Wednesday, July 22, 2009

David Kinghoffer is a shill

I guess sales haven't met Discovery Institute expectations because David Klinghoffer is shilling Stephen Meyer Book "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design ". I know, I know I said I would not post about David for a while, actually what I said was that I would wait until he did "really, really stupid". I think this fully qualifies.

So David, another member of that less-than-august group over at the Discovery Institute, is shilling for his boss. In case you didn't know Meyer is the current vice-president of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, the ID group over at the DI. His background a BS in Geology and a Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science. Right there should be a clue that the book David is shilling is probably pretty weak on real science and long on philosophy. Of course it will have lots and lots of scientific-sounding words and phrases designed to make the layperson think it's actually science.

Let us also not forget that Meyer was central to the Richard Sternberg peer-review controversy, the '44 peer-reviewed' Ohio issue, and one other lie for Jesus claiming that the Santorum Amendment was part of the "No Child Left Behind Bill" and stated that Ohio was required to teach ID as part of it's science curriculum.

Sorry, guess I need to say more about Meyer here than David, but then how much do you have to say about a shill. I suggest David tell his boss that if he wants Intelligent Design to be taken seriously that he should quite writing and start actually performing the science needed to support his ideas. For some reason David, Stephen, and the rest over at the DI seem to have skipped that part of their education.

For the record I have commented on the announcement of Stephen's latest minimalist effort and I will be posting more on it as I finish wading through it. So far, I am less than impressed. The best thing I can say is poor Stephen has so far met my expectations -- but believe me, that is not a compliment.

23 July update: Just read that PZ Myers is going to take David up on his 'offer'. This should be interesting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Science and Religion Compatibility

A question that gets asked frequently is are science and religion compatible. The answer, to me, is an unequivocal 'sometimes'. I know, sounds pretty wishy-washy to me as well, but allow me a moment to explain.

When some people are asked about this issue they remind us that many scientists were/are also religious and than many theologians were/are also scientists. You know from that context, science and religion are completely compatible.

OK, so that leads to the question of when are science and religion not compatible? I think the issue there isn't so much that they are incompatible as philosophies, I think the problem is in how we use them. I'm not sure I am being clear. Let me try again. When one uses science to determine an answer to an issue one uses a methodology based on logic and reasoning. When one determines an answer based on religion one is using faith. Here is the problem, what if they are examining the same issue and the answers are different? Do we then have a conflict between science and religion? We most certainly do.

I think the question to me is 'should we?' That one I am not sure how to answer. Because of my own background I am uncomfortable assigning specific actions to God. I mean I cannot prove God helped me find a job, meet my wife, or . . . well you have your own list of things you might feel God intervened for you. But while you might have offered thanks to God, you really cannot prove that God helped you out, it's a matter of faith. So from my own worldview, there really isn't much of a conflict. I don't tend to put a lot of credence in assigning responsibility to God, and therefore I am rarely conflicted over it.

However there are other worldviews, and asking someone to change their viewpoint is tantamount to asking them to accept a new religion -- hence the conflict.

There are lots of arguments about science being nothing but another religion -- which I completely disagree with for reasons you can read about in many other posts. But the bottom line is that we are never going to eliminate conflict. The best we can hope for is to limit the arena for airing the conflict. The public school science classroom is not the appropriate arena for airing this conflict. It is not an issue of free speech, it is not an issue of academic freedom. The public school science classroom should be reserved for those things determined through logic and reason. Students should learn the methodology and history of scientific thought as well as exploring the different sciences themselves.

I can still remember testing thermodynamics by heating and bending tubes of glass, dissecting my first frog, mixing chemicals that overflowed the test tube, much to the dismay of my Chemistry teacher Mr. Kennedy. I remember my sister's test of whether or not commercial mouthwashes killed germs, to some surprising results! These can be exciting things and should not be withheld from students because some members of some religious groups wish to require their worldview as the only one!

Science does not drive people away from religion, I believe that religions are perfectly capable of driving people away themselves. I also believe that people who don't like the answers they get from science may be drawn toward a particular religious viewpoint. People who fear other viewpoints do more damage to their own than I could ever do.

Conflicts will continue, the best we can hope to is minimize the impact to education. We do that by setting standards, training our teachers, and monitoring and mentoring to insure the standards are met. We hold workshops to help teachers address controversial issues. We publicly address this issue in school board meetings, articles, letters to the editor, and even blogs. We elect officials to support a quality science education and when needed we seek redress when that education is compromised. Plus if our worldview conflicts with that, we can always elect to send our children to a non-secular school that supports only our viewpoint.

Like I said conflicts will happen, but they should not happen at the expense of the education of our kids.(image source)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kennie Ham did do something positive

Well positive for me anyway. I commented on PZ Meyers' blog Pharyngula , and linked back to an older post about Ken Ham being his typical hypocritical self and the hits and page views started climbing. Oh I know I won't get the coverage PZ Myers gets, but it was certainly a surprise to me. But I guess a lot of PZ's readers are interested with Ken Ham gets on a roll.

So that is how to increase blog page traffic! Just post a comment and link to your own blog on Pharyngula! I did yesterday and the hits on my blog more than doubled. I also set a new distance record and had a reader from Adelaide, South Australia, 10,200 miles away. OK, I promise not to abuse my new found power, I mean I have commented over on Pharyngula often, just usually not with a link.

I took a quick look back and I have posted quit a bit about little kennie, from his hypocrisy to the little debacle with the Cincinnati Zoo. I also notice something this week. The Cincinnati Museum has a special exhibit on dinosaurs. I took my granddaughter down there and she LOVED it. But I also noticed a new billboard highlighting dinosaurs from the Creation Museum. I wonder if any poor soul [pun intended] intended on hitting the Cincinnati Museum and accidentally found themselves following the billboard to the Creation Museum? It's not that far away. Here, take a look:
The directions are in the large print. At 65 miles per hour, you might not even notice the organization. Some folks might get suspicious because you have to cross a bridge into Kentucky, but then the Cincinnati Airport is in Kentucky as well.

Thanks again PZ for the boost in viewership and I guess thanks also to kennie ham for being such an all-around hypocrite.

Also noted is a fun website, The Unicorn Museum, who wished to place this billboard near the Creation Museum:
Wouldn't that just irritate the hell outa little kennie?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Casey Strikes out

More out of curiosity than anything else, I read through the rest of Casey Luskin's paper on various court cases (already blogged about it in general here Luskin's Turn). I was really curious how he commented on the Dover Court Case.

He opens with a summary that is actually a pretty good summary. But as he dove into his commentary, I think he missed a point. One of the factors that he missed completely is when the court examined what an impartial observer would take from the disclaimer the School Board wanted read. He completely ignored that part of the trial that determined that a typical student would hear the disclaimer and take it as an indictment against the Theory of Evolution.

I also think Casey missed the boat with his own disclaimer trying to absolve the Discovery Institute of their involvement. Yes, when it reached a point of Trial, the DI backpedaled with the best of them and tried to dissuade the School Board from their action. But up until that point they were involved, and advised, and provided the text book 'Of Pandas and People" that was so central to the case. Lauri Lebo made an interesting point in her book "The Devil in Dover" that during the trial the school board members seemed to be waiting for support from the DI that never materialized. The DI did the same thing with the school teacher/soccer coach in Tejon CA. After the suit was filed they claimed to have advised them to settle. But how much pushing and coaching did the teacher received before that point? We will never know because it didn't actually come to trial, but I believe the DI was one of the sources for the videos supporting ID that she was planning on showing.

Now I always thought Casey was a lawyer, well he must be out of practice because I see nothing wrong with the Court setting up their ruling as a primer for other Courts. They did it

" . . . in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us."
So apparently Casey would prefer to be able to hold this trial over and over again. Talk about a waste! You know when the outcome would be different? If those sluggards over at the DI would get off their collective butts and try and do some actual science. I mean look at it, a Federal Judge, a Conservative Federal Judge could not rule in their favor! A Judge so conservative that many people thought the trial was a slam dunk -- until it actually got underway. If they can't win in that courtroom, where could they win? So the Judge making a sweeping decision that went beyond the bounds of the immediate case is perfectly reasonable. in fact many cases are so decided in order to do exactly what Judge Jones tried to do -- set a precedent other Courts can look to for guidance. That's part of the whole judicial process!

But in reality, I bet Casey and his friends would love this to be tried in school districts across the country. Sooner or later the odds would grant them at least a temporary victory and they would just go insane! However Courts have been forever making their rulings with an eye towards the future. the case may not be binding outside of the small Pennsylvania area, but it's impact has been felt across the country. That is what Casey and his pals do not like!

Here is one of the funny things to me. If the Judge had ruled that ID was science, would Casey and his cohorts have been complaining about a lack of judicial restraint? Oh Hell No! They would have been crowing like roosters! Instead they have to attack a conservative judge and accuse him of a lack of judicial restraint and judicial activism mainly because they got their collective butts handed to them.

I love this quote of Casey's:
"The judicial over-reach and activist, policy-making intentions of the judge may cause other courts to question whether the Kitzmiller ruling represents carefully considered legal work."
Of course he never answers this question, he just tried to raise it as a doubt and then just walks away. Does he support this comment? No! Does he offer evidence that other courts are not going to consider this case? No! He simply tries to cast a shadow of doubt and then leaves you hanging. This a a common gambit to raise doubt in a readers mind where there really isn't any.

Here is another one:
"Another aspect of the Kitzmiller ruling that may cause jurists to doubt its persuasiveness is the fact that over 90% of its celebrated section on whether ID is science was copied verbatim or nearly-verbatim from the plaintiffs’ “Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law,” proposed by attorneys working with the ACLU.277 While there is no question that courts are permitted to draw upon such documents when constructing rulings and that such behavior does not constitute any kind of unethical “plagiarism,” case law suggests that large-scale judicial copying is highly disapproved of by courts,278 even when the extent of the copying does not provide grounds to overrule the lower court."
OK, this one circulated quite soon after the ruling was published. Judge Jone did copy a great deal of information form the plaintiffs findings of facts. However, there is nothing wrong in this. But look at Casey's wording: "may cause", "verbatim or nearly-verbatim", "While there is no question that courts are permitted to draw", "unethical 'plagiarism' ", and "suggests". How mealy mouthed can one lawyer get? Without coming out and saying it he, and the others at the DI, didn't like that the judge used the winners documents as a basis for the ruling. I do love the slipped in 'nearly-verbatim' line. So if you use words that are similar and mean the same thing, are you being 'nearly-verbatim'? Only a lawyer can tell you -- but be prepared for a long confusing session.

Casey also thinks, and I use that word loosely, that
"The Kitzmiller ruling was predicated upon a false definition of intelligent design."
I have to disagree. The definition before the Court was the presented by both Michael Behe and Scott Minnich. Even though the DI didn't like the caveats they had to use under cross-examination, it was pretty clear that ID involves supernatural causation, even if the official definition of the DI doesn't use those terms, they were clearly evident in the trial transcript. Here is a quote from Judge Jones' ruling with appropriate references made by the defense witnesses:
" . . . defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to “change the ground rules” of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller); 21:37-42 (Behe)). Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich))."
This article, at least specifically where Casey discusses the Dover Trial. does not represent an objective look at the trial and how a teacher, lawyer, or other policy maker should see it. It represents a very specific spin on the trial that is not represented in the ruling nor the results of the ruling. Over 3 years since the trial and Casey and his buds are still trying to spin things their way.

How about something a bit more positive!

I noticed a decided negative thread running through some of my posts. I guess when you are commenting on things said by folks like Luskin, Klinghoffer, and Dembski you certainly do tend to see the negative. So how about something positive and very interesting. I wish I were in South Florida to attend this . . .Hmm, OK South Florida in July . . . maybe not, but the event would be well worth attending. I wonder if other schools will pick up on it?

"Teacher workshop to focus on controversial science topics" is an article addressing a workshop designed to assist teachers with "such thorny topics as evolution." The workshop is sponsored by the Hillsborough County School District at the South Florida's College of Education. Speakers will cover such topics as "The Glorious History of Creationism in Florida," "Cognitive Biases and Misconceptions of Students" and "Controversial Issues Outside of Evolution." Participants will also include the National Center for Science Education, Florida Citizens for Science and the Coalition for Science Literacy.

While a large part of me wishes such seminars were unnecessary, the past couple of years blogging and commenting on the subject taught me that they are not only necessary, but should be happening in many parts of the country. Good on the Hillsborough County School District and the South Florida's College of Education!

Hypocrisy and ID

Just wanted to bring your attention to an a article in at by Ken Hoover, "Intelligent Design is Creationism." He highlights many of the same points I have on the inherent dishonesty of the Discovery Institute. I simply loved how he put it:

" . . .the deceit of those in this movement, and as I'm fond of saying, how can people trust these individuals when they've been exposed for the hucksters they are?"
He asks a valid question, how can ANYONE trust these hucksters? I can't answer it for anyone but myself and the answer is a resounding "I don't trust them." I have read way to much of their nonsense from published work to their own news releases. I have commented on Luskin, Wells, Dembski, Johnson, Nelson, Klinghoffer, and Behe in the past and probably will again in the future. I will continue to read and make my opinion known.

Of the entire crowd the only one who I think retains a modicum of respectability is Behe. I disagree with his methodology and the fact he hasn't actually done the work to support his ideas, but at least I haven't found him mis-representing the work of others. Can the rest say that? Just recently Dembski tries to turn Alfred Russel Wallace's words into support for the Intelligent Design Movement. David Klinghoffer tried to revise history and claim Thomas Jefferson was an ID advocate. The whole DI tactic of associating Darwin and Evolution with Nazism and Racism is another example of misrepresentation. These are tactics that I haven't seen Behe supporting.

Bottom line is still that Intelligent Design is not scientific, it is a religious proposition. As a result it does not belong in the science classroom. Until folks like Behe do the scientific work to support their ideas, then it remains a pseudo-science. What Behe also needs is folks like Dembski, Klinghoffer, Luskin, and the rest, to get the hell out of the way. They keep muddying up the water.

I also think Behe needs to disassociate himself with the Discovery Institute. He gets painted by the same huckstering brush every time that 'senior fellow' tag is put next to his name. I think the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) is not the place for him. I know why they want him, I mean an actual scientist with a real PhD in a scientific field, one with tenure and holds a teaching position! But I think there are fundamental disagreements on what Behe believes and the goals of the IDM.

I really don't believe Behe will ever succeed in supporting his ideas on firm science. I think he will come to that realization someday. But he has to get up and do the work first. Who knows, he might prove the case for Design, he might even prove the case for Intelligence behind it. At that point I will be petitioning my local and state school board to include ID into the curriculum. But until that day happens, the DI needs to quit their huckstering!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gov Perry doesn't step out very strongly

Last month I posted about Don McLeroy finally being ousted as the head of the Texas State School Board. I also speculated that Cynthia Dunbar might be his replacement, which in my opinion would have kept Texas mired in the McLeroyesque foolishness. Well it looks like Gov Perry made his choice and I think he seriously wimped out (Breaking News: Perry Picks Lowe to Head SBOE). He didn't appoint Dunbar, which would have been like watching two garbage trucks on ice -- you know a disaster is coming, just not sure where and when. He also didn't do the smart thing and appoint someone genuinely concerned about educating Texas school children. He appointed Gail Lowe, another republican. But according to the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) isn't much of a leader and spent most of her time in lockstep with Donnie. Not a good sign.

The TFN posted these highlights to give Texans and idea of what Perry just did to them:

  • In 2004 Ms. Lowe opposed requiring that publishers obey curriculum standards and put medically accurate information about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention in new high school health textbooks. [Let me guess this straight, she was opposed to publishers following the rules established for them to follow?]
  • In 2007 Ms. Lowe voted to throw out nearly three years of work by teacher writing teams on new language arts standards. Over the strenuous objections of teachers and curriculum specialists, Lowe instead voted for a standards document that the board’s far-right bloc patched together overnight and slipped under hotel doors the morning of the final vote. [Sounds a lot like McElroy's "We need someone to stand up to the 'experts' line.]
  • In 2003 and 2009 Ms. Lowe supported dumbing down the state’s public school science curriculum by voting to include unscientific, creationist criticisms of evolution in science textbooks and curriculum standards. [Yup, not thinking for herself, but following McElroy way to closely.]
Well I guess she will 'appreciate' having Dunbar and McLeroy there to look over her shoulder. Sorry Texas, you didn't get what you needed, and after the McLeroy malarkey, I don't think you deserved this slap in the face. Personally I think Perry was simply pandering to his hardcore right-wing supporters. he knew Dunbar was a non-starter, but had to pick a Conservative to keep up his support. So there we have it, Gail Lowe, head of the Texas State School Board. keep a sharp eye on her folks!

Luskin's turn

IMO Casey Luskin's latest is short on . . . intellectual honesty. Let's see the organization that is promoting Intelligent Design and attacking Evolution as often as they can puts out an article to 'help' lawyers and teachers understand the arguments. So to be clear, Casey himself, that less-than-a-paragon-of-honesty is going to give a fair and unbiased position paper to help lawyers and teachers? This I gotta see.

Oooooppppps, I can't! The Hamline University Law School website is not open to the public. SO I can't get to the article. Just out of curiosity, I tried a search for 'Luskin' and a search for the title of his article "Does Challenging Darwin Create Constitutional Jeopardy? A Comprehensive Survey of Case Law Regarding the Teaching of Biological Origins" and both came up with nothing. Not really sure if that means anything, but given Casey's history I would be wary of anything that I can only find on a Discovery Institute website.

Before we get started, here is the link supposedly to the Hamline University Law Review. You can back-check me on finding Casey's article. "
Does Challenging Darwin Create Constitutional Jeopardy? A Comprehensive Survey of Case Law Regarding the Teaching of Biological Origins", vol. 32(1):1-64 (Winter, 2009)

In the mean time I will bite the bullet and look at the article as posted on the Center for Science and Culture (The Discovery Institute's Intelligent Design promoters) website.

Damn, the very first line sets up Casey's spin:

"The teaching of biological origins in public schools remains a contentious scientific, cultural, and legal debate"
Cultural debate, certainly! in fact that is the heart of the whole problem, one culture trying to push its belief system on the rest of us and trying to use science to do it. Legal debate? Yes again. The actions of the DI and their supporters have once again drawn us into the legal activities, as evidenced most recently by Dover PA which I am sure will be mentioned in Casey's little missive. However scientific? No! There is no debate over the scientific aspects of the debate. Intelligent design is not science, it has never been science and if the few actual scientists over at the DI don't shut people like Luskin up and get into the lab to do real scientific work, it will never be science. In other words there is no scientific debate.

What I think Casey missed is the political debate that they are also pushing. How many states have tried to implement the DI's 'strengths and weaknesses' tactics? 8? 10? 12? Only Louisiana succumbed. The DI also made a huge play in Texas and actually had representation on the group appointed to 're-review' the science curriculum after the first set of reviewers didn't satisfy, the now ousted school board head, Don McLeroy. They played the political game with Senator Rick Santorum and his frequently mis-represented unfunded and un-implemented part of the "No-Child-Left-Behind act. So does this mean the DI is abandoning the political? No, I don't think so. I just don't think they want attention drawn to it.

How about the whole 'Darwin caused Hitler' debate? I'm not sure that falls under of the above categories? Where does one file a lie? How about the relatively new "Wallace was an ID'er?", I think that would join it. What about the whole 'Persecution complex'? So there is a psychological debate as well.

So in my opinion Casey is focusing this article and rather than being a comprehensive look, it's simply another propaganda piece.

OK, enough for the first line, let's move ahead:
"awareness of the full breadth of case law"
So now Casey is a lawyer? Oh wait, he is! I keep forgetting. I mean he seems to keep trying to pass himself off as a scientist that I forgot where he started. I will be hard pressed to think he will actually cover the 'full breadth', but it will be interesting to see his spin. And here it is:
"Moreover, few have bothered to engage in a careful review of the case law to determine if evolution actually is beyond scrutiny in public schools. "
OK, anyone else have a problem with this? He's building a straw man here. There is nothing beyond scrutiny in schools, certainly nothing that would be mentioned in case law. no one is making this argument, but Casey is going to respond to it?

Let me clear my own thinking on this. So when a school system says Intelligent Design is not science and doesn't belong in the science classroom has turned into placing evolution beyond scrutiny? No, he is mixing apples and oranges here. Let's look at the other more recent tactic, the whole 'strengths and weaknesses' argument. So when a school system says the 'strengths and weaknesses' tactic is not a valid one, this is designed to place evolution beyond scrutiny? No way!

Here is the spin. The whole 'Teach the Controversy" tactic that evolved [pun intended] into the 'strengths and weaknesses' argument had nothing to do with teaching the strengths and weaknesses of current scientific theories. The wording of those arguments were designed to force teachers to literally CREATE weaknesses so they can fulfill the rules. They were designed to open the door for ID, or other religiously motivated alternative. Go back and read up on them yourself. Don't take my word for it. Also look at Casey's other works and see how many actual weaknesses ave they uncovered? Does the word 'NONE' come to mind. They have been attacking evolution for the last 20 years and so far they have uncovered nothing that could be considered a weakness. Oh they like to point to things we don't know, but does that make it a weakness? They also like to point to things outside of evolution and claim them as weaknesses. But actual weaknesses in evolutionary theory? So far they have struck out.

Here is the other fun part of his straw man. How many laws are going to be specific enough on school curriculum to address any specific subject point, like Evolution? None! Gee so Casey sets out to prove that case law doesn't support evolution being unassailable, and lo and behold, he can't find any. The other reason he won't is because there is no subject that cannot be examined in class. But it has to be a scientifically viable and valid examination to be part of the science curriculum. The whole strengths and weaknesses was not scientifically valid or viable. it was a despicable underhanded tactic. Much like the whole 'Academic Freedom' tactic Casey uses on occasion. I have blogged before about how little academic freedom was involved in
"Academic Freedom" Day?, More on "Academic Freedom", and The American Council on Education's position on Academic Freedom to name a few.

Casey breaks his latest whine up into three areas: (1) Cases upholding the right to teach about evolution; (2) Cases rejecting the teaching of alternatives to evolution; and (3) Cases rejecting disclaimers regarding the teaching of evolution.

The first one doesn't bother me. I really don't care what Casey thinks. Yes, there have been a number of cases concerning the teaching of evolution, but the cases were not about teaching evolution, but about who gets to decide what gets tauhgt. The cases, such as Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

The cases that meet Casey's second criteria escapes me right this second because I know of no case that prevents the teaching of alternatives. I do know of cases where the teaching of teaching RELIGIOUS alternatives is prohibited.
  • Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools along with evolution was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion
  • McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982) ruled that the Arkansas "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act" (Act 590) was unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution
  • Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.(2005) ruled that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In fact most school systems encourage the examination of actual scientific alternatives. Which is why Casey and his less-than-stalwart buddies over at the Discovery Institute spend so much time (and money) trying to convince people Intelligent Design is science. If only they would spend more time (and money) on actual science and not on marketing they might get somewhere.

As for his third criteria, Cases rejecting disclaimers regarding the teaching of evolution, this one also throws me. The problem is not a disclaimer, the problem is the purpose of the disclaimer. The purpose is not the support a quality education, but to cast doubt in the teaching of certain specific theories, such as Evolution. Why does one theory need a disclaimer, such as the one central to the Dover case? Here is is as a reminder:
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.
The judge ruled that this disclaimer was nothing more than an effort to cast doubt on a well supported scientific theory, evolution, and open the door for the introduction of a religious-based alternative, Intelligent Design.

Casey casts Daniel v. Waters (1975) as one of those cases against making disclaimers. But this case would fit more into his second criteria than his third. The case ruled that a Tennessee's law regarding the teaching of "equal time" of evolution and creationism in public school science classes because it violated the Establishment clause of the US Constitution. I think he overstates the role of a 'disclaimer' in this case. The case wasn't about the disclaimer, but about the attempt force equal time with a religious alternative. The disclaimer wasn't as central to the case as it was in the Dover case.

The Selman v. Cobb County School District (2005) was more about the disclaimer, but the disclaimer wasn't the issue, it was that the disclaimer stating that
"Evolution is a theory, not a fact, concerning the origin of living things."
By employing colloquial definitions of "theory" and "fact", the sticker cast doubt on the scientific consensus regarding evolutionary theory. This was the first case that specifically address the difference between the colloquial definition of 'Theory' and 'Fact' and their within science. I blogged about that one as well (Arguments I - Theory). The problem wasn't any disclaimer, but an invalid disclaimer. There is a scientific consensus on the validity of the Theory of Evolution.

All in all this article does little to advance Intelligent Design as a science. it also just goes to show what kind of spin a lawyer can put on the results of a case. Nothing really new, just longer and more drawn out. Bottom line is any teacher, lawyer, or educator that need an understanding of the legal ramifications of introducing religious-based alternatives to current scientific theories better consult with an unbiased party before proceeding down a path advocated by any member of the Discovery Institute, especially Casey here..

Casey is just as good a lawyer as he is a biologist, public relations, and public speaker -- mores the pity. I think his best work was standing outside the Dover PA courtroom and handing out Intelligent Design literature.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dembski's 'ears' must be burning

John M. Lynch, over on 'a simple prop' tears into Wild Bill Dembski for being " . . . as good a historian as he is a mathematician and philosopher". The post is part one of two, with the second taking aim at Bill's apparent partner in crime, Michael Flannery. It's a fun read.

Bottom line they appear to be trying to re-write history, again, and put words in Alfred Russel Wallace's mouth. I still prefer Wallace's words and his take on his relationship with Charles Darwin and his own work on Natural Selection that I quoted in my post "Klinghoffer's hero, Pat Buchanan?"

Enough said, pop on over and give it a read, it's worth it, as John's posts always are.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ken Ham's Folly meets Paleontologists

Just a few days ago the NY Times had an interesting article "Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh". The University of Cincinnati hosted the North American Paleontological Convention and about 70 members made a field trip to, what I prefer to call Ken Ham's Folly, the Creation Museum. I am surprised little kennie himself wasn't there to meet them, I might break down and see what he says on his blog about it . . . if anything.

Can we simply say that they were less than overwhelmed. I think Dr. Tamiki Sato summed it up best when he likened the museum to an amusement park. “I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Disneyland,” she said. Did she enjoy Disneyland? “Not very much,” she said.

Little kennie did blog about the visit and he tried to put it in his usual terms

"Even most PhD scientists I find don’t truly understand the difference between observational (operational) science and historical (origins) science."
So now he calls what he . . . portrays . . . is something called 'Origins Science'? Well he did get one thing 'sorta' right when he said:
" . . . we have different interpretations because we have different starting points. The real battle is between the two starting points—God’s Word or autonomous human reasoning."
I do not in any way shape or form agree that little kennie is showing anything about God's Word. He is showing what he thinks God's Word have said to be, which is far different from actually describing God's Word. But he is half right, human reasoning is the basis for Science. But his whole argument for 'different assumptions' is pretty weak. One is based on his interpretation of what he thinks God's Word is, which is not an assumption. The other is based on the evidence, which is also not an assumption. Little kennie will say pretty much anything to make people doubt actual science. He's playing to people's emotion, not their intellect. No surprises here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Klinghoffer's Hero, Pat Buchanan?

I think I've said about enough about David Klinghoffer for a while. I'll keep an eye on his BeliefNet column and if he gets really, really stupid I might post again. I have been waiting for him to comment on the many comments his last "Strip Club" article received [comments his little missive requested, I might add], most seriously to his detriment, but he seems to have put any negative comments on ignore. Sounds about right.

So how about another petrified brain to discuss, Pat Buchanan. Here is a man who ran for President. Here is a man who [some] people still think has a functioning brain. In my opinion here is a man incapable of learning anything.

Case in point is a recent diatribe on the website "The US Daily", be sure it's an opinion piece called "Making a Monkey Out of Darwin". In it he quotes liberally from a book called ""The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold," by Eugene G. Windchy". I have no idea who Eugene G. Windchy is, I haven't read his book, but if Pat Buchanan's quotes are accurate then Mr. Windchy last attended a science class in about 1960 and was asleep at the wheel for most of it. I think he also missed his 'How to research a subject" class and "how to support your ideas" class. Of course since he is saying things that are anti-Darwin, Pat Buchanan just loves it.

Windchy makes many of the same tired claims that others, including a few Klinghoffer keeps making:

That Darwinism has proven “disastrous theory” is indisputable. [Only to people like Windchy, Buchanan, and Klinghoffer]

“Karl Marx loved Darwinism,” writes Windchy. “To him, survival of the fittest as the source of progress justified violence in bringing about social and political change, in other words, the revolution.” “Darwin suits my purpose,” Marx wrote. [OK, they all need a history lesson on the use of a timeline. The chronology is all wrong Check out "Marx, Stalin, and Darwin" from the Sensuous Curmudgeon]

Darwin suited Adolf Hitler’s purposes, too.Darwin, he demonstrates, stole his theory from Alfred Wallace scientific hoaxes as “Nebraska Man” – an anthropoid ape ancestor to man, whose tooth turned out to belong to a wild pig – and Piltdown Man, the missing link between monkey and man. [And who are the people who determined they were hoaxes? SCIENTISTS that who. Not some armchair Creationists like Windchy and Buchanan]
As for Buchanan's and Windchy's absurd claim that Charles Darwin stole the work Of Alfred Wallace I point you to Wallace's on words on the subject "MY RELATIONS WITH DARWIN IN REFERENCE TO THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION" By ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE" in which he says:
"My own paper is reprinted in my Essays on Natural Selection (1870), in the preface to which I wrote in reference to it as follows: "I have felt all my life, and I still feel, the most sincere satisfaction that Mr. Darwin had been at work long before me and that it was not left for me to attempt to write the Origin of Species. . . . Far abler men than myself may confess that they have not that untiring patience in accumulating and that wonderful skill in using large masses of facts of the most varied kind, that wide and accurate physiological knowledge, that acuteness in devising and skill in carrying out experiments, and that admirable style of composition, at once clear, persuasive and judicial—qualities which in their harmonious combination mark out Mr. Darwin as the man best fitted for the great work has undertaken and accomplished."

"In conclusion I would Only wish to add, that my connection with Darwin and his great work has helped to secure for my own writings on the same questions a full recognition by the press and the public; while my share in the origination and establishment of the theory of Natural Selection has usually been exaggerated. The one great result which I claim for my paper of 1858 is that it compelled Darwin to write and publish his Origin of Species without further delay. "

All in all, take a look at the article and see how lost Pat Buchanan is. But I will lay odds that soon he will be able to add to his shingle that he and David Klinghoffer are the best of friends. Gee, with friends like that . . . . you know the rest. Actually just the idea of Klinghoffer and Buchanan together is pretty hilarious for reasons you can discern yourself by doing a little reading up on pat Buchanan.

Need to give an aside to PZ Myers who also blogged about this 'opinion' piece and included the link to the Wallace material. Thanks PZ!!!

I would also like to link over to another favorite place, the NY Times blog "The Wild Side" of Dr. Olivia Judson and her post "Wallace should Hang". The Dr. J. of Biology gives Wallace more credit than he ever took for himself. She rightly identifies him as a naturalist and biologist in his own right and not simply the man whose letter got Darwin off the dime. But in any case Darwin's work was his own and the fact Wallace also made the same leaps of knowledge, although at the time he didn't realize it was about a decade after Darwin, also helped usher in the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection because it also confirmed Darwin's work.

By the way, for anyone interested Dr. Judson is back from her sabbatical and is again writing The Wild Side blog. While the guests, or ghosts, writers were excellent, I have always enjoyed her style and ability to break down complex concepts and make them not just understandable, but interesting and frequently entertaining. You can check out her return in "Operator? Can You Put Me Through to Ant Nest 251?"