(2) contains material covering at least half, but not all, of the elements of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level in the student version of the textbook, as well as in the teacher version of the textbook; and

(3) is adopted under Section 31.024.

(b) Each textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list must be free from factual errors.

(citations omitted)

Sec. 31.024. ADOPTION BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. (a) By majority vote, the State Board of Education shall:
(1) place each submitted textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list; or

(2) reject a textbook submitted for placement on a conforming or nonconforming list. . . . .

Sec. 31.025. LIMITATION ON COST. (a) The State Board of Education shall set a limit on the cost that may be paid from the state textbook fund for a textbook placed on the conforming or nonconforming list for a particular subject and grade level. The board may not reject a textbook for placement on the conforming or nonconforming list because the textbook's price exceeds the limit established under this subsection.

(b) Subject to Section 31.151, if a school district or open-enrollment charter school selects a textbook from a conforming or nonconforming list that exceeds the limit established under Subsection (a):

(1) the state shall pay the publisher an amount equal to the limit established under Subsection (a) multiplied by the number of textbooks the district or school requisitions; and

(2) the district or school is responsible for the remainder of the cost.

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

Sec. 31.101. SELECTION AND PURCHASE OF TEXTBOOKS BY SCHOOL DISTRICTS. (a) Each year, during a period established by the State Board of Education, the board of trustees of each school district and the governing body of each open-enrollment charter school shall:

(1) for a subject in the foundation curriculum, notify the State Board of Education of the textbooks selected by the board of trustees or governing body for the following school year from among the textbooks on the appropriate conforming or nonconforming list; or

(2) for a subject in the enrichment curriculum:

(A) notify the State Board of Education of each textbook selected by the board of trustees or governing body for the following school year from among the textbooks on the appropriate conforming or nonconforming list; or

(B) notify the State Board of Education that the board of trustees or governing body has selected a textbook that is not on the conforming or nonconforming list.

(b) If a school district or open-enrollment charter school selects a textbook for a particular subject in the enrichment curriculum and grade level that is not on the conforming or nonconforming list, the state shall pay to the district or school an amount equal to the lesser of:

(1) 70 percent of the cost to the district of the textbook, multiplied by the number of textbooks the district or school needs for that subject and grade level; or

(2) 70 percent of the limitation established under Section 31.025 for a textbook for that subject and grade level, multiplied by the number of textbooks the district or school needs for that subject and grade level.

(c) A school district or open-enrollment charter school that selects a textbook that is not on the conforming or nonconforming list:

(1) is responsible for the portion of the cost of the textbook that is not paid by the state under Subsection (b); and

(2) may use funds received from the state under Subsection (b) only for purchasing the textbook for which the funds were received.

(d) For a textbook that is not on the conforming or nonconforming list, a school district or open-enrollment charter school must use the textbook for the period of the review and adoption cycle the State Board of Education has established for the subject and grade level for which the textbook is used.

These are the facts as I see them:

(1) There is nothing in the state science standards that would prevent the Texas state board of education from approving a science text that contains criticisms of evolution or that omits particular criticisms of evolution (some last-minute out-of-the-blue additions that the board of education made to the state science standards could be considered to be critical of evolution).

(2) The names "conforming list" and "non-conforming list" are misleading -- local Texas school districts are entitled to reimbursement by the state for books from either list. A textbook has to be pretty bad to not make the "non-conforming" list -- books on this list are allowed to contain as little as one-half of the essential knowledge & skills required by the state standards. A book must not contain factual errors, but it may be difficult to prove that a book contains factual errors. The Texas textbook statutes also allow for whole or partial reimbursement by the state for supplemental textbooks in some cases.

(3) There appears to be nothing to prevent a local Texas school district from choosing a state-unapproved or state-rejected textbook for a "foundation curriculum" course (I presume biology is such a course) if the district pays the full cost of the books (if the course is in the "enrichment curriculum," the state pays 70% of the costs of state-unapproved or state-rejected textbooks). If a textbook costs, say, $100 and is used for five years, that is a cost of only about $20 per student per year.

(4) Public-school systems outside of Texas are not stuck with the textbooks that Texas approves -- too much has been made of the fact that these systems tend to adopt Texas-approved textbooks. It is easy and cheap to ,make separate editions of biology textbooks by adding or removing sections containing criticisms of evolution. There are already regular, Texas, and California editions of the very popular textbook Biology by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, and it would be interesting to know how these editions differ.

IMO there should be no supplementary books about evolution that are required reading -- such books imply that the main textbook's treatment of evolution is inadequate or suspect. IMO the main textbooks should cover criticisms of evolution. IMO it is OK to have a list of reference books concerning evolution that are not required reading, and such a list should contain books presenting all points of view. IMO the Dover school board made a mistake by choosing just one book, "Of Pandas and People," that presents just one point of view.

Here is an interesting article about a Texas hearing on biology textbook approval (this is probably the 2003 hearing):

This website gives detailed information about the textbook laws and regulations of all the states and also US territories (published Jan. 2005 -- recent rule changes are here). I have discovered an error on this website -- the website says of the Texas regulations, "Districts may use books not included on either the conforming or nonconforming list, but the board will pay only 70% of the cost of these textbooks, the remainder being the responsibility of the district," but that is only for textbooks for "enrichment curriculum" courses, not "foundation curriculum" courses.

We should do away with state standards for education anyway -- they have become a joke.



Friday, January 23, 2009

More thoughts about Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, crazy decision about taxpayer standing in establishment clause cases

Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation (2007) is discussed in this external article and in articles [1] [2] on this blog.

First, I want to say that I think that the whole idea of taxpayer standing in establishment clause cases (as well as some other cases) is a crock, partly because some violations of the establishment clause involve tax spending while others do not. For example, according to Hein, there is no standing to sue over a religious symbol on public property if that symbol is funded by the executive branch. However, ironically Hein would not be a barrier to standing to sue if the religious symbol is privately funded, because then taxpayer standing would not be an issue because tax spending is not involved. If anything, it should be the other way around -- a government-funded religious symbol appears to be a bigger violation of the establishment clause than a privately-funded religious symbol, hence standing to sue should be stronger in the government-funded case. There are other reasons why the taxpayer-standing issue is a crock, but this one reason is sufficient. The whole taxpayer-standing issue really sucks big-time.

The Supreme Court's Hein decision is here. Here is a summary of the decision (authors of the opinions are shown in bold):
"Judgment of the court" -- Alito, joined by Roberts and Kennedy
Opposed granting standing to sue. Held that in establishment clause cases, there should be taxpayer standing in challenges to Congressional authorization of spending but not in challenges to executive-branch authorization of spending (even where the funds originate from Congressional authorization). Called "judgment of the court" despite being a minority opinion, with even fewer justices than the "dissenting" opinion, 3 vs. 4.

Concurrence: Scalia, joined by Thomas
Opposed granting standing to sue. Held that there should be no taxpayer standing in establishment clause cases at all, i.e., that Flast v. Cohen should be overturned, or at least that the taxpayer-standing rules of Flast be applied to other kinds of challenges to government spending. However, opposed Alito's distinction between Congressional authorization and executive-branch authorization.

Dissent: Souter, joined by Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer
Favored granting standing to sue. Like Scalia and Thomas, opposed Alito's distinction between Congressional authorization and executive-branch organization.

Concurrence: Kennedy, in addition to joining Alito's opinion, wrote a separate concurring opinion which does not enter into my analysis here.

So, in summary --

The court voted 5-4 to deny standing. However, it is assumed that Alito's distinction between Congressional spending and executive-branch spending is a binding ruling of the court, even though the opinions show that the justices are opposed by 6-3 against making that distinction (furthermore, even the decision's syllabus does not expressly indicate that this distinction is a binding ruling)! How can that be? The answer is in the following statement:

In a Supreme Court decision that does not have a majority opinion, such as Hein, the rationale of the narrowest opinion supporting the result becomes the controlling law. Therefore, the controlling opinion in Hein is the opinion that, first, found no standing for the plaintiffs in Hein, and, second, will eliminate standing for the least number of potential plaintiffs in future cases.

However, there ought to be a court rule that when a majority of the Supreme Court justices expressly oppose a particular ruling, as is the case here (6 justices opposed the distinction between Congressional and executive-branch spending authorizations), that particular ruling cannot be binding. Theoretically, the way things are now, it is possible for a single justice to make a binding ruling that is expressly opposed by the opinions of all the other justices. What if Roberts and Kennedy had joined in Scalia's opinion instead of Alito's? Then Alito's lone opinion would have been controlling. That's ridiculous.

Scalia and/or Thomas might have used the following reasoning: "we would really like to see this court either overturn Flast v. Cohen or at least apply the reasoning of Flast to other cases involving government spending, but since this court is not going to do that, we are going to join Souter's opinion so that we will at least block Alito's distinction between Congressional and executive-branch authorizations of spending." Scalia and Thomas essentially threw away their votes, except for the Pyrrhic victory of denying standing in this particular case.

BTW, here is a statement of Souter's opposition to Alito's distinction between Congressional and executive-branch authorization of spending:

Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S. 83, 102 (1968) , held that plaintiffs with an Establishment Clause claim could “demonstrate the necessary stake as taxpayers in the outcome of the litigation to satisfy Article III requirements.” Here, the controlling, plurality opinion declares that Flast does not apply, but a search of that opinion for a suggestion that these taxpayers have any less stake in the outcome than the taxpayers in Flast will come up empty: the plurality makes no such finding, nor could it. Instead, the controlling opinion closes the door on these taxpayers because the Executive Branch, and not the Legislative Branch, caused their injury. I see no basis for this distinction in either logic or precedent, and respectfully dissent.

Scalia's following statement agrees with Souter's preceding statement:

As the dissent correctly contends and I shall not belabor, see post, at 3–4 (opinion of Souter, J.), Flast is indistinguishable from this case for purposes of Article III. Whether the challenged government expenditure is expressly allocated by a specific congressional enactment has absolutely no relevance to the Article III criteria of injury in fact, traceability, and redressability . . . . (emphasis in original)

Actually, Alito's distinction between Congressional and executive-branch authorization of funding is implicit in the following ruling from Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 102 (1968):

. . . .a taxpayer will be a proper party to allege the unconstitutionality only of exercises of congressional power under the taxing and spending clause of Art. I, 8, of the Constitution. It will not be sufficient to allege an incidental expenditure of tax funds in the administration of an essentially regulatory statute.

The district court decision in Caldwell v. Caldwell (the UC Berkeley website case -- link to post-label group is at bottom of this article, also listed in the sidebar of the homepage) used the above ruling in Flast to argue that the plaintiff lacked federal taxpayer standing (see page 8 of decision). The Caldwell v. Caldwell district-court decision preceded the Supreme Court's Hein decision, so the similar ruling in Hein was not available. But the appeals court opinion in Caldwell v. Caldwell says -- without explanation -- that the taxpayer-standing issue was not appealed:

The district court held that Caldwell failed to make out taxpayer standing with respect to both the federal and state parties, an issue that is not appealed (page 6 of opinion)

Also, the appeals court decision, unlike the district court decision, does not mention the distinction between Congressional and executive-branch authorization of funding (Flast apparently uses the phrase "an incidental expenditure of tax funds in the administration of an essentially regulatory statute" to describe executive-branch authorization). Anyway, federal taxpayer standing should probably not be an issue at all because I presume that the National Science Foundation -- which funded the website -- did not authorize webpages with religious messages. I will try to find out what happened to the taxpayer-standing issue in Caldwell v. Caldwell.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Texas board of education votes on new science standards

Today's meeting of the Texas Board of Education was live-blogged here, on the Texas Freedom Network blog. Also, the meeting was live-blogged by Stupid Steven Schafersman [1] and in several articles dated Jan. 22 on Thoughts from Kansas. Evolution News & Views also has several articles -- dated Jan. 21 and Jan. 22 -- about the Jan. 21 and Jan. 22 meetings of the board.

A motion to re-insert the "strengths and weaknesses" language into the standards failed today on a 7-7 tie vote (one member was absent during the voting). However, like the Kitmiller v. Dover decision, this looks like a Pyrrhic victory for the dogmatic Darwinists -- it accomplishes little for them while greatly increasing opposition to the dogmatic teaching of Darwinism.

Here are the ways that things stand now:
(1) The word "limitations" remains in the biology knowledge & skills section 3D.

(2) Nothing in the tentatively approved new standards prohibits the state from approving textbooks that contain criticisms of evolution.

(3) The vote on the "strengths and weaknesses" language shows the willingness of a near-majority of the board members to vote to overrule a decision of all eight science standards-drafting committees.

(4) The board inserted some anti-evolution language into the science standards, particularly the statement, "describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record." [2] It sounds like a silly question to me.

These are preliminary votes. The final vote is in March, and the board might vote on the standards tomorrow too.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Listen live to Texas hearing on proposed science standards -- discussion of "weaknesses" language regarding evolution

Link is HERE.

The URL is --


Public testifies in the morning, 8:30 - 12:30 CST

Experts testify in afternoon.

Live-blogging of the meeting is at the following sites --

Texas Freedom Network

Thoughts from Kansas



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mickey mouse new survey course in Texas science standards

This has got to be the living end -- Fatheaded Ed Brayton said on his blog, "My friend Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science . . . ."

Ed's article concerns a new mickey mouse elective survey course -- Earth and Space Science -- in the proposed new Texas high school science standards. The course description is full of pseudoscientific jargon and breathtakingly inane philosophies of science. Most of the material is covered in the new 6th-8th grade Texas science standards and/or in the high-school standards for other courses. Stupid Steven Schafersman was on the standards-drafting committee for the course -- here is his description of the course:
Our new Texas ESS course is innovative and pathbreaking, and I seriously believe it will serve as a national model for ES and ESS courses in the future. The standards we wrote compare favorably to the new ES Literacy Initiative standards; we anticipated many important topics and concerns. The course standards are composed of three traditional themes and three very non-traditional strands. The three themes (or topical sections) are Earth in Space and Time, Solid Earth, and Fluid Earth. The first contains the most important information about cosmology and planetary astronomy in addition to traditional historical geological topics. It emphasizes geological time, stellar system and planet formation, the origin of the Earth's atmosphere and ocean, and fossil life. The second deals with plate tectonics, internal heat transfer, Earth structure, continent formation, geophysics, mountain building, volcanism, erosion and mass wasting, mineral resources, fossil fuels, etc. The third section discusses the movement of heat and fluids in Earth's atmosphere and hydrosphere, sea-level changes, the origin of life as a result of chemical processes and geochemical cycles, solar radiation, various chemical cycles, groundwater, and climate.

The innovative part of the course are the three strands: systems, energy, and relevance. We tried to incorporate these strands in every student expectation and at least in every knowledge and skill requirement. The course uses a system concept which shows the interactions among Earth's subsystems and can be modeled. Energy formation, movement, transfer, and effect as Earth process driving forces are emphasized throughout. Finally, every topic required was judged for its relevance to student lives. If a topic was not very relevant, it was omitted. Believe it or not, we actually left out about a third of traditional physical and historical geological topics, almost all of meteorology, much of non-planetary astronomy, and much of physical and biological oceanography. Some critics said the course was too long, but actually it could have been twice as long if we left in all the traditional topics. Also, our standards are longer than other high school courses because we were more specific in listing topics rather than lumping many of them under simple headings. We decided to create a course that looked at fewer topics in depth rather than many topics superficially. Left out are rocks and minerals, desert processes, most erosion and weathering processes, different types of volcanic and plutonic bodies, a detailed survey of the geologic periods, almost everything dealing with weather, all discussion about galaxies and types of stars, and large parts of oceanography. Instead, we included a great deal about climate and climate change, Earth's geologic hazards, energy resources, geophysics, geologic time, origin of planets, the Moon, smaller planetary bodies, the history and chemistry of Earth's water and elements in the oceans and atmosphere, stratigraphy, sedimentary basins, fossil fuels, and the origin and evolution of ancient life. We wanted to keep as many relevant, exciting, and thought-provoking topics as possible to attract and interest students, and we left out much about topics that some students find to be uninteresting. We also emphasized the use of space imagery and modern instruments such as GPS, personal computers, and the Internet.

I think this course will be something special: a course that many students will want to take as an elective (since the former Texas Earth Science Task Force couldn't get an ES course accepted as required credit). Many students will want to take this course in their senior year, and even students going on in science who are taking an AP course their senior year may want to take ESS as a fifth science course in high school, simply because it will be exciting and relevant. This is a course I think Texas Earth scientists can be proud of, especially geologists (meteorologists probably won't like it, but climatologists will love it!).

Now Schafersman is complaining that two "young-earth creationists" on the ten-person ESS committee sent secret minority reports to the state board of education. IMO the best thing that could happen to the ESS standards would be to have "strengths and weaknesses" -- or better yet, "strengths and criticisms" -- language added to it.



Monday, January 19, 2009

Reminder: The Great Texas 3-Man Tag-Team Death Match is coming on Jan. 21

"The Mad Scientists" tag-team

The match has also been called the "Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown" by "Stupid Steven" Schafersman.

And the announcer says,
In this corner we have "The Mad Scientists" tag-team - - - - - - and in this corner we have "The Fabulous Fundies" tag-team.

Information about the hearing -- including information on how to register to speak -- is here. If you have just a dial-up connection instead of broadband and want to listen to the testimony, you should listen to the live broadcast because you may not be able to listen continuously to the archived audio files.

BTW, I was surprised to learn that the Texas death match really did originate in Texas, according to this source. Previously I thought that they just gave it the name "Texas" because Texas has been regarded as the land of showdowns ever since the Alamo.

The big issue is going to be whether to retain the phrase "strengths and weaknesses" that has been in the Texas science standards for about 20 years (or maybe whether to replace it with the phrase "strengths and limitations"). There is no reason to defer to scientists' opinions about that issue -- that is not an issue that requires any scientific expertise.

Again, here is a summary of my positions on the "strengths and weaknesses" issue:
I have proposed changing the phrase "strengths and weaknesses" to "strengths and criticisms." "Criticisms" is a general, neutral term covering limitations, real weaknesses, invalid criticisms, criticisms of whole theories, and criticisms of imperfections in theories. IMO the term "weaknesses" is bad because invalid criticisms are not real weaknesses.

Teaching criticisms of evolution -- even pseudoscientific criticisms -- serves the following purposes: broadening students' education, encouraging critical thinking, increasing student interest, helping students learn the material, helping to prevent or correct misconceptions, and helping to assure that technically sophisticated criticisms of evolution are taught be qualified science teachers.

Omitting the terms "weaknesses," "limitations," "criticisms," and similar terms would not positively prevent the selection of textbooks containing criticisms of evolution.



Sunday, January 18, 2009

Incredible Darwinist bigotry

Darwinist demonstraton at the Nov. 19 oral hearings on the new Texas science standards


This example of Darwinist bigotry is just so bad that I decided to post an article about it here. A public commenter's speech at the November 19 Texas board of education oral hearing for the new Texas science standards said,

Despite what the creationist members of the Board say - Ms Lowe, Ms Leo, Ms Cargill, Ms Dunbar, Mr Mercer, Dr McLeroy and others - everybody in the nation knows that this is absolutely a religious battle, that your dislike of evolution and naturalism and any changes to the TEKs that are supported by the Discovery Institute are religiously motivated. Kitzmiller vs Dover clearly showed that ID and these issues are religious in nature.

"Everybody in the nation knows"? As the Marlboro Filters Man ads used to say, "almost everybody."

The commenter continued,
For you to sit there and tell everyone it is not smacks of arrogance and deliberate willful deception. In other words, lying. I know who the Father of Lies...

At which point Chairman McLeroy interrupts me to say, flustered, "We don't say that word here. You can't say that word."

I look at him, confused.

"Lies. You can't say lies."

"I can't say the words lies?" I ask, incredulous.

So I continue, not finishing the sentence that I was going to say, which was "I know who the Father of Lies is, and it's not Jesus and it's not God."

McLeroy's interruption was understandable. Accusing the board members of lying was slanderous -- the accusation was based on nothing more than an opinion of a single judge and a ridiculous presumption of what "everybody in the nation knows."

I then continue on with my asking them why they are willing to play dice with our taxpayer money to risk a lawsuit, and why they're willing to play dice with our children's future, and kept to the rest of the testimony I'd written - but because of the time McLeroy took away from me by interrupting me I was not able to read my closing few sentences.

Last I will say that McLeroy made a demand that nobody clap, hoot, holler, or talk during people's testimony because he and the Board members wanted to be able to listen to those who spoke and it was a show of respect for those who took the time to come and testify. And for the most part this was respected by the audience. However I was not shown the same courtesy by the Board! (emphasis in original) During my testimony, Terri Leo repeatedly laughed and talked over her shoulder to someone (I think he was a creationist/ID person giving her questions and comments about the testimonies). The laughter and talking by the Board was loud enough to be picked up on the live feed that was streamed from the TEA website because someone emailed me commenting on it.

One other thing someone from the audience told me, when I named the creationist members of the Board, I heard laughter from them. What may have caused that is that apparently Mr Bradley, who I didn't name, waved his hands up in the air like "What about me? You forgot me!" and Dr McLeroy shot him a proud look. And they claim they are not religious? Can you be proud of being a "creationist" without it being religious? Ah, the irony....Or should I say hypocrisy?

The speaker has no sense of humor -- Bradley and McLeroy could have just been joking (though both are in fact creationists).

While everyone wants to be polite, and I also was polite though firm in my assessment, I think it is essential to call a spade a spade.

Calling the board members liars because of a legitimate difference of opinion is being polite?

The rest of the testimony -- which is full of more bigotry -- is here. The testimony said,

Evolution does not threaten religious belief – including Christianity - except if you read Genesis absolutely literally, which most denominations do not. The Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist and Catholic Churches formally accept an evolving Creation.

People should not be told what their religious beliefs are supposed to be -- religious beliefs are a personal thing. And large numbers of Moslems, orthodox Jews, and fundy Christians do not believe that evolution theory is compatible with religion.

Needless to say, this speaker is regarded as a heroine by the Darwinists.



Saturday, January 17, 2009

Houston Chronicle censors an Evo.Sphere blog post by Schafersman

An Evo.Sphere blog post by "Stupid Steven" Schafersman says,

Young Earth Creationist Attack on the New Texas Earth and Space Science Course

This column was removed from this blog by a Houston Chronicle editor. I don't know why and am waiting for an explanation. I believe someone I named in the column complained, and I'm pretty sure I know who it is, since he has done this before.

Since I'm not going to re-post the report here, here's where you can read it off site:


Steven Schafersman

When I complained to the Houston Chronicle staff about Stupid Steven's arbitrary censorship of my comments submitted to his posts on the Evo.Sphere blog, they told me that they were not going to do anything because Evo.Sphere is an "independent" blog. But how in the hell can Evo.Sphere be an independent blog if a Houston Chronicle staffer can censor posts on it?
The claim that Evo.Sphere is an independent blog was of course phony from the beginning. It has the Houston Chronicle's name on it and Houston Chronicle staffer Eric Berger set up the blog, advertised it, invited Schafersman to blog on it, made the decision to moderate comments, and has checked the blog for comments awaiting approval.

Also, as for Schafersman's statement, "I believe someone I named in the column complained, and I'm pretty sure I know who it is, since he has done this before," I think it is pretty obvious who he is referring to -- Texas state board of education member David Bradley. The report mentions four people: two members of the Earth and Space Science standards-drafting committee and two members of the SBOE, Terri Leo and David Bradley. I doubt that the two ESS committee members have the clout to get the Houston Chronicle to censor an Evo.Sphere post and Terri Leo is not a "he," so that just leaves David Bradley.



Friday, January 16, 2009

Correction of error in Texas science standards' L-word history

I erroneously assumed that the biology standards-drafting committee added the word "limitations" to the "knowledge and skills" (KS) rule 3D when the committee dropped the phrase "strengths and limitations" that was in KS rule 3A of the second draft [1] [2] -- however, the word "limitations" was actually already in KS rule 3D in the 1st and 2nd drafts. Here is the history as told by Steven Schafersman:

Now we come to the last biology problem, one that I failed to notice before. As readers remember, Biology's original 1997 TEKS had the very unscientific and misleading scientific processes "strengths and weaknesses" standard 3A, Draft 1 of September 2008 had the new and good standard 3A, Draft 2 of November 2008 substituted the educationally poor and unscientific "analyze and evaluate strengths and limitations of scientific explanations including those based on accepted scientific data," and Draft 3 of January 2009, the Proposed Recommendations, correctly returned to the good standard 3A. What I had overlooked is that all three of the drafts had standard 3D: "evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects or events." Furthermore, this Knowledge and Skill scientific process standard was in the original 1997 Biology TEKS as standard 3E: "evaluate models according to their adequacy in representing biological objects or events." No doubt anti-evolutionists did a search, as I did, for the word "limitations" and found this. At least two blogs claimed that biology standard 3D was new and simply transferred the word "limitations" to another process skill standard when biology went back to the good 3A. In fact, this is a very old standard and the original word "adequacy" was changed to "limitations" during the very first biology panel revision meeting.

So why wasn't "limitations" dropped from biology KS Rule 3D when "strengths and limitations" was dropped from biology KS Rule 3A? An oversight, maybe? The Darwinists are now faced with a dilemma -- they cannot at the same time ask that (1) the committees' final drafts be adopted unchanged and (2) that the word "limitations" be removed from biology KS Rule 3D.

The committees' three drafts of the proposed high school science standards are available here. The 1st draft is here, the 2nd draft is here, and the final draft is here.

"Limitations" appears in the introductions of the first and second drafts of all eight science subjects, in paragraphs like the following:

Investigations are used to learn about the natural world. Students should understand that certain types of questions can be answered by investigations, and that methods, models, and conclusions built from these investigations change as new observations are made. Models of objects and events are tools for understanding the natural world and can show how systems work. They have limitations and based on new discoveries are constantly being modified to more closely reflect the natural world.

Duh. Does all that breathtakingly inane verbiage really need saying?

The word "limitations" appears in only one place -- biology KS rule 3D -- in the committees' final drafts.

Anyway, the Darwinists did not make a stink about the word "limitations" until the phrase "strengths and limitations" appeared in KS Rule 3A of the 2nd drafts of the standards for three of the eight science subjects.



Big new Darwinist website: "Teach Them Science"

The new website is here. I suspect that the website was created mainly for the purpose of opposing addition of the "strengths and weaknesses" language -- or similar language -- to the new Texas science standards.

The website is very one-sided -- all the links are to pro-Darwinist websites and organizations. In contrast, I try to maintain balance in my list of external links.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

How to register to testify at Jan. 21 hearing on Texas science standards

I am on the email list of the science department of the Texas Education Agency and I received the following information in an email. The email does not mention the limit of four hours on the public comment period. Also, six expert reviewers have been invited to testify and their testimony of course will take a fairly large amount of time.

Background info is in the two "Texas Controversy" post label groups in the sidebar of the homepage.


State Board of Education

Committee of the Full Board

Item #1

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

8:30 AM – 12:30 PM in Room 1-104 , Texas Education Agency, 1701 North Congress, Austin, TX


Registration for the SCIENCE PUBLIC HEARING for proposed TEKS revisions will be held during business hours (8-5) on Friday, January 16 and Tuesday, January 20 (no registration on Monday, January 19 due to MLK holiday).

People who wish to testify may sign up by calling (512) 463-9581, the main curriculum number, on Friday, January 16 and Tuesday, January 20, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (January 19 is a holiday) or by FAXing their completed registration form to fax: 512-475-3667.

The link for the Registration Form is http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/forms/registration_testimony.html

The registrants shall provide thirty-five (35) copies of their testimony for distribution to board and staff.

Parking is available for a fee at the meters around the building, the state visitor’s lot, or the Bullock Museum.

To find your SBOE representative, you can go to http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/members.html

The proposed recommendations to the Science TEKS are available for review at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/teks/scienceTEKS.html

Thank you ---

Irene Pickhardt

Assistant Director of Science

Texas Education Agency

1701 North Congress

Austin Texas 78701





Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Summary of thoughts about co-evolution

I just happened to write this summary recently and I decided I might as well post it here. Co-evolution is covered in articles in the "Non-ID criticisms of evolution" and "Non-ID criticisms of evolution (new #1)" post-label groups on this blog (these post-label groups are also listed in the sidebar of the homepage -- the reason for the two groups is that the blog software limits me to a maximum of 20 articles per post label). These articles elaborate on many of my points below.

I first became interested in co-evolution about three years ago. IMO of particular concern are (1) the co-evolution of obligate mutualism -- i.e., total co-dependence between two different kinds of organisms, e.g., bees and flowering plants -- and (2) the co-evolution of extremely complex parasitic relationships. In the co-evolution of obligate mutualism, unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical and quasi-physical (e.g., forests) features of the environment, e.g., air, land in its different forms (e.g., forests, plains, mountains, deserts), and water in its different forms (fresh, salt, and brackish), there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism is likely to be locally absent. A mutant pig with wings that suddenly appears anywhere in the world can fly immediately, but bees appearing in the absence of flowers or flowers appearing in the absence of bees -- or other pollinators -- will die immediately.

The following factors are important:
(1) The co-evolution of obligate mutualism presents a particular problem because this kind of co-evolution may require simultaneous changes in both kinds of organisms in the same geographical location, because the co-dependent traits in both kinds of organisms may be immediately fatal in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent traits in the other kind of organism. In contrast, in the evolution of parasitism and commensalism, for example, change may be required -- or immediately required -- in only one of the organisms.

(2) Co-evolution is more difficult where the required change is one of kind rather than degree. For example, in buzz pollination, where the pollen is shaken loose by resonance from special vibrations of insects' wings, the pollen is contained in tubes -- it is not just a matter of the pollen adhering more strongly to the plant.

(3) Often the two co-dependent organisms can interact only in large numbers, requiring that large numbers of both kinds of organisms suddenly appear in the same place at the same time.

(4) Co-evolution is more difficult where the adaptations must be very complex and exact -- e.g., orchids' mimicry of female wasps' sex pheromones. One particular species of orchid is pollinated by only one species of wasp.

(5) Even where the co-evolution of obligate mutualism can be gradual, the gradual changes must exist in both kinds of organisms at the same time and place in order to be mutually reinforcing.

(6) Extremely complex parasitic relationships -- including multiple-host relationships -- are also a big problem for co-evolution. In some parasitic relationships, the parasite invades the nervous system of the host and produces drastic changes in the host's behavior.

(7) Co-evolution, unlike Intelligent Design, is a problem for natural selection. It has been assumed that all that is necessary for evolution to occur is to have beneficial mutations and then natural selection will assure that the best beneficial mutations will survive. However, in co-evolution, if the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other kind of organism is absent, natural selection will not occur. Also, co-evolution is a problem for "front-loaded" (pre-programmed) evolution as well as Darwinian evolution, because it may be necessary to trigger the front-loaded mutations in both co-dependent organisms at the exact same time and place.

(8) The problem of co-evolution is what I call a "non-ID" criticism of evolution -- i.e., arguments against co-evolution do not necessarily depend on any of the traits involved being irreducibly complex. However, ID can be used in arguments against co-evolution -- for example, whole sets of co-dependent traits may be irreducibly complex. For example, bees must not only be able to digest nectar, but must also be able to find the flowers. Bees are able to detect the ultraviolet light from flowers and perform a special "dance" which informs other bees where flowers are located.



Update: sensationalized hearing for fundy teacher

As I previously reported, the demagogic Darwinists are sensationalizing a misconduct hearing of a fundy creationist teacher, John Freshwater. [1] [2] The Darwinists are now trying to turn the hearing into a mini-Dover or mini-Scopes trial. An entire day of the hearing was devoted to hearing testimony from a witness who is an expert about creationism! Panda's Thumb reported,
Day 10 of the Freshwater hearing was devoted entirely to direct and cross examination of Dr. Patricia Princehouse. Princehouse is a lecturer in philosophy and evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University. She has degrees in anthropology (B.S.) and biological anthropology (M.S.), and earned a doctorate in the history of science from Harvard. At Harvard she studied with (among others) Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, and she also did some field work with the Leakeys in Africa.

Princehouse’s testimony covered two main topics. First she provided a detailed analysis of several handouts and a video that have been entered into evidence and were allegedly used by Freshwater in his 8th grade science class. Second, she gave a substantial overview of the history of creationism.

Details of the testimony are in the Panda's Thumb article. Who ever heard of such expert testimony being presented at a teacher-misconduct hearing?


Six expert reviewers invited to testify Jan. 21 on Texas science standards

The Discovery Institutie reports that the six experts who were appointed by the Texas State Board of Education to write expert reviews of the proposed Texas science standards have now been invited to testify at the Jan. 21 oral hearing on the standards-drafting committees' final proposal for the standards. IMO this invitation is a strong indication that the SBOE wants to revise the committees' final draft. The current situation is described here.

The Texas Freedom Network reported that the board plans to restrict the general public's oral comment period to four hours. IMO that is a bad idea -- it may unfairly prevent some people form testifying and it will discourage people from coming to the hearing to testify.

Links to live broadcasts of the hearings are posted here and links to audio archives of the hearings are posted here. If you have a dial-up connection and want to listen to the Jan. 21 hearing, you should listen to the live broadcast because I found that with my slow dial-up connection I could not listen continuously to the archived audio files.

"Stupid Steven" Schafersman calls this expert oral testimony "The Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown." As usual, Schafersman is making wild unsupported accusations --
The Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown was designed by the seven radical, religious-right Creationists on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).

Schafersman has provided no evidence that all seven of the board's supporters of the "strengths and weaknesses" language are "radical, religious-right Creationists" or that they "designed" the "Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown."

The Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown is the love child of the seventh radical right SBOE member and chairman, Don McLeroy, illicitly conceived by mental coupling with "his friends" in the Discovery Institute. Only McLeroy has the power to invite the six experts to attend a SBOE hearing to give testimony and answer questions from the other State Board members, but this idea was not his alone. He was coached by his Discovery friends to set up this misleading debate, since it is designed to fit perfectly with the Discovery Instiltute marketing campaign to spread fear and doubt about evolution, thus promoting the currently-popular alternative that the DI markets, Intelligent Design Creationism.

Schafersman provided no evidence to support his allegations in the preceding paragraph.

More information is in the articles in the two "Texas Controversy" post-label groups in the sidebar of the homepage.



Monday, January 12, 2009

The 9th Circuit's arbitrary, discriminatory rulings on standing in establishment clause cases

This blog has several articles about Caldwell v. Caldwell and several related articles. The Pacific Justice Institute announced that this lawsuit has been appealed to the US Supreme Court:

A lawsuit challenging a government-funded website that promotes the harmony of religion and evolution is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The website at the center of the controversy, operated by UC Berkeley and funded by a federal grant, is aimed at public school teachers. The website urges teachers to challenge students' religious beliefs that evolution contradicts their faith. Moreover, the site points teachers to statements from religious groups and denominations that support evolution, while ignoring religious groups that believe in a literal creation.

Attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute filed a petition with the Supreme Court this week after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff, a mother with children in Northern California public schools, did not have legal standing to challenge the website. By contrast, in most cases involving separation of church and state, the Ninth Circuit has been among the most lenient courts in the nation in allowing lawsuits to proceed. Just last week, in a case allowing atheists and lesbians to sue San Diego for letting the Boy Scouts use a public park, several dissenting Ninth Circuit judge sharply criticized the court's low threshold for legal standing.

The San Diego case is Barnes-Wallace v. City of San Diego, 04-55732. A news article said,
This past June 11, the panel—again over Kleinfeld’s dissent—reiterated that the plaintiffs had standing, but for a different reason—that the plaintiffs’ choice not to use the facilities was made “because they are offended by the Boy Scouts’ exclusive, and publicly expressed disapproval, of lesbians, atheists, and agnostics.”

Yesterday, the court announced that a call for en banc rehearing failed to win the approval of a majority of unrecused active judges.

Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain dissented, joined by Kleinfeld and Judges Carlos Bea, Consuelo Callahan, Jay Bybee, and Sandra Ikuta.

O’Scannlain called the plaintiffs’ theory of standing “unprecedented” and said “[i]t splits standing law at the seams, forcing open the courthouse doors to plaintiffs without concrete, particularized injuries.”

Another news article said,

Lawsuits should only be available to plaintiffs with concrete injury, O'Scannlain wrote.

"Rather, the claim here is that the families are psychologically injured by the thought of associating with the Boy Scouts; they contend that they would be offended by the Boy Scouts' views if they chose to use the parks," he wrote. "This is an unprecedented theory."

There were no crosses or "god hates fags" signs on the properties. The plaintiffs were not expected to take an oath of belief in god in order to use the facilities. This lawsuit is like suing the UC Dept. of Paleontology because one does not want to use the department's government-sponsored website because one is offended by the fact that Darwinist crackpot Kevin Padian is on the department's staff.

O'Scannlain's complete dissent is here. The complete record of the 9th Circuit's opinions on the case is here.

BTW, the Boy Scouts are not leasing the land for free or virtually free -- the terms of the lease require the Boy Scouts to make millions of dollars worth of improvements to the properties. Also, the Boy Scouts apparently do not make a profit on rental fees charged to the public. Details are in this opinion.(pages 5-8)

The 9th Circuit federal court of appeals has 28 active judges -- only six voted to hold an en banc rehearing and four recused themselves, so unfortunately the vote was not even close. In the 9th circuit, en banc rehearing panels consist of 11 judges, fewer than the total number of active judges, 28 -- in all other circuits, en banc rehearing panels consist of all the active judges in the circuit. As happened here, judges will sometimes write opinions regarding a denial of an en banc rehearing -- another en banc rehearing denial where there was a written opinion was Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish, a case concerning an oral evolution disclaimer.

Fatheaded Ed Brayton of course agrees with the grant of standing to the plaintiffs, but he has no credibility because he is an unscrupulous BVD-clad blogger who arbitrarily censors comments that he does not agree with.

Also, in Vasquez v. Los Angeles County, 487 F.3d 1246 (9th Cir. 2007), the 9th circuit granted standing to a complaint that the new L.A. county seal in is "an offensive anti-religious symbol" because it is a reminder that a cross that was in the old seal was removed! [1]. What remedy could the courts give other than to tell Los Angeles County to put the cross back in the seal?

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

The phony "they made me do it" defense of ID-as-science ruling

A Biochem. Journal article by Kevin Padian and Nicholas Matzke says (pages 10-11 of pdf file, pages 38-39 of original document),

Should judges decide what science is?

DI [Discovery Institute] spokesmen and other political supporters of ID criticized the judge for overstepping his intellectual and legal bounds by ruling on whether or not ID was science. But Judge Jones literally had no choice but to rule on whether or not ID was science. The plaintiffs asked him to rule on exactly this, and so did the defence. The TMLC's chief counsel for the defence, Richard Thompson, acknowledged that, like the attorneys for the plaintiffs, the defence had asked the judge to rule on the question of whether ID was science. They staked their whole case on the notion that ID was legitimate science, and that therefore teaching it had a legitimate secular purpose and secular effect, and this outweighed any religious goals that individual board members might have had. The judge did exactly what both sides asked him to do. It is unfortunate for ID supporters that they did not take that brief more seriously. And it is important to understand that the judge did not decide what is science and what is not. Nobody inside or outside the legal profession wants judges to do that. What the judge did was to rule on what the scientific community considers science, which is quite a different thing. His path was easy in that respect, because the DI and other ID proponents had no support whatsoever from the scientific community, whereas evolution received nothing but the strongest support.

The criticism has been made by more than just "DI [Discovery Institute] spokesmen and other political supporters of ID" -- neutral people and even anti-ID people have also made the criticism [1] [2]. No one has ever cited any legal authority (a constitutional provision, law, court rule, or court opinion) in support of this cockamamie idea that judges are obligated to rule on questions whenever both sides ask them to -- and the reason for that is that the very notion is absurd. Should a judge rule on the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin just because both sides ask him to do it? The Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion itself does not give this as one of the reasons for the judge's decision to rule on the ID-as-science question -- here are the reasons given by the opinion (pages 63-64) --
We have now found that both an objective student and an objective adult member of the Dover community would perceive Defendants' conduct to be a strong endorsement of religion pursuant to the endorsement test. Having so concluded, we find it incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science. To be sure, our answer to this question can likely be predicted based upon the foregoing analysis. While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area. Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.

It was only after release of the opinion that Judge Jones started claiming that one of his reasons for ruling on the ID as science question was that both sides asked him to do it [3].
Also, Judge Jones noted above that the plaintiffs raised the "additional issue" of whether "ID is science" but made no statement about the defendants raising the issue.

Also, regarding the following statement from the above quote from the Biochem Jounral:

They [the defendants] staked their whole case on the notion that ID was legitimate science, and that therefore teaching it had a legitimate secular purpose and secular effect . . . .

No, the defendants also claimed that ID encouraged critical thinking, but Judge Jones dodged that question.[4].

And the following statement:

. . . it is important to understand that the judge did not decide what is science and what is not. Nobody inside or outside the legal profession wants judges to do that.

In some lawsuits -- e.g., in product liability lawsuits -- it is necessary for judges to decide what is science in order to decide the case. Kitzmiller v. Dover was not such a lawsuit.

And the following:

What the judge did was to rule on what the scientific community considers science, which is quite a different thing.

Wrong -- Judge Jones ruled on more than that. And what the scientific community considers science is only one of the factors judges are supposed to consider in judging scientific questions -- see Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Darwinists' "growing stridency and unabashed dogmatism"

An article on the Answers-in-Genesis website says,

The basic strategy of evolutionists over the last 50 years has been to ensure that evolution is the central theme of nearly every chapter of biology textbooks. Toward this end, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) was established in 1959 through a federally funded grant from the National Science Foundation. The BSCS continues to produce several versions of evolution-laced high school biology textbooks, published by textbook publishers throughout the world.

The principal goal of BSCS is clearly stated in the first edition of their Biology Teachers’ Handbook: “It is no longer possible to give a complete or even a coherent account of living things without the story of evolution.” By 1975, nearly half of America’s high schools used BSCS textbooks, and most other biology textbooks and curricula in America were deeply influenced by BSCS. That happened overseas as well: in 1975, AiG founder Ken Ham was required to teach from a BSCS biology textbook as a public school teacher in Australia.

A disturbing trend throughout the past 50 years has been the growing stridency and unabashed dogmatism of evolutionists. In 1973 evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky declared that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”— a dictum repeated in nearly every school or textbook controversy where Darwinian dogma is called into question. If this claim was to be taken seriously (as indeed many academics do), Bible-believing Christians (along with all others who dare to doubt Darwin) could be excluded from learning, teaching, or doing anything related to life science.
America’s most distinguished body of scientists, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), in their widely distributed book, Science, Evolution and Creationism, carries things a step further by declaring that those Americans who doubt evolution have “turned away from science itself.” The NAS even goes so far as to suggest that this threatens our very survival as a nation.

But is a knowledge or belief in evolution really essential for a proper understanding of biology or even of science itself?

Some evolutionists have frankly conceded that most scientists pursue their research with little regard for evolutionary dogma. Evolutionist Adam Wilkins, for example, has noted that “most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. ‘Evolution’ would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one.”

Dr. Marc Kirchner, a member of the NAS and chairman of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, declared: “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry and physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”



Thursday, January 08, 2009

Darwinists ignore L-word in proposed Texas science standards

Background --

The "strengths and weaknesses" language has been in the Texas science standards continuously since the 1980's. The language was added to the Texas textbook proclamations in the 1980's (I was told that the textbook proclamations were the de facto state standards back then) and added to the state science standards around 1997-98. "Strengths and weaknesses" was in the first drafts of the proposed new chemistry and astronomy standards and "strengths and limitations" was in the second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics standards but just the word "limitations" was retained in only the proposed final draft of the biology standards (there were eight science committees and one engineering & design committee, which doesn't count here).

A news article says,

. . . . with the "weaknesses" requirement removed and a new definition for science, the new plan makes it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism and intelligent design have no place in public classrooms, said Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit group that opposes religious influence on public education . . . . .

Educators removed the "weaknesses" phrase in their first draft of the science curriculum.

That is not exactly true. There were eight science committees and two of them -- chemistry and astronomy -- retained the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the first drafts.
After a public hearing that attracted more than 200 speakers, the phrase was back in the second draft, but "weaknesses" was changed to "limitations."

About 90 -- not 200 -- people signed up to speak at the hearing.

As noted above, "strengths and weaknesses" was in the first drafts of the chemistry and astronomy standards and "strengths and limitations" was in the second drafts of the biology, chemistry, and physics standards. The Darwinists objected to the "strengths and limitations" language as well as the "strengths and weaknesses" language.

The second draft was published before -- not after -- the hearing, but so soon before the hearing that apparently some of the speakers were not aware of the change.

The third and final draft says students should be able to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations. There is also a new requirement that students should be able "to evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects or events," but it would take a mind-boggling leap for anyone to interpret that as applying to evolution, Quinn said, particularly when viewed through the plan’s new definition of science.

Why is the word "limitations" OK by itself if the phrase "strengths and limitations" is not OK? And why would it take a "mind-boggling leap" for anyone to interpret "limitations" as applying to evolution? Evolution is one of the most obvious applications of the term "limitations." The Darwinists are taking a pollyannish view of the retention of the term "limitations" so that they can declare victory. Anyway, omitting all terms like "weaknesses," "limitations," and "criticisms" would not prevent the Texas board of education from selecting textbooks containing criticisms of evolution (Texas is unusual in that the state selects and purchases textbooks for the entire state).

The old definition — which included phrases like "a way of learning about nature" and "may not answer all questions" — has been replaced with a definition from the National Academy of Sciences. It states that science involves using evidence to form explanations and make predictions that can be measured and tested. It also warns that questions on subjects that cannot be scientifically tested do not belong in science.

Well, then maybe the large part of evolution theory that cannot be scientifically tested does not belong in science.

In the end, the wording in the final draft may not matter because the board is not required to use it. In May, the board threw out a teacher-suggested language arts curriculum in favor of another that some board members have said they had only an hour to read before voting on it.

The state board will hold a second public hearing Jan. 21 and is scheduled to take a final vote on the new science standards in March.

As I said many times before, I proposed that the phrase "strengths and weaknesses" be replaced by "strengths and criticisms." "Criticisms" is a neutral, general term that covers limitations, real weaknesses, invalid criticisms (including pseudoscientific criticisms), criticisms of whole theories, and criticisms of imperfections in theories.

A related article is here.



Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Harun Yahya says "Stupid Steven" Schafersman will go to hell

In an article titled "My Comments to the Texas Education Agency About the Proposed Revised Science Standards," "Stupid Steven" Schafersman wrote on the Houston Chronicle's Evo.Sphere blog,

KS(7) Please add "SE(F) identify several primate and hominid fossils, their relationship to modern humans, and features that humans have obtained through evolution from them such as stereo vision, long limbs, fingernails rather than claws, a vestigial vermiform appendix, bipedal locomotion, and a larger brain." In the 21st Century, it is necessary that students learn the scientific explanation for human origins, and it is impermissible to keep maintaining the pretense that humans are qualitatively different from other animals (we are quantitatively different, of course, in several respects). If you really wanted to make sure evolution is presented comprehensively, you could require that students know the features that humans inherited from fish (see Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish).

No, it is not "necessary that students learn the scientific explanation for human origins," nor is it "impermissible to [allegedly] keep maintaining the pretense that humans are qualitatively different from other animals." Stupid Steven's ideological preferences have nothing to do with what is "necessary" and what is "impermissible." Stupid Steven accuses the fundies of trying to inject their ideologies into science classes, but here he is trying to do the same thing. I am not against teaching about human evolution, but Stupid Steven's above reason for teaching it is the dumbest I have ever seen.

Harun Yahya wrote (all emphasis is in original),
Unbelieving evolutionists spend their whole lives denying (surely Allah is beyond that) Allah’s existence. They have made defending this heretical ideology the main purpose of their lives. There is no doubt that their reward for this in Allah’s presence will be very terrible. But every lie they tell and every unscientific scenario they produce to turn people from belief in Allah will confront them in Hell as the dark world of the evolutionary myths in their own minds. Unbelieving evolutionists will encounter the same horrendous moral conceptions in Hell that they have in their minds now. Unless Allah wills otherwise, deniers will suffer an eternal life full of torment. (Allah knows the truth.) . . . .

. . . . One of the distinguishing features of evolutionist propaganda is that it is made up of stories based on evolutionists’ own imaginations. A scientist telling the story generally sets up evolutionary scenarios with his own personal conceptions and by misinterpreting scientific findings through having adopted evolution as a dogma. That scientist will then seek to impose that scenario on people, suggesting it is a thesis based on sound scientific evidence. In fact, what evolutionists do is to portray wild pigs’ teeth as human teeth or else produce hoax skulls by putting bones belonging to different life forms together. Devoid of any evidence with which to prove their theories, Darwinists have no problem with adding a great many imaginary elements to their tales. The fact is, however, that this is an unscientific propaganda technique based on preconception alone.

1- What Do Unbelieving Evolutionists Maintain?

They Claim Human Beings, That Allah Created with Such Superior Features, Are Descended from Apes

Evolutionists claim that human beings, entities possessed of consciousness and free will and able to think, reason, and make decisions and judgments, are descended from apes, which in terms of consciousness, are no different from horses or mice.

What Will Happen in Hell?

Those Who Deny Allah’s Creation (Surely Allah is beyond that) Will Be Made Despicable Apes in This World and the Hereafter
“We said to them, ‘BE APES, DESPISED, CAST OUT.’” (Surat al-Baqara, 65). . . . . .

3- What Do Unbelieving Evolutionists Maintain?

They Claim That They Are Descended “from So-Called Intermediate Forms That Were Unable to Speak, See or Hear”

According to what evolutionists claim, there should have been many life forms that reflected the transition between two species and that bore the features of both. For example, before fish moved onto dry land and turned into reptiles a great many half-lunged and half-gilled, or half-legged and half finned life forms must have existed. Or until apes finally turned into human beings many half-human and half-ape life forms must have existed over many millions of years. Evolutionists call these fictitious entities they believe once existed “intermediate forms.” According to their scenario, during the time of this intermediary transition, a major stage in the so-called evolutionary process, there must have been many life forms with deficient or missing organs between two different species, for which reason there must have been creatures that could not see or hear. The fact is, however, that no evidence for one single intermediate form has been found in any of the millions of fossil specimens that have been extracted from the different strata of the Earth.

What Will Happen in Hell?

Allah Will Assemble the Unbelievers as Entities “Unable to See, Hear or Speak,” Just Like They Wanted

"But if anyone turns away from My reminder, his life will be a dark and narrow one and on the Day of Rising WE WILL GATHER HIM BLIND.” (Surah Ta-Ha, 124)

“...SO WE PUT OUT THEIR EYES: ‘Taste My punishment and warnings!’” (Surat al-Qamar, 37)

“…WE WILL GATHER THEM on the Day of Resurrection, flat on their faces, BLIND, DUMB AND DEAF. Their shelter will be Hell. Whenever the Blaze dies down, We will increase it for them.” (Sura al-Isra’, 97)

And so forth. LOL


Harun Yahya is as zany as the Creation Science Association For Mid-America.

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