Saturday, October 08, 2005

Eugenie Scott's Strategy to Take

This post can now be found here.

Scientific Theory No Longer Provisional at the University of Idaho

In a remarkable development, Timothy White, the president of the University of Idaho has declared "evolution" unique among scientific theories. As noted previously, he made this dramatic pronouncement:
At the University of Idaho, teaching of views that differ from evolution . . . is inappropriate in our life, earth, and physical science courses or curricula.

If "views that differ from evolution" are no longer permitted, "evolution" can logically no longer be considered a provisional theory at that university. On the other hand, academic freedom was apparently very provisional.

There seems to be no truth to the rumor that the descendants of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck have petitioned the president of the University of Wyoming to give their ancestor's theory known as Lamarckism non-provisional status at that university.

Friday, October 07, 2005

HM Monitor 2

ScrappleFace notes that Bush failed to ask WWKD?

Harriet Miers Monitor Friday

There is more on the Harriet Miers nomination in the Washington Post: first the Threat to the Dream, and then she keeps making her rounds in the Senate. Charles Krauthammer asks the President to Withdraw This Nominee.

Seems like the social conservatives are fine with with the choice, and the economic conservatives are worried that she may be too compassionate for their tastes. For the purposes of this blog, I note that it still seems quite likely that she will not interprete the First Amendment to discriminate by hamstringing religion in the public square. Even less so scientific theories that merely have religious implications.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

University President Bans Consideration of Alternatives to Evolution

In a strangely worded letter, Timothy P. White, the President of the University of Idaho has forbidden consideration of any theory but evolution in the school's "life, earth, and physical science courses." He said, in part:

I write to articulate the University of Idaho’s position with respect to evolution: This is the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences. . . . At the University of Idaho, teaching of views that differ from evolution . . . is inappropriate in our life, earth, and physical science courses or curricula.

Taken at face value, this would seem to forbid teaching the theory of relativity, string theory or number theory (since "evolution" is the "only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught"), but I do not think that is what he meant. What he means is therefore unclear, but very scary. What is clear is that he has thrown academic freedom out the window. What in the world are "views that differ from evolution"? Can you teach, for example, about the Cambrian Explosion since that poses serious problems for evolutionary theory and tends to support "views that differ from evolution"? Can you mention that biological systems appear designed, as long as you clarify each time that you believe they are not designed in the same breath?

He does assure us that in religion classes, professors can still teach "views that differ from evolution," but only if they are "in faculty-approved curricula." He does not explain what is faculty-approved curricula. Perhaps he will set up a committee to police the appropriate limits of academic thought in those areas as well.

He did not articulate the penalty for violating this policy, but I am sure he knows what to do with people that cross the line. But who knows where the line is?

I wonder if he will come out with a statement soon forbidding teaching anything but Stalinism in poly sci classes. Students at the university may want to read the resources at this link, before President White blocks access. I guess when your ideas cannot prevail in a free marketplace of ideas, drastic measures are needed.

President White, you are hereby inducted into the Darwinian Fundamentalism Hall of Fame.

This info comes thanks to the Discovery Institute, whose statement is here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Barbara Forrest Testimony

The Washington Post has this brief report on Barbara Forrest's testimony at the Kitzmiller trial. William Dembski's rebuttal to her witness report can be found here. The Discovery Institute comments are here.

When she states that intelligent design and creationism are "virtually synonymous," her credibility as a witness evaporates. She also shows her ignorance of, or willing disregard for, the fundamental and obvious distinctions.

I hope there is good cross-examination of her beliefs and whether they taint her science as well.

Anthony Kennedy and the Establishment Clause

This web page provides an overview of the Supreme Court's application of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Anthony Kennedy may soon be the swing vote in such cases (if Harriet Miers is confirmed). Here is an excerpt on how he may change the analysis:

Coercion test
Some justices propose allowing more government support for religion than the Lemon test allows. These justices support the adoption of a test outlined by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his dissent in County of Allegheny v. ACLU and known as the “coercion test.” Under this test the government does not violate the establishment clause unless it (1) provides direct aid to religion in a way that would tend to establish a state church, or (2) coerces people to support or participate in religion against their will. Under such a test, the government would be permitted to erect such religious symbols as a Nativity scene standing alone in a public school or other public building at Christmas. But even the coercion test is subject to varying interpretations, as illustrated in Lee v. Weisman, the 1992 Rhode Island graduation-prayer decision in which Justices Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, applying the same test, reached different results.

It hard to imagine how the 15 second announcement and invitation to do further reading outside of class contained in the Dover policy in the Kitzmiller case would violate such a coercion test.

Harriet Miers and Kitzmiller v. Dover - Update 8

Harriet Miers and her views on church and state may have a bigger impact on the ultimate outcome of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case than anything that goes on in court this week. Background articles from the Washington Post and other sources are below.


One article discusses the conservative revolt , also here, and more commentary: the Dissed Intellectuals from Harold Meyerson and Telling Words from David Broder.John Dickerson at Slate comments in Gods vs. Geeks:
In this battle, the White House has clearly sided with the churchgoing masses against the Republican Party's own whiny Beltway intellectuals. The Bushies have always mistrusted their own bow-tied secularists, but the rift has never before been so public. "This is classic elitism," says a senior administration official of the GOP opposition to the Miers nomination. "We often blame the left for it, but we have it in our own ranks. Just because she wasn't on a shortlist of conservatives who prepared their whole life for this moment doesn't make her any less conservative … and just because she hasn't penned op-eds for the Wall Street Journal doesn't mean she hasn't formed a judicial philosophy.


An article on Miers' church background. See comments below under the Tuesday heading.

And now an article on the nomination confusion and George Will's opinion.


Don't miss the latest humor on Bush's nomination at ScrappleFace.

Here is a blog that discusses her religious background and views. This would seem to indicate that she would not take a position hostile to theism or to scientific viewpoints with implications consistent with theism. It would also tend to indicate that she will be sophisticated enough to be aware of the religious implications of Darwinian theory.

And this on replacing the all important swing vote. Seems like Anthony Kennedy could now often be the one whose vote determines the Court's rulings.

More from the Post: Now, commentary; and reaction from both sides of the aisle.

More commentary here and here. The President's comments today, responding to complaints from the Right.


Background information from the Washington Post can be found here and here and here.

And now this article, that may give some idea of her views on social issues.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Polls on Evolution and Education

The Washington Post has this piece by Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center in the Sunday Outlook section.

The Discovery Institute has this page with the results of several recent polls on teaching the controversy regarding evolution.

An article on the Pew Research Center website with actual poll results can be found here.

While I was a little surprised by some aspects of these polls, I am not surprised by the results regarding teaching about evolution in public schools. The American people simply recognize that neutrality toward the various perspectives is a better paradigm for interpreting the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment than a rigid separation that would give a clear governmental endorsement to an historical theory that has obvious and profound philosophical and religious implications, and which can never be proven with the same degree of certainty as theories in the operational sciences.

What is more surprising is how gullible the mainstream media is in swallowing the pablum by the Darwin Only lobby, despite the cogent criticism of Darwinian orthodoxy by prominent intellectuals. Many in the mainstream media seem to want to take us back to a fictional 1925 and stay there.

Didn't Pennock Give Away the Store?

The Washington Post (and CNN, with photo) had this report on the testimony of Robert Pennock, an expert witness for the plaintiffs and the ACLU:
Pennock said intelligent design does not belong in a science class, but added that it could possibly be addressed in other types of courses.

Well, the Dover policy does not involve teaching intelligent design in science class. It involves reading a one minute statement only once at the beginning of the semester in each biology class. That statement (full press release here) contains two sentences about intelligent design:
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 who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

The sentences serve as a 15 second invitation to self study by reading Of Pandas and People. Pennock suggests that the school could teach about intelligent design in a philosophy class, or a course on the philosophy of science, the history of science or a class on science and culture. Let's suppose that the school had a class on Science and Philosophy. Is there any problem with a policy that provides that a 15 second announcement would be read in biology class informing students that the related course exists and inviting them to take it? If that is permitted, and the school does not have the resources to offer a full course, what is the problem with a 15 second invitation to self study the same subject matter?

In this light, it seems that Pennock's testimony actually supports the current policy of the Dover School Board. So does the US Constitution and common sense.

Now for my statement:
The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is also available for members of the mainstream media who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

Wash Post Commentary On Polls

The Washington Post has a piece discussing polls on evolution, creationism and intelligent design in the Sunday Outlook section. You can read it online here.

Also in Sunday's Post is this blurb on a textbook that would arguably allow the Bible to be taught in public schools. This from the publisher.