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, January 18, 2010

9th Circuit upholds UC's rejection of Christian high-school textbooks (ACSI v. Stearns)

The 9th Circuit federal appeals court has upheld the district court decision favoring the University of California in ACSI v. Stearns, a lawsuit which challenged UC's denial of accreditation to some Christian high-school courses which used Christianity-oriented textbooks which were rejected by UC. This blog has a large post-label group of articles about the case. The appeals court's decision is discussed on the Religion Clause blog, the NCSE website, and Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog.

I am not surprised by the appeals court's decision.

The NCSE article says,

Of particular interest in the preparation from the appeal was the California Council of Science and Technology's amicus curiae brief. Coauthored by attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP who were part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case over "intelligent design" creationism, the brief argued, "Students educated with these textbooks will not be adequately prepared for science courses."

However, an ACSI report of a meeting with UC personnel says,

When asked whether poor college performance by students from religious schools prompted the rejection of the textbooks, UC representatives responded negatively. They also acknowledged that UC did not have any objective evidence that students from religious schools are deficient in science when they arrive for their freshman year of college .....

IMO one of the main reasons why the fundy students are not unprepared to study college science is that most science does not conflict with the bible.

The California Council of Science and Technology's amicus brief is here.

The Darwinists, in their exultation over the decision, probably failed to notice that the opinion says at the top, "not for publication." Under the new FRAP (Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure) Rule 32.1, federal courts cannot prohibit or restrict citation of unpublished opinions issued after Jan. 1, 2007 (the 9th Circuit still restricts citation of unpublished opinions issued before that date), but unpublished opinions carry a lot less precedential weight than published opinions. Though the opinion is not going to be published, tremendous amounts of time and effort were spent on this case -- there were many plaintiffs, several expert witnesses, long court hearings, and a tremendous amount of evidence submitted (ACSI claimed that UC submitted 350,000 pages of documents). Here is a list of some of the documents that were filed in the case.

9th Circuit Rule 36-3 says,

Circuit Rule 36-3. Citation of Unpublished Dispositions or Orders

(a) Not Precedent. Unpublished dispositions and orders of this Court are not precedent, except when relevant under the doctrine of law of the case or rules of claim preclusion or issue preclusion.

(b) Citation of Unpublished Dispositions and Orders Issued on or after January 1, 2007. Unpublished dispositions and orders of this court issued on or after January 1, 2007 may be cited to the courts of this circuit in accordance with FRAP 32.1.

(c) Citation of Unpublished Dispositions and Orders Issued before January 1, 2007. Unpublished dispositions and orders of this Court issued before January 1, 2007 may not be cited to the courts of this circuit, except in the following circumstances.

(i) They may be cited to this Court or to or by any other court in this circuit when relevant under the doctrine of law of the case or rules of claim preclusion or issue preclusion.

(ii) They may be cited to this Court or by any other courts in this circuit for factual purposes, such as to show double jeopardy, sanctionable conduct, notice, entitlement to attorneys' fees, or the existence of a related case.

(iii) They may be cited to this Court in a request to publish a disposition or order made pursuant to Circuit Rule 36-4, or in a petition for panel rehearing or rehearing en banc, in order to demonstrate the existence of a conflict among opinions, dispositions, or orders.

FRAP Rule 32.1 says,

FRAP 32.1. Citing Judicial Dispositions

(a) Citation Permitted.

A court may not prohibit or restrict the citation of federal judicial opinions, orders, judgments, or other written dispositions that have been;
(i) designated as “unpublished,” “not for publication,” “non-precedential,” “not precedent,” or the like; and

(ii) issued on or after January 1, 2007.

Publication of the opinion can be requested under the following circuit rule, but the judges have probably already considered and rejected the idea of publication:

Circuit Rule 36-4. Request for Publication

Publication of any unpublished disposition may be requested by letter addressed to the Clerk, stating concisely the reasons for publication. Such a request will not be entertained unless received within 60 days of the issuance of this Court’s disposition. A copy of the request for publication must be served on the parties to the case. The parties will have 14 days from the date of service to notify the Court of any objections they may have to the publication of the disposition. If such a request is granted, the unpublished disposition will be redesignated an opinion. (Rev. 12/1/09)

In contrast, both the appeals court and district court opinions were published in Caldwell v. Caldwell (which also has a post-label group of articles on this blog), as noted in that case's petition for certiorari, even though Caldwell v. Caldwell was a much smaller case.

Here is a summary of my views about the case:

(1) IMO the Bob Jones University biology text (a 2-volume set) went too far when it said in the introduction, "If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them." IMO that statement discourages critical thinking and smacks of brainwashing, and I cannot condone that statement when one of my main reasons for supporting the teaching of scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution is to encourage critical thinking. IMO the statement is just as bad as the new Florida science standards' statement that "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology."

(2) For the following reasons, our courts should not be turned into textbook accreditation agencies: (i) judges often lack the specialized knowledge required to evaluate textbooks; (ii) questions of justiciability are raised; and (iii) textbook evaluation can be very time-consuming, taking time away from other cases.

(3) To me, the best way to avoid "viewpoint discrimination" is to require that specific viewpoints be presented only in supplemental materials and not be presented in main textbooks.

(4) The claim that denial of course accreditation meant that the students had to be in the top 2-4% of high school grads -- instead of the 12½-15% normally required for UC admission -- was false, because the students could have gotten credit for the courses just by getting satisfactory scores in subject or advanced-placement tests.

(5) The education of some Christian-school students is too narrowly focused on Christianity -- they study Christian-this and Christian-that. They are like the ultra-orthodox yeshiva students of Israel -- they are not being broadly educated for living in the real world.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Even atheists and Darwinists have attacked Dover decision

Judge "Jackass" Jones and his supporters want you to believe that all the critics of his Kitzmiller v. Dover decision are holy-rolling, bible-pounding fundy-type creationist crackpots. However, that decision has recently come under heavy criticism from two atheists, Thomas Nagel [link] {link] and Bradley Monton [link]. Previously, the Dover decision was criticized by three Darwinists: Jay Wexler and J. Scott Turner [link], because they felt that Judge Jones should not have ruled on the issue of ID-as-science, and Larry Moran [link], who agreed with the opinion's ID-as-science section but was disturbed that it was merely copied nearly verbatim from the plaintiffs' opening post-trial brief. I certainly don't agree with all the views of these atheists and Darwinists, but I am happy that their criticisms of the decision are a source of great embarrassment to Judge Jones and his supporters.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Casey Luskin wrong about Tiktaalik but article raises some good points

In an article in Evolution News & Views, Casey Luskin said,

. . . this week, Tiktaalik's status as an actual transitional fossil between fish and tetrapods has been called into question by the discovery of unambiguous footprints (with digits) of a full-fledged tetrapod that were made about 20 million years before Tiktaalik.

I disagreed with Luskin's contention that this earlier tetrapod -- 397 million years ago -- calls into question Tiktaalik's status as an actual transitional fossil. I dismissed this as perhaps just a case of "convergent" evolution -- the appearance of similar features in different lines of descent. However, Sleazy PZ's diatribe against Luskin's article prompted me to give Luskin's article a second look to see if it has anything of value. I decided that the important point raised by Luskin's article was the apparent failure of science to predict the discovery of this 397 million year-old fossil despite science's success at predicting discovery of the later Tiktaalik fossil -- I think that deserves some explanation. Finding Tiktaalik was touted as a triumphal demonstration of the predictive power of evolution theory -- scientists predicted where a fossil like Tiktaalik would be found (somewhere in the Arctic) and went there and found it. And what line of descent does this older 397 million year-old fossil fit into? As Luskin's article shows, many questions are being raised -- many of them by presumably Darwinist biologists.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Urban myth that Texas has "outsized influence" over textbooks adopted elsewhere

An article in the Washington Times repeated the urban myth that the Texas state board of education has "outsized influence" over the content of textbooks adopted in other states:

Battles over textbooks are nothing new, especially in Texas, where bitter skirmishes regularly erupt over everything from sex education to phonics and new math. But never before has the board’s right wing wielded so much power over the writing of the state’s standards. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas. The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”

Until recently, Texas’s influence was balanced to some degree by the more-liberal pull of California, the nation’s largest textbook market. But its economy is in such shambles that California has put off buying new books until at least 2014. This means that McLeroy and his ultraconservative crew have unparalleled power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.

This post and this post debunk this idea that Texas has "outsized influence" over textbooks adopted elsewhere. And even in Texas, local school boards are free to choose state-unapproved textbooks if the boards pay for them. And BTW, California does not have statewide textbook adoption at the high-school level.

Why can't reporters be better informed and/or more honest?



Thursday, January 07, 2010

The evolution controversy: Telling it like it is

The introduction of a new book titled "The Altenberg 16: An Exposè of the Evolution Industry," by Suzan Mazur, says,

Evolutionary science is as much about the posturing, salesmanship, stonewalling and bullying that goes on as it is about actual scientific theory. It is a social discourse involving hypotheses of staggering complexity with scientists, recipients of the biggest grants of any intellectuals, assuming the power of politicians while engaged in Animal House pie-throwing and name-calling: "ham-fisted", "looney Marxist hangover", "secular creationist", "philosopher" (a scientist who can’t get grants anymore), "quack", "crackpot". . .