Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Freshwater Finale? Let's hope so

John Freshwater has been officially fired from the Mt Vernon Ohio School system where he was a Biology teacher for 8 years. My reaction is good riddance. I know some folks might not agree with me, but that's OK. But since this is my blog, I get to spell out my thinking. You can comment if you wish.

When I first heard about John Freshwater the main issue -- or maybe I should say the main reason it made the local papers stemmed from his use of an electrostatic device to burn, what was described by many -- including some of his supporters, a cross in student arms. This was something I could not understand. I don't care if it was an 'x' or a cross. Doing such a thing crosses [pun unintended] many lines. When you deliberately use a device on kids arms, you should be on your way to jail. Do not pass Go, do not collect your $200! If he was doing it, even with the kids permission, that is not someone who should be a teacher. Toss in the fact he was apparently doing it based on some religious justification is absurd. The fact he had been doing it for years is just plain appalling.

While I understand the whole burning of the arms was pretty well back-burnered by the referee and settled out of court (Not in Freshwater's favor). It was, and is still a sore spot for me. I don't care what religion you are, taking that device to your students is reason enough to be fired. Aside from that, look at his behavior once his transgressions were brought out in the light of day. . . let's just say I am not surprised at the outcome, only that it took so long and cost the school system, and their insurer, so much money. Seriously, he refused to teach the subject for which he was hired to teach. he refused to comply with direction from the very people who hired him and paid his salary, and finally he lied to investigators and taught his students to lie in order to cover-up his activities.For all of those reasons I am happy to see John Freshwater heading out the door. You can read all about it at Panda's Thumb.

Now some of you might disagree for various reasons, but in my opinion, you are making a mistake. I do not care what religion John Freshwater is. He could be a Buddhist or Zoastronist for all I care. It was his conduct as a teacher of our children that should never have been tolerated, regardless of your or his religious beliefs. In my opinion he used his religion as an excuse to avoid taking personal responsibility or fulfilling his professional obligations.

While the final hearing de-emphasized the crosses burned into kids arms, I still have a problem with that one. This piece of equipment was labels, and the documentation clearly stated that it was not for human contact. Yet Freshwater disregarded all that. Yes, he did it for the glory of his God. If your reasoning to support Freshwater is based on your religious beliefs, you really need to re-examine them. Suppose a kid had a heart condition, maybe a pacemaker -- how would you feel if he killed a child with that device? What if the device has malfunctioned? Would you still be OK with it simply because you agree with his religion? Please answer honestly! Could you actually stand in front of a grieving parent and say

"I'm sorry little Bobby is dead after being electrocuted by that malfunctioning device. But Mr. Freshwater was doing it in Jesus' name."
Seriously? Let's take it one step further. Suppose it was your child? Do you really trust John Freshwater any longer?

As for his teaching ability, how many times do you think kids need to be taught the exact same subject? When teachers in later grades identified the need to re-teach subject material because Freshwater wasn't teaching it -- that tells me there is a problem. You hired a science teacher and you should have a perfectly reasonable expectation for him to fulfill those duties. Again, if you support him because he shares your religious beliefs, you still should look very carefully at those beliefs. Suppose he was teaching from a different religious tradition? Would you still support him? If so, then I salute you. I still disagree with you, but it's nice to know you are consistent in your support for religious freedom -- even though I do not think it should apply in this case. If your support for him would evaporate because he is no longer in agreement with you, then I suggest you look at your own prejudices. He was hired to teach science, not religion, and Creationism/Intelligent Design is a religious concept not a scientific one! You might disagree with that as well, but then you really need to talk to some biologists -- like the ones at the school where they had to re-teach Freshwater's students. If he disagreed that Creationism and ID are religious concepts, then the question becomes was his classroom the right venue for addressing it? Certainly not! Suppose he believed the world was flat, is his classroom the correct venue?

Now how about his continual disregard for the policies and guidelines from the school board and his superiors -- you know them, the ones who hired him. So the best avenue to implement his particular version of religion is to accept a position of trust and then betray that trust? This is the lesson you want to teach your children? Sure, when you disagree with someone or something, pretend to agree until you are in a position of responsibility and then stick a knife in and twist hard. That is what Freshwater did! The avenue for addressing such things is not in their disregard, but in working to change them. If you still support him after all you have learned about what he did, then you really need to re-look at the types of messages you are giving your kids. So in the future when they disagree with you and go behind your back -- it's OK? We might start calling that "being freshwatered!" Think about the consequences of his actions! If nothing else he should have quit on his own. But no, he failed in the job he was hired to do and ignored every opportunity to change his behavior.

My final point is that I really wonder what many of those students thought once they read about Freshwater's responses to the investigators and even the resolutions, transcripts and news reports. How many of them understand that he wasn't willing to accept the responsibility for his actions. Freshwater might have stood in front of them and preached, but when things got rough he wasn't man enough to accept responsibility for his actions. He lied to investigators and even developed code-words with his students to circumvent the rules. He taught your kids how to lie and offered his religious beliefs as an acceptable reason to do so. Sure, he's just the type of teacher your kids need!

I, for one, am glad John Freshwater is no longer teaching in Mt Vernon OH. He betrayed those entrusted to his care. He did it for his own personal religious reasons and he is probably quite proud of himself. As one who shares that profession, at least on a part-time basis, I don't feel pride in John Freshwater. I am proud of the students, teachers, and administrators who did not bow before the pressure of other folks and their religious beliefs and did the right and the legal thing!

There are those who will probably hold him up as some sort of martyr for religion. But as you can see by my comments, his actions may have been excused or motivated by his religion, I might have respected him if in spite of the roadblocks put in front of him, if he had come up with a better method than betrayal, lies and deceit. The very fact he encouraged kids to join him in his lies is the worst possible indictment of his character!

While editing this post over the course of a couple of days, I checked in with one of my favorite writers, Lauri Lebo, and she caught a post from one of my less-than-favorite apologetic sites, Answers-in-Genesis, who, typically, got the wrong message. According to AIG "Scientists and Science Should Not Be Questioned According to a Local School Board" The very title of their post reveals that they simply don't get it. No, that might not be true, they may get it, but they can't sell it to their supporters. The school board said no such thing and they implied no such thing. What they said was that Freshwater should have done his job, should not have lied and encouraged his students to lie, and certainly should not have assaulted his students. When you do things like that, you have to accept the responsibility for your actions. if you refuse, they will help you out . . . the door. Read it for yourself and shortly you see that the topic left the idea of questioning science and scientists quickly and turned to religion, the bible, and teaching Sunday school. So much for keeping to the theme they set in the title.

I do find it interesting that the message you might glean from their support of Freshwater is that AIG doesn't believe that people hired to do a job should actually be held accountable for doing their job. Gee, maybe the workers in AIG's newest foolishness, A Noah's Ark Theme Park, will remember that and fail to do their jobs -- then sue for their unearned salaries! Why not? Sounds reasonable to me and one in line with AIG beliefs. If they do manage to get this 'theme' park built, maybe kennie ham (Owner, operator, and spender of other people's money with AIG, the Creation 'Museum') give Freshwater a job. Maybe he can hang a effigy of John Freshwater on a cross and really make a martyr of him.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I really hate to do this (Well not really)

I would like to remind you of a post from little casey luskin on his 13 July 2010 -- about the Christine Comer case (Federal Appeals Court Rejects Chris Comer’s Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Evolution):

"The moral of this story is this: Whether the case ultimately wins or loses in court, don’t speak out publicly on a case until you know the facts."
Today, the little mouthpiece whimpered a post about David Coppedge getting fired by JPL. You might remember Coppedge, he is suing JPL because he was demoted -- for reasons he claims have to do with his pushing of Intelligent Design at work. Now one last reminder, JPL has been silent on the whole issue -- so we do not have the facts of the case. I have posted about this before in Casey Duecy.

Now according the DI toady in "NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab Fires Cassini Mission Senior Computer Admin Who Filed Discrimination Lawsuit" In violation of his own July post, he just has to publicly speak out about this case -- a case for which we still do not have all the facts -- let me repeat that -- a case for which we still do not have all the facts. He says: [my comments after each]
  • JPL just dumped a lot of fuel on the fire of David Coppedge's discrimination lawsuit by firing him [Did they really? Don't you think JPL lawyers might realize this? But then casey is a lawyer who likes to pretend to be a biologist, so maybe he's out of practice playing lawyer]
  • This could potentially expose JPL to a claim of wrongful termination and increase the merits of Coppedge's claim [This is a possibility, but then Coppedge settling out of court, or losing the entire case is also a possibility. But does casey mention any other possible outcome? He's already convicted JPL -- what a surprise.]
  • . . . but Coppedge is the most senior member of the team that oversees the computers on NASA and JPL's Cassini Mission to Saturn. Coppedge doesn't seem at all like the first person who would normally be forced to leave in such a situation, but. Obviously, JPL has other considerations. [emphasis added. Does casey have more information about this than he might be letting on? No! Actually casey, JPL going through downsizing makes me think that a demoted former team lead is the perfect candidate for the chopping block.]
  • Those other considerations began in 2009 when the administration found out that Coppedge had occasionally had friendly discussions about ID with fellow employees [So how does casey know they were 'friendly' conversations or even 'occasional'? The truth is that is how he wants them portrayed. I think the word 'harassment' might come up during the trial. But that is my opinion. You see casey, it is possible to offer opinion without trying to have it appear as factual. ]
  • if a colleague wasn't interested, Coppedge dropped the matter [I find it hard to believe that David Coppedge, founder Creation Safaris Ministry really just let the matter drop. Don't you?]
  • Coppedge was then demoted and threatened with losing his job if he persisted in purportedly "unwelcome" and "disruptive" discussions of ID [I also doubt that his demotion paperwork mentioned his support of ID any more than it probably mentions an unwelcome and disruptive work environment. In my opinion, if he did create a disruptive and unwelcome work environment, he deserves to be demoted.]
Does this sound like someone who actually has the facts of a case? Did little casey take his own advice and wait for the court case, which begins in June of this year? No! All we have is Coppedge and his lawyer's words. So, of course, since Coppedge is an ID proponent, it must be OK to talk about it, right casey? Did casey even try and discover if maybe there really were other considerations in the decision to fire Coppedge? I mean programs end all the time. How many companies have been downsizing in the past couple of years. Don't you think JPL realizes that they better have their i's dotted and t's crossed in firing someone who is currently engaged in litigation?

I think 30 seconds of thought might have saved little casey and the DI some embarrassment later this year. But then I guess even 30 seconds of thought must be well beyond Di mouthpieces.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

But then Klinghoffer isn't the only one.

So let's see, Klinghoffer busted in a lie of omission, so as I am trying to catch up on things I read a little post by Casey Luskin who makes a sort-of interesting claim. A Pro-Intelligent Design Peer-Reviewed publication by someone named Andy McIntosh in the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics from WIT Press. Now, of course, I trust nothing that comes out of any of those less-than-honest-fellows over at the Discovery Institute, especially mouthpiece lawyer Luskin. So in my opinion this leads to some questions.

First Question is -- is the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics from WIT Press actually a peer-reviewed scientific journal? To check I went to Pub Med. I figure WIT Press and the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics should appear referenced there and other scientists should be referencing them in their own work.

Why am I not surprised the number was '0'. Yup, in the hundreds of thousands of research documents, decades of work, and thousands of scientists, no one references a publication or a press that little casey calls peer-reviewed. WIT Press does market itself as being referenced by 'CrossRef', ProQuest' and other information sources. Yes, these services can connect you with information -- but that doesn't make them a valid reference for the scientific validity of your work. They are information brokers, that's all. So far casey is meeting my expectations.

So second question, Andy McIntosh? A quick Google and Wikipedia says that he is a professor of thermodynamics and combustion theory at the University of Leeds. It also says that

"He is a scientist who disagrees with the mainstream scientific consensus on biological evolution."
Oh gee, should this be a surprise to anyone? He does have one book referenced: "Genesis for Today: Showing the Relevance of the Creation/Evolution Debate to Today's Society (foreword by Ken Ham)" With a forward by Ken Ham? McIntosh is also published in 'Evangelicals Now'.

Things aren't looking good for casey, as usual. Oh wow, just spotting something else. Guess who is on the editorial Board for WIT Press Journals? Check out their webpage and look down the list, there is an 'A. McIntosh, University of Leeds, UK'.

There's more. Do you remember 'Truth in Science'? I mentioned it in another post "Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!" Stephen C. Meyer, another disagreeable DI fellow, identified a Norman Nevin as one of the scientists who is not a known ID advocate who enthusiastically endoresed his long argument from ignorance "Signature in the Cell". This is just another lie because Nevin is a member of Truth in Science, a group affiliated with the Discovery Institute and a pro-ID group in Great Britain. Guess who else is a member? You got it -- one each Professor Andrew McIntosh! He's even more than just a member, he's on the Board of Directors. Why wouldn't casey mention any of this?

So what do we have so far, we have a paper written by a Young-Earth Creationist, published by an apparently non-scientific press of which he is on the editorial board. Toss in his already existing anti-evolution bias and his only book publication and my conclusions are significantly different than luskin's. I certainly don't think this measures up in any way to a valid peer-reviewed scientific paper. Do you?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Klinghoffer lies by Omission

Last month I posted a bit about the Discovery Institute's (DI) efforts to re-baptize Alfred Russel Wallace as an Intelligent Design proponent. It was a post by Michael Flannery, at the DI's own Evolution News and Views sorta-blog, and . . . as usual . . . other DI mouthpieces have taken up the lie.

I guess it was David Klinghoffer's turn on the wheel. Oh, you haven't heard about 'The Wheel'? It's a technique to evenly distribute tasks. It's used by some restaurants use it to make sure the servers get an equal share of the customers coming it. It's called a 'wheel' because each name keeps coming up in rotation. W.E.B. Griffin uses one as a device for his fictional homicide detectives to show who gets the next homicide as they get called in. It's a technique that has been around for years, you might call it something else, but 'The Wheel' worked for me.

So it must be davey klinghoffer turn and he has his own post over on Evolution News and Views, a supposed news/blog site where they pretty much post anything they want and certainly don't ever allow comments. But there is something I would like you to think about. While I hate running up their stats even by a tiny bit, I will post the link to the article "New Biography Reveals Evolution's Co-Discoverer as Early Intelligent Design Advocate", but you really don't need to read it, it has nothing of any real substance and you will see why i believe that in one second.

OK, klinghoffer's post concerns a new 'Biography' of Alfred Russel Wallace written by the self-same Michael Flannery who I mentioned in my earlier post. Now regardless of what he says about it -- which really is nothing new in a DI fluff piece -- I want you to consider that klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow over at the Discovery Institute. OK, I know you knew that, but how about this little tidbit, klinghoffer described Flannery as "historian Michael Flannery" and further described him as:

"Michael A. Flannery is Professor and Associate Director for Historical Collections at the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and editor of Alfred Russel Wallace's Theory of Intelligent Evolution (2008)."
For some reason little davey forgot to mention that Michael Flannery is also Fellow at the Discovery Institute. Now why in the world for davey not bother mentioning that little item? Doesn't that make you wonder what is going on? Why would he fail to mention that not only is Flannery more than the editor of one book about Wallace that tries to reincarnate him as an ID proponent, that not only has Flannery written blog posts making the same sort of claim, but now he has written a book of his own re-writing Wallace's life and what Wallace actually believed in (which is Darwinian Evolution BTW) -- but not once does he mention that he and Flannery are buddies who share the same political master, the DI. Why would that be?

Let's toss one more DI item into the mix, guess who published Flannery's missive? Yup, the DI's own Discovery Institute Press! So we have a DI fellow writing a book published by the DI and lauded by another DI fellow on a DI website. Anyone else see this as more than a little bit hinky? So, as usual, the Di is still pushing their ID idea without having to bother doing anything that remotely resembles science. Now they are trying to re-write the past and using their own pet historian to do it.

One last question for davey and the other DI mouthpieces, why did you suddenly all quit writing in support of David Coppedge? It's been months and his trial comes up this year. I would have assumed you would have been trying to fan the flames of public opinion, especially in light of the deafening silence by Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)? It's just a question, or have you got something else you would rather not share with the class?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Censorship is such an ugly word, but it applies!

But sometimes it is the only one that applies.

On January 10th of this new year I was wandering the web and came across an article that, in my opinion, stretched the truth just a wee bit. So in my normal fashion I commented on the article and tried to set the record straight. I checked just about every day and my comment was sitting there label 'awaiting moderation'. Well guess what? My post, critical of their poorly supported piece disappeared. I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised.

Now back on the 10th, I also wandered around this specific website and I found another piece and commented on it. Yes, I was critical because the piece didn't seem to actually address any issues. It was all assumption and innuendo. I guess folks are not allowed to point such things out to anyone, because after 9 days awaiting moderation, it also disappeared.

Now before anyone gets all huffy. I have removed one and only one poster from my blog. When the posts that person made became extremely prejudicial and loaded with discriminatory comments I deleted them. I am not overly proud of doing that, but I felt that keeping their comments was in fact enabling them and giving them a platform.

It certainly wasn't because they disagreed with me. If you have been following this blog at all you know I tend to engage folks who disagree. Anyone remember Rory? I responded to his comments several times (Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!) and even wound up generating two other posts because my comments to him wouldn't fit in the comments section (In response to a comment and Another response to poor Rory). So my issue wasn't disagreement, but his lack of support for his contentions. You can read back if you want.

However, what happened to me over on Creation Revolution was censorship. My first post was concerning their article "Professor denied tenure because of Intelligent Design beliefs". Yes, Guillermo Gonzalez is old news. It's been four years since he was denied tenure and lost his various appeals. What bothered me about their article was how loose they played with the facts of the case. They never addressed the core question of whether or not Professor Gonzalez did what was required to receive tenure. That should be the bottom line, but they never address those issues. The nearest they came was mentioning his 68 published papers. They didn't mention if those papers were ones published during the seven years he was a tenure seeking candidate. They also failed to examine whether or not all of those papers actually fell into the subject area he was hired to teach. They furthermore compounded their error by not addressing other tenure requirements -- the other ones he failed to meet.

I have discussed Gonzalez before (Arguments XXVI -- Universal Fine Tuning, Iowa Professor denied tenure and claims free speech and conspiracy theories, More on Professor Gonzalez, Regents deny tenure appeal of intelligent design professor) many times. My bottom line is simply this:

"When you apply and are accepted for a tenure-seeking position there is usually a laundry-list of things you must do. You are also given a time-frame, something in the neighborhood of 5 years. On that list is usually things like publish, advise graduate students, teach lots of classes, perform research, bring in external money for research, among other things. The decision to grant tenure is based on all of them, plus how well you work with your peers, support department policies, and present yourself as a member of the faculty and staff.

If Prof. Gonzales had done these things, he might have had a chance at his tenure review, but according to his track record he failed. In over 7 years he had ONE grad student complete their thesis, raised less that 1/50th the amount of research money, and had no significant scientific publications. Yes, he published at least one book outside his field of Astronomy, which supported Intelligent Design, but nothing within his field"
Please note that it was the Regents who determined that Gonzalez failed to meet the requirements for tenure. Please also note that they said he had no significant publications, which certainly disagrees with Creation Revolution's claim of 68 papers. So where did Creation Revolution get their information? From the Creation Research Society. Anyone else see a problem here?

My other post was on an article "Did ‘Nature’ Invent Oxygen-Carrying Systems…Twice?" This done by the less-than-scholarly Institute for Creation Research (ICR). ICR has been the topic of a number of posts of mine, chiefly on their failed attempt to get permission to award actual master's of Science degrees. (Texas, on a different but related subject, Hasn't Texas had enough?,Yea for Texas!, Texas scores a big win!, and ICR admits defeat, sort of . . .). So the very idea of ICR doing some scholarship would be shocking.

Luckily for me, there was no shock. This was a poorly supported opinion piece. They questioned the possibility of hemoglobin evolving twice. First of all that isn't a conclusion as of yet. However it is a possibility. My response was so what! Didn't nature evolve three very distinct flight mechanisms (bird, bat, and insect)? Didn't sight take some very different evolutionary paths (human, avian, and insect). I mean nature is replete with examples of similar function on different evolutionary paths. This is no big deal. But ICR, and by extension Creation Revolution, tries to make it some sort of evolutionary critique. Not very scholarly of them!

What I have to say about this is simple. 'Creation Revolution' kept comments that agreed with them and dumped my comments that tried to re-introduce the actual facts and issues of Gonzalez and question the basics of the ICR article. Simply put, censorship.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, newly discovered blogger

Came across a great post from Alison Campbell at SciBlogs in New Zealand: "‘intelligent design is not creationism in any shape or form’ – yeah, right!"
It's a great summary of just about everything ID. She pegs the DI, the wedge strategy and Dover beautifully!

". . . so-called ‘intelligent design’ is creationism, pure and simple, and not a valid scientific explanation for life’s diversity."
Can't get much more succinct than that! Thanks Alison. I'll be reading more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The best start of 2011

Non Sequitur is one of the best comics and one I try to stay fairly current on. This one from 1 Jan 2011 is priceless.

This have been pretty hectic, so while I have been wanting to comment on a few things, like the new State-assisted Creationism theme park in Kentucky, I have been barely keeping my head above water. But if this is a start, the next year should be fun. Wasn't this one of the years someone or other predicted the demise of Evolution as a scientific theory? Or was that 2012? Let's see, demise of evolution or the end of the Mayan calendar? Yea, 2011 for evolution and 2012 for the end of the world. Since the odds are the same for either one, you can see why I get them confused.