Saturday, June 29, 2013


Sore Losers

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay it had imposed on same sex marriages in California pending the appeal to the Supreme Court. Proposition 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier were the first same-sex couple married in the state in four and a half years.

But the proponents of Proposition 8 have filed an emergency motion in the Supreme Court seeking to block same-sex marriages from proceeding.

As Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog explains:
The application argues that the Supreme Court's ruling in the Proposition 8 case is not yet "final," so the stay must remain in place. The Supreme Court ordinarily does not issue its formally binding ruling – known as the "judgment" – in a case from a federal court of appeals until 25 days after it releases its "opinion." Because the Court issued its opinion in the Proposition 8 case on June 26, it would by default not issue the judgment until Monday, July 22. (The 25th day is July 21, a Sunday.) The principal point of that delay is to permit the losing party to prepare and submit a petition for rehearing to the Justices, though such petitions are as a practical matter never granted.
In other words, at most, this is just a delaying tactic and not even a credible one, as Goldstein shows:
As a formal matter, the Ninth Circuit did not put the Supreme Court's ruling in the Proposition 8 case into effect prematurely. The Supreme Court held that the proponents of Proposition 8 could not file appeals in federal court. That ruling says nothing about imposing or lifting a stay on same-sex marriage. The court of appeals likely has the authority to act with respect to its own previously entered stay, which is a form of controlling its own docket. Although the court of appeals had previously stated that they stay would remain in effect until the Supreme Court's ruling was final, it presumably can change its mind.
Just to show how hopeless this petulant maneuver is, even the proponents' principal Supreme Court counsel did not put its name on the emergency application.

This is just the sort foot-stamping that will cause more and more people to view the religious right as what they are, irrational homophobes.

This Just In: Justice Kennedy, after giving it all the consideration it deserved, has denied the emergency motion without comment.

Friday, June 28, 2013


In a Quiet Place

Heh! You know how wingnuts are claiming that they are being "censored" because they don't get "equal time" in the media to spew their hate?

Nobody, however, is using the power of government to stop them from speaking out and, in fact, their recent failures in regard to same sex marriage are, I think, due to their success in getting their message out ... and the disgust a growing majority of Americans have for their bigotry.

How about a real case of censorship?
Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) took to the House floor on Thursday to discuss the high court's landmark ruling, which found the federal law barring the government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by states to be unconstitutional. However, as WHYY News and report, Sims' remarks were blocked by several state lawmakers using a procedural maneuver.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), told WHYY that he believed Sims' comments would be a violation of "God's law."

"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," Metcalfe said.
As always, wingnut complaints of "censorship" are merely projection. They think that, because their first instinct is to stifle any dissent, everyone else has their warped view.


The U.S.S. Bruising

The Springboro (Ohio) school board is still at it. But now, they are not just flirting with creationism, they are going for the "Christian nation" bullhockey as well:
They also discussed a plan to evaluate instructors from the National Center for Constitutional Studies and from the Institute on the Constitution to teach Constitution classes now required by the state.
Who are they? According to Wikipedia:
The National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) is a conservative, religious-themed constitutionalist organization, founded by Latter-Day Saint political writer Cleon Skousen. ...

According to the NCCS, the founding of the United States was a divine miracle. As such, the NCCS worldview and program are based on three major pillars: (1) understanding the divine guidance that has allowed the United States to thrive; (2) rejecting the tyrannical and sinful nature of the modern U.S. federal government; and (3) preparing for a divine reckoning that will bring down America's government and possibly tear society as we know it asunder, thus allowing those with sound principles to rebuild the republic.
In other words, not only are they peddling the myth that the US was founded as a Christian nation, but they are, quite likely, a Dominionist outfit.

As to the Institute on the Constitution, its cofounder, Michael Anthony Peroutka, was the 2004 candidate for President of the Constitution Party (which absorbed the American Independent Party, originally founded for George Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign). Peroutka recently was a featured speaker at the League of the South National Conference that had as its theme "Southern Independence: Antidote to Tyranny."

The poor kids ... and taxpayers ... of Springboro!

Update: It seems that the "evaluation" of the NCCS involves an all day seminar at the Springboro High School, where registration and the fee for a box lunch are handled by a school district employee.

The IOTC program is more ambitious, with a 12 week series of 90 minute "classes" on "your Godly American heritage."

Each class has a a 30-minute video lecture by [drumroll, please!] David Barton and Lt. Colonel John Eidsmoe. Amusingly, Barton is called "a master teacher with a vast knowledge of founding era literature," an evaluation that is, perhaps, a little belied by his having to correct himself so much (and failing).

While a lesser light than Barton, Eidsmoe is also an interesting character. Not only is he on record as saying that it was Alabama's "constitutional right to secede," and that "Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster," but he was even disinvited from a Tea Party rally because of his statements and affiliations! Perhaps best of all, Michele Bachmann has described Eidsmoe as "one of the professors who had a great influence on me." 'Nuff said!

Fortunately, it appears that some local parents are on to what the board is up to:
Carlene Staton Hamilton said Kohls' roles with the Warren County Tea Party and the Ohio School Board Leadership Council created a conflict of interest in her duties on behalf of the Springboro school district.

"I request you resign your position as school board president immediately to eliminate this conflict of interest and allow this board to operate without the influence of your political aspirations and religious convictions," Hamilton said.
Clearly, Ms. Hamilton is right. Board President Kelly Kohls is transparently using her position and school facilities to advance her far right political agenda, with the assistance of two other members of the five member board. But, of course, those "Godly" people just can't help lying:
Kohls said there is no financial gain for the groups or anyone else from the courses. ...

Facilities use fees would be waived, as they are for parent teacher organizations and booster groups, Kohls said.

The very fact that "use fees" are mentioned indicates that the school district charges outside groups for use of school facilities. Waiving those fees is an obvious financial benefit to any group that wants to use the facilities. The district probably waives fees for local PTA and booster groups, since they directly contribute to the schools. The NCCS and IOTC are clearly not local groups and there is no indication in the flyers that they are even sponsored by local groups. Three members of the school board are blatantly using school resources and taxpayer money to advance their personal political agenda.

It remains a good rule of thumb that, when people start telling you how "Godly" they are, check to see if your wallet is still there.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Baby Steps Forward

... are better than going backwards.

The Supreme Court did pretty much what was expected. Section three of the oxymoronic Defense of Marriage Act, that penalized gay people married under applicable state law, which has always defined what "marriage" is, was struck down, basically on the "Federalist" grounds that the Federal government has no business interfering with state determinations as to what counts as "marriage."

But having held that, Justice Kennedy, who authored this decision (as well as Lawrence v. Texas, decided 10 years ago to the day, that struck down all sodomy laws), went on to use classic "Equal Protection" language, such as:
DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.
This did not escape the (bitter) attention of Justice Scalia:
As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe.

By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers will lead with this Court's declaration that there is "no legitimate purpose" served by such a law, and will claim that the traditional definition has "the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure" the "personhood and dignity" of same-sex couples, see ante, at 25, 26. The majority's limiting assurance will be meaningless in the face of language like that, as the majority well knows. That is why the language is there.
Sneaking up slowly on a controversial (for the moment) issue is a tried and true tactic of SCOTUS.

On Prop 8, the Court punted, ruling the proponents of the initiative, who took over the case once California refused to appeal the Federal District Court ruling, had no standing. That leaves the District Court decision standing. However, that doesn't not mean that there isn't still a legal thicket to be cut through. But, if the bigots fight a desperate rear guard campaign to make it hard for homosexuals to marry on the grounds of the limited jurisdiction of the district court, they will, I think, disgust many of the people who didn't care enough about the issue to originally vote on Prop 8, sufficiently to make it easy to pass a full gay marriage initiative in California in 2014.

Naturally, the Religious Right is taking the whole thing just as well as would be expected. American United's blog, Wall of Separation, has a nice compendium of the early head explosions.

But the best of all was Michele Bachmann bleating that "Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted" and other irrelevancies when it comes to the civil law, and Nancy Pelosi, asked about Bachmann's statement, shrugging and asking: Who cares?"

Hope and schadenfreude are a nice combination.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Which Bathroom Do the Stupid Use?

The Colorado Division of Civil Rights has ruled that a 6-year-old Colorado Springs transgender girl has to be allowed to use the girls' bathroom in her elementary school.

Then comes Mat Staver who is, as Ed Brayton says, the dumbest lawyer in America not named Orly Taitz or Larry Klayman:
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, which focuses on religious and family litigation, said transgender cases are "a mockery of civil rights." He said his group got involved defending a department store employee who was disciplined for ordering a person who was obviously male to leave the women's changing room.

"How do you know if someone is really thinking this way or not," Staver said, adding that Coy is too young to decide on such a different identity. "How do you know if someone just wants to go in the restroom and be a peeping Tom?"
... because we all know that most 6-year-old boys are eager to dress as girls full time just so they can ogle the girls in the bathroom.

Maybe if more young people were encouraged to express their true feelings about their gender, then there wouldn't be much reason to "doubt" whether their gender was mismatched to their bodies, as opposed to them just being "peeping Toms."

But that would be an intelligent and compassionate way to deal with it ... things Staver is completely unfamiliar with.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Biblical Intelligence

Jerry Coyne has the story of the Discoveryless Institute bragging about a "top geneticist" who has endorsed Stephen Meyer's new book Darwin's Doubt.

Of course, the DI fails to mention that the expert, Dr. Norman C. Nevin, is one of those Biblical creationists who believes that Adam was a historic person and the Flood was a historic event, which the DI keeps insisting has nothing to do with ID.

Nevin even edited a book, Should Christians Embrace Evolution, in which he concludes that "No coherent, cohesive theology has yet been offered that would allow Christians to embrace evolution with integrity."

But that's not all.

The DI is also touting the endorsement of Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, Senior Scientist (Biology), Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Emeritus.

Oh, lookie here ... he's a Biblical creationist too, who has participated in a movie, entitled Hat die Bibel doch recht? Der Evolutionstheorie fehlen die Beweise (Is the Bible Right? There is No Evidence for the Theory of Evolution, 1998) promoted by a group of German young-earth creationists.

But remember! ID has nothing to do with Biblical creationism.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013


And So It Begins

The Discovery [sic] Institute's latest apologetic work, Stephen C. Meyer's Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design is out today and the early leader in the review process is the inestimable Nick Matzke at the Panda's Thumb. I particularly like this:
The one refreshing bit of the book is at the end, where Meyer basically admits that, yes, this really is all about bringing an interventionist God back into science, and thereby reconciling and harmonizing science and religion, and solving the problems of meaning in the culture and belonging in the Universe, or something. How exactly this could ever work, even if Meyer's argument's succeeded, is not explained. Meyer completely and explicitly punts on the question of providing any sorts of answers on what exactly is supposed to have happened at the Cambrian or anywhere else in geological history, on the ID view. All we get is ID did something, somewhere, somehow, for some reason, never mind extinction, the millions of years of twiddling around with arthropods, the billions of years of twiddling around with bacteria, the endless examples of apparent evidence for evolution, etc. If Meyer takes his own arguments at all seriously, he is invoking divine intervention not just for the origin of life and the Cambrian, for basically every new gene, ORFan, any adaptation of any significance, and some ill-specified level of morphological difference.
Even if I comment on other reviews of Darwin's Doubt, I'll add links here as a hopefully handy repository.

Here's PZ Myearshertz' preliminary review, "It's summer head-asplodey time!"

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Got That Right!

Rob Boston at Wall of Separation, the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has it exactly right:
Whenever I hear someone – especially a politician – say that the First Amendment protects freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, I just want to start screaming.
This is in reaction to Rick ('I'm too stupid even for Republicans') Perry's signing message of a Texas bill to "allow" public schools to use the term "Christmas."

As Boston continues:
[T]hat statement is inane and shows great ignorance of our founding principles. Religious Right figures started using it a few years ago, apparently believing they had stumbled onto something clever. In fact, they are simply spouting puerile nonsense.
Oh, go read it! I'm so tired of "the stupid party" that it is hard to work up the moral indignation it deserves.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Worst Metaphor Ever?

The ever ridiculous David Klinghoffer may have (with help from Paul Nelson) come up with the worst version of 'The Watchmaker' argument ever. You see, when it comes to matters of science, you should listen not to scientists but, instead, to novelists,* such as Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut and Dean Koontz:
Paul Nelson hit the nail on the head. I didn't transcribe his exact remarks, but Paul explained that a novelist is in the business of creating worlds and so not surprisingly recognizes the work of another designer. Moreover, said Dr. Nelson, when King's publisher cuts a royalty check for his books, the check is made out to the creator, Mr. King, not to "the laws of physics." Or you might add, to "a law such as gravity," as Stephen Hawking might prefer to say.
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."
Let's see how this works:
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I found a paperback book upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the paperback happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had given, that for anything I knew the paperback might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the paperback as well as for the stone; why is it not admissible in that second case as in the first?
Even better is the argumentum ad publisher!

But if publishers are supposed to make the checks out to the actual creators of worlds, why aren't they making them out to "God" instead of God's supposed creation?

Such are the arguments for ID. Confused people making confused arguments to confuse people who are likely equally confused.

* I have no idea if those people are really IDists, and why would I care?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013



The excellent (more than) budding historian of science, Michael D. Barton, has been Casey Luskinized.

Congratulations to him! The Discovery [sic] Institute drones rarely bother to notice people who they consider "lesser lights," concentrating instead on people like Richard Dawkins, PZ Myearshertz and Jerry Coyne.

Michael has more than adequately defended himself.

Casey Luskin has, again, made a fool of himself.

Situation normal.


Grifters & Shills

The typical ploy of creationists is to quote mine. It even includes books that haven't been published yet.

Specifically, in the "debate" between Zack Kopplin and Casey
LumpkinLuskin on Michael Medved's radio show (where Medved repeatedly refers to "God's green Earth"), Luskin (also repeatedly) refers to the blurb for Masatoshi Nei's new book Mutation-Driven Evolution. David
KlingadingalingKlinghoffer also quote mines the blurb:
The purpose of this book is to present a new mechanistic theory of mutation-driven evolution based on recent advances in genomics and evolutionary developmental biology. The theory asserts, perhaps somewhat controversially, that the driving force behind evolution is mutation, with natural selection being of only secondary importance. The word 'mutation' is used to describe any kind of change in DNA such as nucleotide substitution, gene duplication/deletion, chromosomal change, and genome duplication. A brief history of the principal evolutionary theories (Darwinism, mutationism, neo-Darwinism, and neo-mutationism) that preceded the theory of mutation-driven evolution is also presented in the context of the last 150 years of research. However, the core of the book is concerned with recent studies of genomics and the molecular basis of phenotypic evolution, and their relevance to mutation-driven evolution. In contrast to neo-Darwinism, mutation-driven evolution is capable of explaining real examples of evolution such as the evolution of olfactory receptors, sex-determination in animals, and the general scheme of hybrid sterility. In this sense the theory proposed is more realistic than its predecessors, and gives a more logical explanation of various evolutionary events.
Strangely, Larry Moran, one of the DI's most hated opponents, doesn't seem to think that Nei's book opposes evolutionary theory. How can that be?

But the interesting thing is what the DI leaves out of the blurb:
Mutation-Driven Evolution is suitable for graduate level students as well as professional researchers (both empiricists and theoreticians) in the fields of molecular evolution and population genetics. It assumes that the readers are acquainted with basic knowledge of genetics and molecular biology.
Hmmmm ... no mention of grade school or high school science students.

This is typical. The creationists refer to "scientific dissent to "Darwinism" as if it is dissent from evolutionary theory and, what is more, they usually refer to material that is far beyond what is appropriate for ElHi education. High school, much less elementary school, kids are in no position to evaluate Nei's hypotheses. The only reason to raise such hypotheses is to confuse them, which is the aim of the DI ... confuse 'em enough ... ergo God.

Dollars to donuts, Nei's work will be no more than an attempt to refine present evolutionary theory and any publisher's hyperbole is well explained by the late, great, philosopher of science, David Hull:
Some scientists exaggerate their differences with the received view to emphasize how original their contributions are, while others exaggerate the similarities between their views and those of contemporary Darwinians in order to throw the mantle of the great Darwin around their own shoulders. Their opponents then attempt to unmask these exaggerations. ... From the beginning of their careers, scientists are presented with a dilemma. They can make their work look as conventional as possible -- just one more brick in the great edifice of science -- or as novel and controversial as possible -- declaring the foundation of a whole new theory or possibly even a whole new science. On the first strategy, their work is likely to be incorporated effortlessly into the greater body of scientific knowledge. If so, then they will get some credit, but not much. On the second strategy, the work is likely to be greeted with silence. If the author is especially lucky, perhaps an authority can be smoked out to attack these radical new views. However, if on the outside chance that these new views become accepted, the author receives considerable credit. The choice is between a safe strategy with minor payoff versus a very dangerous strategy that promises great rewards.
Scientists are human beings. Creationists are too ... it is just that too often creationists are humans who are also con artists.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Ack! I meant to blog about this back when it happened but forgot. Ed Brayton reminded me. Better yet, he pointed to the blog of Lamar White, Jr., who has the whole story.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Bobby Jindal admitted that the oxymoronic Louisiana Science Education Act is really intended, as understood by the man who signed it into law as Governor, to promote the teaching of creationism.

Look beginning at about 10:00. Here's a transcript from White:
Jindal: "We have what's called the Science Education Act, that says if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board's OK with that, if the State school board's OK with that, they can supplement those materials.

"Bottom line, at the end of the day, we want our kids to be exposed to the best facts. Let's teach them about the Big Bang theory. Let's teach them about evolution. Let's teach them….

"I've got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that some people have these beliefs as well.

"Let's teach them about intelligent design
Teach them about ID? Heaven [cough] forfend! ... according to the Discoveryless Institute!

White has the DI's desperate attempt to spin Jindal's admission under the appropriate title "The Discovery Institute Thinks Americans Are Stupid."

Naturally, Casey Lumpkin is involved, not to mention outright lies.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013



Springboro (Ohio) school board President Kelly Kohls is a shameless flirt!

What she wants to flirt with is disaster for the fiscal health of the school system she is supposed to protect and advance. In short, she wants to institute the teaching of creationism in the public schools she is in charge of.

Now, at least, Kohls (a teabagger tea party activist) has leaned the 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink ... know what I mean?' ploy the Discovery [sic] Institute has been peddling for so long. Kohls is now claiming the so-called "critical thinking" policy the board is considering is something that would encourage "honest" debates about "the strengths and weaknesses of scientific issues."

She hadn't quite gotten the hang of it two years ago (can you say "Buckingham," boys and girls?) when the idea was first brought up:
"My input on creationism has everything with me being a parent and not a member of the Tea Party," she said. "We are motivated people who want to change the course of this country. Eliminating God from our public lives I think is a mistake and is why we have gone in the direction of spending beyond our means."
So much for this being about "critical thinking" or "strengths and weaknesses." As to the failure to teach creationism being why we have a deficit … and not the Bush tax cuts, along with not one but two (count 'em) wars at the same time ... what can anyone say but ... Boggle!!!!

The stupid party is alive and "well" in Ohio.

P.S.: The good news is that students, parents and teachers seem to be pushing back.

See also PZ Megahertz and the Sensuous Curmudgeon.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013



The Springboro (Ohio) School Board continues to flirt with disaster.

Saturday, June 01, 2013


Unreasonable Doubt

Dr. Steven Novella has performed an amazing operation.

He has had an extended dialogue with Don McLeroy concerning the science of evolution while remaining unfailingly polite and calm. (Okay, maybe that's not amazing; maybe Novella is just a better person than I am.)

It began with an interview on May 11, 2013 with McLeroy in a podcast at The Skeptics' Guide To The Universe. Novella wrote four posts on the interview and his impression of McLeroy: Part I; Part II; Part III and Part IV.

McLeroy then responded to the four posts and Novella replied here.

One amusing aspect of that exchange is that McLeroy claims that Novella's four posts presented "only " seven or eight 'evidences' of evolution. McLeroy, who claims "[t]he evidentiary requirements to demonstrate evolution are immense," says he "rests his case" based on the paucity of the evidence presented. Novella correctly points out that McLeroy counts each link Novella supplied as one piece of evidence when, in fact, each contain many pieces of evidence.

I find this a fascinating interplay between the Fundamentalist predilection for "proof texts" and the trope (that I've never had much truck with) that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." McLeroy clearly regards the claims of evolutionary science to be "extraordinary." By what objective metric do we say he is wrong? On the other hand, he denies that the evidence for evolution is "extraordinary" and, again, by what objective metric do we say he is wrong? Personally, I think the evidence is extraordinary that the trope is wrong. As J. B. S. Haldane purportedly said, "my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose." Talking about "extraordinary" claims and evidence is just as foolish for a scientist as a creationist.

[Climbing down off hobbyhorse]

The (purportedly) last exchange between Novella and McLeroy is here. Most telling is this from McLeroy:
We agree that historical sciences like evolution are "tested" by the evidence. My key insight from our discussion is we disagree about the amount of evidence needed to demonstrate evolution. I want to see significantly greater evidence than you do.

I admit that I do not have the time to read all the technical articles and read all the links you have referred to , but I do not admit that I am unable to judge the adequacy of the evidence evolutionists have presented for evolution. I have read the popular literature of highly acclaimed evolutionists; I have thought about how much evidence is required to demonstrate evolution. And, I have found it unconvincing.
In short, 'I don't need no steenkin facts, I've still got fingers to stuff knuckle deep in my ears; eyelids to screw tight shut and I still remember how to hum "Nearer My God to Thee" as loud as I can.'

It has been said before but bears repeating. Evolution has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt. It just has not been proven beyond unreasonable doubt.

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