I'm from Missouri

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

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eugenie Scott: Still crazy after all these years

The smarmy grin of a high-priestess of what Harun Yahya (Adrian Oktar) has called "the shamanistic religion of Darwinism."


An article on the website of the National Center for Science Education says,
Now available on NCSE's YouTube channel: Eugenie C. Scott's "Creationism: Still crazy after all these years," a presentation at the 2009 Atheist Alliance International conference in Burbank, California. Scott describes the evolving history of the antievolution movement in the United States, from attempts to balance the teaching of evolution with "creation science" or "intelligent design" to the present spate of stealth creationist tactics such as "academic freedom" and (in Texas) "all sides of scientific evidence." A question-and-answer session followed, introduced by Richard Dawkins, who commented, "I must say, it's a very good feeling to have Genie Scott and her gang on our side in this battle." NCSE thanks the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science for permission to post the video on the NCSE YouTube channel.

Here the hypocritical, two-timing Eugenie Scott reveals her fundamental disdain for people of faith. She is tolerant of people of faith only if their beliefs are inconsistent -- i.e., if they are Darwinist Cafeteria Christians (e.g., Francis Collins and Ken Miller) instead of creationists, even though (1) there is a lot of scientific evidence against Darwinian evolution and (2) the bible's creation story makes much more sense than the gospel. The creation story is fairly straightforward whereas the gospel is full of illogic, inconsistencies, ambiguities, and unintelligibility. Also, the creation story is consistent with the idea of an all-powerful god whereas the god of the gospel is a weak, limited god who must struggle against Satan for control of the world. Many Darwinist Cafeteria Christians refuse to even admit that their beliefs are inconsistent.

The Darwinist Cafeteria Christians and the Accommodationists cheerfully serve as each others' mascots and useful idiots. They deserve each other. I join PZ Myers in metaphorically puking on the shoes of both of them.



Another NCSE crackpot

I already know a number of crackpots in the National Center for Science Education: Eugenie Scott, Kevin Padian, Nick Matzke, Peter Hess, Glenn Branch, and Josh Rosenau. These dudes are so bad that they have even been criticized by Darwinists, particularly for the NCSE's coddling "accommodationism" towards Darwinist Cafeteria Christians who scoff at the bible's creation story while taking the far more illogical gospel literally. Now I have found another NCSE crackpot: Steven Newton, the NCSE's public information project director. He wrote in an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer,
Creationists are unmoved by the wealth of fossil, molecular, and anatomical evidence for evolution.

That may be true of biblical creationists, but some critics of evolution theory have been influenced by those things -- for example, Michael Behe accepts common descent. On the other hand, Darwinists are unmoved by the evidence against Darwinian evolution. It is the Darwinists who cherry-pick their evidence.

As long as scientists must squander their time defending their work from denialism, we will fall behind on our fundamental responsibilities.

Imagine -- scientists are falling behind on their "fundamental responsibilities" because they "must squander their time defending their work from denialism"! What bullshit.

As the great physicist Richard Feynman noted, "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."

I'll be sure to remember that quote the next time I see Texas board of education member and former chairman Don McLeroy being condemned for saying, "someone's got to stand up to experts."



Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yet another legal scholar pans Kitzmiller v. Dover

I wonder why people are still debating the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion. The opinion is practically worthless, because: (1) -- it is just a judicially unreviewed decision of a single judge, who also happens to be a crackpot activist judge; (2) it is binding only on the Dover Area School District; and (3) Judge "Jackass" Jones probably showed a lack of restraint because he knew that an appeal was unlikely becaues of the changeover in the membership of the school board.

David Opderbeck, a law professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, says in an analysis of Kitzmiller,

Without some demarcation of what can be taught as "science" in the public schools, aren't we opening the floodgates to the teaching of all sorts of pseudo-science, such as astrology and young earth creationism? I think this is a valid concern. For this and other reasons, I personally don't agree with the "teach the controversy" approach promoted by many ID advocates. If I were to serve on my local school board, I would not vote in favor of introducing ID materials into the science curriculum, primarily because I don't believe the ID program has generated sufficient results to reach the public schools. Like the courts, the public schools lack the time and resources to address views that fall far outside the scientific mainstream . . . .

. . . .I don't believe Judge Jones should have ventured a broad definition of "science" in the Kitzmiller case, as though such an exercise necessarily ends the discussion of constitutionality. Under the applicable standards for establishment clause cases, the proper inquiry is into purposes and effects: was the government's purpose "secular" and was the primary effect of the government's decision to advance or inhibit religion or to produce an excessive entanglement of government and religion? Whether an idea is labeled "religion" or "science," in itself, is irrelevant to the constitutional question.

There can be good secular reasons for teaching "bad" science in science classes: broadening students' education, encouraging critical thinking, increasing student interest, preventing and correcting misconceptions, and helping to ensure that sophisticated scientific (or pseudoscientific) ideas are taught only by qualified science teachers (many Darwinists complain that scientific -- or peudoscientific -- criticisms of evolution are misleading students, yet some of these same Darwinists want these criticisms to be taught by unqualified people). A Darwinist blogger argued that ID should be taught for the purpose of refuting it. There is no constitutional principle of separation of bad science and state.

Opderbeck says,

. . . I don't believe Judge Jones played the role of "activist judge" in Kitzmiller, even though I am critical of the opinion.
Judge Jones is not an "activist" judge? He is the poster child of activist judges. For example, he said that his Kitzmiller decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not "true" religions [link]. Judge Jones has complained that the critics of his Kitzmiller opinion lack respect for "judicial independence," "precedent," and "the rule of law." [link].

Ironically, Prof. Opderbeck discusses Kitzmiller in terms of Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, even though Judge Jones assumed -- falsely, in my opinion -- that Daubert applies only to jury trials and therefore does not apply to Kitzmiller [link -- BTW, I held Judge Jones solely to blame for ignoring Daubert, but IMO the attorneys -- especially the defense attorneys -- were also to blame for ignoring Daubert].

Wesley "Ding" Elsberry made a feeble attempt to counter Prof. Operbeck's criticisms of Kitzmiller [link] [link] [link]. "Ding" said,

Let me explain what I am taking as connotations for “key” and “central” just so we can make sure that we are on the same page in the discussion. A “key” element of the decision would be one that if not addressed appropriately could result in overturning the decision at an appellate level. There are lots of components of the Kitzmiller decision that can be called “key” in that context. A “central” element, though, would be the one that was the primary finding in the decision. The primary finding, though, was that concerning the “endorsement test”, and it rested on four separate considerations of which the “is ID science?” consideration was just one.[link]

My sense of “key” is any argument that could have caused a higher court to overturn the decision, which means that a great many “key” arguments may exist in a decision. This is quite readily distinguishable from your sense of “central”, of which there can be only one such issue in the decision.[link]

"A 'central' element . . . would be the one that was the primary finding in the decision"? That's ridiculous -- there can be more than one "central" issue, and there can even be more than one "primary" issue. And the words "key" and "central" are close synonyms here -- Elsberry's attempt to distinguish them is silly.

"Ding" Elsberry also says,

In order to argue that the defense failed in its claim to having a secular purpose, Jones had to rely upon existing agreement upon what necessary attributes of science “intelligent design” did not encompass. This neither is an effort to define science himself nor to resolve the demarcation problem in the philosophy of science.[link]

WHAT "existing agreement upon what necessary attributes of science 'intelligent design' did not encompass"? And there is not even an "existing agreement" about what the "necessary attributes of science" are.

And David Opderbeck told Elsberry what I have been saying for a long time [link] -- that Judge Jones was not obligated to rule on the ID-as-science question just because both sides asked him to:

You seem to think that a Judge must passively hear and decide everything the parties throw at him or her, but that simply is not the case . . . . .even when a trial court allows evidence at trial on an issue, the court is not compelled to deal with it at length in a written opinion.

Also, the Panda's Thumb blog has some comments about Opderbeck's and Elsberry's articles.



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Proposed principle of "judicial objectivism": Judges should try to avoid basing judicial opinions on personal opinions



My proposed principle of "judicial objectivism" is that judges should try to avoid basing decisions on their own biased personal opinions and should try to use reasoning that is so airtight that no reasonable person could find fault with it. I call it "judicial objectivism" to distinguish it from the general philosophy of "objectivism" and the "objectivism" of Ayn Rand in particular, though my "judicial objectivism" is related to those other philosophies' idea that there are truths or realities that are independent of individual perceptions. IMO the principle of "judicial independence" is actually harmful when it encourages -- as it did in the case of Judge "Jackass" Jones -- judges to base their decisions on their own biased personal opinions. Judges should have the humility to recognize that their personal opinions, even if valid, might be in disagreement with one or more other valid opinions. This proposed principle of "judicial objectivism" -- like my proposed principles of "non-justiciability" and the "compelling reason" test for non-literal interpretations of the Constitution -- is aimed at eliminating or reducing the courts' arbitrariness, capriciousness, "activism," and "legislating from the bench."
"Opinion," like "theory," is a term that has a technical definition that differs from the everyday, colloquial definition. The technical definition of "opinion" in the law is, according to my Webster's New World Dictionary, Third Collegiate Edition, "the formal statement by a judge, court referee, etc. of the law bearing on a case." One of this dictionary's colloquial definitions is: "(1) a belief not based on absolute certainty or positive knowledge but on what seems true, valid, or probable to one's own mind, judgment." In comparing "opinion" to several synonyms, the dictionary also says, "opinion applies to a conclusion or judgment which, while it remains open to dispute, seems true or probable to one's own mind . . ." My "judicial objectivism" idea is aimed at eliminating or reducing the openness to dispute. As for "theory," maybe the Darwinists should hire process servers to serve process on governments in lawsuits charging that the government officially uses the term "evolution theory" even though the technical meaning of "theory" is different from the colloquial or everyday meaning.

The statement "ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents," in the conclusion section of Judge Jones' Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion, is a good example of a statement that violates this principle of judicial objectivism, because reasonable people can easily find fault with that statement. For example, many reasonable people believe that ID "uncouples" itself from creationism by strictly using only scientific arguments and avoiding religious sources. For example, intelligent design can be defined as the scientific study of the extent to which some living things appear to be designed rather than appearing to be a product of unintelligent causes, or can be defined as a scientific determination of the probability that living things could have arisen solely from natural genetic variation and natural selection.

IMO a good example of a ruling that satisfies "judicial objectivism" is the ruling in Romer v. Evans that particular groups of people cannot be barred from seeking the aid of the government, which Colorado's Proposition 2 did in effect (Proposition 2 prohibited all laws and regulations aimed at protecting homosexuals from discrimination). The majority opinion said,

Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution's guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance. . . . . . A law declaring that in general it shall be more difficult for one group of citizens than for all others to seek aid from the government is itself a denial of equal protection of the laws in the most literal sense.

There was a lot of moaning and groaning that the courts, by striking down a proposition approved by the voters, had overturned the "will of the people," but IMO there is no reasonable argument against the above reasoning. The only counterargument that dissenting justice Antonin Scalia could raise was the feeble argument that this reasoning appears (in his opinion) to be new:

The central thesis of the Court's reasoning is that any group is denied equal protection when, to obtain advantage (or, presumably, to avoid disadvantage), it must have recourse to a more general and hence more difficult level of political decisionmaking than others. The world has never heard of such a principle, which is why the Court's opinion is so long on emotive utterance and so short on relevant legal citation. It is ridiculous to consider this a denial of equal protection, which is why the Court's theory is unheard of.

Well, Antonin, there is a first time for everything, and the next time the principle is raised you certainly won't be able to argue that "[t]he world has never heard of such a principle."

I find other arguments of the majority to be unpersuasive -- for example, the majority said that Proposition 2 shows animus against homosexuals. But a lot of legitimate government laws and regulations arguably show animus -- for example, laws against gay marriage arguably show animus against homosexuals.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Judge Jones' constitutional interpretation fails proposed "compelling reason" test

Judge "Jackass" Jones' "true religion" interpretation of the Constitution's establishment clause fails a new test that I am proposing, which I call the "compelling reason" test. I am defining this test as follows: when a constitutional interpretation cannot be derived explicitly or implicitly from the language of the Constitution, such an interpretation is valid only if it serves a truly compelling purpose. An example of such an interpretation is the prohibition on shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre -- such a prohibition is not explicit or implicit in the freedom of speech clause. I am using the word "interpretation" here very loosely, since the word usually means an explanation or clarification of the meanings of some words but here there are no words to interpret -- I am using the word "interpret" in the second sense given in the AOL's online dictionary: " 2. to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgment, or circumstance : construe." I also propose the following rules: (1) the "compelling reason" test should not be strictly applied to constitutional interpretations that are not used as the basis for a court decision, and (2) the test should apply only to general principles and not to how those principles apply to a specific situation (IMO there should be some allowance for differences of opinion as to how a "compelling reason" principle applies in a specific situation). I propose this "compelling reason" test for the purpose of helping to reduce arbitrariness, capriciousness, subjectivity, and general "activism" and "legislating from the bench" in judicial opinions. Judges are merely told that they should not be "activists" or should not "legislate from the bench," without being given a set of principles or guidelines that they should follow to avoid those things.

As I noted above, an example of a judicial principle that satisfies the "compelling reason" test is the famous prohibition on shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre. This prohibition cannot be expressly derived from the freedom of speech clause of the 1st amendment but is obviously necessary for compelling reasons. Another example of a judicial principle that satisfies the "compelling reason" test is the so-called "dormant commerce clause." The Constitution grants Congress the power to impose burdens on interstate commerce but does not expressly prohibit the states from imposing such burdens without the permission of Congress, so the courts, realizing that allowing states an unrestricted right to burden interstate commerce would result in chaos, invented a "dormant commerce clause" which denies such an unrestricted right. Another judicial principle of the courts allows -- for truly compelling reasons -- exceptions to the dormant commerce clause.

Judge Jones' "true religion" interpretation of the establishment clause fails this proposed test -- the interpretation cannot be derived from the language of the establishment clause, and there was no compelling reason for the interpretation, even if it is supposed that maintaining the separation of church and state is truly compelling. Judge Jones showed extreme prejudice against intelligent design and the Dover defendants by saying 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 [link]:

Ironically, but perhaps fittingly for my purposes today, we see the Founders' ideals quite clearly, among many places, in the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This of course was the clause that I determined the school board had violated in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. While legal scholars will continue to debate the appropriate application of that clause to particular facts in individual cases, 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.

Unfortunately, the original speech is no longer posted on the Dickinson College website.

Ironically, Judge Jones gave the speech while standing behind the Dickinson College seal, which was designed by USA Founders Benjamin Rush and John Dickinson and which contains a picture of an open bible and the college motto, in Latin, which translates, "religion and learning, the bulwark of liberty." Also, Judge Jones has claimed that the work of judges is "workmanlike," but there is nothing workmanlike about his "true religion" interpretation of the establishment clause.

Believe it or not, some trolls -- Kevin Vicklund and others -- claimed that I misinterpreted Judge Jones' above statement. But no statement could be clearer --"church" and "Bible" represent organized religions, and Judge Jones said that "true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible." Under the principles of Social Darwinism, these trolls would be euthanized to protect themselves and others from the possible consequences of their own stupidity, or at least would be sterilized to prevent them from transmitting their mental defectiveness to future generations.

Law professor Robert Tsai, in a post on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, comments about his book Eloquence and Reason:

Because the text of the First Amendment has never changed, those interested in constitutional transformation have always used text instrumentally to secure a hegemony of preferred values, outlooks, and modes of talking about the provision. Whether insiders admit it or not, the task of judging involves sorting through competing claims to determine which cultural and political perspectives ought to be validated and which ones should be resisted. Judges have always played a role in this social process, even if theirs is rarely the last word on a subject. There is no such thing as neutral interpretation; there is only how transparent an interpreter chooses to be about her methodologies and substantive commitments.

"Eloquence and Reason" examines historical episodes in which activists, lawyers, and presidents such as FDR and Ronald Reagan worked to dislodge reigning constitutional ideas and reshape our understandings of free speech and religious freedom . . . .

A second episode has to do with the Anti-Establishment Clause. The “wall of separation” metaphor appeared as part of an official post-war strategy to keep the peace. As originally conceived, Justice Black’s version of the boundary idea conveyed liberalism’s commitment to equal respect, to the protection and empowerment of religious minorities, and to guaranteeing a strong state uncorrupted or divided by religious strife.

Over time, these connotations were consciously reconfigured through litigation, activism, and the electoral process. Through a process of composition, reaction, adaptation, and dissolution, the wall of separation began to acquire negative connotations. Those outside of the courts began to say that the wall signified hostility or discrimination, oppression of religious minorities, and a state weakened by the alienation of its citizens. Eventually judges endorsed this way of describing the wall of separation, shunning it as a trope and divorcing it from their analyses of the controversies that arose.

The title of the book, "Eloquence and Reason," is a misnomer -- what the book criticizes is not reasonable or eloquent (of course, it would be hard to be both unreasonable and eloquent).

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