Monday, March 31, 2008


Ready ... Aim ...

Okay, I can't wait to give you this from the Calvary Chapel decision.

It seems that the Discovery Institute's Own Foot Firing Squad was out in force for the case. In particular, Michael Behe managed to discharge a round into the plaintiff's oxfords.

The issue was the University of California's decision to reject biology courses that used Biology: God's Living Creation (published by A Beka) or Biology for Christian Schools (published by Bob Jones University) as the primary text in the course. Behe was the plaintiff's "biology expert" (oh, the irony!) and the court found:

Plaintiffs' evidence also supports Defendants' conclusion that these biology texts are inappropriate for use as the primary or sole text. Plaintiffs' own biology expert, Professor Michael Behe testified that "it is personally abusive and pedagogically damaging to de facto require students to subscribe to an idea . . . . Requiring a student to, effectively, consent to an idea violates [her] personal integrity. Such a wrenching violation [may cause] a terrible educational outcome." [Emphasis added]

Yet, the two Christian biology texts at issue commit this "wrenching violation." For example, Biology for Christian Schools declares on the very first page that:

(1) "'Whatever the Bible says is so; whatever man says may or may not be so,' is the only [position] a Christian can take . . . ."

(2) "If [scientific] conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them."

(3) "Christians must disregard [scientific hypotheses or theories] that contradict the Bible."

Based in no small part on Behe's testimony, the court found the there was, at least, a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the rejection of the plaintiffs' biology courses was reasonable.

Didn't these people know what happend the last time Mikey got near a courtroom?


On the Way to Calvary

There has been an important decision in the case brought by the Association of Christian Schools International and Calvary Chapel Christian School against the University of California, which claims that UC's rejection of various courses prepared and taught by the plaintiffs for status as "approved courses" for admission requirements is unconstitutional. The decision is 49 pages long and complex, but I'll try to give a "bottom line."

There were two broad claims by the plaintiffs: 1) that the admission policies themselves violate the Free Speech Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the First Amendment and 2) even if the policies as written are not unconstitutional, they are being applied in an unconstitutional manner.

UC sought partial summary judgment, a motion asserting that there is no factual basis for that part of the action alleging the polices as written are unconstitutional, and the plaintiff sought summary judgment on the grounds that there were no question that, both as written and as applied, the policies were unconstitutional. The court granted UC's motion and denied the plaintiffs. In essence, the court found that the policies as written are constitutional and that UC produced credible evidence that it was applying the policies in reasonable and permissible ways. Some highlights (with citations and notations to the record omitted):

Plaintiffs erroneously argue that the UC course review process "render[s] Christian school students ineligible for ninety-eight percent of the seats in the entering class" because of rejected Christian school courses. Even setting aside that students have alternative ways to demonstrate proficiency in the A-G Subjects, eighteen percent of California students are admitted without needing to demonstrate proficiency (not two percent, as Plaintiffs contend). Further, if ninety-eight percent of Christian school students were ineligible, Plaintiffs should be able to identify a significant number of students excluded from UC because of the course review process. Yet, "Plaintiffs do not show, and there is no evidence, that even one [Association of Christian Schools International] student has been denied UC eligibility as a result of any actions challenged" in this case.
The court found that "there is no genuine issue of material fact" that UC was rejecting any courses simply because they included a single religious viewpoint. Essentially Calvary was arguing that even if a course otherwise met UC's academic standards, but added religious content or a religious viewpoint, it was unacceptable. Instead, the court found outright that "Defendants do not have a 'well-established practice' of rejecting courses that contain standard content, but add a single religious viewpoint." Similarly, the court found that "Defendants do not have a 'well-established practice' of rejecting history courses because they 'add a Christian god' or 'one religious perspective.'"

Of particular interest to me, the court found:

Finally, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants have a policy of rejecting biology courses that, in addition to evolution, contain topics such as theistic evolution, intelligent design, creation, or weaknesses of evolution. Again, Defendants deny this allegation, explaining that biology courses may include scientific discussion of the weaknesses of evolution, creationism, or intelligent design. ... For example, biology courses that use Christian texts that discuss perceived weaknesses of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design as supplemental texts can and have been approved. ...

Once more, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to this issue. Defendants do not have a "well-established practice" of rejecting biology courses that add theistic evolution, ' intelligent design, creation, or weaknesses of evolution.
In an important ruling, the court found that the UC policies are not "facially" engaged in "viewpoint discrimination" or "content regulation." Such a finding would have subjected the policies to "strict scrutiny," the most difficult constitutional muster for Government actions to meet:

Heightened scrutiny is inappropriate here. If [UC's] Guidelines and Policies are rationally related to the goal of selecting the most qualified students for admission, they do not violate the First Amendment" guarantee of free speech.
Under the "rationally related" test, the court found that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to UC's "Position Statement on Religion and Ethics Courses," which requires such courses "treat the study of religion or ethics from the standpoint of scholarly inquiry rather than in a manner limited to one denomination or viewpoint" and "should not include among its primary goals the personal religious growth of the student," meeting the test. The court found "The UC Position Statement on Religion and Ethics Courses is reasonable."

Again, of particular interest to me:

Plaintiffs base their claims against the UC Position Statements on Science and History Courses on the false assertion that these Position Statements require a secular curriculum without religious viewpoints. [Quoting from Plaintiff's brief: "In other words, there must be a 'secular history curriculum' without religious viewpoints." and "The [Science] Position Statement also means that only a 'secular science curriculum' (no religious viewpoint added) is approved."] Yet, the Position Statements do not use the word "must"; rather, they use the word "can", indicating that a "secular" curriculum is not mandatory for approval. Indeed, ... Defendants have approved numerous science and history courses that incorporate religious viewpoints.

The rest of the Position Statements reinforce the purpose of the [UC] Guidelines: Admitted students must attain "essential critical thinking and study skills," "the necessary preparation for courses, majors, and programs offered at [UC]," and "a body of knowledge that will providebreadth and perspective to new, more advanced studies."

There is no genuine issue of material fact as to this issue. The UC Position Statements on Science and History Courses are reasonable.
Without beating a dead horse, the court went on to find that all of the UC policies survived constitutional review on their face, leaving the plaintiffs with the difficult task of showing that UC had an actual policy to violate the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights by its application of the guidelines. If it is not quite a rout, the plaintiffs chances of winning have been greatly reduced.

There is more of interest that I will blog on but that should hold you for a while.

Update: Andy Guess at Inside Higher Ed has more background on the case for those unfamiliar with it. Ed Brayton at Dispatches From the Culture Wars has also posted about the decision. And not ot be outdone, Mike Dunford has three posts about the decision up at The Questionable Authority.

There is now a copy of the decision available in pdf format courtesy of the University of California.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


A Candidate for Evolution

Senator Obama in the York Daily Record:

Q: York County was recently in the news for a lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design. What's your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?

A: "I'm a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state.

But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there's a difference between science and faith. That doesn't make faith any less important than science.

It just means they're two different things. And I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry."



Okay, one thing more about Stein and his interview with that bastion of "intellectual freedom," the American Family Association (who the movie producers felt the urgent need to assure "objectionable language had been removed from the film"). Stein shows the real intent of the Intelligent Design creationists when he was asked if ID involves "issues that are best left to the philosophy class or the religion class," and he responded:

I'm saying that maybe all these classes should not be so clearly separated from one another. Maybe all of them belong, to a certain extent, together. When Issac (sic) Newton was doing his study of the laws of physics and motion, he said he was trying to understand how God had ordered the universe and what the work of God had been. He was showing God's handiwork. Maybe when people say they are working on intelligent design, they are just expressing God's handiwork. Maybe when the Darwinists are explaining evolution, they're explaining God's handiwork. I'm a little suspicious of putting everything into neat pigeon holes.
First of all, as Ken Miller, Francisco Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky have shown, a person can be respected, even revered, member of both the scientific and academic communities and still express a belief that science reveals "God's handiwork." Contrary to Stein's and the movie's accusations, that's not what the alleged "victims" were "expelled" for. The ill effects, to the extent there were any, that the ID advocates felt were for attempting, as Stein admits, to illicitly blur the lines between philosophy and religion on one side and science on the other. The reason that Stein is "suspicious of putting everything into neat pigeon holes" is easy enough to see in his recent babblings about science ... he lacks the intellectual rigor to understand science and/or the honesty to differentiate between it and religion.

That sort of confusion of ideas is bad enough in academia, fully warranting derision and an unwillingness to confer lifetime jobs on the perpetrators. But in K-12 education, deliberately blurring the lines between religion and science is an unconstitutional assault on the freedom of religion. I suspect Stein's sanctimonious and saccharin screeds to patriotism hide, at heart, a deep distaste for the American form of government.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


The Barker

There is a message from that pseudo end of the intelligentsia represented by Ben Stein at Donald Wildmon's OneNewsNow, the house organ of the American Family Association:

Darwinism holds that life began by something like lightning striking a puddle and inorganic matter was converted into living matter. And from that, after four-and-a-half-billion years came the foundation of life as we now know it, the organic living cell. Now I had thought that a cell was just a mass of Jell-O. … I was just floored that supposedly from that [process] came the living cell, which has hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of small tiny intricate parts that have to work together to maintain, repair, reproduce and adapt the cell. And the idea that lightning striking a mud puddle creates something as complex as a cell struck me as so far fetched that it deserved to be questioned.
As an explanation of current hypotheses about abiogenesis, to quote Wolfgang Pauli, "That's not right. It's not even wrong."

Believe it or not, there is worse:

Darwinism said, and it was very, very quickly picked up enthusiastically in Germany, that there were certain species that were superior to other species; and even within those species there were certain smaller groups that were superior to other groups; and all were competing for a scarce supply of food and resources and that if you let the inferior race have a big share of the food and other resources, there was less left for the superior race and therefore the superior race would not evolve to be as powerful as quickly as it should. You owe it to the master race to kill the inferior races. This was explicitly a part of Nazi ideology.
Darwin himself said:

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

- The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1st edition, Volume 1, p. 168-69

Quite apart from Darwin's own scruples, there has been considerable work since his time showing how crude versions of selection, such as those perpetrated by eugenecists, were not only morally wrong but contrary to evolutionary theory. Nonetheless, Stein goes on:

[Y]ou know what I wonder – if they're so sure that they're right, why do they have to be so angry and defensive about it? If their position is unassailably correct, if there's no doubt whatsoever that they're right, why do they have to be so angry and attack anyone who even questions [Darwinism]? … We're just asking a question, could it be [that] Darwinism doesn't have all the answers? People are acting as if we are coming in and burning down their universities. They're going crazy. … [Elipses and brackets in original]
Let's see ... Stein accuses Darwin of fomenting Nazism and, by extension, accuses all modern biologists of seeking some sort of vicious "Social Darwinism" and then pretends not to understand the anger?

Either he is the stupidest man on Earth or the sleaziest.



Funniest quote of the week comes from Ben Stein:

We're sick of being pushed around by the intelligentsia, even though I am one of the intelligentsia ...
I suppose some people might think that hosting game shows, writing books like Yes, You Can Supercharge Your Portfolio!: Six Steps for Investing Success in the 21st Century and speechwriting for politicians of dubious character makes someone part of the intelligentsia. But, if so, most people whose intellect I admire would doubtless decline membership in the club.

You can hear him utter the ironic words at skepchick, taken from yet another demonstration of why Julia Sweeney called Stein "spectacularly ill-informed and narcissistic and weirdly devoted to his schtick and worst of all, hacky." More reality-based accounts of the occasion can be found at PZ's place; Evolved and rational; Life without faith; Panda's Thumb; and Dispatches from the Culture Wars.


High Anxiety

The Texas Baptist Standard, billed as "The Newsmagazine of Texas Baptists" has a surprisingly (to me, at least) perceptive and reasonable article about fundamentalism entitled "Fundamentalists of all stripes want to turn back the clock" by Marv Knox. Some highlights:

[F]undamentalists of every faith share at least one common characteristic -- resistance to modernity. ...

"Fundamentalism worldwide is religious anti-modernism," noted Roger Olson, professor of theology at Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary in Waco. ...
It goes on to list other common denominators of fundamentalists. The list includes dogmatic faith; faith serving as a defining identity; fear -- of the different, of change, of ambiguity and of uncertainty; and a will to political power.

"Ironically, the faith that should elicit a higher form of morality easily descends into giving one permission for the ends to justify the means, because one is fighting for God."

The distinction between healthy faith and militant religion is narrow, [Dan] Stiver acknowledged.

"A healthy crusader is focused and aggressive but is not so willing to let the end justify the means, keeps loving the enemy at the forefront -- like Martin Luther King Jr. -- and more quickly can identify with and have compassion even for the opponent." ...

People of faith often gravitate to extreme positions because of what they seek in and for themselves, the scholars stressed.

An external focus on "being against something" provides longed-for identity, Stiver noted. "It's a defensive posture in the sense of often 'circling the wagons.'

"It's usually defined by a pretty tight system of labeling what's right and wrong -- black-and-white thinking. There's good, and there's evil.

"Out of that comes a great deal of energy that motivates one to fight. The sense is you get a lot of fulfillment, identity, purpose and meaning in one's faith from fighting this good fight."

While such behavior manifests itself as theological, "it's more psychological or sociological," Stiver asserted. ...

[F]ear causes some other typical characteristics -- a glorification of the past or of orthodoxy, a certainty about one's own faith or interpretation of one's own faith; an entrenchment mentality, a feeling that 'truth' must be guarded against encroaching heresy and difference, an unwillingness to fellowship with/cooperate with/tolerate those who see faith issues in another way."
Oh, hey! That just described Dr. Michael Egnor and the rest of the Discovery Institute, didn't it?

Friday, March 28, 2008


The Smell of Fear

Hey! Dr. Michael Egnor is back speaking before he thinks ... assuming there's an option about that:

In Expelled ... Dr. Myers explains his goal for science education:

…what we have to do is get it to a place where religion is treated at the level it should be treated— that is, it should be something fun, that people get together and do on the weekends, and really doesn't affect their life as much as it has been so far…

What will the world look like, if Dr. Myers gets his wish? Dr.Myers:

…greater science literacy, which is going to lead to the erosion of religion, and then we'll get this nice positive feedback mechanism going where as religion slowly fades away we'll get more and more science to replace it and that will displace more and more religion which will allow more and more science in and we'll eventually get to the point where religion has taken that appropriate place as a side dish rather than the main course. And if you separate out the ethical message from religion — what have you got left — you got — you got a bunch of fairy tales, right?

In the midst of a furious national debate about intelligent design, Darwinism, and metaphysical bias and indoctrination in science education, one has to wonder why Dr. Myers would state plainly that the agenda of Darwinists is to advance atheism in the classroom. Why would Dr. Myers state unequivocally on film that a fundamental goal of science education is the suppression of religious belief?

The most parsimonious explanation is that he means it.

Now, I seriously doubt that PZ thinks the primary purpose of science education is to indoctrinate students in metaphysics of any sort, including atheism. Certainly, even if he did, the vast majority of scientists and teachers would not agree. PZ, I think, considers it, at most, a happy side consequence of science literacy, that it makes it harder to be religious, a fact admitted by thoughtful theologians, such as John Haught, particularly when it comes to the sillier "biblical literalist" sort of belief.

What's funny is the admission by a medical doctor that teaching science, as it has been conceived since at least the time of Francis Bacon, is so deadly to the sort of faith that he admires that it needs to be protected from the facts of the world.

If Egnor's faith is such a pale and crippled thing, how does he expect to survive in any case?

Update: PZ has replied to Egnor in the manner I expected.


Keep Those Card's Posters Coming!

Does this qualify as a quote mein?



There is not much else to say, except that this is the type of person who may decide what kind of education Florida's children will get:

To ensure I don't wallow in the same undefined morass as the Darwinists, "microevolution" would be the proven part of evolutionary theory that includes things like a bacterium becoming resistant to antibiotics and cows being bred to have more meat. "Macroevolution" is Darwin's original theory that all life stems from a common single-celled ancestor.

Macroevolution is entirely unproven. It hypothesizes that our original "ancestor" went through a series of gradual changes that led to it becoming a new type of organism. It further hypothesizes that through thousands of iterations of this process, you and I are here today. There is no fossil evidence of this happening nor has it ever been replicated in the laboratory.

The sole purpose of the Academic Freedom Act that Storms introduced is to protect teachers and students from persecution if their investigation of evolution leads them to conclusions that differ with the "party line" as it's stated in the standards.

Yet, those who are using the authority of the Florida Department of Education to impose the religion of evolution are railing against Storms and claiming she is using her position to introduce religious teaching into the classroom when that's exactly what they are doing!

- Terry Kemple, president of Community Issues Council, The Tampa Tribune, "What's The Fuss About Evolution?", March 28, 2008
Note the definition of "microevolution" as "evolution that even I can't deny." Despite the massive amount of evidence for common descent and his ignorance of what the fossil records really shows, Mr. Kemple insists that "macroevolution" is "unproven" and a "religion."

This is, of course, a sample of the bilge that Floridians can expect to be called "germane current facts, data, and peer-reviewed research" if this law is passed.

It's pretty hard to "prove" anything to someone with his fingers buried knuckle-deep in his ears, his eyes screwed tight shut and humming "Nearer My God to Thee" as loud as he can.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


And the Stupid Keeps Coming

Just incredible! Here is Florida State Senator Ronda Storms, sponsor of the newly renamed "Evolution Academic Freedom Act":

Storms said the law specifically prohibits discussion of creationism and intelligent design.

She said a teacher might say: "Here's the theory of evolution and here are the flaws and here are the breaks. Here are the people with legitimate questions. Here's what the theories are."
Oh, right! Teaching ID and creationism is banned -- teachers will just be able to tell children that somehow, some way, evolution is wrong and here are the people who say it's wrong and why. But that's not "teaching" it. I wonder what she'd call it if some teacher said that there are flaws in the evidence for the existence of Jesus as a historical figure and here are the people who say that and the evidence they present. And speaking of evidence, this is the sort of dreck Florida children will be officially allowed to be indoctrinated with if the law passes:

David Brackin, an Orange County teacher who came Wednesday's hearing but did not testify, said he would appreciate such a law.

When he began teaching 23 years ago, Brackin said he taught students that there are "missing links" in the fossil evidence that led him to question evolution.

"You don't find any partial-bat partial-rats," he said.
Of course, the many transitional sequences, such those between reptiles and mammals, dinosaurs and birds, terrestrial mammals and whales and our most recent spectacular find, Tiktaalik roseae, a transitional fossil between fish and land-dwelling tetrapods, will be ignored or misrepresented. But if there was any doubt whatsoever that ID will be taught under this law, Mr. Bracken continues:

An assistant principal heard Brackin and told him to stop teaching religion, he said.

"I don't want to say evolution is fact. I don't want to say intelligent design is a fact. I want my kids to question. I want to be able to do that without being dragged into the office," Brackin said.
I can only make sense of all this if Storms and the rest are laboring under the delusion that the word "teach" is synonymous with "assert the truth of." Unfortunately for them and the children of Florida, who will see millions of dollars better spent on educating them thrown down a legal rat hole if this law passes, the courts understand that "teaching" includes "presenting as a valid alternative."

It's all Tiktaalik's fault! If it had just stayed where it was, Florida would have been spared certain brainless mammals entirely!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Illuminating the Inexplicable

A thought:

How do we get out of an impasse in which both sides seem not to realize that, in the end, their viewpoints are founded on impressions of reality and metaphysical convictions that cannot be proven to their opponents? Speaking of a personal creator whose existence is inexplicable is no more and no less obvious and self-explanatory than a multiverse that just happens to exist and, thanks to its inexplicably being infinite, inevitably produces a universe that can support life, in which we happen to be.

- James F. McGrath, Exploring Our Matrix, March 26, 2008


Turning Over Rocks

Uh, oh ... if this story is accurate some science educators need to be educated on the dishonesty of the IDeologists. The Miami Herald has published an article entitled "Evolution criticism bill weakened" that missed the point:

To quell critics who thought that she was trying to sneak religion in the classroom, Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican, decided to define scientific information as "germane current facts, data, and peer-reviewed research specific to the topic of chemical and biological evolution as prescribed in Florida's Science Standards.''
In point of fact, as I explained earlier today, that change does little or nothing to quell the ID game plan or address the criticism rightfully made by the state senate's Professional Staff of the Education Pre-K - 12 Committee. Most of this change is vague to the point of meaninglessness and fails to address just who gets to decide what counts as "facts" and "data." And the part about "peer-reviewed research" will just be a stalking horse for the introduction of ID under a different color.

It's not so surprising that a reporter might not see through this but it would be discouraging if people deeply involved in the creation of the standards fall for it:

Storm's changes pleased scientists like as Paul Cottle, an FSU physics professor, and Gerry Meisels, a chemistry professor at the University of South Florida. Both men helped form the new state science standards, approved last month by the Board of Education, that evolution be explicitly taught clearly and consistently for the first time in Florida public schools.
But never underestimate the power of the press to misunderstand and/or misreport. Maybe Cottle and Meisels were being a tad too subtle for the reporter:

They both noted that the standards already call for critical thinking, so they questioned the motives of the religiously minded groups pushing for the bill.

''The standards are not broken. Please don't try to fix them,'' Meisels said.
Let's hope that was the case. This legislation, despite the cheap aluminum siding slapped on at the last moment, needs to be opposed in the strongest terms by the educational and science communities.


The Bill Is Coming Due

Whatever the quality of Florida's state legislators, The Professional Staff of the Education Pre-K - 12 Committee is certainly on the ball. Here are some of the more relevant parts of the Staff's "Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement" for the oxymoronic "Academic Freedom Act" presently pending in the State Senate.


The bill references “biological and chemical evolution;” however, it does not define the terms. Accordingly, the protections afforded could easily be misinterpreted or non-uniformly applied. This could lead to litigation exposure for teachers and school districts. Teachers would not know if their presentation of objective scientific information fits within the protected instruction. The ambiguity is further compounded by the alternate uses of “biological and chemical evolution” and “biological and chemical origins.”

The bill also references “objective scientific information;” however, it does not define these terms either. Again, the afforded protections would be undermined by a lack of a clear definition of protected conduct. Additionally, the bill is silent on who defines the objectivity of the scientific information presented. The administration and the teacher may have quite different views on the objectiveness of the information presented.

Teacher Discipline and the Standards

The bill is silent on the school district’s or principal’s authority to discipline a teacher for failing to teach the standards. Presumably, if the teacher is protected when delivering the alternate instruction in addition to the standards, the teacher is not protected for failing to teach the standards or teaching the alternate instruction in lieu of the standards. This should be made more explicit.

Free Speech/Expression Rights of Teachers

The First Amendment affords ample freedom of religious expression; however, it does not necessarily include the right for a teacher or a student to have an audience held captive or to require other students or teachers to participate or adhere to specific doctrine. Accordingly, while teachers retain their First Amendment rights, public schools may limit classroom speech to promote educational goals. School committees may regulate a teacher's classroom speech if the regulation is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concern and the school provides the teacher with notice of what conduct was prohibited. A teacher's statements in class during instructional periods are part of the curriculum and regular class activity and thus subject to reasonable speech regulation.
There is more in the report [pdf file] that is worth reading but the above is enough to show that, if this law is enacted, Florida, already in the throes of a budget crisis, would be doing nothing more than throwing away taxpayer money to soothe the narrow apologetics of some of its citizens -- money that would be better spent on the education of all its young people.

There are amendments to the bill, one of which adds a new section:

As used in this section, the term "scientific information" means germane current facts, data, and peer-reviewed research specific to the topic of chemical and biological evolution as prescribed in Florida's Science Standards.
The other amendment that is at all relevant changes a provision that students "may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials" to "shall be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials through normal testing procedures."

The first amendment appears more cosmetic than real, in that it does not do anymore than add the equally vague "germane current facts [and] data" without any guidance as to how to evaluate what counts as "facts" and "data" or who is to decide that. The addition of "peer-reviewed research" will, no doubt, revive much ballyhooing of the Discovery Institute's list of "peer-reviewed" articles and books without any semblance of relevance to the actual lessons being taught or the appropriateness of that material to the level of understanding of the students. In short, it will be waived at the students as some sort of evidence that something, somehow is wrong with evolution, instead of actually being evaluated, an utterly bogus form of "education." The second still doesn't address the question of disciplining teachers for failing to teach the material in the standards fully or what happens if the students don't know the course materials.

If you are a Florida citizen, go to the list of legislators at Florida Citizens for Science and call, write and email yours to express your opinion. Rest assured the anti-science forces will be.

Update 03/26/08: The bill passed its first hurdle in the Senate, being approved by the committee on a 4-1 vote. There are more hurdles to go but any Florida citizen in favor of good science education had better get busy on working on their legislators.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Singing Praises

In the little corner of the blogosphere I haunt it is easy enough to find recitals of the bad things done by religions and their adherents. That's why it is only fair to take note of some of the good things we run across, like this: "Canadian church magazine is first to sponsor Darwin exhibit."

And here is a part of the statement from the magazine's publisher:

The United Church Observer, the independent magazine affiliated with The United Church of Canada [a union of Methodist, Congregationalist and Presbyterian churches], is proud to announce it has become a sponsor of "Darwin: The Evolution Revolution," a travelling exhibition focusing on the life and work of Charles Darwin currently on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

"We were dismayed to learn that the exhibit had been unable to secure corporate sponsorship in Toronto or in any of the other North American cities where it has been mounted," said Editor/Publisher David Wilson. "Our support is modest but symbolic. If a small church-based operation such as The Observer doesn't fear a backlash from those who oppose Darwin's theory of evolution, then secular corporate entities with much greater resources shouldn't fear it either." ...

"There is nothing in the exhibit that threatens or diminishes religion or people of faith in any way," Mr. Wilson said. "If anything, it shines a light on the inherent beauty and wonder of a creation that is constantly and eternally evolving." ...

"Frankly, I'm alarmed by the apparent creationist chill that has greeted the Darwin exhibit wherever it has been mounted," said Mr. Wilson. "This magazine has reported on the evolutionary wars in the U.S., and if there's one thing we've learned, it's that the politics of creationism and intelligent design are more bark than bite — and the bark is only as loud as people's fear of it. The Darwin exhibit deserves support, and we're not afraid to say so."
Well said! Well done!


No, No, Wait ...

Maybe this one ...

We can call it Exposed!


Academia Awards

And the award for the best use of Photo Shop goes to ...

The Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages!


Learning Spin!

Premise Media’s chief top has issued a press release with yet another version of his Good Friday self-crucifixion. PZ Myrrrzz beat me to it and stomped all over Mark Mathis' untruths and kicked dirt on the broken pieces.

There is little for me to do but point you toward the wreckage of another pack of lies.

But, really! Maybe PZ should see someone about that condition of his. Surely someone who is "distraught" shouldn't show it by laughing hysterically ...

Monday, March 24, 2008


Stealing Plays

I was reading Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, which reminded me that the Intelligent Design Creationism didn't just borrow their arguments against evolution from "creation scientists." Shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, ruling Louisiana's law mandating "balanced treatment" in the teaching of creationism and the science of evolution in its public schools unconstitutional, Wendell R. Bird, who argued for the law before the Supreme Court and who was a staff attorney for the Institute for Creation Research deeply involved in the drafting of the Louisiana and Arkansas laws, issued a press release on behalf of the Creation Science Legal Defense Fund, stating:

The majority opinion leaves open at least two alternatives to indoctrination in evolution and censorship of scientific alternatives: (1) the right of teachers to teach "a variety of scientific theories" and to bring Scopes-type lawsuits if punished or prohibited, and (2) the right of schools, school districts, and perhaps legislatures to encourage or require teaching of "all scientific theories . . . about origins."
A law encouraging teaching of all scientific theories about origins"? ... Now, where have I heard that before?

Speaking of Mooney, however, of late he and Matt Nisbet have been criticizing PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins for attacking the movie producers of the faux horror flick, Expelled, and religion in general, on the grounds that vocally atheistic proponents of science are bad for the "framing" of the debate. I have to say I fall on the John Wilkins, John Lynch, Sean Carroll and Brian Switek side of this fence. I personally find that PZ, Dawkins and others of the so-called "New Atheists" can sometimes be needlessly provocative. I thought PZ's post on Easter to the effect that it was intended to "celebrate the day they were hoaxed by a gang of Middle Eastern charlatans" was, to say the least, gratuitous. And any suggestion that science and atheism are one and the same thing is wrong.

But when they are themselves involved in displays of disingenuousness and stupidity by creationists, the notion that PZ and Dawkins should "[l]ay low and let others do the talking" is ludicrous. Frankly, anyone who, like the ID crowd, would attempt to lay the Holocaust at the feet of Darwin or science in general deserves just about any verbal treatment they get in my book.

If nothing else, it would be bad "framing" for them to remain quiet. The creationists were quite quick to publicize Dawkins' presence at the event and silence on PZ's and Dawkins' part would have been trumpeted by the IDeologists as a sign of their "guilty consciences" for having "gate crashed" the screening. And if people do go to see the movie because they have heard about the kerfuffle, so what? Most Americans, knowing nothing about the dispute, are in favor, as Americans are wont to be, of allowing "both sides" to be taught. Maybe, primed with what PZ and Dawkins have said about it, they will come away with an appreciation of just how shallow and, when it comes right down to it, dishonest ID and its proponents are.

In the end, I would rather be tied in the public's mind to people who straightforwardly, if abrasively, state their beliefs than with the sneaks making up the "cdesign proponentsists."

Sunday, March 23, 2008



As PZ Myers informs us, Richard Dawkins has written a review of Expelled. This part is fascinating:

Stein asked [philosopher Michael] Ruse how life originated. Ruse's immediate impulse (as mine would have been) was to launch into an honest effort to explain a difficult scientific idea. He began by saying that he doesn't know how life originated, and nor does anybody else. At this point in his interview, Ruse probably had no notion that his interlocuter had a completely different agenda to promote, with no hint of sincerity to balance his own. Ruse patiently explained that the origin of life (nothing to do with the Darwinian theory itself but the necessary precursor of Darwinian evolution) is an interesting and unsolved mystery, one that scientists are actively working on. By way of example, Ruse could have chosen any of a number of current theories. He chose just one (it would have taken too long to explain them all) purely as an illustration of the kind of properties such a theory must have. He happened to choose the theory proposed by the Scottish chemist Graham Cairns-Smith, that organic life was preceded by a strange and intriguing world of replicating patterns on the surfaces of crystals in inorganic clays. At no time did Ruse say he believed the Cairns-Smith theory, only that it was the KIND of theory that scientists are actively examining, as a CANDIDATE for the origin of evolution. Stein just loved it. Mud! MUD! The sarcasm in his grating, nasal voice was palpable. Maybe this was when Ruse realised that he had been had. Certainly it was at this point that he started to show signs of exasperation, although he may still have thought that Stein was merely stupid, rather than pursuing a malevolent and clandestine agenda. Stein kept returning, throughout the film, to the phrase "on the backs of crystals", and the sycophantic audience in the Minneapolis cinema dutifully tittered every time.
But ... but ...

Genesis 2: 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

.........2: 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
... watered dust is ...

Is there some correlation between fundamentalism and irony impairment? No matter how you slice it, I'm with Thomas Huxley:

[I]t is as respectable to be modified monkey as modified dirt.


Falling in the Wells

Jonathan Wells has responded to Larry Moran's challenge and, predictably, flunked.

As you may remember, this involved a round robin contest between Wells, Larry, PZ Myers and Dr. Michael Egnor. Wells had claimed, as Dr. Egnor put it, "that research on antibiotic resistance wasn't guided by Darwinian evolutionary theory."

As I noted, Egnor was using his own definition of "Darwinism," as creationists are wont to do. Wells trots out yet another, calling it: "Darwin's claim of universal common ancestry and his exclusion of design." Then, disingenuously, he accuses Larry and the rest of the scientific community of equivocation when, in fact, it is the creationists who have been doing the mangling of the language of science from the very beginning.

First of all, Wells misrepresents what scientists mean by the terms "microevolution" and "macroevolution." To see how, visit this explanation by John Wilkins. In at least one sense of the discussion, scientists are talking about whether the processes, such as selection, genetic drift, etc., that work at the level of populations also work at the level of species or even higher taxa and/or whether there are other forces operating at those higher levels. What the terms most definitely don't mean, as Wells seeks to say, is the difference between "minor" changes within species and the origin of new organs or body plans or species. Worse, Wells misrepresents Theodosius Dobzhansky in furtherance of his sleight of hand:

Theodosius Dobzhansky noted that there was still no hard evidence to connect small-scale changes within existing species (which he called "microevolution") to the origin of new species, organs and body plans (which he called "macroevolution"). Dobzhansky wrote: "We are compelled at the present level of knowledge reluctantly to put a sign of equality between the mechanisms of macro- and microevolution, and proceeding on this assumption, to push our investigations as far ahead as this working hypothesis will permit."
Contrary to Wells' statement that Dobzhansky was making an "extrapolation from microevolution to macroevolution," Dobzhansky clearly stated he was referring to the question of what mechanisms are at work at different levels. Furthermore, the real scientific disputes over microevolution versus macroevolution have nothing to do with the evidence for common descent, which is myriad and beyond anything except unreasonable doubt.

What really interests me, though, is Wells' claim that the exclusion of design -- and let's not equivocate, Wells means divine design -- amounts to "materialistic philosophy masquerading as empirical science." First of all, the naturalism of science is not philosophical in nature, it is methodological. In it's most basic terms, science eschews supernatural explanations for the simple reason that, as the IDers own refusal to even attempt any explanation of how the "Designer" achieves his aims amply demonstrates, such "explanations" are beyond science's method to evaluate. But what I want to note is that methodological naturalism did not start with Darwin. It is a far older constituent of the scientific method:

[I]t was typically believed that God could have initiated special conditions and processes at the instant of creation which operating entirely on their own could produce organisms and other intended (and designed) results with no subsequent agent intervention required. Paley himself, the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises and others (including even Augustine, earlier) were explicitly clear that whether or not something was designed was an issue largely separable from the means of production in question. Historically it was insisted that design in nature did track back eventually to intelligent agency somewhere and that any design we find in nature would not -- and could not -- have been there had there ultimately been no mind involved. But commentators at least from the early 17th century on (e.g., Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle) very clearly distinguished the creative initiating of nature itself from interventions within the path of nature once initiated. For instance, over two centuries before Darwin, Bacon wrote:

God … doth accomplish and fulfill his divine will [by ways] not immediate and direct, but by compass; not violating Nature, which is his own law upon the creation.
The warrant of science was, almost from the moment that it came into being as an organized activity, to discover the laws governing nature, not to defer explanations to a God that violated those laws. It is not "Darwinism" that people like Wells want to overthrow. It is, as they'll admit in their candid moments, science itself they want to destroy -- to be replaced with their own narrow apologetics.


Explaining Belief

A thought:

Science taught me now to look for natural explanations for natural phenomena, and to eschew supernatural explanations. The study of comparative world religions and mythologies from around the world showed me that other people believed just as passionately as I did that they were right and everyone else was wrong about religious beliefs that are mutually exclusive, which means that they can't all be right and that perhaps I (e.g., Christianity) was wrong. I also did not like the arrogance of certainty that I saw in myself as a Christian as well as in my fellow Christians, and how intolerant of other peoples' beliefs we are. Finally, thinking like a scientist made me wonder how to deal with specific Christian claims, such as the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, etc., which in conjunction with my study of other religious beliefs and mythological stories, seemed so obviously the product of human story tellers. The fact that all the central tenets of the Judeo-Christian belief system have antecedents in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome (floods, Virgin Births, Resurrections, etc.) was an obvious indication that we created God and not vice versa.

- Michael Shermer, interview in Journal Chrétien, March 23, 2008


Thou Shalt ...

This is something I've posed before but it is so appropriate for this Blog Against Theocracy weekend that it's worth posting again. It is the 10 Commandments of the Establishment Clause taken, with only slight modification, from Justice Hugo Black's decision in Everson v. Board of Education, the case that has been convincingly said to be the event that kicked off the Culture Wars. Justice Black's eloquent explanation of what the Establishment Clause means is an excellent line to draw against theocrats. So here, fully suitable for placement in government offices and courts, are the:

10 Commandments of the Separation of Church and State:

1. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church.

2. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.

3. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will.

4. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can force a person to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.

5. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs.

6. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious disbeliefs.

7. No person can be punished for church attendance or non-attendance.

8. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.

9. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups.

10. No religious organizations or groups can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of a state or the Federal Government..

Now go and visit First Freedom First.


Saturday, March 22, 2008



A thought:

There is a sense of insecurity abroad in the world paralleling if not exceeding that which drove the first wave of American fundamentalism in the early twentieth century. People feel their whole world is crumbling around them, despite or even because of the rapid pace of technological progress. In these circumstances people need the kind of reassurance that can be given only by total commitment to a belief system which promises salvation and clearly identifies the supernatural source of that salvation. This level of commitment requires adherence to a worldview defined by a single text, and the chosen text then acquires a degree of authority that prompts a literalist reading even where such a reading defies the body of expert opinion. In an age facing overwhelming political and environmental challenges, many are seeking this level of reassurance. But as opponents such as Dawkins and Dennett are keen to point out, this kind of religious belief can all too easily lead to dogmatism, intransigence, and intolerance. If what I believe is absolutely true, then rival beliefs offered by others must be false and their influence should be curtailed.

- Peter J. Bowler, Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons, 2007


Friday, March 21, 2008


Gray Lady Down

PZ Myearshertz has made the New York Times. But the paper has a funny spelling of his name ...

Even funnier is the utterly lame excuses of the producers of the of the utterly lame Expelled for the utterly lame denial of admission of PZ to the screening:

Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that "of course" he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because "he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film."
Oh, riiight! Dawkins would fly all the way from England to see this excrement? His showing up had nothing to do with Dawkins' heavily publicized lecture tour of the United States or the 34th Annual National Conference of American Atheists right there in Minneapolis?

That Mathis might even for a moment entertain such a "thought" is all of a piece with Mathis' ego, though:

Mr. Mathis said in an interview that he had confronted Dr. Dawkins in the question and answer period after the screening and that Dr. Dawkins withered. "These people who own the academic establishment and who have great friends in the media — they are not accustomed to having a level, open playing field," Mr. Mathis said. "I watched a man who has been a large figure, an imposing figure, I watched this man shrink in front of my eyes."

That is not how Dr. Dawkins recalls it. He said Mr. Mathis said "enemies" were attempting to interfere with the film.

"It is impossible to imagine what Mathis is afraid of," Dr. Dawkins said. "It is impossible to credit such bungling and inept public relations."
After expending so much effort in packing the audience with ideological soul mates, to call it "a level, open playing field" is, I suppose, no more delusional than mistaking their applause and laughter for something other than an empty echo.


Render Unto Caesar ...

Who better to hear from this Blog Against Theocracy weekend than James Madison? Thomas Jefferson had drafted The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779, though it was not enacted then. In 1785, Patrick Henry lead an effort in the General Assembly of Virginia to pass a bill that would have assessed all the citizens of Virginia to support religious teachers from a limited number of Christian sects. Madison wrote his influential "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" in opposition to Henry's bill. A few months later the General Assembly passed Jefferson's religious freedom bill. Madison's words can still stir:

If "all men are by nature equally free and independent," all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an "equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience." Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. ...

Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord by proscribing all difference in religious opinions. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and complete liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State.




There is nothing else to say except ...

Congratulations, PZ!

It seems that PZ Myers has overtaken all others in the Antichrist poll among the Righteous Right!

PZ attempted to attend a screening of the fantasy flick, Expelled, but was Excluded, Expunged, Excised, Excommunicated, Excused, Exorcised, and Expletive Deleted instead. As PZ tells it:

I was standing in line, hadn't even gotten to the point where I had to sign in and show ID, and a policeman pulled me out of line and told me I could not go in. I asked why, of course, and he said that a producer of the film had specifically instructed him that I was not to be allowed to attend. The officer also told me that if I tried to go in, I would be arrested. I assured him that I wasn't going to cause any trouble.

I went back to my family and talked with them for a while, and then the officer came back with a theater manager, and I was told that not only wasn't I allowed in, but I had to leave the premises immediately. Like right that instant.
But the hilarious part was:

They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn't notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn't recognize him. My guest was …

Richard Dawkins.
Earlier today, James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix said:

The ID and YEC proponents have engaged in trickery and deceit, sleight of hand and misrepresentation of the facts. These things are utterly shameful behavior, even in the service of a viewpoint that happens to be correct. ...

Could intelligent design's vocal advocates potentially persuade a majority of people in this country or even the world? It is certainly possible. But I ask those Christians who have listened only to that side and have accepted it because they want it to be true: Are you really committed to "winning" at any cost? If honesty and "fair play" are sacrificed, can it really be called a victory?
Who knew James was a prophet?

Via Brian Switek at Laelaps.

Well, you've got to give the produces of Excretion credit. They've given much merriment to all and sundry!

And here's more from PZ on the buffoonery of the IDeologists.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


First Freedom Road Show

First Freedom First, a joint project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and The Interfaith Alliance Foundation, will be airing a simulcast, entitled "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Separation of Church and State … but Were Afraid to Ask!," in 25 theaters across the country. The free event will take place on March 26 at 6:00pm eastern, 5:00pm central, 7:00pm mountain, and 6:00pm pacific.

Peter Coyote, a celebrated Hollywood actor and filmmaker, will emcee the program, which is to include a performance by special guests, The Bacon Brothers. Actor Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael formed the band more than 10 years ago and continue touring nationwide.

Other actors and celebrities scheduled to participate include Michael J. Fox ("Family Ties" and "Spin City"), Jack Klugman ("The Odd Couple" and "Quincy, M.E."), James Whitmore ("The Shawshank Redemption"), Wendie Malick ("Just Shoot Me!"), Dan Lauria ("The Wonder Years"), Catherine Dent ("The Shield"), stand-up comedian and Air America host Marc Maron, singer/songwriter Catie Curtis and singer/satirist Roy Zimmerman.

In addition, Americans who have fought for individual freedom will tell their stories. Invited guests include Bryan and Christy Rehm (who fought creationism in Dover, Pa. science classes), Matthew LaClair (a New Jersey high schooler who exposed religious indoctrination at his school), Roberta Stewart (an Afghanistan War widow who fought for equal rights for Wiccan veterans), Dr. Susan Wicklund (who wears a bullet-proof vest to provide reproductive services in underserved areas) the Rev. Madison Shockley (pastor and reproductive rights advocate) David and Ryan Altoon (who oppose fundamentalist proselytism at U.S. military academies) Melinda "Lindy" Maddox (who successfully sued Alabama "Commandments" Judge Roy Moore) and Susan Jacoby (author of The Age of American Unreason).

A good, and educational, time will be had by all.


Political Protection

Michael Mayo of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel neatly skewers the pretensions of the backers of the "academic freedom" bill. Mayo notes the claim of Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who filed the House version of the bill, that:

This protects the freedom of speech for teachers in the classroom. I want teachers to be able to show those holes in Darwin's theory of evolution without fear of chastisement.
Hays also does a "Luskin" (the technical term for self-contradictory dissembling). First he says that "[t]he bill does not allow or authorize the teaching of creationism or intelligent design" but then says that it would permit discussions about "competing theories." What other allegedly "competing theories" are there, particularly if, as the bill purports to do, the field is restricted to "scientific" views?

But Mayo is too busy making shish kabob to stop for that:

[I]f Hays and other legislators want to go there in the name of "academic freedom," then they should be consistent.

If it's OK for science teachers to discuss the holes in Darwin's theory of evolution, it should be OK for health teachers to discuss shortcomings with the "abstinence only" dogma that has been deemed the only acceptable talking point when it comes to preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

If it's OK for science teachers to talk about controversial alternatives to Darwin, it should be OK for health teachers to talk about birth control and abortion.
Suddenly, "academic freedom" isn't so important to Hays:

That's more of a parental responsibility than a school responsibility.
Of course, the same could be said of religious objections to science. Hays adds:

At this point we don't need to introduce any more controversy. It's already controversial enough.
Yeah, Rep. Hays ... we already knew this bill is, as Mayo rightly puts it, "a thinly veiled attempt to inject religion" into public school science classes by political means, not about "academic freedom."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Observing Texas

The Dallas Observer has a mostly good article, "Battle Against Teaching Evolution in Texas Begins," on the coming school board wars over the revision of the state's science standards. Although there a couple of jarringly wrong items in the article, it is mostly a sober consideration of the history of how the state board wound up where it is and the issues at stake. It will be helpful in keeping the players straight.

Maybe the take home lesson in the piece was this from Chris Comer, the former director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency, who was forced to resign over an email she sent informing other educational professionals of an upcoming lecture by Barbara Forrest. Comer said:

I really think this whole thing about not understanding climate change and global warming and the attack on science in general that we've seen from this administration is another clear example of how radical groups that have little or no understanding of the nature of science are dictating to scientists what they can and cannot research, what they can and cannot say about subjects that are vital to our health and future.
It is recommended reading.


Why, How Nice of You!

Florida Today published a thoroughly sensible editorial decrying the state legislature's intent to waste time on the "academic freedom" bill (and other nonsense) when it faces the need to make as much as $3.7 billion in cuts in the state's $70 billion budget for the coming year. Jason Steele, a self-described "Conservative Republican with Traditional Values" running for the legislature, felt so strongly about the editorial that he issued a press release:

In the same editorial a number of issues that the editorial board has deemed "frivolous bills" such as insuring creationism is included in classrooms and a person's right to bear arms was also labeled as "wasting time".

"As a 'social conservative' it is my opinion that allowing for diverging ideas is the stuff this country was founded on. Creationism is a part of many individuals' beliefs and the editorial staff should not fear this inclusion in the classroom. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that does not only belong to the media but to the people as a whole," said Mr. Steele.
As Wes Elsberry said at The Austringer, it was most helpful for Mr. Steele to contribute to the documentation of how widely understood it is in Florida that the academic freedom bill's intent is to inject creationism into the public schools for religious rather than secular purposes. It will be of great assistance if this bill becomes law and the ACLU needs to bring suit.


He Went and Did It Again!

You may remember that Casey Luskin, Gofer General of the Discovery Institute, let it out of the bag that the "academic freedom" bill it has been pushing, most recently in Florida, is intended to permit the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism by individual public school teachers.

John West then rode to the "rescue," claiming Luskin was "misrepresented" and claiming that only "[i]f and when ID supporters are able to win the debate over whether ID science" will the pending legislation permit ID to be taught. Of course, West bizarrely claims it should be K-12 teachers, most of whom have no real science or philosophy of science training, who should decide "if and when" ID becomes science.

Now Luskin is back at the DI's Media Complaints Division making sure that nobody, including West, misrepresents him ... he can make a fool of himself on his own, thank you very much! According to Luskin, an editorial in Science unfairly equates ID with young-Earth creationism. But he goes on:

Darwinists are promoting a false dichotomy. If you want to have a scientific view about origins, they tell you that your only choice is neo-Darwinism. Otherwise, they tell you that you must believe in religion-based creationism. This is harmful because it tells people that if they want to be both religious and scientific, their only choice is to accept neo-Darwinian evolution. That’s a false dichotomy because it tells people that if they dissent from Darwinism, their only option is a religious view—it willfully ignores scientific skepticism of evolution or science-based ID. While religious persons can of course accept neo-Darwinism if they so choose, this false dichotomy ignores the fact that there are some alternatives to evolution that are scientific (i.e., intelligent design). [Emphasis added]
This time there is no equivocation about ID being science in Luskin's "personal opinion;" only a straightforward claim that ID is a scientific alternative to evolution and, therefore, clearly falls within the legislation's protection of supposedly "scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins."

We've known for a long time that the rank-and-file IDers have trouble with the whole "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" business but, apparently, so does Luskin.

Luskin also raises once again the claim that Judge Jones found that it is “utterly false” to believe that “evolutionary theory is antithetical to belief in the existence of a supreme being.” In fact, the Judge merely held, correctly, that the "presupposition . . . that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general" is not true. He was simply stating the well-known fact that many believers have reconciled evolution and their faith in a divine creator. Luskin's "example" of his alleged antithesis is paleontologist Stephen Godfrey, who, after a "painful transition from creationist to evolutionist" and the turmoil it caused in his YEC-believing family, said that:

He has flirted with atheism but found it too depressing. Several years ago, he stopped attending church for a year before returning. He believes in God today, he says, but tomorrow may be different. [Emphasi added]
Here, Casey, let me help:


ADJECTIVE: 1. Of, relating to, or marked by antithesis. 2. Being in diametrical opposition. See synonyms at opposite.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
The very fact that Godfrey, despite any difficulties he may have faced, is still able now to believe in God demonstrates neatly that evolution and belief are not "antithetical."

It may not be easy, but who said that anything worthwhile comes easy?


Split Personality

The Florida Baptist Witness displays two faces to the world:

Concerning the "academic freedom" bill, notably sponsored by legislators who are identified as members of Baptist churches:

Retired Polk County science teacher Robin Brown who taught science for 31 years, including 15 years of teaching Darwinian evolution, said without the academic freedom bill she is "very concerned about the chilling effect that Florida's new science standards might have upon teacher academic freedom."

Brown, a member of First Baptist Church of the Mall in Lakeland, added, "I believe in light of the new standards many teachers are presently unclear about the boundaries of how they can teach evolution."

She rejected critics' claims that the academic freedom bill will result in teaching Intelligent Design or creationism.

"I'm not talking about teaching religion in the science classroom. I would never support that and, in fact, this bill does not support that," Brown said.
On the other hand, concerning the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention's confession of faith:

[T]he Baptist Faith and Message affirms that God created humans. The issue of evolution precipitated the origin of the first edition of the Baptist Faith and Message in 1925. In the context of cultural wars over Darwinism fought in every major American Protestant denomination and the famous Tennessee "Scopes Monkey trial," Baptists denied humans descended from primates with the affirmation that "Man is the special creation of God." God made humans a little lower than Elohim (Ps.8:5), rather than a little higher than other animals. In fact, the Bible presents humans as the crown or apex of God's creation.
Brown already revealed the level of the so-called "information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins" that will be foisted off on some Florida children as "scientific," if this bill becomes law. It is nothing but quote mining, misinformation and misdirection, borrowed wholesale by the "cdesign proponentsists" from "creation science" with nothing but a coat of cheap paint slapped on.

Anyone with the least lick of sense can see through this ploy as nothing more than an attempt to permit the use of taxpayer money and the power of government endorsement to support a narrow sectarian religious denial of the science of evolution. So, unless these people don't have a lick of sense, they are knowingly dissembling to the public and the very students they have a duty to educate.

But at the drop of a hat they'll tell you that, without religion, there can be no morality ... while striving mightily to demonstrate the exact opposite.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Farewell, Carbon-Based Biped!

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008


Was That Limburger, Sir?

A [cough] thought:

Darwinism, of course, does not permit for the existence of a supreme being, a higher power, or a God. [Ben Stein's] interviews with some of the professors who espouse Darwinism are literally shocking. The condescension and the arrogance these people have, they will readily admit that Darwinism and evolution do not explain how life began. One of these professors said it might have been that a hyper-intelligence from another planet came here and started our race. This from some professor either in the UK, I forget where it was, but can't be God. These people are so threatened by the existence of God, they will not permit intelligent design to be discussed. Professors have been fired, blackballed, and prevented from working who have deigned to try to combine the whole concept of evolution with intelligent design.

Ben Stein's new movie is going to open to a thousand screens pretty soon, it's not out there yet. It's called Expelled. But the point of it is that these people on the left are just scared to death of God. It threatens everything. We, on the other hand, recognize that our greatness, who we are, our potential, our ambition, our desire, comes from God, and as part of our Creation, this natural yearning to be free and to practice liberty. That is how we think this country came to be great. It is how we think this country will continue to be great and to grow.

- Rush Limbaugh, radio personality, March 18, 2008

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