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, February 28, 2009

Religious groups' views about evolution

Source: Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007, released in 2008

For question wording, refer to the PDF of the full report



The above graph appears on this webpage of the Pew.Forum.Org.

"Orthodox" is probably Orthodox Christian. There are different kinds of Orthodox Christian, e.g., Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox.
The big surprise here is Muslims, because acceptance of evolution in predominantly Muslim countries is very low.[1] Islam is an enormously popular religion on a worldwide basis, yet is often ignored or downplayed in discussions of the evolution v. religion controversy.

The high percentage for Judaism -- 77 percent -- might be partially attributable to Jews' false fear that teaching criticisms of evolution in the public schools would threaten the separation of church and state. It would be nice to see the percentages for Jews broken down by branch -- Orthodox (maybe even an ultra-Orthodox category), Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. Orthodox Jews -- especially the ultra-Orthodox -- tend to be more skeptical of Darwinism than other Jews are.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has several interesting articles about the evolution v. religion controversy. One of these articles, Religious Groups' Views on Evolution, is more even-handed than the comparable National Center for Science Education's article that is linked to by the UC Berkeley Understanding Evolution website's webpage that is the target of the Caldwell v. Caldwell lawsuit.



Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sequel to precedent cited in Caldwell v. Caldwell is granted certiorari

A sequel to Buono v. Norton, a case that the plaintiffs heavily relied upon in Caldwell v. Caldwell , has been granted certiorari by the Supreme Court. The name of the sequel is Salazar, Secretary of the Interior et al. v. Buono. Details, including links to documents, are here. The government is still disputing Buono's standing to sue -- one of the questions presented in the petition for certiorari is --

Whether respondent has standing to maintain this action where he has no objection to the public display of a cross, but instead is offended that the public land on which the cross is located is not also an open forum on which other persons might display other symbols. -- from page 2 of PDF file

The issue of standing in Salazar v. Buono is discussed on pages 18-26 of the PDF file (pages 10-18 of the original document) of the above petition. IMO this discussion is applicable to Caldwell v. Caldwell.

One of the issues in Salazar v. Buono is whether "an Act of Congress directing the land be transferred to a private entity is a permissible accommodation." A similar question could be raised in Caldwell, i.e., would creation of a second UC website version with the offensive religious material removed be a permissible accommodation of the complaint.



Monday, February 23, 2009

Staff is damaging U. of Vermont's reputation

The University of Vermont is one of eight original "Public Ivies"[1]:

In 1985 author Richard Moll coined the term "Public Ivies" in his book The Public Ivies: America's Flagship Undergraduate Colleges. At that time, Moll identified eight universities as public institutions that "provide an Ivy League collegiate experience at a public school price." The eight universities Moll named were the College of William and Mary, Miami University of Ohio, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Texas, the University of Vermont, and the University of Virginia[1]

Who knew? However, it now appears that UVM's hard-earned reputation is being damaged by the Ben Stein scandal. A Feb. 6 editorial in the Burlington Free Press said,

Fogel's Stein flip-flop embarrassing for UVM

The University of Vermont took a hit coming and going in the flap over Ben Stein as this year's commencement speaker, inviting, then withdrawing the invitation over his views questioning evolution. The invitation shows a stunning degree of tone deafness on the part of UVM President Dan Fogel to the social and political currents on his own campus. The decision to withdraw the invitation opens the university to charges that the university is less than open to controversial views

The Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin wrote in the US News & World Report,
Unfortunately, the bluffs and authoritarian tactics of Darwinists create a climate of intolerance that leads to discrimination against academics and educators who dissent from neo-Darwinism.

The latest example took place last week when economist, comedian, and Darwin skeptic Ben Stein withdrew from offering the spring commencement address at the University of Vermont because, as the Chronicle of Higher Education put it, "his invitation drew complaints about his views on biological evolution."

The main instigator of complaints against Stein was University of Minnesota Morris biologist P.Z. Myers, who in 2005 demanded "the public firing and humiliation of some teachers" who support ID or doubt Darwinism. This time, Myers incited his blog's followers against Stein, proclaiming that "it's a real slap in the face for the university to drag in this disgrace who has been a figurehead for a movement that is trying to replace science with superstition."

The truth about Stein's withdrawal has leaked out in media interviews where UVM's President Dan Fogel made it clear that ID proponents deserve second-class treatment. Parroting Myers's rhetoric, Fogel was quoted saying, "It's an issue about the appropriateness of awarding an honorary degree to someone whose views in many ways ignore or affront the fundamental values of scientific inquiry."

Fogel's statement is simply a pretext for discriminating against scholars who hold a minority scientific viewpoint. The reality is that Fogel has demonstrated plain old intolerance for academics that support ID.

Like many persecutors, Fogel appears blind to his own prejudices. He thus added, "This is not, to my mind, an issue about academic freedom." But Fogel's actions refute his own words: The very fact that he won't give an honorary degree to a scholar because of that scholar's support for ID demonstrates the lack of academic freedom for ID proponents in the academy.

Instead of just graciously accepting Ben Stein's withdrawal, Pres. Fogel made matters much worse by publicly stating reasons why Stein does not deserve an honorary degree.

Later, a UVM biology professor, Nick Gotelli, said in an op ed,

Naturally, the biology department and many others would never invite Stein to speak on our campus. However, one of the best ways to refute intellectually bankrupt ideas is to expose them to the light of day. There is nothing I could say to my biology classes that would discredit Stein's ideas more than his own words on evolution, science, Nazis and the Holocaust. For this reason, universities and campuses throughout the United States occasionally invite "controversial" speakers, and we at UVM fully support this kind of free speech.

But inviting a campus lecturer is different from choosing a commencement speaker and awarding an honorary degree. The real issue is not political correctness, but scholarship. I will leave it to my colleagues in the economics department to weigh in on Stein's scholastic achievements as an economist. As far as the sciences go, I am unaware of a single publication by Stein that has appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. In the sciences,

The Discovery Institute's David Klinghoffer responded to the preceding op-ed by sending Potelli an email proposing an ID debate at UVM and proposed ID experts David Berlinski and Stephen Meyer as alternatives or additions to Stein. Potelli sent Klinghoffer a nasty refusal. The copies of their emails are here on Sleazy PZ Myers' blog. Klinghoffer said,

Ben Stein may not be the best person to single-handedly represent the ID side. As you're aware, he's known mainly as an entertainer. A more appropriate alternative or addition might be our senior fellows David Berlinski or Stephen Meyer, respectively a mathematician and a philosopher of science.

So Klinghoffer called Potelli's bluff by offering him the opportunity to discredit not just Stein but real ID experts Berlinski and/or Meyer, and Potelli chickened out. Klinghoffer's discussion of the incident is here.



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Racist cartoon inspired by Darwinism

To many people, the chimpanzee in the above cartoon represents Pres. Obama.[1]

The stupid fathead who drew the above cartoon should read "From Darwin to Hitler" by Richard Weikhart and "Darwin's Plantation" by Answers-in-Genesis to see how scientists depicted black people as being apelike.


Are SCOTUSblog's "Petitions to Watch" lists prejudicial?

SCOTUSblog, "Supreme Court of the United States Blog" in full, is a very popular law blog. Despite the name, it is not an official blog of the US Supreme Court.

SCOTUSblog has a regular column called "Petitions to Watch" -- examples are here and here. This column typically has the following heading:

This edition of “Petitions to Watch” features cases up for consideration at the Justices’ private conference on [date]. As always, the list contains the petitions on the Court’s paid docket that Tom has deemed to have a reasonable chance of being granted.

The reason for my interest in these "Petitions to Watch" lists is that I am concerned about the effect that listing or not listing will have on Caldwell v. Caldwell's chances of being granted certiorari. I am particularly concerned that these lists probably influence the Supreme Court's decisions on whether to grant certiorari. SCOTUSblog's recap of "Petition's to watch" in OT06 (October term 2006) says,
The Court granted only 56 cases in the 12 months between July of 2006 and June of 2007 . . . . While we don’t yet have an exact count of how many paid cases were considered over the past 12 months, it looks to be roughly 1600-1700 cases; that means that somewhere in the neighborhood of 3% of the paid cases the Court considered were granted. Tom flagged 47 of those, or about 84%, as potential grants. (Two didn’t make it onto the published lists as a result of logistical snafus.) Nineteen paid cases were CVSG’d ["call for the views of the Solicitor General"] in the same time span; we had 15 on the list, for 79%.

An additional 14 pauper cases were granted this Term . . . .

. . . .Ultimately, we featured 223 petitions – about 13% of the paid cases. As noted, 47 were granted, for a grant rate of 21%, while another 15 (7%) were sent to the SG [Solicitor General]. 16 additional cases were held, GVR’d ["granted, vacated, and remanded"], settled, withdrawn, or not denied for any reason – another 7%. Finally, 143 of our 223 cases were eventually denied (64%).

A comment on the above article said,

By my reckoning, depending on just how many paid petitions the Court disposed of in OT06, the chance in that term of a given paid petition you didn’t flag being granted was between 0.6% and 0.65% (i.e., 1600-1700 petitions minus 223 you flagged = 1377-1477 you didn’t flag, of which 9 were granted = 0.6-0.65%).

SCOTUSblog very carelessly threw around esoteric acronyms without first defining them.

A "paid" case is a case for which the $300 filing fee was paid.

"GVR" must mean that the petition is granted and the case is vacated and remanded in a summary judgment without merits briefs, oral hearings, or a formal written opinion. Strictly speaking, these GVR's are not really grants of certiorari because "writ of certiorari" is formally defined as a request for the records of a lower court, meaning that the Supreme Court intends a full formal review. The term "petition for certiorari" is really a misnomer because the Supreme Court could grant a GVR instead -- a better name for these petitions would be "petition for reversal." Anyway, a GVR should be regarded as a successful outcome of a petition, though not as successful as a grant of certiorari and a favorable opinion. This list of the OT06 petitions flagged by SCOTUSblog's "Petitions to Watch" shows that 8 of these petitions were GVR'ed (one of the petition statuses is called "summary judgment" instead of "GVR", adding to the confusion). SCOTUSblog did not state how many, if any, of the unflagged cases were GVR'ed, but the number is probably very small at most. As for a CVSG, this is not a final rejection and 19 petitions were CVSG'ed in OT06 -- it would be nice to know how many of these petitions were eventually granted.

The success rates of the "Petitions to Watch" lists in predicting the Supreme Court's decisions seem too good. Getting a grant of a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court is a crapshoot for most petitions and I don't see how predictions can be this good unless these lists have a strong influence on the Supreme Court's decisions. The lists' success in predicting denials of the petitions is much fishier than the lists' success in predicting grants of the petitions -- of 1377-1477 cases that SCOTUSblog did not flag, only 9 were granted certiorari and perhaps a very small number were GVR'ed. It seems that not making it onto these "Petitions to Watch" lists is almost a kiss of death for a petition. I suspect that the Supreme Court is using these lists as a pre-screening device. I wonder if SCOTUSblogs gets complaints about particular petitions not being listed. IMO the lists are prejudicial and should be discontinued.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

More thoughts about hokey taxpayer standing issue in Caldwell v. Caldwell

Review: I previously expressed surprise that (1) the Caldwell v. Caldwell plaintiffs did not appeal the district court's rulings that they lacked taxpayer standing to sue and that (2) the 9th circuit appeals court made no review of those rulings. Then I started thinking about a commenter's observation: " . . .taxpayer-standing is one of several methods to establish standing. You only need one method to establish standing." So I decided to take a closer look at the district court opinion to see if the taxpayer standing issue can really be avoided.

The district court opinion divides the "Standing" rulings (pages 7-13) into three sections: Sec. a., "federal taxpayer standing;" Sec. b., "state taxpayer standing;" and Sec. c., "cognizable injury in fact." The separate listing of "cognizable injury in fact" is surprising because taxpayer standing falls into the category of such injury. The taxpayer-standing theme appears even in Sec. c:

In determining that no standing existed where plaintiffs alleged "the deprivation of the fair and constitutional use of their tax dollar," the Valley Forge [Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State] court reiterated its prohibition on standing claims that are predicated on "the right, possessed by every citizen, to require that the government be administered according to the law" . . . See 454 U.S. at 482-83.

So maybe the taxpayer standing issue will come back to haunt the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court. Maybe the defendants raised the taxpayer standing issue again in their brief opposing the petition for certiorari -- I don't know. I am having a really hard time getting a hold of a copy of the opposition brief. Update: I have received a copy of the opposition brief and it does not mention taxpayer standing.

To summarize my position about taxpayer standing:

(1) If the website had been privately-funded instead of government-funded, the issue of taxpayer standing would have never arisen. Taxpayer injury is not a fair criterion for determining standing to sue, because this criterion cannot be uniformly applied to all establishment clause lawsuits. The taxpayer standing issue gives the courts an excuse to deny standing.

(2) There was no majority opinion in the Supreme Court's Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation decision, but the opinions expressly show that the justices were 6-3 against making a distinction between Congressional funding and executive-branch funding, yet because of the "Marks rule" it is assumed that the court ruled in favor of such a distinction! [1] If Roberts and Kennedy had joined Scalia's opinion instead of Alito's, then the vote would have been 8-1 against the distinction and under the Marks rule the court's ruling would still be in favor of the distinction!

(3) The taxpayer standing issue was well summed up by Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 [2] --

The taxpayer cannot ask the return of any portion of his previous tax payments, cannot prevent the collection of any existing tax debt, and cannot demand an adjudication of the propriety of any particular level of taxation. His tax payments are received for the general purposes of the United States, and are, upon proper receipt, lost in the general revenues. . (citation omitted) . . . The interests he represents, and the rights he espouses, are, as they are in all public actions, those held in common by all citizens. To describe those rights and interests as personal, and to intimate that they are in some unspecified fashion to be differentiated from those of the general public, reduces constitutional standing to a word game played by secret rules.




Sunday, February 15, 2009

S.F. Chronicle article about Caldwell v. Caldwell

The San Francisco Chronicle has a new article about Caldwell v. Caldwell, which has its own post label on this blog. The article attracted over 500 comments in just a few hours -- unfortunately, a lot of the comments are not about the case but debate evolution. This publicity is good -- publicity is a very important factor in the Supreme Court's decisions on whether to grant certiorari.

The article said,

At issue is one page, out of 840 on the Web site, that says Darwin's theory and religion can co-exist.

Actually, more is at issue than just this one webpage -- for example, this webpage links to a National Center for Science Education webpage that presents only one side of the evolution v. religion issue.
The federal courts have IMO misinterpreted the "cases and controversies" provision of Article III of the Constitution as requiring the following minimal criteria for standing to sue: (1) injury-in-fact, (2) traceability of the injury to the challenged action, and (3) redressability of the injury by the courts. In Caldwell v. Caldwell, the plaintiff's alleged injury is that she cannot use the UC Berkeley website without fear of encountering an offensive religious message. That injury could be eliminated by setting up a version of the website that has the religious messages removed. The original website could carry the following prominent warning: "WARNING: This website has material concerning religion and some people may find this material offensive. A version of this website with this material removed is at ____." However, IMO there would still be an establishment clause violation.

Rebuffed by lower courts, she has appealed to the nation's highest court, and UC joined the battle this week, saying in its response that the Internet is not like a park and that, in fact, Caldwell has no right even to file the suit.

UC has not "joined" the battle -- UC has been in the battle from the beginning. The above statement must mean that UC has filed a brief in opposition to the petition for certiorari (an opposition brief is required only in death penalty cases and when demanded by the court).

BTW, I am surprised that the petitioner has as little as 10 days to reply to the opposition brief -- the Supreme Court rules say that the case may be presented for consideration not less than 10 days after the opposition brief is filed. A brief replying to the opposition brief may be filed after the 10 day period but consideration of the case will not be delayed to wait for a reply brief. [1] The brevity of the time to reply is especially surprising because the reply brief must normally be presented in a special booklet format that is 6-1/8 by 9-1/4 inches in size. The case took three long years to work its way through the lower courts and now the Supreme Court is in a big hurry.

I am going to try to get a copy of UC's opposition brief.

I am still wondering what happened to the district court's rulings denying taxpayer standing -- these rulings were not appealed. These rulings were a major part of the district court decision and I don't understand how the case could be appealed at all without appealing these rulings. The 9th Circuit court of appeals did not rule at all on the hokey taxpayer standing issue.

Attorneys for UC say the lower-court rulings did not make the Internet immune to such claims but that existing legal principles are sufficient to dismiss Jeanne Caldwell's eligibility to sue. They also say deciding a new standard for the Internet would violate the role of the Supreme Court, which is not to open new legal frontiers but to resolve issues that arise from a body of lower-court rulings.

That's ridiculous -- the case did arise from a body of lower-court rulings. And the Internet has become a major means of communication -- in fact, newspapers are already suffering severe losses because of competition from the Internet.

Roy Caldwell, director of Cal's Museum of Paleontology, the site's sponsor, said some UC officials worry that the high court may want to clarify standards on "standing," or eligibility to sue. (He's not related to Jeanne Caldwell.)

Well, I sure hope that UC officials "worry"about this lawsuit -- that is a good sign.

Interestingly, the Buono case that the Caldwell plaintiffs heavily relied upon has also been appealed to the Supreme Court (to link to the documents listed below, go to this article on SCOTUSblog):

Docket: 08-472
Title: Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, et al., v. Buono
Issue: Whether an individual has Article III standing to bring an Establishment Clause suit challenging the display of a religious symbol on government land and if an Act of Congress directing the land be transferred to a private entity is a permissible accommodation.

Opinion below (9th Circuit)
Petition for certiorari
Brief in opposition
Petitioner’s reply
Brief amicus curiae of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, et al. (in support of petitioner)




Darwinist society snubs Louisiana over "academic freedom" law

An article in Panda's Thumb says,

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / LA Coalition for Science / http://lasciencecoalition.org

National Scientific Society to Boycott Louisiana over LA Science Education Act

Baton Rouge, LA, February 13, 2009 — The first tangible results of the Louisiana legislature’s passage and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act have materialized, and these results are negative both for the state’s economy and national reputation. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, a national scientific society with more than 2300 members, has put Gov. Bobby Jindal on notice that the society will not hold its annual meetings in Louisiana as long as the LA Science Education Act is on the books. In a February 5, 2009, letter to the governor that is posted on the SICB website under the headline, “No Thanks, New Orleans,” SICB Executive Committee President Richard Satterlie tells Jindal that “The SICB executive committee voted to hold its 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City because of legislation SB 561, which you signed into law in June 2008. It is the firm opinion of SICB’s leadership that this law undermines the integrity of science and science education in Louisiana.” [NOTE: Although the legislation was introduced as SB 561, it was renumbered during the legislative process and passed as SB 733.]

The SICB's letter to Jindal says,
We will not hold the Society's 2011 annual meeting in New Orleans even though the city has been a popular venue of us in the past . . .

"Popular venue in the past"? Of the Society's past annual meetings since 1960, only three were held in Louisiana (New Orleans) -- in 1976, 1987, and 2004.

IMO the SICB is farting against thunder -- Jindal probably doesn't care whether the SICB holds annual meetings in Louisiana or not. Almost all states have cities with facilities that are capable of hosting big conventions, so Louisiana's chance of being selected for any particular convention is slim anyway, and relatively few organizations are likely to join the boycott. Also, this attempted boycott by scientific organizations is likely to backfire -- anti-evolution organizations are likely to try to counteract the boycott by specially selecting Louisiana as a site for their conventions.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another public comment period for proposed Texas science standards?

I thought that the public comment periods for the proposed Texas science standards were over, but I just received the email message below from the science department of the Texas Education Agency.

I have commented extensively on the proposed Texas science standards, but I am not going to submit any more comments, except to repeat what I am saying here. I have given up on the Texas science standards. The Texas board of education adopted some out-of-the-blue amendments that the public had no chance to comment on, and I think that's wrong.

IMO the importance of the Texas science standards has been exaggerated. Local school districts in Texas and school systems outside Texas are not required to use Texas-approved textbooks. Local school districts in Texas may use state-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost, which isn't much. A popular textbook, "Biology" by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, Texas, and California editions.

Here are the out-of-the-blue amendments that the Texas board of education adopted on Jan. 22. This information is important because the TEA documents below do not show where these amendments were added.

Here is the email I got from the Texas Education Agency -- the standards of interest are in Subchapter C, High School:

The proposed revisions to the science TEKS that were approved for first reading by the State Board of Education (SBOE) and filed with the Texas Register are available now.

Please see http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/home/sboeprop.html to view the proposed revisions.

Public comments on proposed revisions may be submitted electronically by clicking the envelope next to each proposed section. Please specify in your message the rule subchapter to which your comments apply (subchapter A is elementary, subchapter B is middle school, subchapter C is high school). You may submit comments on proposed revisions to rules@tea.state.tx.us.

Please contact the Division of Policy Coordination at (512) 475-1497 if you have any questions.

The SBOE meeting will occur on March 26-27. Information will be available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=1156

Thank you,

Irene Pickhardt
Assistant Director of Science
Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress
Austin Texas 78701

Check out the revised TEA Science webpage at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/curriculum/science/index.html

Join our informative and monthly science listserve by going to this webpage and select "science" http://miller.tea.state.tx.us/list/




Friday, February 13, 2009

Enough of the "evolution and religion" stuff

I am just sick and tired of hearing about some pope, archbishop, patriarch, lubavitcher rebbe, ayatollah, guru, Dalai Lama, witch doctor, etc. saying that there is no conflict between evolution and religion. A Panda's Thumb article titled "Anglicans & Catholics singing the same tune" says,

…and the tune is evolution. A few things that I happened on today that give some updates on what these groups think about Darwin and evolution, now and in the past. Even if you’re one of those people who think religion is evil and moderate religion is the worst of all, it’s worth being aware of what the dominant opinions are and how they are changing in various groups.

First up is geologist/historian/Vicar Michael Roberts giving his (very informed) opinion on creationism and evolution in the Church of England, then and now. He sees very little evidence of antievolutionism among English Anglicans for most of the last 150 years, but suggests that in the last 20 years, perhaps 5% of clergy have become YECs.

Well, here is some "evidence of antievolutionism among English Anglicans" -- the following largely unnoticed statements from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams:
. . . . Dr Williams admitted that Neo Darwinism, a theory supported by Atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, is "most problematic" to theology, but he called it "a pseudo science" and "deeply vulnerable to intellectual challenge because it is trying to be a theology."

In a sideswipe at evolutionary scientists such as Professor Dawkins, Williams warned "Science can be seduced into making exaggerated claims." He added "Neo Darwinism of Dawkins' kind carries with it a rather subjective agenda...It is as vulnerable as Christianity". Both Neo Darwinism and Christianity are telling stories, the Archbishop continued, Christianity acknowledges that fact, Neo Darwinism doesn't.

The Panda's Thumb article continues,

Next, we have “Vatican buries the hatchet with Charles Darwin” from the U.K. Times. Apparently the Vatican is making a substantial effort to stamp out the Discovery-Institute-originated pro-ID spin that has been promoted on various statements from the Pope.

What kind of credibility does the Vatican have, considering that an upcoming Vatican conference won't even look at the scientific, philosophical, and theological aspects of intelligent design?

IMO the “evolution v. religion” issue has grown stale. Some people see evolution as compatible with religion, others see it as incompatible with religion, and others don’t care. It's a personal thing. We should leave it at that. It is high time to consider some new ideas in the evolution controversy, like co-evolution. Co-evolution is discussed on this blog in the post-label group titled “Non-ID criticisms of evolution”.


Vatican conference to include Intelligent Design in a very limited way

Partially reversing a previous decision [1] [2] , organizers of a March 3-7 Vatican conference on evolution will include Intelligent Design in the conference but in an unreasonably limited way. A news article says,

The Vatican will include discussion of intelligent design in a conference marking the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species," officials said Tuesday.

The announcement reverses a decision to exclude such discussion but officials said intelligent design would be treated only as a cultural phenomenon -- not as science or theology. . . .

. . . "The committee agreed to consider ID as a phenomenon of an ideological and cultural nature, thus worthy of a historic examination, but certainly not to be discussed on scientific, philosophical or theological grounds," said Saverio Forestiero, a conference organizer and professor of zoology at the University of Rome . . .
. . . Church teaching holds that Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds. But the Vatican's position became somewhat confused in recent years, in part because of a 2005 New York Times op-ed piece penned by a close collaborator of Pope Benedict XVI, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.

In the piece, Schoenborn seemed to back intelligent design and dismissed a 1996 statement by Pope John Paul II that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis." Schoenborn said the late pope's statement was "rather vague and unimportant." . . . . .

The conference is being hosted by Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, along with the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture and the University of Notre Dame in the U.S. state of Indiana.

The organizers of the Vatican conference are jumping to conclusions about Intelligent Design. And one of the organizers said that ID will not even be discussed on philosophical and theological grounds.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Screwed-up book from the National Center for Science Education

An NCSE website article about a new book, "Evolution v. Creationism: An Introduction, 2nd Edition," by Eugenie Scott, says,

Evolution education is being battered every day in school districts across the U.S. by creationists, whether they're pushing young-earth creationism, intelligent design, or antievolutionism in the guise of "academic freedom."

Not all of the batterers are creationists.

What's going on here?

Good question.

Why is the United States the only country where teaching evolution is so controversial?

Wrong -- see this blog's articles about the evolution controversies abroad -- these articles are in two post-label groups listed in the sidebar of the homepage. How can the NCSE claim to have expertise in this area while being ignorant of such basic facts about the subject?

Why are scientists so sure that evolution is good science?

Some scientists are not so sure.

Are people of faith truly unable to accept the central principle of modern biology?

There we go again with that "evolution is central to biology" bullshit. Sheeesh.

Is it really "fair" for creationism to be taught alongside evolution?

One thing is for sure and that it is that it is "fair" to teach scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution alongside evolution.

What have the courts said?

It's not all bad, but a lot of it is bad -- very bad.

And will attacks on evolution ultimately undermine not only American education but American competitiveness?

K-12 evolution education has nothing to do with American competitiveness.

Updated, revamped, and expanded, the 2nd edition adds another 70 pages of brand new and revised material, including:

A new foreword by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who ruled in the landmark Kitzmiller v. Dover case.

This has got to be the living end. Probably some crap about "judicial independence."

A new chapter on testing intelligent design and evidence against evolution in the courts.

The courts should rule that the scientific merits of both evolution and criticisms of evolution are non-justiciable. A question is considered non-justiciable when there is "a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving the question." Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004). If necessary, Congress should use its power under the Constitution's Article III to strip the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction over scientific questions in the evolution controversy (with the exception of Supreme Court rulings that such questions are non-justiciable).

Evolution vs. Creationism is the perfect resource for teachers, professors, libraries, and anybody who wants to learn about the perennial creationism/evolution controversy.

It is also an extremely biased resource that needs to be balanced with opposing material.

The book did get some praise from a leading creationist:

Henry M. Morris in the Institute for Creation Research's Back to Genesis:

I believe that she has conscientiously tried to be objective in discussing this inflammatory subject in her book. ... The book is well written and creationists can read it with interest and appreciation, even though its arguments for evolution are — to us, at least — speculative and even defensive.

The book may be OK for creationists, but it is certainly not OK for supporters of scientific criticisms of evolution. Even the book's title, "Evolution v. Creationism," is biased, because as I indicated, creationism is not the only idea opposed to evolution.



Monday, February 09, 2009

Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop defrocked, won't recant without "proof"

A news article says,

A Holocaust denier Pope Benedict XVI welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church last month has been removed from his position as head of a seminary in Argentina . . . .

The views of Bishop Richard Williamson, who has led the seminary in La Reja since 2003, do not reflect those of The Society of St. Pius X, said Christian Bouchacourt, head of its Latin American chapter. . . .

Earlier Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Pope Benedict about the issue . . . .Merkel demanded Tuesday that the pope firmly reject Holocaust denial.

. . . "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against -- is hugely against -- 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler," Williamson said recently in an interview with a Swedish television station, which also appeared on various Web sites after its broadcast. "I believe there were no gas chambers."

Germany's Catholic bishops Saturday called for the expulsion of Williamson, a member of an ultra-conservative group expelled from the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1988 . . .

Mr. Williamson is impossible and irresponsible," Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, said Saturday, according to Spiegel Online. "I now see no room for him in the Catholic church."

In the Saturday article, Spiegel quotes Williamson saying he will not recant and that he would need more evidence to believe the Holocaust really happened.

"If I find this proof, then I will correct myself," he said. "But that will require some time."

On Wednesday, the Vatican had ordered Williamson to "distance himself" from his views "in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner."

The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Williamson will not be allowed to perform priestly functions if he does not recant. He said the pope was unaware of the comments when he rehabilitated Williamson and three other members of the Society of Saint Pius X.

Williamson apologized last week for the "distress" he has caused the pope, but did not retract his comments.



New Florida Intelligent Design bill

A news article says,

Amid much controversy a year ago, the Florida Board of Education approved new standards that require public schools to teach that the scientific theory of evolution is the foundation of all biological science.. . . .

That's true -- the new state science standards call evolution "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology."

State Sen. Stephen Wise, a Jacksonville Republican, said he plans to introduce a bill to require teachers who teach evolution to also discuss the idea of intelligent design . . . .

. . . . Wise, the chief sponsor of the bill, expects the Senate to take it up when it meets in March. He said its intent is simple: "If you're going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking."

Wise said that if the Legislature passes the bill, he wouldn't be surprised if there's a legal challenge.

"You just never know. They use the courts all the time. I guess if they have enough money they can get it in the courts," he said. "Someplace along the line you've got to be able to make a value judgment of what it is you think is the appropriate thing."

The bill should be passed if for no other reason than to invite lawsuits that would give an opportunity to overturn or counteract the infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, which is over three years old. Kitzmiller was decided by an activist judge who said that his 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.

IMO the courts should declare the evolution controversy to be non-justiciable. If necessary, Congress should use its power under the Constitution's Article III to strip the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction over questions concerning the scientific merits of evolution and criticisms of evolution.

Some of the comments under the above news article are really incredible. A comment titled "The stupidity burns" says,

Only a scientifically illiterate hick would call any scientific theory "only a theory". In science a theory is the highest level of understanding. A scientific theory is higher than an hypothesis, higher than a law, even higher than facts.

And a comment titled "The problem is the Christian death cult" gushes, .

The basic facts of evolutionary biology are the strongest facts of science. The evidence is so massive, so powerful, and growing so rapidly, it's virtually impossible to find a biologist who doesn't love evolution. It's virtually impossible to find a biologist who doesn't agree with this famous quote: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." To properly teach biology, evolution must be a major part of every single lesson every single day.




Sunday, February 08, 2009

Israeli university snubbed anti-Darwinist Moslem scholars

A fairly old (07-15-08) news item I found says,

A group of Muslim religious scholars arriving from Turkey to participate in a reconciliation conference at the Hebrew University claim that the head of the Social Sciences Faculty refused to greenlight the event, calling it off in short notice. Professor Boaz Shamir, Dean of Social Sciences explained his decision citing the lack of proper coordination between the Students’ Union, which was in charge of organizing the event, and the faculty’s secretariat.

However, the correspondence received by Ynet has Prof. Shamir admitting that “we wouldn’t have hosted an event supporting anti-Darwinist propaganda.”
The Turkish lecturers arriving from Istanbul on a joint initiative between the research and scientific foundation they represent and the Interfaith Encounter Association, were planning to speak at the two Jewish-Muslim conferences at the Hebrew University’s campus on Mount Scopus and at Tel Aviv University.

The speakers planned to talk about uniting between the two religions and denouncing Islamic terror – but also against Darwin’s theory about The Origin of Species.

Because of its strong religious implications, the evolution controversy is an especially appropriate topic for a conference on religious conciliation. This action by Hebrew University shows extreme closed-mindedness.

Darwin-doubting is very strong in Turkey, as it is in other predominantly Moslem countries.

Some Jews -- particularly orthodox Jews -- doubt Darwin, and I am surprised that we have not heard more from them. [1] [2] [3].



Saturday, February 07, 2009

Good question from der Führer

A "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews.

I wonder why there are not more Darwinist holocaust-deniers.



Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ben Stein backs out as Univ. of Vermont commencement speaker

A news article says,

The choice of media personality Ben Stein as commencement speaker at the University of Vermont generated such a furor that Stein backed out, UVM President Dan Fogel confirmed Monday.

Fogel picked Stein largely because Stein had received an enthusiastic response from students at a lecture at UVM last spring. That talk, part of the Kalkin Lecture Series, focused on economic issues. . . .

After UVM announced Stein's selection Thursday, Fogel said in a written statement, "profound concerns have been expressed to me by persons both internal and external to the university about his selection." Fogel said he received hundreds of e-mails beginning Saturday -- including only about a half-dozen from people at UVM -- contending, generally, that Stein's views of science were "affronts to the basic tenets of the academy."

Once I apprised Mr. Stein of these communications, he immediately and most graciously declined his commencement invitation," Fogel's statement said.
"I did not ask him not to come," Fogel said in an interview Monday, adding, "I was not going to let him be blindsided by controversy. . . . ."

Another news article, titled "Ben Stein responds to UVM flap," says,
Ben Stein described the brouhaha over his selection as commencement speaker at the University of Vermont as "laughable" on Tuesday called the whole episode “pathetic.”

In a phone call to the Free Press on Tuesday, Stein said that describing his views as “antithetical to scientific inquiry” was “a wildly unfair characterization.” He said he was by no means “anti-science,” as some of his critics have described him.

“I am far more pro-science than the Darwinists,” Stein said later in an e-mail. “I want all scientific inquiry to happen — not just what the ruling clique calls science” . . . . .

Fogel said he had invited Stein — a comedian, lawyer, commentator and financial columnist — to speak about the economy . . .

Stein called the university’s response to the furor “chicken sh**, and you can quote me on that.”

“I like Dr. Fogel,” Stein wrote, “and feel sorry he is caught in the meat grinder of political correctness. My heart goes out to him. He’s a great guy trying to do his best in difficult circumstances.”

As for the commencement speech, he said, “I didn’t really want to do it in the first place.”

“Mr. Fogel endlessly, endlessly asked me to do it” for a discount — roughly 80 percent cut in his usual fee. No sum was ever agreed on, Stein said. The only reason Stein finally agreed, he said, was that Fogel is the brother-in-law of “my best friend" . . . . .

Stein said he has spoken at many universities, including Columbia, Yale, Stanford, and American University, “and no one has said boo. Somehow at UVM, it has become a big issue.”

It appears that Ben Stein's withdrawal was voluntary. He said that he was reluctant to come in the first place and maybe he saw an opportunity to make a martyr out of himself by withdrawing. However, an article on Evolution News & Views contains statements by Pres. Fogel that suggest that he pressured Stein to back out. Fogel should have accepted Stein's withdrawal graciously and not gone into a big song and dance over how Stein does not deserve an honorary degree. What a stupid idiot.

If it was OK for Judge John E. Jones III, the biased activist judge who decided the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, to be a commencement speaker at Dickinson College, then why shouldn't Stein be a commencement speaker? And whereas Stein was to speak about economics, not the evolution controversy, Jones spoke directly about his controversial decision. And Jones showed extreme prejudice against Intelligent Design and the Dover defendants -- regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept -- by saying 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. Jones 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.”

William Dembski wrote on Uncommon Descent,

Judge Jones, whose distinction prior to the Dover case was running the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, now has multiple honorary doctorates for rendering his decision, which he cribbed from the ACLU’s Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Ben Stein, who is an acclaimed actor, author, and economist, on the other hand, has just been denied an honorary doctorate at the University of Vermont . . .

Some people in the audience stood and turned their backs when Phyllis Schlafly received an honorary degree at Washington University in St. Louis.

This UVM incident shows the tremendous power of the Internet to mobilize hundreds or even thousands of protest emails in a few hours. Another big email protest -- orchestrated mainly by demagogic Darwinist blogger Sleazy PZ Myers -- caused the Cincinnati Zoo to cancel a combo ticket deal with the Creation Museum[1] [2] [3]. Sleazy PZ also had a hand in the protest against UVM.

Pres. Fogel's email address is Daniel.Fogel@uvm.edu

The email address of the UVM board of trustees is trustees@uvm.edu



Tuesday, February 03, 2009

About half of Britons doubt Darwin

The Darwinists claim that Darwin-doubting is primarily an American phenomenon and that the USA is therefore technologically falling behind other countries. Opinion polls in foreign countries show that this is not the case. A news article says,

More than half of the public believe that the theory of evolution cannot explain the full complexity of life on Earth, and a "designer" must have lent a hand, the findings suggest.

And one in three believe that God created the world within the past 10,000 years.

The survey, by respected polling firm ComRes, will fuel the debate around evolution and creationism ahead of next week's 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.
Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, said the findings revealed a worrying level of scientific ignorance among Britons.

In the survey, 51 per cent of those questioned agreed with the statement that "evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages"

A further 40 per cent disagreed, while the rest said they did not know.

The suggestion that a designer's input is needed reflects the "intelligent design" theory, promoted by American creationists as an alternative to Darwinian evolution.

Asked whether it was true that "God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years", 32 per cent agreed, 60 per cent disagreed and eight per cent did not know.

The findings – to be published tomorrow in a report by Theos, a theology think-tank – follow a row over the place of creationism in education.

A recent poll of science teachers found that one in three believe creationism should be taught in science classes alongside evolution and the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

However, Michael Reiss, a biologist and Anglican cleric, was forced to resign as the Royal Society's director of education after suggesting that creationism should be discussed in lessons "not as a misconception but as a world view".

Darwin-doubting is even more widespread in predominantly Moslem countries -- the National Center for Science Education gives the following figures for predominantly Moslem countries: “Only 16% of Indonesians, 14% of Pakistanis, 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin’s theory is probably or most certainly true.”

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Anti-comment policy on popular law blog

Jack Balkin says on the popular multi-blogger law blog Balkinization,

New comments policy at Balkinization

Since last week I have implemented a new policy on the blog. The default rule is that comments are turned off. Each author will decide individually whether to turn the comments on for his or her postings.

For the first year and a half of this blog, there were no comments, and the blog operated quite successfully. I added comments in the middle of 2004 . . . . .Many blogs have developed successful communities of commenters, with many very interesting and substantive contributions and discussions. Unfortunately, this has not happened here.

Generally speaking, there are two things you want from a comments section: quality of comments, and civility. If you cannot have one, at least you want the other. Recently, with some exceptions, it has become obvious that neither is occurring in our comments sections here. Instead, the comments sections are populated by regular trolls and many threads have turned into little more than name-calling. There is very rarely any serious analysis; mostly there is point scoring and vitriol. Many regular readers have written to say that they find the comments section a distraction and think the blog would be far better without it . . .

I may experiment with moderated posts in the future, but moderating takes considerable time and effort, more time than I have at the present.

The comment threads are often the most important parts of blog posts. The comment threads serve the important functions of presenting different views, finding flaws in the reasoning in the original articles, and correcting factual errors in the original articles. These functions are especially important on law blogs because law blogs are frequently authoritatively cited by law journals and are sometimes even authoritatively cited by court opinions.

The Internet has the potential to produce a quantum leap in our ability to exchange ideas. This potential of the Internet is sabotaged by suppression of visitors' comments on websites.

IMO law journals and courts should have rules against authoritative citation of blogs that don't allow comments or that arbitrarily censor comments. The lack of peer review of law journal articles was bad enough, but now law bloggers are suppressing visitors' comments. Law journals are typically not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are typically just student-reviewed! Furthermore, law journals are not just educational exercises for law students -- the Harvard Law Review alone was cited 4410 times in federal court opinions alone in the decade 1970-79 alone!

There is too much emphasis on civility. I allow name-calling on this blog if the name-calling is accompanied by serious arguments. I do not allow name-calling that disparages on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, those kinds of things.

I participated in some of the discussions on Balkinization and IMO they were good. Balkinization is a popular law blog and has no trouble in attracting good commenters. In some cases, the original article would have been very misleading without the comment thread.

As for Jack Balkin's statement about not having the time to moderate comments, Balkinization usually does not get a lot of comments and the bloggers there should take the time to read them or at least skim them.

The bloggers on Balkinization have the option of allowing comments and hopefully some of them will choose to do so because they want feedback, even if some garbage is mixed in.