Pennsylvania creationism suit filed

| 24 Comments | 1 TrackBack

A while back I noted that, just after adopting a curriculum requiring the teaching of Intelligent Design creationism, a York, Pennsylvania school district member told the York Daily Record "We are not going to be sued.... It's not going to be a problem. I have confidence in the district's lawyers."

Looks like she was wrong.

1 TrackBack

Dover Watch - Lawsuit Filed from The Two Percent Company's Rants on December 14, 2004 9:19 PM

As expected, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have filed a lawsuit on behalf of eleven parents of Dover, PA school children as a result of the Dover mandate to teach so-called Intelligent Design in... Read More

24 Comments

Let the Games begin!

I just love it when Federal Judges trash creationist pseudoscience. I hope they can get Buckingham on the stand in all his post-Oxycontin unglory.

I thought of our creationist rube friends today when I glanced over this recent decision from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit relating to the scientific validity of cold fusion.

Apparently Mr. Dash believed he had invented some sort of cold fusion device and wanted a patent.

Substantial evidence supported the Board’s finding that the examiner established a prima facie case of inoperability. While it may be ideal for the examiner to offer peer-reviewed data on precisely the claimed invention to establish such a case, such extreme certainty is not required. The examiner must only establish that a person of ordinary skill in the art would reasonably doubt the asserted utility. It was reasonable for the Board to conclude that the examiner had established such doubt based on the number and quality of cited references that debunked claims of cold fusion.…

Dash produced evidence regarding detection of tritium, transmutation of palladium, and physical transformation of the cathode, as well as corroborating experiments and calculations designed to show excess heat. For each type of evidence Dash produced, the examiner found at least one sound reason to disbelieve the evidence in either the literature that supported the prima facie case or in Dash’s evidence itself.

I still think it would be fabulous to get the USPTO’s reaction to patent application filed with claims drawn to “a method for determining whether a non-recombinant biological structure was intelligently designed”.

Dembski should file such an application and donate the licensing proceeds to his church (or his employer, assuming they are different entities).

Oops, forgot to include a link to the Fed Cir decision I referred to:

http://www.fedcir.gov/opinions/04-1145.pdf

The Discovery Institute put out another press release on the Dover matter today, asking the school board to withdraw its ID policy:

Discovery Calls Dover Evolution Policy Misguided, Calls For its Withdrawal

Jason Spaceman wrote:

The Discovery Institute put out another press release on the Dover matter today, asking the school board to withdraw its ID policy:

DI is obviously frightened to death. These silly folks in Dover are actually going to have ID tested in a federal court. Talk about overselling your product. Oh my, but what will DI do if a Federal judge says ID can’t be taught in public schools. There goes the Wedge, there goes the whole show, unless they want to pursue it in the Supreme Court (or so my understanding of how the US legal system works).

“Oh my, but what will DI do if a Federal judge says ID can’t be taught in public schools.”

First, they’ll whine and cry about how the secularists are taking over and making it impossible for Christians to practice their religion, then they’ll call creationism something else and just keep plugging away as if all this never happened.

I’ve been reading quite a bit recently about “digestocreationism,” which is the theory that most kinds of life on earth were pooped out by aliens, who used the planet as some sort of galactic toilet a few billion years ago (nobody likes a cold toilet seat, which is why there’s no life on Mars). No one has been able to prove this theory to be false, which makes it precisely as scientifically valid as “ID” theory.

The DI is understandably upset. They’ve spent a lot of money and time transforming ‘scientific creationism’ into ‘intelligent design’, because s.c. was prohibited from science classes on establishment grounds. With new advocates and terminology, they hoped to hide the religious nature of s.c. by selling it under a new name. But the statements of some mouth-breathers in Pennsylvania will be used in court to link the one with the other, and potentially doom ID under the s.c. precedent. I’m sure ID wants to hit the brakes. The link between s.c. and ID is too clear. You know how much money and time have been invested in ‘intelligent design’? They’ll have to start over.

And starting over is much harder now–ID is such a generic form of creationism, that coming up with a new flavor which obviously doesn’t fit under the ID rubric will be a challenge.

Rilke’s Granddaughter wrote:

But what if they don’t lose? What if they get it into the courts and the courts find for them? It’s not that I worry about the American judicial system … it’s just that I worry about the American judicial system. There are some fundy judges, aren’t there?

Then I’ll be encouraging Canadians like myself to lobby our government to bring all the American scientists up here :-)

Do we have to adopt the accent?

RGD asksed

Do we have to adopt the accent?

Eh?

RBH

All I have seen in the news articles is that ID may violate the establishment clause. None of the articles have stated anything about ID just being plain bad “science”. I really think that the major thrust of the argument should be that ID “theory”, is 1) not anywhere close to being a scienific theory and 2) that the ideas behind it do not hold up. As a minor point it is also based on religion.

I’m concerned that any ruling won’t come close to establishing the precedence evolution proponents would like – namely, that intelligent design as a whole is equivalent to creationism and therefore, not suitable for government supported public schools. At best, it seems to me that the judge will just toss the curriculum guide as an incoherent, inconsistent, idiotic, fundamentalist driven document. At worst, the judge finds the school board itself is filled with incoherent and fundamentalist driven members, but nevertheless, the people can always elect to boot them out of office.

Or am I overly pessimistic?

Rick:

…ID “theory”, is 1) not anywhere close to being a scienific theory and 2) that the ideas behind it do not hold up. As a minor point it is also based on religion.

I think the point is that of all the bad science to choose from, ID is given special consideration precisely because of its religious connections. I doubt you’ll ever see a court case come up over the teaching of “cold fusion” - even though #1 & #2, above, apply.

Rilke’s Granddaughter asks,

But what if they don’t lose? What if they get it into the courts and the courts find for them? It’s not that I worry about the American judicial system … it’s just that I worry about the American judicial system. There are some fundy judges, aren’t there?

Maybe, I don’t know. But if a federal district judge were to uphold ID as constitutional, he would be subject to reversal by the Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately by the Supreme Court, and all of these courts are obligated to justify their rulings in terms of precedent. I think the precedent in this case is pretty solidly on the pro-science side.

However, suppose the district court judge holds in favor of the defendants in this case and somehow is not overruled. That would mean that it is constitutional for a public school to teach students “intelligent design.” It would not compel any school to do so, and it would not stop outraged parents from replacing the school board with people who know their asses from holes in the ground. Also, the law protects a teacher’s right to teach evolution, so competent science teachers who were legally forced to teach ID creationism would still be free to teach evolution also.

I don’t mean this to sound like ID isn’t a threat, scientifically and legally, to the integrity of science education in this country—it most certainly is. But, like Monty Python, I try to look on the bright side of my life, and losing this case (which I think very unlikely) would not be the end of the world.

Lurker says

I’m concerned that any ruling won’t come close to establishing the precedence evolution proponents would like—namely, that intelligent design as a whole is equivalent to creationism and therefore, not suitable for government supported public schools. At best, it seems to me that the judge will just toss the curriculum guide as an incoherent, inconsistent, idiotic, fundamentalist driven document. At worst, the judge finds the school board itself is filled with incoherent and fundamentalist driven members, but nevertheless, the people can always elect to boot them out of office.

Or am I overly pessimistic?

Well, again, try to look on the bright side. I think it unlikely that the ACLU will lose this case. I have not yet read the complaint, so I don’t know if they will be able to repeat the glorious McLean case, which held a whole trial establishing that creationism was not science but religion—although that would be most gratifying, and it could happen. But as we say, courts consider the broadest possible issues, and rule on the narrowest possible grounds. That can be frustrating sometimes, and it is possible that the judge in this case might throw out the ID curriculum on some grounds other than the Establishment Clause (again, I haven’t read the complaint). Since the facts of this case seem to be ideal for the plaintiffs, that would be frustrating—but, again, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Finally, Rick says

All I have seen in the news articles is that ID may violate the establishment clause. None of the articles have stated anything about ID just being plain bad “science”. I really think that the major thrust of the argument should be that ID “theory”, is 1) not anywhere close to being a scienific theory and 2) that the ideas behind it do not hold up. As a minor point it is also based on religion.

We at Panda’s Thumb agree, and try to emphasize those points in that order. Hence my position as the only lawyer. However, courts are not really likely to consider these points in this order, because the Constitution allows government schools to teach bad science—it doesn’t allow them to teach religion. So the court will be much more interested in whether ID is religion, than whether ID is just plain bad science.

I am hoping to find time for a more thorough legal discussion of the issues in the case, but I’ll have to read the complaint first.

Mr. Sandefur writes

the Constitution allows government schools to teach bad science-it doesn’t allow them to teach religion

I still think it’s not quite so simple as this, although I don’t have a quote from the Supreme’s to support my position. Which means I’m screwed. ;)

But Mr. Sandefur, you’re an imaginative fellow. Can you (or anyone) think of any falsehoods which are not promulgated by a religious group that could be banned from being taught to children as scientific facts without violating the Constitution? i.e., falsehoods, the teaching of which could be challenged under some clause of the Constitution?

test

In Comment 11890 Jason Spaceman posted this link:

Discovery Calls Dover Evolution Policy Misguided, Calls For its Withdrawal

which quotes Dr. John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) as saying:

“What should be required is full disclosure of the scientific evidence for and against Darwin’s theory,” … “which is the approach supported by the overwhelming majority of the public.”

There are several problems, including:

1. The overwhelming majority of the public does not know the difference between (the nonexistent) evidence against Darwin’s theory, evidence taken out of context specifically to make the theory look weak, and evidence that only challenges a minor detail of the theory.

2. The overwhelming majority of the public mistakenly infers any “evidence against evolution” as supporting their favorite origins myth.

3. The overwhelming majority of the public has already been conditioned to accept a false dichotomy of “naturalistic” evolution vs. “my-favorite-origins-myth-by-design.”

4. The approach avoids addressing the overwhelming evidence against the mutually contradictory origins myths.

West and the other DI-CSC fellows are well aware of these problems, and that teachers sympathetic to the ID strategy will exploit them to the fullest.

Absolutely DI is not happy. The Discovery Institute is a multimillion-dollar project to massage Scientific Creationism, which was banned from schools under the Establishment clause in the 80’s, into Intelligent Design. A lot of money and time has been spent, creating ID literature and journals and studiously avoiding mention of god, genesis, the age of the earth, etc. If they can convince the legal system that it’s separate from S.C., secular, scientific, etc, then it’s totally legal to include in curricula. It looks like the whole effort’s about to gloriously crash. The problem for DI is, after all their effort, some of the morons in Dover have publicly explained that they voted for ID because of Jesus, and ID is all about getting Jesus into class, ain’t no separation uh no church and state, and christians need to support ID because it’s biblical, etc. For a couple months, those guys haven’t shut up saying that stuff. As a result, the Discovery Institute is panicking, and urging Dover to rescind the ID mandate, etc. This is absolutely not the court challenge they want. Their less-sophisticated peers are about to cost them the game.

I like Chris Mooney’s coverage of this, btw.

Isn’t teaching bad science as science an act of fraud?

Couldn’t parents sue a public institution for willfully damaging their children’s education?

Perhaps the parents in Lubbock Texas can sue the schoolboard for teaching ignorance instead of sex-ed, considering the town’s epidemic of teenage pregnancy.

Just a thought.

I’ve answered Grand Moff Texan’s question here.

But if the extremists can get the courts stacked with whackos, and get their rule that the Supreme Court can’t hear any cases dealing with stuff they’re afraid to have challenged, they have a chance of winning this case.

“I like Chris Mooney’s coverage of this, btw.” –Yes, he mentioned some of the awful things School Bored member Buckingham ranted, like how there’s no need to accomodate Hindus or Muslims. No establishment?!

I really hope Buckingham’s comments aren’t somehow excluded from the trial. I really hope the school board doesn’t fold. Because Buckingham totally gave away the game, saying basically “ID is good because Jesus is awesome and other religions ain’t for shit.” The Discovery Institute is probably crying itself to sleep at night.

Mark writes

But if the extremists can get the courts stacked with whackos, and get their rule that the Supreme Court can’t hear any cases dealing with stuff they’re afraid to have challenged, they have a chance of winning this case.

I suppose, but these two things seem unlikely, and certainly won’t happen soon. The Supreme Court would need to be packed with five people willing to allow creationism to be taught. So far the only Justices who seem even close to sympathetic to the ID movement are Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas, who dissented from the denial of certiorari in the Tangipahoa disclaimer case. And that case raised questions significantly different from an ID case like this one. (It’s entirely consistent to believe that evolution is the only valid explanation of the origin of species and that teaching creationism is unconstitutional, and still think that school boards may add disclaimers to biology textbooks; Scalia wrote that he thought the disclaimer was nothing more than “he disclaimer constitutes nothing more than “simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.”)

Assuming five judges who believe teaching creationism doesn’t violate the First Amendment were appointed to the Supreme Court, they would then need to overrule Epperson and Aguilard, and courts are usually pretty skeptical of overruling their decisions.

But, of course, it’s not impossible.

As to jurisdiction-stripping, the degree to which the Congress can control jurisdiction is sometimes a bit exaggerated in the press. First, Congress can only regulate the jurisdiction of the federal courts. It has no control over the jurisdiction of state courts, whose jurisdiction is limited only by the vague boundaries of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. And it is questionable whether Congress’ authority to regulate jurisdiction can be exercised in a blatant attempt to alter the outcome of a case. More on jurisdiction stripping here and here.

Right. And Right. Good stuff here, generally.

But I do wonder why we don’t have a curriculum which demonstrates just how and why creationism COULD be taught, and doing the same for “intelligent design.” I think that teachers would love to have the things available, and that if they were done well, a few creationists would catch the general drift of intellectual thought.

The creationism lesson plan, “How creationism was falsified prior to 1840, and why we don’t teach it now,” would detail what creationism entails and exactly what the disproofs of creationism are. (One of the AP biology texts does this in one page, now. Oddly the creationists failed to complain about this, in the Texas hearings. I think they were afraid that if they called attention to it, someone on the state board would read it, and be enlightened.)

The “intelligent design” lesson plan, “Why intelligent design isn’t science, and how to tell crank science from real science,” similarly would be a good couple of days for high school kids. Detailing what real peer review looks like, pointing out that real science is done in labs and not in op-ed columns, demonstrating the scientific vacuity of ID, the lesson plan would indeed discuss the few minor strengths and many profound weaknesses of “intelligent design.” (Strengths: Doesn’t challenge people to use brains, leaving the brains as mush for intellectual fungus to grow in; doesn’t require any work in real, expensive-to-run laboratories. Weaknesses: Absolutely useless in the fight against HIV and anthrax, hammers away at the moral foundations of America to the extent honesty and the Boy Scout way are parts of the moral foundations of America …).

Why not lay out the scientific case, scientifically, in lesson plans for teachers. I don’t think the lesson plans would ever be used – but I think that a lot of teachers who don’t know any better could find them on the internet, and they’d be more nervous about teaching crank science once they read the plans.

That ID is crank science isn’t reason to sue, except that under the No Child Left Behind Act, teaching crank science is tantamount to a misdemeanor. It DOES damage kids to teach them untrue things, especially untrue things that are not on the state exams and which hurt their chances on the AP exams.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on December 14, 2004 3:27 PM.

Leave no child behind, TEACH EVOLUTION! was the previous entry in this blog.

Time to take your medicine at the Tangled Bank is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter