Friday, October 14, 2005

ACLU, Kitzmiller and Banned Books Week

A great irony was lost on me until today. I just learned that the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial opened during Bannned Books Week, which is sponsored by the American Library Association. There is an article on Banned Books Week in yesterday's Washington Post. The ACLU is helping to represent the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller, and its Complaint asks that the judge issue an injunction banning the book Of Pandas and People from science classrooms, even though it is there as an optional reference book for students and is not to be used as part of any classroom teaching. (See p. 23) Thus the ACLU celebrated Banned Books Week this year in a very special and meaningful way.

It is not Banned Speech Week (as far as I know), but the ACLU is also seeking to ban a one minute statement by a school administrator once each year in biology classes. The statement contains a 15 second segment telling students that the Pandas book exists and inviting them to read it if they are interested, on their own time, and on a purely voluntary basis. The Dover school board policy makes clear that intelligent design is not to be taught during science class.

In case you were not aware, the ACLU used to be in favor of free speech and against banning books.

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The ACLU might also profit from this information from the ALA web site:
What Is Intellectual Freedom?

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

What Is Censorship?

Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Meirs: Does Religion Matter?

Apparently some on the left believe that a nominee's religion should not bar her from being confirmed unless people on the right like her, if only in part, because of her religion. Looks like Miers may suffer a little from the "religion penalty" much like the school board in Dover, PA. According to the plaintiff's theory of the case, if actions are motivated even in small part by religious sentiments, they are suspect and potentially unconstitutional, regardless of their effects. If the plaintiffs win, schoolchildren will certainly learn this unfortunate lesson: the US Constitution may punish you if you let your religious faith affect how you live and speak about it openly, even if your faith helps you to pursue otherwise laudable goals.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

William F. Buckley and Evolution

A very favorable commentary about William F. Buckley, Jr. by the self-described liberal E. J. Dionne is in today's Washington Post:
It is time that I confess to an illicit love. I am now, and have been almost all my life, an admirer of William F. Buckley Jr.

His 8oth birthday is approaching and the 50th anniversary of the National Review was recently celebrated. Therefore, I thought it an appropriate time to take a look at some of the things Buckley said during a debate in 1997 on macroevolutionary theory:
[M]y colleagues and I judge that the evidence for the naturalist theory of evolution is not merely insubstantial, it is fanciful. . . .

. . .

I'm reminded of the reply by an elderly scientist a hundred years ago, when confronted by an exuberant young skeptic. He said to his student, "I gotta tell you, I find it more reasonable to believe in God, than to believe that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop." So I beg your attention to our resolution tonight, which is that the dogma of evolution should give way to a broader intelligence, which makes way for a First Mover.

For the full text of the debate, which included Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, David Berlinski, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott, Kenneth Miller and Barry Lynn, go here.

For a more recent comment by him in the midst of discussing a different issue, go here.

Alternatives to Macroevolutionary Theory in New Mexico

The Washington Post reports on developments in New Mexico, and contains this:

Rick Cole, a science teacher at Los Lunas High School in Los Lunas, N.M., taught the concept alongside evolution in biology class for 11 years but was ordered last year to stop after a parent complained to the principal.

The teachings avoided religious discussions, Cole said. According to student surveys he collected throughout the time he taught intelligent design, 98 percent of the nearly 1,000 students he taught preferred a side-by-side presentation, he said.

"When it comes to the origin of life, it's been very much a closed market, and no opportunity to consider alternative explanations," said Cole, who hopes to add intelligent design back this year. "The majority of science teachers choose to avoid the subject because of the controversy; they would just rather not even teach it."

Virtually the same article appears to be here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Barbara Forrest, the ACLU and Calvin and Hobbes

Krauze posted this cartoon, in response to this post by Mike Gene, which discusses, among other things, ACLU fund-raising tactics. The cited ACLU fund-raising letter can be found here. One of the comments discusses Barbara Forrest and her obsessive conspiracy theories. Another post explaining aspects of her conspiracy theories is here.

Isn't there anyone over there at the ACLU who is saying, "Hey, everyone, what ever happened to our original mission of protecting free speech- even for unpopular causes?" Or, "Why are we spending all these resources in the Kitzmiller case to stop a 15 second invitation to students to do further voluntary reading outside of class?"