Monthly Archives: December 2007

Antievolution and the Conflict Model

A comment came in not long ago that did not follow from the topic of the post, but I think that it should be seen, so I’ll make a thread for it. It comes from an author of an antievolution book, and handily demonstrates the “conflict model” thinking that is popular among religious antievolutionists and anti-religionists.

Why do scientists so readily embrace evolution in lieu of the written record of creation? The answer lies with a poll of select members of the elite National Academy of Sciences. The poll discovered a prevailing disbelief in God; in fact, only 7 percent of those surveyed held a “personal belief in God.” Of the balance, 72.2 percent held a “personal disbelief” and 20.8 percent were either doubtful or agnostic.

In effect, the sampling revealed that scientists hold a “near total disbelief in God.” (Poll by Peter Atkins and Richard Dawkins, published in Nature, Summer 1998.)

The reason for the rejection, and by assessment an intense hatred of God, is two fold. Firstly, evolution is accepted by an overwhelming majority of biologists and scientists – biblical histories are myths. Consequently, scientists unequivocally abhor any supernatural explanation of natural phenomena, as it questions their intelligence. Secondly, the scientific league refuses to accept a God who would allow all the evil, suffering, and pain that befalls both man and beast (due to sin entering the world through the man, Adam).

Matter-of-factly, anyone who professes belief in God is simply anti-intellectual. Hence, scientists succumb to the grave trusting that their fleshly beings will return to dust from whence they came: there is no God, no life after death, no hell, and no eternal separation from a loving God.

An amusing epilogue: When the results of the poll were first published, a lone dissenter in the U.S. House of Representatives, James Traficant (D-Ohio), complained from the House Floor, “Mr. Speaker, a new report says only 7 percent of scientists believe in God… And the reason they gave was that the scientists are super smart. Unbelievable…”

The scientific council and educators alike have played into the hands of Secular Humanists who view public education as the vehicle to move the citizen into a total secular, materialistic, godless society. According to the manifesto outlined in the journal of the American Humanist Association, The Humanist (1983), the “battle” for the minds and, it must be added, the souls of the innocents is to be “waged and won” in the public classrooms. The aspiration has gained strength by the endorsement of the liberal faction in the National Association of Educators and by teachers, many of whom believe in God but, nevertheless, have been subverted in their faith in that they may only teach the tenets of obstructionism as ruled by the Supreme Court.

The reader may be surprised to find that the expression, “separation of church and state,” is nowhere to be found in the seven articles and twenty-six amendments of the Constitution; yet, the phrase has gained sovereignty over the public schools, not by any right granted by the founding fathers, but by the repetitious manner in which it has been brandished about by those who wish to obstruct the truth. The lesson taught here is not new: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The obstructionist approach; that is, there is no God and, hence, no Son of God, dates back two thousand years to the New Testament epistle, 1 Timothy, penned by the apostle Paul unto Timothy, a servant of Jesus, the Christ. In the disposition, “the putting into order of the church’s affairs,” Timothy was warned to avoid the opposition of “science falsely so called,” or in the modern terminology, “religious obstructionism masquerading as science,” the real purpose of which is to undermine the faith of the people of God.

20. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called;

21. Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.-1 Timothy 6

May God give the good people of Texas the courage and wisdom to rescue the innocents within the classroom from those who would preach the unprofitable theory of evolution.

C. David Parsons

For a moment toward the end, it seemed like Parsons was going to get it right, and take antievolutionists to task for falsely calling their arguments science. That certainly didn’t turn out to be the case.

Let me take up some of this more directly.

Why do scientists so readily embrace evolution in lieu of the written record of creation?

Quite a large number of scientists are both Christian and accept the findings of evolutionary science; I’m one of them. This fact has to be ignored by Parsons and others who wish to propagate the conflict model.

The answer lies with a poll of select members of the elite National Academy of Sciences. The poll discovered a prevailing disbelief in God; in fact, only 7 percent of those surveyed held a “personal belief in God.” Of the balance, 72.2 percent held a “personal disbelief” and 20.8 percent were either doubtful or agnostic.

In effect, the sampling revealed that scientists hold a “near total disbelief in God.” (Poll by Peter Atkins and Richard Dawkins, published in Nature, Summer 1998.)

Notice how the sampling effect of a poll directed only at the NAS is completely ignored and “scientists” is used thereafter. Nor is Parsons well-informed about such basic information as who conducted the poll in question. It was not Atkins and Dawkins who conducted the poll, but rather Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham. It was, in fact, the second phase of polling they did to replicate a poll taken in the early twentieth century. Parsons does not choose to inform his readers of the existence of part 1, where Larson and Witham found that the prevalence of disbelief in God among the general body of practicing scientists had remained mostly unchanged in the intervening decades, and was found in their poll to be about 60%. That means that about 40% of practicing scientists either do believe in God or are not predisposed to disbelieve, a rather different number than the one Parsons chooses to use. Another point Parsons does not bother to discuss is that even in the recent poll of the “greater scientists” of the NAS, Larson and Witham found that outright disbelief was less prevalent among scientists in the biological sciences, and more prevalent among physical scientists, though the biological scientists of the NAS also had the least prevalence of expressed belief.

The reason for the rejection, and by assessment an intense hatred of God, is two fold. Firstly, evolution is accepted by an overwhelming majority of biologists and scientists – biblical histories are myths. Consequently, scientists unequivocally abhor any supernatural explanation of natural phenomena, as it questions their intelligence. Secondly, the scientific league refuses to accept a God who would allow all the evil, suffering, and pain that befalls both man and beast (due to sin entering the world through the man, Adam).

As already noted, the “rejection” is by no means characteristic of all scientists. This is a common tactic among those who have to argue against reality: simply assert the state of affairs most congenial to their argument and there leave it. Here we have Parsons attributing “hatred of God” to an entire profession, where our best available data say only that about 60% disbelieve; Larson and Witham did not go into what feelings their respondents had about God, nor does it make much sense to attribute hatred to people who disbelieve in the existence of the being that is supposed to be hated. Nor is Parsons reliably informed about the reasons that scientists don’t accept supernatural explanations as science, which has nothing to do with “questioning their intelligence” or “hating God”, and everything to do with making sure that science works. When scientists began deprecating the use of supernatural causes as explanations in science back in the nineteenth century, the overwhelming preponderance of practicing scientists were also theists. These people certainly did not mold the modern rules of science because they thought the supernatural “questioned their intelligence”, and it is ludicrous to imply that they took the steps they did because they “hated God”. As for Parsons “secondly”, I’m afraid it simply doesn’t make sense; again, Parsons is attributing to all scientists a view that is only held by a subset of that group.

Matter-of-factly, anyone who professes belief in God is simply anti-intellectual. Hence, scientists succumb to the grave trusting that their fleshly beings will return to dust from whence they came: there is no God, no life after death, no hell, and no eternal separation from a loving God.

Again, Parsons is railing against a strawman of his own creation, that all scientists must be God-hating unbelievers. We know that premise is false. Matter-of-factly, some people who profess belief in God are anti-intellectual, and it appears that Parsons is arguing strenuously to be included in that grouping.

An amusing epilogue: When the results of the poll were first published, a lone dissenter in the U.S. House of Representatives, James Traficant (D-Ohio), complained from the House Floor, “Mr. Speaker, a new report says only 7 percent of scientists believe in God… And the reason they gave was that the scientists are super smart. Unbelievable…”

Rep. Traficant apparently understood as little about the poll results as does Parsons, since he makes the very same error of using the sample of “greater scientists” to pull a number he erroneously applies to the general population of practicing scientists.

The scientific council and educators alike have played into the hands of Secular Humanists who view public education as the vehicle to move the citizen into a total secular, materialistic, godless society. According to the manifesto outlined in the journal of the American Humanist Association, The Humanist (1983), the “battle” for the minds and, it must be added, the souls of the innocents is to be “waged and won” in the public classrooms. The aspiration has gained strength by the endorsement of the liberal faction in the National Association of Educators and by teachers, many of whom believe in God but, nevertheless, have been subverted in their faith in that they may only teach the tenets of obstructionism as ruled by the Supreme Court.

We here in the USA have a variety of different faiths and even non-faith. We are stronger if we do not engage in the sort of internecine struggles that ravaged Europe for centuries. We are best served if each person can pursue their faith (or do whatever they decide with their time if they don’t believe) in the private sector, and we are ill-served if some one or few doctrines are given the imprimatur of government promulgation. The Southern Baptist Church used to be in the forefront of First Amendment cases aimed at keeping government programs to strictly secular content, for the simple reason that if no religious doctrine is espoused by the government, it then is simple for the church to instruct its members without that interference.

The reader may be surprised to find that the expression, “separation of church and state,” is nowhere to be found in the seven articles and twenty-six amendments of the Constitution; yet, the phrase has gained sovereignty over the public schools, not by any right granted by the founding fathers, but by the repetitious manner in which it has been brandished about by those who wish to obstruct the truth. The lesson taught here is not new: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The obstructionist approach; that is, there is no God and, hence, no Son of God, dates back two thousand years to the New Testament epistle, 1 Timothy, penned by the apostle Paul unto Timothy, a servant of Jesus, the Christ. In the disposition, “the putting into order of the church’s affairs,” Timothy was warned to avoid the opposition of “science falsely so called,” or in the modern terminology, “religious obstructionism masquerading as science,” the real purpose of which is to undermine the faith of the people of God.

The reader may not be surprised to find people in the present who weren’t paying attention in civics class. The phrase, “separation of church and state”, appears in correspondence from Thomas Jefferson and is descriptive of the policies that do appear in our constitution and its amendments. That Parsons is apparently a fan of David Barton’s loopy stuff is no surprise at all. The purpose of keeping the government out of the business of telling people what to believe with respect to religion is to keep our internal affairs civil, and avoid all that stuff about hanging, burning, pressing, stoning, impaling, or otherwise managing to kill people who believe something either slightly or completely different from what many or most people in an area happen to believe. That purpose only undermines the faith of people who don’t value the lives and respect the views of their fellow citizens, in which case, yes, that ought to be undermined.

May God give the good people of Texas the courage and wisdom to rescue the innocents within the classroom from those who would preach the unprofitable theory of evolution.

Obviously, Parsons has no clue about the content of evolutionary science. “Unprofitable” is precisely the opposite descriptor that is actually required, since evolutionary science informs our medicine, our agriculture, our wildlife policies, and even aspects of engineering and chemistry which have picked up tools for getting things done more efficiently from evolutionary science. The Soviet Union and China adopted a teleological alternative to western evolutionary science, with the result of experiencing agriculture failure on a scale that killed tens of millions and produced long-term hardship for many more. We should take care to learn from their mistake, and not try to repeat it by politically mandating a non-materialist teleological ideology in place of good science.

All in all, Parsons’ performance here is less than inspiring. Even the simplest level of scholarship seems to be beyond him, he evinces no mastery of the topics he insists on criticizing, he deploys logical fallacies to the exclusion of reasoned argument, and on top of it all presents himself as a sanctimonious jerk. This doesn’t bode well for the book-length treatment that he has authored.

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Florida: Palm Beach Post Article on Evolution and Intelligent Design

This Palm Beach Post article has some bits where I was able to put an oar in the water.

A misconception created by those on the opposite ends of the evolution argument is that a belief in God and an acceptance of evolution are mutually exclusive, said Wesley Elsberry, a marine biologist and Michigan State University researcher studying the evolution of intelligent behavior. Evolution only explains how species have changed over time, not where they initially came from.

“Both sides aren’t satisfied with the idea that there are a substantial number of Christians who can also accept evolution,” said Elsberry, a Lakeland native who also is a consultant for Florida Citizens for Science, a group of parents and educators who support evolution and has members on the committee that drafted the standards.

Intelligent design has not gone through the rigorous testing and scientific criticism to warrant time in science classrooms, he said.

“This is not something that is accountable,” Elsberry said. “Our students, in their limited time in a science class, they need to receive the information that has received scrutiny through the scientific process.”

Either I wasn’t clear or something got garbled. Evolutionary science does discuss where species come from; there’s quite a lot of research on speciation processes. However, there is a distinction to be made concerning abiogenesis, which concerns how life arose.

Beyond quibbles about accuracy of phone interviews, though, the article demonstrates that Florida does have quite a challenge ahead in not only adopting better science standards, but also in implementing them in the science curricula. It’s pretty frightening that so many people in positions of authority over public schools evince such firm opposition to teaching evolutionary science, and such credulous acceptance of “intelligent design” creationism.

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Another Thing About Windows Home Server

Remember a while back when I talked about HP’s Media Home Server, a way-high-price-point box that runs the Windows Home Server operating system? It turns out that there is something else that might make consumers think twice: it is possible (though it sounds fairly unlikely) to get into situations where you think that you are backing up your files to the server, but actually you are turning them into corrupted garbage. This brief CNet article breaks the bad news. It sounds like the system dealing with files can get confused if overloaded.

I hope that Microsoft is able to fix this quickly; potential data loss is a show-stopper in my estimation. I am trying to recall any instance of data loss in the various Unix-based servers I’ve run or used over the years, and pretty much any time I’ve lost data, it’s turned out to be hardware failure or my own fault. Here’s an article detailing exactly how to get up and running with a home server based on Linux about as painlessly as possible.

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Relating “Intelligent Design” to Other Religiously Motivated Antievolution is Easy

There is discussion over at “After the Bar Closes” where the issue of whether “intelligent design” creationism (IDC) has a relationship to creation science and other terms for religiously motivated antievolution. Specifically, a commenter there forcefully expressed an opinion that “intelligent design” was obviously different from earlier “creationism”. I wrote the following in response.

But that is telling a falsehood, since every argument that makes up the content of IDC either is some misleadingly stated “evidence against evolution” or has a direct precursor in the religiously motivated antievolution literature. The commenter may not agree with me that having the same argumentative content is rather stronger than the weak and flabby term “relationship” implies, but then again, it isn’t the commenter who needs to be convinced. Cheerleaders rarely switch allegiances, no matter what may happen, which is why I think the term “IDC cheerleader” is so fitting of a number of people arguing online.

Last time around, we convinced a conservative, religious judge of this. It was helpful that the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision discussed the purpose prong in terms of a sham.

Continue reading

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Texas: Don McLeroy and the Sadly Neglected Ninth Commandment

In Texas, Don McLeroy now heads up the state board of education. He recently sent a letter to the Dallas Morning News.

Re: “Teaching of evolution to go under microscope – With science director out, sides set to fight over state’s curriculum,” Thursday news story.

What do you teach in science class? You teach science. What do you teach in Sunday school class? You teach your faith.

Thus, in your story it is important to remember that some of my quoted comments were made in a 2005 Sunday school class. The story does accurately represent that I am a Christian and that my faith in God is something that I take very seriously. My Christian convictions are shared by many people.

Given these religious convictions, I would like to clarify any impression one may make from the article about my motivation for questioning evolution. My focus is on the empirical evidence and the scientific interpretations of that evidence. In science class, there is no place for dogma and “sacred cows;” no subject should be “untouchable” as to its scientific merits or shortcomings. My motivation is good science and a well-trained, scientifically literate student.

What can stop science is an irrefutable preconception. Anytime you attempt to limit possible explanations in science, it is then that you get your science stopper. In science class, it is important to remember that the consensus of a conviction does not determine whether it is true or false. In science class, you teach science.

Don McLeroy, chair, State Board of Education, College Station

The problem at basis is that McLeroy’s talk given in his Sunday school class was aimed directly at affecting the content of the public high school curriculum that McLeroy has a secular responsibility for now. He was not simply “teaching his faith”, as he falsely represents in the above letter. We know this because we can read the transcript of his Sunday school talk. Here is McLeroy doing more than “teaching his faith”:

Neo-Darwinism is another description term for just evolution, common descent that talks about genetic variability so it gets it more precise. And is that the target? It’s not supported by evidence, it’s not Biblical, so that must be the target of intelligent design, but really it’s not the main target either.

McLeroy demonstrates vividly that ignorance is the thing that he is a champion of. The fact that a person who knows so little of what is in the scientific literature has any power at all to influence the science curriculum should give anyone pause, but this ignoramus is right at the pinnacle of the education bureaucracy in Texas.

And the policy fight in the secular side of things is exactly what McLeroy is discussing with his Sunday school class.

OK, thank you. Everybody has made some really good comments. I’d like to make one final observation just from my experience and the Texas State Board of Education. Is, we weren’t about to convince any scientists, but we couldn’t convince fellow board members that these books should have evidence. And the more I look back on it, I believe if we would have challenged the naturalistic assumptions that nature is all there is with our fellow board members and challenged these people that were talking about it, a little bit – that brought up testimony – possibly we would have gotten a few more votes because a lot of these dear friends of mine on the State Board of Education are good, strong Christians that are active in Young Life and other activities – but they were able to totally not even worry about the fact that evolution’s assumption that nature is all there is is in total conflict with the way they live there life. So in that respect, it might also be effective. But one reason I brought this up is because in all the contemporary skirmishes today it is not even mentioned. It’s just not brought up. And I think you will bring religion and I like the statement that it brings in their religion. You know, so I said, well let’s bring it in there. They bring it in. They bring in all these pastors. It’s amazing. All these people who get up here and talk about it.

My summary is, uh, here are my points. We are not opposing un-intelligent people. They’re very smart, highly intellectual and very fine people. But they’ve been blinded from the truth. They’re living in this Matrix world. They do not claim Yahweh is God. They basically think they have made themselves. So we need to be prepared. We need to be smart. We need to train our minds.

Dr. McLeroy, I suggest that training your mind begin with Futuyma’s “Evolutionary Biology” to shed some of the ignorance that you apparently cherish. Then follow up with “Why Intelligent Design Fails” and “Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism”. Follow up by reading the US constitution. Finish with a thorough read of the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Right now, I’d say that you are looking to play Bill Buckingham, a witness the judge directly says wasn’t telling the truth, in a reprise of that lawsuit. You might as well get a head-start on seeing what awaits you.

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Polk County School Board Backs Off “Intelligent Design”

The Tampa Tribune article by Billy Townsend reports that the Polk County School Board members have decided not to pursue inserting “intelligent design” into the schools there. They apparently were not prepared for the national response they got, and especially the satirical focus of Pastafarian Flying Spaghetti Monster boosters.

Lofton, a former geometry teacher with a master’s degree in mathematics and one of the pro-intelligent design board members, said she has no interest in engaging with the Pastafarians or anyone else seeking to discredit intelligent design.

She describes herself as secure in her beliefs. “I’m a Christian. I personally believe that the Bible is inerrant truth and the word of God.”

Ms. Lofton doesn’t seem to care to increase any cognitive dissonance. And the quoted statement would indicate that Ms. Lofton is not merely an advocate of “intelligent design”, but also falls into the category of young-earth creationist, one of those people whose religious faith is so flimsy that it is threatened if the earth is more than just a few thousand years old. Science says the earth is 4.55 billion years old. Teaching kids that the young-earth scenario is still a legitimate position supported by credentialed scholars is about on the level of saying that the American Revolution is held by some scholars to have happened two and a quarter centuries ago, and by other scholars to have taken place between, oh, four and five hours ago, and it will be up to them to decide between these equally credible positions.

That’s complete nonsense, of course. Science can figure out when certain conjectures are wrong. Phlogiston is gone and isn’t coming back. So is geocentrism and the young-earth assertion. Students deserve to learn that science means that not every idea can forever be considered arguable. Antievolution depends upon an ongoing denial that science can accomplish this modest task; it is, in practice as well as in philosophy, anti-science in all its forms.

I’m glad that the Polk County School Board members have decided, pragmatically, to put away the desire to dally with “intelligent design”. I’d be even gladder if they had taken the opportunity to pick up “Why Intelligent Design Fails” and “Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism” to learn why students would be ill-served to to forced to spend their limited science class time in covering the anti-science notions of the antievolution movement.

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Guest Poem: Amadan’s Version of “I’ve Got a Little List”

I asked Amadan if he would be amenable to adding a verse concerning listmaking to his earlier poem. Instead, he came up with a whole new poem, again giving a nod to W.S. Gilbert. Without further delay, here it is.

I’ve Got a Little List

As the scientists and seculars are all satanic tools
I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list
Of the great and good and godly who will keep them out of schools
Where they will not be missed! ‘Cause they’re all atheist!

There’s a plethora of engineers who think cells are machines
And some Bible College lecturers who hope to be has-beens
There’s the eminent professor (in an unrelated field)
And a lady from Canadia whose mind is firmly sealed
A slimy politician who is loudly boo’d and hissed -
He surely won’t be missed! But he’s there on the list!

You can put ‘em on the list, you can put ‘em on the list
For they’d none of them be missed, hardly one’s a scientist

There’s the First Amendment Expert who has never been in court
I’ve got him on the list! I hope we don’t get Kitz’d!
There’s a fire and brimstone preacher of the theocratic sort -
A true creationist! We’ll say he’s I-D-ist!

We have versions of the Second Law that are completely new
We have lots of publications – well, perhaps we have a few
We’ve Design and CSI and complex mumbo-jumbo too
But pathetic things like saying what they mean are up to you
And if you laugh out loud at us, you are a Darwinist
An Evidenciarist, an Evilutionist.

You can just ignore the list, there’s no pandas on the list
And there’s no Steves on the list, there’s no Steves on the list.

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That Time of Year

Here’s a blog post recounting an encounter between a hawk (species unspecified), a chihuahua, and its owner. The owner managed to get the hawk to let go of the dog, though the dog sustained some severe injuries. The comments also bring out some anti-hawk sentiment.

A little natural history for you folks: it’s winter now. Hawks, such as the red-tailed hawk, have high juvenile mortality. Estimates run upwards of 80% of all first-year birds will not survive to next spring. So, you have a bunch of starving hawks out there, often living near humans, since we have co-opted so much of their range (see “habitat loss”). Red-tailed hawks are buteos; these birds prey on small mammals. People with toy dogs shouldn’t be too surprised when a starving hawk decides that it is worth a try to get a small mammal under less than ideal circumstances. That includes getting close to people.

The hawk that failed to make a meal out of the chihuahua? Odds are that it is dead by now, if not solely from starvation, perhaps also from injuries sustained during the dog owner’s counter-attack. For the commenter saying that he “hates hawks”, this is probably a comforting thought that so many of them are dying as we speak. The chihuahua, at 2 pounds, 5 ounces, most likely outweighed the hawk attacking it, especially if it was already malnourished.

I guess what I’d like to communicate is that we still live in a world with wildlife. If you have a small mammal as a pet, part of your responsibility is to realize that starvation makes both people and wildlife desperate. A little forethought concerning when and where one lets a toy dog outside is just something you need to invest. Close supervision of your companion outside through the winter months is the strongest deterrent you have to communicate to a raptor that it should spend its time looking for different prey.

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Texas: ICR is Following the Money

Texas Citizens for Science is all over the emerging scandal concerning the Institute for Creation Research’s blatant attempt to hijack accreditation in Texas for their propaganda machine. Here’s their press release:

TEXAS CITIZENS FOR SCIENCE

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
10:00 a.m., Thursday, December 20, 2007

CONTACT: Steven D. Schafersman, Ph.D.,
President, Texas Citizens for Science
432-352-2265
tcs@texscience.org

http://www.texscience.org/

TITLE: The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) wants the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to Give ICR Certification to Grant Graduate Degrees in Science Education in Texas for Monetary Reasons

In a major report on the ICR’s quest for official certification by the THECB, Texas Citizens for Science (TCS) believes it has identified the major motivation for the rapid, incompetent, and–until now–stealthy process of the ICR site evaluation and approval by two committees of the THECB. ICR is on-track to make millions of dollars by charging Protestant Fundamentalist students from many foreign countries tuition at its new on-line distance education graduate school. ICR says:

“The graduate school of ICR also offers resident Master of Science degrees in astronomy and geophysics, biology, and geology. These degree programs are currently being developed for web-based, distance education platforms to accommodate a growing number of students who desire quality advanced science instruction from a thoroughly biblical perspective.”

The certification to award Master’s Degrees in Science Education will apply to distance degree programs as well as on-site classroom study. In fact, ICR’s Henry Morris Center in Dallas has only a single equipped classroom. ICR, therefore, intends to sell its Young Earth Creationism graduate program to students from all over the United States and foreign countries who would be interested in obtaining a science master’s degree that is legal, authentic, and fully-certified by the State of Texas. With Web-based distance education so powerful and available today, he potential market contains thousands of individuals, and ICR is on-track to make many millions of dollars.

In the Report on the ICR, TCS President Steven Schafersman writes, “The only thing better than offering distance education courses for thousands of Protestant Fundamentalist students in India, China, Africa, and South America is being able to give them certified and legitimate Masters of Science degrees from the United States. And the only thing better than that is charging each of those thousands of Protestant Fundamentalist students all over the world many thousands of dollars for tuition. With a fat Texas-certified Master’s Degree in Science Education thrown in, every student will get super-extra “value added” for their money. ICR stands to earn tens of millions of dollars from tuition fees if they can award real Masters of Science degrees to thousands of distance students over the world. Likewise, they will lose those millions of dollars if THECB certification is not granted on January 24, 2008, in Austin.”

The financial motivation for the so-far successful progress of the ICR to obtaining its official Texas certification to award legal and authentic master’s degrees in science has not been uncovered until now.

The Report is now available at

http://www.texscience.org/reviews/icr-thecb-certification.htm

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Yecke Leaves Florida Education Position

The St. Petersburg Times has the story. Eric Smith, the new Education Commissioner, is appointing a colleague to the K-12 Chancellor post currently held by Cheri Pearson Yecke. That switch becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2008.

What I haven’t seen in any of the various places the story has run is Yecke’s association with antievolution. They mention that she presided over the 2003 rewrite of science standards in Minnesota, but do not mention how closely the process had to be watched to prevent antievolution content from being incorporated.

No word on whether Yecke’s husband will be leaving his Florida government job, too.

Folks in other red states seeking high-level government functionaries in education should be on the lookout. I hear Texas is looking for a director of science curriculum, but that would likely be too low-level a job for Yecke to consider.

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Guest Poem: Amadan’s “I Am the Very Model of a C-Design-Proponentsist”

Over the the “After the Bar Closes” forum, “Amadan” has a timely update of a favorite bit of nonsense. I’ve added URLs here and there to the original.

In anticipation of a special anniversary tomorrow…

I Am the Very Model of a C-Design-Proponentsist

[Note: Malicious allegations have been made that this work somehow plagiarises something by W.S. Gilbert. Nothing could be further from the truth and I emphatically state that I have nothing to apologise for. And I'm really sorry. Comments on this subject are now closed.]

I am the very model of a c-design-proponentsist
The diametric opposite of all that is materialist
My engineering cert allows me call myself a scientist –
We won’t discuss those classes in Biology I might have missed

I work in a diploma mill I call a university
And there I struggle long and hard to teach the controversity
I welcome all opinions notwithstanding their diversity
I just reject the fact-based ones as atheist perversity

He just rejects the fact-based ones as atheist perversity
He just rejects the fact-based ones as atheist perversity
He just rejects the fact-based ones as goddam pervertersity

My publication record is quite pre-dispen-sensationalist
I regularly top the polls of books that are salvationist
Applause in the reviews keeps copies flying off the bookstore shelf
I couldn’t be more pleased if I had written the reviews myself

He couldn’t be more pleased if he had written the reviews himself
He wishes Amazon would keep his IP numbers to itself

When I go up for tenure I’ll submit my publication list
And if they ask for science then I’ll scream “Discriminationist!”
Religion has no place within the quest for natural knowledge
At least until I am the one who’s put in charge of college

I’m waiting for the day in court when Darwin meets his Waterloo
Though I might find that testifying isn’t what I ought to do
I know that what’s in Genesis is strictly and completely true
It’s just a shame it’s stuck in a six-thousand-year-long peer review

He knows that what’s in Genesis is strictly and completely true
He knows that what’s in Genesis is strictly and completely true
He wishes that the IRS would let him see his research through

I claim that Dover came about because the judge was activist
I dazzle congregations with my jargon that’s distractivist
I never answer awkward questions even if you do insist
I really am the model of a c-design-proponentsist

He never answers awkward questions even if you do insist
He really is the model of a c-design-proponentsist

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Texas: ICR Drops Religious Accreditation, Seeks Reality-Based Accreditation

Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science has the details. Short version: The ICR has withdrawn from the religious-based TRACS accreditation for its “graduate degrees”, and is looking to breeze through normal accreditation in Texas, apparently based upon the antievolution-friendly administration now in place at the Texas Education Agency.

Details below the fold…

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Sheila Harkins Speaks Out

The Indianapolis Star allows comments about opinion pieces. Sheila Harkins, former school board president of the Dover Area School District, shows up in that thread:

Sheila
Red Lion, PA

It isn’t just opening minds and texbooks, it’s being allowed to question, speek, much lest possibly just mention any alternative to evolution as happened here in Dover. You don’t hear about the Biology teacher who testified in court how before all this began started his section on evolution by writing evolution on the blackboard drawing a line down the middle and writing creation on the other side of the line, explaining it is either evolution or religion. If a student dared tried to question this he was shot down quickly.

Sheila Harkins
2005 Dover School Board President

By her claims, Sheila Harkins is experiencing an amazing retroactive improvement in memory function. I was present in the courtroom when Ms. Harkins testified, and a more surreal scene in a courtroom would be difficult for me to imagine. Ms. Harkins went on the stand chewing gum, then through her time in the seat progressed to propping her head on one hand, holding one side of her face with a hand covering it, all the way to having both hands covering most of her face, these things going on all the while as she answered questions.

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Dog Bites Man; Dembski Says Designer is God

William Dembski, in an interview with Focus on the Family:

4. Does your research conclude that God is the Intelligent Designer?

I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent
design is, ultimately, the Christian God.

The focus of my writings is not to try to understand the Christian doctrine
of creation; it’s to try to develop intelligent design as a scientific
program.

There’s a big question within the intelligent design community: ‘How did
the design get in there?’ We’re very early in this game in terms of
understanding the history of how the design got implemented. I think a lot
of this is because evolutionary theory has so misled us that we have to
rethink things from the ground up. That’s where we are. There are lots and
lots of questions that are now open to re-examination in light of this new
paradigm.

The assertion that will be of interest is putting these things together:

‘The Designer is the Christian God, and one is wrong to say that “intelligent design” is not solely science.’

Somehow, Dembski and others expect to show up in a courtroom, somewhere, sometime, and convince another judge that this line of doublethink makes sense.

Then there’s the introductory statement:

Leading scientist and mathematician William A. Dembski has devoted years to researching intelligent design.

These guys have no shame. None whatsoever.

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Texas Citizens for Science Press Release on ICR Application

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
10:00 a.m., Friday, December 14, 2007

Texas Citizens for Science
Contact: Steven D. Schafersman, Ph.D., President
432-352-2265
tcs@texscience.org
http://www.texscience.org/

The Institute for Creation Research wants the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to Give ICR Certification to Grant Graduate Degrees in Science Education in Texas

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is the oldest of two major Young Earth Creationist organizations in the United States (the other is Answers in Genesis in Northern Kentucky; AiG has the new, expensive Creation Museum). It recently moved its administrative and educational offices from San Diego, CA, to Dallas, TX, presumably a more congenial location for their activities–promoting Young Earth Creationism in the nation, especially among children and teenagers in homes, churches, Sunday Schools, private religious schools, and public schools when possible.

ICR once had, and then lost in 1988, permission to grant graduate degrees in science education in California. ICR’s inability to obtain legitimate graduate degree granting permission from California may be one reason for the move to Texas. There are other reasons, of course, such as a more central national location and a greater suitable population for their ministry. ICR is registered in Texas as a “private, not-for-profit corporation, for the purposes of research, writing, and education in both the standard curriculum of each scientific discipline and the Institute^Rs supplemental framework of scientific creationism and biblical authority in all disciplines.” ICR claims its Graduate School program “provides graduate-level training in science education through an online environment, with minors in the natural sciences that are particularly relevant to the study of origins.” In fact, the ICR Graduate School provides instruction in Young Earth Creationism and teaches its students how to proselytize this religious doctrine to the public. ICR does not teach legitimate science or science education, but pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Certification Advisory Council will review their on-site evaluation of ICR and ICR’s response today, from 10:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m., at the THECB’s office at 1200 East Anderson Lane, Austin. After the hearing and discussion, the Council and Commissioner will forward their recommendation to the full Board in January. The recommendation will be an endorsement, substitute recommendation, or denial.

It is imperative that the Commissioner of the THECB, Dr. Raymund A. Paredes, be made aware that ICR (1) is NOT a scientific organization, but one that actively promotes pseudoscience and the corruption of legitimate science, (2) that it has failed in recent years to obtain certification from California to grant graduate degrees, and (3) that the THECB’s goal “to achieve excellence for the college education of Texas students” will be in jeopardy–in fact, Texas will become a laughingstock–if it grants ICR the official state certification it desires.

More information will be available later today on the TCS website, including links to the history of ICR’s graduate degree granting quest in California.

See also Tim Sandefur’s article about TRACS, the accreditation organization founded by Henry M. Morris, which was the place the ICR (also founded by Henry M. Morris) got its accreditation.

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ICR Seeks Degree-Granting Status in Texas

The Institute for Creation Research has applied for certification to grant graduate degrees in the state of Texas, through their “Henry M. Morris Center for Christian Leadership” in Dallas, Texas.

INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH, DALLAS

RECOMMENDATION: Pending Certification Advisory Council recommendation

Background Information:

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is a private, not-for-profit corporation, registered in the states of California and Texas for the purposes of research, writing, and education in both the standard curriculum of each scientific discipline and the Institute’s supplemental framework of scientific creationism and biblical authority in all disciplines. The ICR Graduate School program provides graduate-level training in science education through an online environment, with minors in the natural sciences that are particularly relevant to the study of origins.

An on-site evaluation was conducted at ICR on November 8, 2007. The Board’s Certification Advisory Council will review the evaluation team’s report, and ICR’s response to the evaluation on December 14, 2007. The Commissioner will forward their recommendation to the Board with his endorsement or with his substitute recommendation.

I’m not sure what standards Texas has for certifying a graduate program in science education, but that application raises all sorts of flags for me.

Further information: California has been down this road already. A series of articles by William Bennetta documents some of what happened there: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

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Texas Biology Professors Support Chris Comer

The following open letter from many biology professors in the state of Texas supports Chris Comer and criticizes the Texas Edcuation Agency’s action of forcing her resignation.

December 10, 2007

To Robert Scott, Commissioner of Education for Texas,

As biology faculty at Texas universities1, we are deeply concerned by the forced resignation of Chris Comer, the director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Ms. Comer’s ouster was linked to an email that she forwarded announcing a lecture by Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor and distinguished critic of the intelligent design movement. A few days after sending the email, Ms. Comer was told she would be terminated. The memorandum she received from her superiors claimed that evolution and intelligent design are a “subject on which the agency must remain neutral”.

It is inappropriate to expect the TEA’s director of science curriculum to “remain neutral” on this subject, any more than astronomy teachers should “remain neutral” about whether the Earth goes around the sun. In the world of science, evolution is equally well- supported and accepted as heliocentrism. Far from remaining neutral, it is the clear duty of the science staff at TEA and all other Texas educators to speak out unequivocally: evolution is a central pillar in any modern science education, while “intelligent design” is a religious idea that deserves no place in the science classroom at all.

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Blackwood’s Linden Farli

Blackwood’s Linden Farli CD, RN, JH, OA, OAJ, TF1, ONYX, UTP3, TDI

Born July 2nd, 1993
Died December 10th, 2007

Farli was our first dog, a Vizsla (or Hungarian pointer). Our female Harris’ hawk, Rusty, really enjoyed chasing, and sometimes catching, upland birds. It is hard for a human to effectively work a field to flush upland birds. It was time to look for a hunting companion for Rusty. Diane auditioned several breeds of dogs with Rusty, and determined that Rusty was only going to work over a pointing dog. We talked about different breeds of pointer, and got down to Brittanys and Vizslas. I voted for less hair, though if Diane really had wanted a Brittany, I think we’d have gotten one.

Farli was originally set to go to someone else. Breeders of Vizslas at the time often had buyers for particular breedings well in advance. But the vet who docked the tails on the litter got things mixed up: he was supposed to dock about 1/3rd of the tail, and he docked closer to 2/3rds. The original buyers backed out, and since we had no intention of showing our dog in conformation, we got her instead.

Farli turned out to be an exceptionally gifted hunting dog. Her nose was acute, and she had a tremendous drive to retrieve game. Once, at a Shoot to Retrieve trial, I was the shooter for Farli. They had put out pen-raised quail. I took a shot at a flushing quail, missed, and since the quail had veered off in the direction of others at the buildings, did not take any subsequent shot. Diane released Farli after the shot, so she was off. As I stood there, the judge said, “Call safety”. I responded that I had already set the safety on the gun. What I didn’t know was that in StR, calling “Safety” would allow a dog to receive a default retrieve score for that particular instance. So the judge and I had an Abbott and Costello routine going for a couple of minutes, at the end of which Farli came trotting up to Diane — with the quail in her mouth. The judge gave her a 100% score and remarked that he wished that he had a dog like that.

Farli got into dog sports. Diane took her to a Vizsla “fun day” that featured a flyball demonstration. Farli got all excited about that, so Diane took her to the start line after the demonstration was over, and Farli took off, jumped over the hurdles going to the box, tripped the box, and then chased the tennis ball and ran around with it. Flyball was her favorite, and her lifetime point total is the third highest in NAFA flyball for a Vizsla.

Farli had a brief modeling career, too. A friend of ours served as an agent, and Farli appeared on pet product packaging, advertisements, annual reports, and appeared in a pharmaceutical infomercial. This was when she was between 6 and 9 years old.

Farli’s arthritis and hip dysplasia became an issue in later life. We had to restrict her diet, since carrying extra pounds would have made the arthritis pain that much worse. We went through a series of different pain medicines and regimens looking for something that would relieve her pain, without much success in these last months. This ongoing, chronic pain was a major issue when we were considering what to do in her final days. Last year, she added a senior dog vestibular disorder to her list of problems. Since then, Farli went around with a permanent rightward head tilt and inherent wobbliness on her feet.

Farli went into kidney failure. We noticed that she wasn’t eating well, which had never been a problem with her. We got blood work done, taking a fasting blood value last Thursday, and got the news midday on Friday. This put us in a bind, since treatment would mean intravenous fluids, which we could not do at home. Diane wasn’t willing to leave Farli in a place where she would be caged overnight without anyone in attendance, so we arranged to provide subcutaneous fluid treatment over the weekend. This would simply be a maintenance, not a therapy, so we took her back to the vet Monday morning for another look. Diane was able to call from in between teaching classes and speak with the vet. While the vet wasn’t willing to talk plainly about possible prognosis, our sense was that treatment might or might not work, and depending upon the cause of the kidney failure, she might live anywhere from days to a few more months. Given Farli’s continuing chronic pain, we felt that putting her down was the right thing to do now. Since Farli had protested even the short car ride to and from the vet clinic, we got a vet service that made house calls to come out to provide euthanasia for Farli.

Diane took a bit of a nap with Farli that last afternoon, and late in the day, we let Farli chase and retrieve a chukar, something that she did with a last glimmer of vitality, though it left her quite tired afterward. The vet arrived about an hour and a half later. Farli died around 6:35 Monday night, as comfortable as we could make her on the couch, with Diane and I petting her.

It’s hard to say whether Ritka, our younger dog, gets what has transpired. She came out with us Tuesday morning when we buried Farli. If Rusty notices at all, it will likely be in wondering why the dog hunting with us isn’t as talented a hunter. But for Diane and I, it is a wrench to let go, and I expect that Farli will live long in our memory.

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