Monday, August 29, 2011


Once There Were Giants in the Land

... Well, not really. They were human beings with all the attendant foibles and frailties.

But they valued reason and learning and believed that government should reflect the best of both.

Today, we have people taken seriously as candidates for the highest office in the land who, nonetheless, profess to believe that natural events, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, are messages from gods, not unlike Odin's thunderbolts and Poseidon's sea monsters.

Zeus help us!

Sunday, August 28, 2011


In the Night

Well, the case of Jerry Buell, a teacher at the Mount Dora (Florida) High School keeps ... um ... evolving.

Buell was suspended for making remarks on his personal Facebook page, about the New York State legislature's recent, and all too infrequent, bout of sanity in legalizing same sex marriage, that I, myself, found offensive and, worse, in a teacher, really stupid.

It seems the suspension has been lifted.

The thing about the First Amendment is that the right to say what you want does not depend on the speech being inoffensive or intelligent by my, or anyone else's, standards.

And, contrary to some expectations, the ACLU did come to the defense of Buell. It is less clear that Liberty Counsel, who actually represented Buell, would have done the same if the shoe was on the other foot.

But now this has come to light:

On his school webpage, he wrote that he tries to "teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself."

On his class syllabus, he also offers this warning to students: "I teach God's truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, 'cause I ain't changing!" On a separate document, he also said the classroom was his "mission field."
What Buell and any other government employee can't do is use his tax payer funded position to proselytize his religious beliefs to his students under the guise of "teaching" and, in particular, he cannot bully his students into accepting his beliefs.

If Mr. Buell abused his position to advance his religious beliefs in the classroom, he is no First Amendment hero. He is just another thief stealing from the public purse for his own selfish motives.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


School Daze

Ya gotta love how ineffective the Discoveryless Institute has been at inculcating the creationist masses with the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" message that Intelligent Design Creationism is, instead, a scientific theory.

The latest example is a certain Lynne Tagawa, writing in the Letters to the Editor section of the San Antonio Express-News.

The letter starts off by stating that Ms. Tagawa supports the candidacy of Rick Perry and goes downhill from there:

As a biology teacher myself [oh, my!], I would have a hard time finding employment in public schools because I would explain that if any student had a question about Darwinism, I would entertain a discussion on the merits of and issues with the theory.

I would open up the possibility of intelligent design if the discussion went in that direction. From a scientific standpoint, there is nothing wrong with contrasting a scientific theory predicated on atheism (Darwinism) with a scientific model predicated on theistic assumptions.
Now, of course, I somehow missed where Darwin and the generations of scientists that have come after him made atheism an assumption of evolutionary theory. But Ms. Tagawa is certainly right about ID being predicated on religious beliefs ... and rather narrow, sectarian ones at that. It's just that, despite the best efforts of the DI, they can't get it through the rubes heads that they're supposed to lie.

At least Ms. Tagawa has some niggling inkling about the Constitution:

I realize that some parents would prefer their children to be insulated from religious ideas. As a teacher, I respect that. For this reason, I support a continued emphasis on school choice and I'm thankful Perry understands the needs of Texas parents and teachers in this regard.
What she doesn't understand is that it is just as wrong to use my tax money to give religious instruction to her children as it is to force her religion on other people's children.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Goin' to the School Dunce

The Christian Post seems surprised that an atheist might defend the rights of a homophobe.

A Florida high school teacher who was suspended from the classroom for a comment he made against gay marriage on his Facebook page has gained an unlikely defender – an atheist.

Hemant Mehta, also known as the "friendly atheist," initially wanted to join in on the backlash against the teacher – Jerry Buell from Mount Dora High School. But he now argues that Buell should not be punished for his beliefs about homosexuality, as long as they are not articulated in the classroom.

"This is a free speech issue," Mehta wrote on his blog Saturday. "You don’t have to like what Buell said – I know I don’t – but everyone has the right to believe what they want, even if it’s crazy, untrue, or harmful."
Buell's comments are pretty objectionable, especially coming from someone who has been a Social Studies Department chair and has taught American history and government:

I'm watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up. And now they showed two guys kissing after their announcement. If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don't insult a man and woman's marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool as same-sex whatever! God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable???
Umm ... one man's "sin" is another man's perfectly acceptable behavior and a social studies and history teacher should know that.

Buell was suspended from his job for violation of the school's "social media policy."

But even worse are the comments of Chris Patton, communications officer [Officer? As in Keystone Kop?] for Lake County schools, who helped develop the guidelines:

People think they're free to say what they want to, but in some aspects it can come back to haunt you.
Uh ... people are free to say what they want to say ... it's that First Amendment thingie ... at least on their own time and in their personal capacity.

The leading Supreme Court case in this regard is probably Pickering v. Board Of Education. In that case a teacher was dismissed for sending a letter to a local newspaper critical of the Board of Education concerning a proposed tax increase. The Court held "absent proof of false statements knowingly or recklessly made by him [i.e., defamation of the board members], a teacher's exercise of his right to speak on issues of public importance may not furnish the basis for his dismissal from public employment."

A teacher may also be restricted in his speech during class, such as being prevented from teaching creationism in science class, or in what he says in government publications or on government websites, but that is not the case here, where the comments were on his personal Facebook page.

For once Liberty Counsel is right (blind pigs and acorns and all that):

If the First Amendment does not protect Mr. Buell’s right to voice his personal opinion, on his personal time, from his personal computer, on his personal Facebook page, then the First Amendment means nothing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Parsing Public Pronouncements

A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out the case against James Corbett, a Capistrano (California) Valley High School teacher, brought by Chad Farnan, a former student, who claimed that Corbett "violated his rights under the Establishment Clause by making comments during class that were hostile to religion in general, and to Christianity in particular."

I've discussed this case before but the gist of it was that Corbett, in his "advanced placement" European history course, made certain ... let's call them disparaging ... remarks about religion in general, Christianity in more particular, and especially about creationism. The Circuit Court gives what appears to be a complete list of the remarks complained of by Farnan.

The District Court had thrown out all of Farnan's complaints except the one statement by Corbett that creationism is "religious, superstitious nonsense."

The Circuit Court decision, however, contains language that I can readily foresee the Discoveryless Institute glomming onto in furtherance of its campaign to dumb down American youth. I think the decision is less favorable to them than it might appear at first blush but, to explain its import, I'm going to have to try to lead you through some arcane aspects of American constitutional law.

First of all, here is the language that the DI may find comfort in (with the citations and quotation marks removed):

The Supreme Court has long recognized the importance of protecting the robust exchange of ideas in education, which discovers truth 'out of a multitude of tongues.' Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding. Academic freedom is an essential for responsible teachers. To prepare students for adult roles in a democratic society, teachers and the schools must try to maintain an atmosphere of free inquiry. This academic freedom will sometimes lead to the examination of controversial issues. ...

Families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family. But teachers must also be given leeway to challenge students to foster critical thinking skills and develop their analytical abilities. This balance is hard to achieve, and we must be careful not to curb intellectual freedom by imposing dogmatic restrictions that chill teachers from adopting the pedagogical methods they believe are most effective.
Of course, the DI maintains that "Darwinism" fosters a philosophical/theological viewpoint of "materialism" and they have relentlessly pushed a notion of "academic freedom" whereby individual teachers should be allowed to teach "the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution." That position [cough] evolved from their previous position that teachers who wanted to should be allowed to teach about intelligent design, but teachers should not be required to teach about it, which, in turn, evolved from their previous position that ID would replace evolutionary science.

Everyone, friend and foe alike, recognize that this is just a ploy to allow creationist teachers to inject the same old tired creationist arguments into public school science classes but that doesn't mean the DI is going to stop anytime soon. The apparent point of urging individual teachers to raise ID, and/or the "creation science" arguments adopted by ID advocates, is to make it more difficult for those who oppose pseudoscience to sue to end the practice.

Now, to understand what the Circuit Court did, you have to first understand that the lawsuit that was dismissed was only against Corbett in his personal capacity. Farnan's suit against the school district had been dismissed by the District Court because a "supervisor [e.g. a school administration or school board] is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them." There was no evidence that the school district knew or approved of the one, off-the-cuff, remark by Corbett that the District Court found to be a violation. Farnan then "settled" against the district by dropping any further proceedings in return for the district agreeing not to seek recovery of its legal expenses.

When a government official is sued in his personal capacity, there is what is called an "affirmative defense" of "qualified immunity." It is "affirmative" because it must be plead in the defendant's answer to prevent surprise to the plaintiff.

The simplest way to explain qualified immunity is, if a government official acts in an unconstitutional manner, but does so "in good faith" (i.e. without a nefarious intent), he or she cannot be sued in his or her personal capacity and the only recourse the complainant has is against the governmental arm the individual official represents. Since it had already been determined that the school district was not liable, a finding that Corbett had qualified immunity in this instance ends the case.

Much of the Circuit Court decision involves whether the District Court was correct to allow Corbett, after most of the complaints were dismissed, to amend his answer to assert the qualified immunity defense. The Circuit Court found that it was permissible and that part of the decision is only of interest to lawyers.

Since the issue on qualified immunity is the good faith of the official, an important aspect is whether the official knew, or had reason to know, that what he or she was doing was unconstitutional. As the Circuit Court put it:

Governmental officials generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. In evaluating whether a right is clearly established, we look to the state of the law at the time of the incident in question. The contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Courts do not require a case directly on point, but existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate. That standard is not met here — nothing put Corbett on notice that his statements might violate the Establishment Clause.

The Supreme Court has recently reiterated that we must not "define clearly established law at a high level of generality" when analyzing whether the qualified immunity standard is met. Rather, the right alleged to have been violated must be defined in a "more particularized" manner than, for example, "the general proposition that use of force is contrary to the Fourth Amendment if it is excessive under objective standards of reasonableness." That is the fundamental problem with Farnan's contention that qualified immunity does not protect Corbett. Farnan asserts that "[i]t has been clearly established for many years that the government must remain neutral with regard to religion, and it may not show its disapproval of religion." This overbroad proposition, "cast at a high level of generality," is just the sort of sweeping statement of the law that is inappropriate for assessing whether qualified immunity applies.
Now it should be obvious from the above why this case is not necessarily helpful to the DI's strategy. For starters, there is a plethora of cases stating that teaching creationism in public school science classes is unconstitutional and one celebrated and well-reasoned case holding that ID is creationism. That is arguably enough to put any teacher on notice that teaching ID as valid science is unconstitutional.

It is trickier with the "the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution" ploy. A foundation will have to be laid that the "scientific views" against evolution are, in fact, just ID/creationism ... something that, ironically, would be made easier if the teacher uses the DI's faux textbook, Explore Evolution, in class.

More importantly, the first thing for science supporters to do when some teacher attempts this strategy is to complain loudly, often and in detail to the school board, the school administration and the teacher showing how the material is unconstitutional. Neither the school board nor the school administration can claim qualified immunity and, as long as they know what is going on, they are responsible for the individual teacher's actions. And a teacher's immunity lasts only as long as it is plausible that he or she did not know that what was being done is unconstitutional.

That last point raises something else that needs to be discussed. Contrary to what the NCSE asserts Corbett was not 'vindicated.'

The Court of Appeals reiterated that the Establishment Clause applies not only to official condonement of a particular religion or religious belief, but also to official disapproval or hostility toward religion. The Court did not disturb the ruling of the District Court that Corbett violated Farnan's Establishment Clause rights.

If Corbett, or any teacher coming after him, wants to call creationism "religious, superstitious nonsense," they had best be warned that the defense of qualified immunity may no longer be available to them ... precisely because there is now a case making plain that such statements by public school teachers are constitutionally improper.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Mean Ol' Theists!

Larry Moran is complaining that William Lane Craig is actually using logic against atheists. Furthermore, that's good enough reason for atheists to duck debates with Craig.

Sure, Larry calls what Craig is doing "rhetoric" and "gotcha" moments but the problem is, if they are so easy to refute, why should there be any problem?

Specifically, Craig has the temerity to punch logical holes in some of atheists' favorite arguments, which Larry calls "frustrating and aggravating." I'm sure it is ... especially since atheists of Larry's stripe are so quick to tell everyone how logical and scientific they are. It's always frustrating and aggravating to be shown not to be what you claim you are.

I'll mention only a couple:

One is the "argument from bad design," perhaps most famously made by Stephen Jay Gould in the form of "the panda's thumb." But it has been criticized by many more people than just theists like Craig. Elliot Sober, one of the best philosophers of science working today, has also pointed out its flaws, both scientifically and logically.

Another is the notion that the absence of (scientific) evidence for god(s) as a positive argument against the existence of god(s). Again Sober shows the logical and scientific flaws in this. Incidentally, Bertrand Russell's teapot analogy somehow got dragged into this, despite the fact that Russell made the argument against agnosticism, not theism. I have my own take on that and I am not, of course, a theist.

As an aside, Larry complains that Craig "simply refuses to accept the analogy being made and prefers to twist it around to make his point." Of course, it could be pointed out that such is the problem with arguments from analogy ... since they are not based in empiric fact ... that there is no way of telling whose "interpretation" of the analogy is correct.

All of which is not to say that I think debating Craig is a good idea for most atheists. It is clear that he has immersed himself in the arguments of his opponents to a great degree (which some atheists think is beneath them ... [cough]Courtier's Reply[cough]) and has read widely in the philosophy of science. Nor is it to say that there aren't many good arguments against Craig's claims.

But it's always a bad idea to undertake what you are unwilling to prepare for.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Checking it Twice

Via Dana Hunter, here's another of those "Top 100" lists, this time for science fiction and fantasy novels, as voted by listeners to National Public Radio.

There are the usual objections. Why are 1984 and Animal Farm on a list of sci-fi/fantasy books? Why do so many people hate Robert Heinlein enough to vote for his awful political rant, Starship Troopers, that has none of the charm of his juveniles nor the sweep of his other political rants, such as Stranger in a Strange Land? The Lord Of The Rings? ... of course! The Silmarillion ... ?!?!? The Left Hand Of Darkness at only 45?

And this was winnowed down from a list of "finalists" vetted by a "NPR Science Fiction and Fantasy Panel." But, still, the finalists included Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard! What's up with that?

Anyway, here's the list with the ones I've read in bold. Some book series are named as series, while others are only represented by one book. I've indicated where I've read some but not all of a series (for example, Dune's fictional world was fresh and deeply involving but Herbert was never able to sustain it).

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert [Dune and one or two others]
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein [Phah!]
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe [Parts]
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson [Parts]
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Foot, Meet Mouth

The blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is featuring the Campbell County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors' defiance of the law of the land. Informed of the decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, widely recognized as the most conservative of the Circuit Courts, that the regular use of sectarian invocations at government meetings is unconstitutional, they were unrepentant.

In the Circuit Court case, the Forsyth County (North Carolina) Board of Commissioners had a policy of offering all religious congregations in the county an opportunity to deliver invocations at board meetings. The court agreed that:

... the policy states that it is "not intended, and shall not be implemented or construed in any way, to affiliate the Board with, nor express the Board's preference for, any faith or religious denomination."

Take-all-comers policies that do not discourage sectarian prayer will inevitably favor the majoritarian faith in the community at the expense of religious minorities living therein. This effect creates real burdens on citizens — particularly those who attend meetings only sporadically — for they will have to listen to someone professing religious beliefs that they do not themselves hold as a condition of attendance and participation."
In the face of this, the response of Chairman of the Campbell County Board, Steve Shockley, was:

"The 4th Circuit has come out with a new decision on Friday that holds that all invocations must be nonsectarian, and that "In Jesus' name we pray" or "the Son" violate the separation of church and state," he read.

Then looking at those gathered in attendance, Shockley said, "If you're offended by the name of Christ or Lord and Savior, you are welcome to leave the room."
There can hardly be a clearer statement that belief in Christianity is a condition of attendance and participation in the government of Campbell County.

The only good thing about this despicable abuse of his governmental office is that Shockley has guaranteed that the ACLU will have an extremely easy time of it when it sues to end the practice.

Saturday, August 06, 2011



And some people think philosophers are useless:

You can never be too thin or too rich, they say. But perhaps you can have too many books. How many is too many? ...

It is not my purpose to prescribe limits on the possession of books. Instead I aim only to provide a handy measure by which readers may decide for themselves whether their acquisitive instincts have exceeded the bounds of prudence.

To this end I offer the Shelf Encumbrance Index.

In theory it is easily calculated. You have merely to determine, for each book in your collection, how many other books must be moved so as to permit that book to be available for reading. Call that its "encumbrance". Divide the total encumbrance of all your books taken together by the number of books, and that will be the SEI. In the ideal library it is zero: no book is encumbered. Likewise the SEI of an e-library is always, sadly, zero. ...

In real life there will be complications. For example, in the library above some books are not shelved but rather stacked. Clearly the encumbrance of a book beneath the stack, if it cannot be extracted without disturbing the stack, will be at least as great as the number of books in the stack. On the other hand, the encumbrance of a book within the stack will vary. A bit of thought shows that the SEI for a stack of height n will be (n–1)/2. In yet more complicated situations empirical tests may be required.
I shudder at the thought of calculating my SEI.


Creeping Sharia, Batman!

Kelly Kohls, a member of the Springboro, Ohio school board and Teabagger Tea Party stalwart who wanted to have the local public schools teach creationism has had an epiphany and:

... revised her position on whether Springboro schools should teach creationism. She said parents should have the choice of using state funds to send their children to other schools if they want to learn about creationism and intelligent design. ...

"I would like to (teach it), but not necessarily at this public school. I think it is important we understand why we don't."
For starters, there's a little thing called the Constitution ...

Not that any Tea Partyer is gonna let that stop 'em:

Instead, Kohls would like to see expanded "school choice" and possibly vouchers for parents who want their children to learn about such topics, she said. Vouchers, which use state money to send students to parochial or private schools, are only available to parents in low-performing districts. Springboro schools are rated excellent.
Oh, wait a minute! That would mean that all those little Muslim boys and girls could use taxpayer money to be sent to a madrasah to learn about ... Sharia!

When in danger or in doubt,
run in circles, scream and shout ...

Friday, August 05, 2011


Doubling Down

From Texas:

A few questions about Darwin's theory

To the editor:

I recently wrote a letter concerning evolution and intelligent design and the right of students to hear all sides of an issue rather than be brainwashed with only one thought available. I would now like to make a few comments on Darwin's theory of evolution.

Three basic questions come to my mind when studying Darwin's theory:

1. If fish came out of the ocean to walk upon land, why do we still have fish?

2. If man evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?

3. Does anyone have any proof of any species ever evolving into another species?

I will be interested in hearing any answers to these questions.

Dr. (Name Withheld to Protect the Clueless)

Monday, August 01, 2011


Fiscal Fools

Matt Young at The Panda's Thumb is reporting how the alleged "fiscal conservatives" of the Tea Party are nothing but social ideologues who care nothing about throwing educational resources down the toilet and whose supposed dedication to the Constitution is nothing but a political ploy masking a deep ignorance and disrespect for the rights it embodies. Alternatively, they are too stupid to read the Constitution and the multiple cases that have held that creationism cannot be taught as true in public schools.

Yes, a bunch of Tea Partiers are trying to force creationism into the local public schools in Ohio. If they succeed, there will be a lawsuit that will result in the school district having to pay the plaintiffs' legal fees. They can't even manage to wrap their small brains around the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" of the Intelligent Design scam:

Kelly Kohls, who was elected in Springboro on a platform of fiscal responsibility two years ago, requested last week the district's curriculum director look into ways of providing "supplemental" instruction dealing with creationism. Fellow member, Scott Anderson, who was elected with Kohls when the district was struggling financially, supports his colleague's idea.

"Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country," Kohls said. "It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country."
Make up your mind, Scott! If you want to teach creationism in a history of thought or comparative religion class, along with all the competing ideas and religions, then fine. But if you want to teach it as a "valid theory" alongside evolutionary theory, you'd be better off just piling the taxpayers' money up in the front yard of the school and lighting a bonfire as way to demonstrate your "fiscal conservatism."

This bothered me too:

John Silvius, a former biology professor at Cedarville University, a Christian institution that teaches both evolution and creationism, said the two theories can co-exist, even in a public school classroom.

"The joy of science, for me, is to raise questions that don't necessarily have easy answers," Silvius said. "If scientific inquiry is robust enough that it can reject false theories, why be so concerned?"
The problem is obvious from your very statement of it, Professor! Robust science has rejected the idea that creationism is science for at least 150 years ... but robust science is not practiced in elementary and high schools. The children are there to learn the basics and anyone who pretends that creationism is a "valid theory" is doing the opposite of education.

When that's done with my tax money, I have every reason to be concerned!

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