Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Review of Kent Greenawalt

Here is a review of Kent Greenawalt's book, Does God Belong in Public Schools?
If anything, this exploration of the often arcane jurisprudence surrounding the Establishment Clause will be more important, not less, following Judge Jones' decision in the Dover Intelligent Design case.

Modesty forbids my telling you how good the review is.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Flapping In the Wind

The Discovery Institute is having the devil's own time keeping the big tent staked down, especially since Judge Jones’ decision blew through like Katrina.

As noted before, Rush Limbaugh agrees that ID was a pretense to get creationism into public schools. While the DI is trying to put that down, Cal Thomas has come out and called ID a "sham attempt to take through the back door what proponents have no chance of getting through the front door." [12/27/05 - Add as another critic from the right James Q. Wilson, the chairman of American Enterprise Institute’s Council of Academic Advisers, who has now said that Judge Jones "rightly criticized the wholly unscientific nature" of Intelligent Design .]
The American Family Association of Pennsylvania is excoriating Rick Santorum for toeing the DI line by (a little belatedly) opposing the mandatory teaching of ID and blaming the Thomas More Legal Center for the debacle in Dover.

And while Hugh Ross, the founder of Reasons To Believe, has never been a supporter of ID, he is attacking the whole concept of ID, and, by implication, the Discovery Institute, from within the Evangelical community. Reasons to Believe has issued a press release that says:

"Leading proponents of 'intelligent design' claim that judges and justices are motivated by an anti-Christian bias and a misguided application of the United States Constitution," says Dr. Hugh Ross, astronomer, founder and president of the science/faith organization, Reasons To Believe. "In the context of scientific credibility, these court judgments against 'intelligent design' cannot be construed as the audacious judicial moves many people make them out to be."
"As currently formulated, 'intelligent design' is not science," says internationally respected biochemist, Dr. Fazale 'Fuz' Rana. "It is not testable and does not make predictions about future scientific discoveries." Dr. Rana is the Vice President for Science Apologetics at Reasons To Believe and a leading expert in origin of life research.
Ross and Rana then go on to hump their own supposedly scientific "creation model" that one can only suspect will be the "next big thing" in the creationist camp if Reasons to Believe gets its way.

Meantime, Kansas Board of Education Chairman, Steve Abrams, who presided over one of the DI’s few recent success stories, the change in that state's science curriculum standards, came down with a case of Buckingham foot in mouth disease and got himself quoted as saying:

Eventually people will have to choose between the Bible's explanation for life on Earth or evolution, which is just dogma.
All-in-all, it has been a lousy year for the Discovery Institute.

Separation From Sense

The Family Policy Network has been publicizing a claim that the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has overturned the constitutional principle of Separation of Church and State. In the article "Federal Court Rejects ‘Separation of Church and State’", the FPN claims:

In an astounding return to judicial interpretation of the actual text of the United States Constitution, a unanimous panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has issued an historic decision declaring that "the First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state." In upholding a Kentucky county’s right to display the Ten Commandments, the panel called the American Civil Liberties Union’s repeated claims to the contrary "extra-constitutional" and "tiresome."

The defense attorney in the case and conservative leaders in two states affected by the decision are hailing it as historic. American Family Association of Michigan president Gary Glenn said, "Patriotic Americans should observe a day of prayer and thanksgiving for this stunning and historic reversal of half a century of misinformation and judicial distortion of the document that protects our religious freedoms."
The article goes on:

One conservative leader is already calling for his state’s legislature to use the ruling as the basis for a new state law. Family Policy Network of Tennessee director Ron Shank said, "The 6th Circuit’s decision isn’t just an opinion, it’s federal law in Tennessee. Now that the 6th Circuit has declared the ‘wall’ doesn’t exist, we plan to call for legislation placing the Ten Commandments in courthouses throughout the state."

So, what is going on? Has the theocracy arrived?

In fact, the article is nothing more than a blatant quote mine engineered by religious conservatives to fool their more gullible followers, who will, no doubt, have more than a little trouble getting the hook out of their mouths. It is of the caliber of the claim that the Supreme Court has ruled that secular humanism is a religion.

Here is the quoted bit from the Court of Appeals decision in ACLU of Kentucky v. Mercer County:

The ACLU makes repeated reference to the "separation of church and state." This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state. Our nation's history is replete with governmental acknowledgment and in some cases, accommodation of religion.

But immediately after that the Court cites to several cases as authority for this proposition. First of all is Lynch v. Donnelly from 1984, in which Justice O'Connor first proposed the "endorsement test" that conservatives have widely criticized. Worse yet, the next authority for the proposition that there is no "wall of separation", is Lemon v. Kurtzman, from 1971, source of Justice Scalia's bête noire, the "Lemon test". Here is what Justice Burger said in the much-hated-by-religious-conservatives Lemon case:

Our prior holdings do not call for total separation between church and state; total separation is not possible in an absolute sense. Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable. Fire inspections, building and zoning regulations, and state requirements under compulsory school-attendance laws are examples of necessary and permissible contacts. Indeed, under the statutory exemption before us in Walz [a case where the Court upheld state tax exemptions for real property owned by religious organizations and used for religious worship], the State had a continuing burden to ascertain that the exempt property was in fact being used for religious worship. Judicial caveats against entanglement must recognize that the line of separation, far from being a "wall," is a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship. (Emphasis added)

Other cases cited are from 1952, 1997 and 2001.

In short, there is nothing new here.

Judge Suhrheinrich, who wrote the opinion, held that the ACLU was asking the Court to "presume endorsement from the mere display of the Ten Commandments". The Judge also noted that, after the ACLU’s motion for an injunction was denied in the court below, the lower court gave the ACLU "120 days to conduct discovery on the issue of religious purpose" which the ACLU failed to take advantage of.* Thus, Judge Suhrheinrich was, at most, expressing annoyance that the ACLU had made no attempt to establish that the defendants actually had a religious purpose but, instead, relied on a metaphor coined by Thomas Jefferson that, although it had been cited by the Supreme Court in various circumstances, had taken on an exaggerated meaning in the minds of some, not least of all those same conservatives who have overreacted to this decision.

It was this metaphor of a wall that the Court found "tiresome" but it was never used by the courts as anything more than circumstantial evidence for the understanding of those close in time to and intimate with the writing of the Constitution concerning what was meant by the clause. Judges are quite capable of telling the difference between metaphors and rules of law and principles of Constitutional interpretation.

The case does present some interesting wrinkles, in that its central issue is whether almost identical displays should be treated differently based solely on the purpose of the government in erecting or approving them and the different histories by which they came to be on government property. But there is nothing particularly revolutionary about the ruling itself. A holding that the display of the Ten Commandments, along with other historical documents that "influenced the development of our law and government", does not violate the Establishment clause is hardly out of line with previous rulings about holiday displays of crèches and menorahs and the like. And there is no hint in the decision of any attempt to make any change in the current Establishment clause jurisprudence. Instead, the decision makes clear that it is the application of established precedence to the unique facts presented.

That's all folks. There's nothing here to get excited about. Just some less-than-honest political hucksters plying their trade.

Move along . . . move along . . .
* I have no idea whether the ACLU's position and strategy in the case was fairly characterized by the Court.



Rush . . . um . . . Weighs In!

We now have Rush Limbaugh’s take on the events in Dover:

CALLER: Yes. My axiom, which can be applied to all liberals, is: The God you make is the God you must defend. The God that made you needs no defense. With that said, I was wanting to know your opinion on the court rejecting the ability for high school teachers to mention intelligent design as an alternative viewpoint for how man came into being.

RUSH: Well, you know, I have mixed emotions about this on multiple levels. For one thing, it doesn't surprise me at all, just in the context of judicial activism. I think it's another great example of how we need different kinds of judges. I mean, I know the case ended up before the guy, but these are the kinds of cases that the school board had authorized and a bunch of parents sued and it ends up before this judge and this judge just discounts it on behalf of the district that he rules in, just discounts it. On the other hand, I do think this: I think that the people -- and I know why they're doing it, but I still think that it's a little bit disingenuous. Let's make no mistake. The people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum and make it less offensive to the liberals because it ostensibly does not involve religious overtones, that there is just some intelligent being far greater than anything any of us can even imagine that's responsible for all this, and of course I don't have any doubt of that. But I think that they're sort of pussyfooting around when they call it intelligent design.

Call it what it is. You believe God created the world, and you think that it's warranted that this kind of theory for the explanation for all that is be taught. On the other hand, I understand why they went with intelligent design, because they knew that calling it what I just called it gave it no chance. They wanted to sneak it in and at least have it exposed. Well, they realized they're dealing with liberals here, and liberals are intolerant when it comes to this. ... - "The Egalitarian Left & Intelligent Design", December 23, 2005
Now that first paragraph is more than a little confusing, though I suppose we can’t expect much better from somebody on the radio making it up as he goes along. What the "it" was that "activist" Judge Jones (appointed to the bench with the support of those arch liberal pinkos, George W. Bush and Rick Santorum) supposedly "discounted" is not at all clear, not to mention what Rush means by "discounted". My best guess is that Rush was free associating on Justice Scalia's criticism of the purpose prong of the Lemon test and the willingness of the Court (so far) to look to see if government officials and legislatures are lying about the intent behind their actions. "Discounting", in Rush's world, apparently includes recognizing incompetent liars when they are seated in the witness chair 10 feet away from you committing bald-faced perjury in your courtroom.

But hey! Give Rush credit. He knows that ID is a scam; he just doesn't care if our government practices scams on us.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Schoolyard Bullies

This appeared in the Washington Post on Thursday, December 22, 2005, in response to Judge Jones' decision in the Dover Intelligent Design case:
Some politically influential backers of intelligent design warned that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who was appointed by President Bush, so overreached that his ruling will outrage and inflame millions of conservative and religiously observant Americans.
"This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung."
And so, the ugly bullying continues, more proof that ID was never about science. It is about religious politics and a particularly nasty brand of politics to boot. We haven't seen the like of it since the days of a certain junior Senator from Wisconsin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


ID Evolves

Interesting quote concerning the Dover decision:

David Clounch, of the US-based Intelligent Design Network, said ID had not been disproved and, therefore, it was a theory that should be taught to schoolchildren.
"Are these people saying science has concluded there is no design? I think it's completely unscientific to draw that conclusion," he said. "The plaintiffs want to tell everybody's kids if you believe there is design in the world, that's irrational and science doesn't say that. But science doesn't say anything about that.
"Which scientist decided there isn't any design and, if there aren't any, why is this debate happening? There's really something else going on - it's called anti-religious [feeling]."
So, basically, anything that is not "disproved" by science is, therefore, not "irrational" and should be taught as equal to science, presumably in science classes.

And if you don't agree you are an anti-religious bigot.*

Oh, wait a second . . . that would make ID . . .

I guess the pretense that ID is science is over, at least in some quarters.

* poster Bobby Bryant has already predicted a "global flood of self-pitying appeal to a persecution meme". The first trickle . . .

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Some Good Bits From Judge Jones

Some of my favorite short quotes (citations omitted) from Judge Jones' decision:

Dr. Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students "stupid." (p. 41)

The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. (p. 43)

[T]he assertion that design of biological systems can be inferred from the "purposeful arrangement of parts" is based upon an analogy to human design. ... Professor Behe agreed that for the design of human artifacts, we know the designer and its attributes and we have a baseline for human design that does not exist for design of biological systems. Professor Behe's only response to these seemingly insurmountable points of disanalogy was that the inference still works in science fiction movies. (p. 80-81)

. . . ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. (p. 89)

It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would, after reviewing both the voluminous record in this case, and our narrative, reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science. (p. 89)
There are numerous places where Judge Jones points out dishonest testimony by William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, former board members, including pp. 97, 102, 105 and my favorite from p. 115:

[T]he inescapable truth is that both Bonsell and Buckingham lied at their January 3, 2005 depositions about their knowledge of the source of the donation for Pandas, which likely contributed to Plaintiffs' election not to seek a temporary restraining order at that time based upon a conflicting and incomplete factual record. This mendacity was a clear and deliberate attempt to hide the source of the donations . . .
The Judge sums this up as follows:

It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy. (p. 137)
Pretty much describes the whole of the Intelligent Design Movement, doesn't it?

Down and Out in Dover

The Discovery Institute is so predictable that Judge Jones went ahead and did exactly that:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID . . . (p. 137)

And the DI's press release says:

The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work . . .
Besides being vastly amusing for falling with such a loud thump coming out of the public relations starting gate, the DI's attempt to catagorize the decision as a blow against the freedom of science must be a new high water mark in even its low rhetoric. How many scientific ideas do you know that "spread" through "open debate" in high schools? And yet, that is all the decision puts restrictions on, as Jones made clear:

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom. (p. 137)
So the DI's press release is nothing more than another dose of bombast, just as transparent as the tired list of purported evidence for design trotted out for all formal occasions: digital code in DNA, molecular machines and "fine tuned" laws of physics. If, as Casey Luskin of the DI says:
As we've repeatedly stressed, the ultimate validity of intelligent will be determined not by the courts but by the scientific evidence pointing to design.
Then what possible complaint do they have with the decision that limits itself to venues that do not produce scientific evidence? And why is the DI turning down money from the Templeton Foundation for research and still pushing the idea of teaching it in public elementary and high school classes, as allegedly "voluntary" instruction under the supposed "academic freedom" of public school teachers to raise the issue?

I think Judge Jones is right. The Discovery Institute is manifestly in error. Just in more ways than even the Judge pointed out.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Everything Old Becomes New Again

Just to show that there really isn’t anything new under ID’s sun [1], there is the following:

If at the sight of a statue or painted picture you know that art has been employed, and from the distant view of the course of a ship feel sure that it is made to move by art and intelligence, and if you understand on looking at a [clock] . . . that the hours are indicated by art and not by chance, with what possible consistency can you suppose that the universe which contains these same products of art, and their constructors, and all things, is destitute of forethought and intelligence?
Some 1900 years before William Paley famously made the watch maker argument, Cicero, in his De Natura Deorum, Book 2, Chapter 34, Section 87-88, claimed the same reason for deducing design.

So the next time you hear an IDeologist deride evolutionary theory as "19th century science", just remember they are pushing pre-Christian metaphysics.
[1] Thanks to poster "TomS" for pointing this out.



The poster known as "Smurfette" came up with a marvelous take on Intelligent design:

Customer: Hello. I wish to complain about this so-called 'scientific theory' what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very establishment.

Salesman: Oh yes, 'Intelligent Design'. What, uh... what's wrong with it?

Customer: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. Its vacuous, that's what's wrong with it!

Salesman: No, no, uh... what we need now is to 'teach the controversy'...

Customer: Look matey, I know an empty 'argument from incredulity' when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Salesman: No, no, it's not empty: it's just being elaborated. Remarkable theory, 'Intelligent Design', innit, eh? I mean, just look at all these books and articles: millions and millions of words...!

Customer: The verbiage don't enter into it, my lad. It's stone dead. It's a non-starter. Empirically untestable, it belongs in metaphysics. This 'theory' makes no predictions; has no contribution to make beyond extended polemics; and can't even be honest about who it thinks the 'Designer' was. Bereft of all logical and epistemological credibility, it has no scientific status! If certain right-wing and fundamentalist pressure-groups hadn't hit upon it as a way of opposing decades of uncomfortable scientific and social progress, it'd be pushing up daisies! It's off the table. It's kicked the waste-paper bucket. THIS IS A NON-THEORY!

Salesman: Well, I'd better replace it then. [takes a quick peek around] Sorry, squire: looks like that's all we've got...

Customer: I see, I see. I get the picture.

Salesman: I've got a piece of coal that looks quite a bit like a human tibia, if you squint at it...

Customer: Pray, is it part of a theory that unifies the paleontological and biological sciences and leads to a powerful understanding of observed homologies and the nested hierarchy of life?

Salesman: Not really.


Saturday, December 10, 2005


The Drums . . . the Drums!

The natives remain restless in Kansas.

Specifically, State legislators are still threatening hearings, and worse, in the wake of the flap over Kansas University’s proposed course, "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies" and the subsequent discovery of e-mails by Paul Mirecki, the professor who proposed the course and was to be the principle instructor, that were disparaging of fundamentalists and others. The excuse for these hearings would nominally be to investigate anti-religious bias at the University. It would take more naiveté than most people could muster to believe that, however.

State Representative Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who is vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said this:

Regardless of whether they do the course or don't do the course [I think] Chancellor Hemenway, as well as the professor, should appear before the Appropriations Committee, explain what their side of the issue is, what they intended to get out of the course, how they planned on teaching the course, and why they think that that's a good representation for the university.

What is more, Rep. Landwehr also says that she wants to know whether professors are exhibiting any intolerance, whether it’s religious, political or any other kind.

She pointedly goes on to say that withholding funding to KU is still an option.

In other words, if a collection of politicians, each pandering to their constituents, doesn’t like the content of any course that the University presents, be it political science, history, economics, or what have you, they have no compunction about demanding a change in what is taught on penalty of destroying the University.

Just to drive home her real agenda in all this, Landwehr went on to question whether Mirecki should be allowed to teach religious studies courses because: "It’s hard to teach religion if you don’t believe in it." Lord knows what she will do when she finds out that few if any English lit. professors think there was a prince of Denmark who really said "To be or not to be . . . " And finding a Zeus-adherent to teach classical Greek history could be a tad of a problem.

Of course, Landwehr may be just displaying monumental ignorance of what education is about (which is frightening enough for the future of children in Kansas) but, more likely, the comment was the result of an unguarded moment revealing her basic assumption that the University should not be educating students about religion but advocating that they accept religion, particularly the locally dominant one.

It is easy to teach about things that may not be true; it’s hard to proselytize if you are not a true believer. We now know which Brenda Landwehr thinks her state's universities should be doing.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Kidding Whom?

There is a very interesting article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times today (which can be found here now): "Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker". It describes a number of reasons to think that the "Intelligent Design Movement" may have passed its high water mark.
I wish the signs of the immanent demise of ID were clear but there is, nonetheless, a fascinating revelation in the piece:
The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

"They never came in," said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

"From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review," he said.
Here was a clear opportunity for the ID proponents to get support from an organization sympathetic to their aims for real scientific research to be done in "design theory" and to have a forum for their results that mainstream scientists, even those dirty "Darwinists", could neither rig against them nor ignore. And yet, when the opportunity came, they failed to respond.
If there was any doubt before about the lack of scientific merit in ID or as to the full knowledge by the major ID proponents of that vacuity, this ends anything but the pretense.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Morality on Parade

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" - Joseph Welch, June 9, 1954 -
Over 50 years ago those 17 words did as much as anything to put an end to a shameful era in America when having thoughts different than the majority's was sufficient reason to strip a person of his or her livelihood and drive them from the public marketplace of ideas. Despite all the complaints about "Darwinists" censoring Intelligent Design, there has been little or no doubt that ID can be taught in public schools, just not as an excuse to take time away from real biology, and that any scientist who wants to make a case for ID can do so, they just have to do what every other scientist has to do: come up with the empiric evidence.
The real censors are exercising their craft in Kansas now. Kansas University professor Paul Mirecki, the Chair of the Religious Studies Department, announced a course to be called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies." This caused a predictable stir in conservative Christian circles, especially since they have never bought into the supposed divorce between ID and their religion.
Mirecki, on the other hand, had made remarks on a Yahoo e-mail group about fundamentalist Christians, Jews and his own Catholic background that he foolishly thought were private. Mirecki apologized but that was not good enough. He withdrew the course but that was not enough. Now it is reported that "ranking lawmakers have promised hearings in which professor Paul Mirecki and KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway would be called on the carpet". I wonder if the first question will be: "Are you now or have you ever been an evolutionist?" Ironically, this will, of course, have an effect on KU, almost like an invisible hand reaching out to touch an institution already in some turmoil.
Mirecki was rightfully censured for his remarks, though speaking of fundamentalists' "fat faces" or the Pope's "funny hat and dress" seems pretty tame when, over at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News & Views, as Pat Hayes reports in his blog Red State Rabble, John West is not content with quote mining Darwin for purposes of the old canard that he was a racist and eugenicist, but exercises channeling or mind reading or whatever to come up with:
It's true that Darwin wasn't a champion of forced sterilization, but that's because the technology for sterilization wasn't developed until well after Darwin died.
Where's Joe Welch when you need him?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education