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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Was "How to spot a hidden religious agenda" article libelous?

A few weeks ago, New Scientist magazine published online (and also in the printed magazine, so I have heard) an article titled, "How to spot a hidden religious agenda." The article was then pulled and the following message was left:

New Scientist has received a legal complaint about the contents of this story. At the advice of our lawyer it has temporarily been removed while we investigate. Apologies for any inconvenience.

A copy of the original article is here.

My analysis of the article:
IMO it is libelous to negatively stereotype publications solely on the basis of words or terms that they contain. The article implies that one could do a computerized word search of a publication and if any of the taboo words are found, conclude that the publication has a "hidden religious agenda." Indeed, a publication containing words or terms listed in the article may actually be pro-Darwinist and/or anti-religious. IMO the article would be OK if it were titled "How to spot a possible (not "hidden") religious agenda" and if the contents were consistent with that title (the contents are not now consistent with that title). Anyway, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black -- a lot of pro-Darwinist publications have religious agendas.

Also, the article has a serious factual error:
As creationists in the US continue to lose court battles over attempts to have intelligent design taught as science in federally funded schools, their strategy has been forced to... well, evolve.

"Continue" to lose court battles? There was only one court case about ID: Kitzmiller v. Dover. And ID was not actually taught in the Dover Area school district -- there was just a one-minute evolution-disclaimer statement that informed the students that ID books were available in the school library.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Texas influence on textbook content is overrated, article indicates

This blog has a previous article about the Texas board of education's influence on textbook content both inside and outside of Texas -- much of the information for this article comes from that article.

The Wall Street Journal is finally essentially saying what I have been saying for a long time -- that the Texas board of education's influence on textbook content has been greatly overrated. A WSJ article says,

Science standards in Texas resonate across the U.S., since it approves one set of books for the entire state. That makes Texas the nation's single largest market for high-school textbooks.

In the past, publishers often have written texts to its curriculum and marketed them nationally rather than spend time and money reworking them for different states and districts.

The notion that Texas controls textbook content outside of Texas is probably the result of the widespread adoption of non-controversial Texas-approved textbooks outside of Texas.

BTW, California has statewide textbook adoption for grades 1-8 but not at the high school level. [1]

The WSJ article continues,
That influence has diminished, said Jay Diskey, executive director of the Association of American Publishers' school division, as districts and statewide boards of education have become more likely to scrutinize texts approved in other states. Desktop publishing also has made it easier for companies to amend textbooks to suit different markets.

"It's not necessarily the case" that the Texas curriculum will pop up in other states, Mr. Diskey said.

As I have pointed out, a popular biology textbook, "Biology" by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, comes in regular, California, and Texas editions. But this is a high school textbook and California does not have statewide textbook adoption at the high school level, so why is there a California edition? And it was reported that in the last round of science textbook approvals in Texas in 2003, the "fundies" on the state board of education did not have enough votes to have weaknesses of evolution included in the textbooks, so why is there a Texas edition? I am wondering what the differences in these editions are.

The WSJ says,

But within Texas, what the board says, goes.

That's not true -- local school districts in Texas can use state-unapproved textbooks. The districts must pay the full cost of state-unapproved textbooks in the "foundation curriculum" (I presume that biology is in the foundation curriculum), but curiously the state will pay up to 70% of the cost of state-unapproved textbooks in the "enrichment curriculum."

The WSJ said,

Several years ago, the board expressed concern that a description of the Ice Age occurring "millions of years ago" conflicted with biblical timelines. The publisher changed it to "in the distant past." Another publisher sought to satisfy the board by inserting a heading about "strengths and weaknesses of evolution" in a biology text, drawing condemnation from science organizations.

What? I thought that in the last round of science textbook approvals in 2003, the "fundies" on the Texas SBOE did not have enough votes to have weaknesses of evolution included in the textbooks.

The WSJ said,

The board will use the new standards to choose new textbooks in 2011.



Victory in Texas!

In an article in Evolution News & Views, Robert Crowther declared victory in Texas:

In a huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution, Texas today moved to the head of the class by requiring students to “critique” and examine “all sides of scientific evidence” and specifically requiring students to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for major evolutionary concepts such as common ancestry, natural selection, and mutations.

"Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said Dr. John West, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute.

And Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, issued the following press release conceding defeat --
The Texas Freedom Network has released the following statement on the final adoption of science curriculum standards by the State Board of Education today:


March 27, 2009

TFN President Kathy Miller: Texas State Board of Education Adopts Flawed Science Standards

The word “weaknesses” no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.

"Stupid Steven" Schafersman tried to downplay the damage:

What is the bottom line? Did we win or lose? Neither. We got rid of the worst language, but a great deal of qualifying language remains. I am not going to claim either victory or defeat. I realize that Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute will declare complete, unqualified victory, but it is not that for them. Neither is it for us. The standards adopted were generally good, but there are several that are flawed, fortunately most in minor ways that textbook authors and publishers can deal with. . . . .

This will become apparent in 2011 when the Biology textbooks come up for adoption. Rule 3A and several other poor amendments in Biology--all the contribution of SBOE members who know nothing about science but a lot about pseudoscience--will be used to attack Biology textbooks . . .

The policy (science standards) that resulted are not the best they could be. They are acceptable but could have been pseudoscience- and Creationism influence-free. However, I can also say the standards could be much worse. The votes were so close, and several members switched their votes back and forth several times, sometimes voting with the antiscience radical right wing members and sometimes with the pro-science members, that anything could have happened. I suppose I should be grateful the results are not worse.

Evolution News & Views and the Texas Freedom Network blog both have several articles about the newly-adopted Texas science standards.

This is considered to be national news -- even USA Today has an article about it. The USA Today article has some links to articles in local newspapers.

Also, as I have pointed out many times, It is a myth that the Texas board of education controls textbook content! [1]. No school system in the world -- including Texas -- is required to use Texas-approved textbooks! Local school districts in Texas can use state-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost, which isn't much. If a biology textbook costs, say, $100 and is used for five years, that comes to a cost of only about $20 per student per year. A popular biology textbook, "Biology" by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, California, and Texas editions. So in a sense, the fight over the new Texas science standards was a tempest in a teapot.



Friday, March 27, 2009

Update on hearings on Texas science standards

Live blogging of the March 25-27 meetings of the Texas SBOE are in several posts on the Texas Freedom Network blog.

A Dallas Morning News article said,

AUSTIN – In a decision watched by science educators across the nation, the State Board of Education on Thursday narrowly turned aside a last-ditch effort by social conservatives to require that "weaknesses" in the theory of evolution be taught in science classes in Texas.

Board members deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to restore a longtime curriculum rule that "strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories – notably Charles Darwin's theory of evolution – be covered in science classes and textbooks for those subjects.

The tie vote upheld a preliminary decision by the board in January to delete the strengths-and-weaknesses rule in the new curriculum standards for science classes that will be in force for the next decade. That decision, if finalized in a last vote today, changes 20 years of Texas education policy.

Because the standards spell out what must be covered in textbooks, science educators and publishers have been monitoring the Texas debate closely. As one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, Texas influences what is sold in other states.

As I have pointed out many times, no school system in the world -- including Texas -- is required to use Texas-approved textbooks.[1]. Local school districts in Texas can use state-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost, which isn't much. If a biology textbook costs, say, $100 and is used for five years, that costs only about $20 per student per year. A popular biology textbook, "Biology" by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, California, and Texas editions.

The science standards adopted by the board also will figure into questions used on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Voting for the requirement were the seven Republican board members aligned with social conservative groups. Against the proposal were three other Republicans and four Democrats. Critics of evolution managed to add a few small caveats to the curriculum, but none as sweeping as the strengths-and-weaknesses rule.

I am surprised that three Republicans snubbed the Texas Republican Party's recent resolution asking the GOP members of the board to support the "strengths and weaknesses" language. Only one more vote was needed to restore the language to the state standards -- it was not as if the GOP members were asked to vote for something that might not pass anyway.

Evolution critics scored some victories before the standards for all elementary and high school science classes were tentatively adopted Thursday.

The most significant was a change brought by board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, who proposed that students be required to study the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of common ancestry and natural selection – two key Darwin tenets – in examining fossil records and cell structure, respectively.

Ironically, this change is really bad, whereas the "strengths and weaknesses" language that was removed -- which had been in the standards for about 20 years -- was harmless.



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Live broadcasts of meetings on Texas science standards

Live blogging of the March 25-27 meetings of the Texas SBOE are in several posts on the Texas Freedom Network blog.

Links to the following broadcasts are here. Times are Central Standard Time. Note: dial-up 56K modem connections may be too slow for listening to archived audio files, so you may have to listen to the live broadcast.

Upcoming or Active Audio Streams:
If the player is not responding, the meeting has either not started, has ended or the number of listeners has exceeded the system's capacity.

SBOE Committee of the Full Board: noon March 25, 2009

SBOE Committee of the Full Board: 9 a.m. March 26, 2009

SBOE Committee on School Initiatives: 2 p.m. or upon adjournment of the Committee of the Full Board March 26, 2009

State Board of Education: 9 a.m. March 27, 2009

Here are the Audio Archives:

Archived audio files from the State Board of the Education meetings from 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. After each meeting is held the audio files will be posted on the archived page. There are no audio files available for years prior to 2004.

If you need further assistance, please contact the Texas Education Agency's Division of Communications and SBOE Support at (512) 463-9000.

NOTE: Due to the length of some meetings, the audio files are in multiple parts.



Monday, March 23, 2009

Wall Street Journal article on Texas controversy

A WSJ article says,

[Texas Board of Education Chairman] Dr. McLeroy believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. If the new curriculum passes, he says he will insist that high-school biology textbooks point out specific aspects of the fossil record that, in his view, undermine the theory that all life on Earth is descended from primitive scraps of genetic material that first emerged in the primordial muck about 3.9 billion years ago.

He also wants the texts to make the case that individual cells are far too complex to have evolved by chance mutation and natural selection, an argument popular with those who believe an intelligent designer created the universe . . . .

The Texas school board will vote after taking public testimony in a three-day meeting that starts Wednesday. Dr. McLeroy leads a group of seven social conservatives on the 15-member board. . . . .

Neither side is confident of victory. All members of the board have come under enormous pressure in recent months, especially three Republicans who support teaching evolution without references to "weaknesses." The state Republican Party passed a resolution urging the three to back Dr. McLeroy's preferred curriculum. A conservative activist group put out a news release suggesting all three were in the pocket of "militant Darwinists."

McLeroy's "preferred curriculum" includes some controversial amendments [1] to the science standards in addition to the "strengths and weaknesses" language. That Republican Party resolution specifically only asked those three GOP members to support the "strengths and weaknesses" language:

RESOLVED, The Republican Party of Texas, consistent with the 2008 State Republican Platform, opposes abandonment of the longstanding "strengths and weaknesses" science standard and calls upon the Republican members of the State Board of Education to support the retention of the "strengths and weaknesses" standard in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)."

Also, as I have pointed out many times, no school system inside or outside of Texas is required to use Texas-approved textbooks.



Caldwell v. Caldwell denied certiorari

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle now has a news article about this. Comments may be left there.

Kevin Vicklund informed me that the Supreme Court announced this morning that Caldwell v. Caldwell was -- unfortunately -- denied certiorari. This morning's orders of the court are here. The Religion Clause blog has an article about the denial of ceritiorari. What is especially galling is the fact that -- as the Pacific Justice Institute's website pointed out -- the 9th circuit has
been especially lenient in granting standing to sue in other establishment clause cases [1]. Caldwell v. Caldwell received a lot of publicity for a case that was denied certiorari -- indeed, most cases that are granted certiorari remain unknown to most people.

What I suggest now is a demand that UC Berkeley set up another version of the website by removing the offending religious material. If they refuse, they could then be sued for refusal to make a reasonable effort to accommodate people's religious beliefs. If nothing else, this will help to keep this issue in the public eye.
The failure of Caldwell v. Caldwell to make the SCOTUSblog's "Petitions to Watch" lists may have been a factor in the denial of certiorari.[1] In a recent year, only 9 petitions that did not make the lists were granted ceritiorari. IMO these lists are prejudicial and should therefore be discontinued -- the court might be using these lists to help screen out cases. Of the ten cases on the "Petitions to Watch" list for the group of petitions that included Caldwell (i.e., last Friday's group), the results were as follows:

Certiorari granted: No cases

Certiorari denied: Seven cases

Requests for Solicitor General's opinion: Two cases

No decision announced: One case

I was especially intrigued by the decision for Docket No. 08-571, Elko County, Nevada, v. The Wilderness Society, et al. --
The motion of Mountain States Legal Foundation for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Why would the court dismiss a case and then grant permission to file an amicus brief in the same case?



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Darwinists still gloating over the Dover decision

The Kitzmiller v. Dover decision was handed down over three years ago. Though it was just a decision of a single judge and is not binding precedent outside the Dover Area school district, the Darwinists continue to gloat over it as though it were something important -- the rest of the world has moved on. Never before in American history has so much weight been given to the opinion of a single judge. The latest manifestation of the Darwinists' gloating over the Kitzmiller decision is a Biochemical Journal article about the decision. I previously discussed this article here, and I will now expand upon that discussion.

The courts should declare scientific questions in the evolution controversy to be non-justiciable. It is like the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Questions are 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). Even if a court could reach fair decisions on scientific questions about evolution after several weeks of scientific testimony, appellate courts would not want to rubber-stamp a district court's decisions about those questions, nor would appellate courts want to hear or review several weeks of scientific testimony. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court treated the global warming question as non-justiciable.

The authors of the article, Kevin Padian and Nicholas Matzke, and the sole credited reviewer of the article, Eric Rothschild, are extremely biased because of their direct involvement in the Kitzmiller case. Kevin Padian was an expert plaintiffs' witness in the trial, Nicholas Matzke advised the plaintiffs' team, and Eric Rothschild was one of the plaintiffs' lead attorneys. Though the article is about the law, authors Padian and Matzke probably have no expertise in the law even as amateurs. I will not hold it against them that they are not legal professionals unless someone holds it against me that I write about the law even though I am not a legal professional.
The bibliography lists four books about the case, including "Monkey Girl" and "The Devil in Dover," but does not list the Discovery Institute's book about the case, "Traipsing into Evolution."

There have been several law journal articles about the case and the Biochemistry Journal article did not cite a single one of them. Several of these law journal articles have been reviewed on this blog under two post-label groups titled "Expert opinions about Kitzmiller" (the reason why there are two post-label groups on the same subject is that my Blogger.com template-mode software limits me to a maximum of 20 articles per post label). Some of these law journal articles are highly critical of the Dover decision.

The article makes no mention of the following criticisms of Judge Jones and the Dover decision:

(1) A Discovery Institute study showed that the Kitzmiller opinion's ID-as-science section was copied nearly verbatim from the plaintiffs' opening post-trial brief while ignoring the defendants' post-trial brief and the plaintiffs' and defendants' answering post-trial briefs. Darwinists falsely claim that it is a common practice for judges to just copy the winning side's arguments while completely ignoring the losing side's arguments, but even if that claim were true, Judge Jones probably would not have ignored the defendants arguments had he believed that an appeal of his decision was likely (an appeal was unlikely because of a changeover in the Dover school board's members).

(2) Judge Jones showed extreme prejudice against intelligent design and the Dover defendants -- regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept -- by saying in a Dickinson College commencement speech that his Dover decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions. IMO that statement alone completely discredits the decision.

Tennessee's law banning evolution, and other such state laws and many local policies, remained on the books for decades. As a result, textbook publishers, who wanted to publish one book and sell it across the country, deleted or minimized the treatment of evolution . . . (page 3 of PDF file, page 31 of original document)

I don't see how publishing two different editions of a biology text for sale in different places is a hardship for publishers. For example, a popular biology text, "Biology" by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, comes in regular, California, and Texas editions.

This remained the status quo until the 1960's. when in the wake of Sputnik and the fear that the communists were ahead of the U.S. in science, the federal government poured money into science education and textbooks.(page 3 of PDF file, page 31 of original document)

As I recall, Sputnik (1957) did not cause any surge of interest in evolution theory. I cannot even recall studying evolution in high-school biology in the early 1960's. Evolution theory was of no use in the US space program.

However, the lawsuit was not going to immediately block implementation of the policy, so the teachers of their own accord refused to read the statement. (page 4 of PDF file, page 32 of original document)

It is not mentioned that the teachers reneged on an agreement to accept "Of Pandas and People" as a supplemental text instead of a companion text (on the other hand, IMO the school board should have given the teachers more say in the wording of the ID statement).

The Board decided that district administrators would come into the classrooms and read it, but, unusually for an educational experience, no questions or discussions would be allowed afterwards (page 4 of PDF file, page 32 of original document)

Well, the administrators were probably not experts on the subject, so what would have been the point of questions and discussions? Also, maybe not allowing questions and discussions was for the purpose of avoiding charges that ID was actually being taught.

The NCSE [National Center for Science Education] is the only organization in the country whose full-time mission is the protection of evolution and other scientific concepts from assault in the public schools by sectarian threats; it is also the premier organization in the country that clarifies "the nature of science," i.e., what science is and how it differs as an approach from other modes of human inquiry, to the general public, government agencies, the media and educational administrations. (page 4 of PDF file, page 32 of original document)

That statement is blatant self-advertising -- the two authors, Padian and Matzke, are on the staff of the NCSE.

Because ID proponents are notoriously evasive about some of their views, even many critics are under the impression that ID proponents accept common ancestry and the ancient age of the Earth. But almost all reject common ancestry in favor of the notion that only minor evolution can occur, and only within the specially created "kinds" commanded by God to reproduce "after their kind" in Genesis. (page 5 of PDF file, page 33 of original document)

That is a grossly unfair stereotype. BTW, prominent ID proponents Michael Behe and William Dembski have both accepted common ancestry.

. . . the DI claimed that they did not support putting ID into science curricula, and that they had never suggested such a thing. (page 10 of PDF file, page 38 of original document)

I am not aware that the DI ever claimed that they never supported putting ID into science curricula (i.e., actually teaching ID instead of just mentioning it). The article is full of such unsubstantiated statements.

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. (pages 10 of pdf file, page 38 of original document)

I have already discussed this here.

Michael Behe and other DI [Discovery Institute] associates (including Cardinal Christophe Schoenborn of Vienna, whose op-ed pieces and essays have been scripted by the DI), define evolution as "random mutation and natural selection", which is not a definition used by evolutionary biologists (page 11 of PDF file, page 39 of original document)

WHAT? How is Cardinal Schoenborn a "DI associate"? And how has his op-ed pieces and essays "been scripted by the DI"? This is really off the wall (more about "random mutation and natural selection" later).

Critical thinking is one of the greatest skills students can learn . . . .Creationists, however, would like students to hear and learn "criticisms" about evolution . . . But they have no interest in having students learn "critical thinking" about other topics, such as American history, theology or grammar. (page 11 of PDF file, page 39 of original document)

WHAT? There is no basis for such a statement -- and even if there were, how is that an argument against learning critical thinking skills in evolution education?

Whereas Americans, as a whole, are not as scientifically literate as the citizenries of most other developed countries (and many undeveloped ones), this is not a problem of mere ignorance but of worldview. (page 12 of PDF file, page 40 of original document)

There is no substantiation of the statement that "Americans, as a whole, are not as scientifically literate as the citizenries of most other developed countries (and many undeveloped ones)."

We highly recommend Randy Olson's film "Flock of Dodos" . . . . the 'dodos' of his title are not average Americans, nor even the creationist distorters of evolution, but the evolutionists themselves: the scientists who cannot explain the most basic concepts to the man or woman on the street, the experts who convey such elitism and condescension that previously open-minded audience members recoil from them and embrace the smooth-talking, smiling, and apparently equally open-minded creationists. Who would you rather have a beer with? (page 12 of PDF file, page 40 of original document)

Some good points there.

There is no standard definition of evolution, possibly because evolution is so complex, works at so many levels, and can be studied in so many ways. A definition of evolution as "random mutation and natural selection" is popular among ID advocates and other creationists, but as far as we know is not used by biologists, most of whom prefer Darwin's formulation "descent with modification." The ID definition refers to two processes of evolution and does not acknowledge that all life is interrelated. (pages 10 of pdf file, page 38 of original document)

What? The term "descent with modification" is too vague and general to be a definition of evolution. Also, the above statement is contradicted elsewhere in the article:

Dembski never takes seriously the crucial point that biological change is the result of chance and necessity -- that is, mutations create variety, and natural selection non-randomly preserves the variations that work. (page 6 of PDF file, page 34 of original document)

Darwin turned the design argument in biology on its head with his law of natural selection . . . (page 5 of PDF file, page 33 of original document)

Evolution News & Views has a post by Casey Luskin about the Biochemical Journal article. The post has an anonymous letter which says,

In their guideline to authors the journal editors state:
The Biochemical Journal publishes papers in English in all fields of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, provided that they make a sufficient contribution to knowledge in these fields.... All work presented should have as its aim the development of biochemical concepts rather than the mere recording of facts.

. . . . . The “review article” in question contains nothing of scientific merit. There are no interpretations of experimental results, no theories advanced, no biochemical concepts developed. There is no review of the current state of a particular scientific field, either. Instead, the review by Padian and Matzke is a one-sided retelling of a legal trial with some simplistic historical analysis and ersatz theology thrown in. The article conflates creationism and intelligent design, misrepresents the views of intelligent design scientists and the Discovery Institute, and engages in vicious character assassination. It is a blatant attempt to scare people away from intelligent design by proclaiming that “no one with scientific or philosophical integrity is going to take [ID] seriously in future.”

The simple reality is that this article is a polemical hit piece. It’s not a scholarly work of history or theology, let alone science. It is biased and prejudicial in its retelling of events, imputing motives to people without first-hand knowledge of events. It makes sweeping statements and broad generalizations with no independent verifiability. It puffs the credentials of one of its authors while snidely referring to the “allegedly peer-reviewed books” of a scientist it attacks and calling him “chicken”.

It is very hypocritical of the Darwinists to applaud this grossly inappropriate article in the Biochemical Journal while condemning Richard Sternberg's approval of Stephen Meyer's paper for publication in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

Also, the Questionable Authority blog has a post about Padian's and Matzke's article and the post has a comment from me.

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Secretary of Education is dogmatic Darwinist

A news article says,

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday he wants to launch a "new era" of science education in the United States, one that encourages students to ask tough, challenging questions and brings more specially trained science and math teachers into the classroom.

Duncan told the National Science Teachers Association during a visit to New Orleans that President Barack Obama sees a need for inventors and engineers along with poets and scholars and "will not allow scientific research to be held hostage to a political agenda."

"Whether it's global warming, evolution or stem cell research, science will be honored. It will be respected and supported by this administration," he said.

Of the three items mentioned -- global warming, evolution, and stem cell research -- only with stem cell research is none of the dissent on scientific grounds and all of the dissent strictly on ideological grounds.

Anyway, evolution-education policies are decided at the state and local level, so I don't see how the US Dept. of Education is going to "honor" evolution.



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Darwin called "Satan's biggest trick on humanity"

From the Harun Yahya website


I have previously posted blog articles about Adrian Oktar, a Turkish Islamic creationist who uses the pen name "Harun Yahya."[1] [2] A Wall Street Journal article said,

ISTANBUL -- As scientists around the world celebrate the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's seminal work on evolution, Adnan Oktar, a college dropout turned theorist of Islamic creationism, is working on the fifth volume of a 14-part masterwork that he says will bury Darwinism once and for all.

"Darwin and his theory are dead," says Mr. Oktar, founder and honorary president of the Science Research Foundation, an Istanbul outfit dedicated to debunking the Victorian-era English naturalist. Darwin, says his 52-year-old Turkish scourge, is "Satan's biggest trick on humanity."

Mr. Oktar, who briefly studied interior design, hasn't had much success swaying scientists with the weight of his research. "He is a complete and utter ignoramus," says Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and Oxford University professor.

The physical weight of Mr. Oktar's work, however, is considerable. Each volume of his anti-Darwin magnum opus, "Atlas of Creation," weighs more than 13 pounds. Also weighing in on his side are very aggressive lawyers. They've repeatedly gone to court in Turkey to silence critics whom Mr. Oktar accuses of spreading "lies and insults." Scores of Web sites have been banned at his behest.

That's very hypocritical -- promoting censorship while decrying censorship.
The WSJ article says,

A recent survey found that only a quarter of students entering Turkish universities accept Darwin's theory of evolution and that the proportion is much the same when they graduate . . .

. . . . Mr. Oktar's message has won support in some unlikely quarters, most notably among educated, wealthy Turks from secular families . . .

. . . . Unlike strict Christian creationists, who assert the world was created in six days around 10,000 years ago, Mr. Oktar allows for a far longer time period stretching back billions of years. But he agrees with those Christians who insist life didn't evolve, asserting that animals and plants now are exactly as they were at the dawn of time.

I am surprised that Oktar is an old-earth creationist, because I got the impression from his Harun Yahya website that he interprets ancient religious texts literally. [3]

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Judge Jones' "true religion" speech contradicted again

As I have pointed out many times, Judge "Jackass" Jones said in a Dickinson College commencement speech that his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions -- he said,

. . . .this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state.

Ironically, Judge Jones gave the speech while standing behind the Dickinson College seal, designed by USA Founders John Dickinson and Benjamin Rush, which contains a picture of a open bible and the college motto, "Religion and learning, the bulwark of liberty," in Latin.

A Wall Street Journal article about James Madison, widely regarded as the father of the Constitution, said,
He believed that the main reason to have separation of church and state was to help religion. He came to this view in part because of an unusual but crucial alliance he built with evangelical Christians of his day. That's right. At that time, the evangelical Christians were the leading supporters of separation of church and state, and Madison was one of their greatest champions. They believed that not only was government repression bad but so was government help. Madison agreed and worked hand in hand with the evangelicals to press this point. In a crucial document called the Memorial and Remonstrance, Madison integrated the arguments of the Enlightenment intellectuals with the arguments of the evangelicals to create something much greater. Separating church and state would be better for both state and church.

This may be a concept that's a bit jarring to modern culture warriors. We've come to think that if you're pro religion you must surely want government to play a greater role in promoting religion. And if you're in favor of separation of church and state that you must want to reduce religion's role.

Madison and his evangelical allies had a completely different concept. They wanted to promote religion. They just believed that the best way to promote religion was for government to leave it alone.

Nothing there about "true religion." In fact, the WSJ article directly contradicts Jones' "true religion" speech by saying that "evangelical Christians were the leading supporters of separation of church and state."

Judge Jones "true religion" statement is not just another opinion -- the statement shows (1) great hostility towards organized religion and (2) a predisposition to rule against anything that Judge Jones sees connected in any way with organized religion -- e.g., intelligent design. Even Fatheaded Ed Brayton found fault with the "true religion" statement. [1] The "true religion" statement completely discredits the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision and I am surprised that the statement is not cited more often by those seeking to discredit that decision. Ever since the Kitzmiller decision was issued over three years ago, it has been used to intimidate legislatures, school districts, schools, and teachers who want to include criticisms of evolution theory in the curriculum.

The biographical information about the WSJ article's author, Steven Waldman, says,

Steven Waldman is the Editor-in-Chief, President & Co-Founder of Beliefnet.com , the largest faith and spirituality website. Beliefnet won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence online in 2007. Waldman is also author of the bestselling book, FOUNDING FAITH: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America.

Before founding Beliefnet, Waldman was National Correspondent for Newsweek and National Editor of U.S. News & World Report. His writings have appeared in the National Review, The Atlantic, Slate, The New York Times and more.

So it looks like Waldman has good credentials and he should know what he is talking about.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Dogmatists' hallucinatory denials of reality

A replica of James Cook's ship Endeavour. According to legend, the original Endeavour was invisible to some aborigines in places that the ship visited.

The term "hallucination" is usually considered to mean the perception of things that do not exist. However, a "hallucination" can also be a failure to perceive something that does exist -- an encyclopedia broadly defines "hallucination" as a "false perception characterized by a distortion of real sensory stimuli." Examples of this second kind of hallucination are stories -- perhaps apocryphal -- that aborigines in places visited by European explorers were unable to see the Europeans' ships because the experience of the aborigines taught them that such large ships could not possibly exist. Dogmatists in different subjects -- e.g., Darwinism and the holocaust -- behave exactly like these aborigines, i.e., they simply cannot begin to comprehend anything that challenges their dogmatic beliefs. Arguing with them is like talking to a brick wall -- they will just ignore you, scoff at you, or present frivolous arguments.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Texas GOP asks GOP members of school board to restore "weaknesses" language

On March 7, the Republican party of Texas adopted a resolution supporting the "strengths and weaknesses" language that was in the Texas science standards for about 20 years and is asking GOP members of the state board of education to restore the language to the new Texas science standards prior to final adoption of the standards at the March 25-27 meeting. According to the Texas Freedom Network, three GOP members of the board voted against the "strengths and weaknesses" language at the January meeting, with the result that the language was rejected by a vote of 8-7. [1]

Also, the 2008 Texas GOP platform, passed at the GOP state convention in June 2008, includes the following plank:

We support objective teaching and equal treatment of strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including Intelligent Design.(page 17, under "Theories of Origin")

I have followed the controversy over the new Texas science standards very closely for a long time (this blog has about sixty articles on the subject, including 15 articles about ousted former Texas Education Agency science director Chris Comer — the articles are in three “Texas controversy” post-label groups and one “Chris Comer” post-label group -- the post-label groups are listed in the sidebar of the homepage) and I am astonished that I am just now learning that the 2008 Texas GOP platform included support for the “strengths and weaknesses” language! Moreover, that GOP platform also included support for teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools! Also, I am surprised that so many GOP members of the Texas board of education — three — broke ranks by voting against retaining the “strengths and weaknesses” language. I thought that the fight over the “strengths and weaknesses” language was over, but apparently not. The date on the resolution, March 7, was several days ago — how come this resolution has not been reported in the general media? Has the Texas GOP issued a press release announcing the resolution? The Texas Freedom Network has an article about the resolution [2]. Of five other websites that I checked — Texas Citizens for Science, Texans for Better Science Education, The Freemarket Foundation, the 21st Century Science Coalition, and the Houston Chronicle Evo.Sphere blog -- only the Texans for Better Science Education website mentioned the resolution (there was just a link to the resolution but no discussion of the resolution’s contents or significance).

I was amused that the resolution uses the term “Darwinist,” a term that many Darwinists consider to be derogatory. LOL

Also, as I said before, IMO the importance of the Texas science standards has been exaggerated, because no local school district in Texas or public school system outside of Texas is required to use Texas-approved textbooks.

I was not going to submit any more comments to the Texas Education Agency about the proposed Texas science standards, but because this Texas GOP resolution may result in reconsideration of the “strengths and weaknesses” language, I will send in a comment repeating my proposal of replacing “strengths and weaknesses” with “strengths and criticisms.” “Criticisms” is a general term that covers real weaknesses, invalid criticisms, criticisms of whole theories, and criticisms of imperfections in theories.



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Creationists -- unlike Darwinists -- are unafraid of exposure to opposing views

Creationism Students Visit Smithsonian --
Each winter, Liberty University Biology Professor David DeWitt brings his Advanced Creation Studies class to the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.


One of the biggest arguments raised against teaching -- or even mentioning -- criticisms of evolution theory in public schools is that such criticisms will "confuse" students and cause them to doubt evolution theory. The Darwinists are so phobic about any kind of criticism of evolution that they even pressured the Cincinnati Zoo into canceling a combo-ticket deal with the Creation Museum, even though teaching about evolution is not -- or should not be -- one of a zoo's primary missions! [1] [2] [3] However, it appears that creationists have no such fears of exposure to opposing views -- a Washington Post news article says,
Every winter, David DeWitt takes his biology class to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, but for a purpose far different from that of other professors.

DeWitt brings his Advanced Creation Studies class (CRST 390, Origins) up from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., hoping to strengthen his students' belief in a biblical view of natural history, even in the lion's den of evolution.

His yearly visit to the Smithsonian is part of a wider movement by creationists to confront Darwinism in some of its most redoubtable secular strongholds. As scientists celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, his doubters are taking themselves on Genesis-based tours of natural history museums, aquariums, geologic sites and even dinosaur parks.

"There's nothing balanced here. It's completely, 100 percent evolution-based," said DeWitt, a professor of biology. "We come every year, because I don't hold anything back from the students."

. . . .Creationists have been popping up in enough mainstream institutions that one museum has produced a creation-vs.-evolution primer to help volunteer docents handle their sometimes-pointed questions. When the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, N.Y., published its guide, more than 50 museums called looking for a copy, according to director Warren Allmon.

The article is two pages long, so don't miss the second page.

Sleazy PZ Myers' take on the article says --

In this case, young ignoramuses from Liberty University are filed through the Smithsonian Institution to practice closing their minds, while a newspaper reporter echoes their rationalizations. I hate these exercises in bad journalism: there is absolutely no critical thinking going on here, either among the creationists or the reporter writing it up.

Well, Sleazy PZ, at least these creationists -- unlike Darwinists -- are not afraid of exposure to opposing views.



Catholic church sells its soul

A news article about a Vatican conference that I previously reported on this blog says,

ROME (AP) — A Vatican-backed conference on evolution is under attack from people who weren't invited to participate: those espousing creationism and intelligent design.

The Discovery Institute, the main organization supporting intelligent design research, says it was shut out from presenting its views because the meeting was funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation, a major U.S. nonprofit that has criticized the intelligent design movement. . . . . .

. . . . An official with the Pontifical Council for Culture, which is backing the conference, said the Templeton grant covered almost half the meeting's budget. But the official, the Rev. Tomasz Tramfe, also denied Templeton put any restrictions on who was invited to speak . . . . .

. . . .[The Rev. Marc Leclerc, the conference director and a professor of philosophy of nature at the Pontifical Gregorian University,] denied the decision had anything to do with Templeton's funding for the conference. "Absolutely not. We decided independently within the organizing committee, in total autonomy," Leclerc said.

That's nice. So what the conference organizers are saying is that they were not pressured by the Templeton Foundation to discriminate against critics of evolution but decided to discriminate on their own anyway. And if the conference organizers sincerely believed that critics of evolution should be excluded, then IMO the conference organizers should have rejected the Templeton Foundation funding in order to avoid even giving the appearance that they were pressured by the Templeton Foundation. As Archie Bunker said, the pope has more money than god, so the Templeton Foundation funding should not have been needed. Darwinists are fond of boasting that the Catholic church is very evolution-friendly, but this exclusion of evolution critics from a Vatican conference raises serious doubts about the sincerity of the Catholic church's alleged evolution-friendliness.

The news article also said,

Muslim creationists also complained about the conference.

Oktar Babuna, a representative of a prominent Turkish creationist, Harun Yahya, was denied the right to speak at the opening session Tuesday. Participants took the microphone away from Babuna when, during a question-and-answer session, he challenged them to give proof of transitional forms of animals in Darwinian evolution.

A post on this blog discusses Harun Yahya.

The Vatican conference is discussed on Evolution News & Views [1] and Fatheaded Ed Brayton's blog. [2].

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Law journals likely to switch from printed to online open-access format

The "Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship" says,
On 7 November 2008, the directors of the law libraries at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, New York University, Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, the University of Texas, and Yale University met in Durham, North Carolina at the Duke Law School. That meeting resulted in the "Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship," which calls for all law schools to stop publishing their journals in print format and to rely instead on electronic publication coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats . . . .

. . . Each of the directors who signed the Statement agreed to take it to the dean of their school for discussion and signature. It has also been signed by the chief information officers at top U.S. law schools. The Statement is being posted and publicized in hopes that more signatures can be gathered and that all law schools will begin to moving toward accomplishing its goals.

So it looks like law schools are really getting serious about switching from printed law journals to online open-access law journals.
The Durham statement makes no recommendation in regard to whether the online law journals should be peer-reviewed. A dirty little secret about law journals is that most are not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are just student-reviewed! Furthermore, these law journals are not just educational exercises for the student editors but have been frequently cited by court opinions -- the Harvard Law Review alone was cited 4410 times by federal court opinions alone in the decade 1970-79 alone, though the frequency of citation of law journals by court opinions appears to have declined in recent years. Anyway, peer review is less important in online journals than in printed journals, because immediate and unlimited responses can accompany online journal articles.

A popular group of online open-access journals in science is called the Public Library of Science (PLoS). The articles are peer-reviewed and a fee is normally required for their publication. Harvard University's faculty of arts and sciences requires online open-access publication of faculty members' scholarly articles unless a waiver is requested.[1]. Also, the National Institute of Health has a new open-access policy for publications that are based on NIH-funded research, but this policy is threatened by a bill in Congress [2].

Ironically, Darwinists have been making a fetish out of the importance of publication in traditional printed peer-reviewed journals even while such publication has become less important because of the increasing popularity of online sources. In many cases, my ideas about coevolution (a summary is here and other articles about coevolution are in the "Non-ID criticisms of evolution" post-label group of articles) are not even considered because they have not been published in traditional peer-reviewed journals! That, of course, is just a cop-out.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Academic Freedom bill

If people evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?


Demagogic Darwinists will inevitably link stem cell and evolution controversies

It is inevitable now that demagogic Darwinist crackpots will lump together the controversies over evolution and stem cell research because (1) Pres. Bush both opposed stem cell research and supported teaching the controversy over evolution and (2) White House aides said that Pres. Obama will sign an executive order Monday lifting limits on human embryonic stem cell research and will direct federal agencies to "restore scientific integrity" to decision-making [1]. Linking the two controversies is unfortunate because the objection to stem cell research is really irrational whereas questioning Darwinian evolution is not. Stem cell embryos are not human beings by any stretch of the imagination -- they are just tiny clumps of undifferentiated cells. Also, the research was to be performed only on stem cell embryos that had already been discarded by fertility clinics -- there was no plan to grow the embryos specifically for the purpose of research.

Lumping together unrelated or different viewpoints is the Darwinists' stock-in-trade -- for example, they have done this with intelligent design and creationism.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Louisiana boycott is paper tiger; Darwinists bite hand that feeds them

I previously noted that two Darwinist societies have announced or threatened boycott action against Louisiana because of the new Louisiana "academic freedom" law which allows the state's public-school teachers to teach the scientific evidence both for and against the theory of evolution [1] [2]. Richard Satterlie, executive committee president of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, wrote a letter to the Louisiana governor stating that the SICB had chosen Utah instead of Louisiana as a convention site as a protest against the academic freedom law. Michael Egnor of the Discovery Institute responded to Satterlie's letter by noting that the SICB members -- by snubbing taxpayers who fund scientific research -- were biting the hand that feeds them. Sleazy PZ Myers and the Panda's Thumb blog responded to Egnor
[3] [4] [5]. The Darwinist scientists are playing with fire -- their contempt for the public's opinions about science could very well result in a backlash that would reduce public funding for scientific research, particularly research that promotes evolution theory. Darwinists have contempt for the public's opinions on scientific issues even where scientific expertise is not required, e.g., the question or whether to teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses (or criticisms) of evolution theory in public schools.
Also, the whole idea of the boycott is a paper tiger, for the following reasons:

(1) The SICB's absence from Louisiana will hardly be noticed -- of the Society's past annual meetings since 1960, only three were held in Louisiana (New Orleans) -- in 1976, 1987, and 2004. The SICB might as well also announce that it will avoid states that failed to get an "A" grade in the Fordham Foundation's ratings of state evolution-education standards. The SICB letter was nothing more than a potshot at Louisiana.

(2) Darwinist organizations constitute a small fraction of all the organizations that have held national conventions in Louisiana.

(3) Some organizations might actually prefer Louisiana as a convention site because of the academic freedom law.



Saturday, March 07, 2009

Last public hearing for new Texas science standards, March 25

The Texas Education Agency sent the following message about the upcoming last public hearing for the new Texas science standards:

--Public Hearing Scheduled for Revisions to Proposed TEKS for Science

A public hearing has been scheduled to receive testimony on proposed revisions to the Science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills prior to second reading and final adoption on March 26-27, 2009.

The Public Hearing will take place on Wednesday, March 25th from noon until 6 p.m.. For more information about public hearings, please see


More info -- including important info about the latest revisions -- is here.



Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lawsuit-bait evolution-education laws needed

A number of so-called "academic freedom" bills -- which call for open discussion of scientific "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution theory in public school science classes -- have been recently introduced in several states. Examples are Iowa and Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi (evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker), Michigan, New Mexico, and Louisiana (already passed). The problem is that these "academic freedom" bills do not go far enough -- they are all "lawsuit proof"! What we need are "lawsuit bait" academic freedom laws that will invite lawsuits that will give opportunities to counter the infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. For over three years now, Kitzmiller v. Dover, a decision by a single crackpot activist judge who said that the decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions, has been used to browbeat any legislature, school board, school, or schoolteacher that wants to introduce any kind of criticism of Darwinism into public school science classes. And Kitmiller was -- for various reasons -- a very bad test case. The tax expense issue is a red herring -- in a populous state, a million dollar suit against the government costs pennies per taxpayer. And it costs states money to not fight lawsuits -- there are all these government attorneys just sitting on their duffs needing some work to do.
One good way of inviting a lawsuit would be to include the term "Intelligent Design" in the bill, because ID was what Judge Jones ruled against in Kitzmiller. "ID" was originally in the Florida bill but has been removed.

The goal of inviting lawsuits should be to have the courts declare the evolution controversy to be non-justiciable. Questions are non-justiciable when there is “a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards.” Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267, 277-78 (2004). IMO the Darwinists' dream of having the courts declare criticism of evolution to be unconstitutional is a pipe dream. Here are the Supreme Court's options if a court decision on the scientific merits of evolution or criticisms of evolution (e.g., intelligent design) is ever appealed to the Supreme Court:

(1) Deny certiorari -- i.e., refuse to review the decision.

(2) Declare the controversy to be non-justiciable. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court essentially treated the global-warming controversy as non-justiciable, and there is no reason to believe that the court would not do the same with the evolution controversy.

Is the Supreme Court going to sit there and listen to several weeks of scientific testimony on the evolution controversy?

Another possibility is for Congress to strip the Supreme Court -- pursuant to Article III of the Constitution -- of of appellate jurisdiction over the evolution conroversy.

In South Dakota, there was an anti-abortion ballot measure that was actually intended to be lawsuit bait:
Lawmakers had hoped the ban would be challenged in court, provoking litigation that might eventually lead to a U.S. Supreme Court reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.




Sunday, March 01, 2009

Persecution of holocaust-denying bishop intensifies

This blog previously reported that the Vatican defrocked a holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson, and that the Society of St. Pius X has removed him as the head of a seminary in Argentina [1] [2]. Here are some new developments:

(1) A news article said,
The Interior Ministry said it had ordered the bishop, Richard Williamson, out of Argentina because he had failed to declare his true job as director of a seminary on immigration forms and because his comments on the Holocaust "profoundly insult Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying a historic truth."

(2) The Vatican has rejected Williamson's apology.

(3) A news article reports,

. . .German justice minister Brigitte Zypries said Germany might issue an arrest warrant for the bishop on hate crime charges. Given that the ultra-traditionalist bishop made Holocaust-denial comments in a recent Swedish TV interview, recorded in Germany, he could be prosecuted in Germany where it is a crime to deny the Holocaust.

(4) An Italian priest also questions the Holocaust.