Cobb Will Appeal

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I just heard through the grapevine that Cobb decided tonight to appeal Judge Cooper’s ruling.

Only two board members objected to appealing.

The appeal is contingent on their lawyers doing it for free.

2 TrackBacks

As the reading of the Dover intelligent design statement draws near, the blogosphere seems to be holding its breath. The York Daily Record, with no other shoe to drop just yet, reported on some of the behind-the-scenes action: Attorneys for... Read More

Further thoughts on Judge Cooper’s ruling. from Law Evolution Science and Junk Science on January 18, 2005 4:03 PM

The Panda’ Thumb announced that an appeal is likely in the Cobb County Sticker case. Read More

88 Comments

Yep:

“Cobb school board to appeal evolution ruling”

By KRISTINA TORRES The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 01/18/05

As if taking a federal judge’s ruling against them as fighting words, the Cobb County school board voted Monday to appeal a court order to remove evolution disclaimers from textbooks.

In a 4-2 vote, board members said U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper’s decision “amounts to unnecessary judicial intrusion into local control of schools,” according to a statement they released immediately after the vote. The decision came after members met with lawyers for three hours in closed session.

“We have to make our best judgment based on the facts,” said Curt Johnston, a member who was chairman when the board adopted the disclaimers in 2002. He said the board believes the facts show the judge erred when ruling that the disclaimers — which call evolution “a theory, not a fact” — convey an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

In their statement, the board said it felt “condemned … for taking a reasonable approach to address the concerns of [Cobb] citizens on a controversial issue.”

The disclaimers stem from a petition drive begun in 2002 by Marjorie Rogers, who described herself during testimony in November as a creationist who believes the Bible’s book of Genesis is factual. Rogers collected 2,300 signatures from supporters, prompting the board to print the disclaimers on stickers and place them in 13 science books used in middle and high schools.

The disclaimers read: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

Six parents sued to remove the stickers saying the disclaimers violated the principle of separation between church and state. Cooper heard three days of testimony, plus closing arguments, in November. He issued his ruling Thursday.

The board’s decision Monday flabbergasted Jeffrey Selman, the leader of the parents who sued. “They’re ludicrous,” he said. “They’re ignoring the ruling.”

Emily Cohen, a Campbell High School sophomore, said Monday that most students she knows make fun of the disclaimers, which she finds “somewhat offensive.”

“[They] kind of say, ‘consider it critically,’ as if we wouldn’t have,” Emily said.

Board Chairwoman Kathie Johnstone read the board’s statement aloud Monday, although both she and Laura Searcy voted against the appeal. Johnstone, the only one of seven members not on the board when the disclaimers were written, said she personally felt “it’s time to move on.”

“I’m worried about the toll it will have on the district,” she said.

Board members said they would pursue the appeal at no additional cost, a promise stemming from board attorney Glenn Brock’s pledge to do his remaining work on the case for free. Brock’s law firm has charged the board roughly $74,000 so far.

Brock said he will request a stay as early as today from the judge’s order that the disclaimers be removed immediately.

Emily Cohen, a Campbell High School sophomore, said Monday that most students she knows make fun of the disclaimers, which she finds “somewhat offensive.”

“[They] kind of say, ‘consider it critically,’ as if we wouldn’t have,” Emily said.

As Emily probably realizes, this isn’t about her or her friends. It’s about Marjorie Rogers trying to petition her way into heaven.

Actually Great White Wonderbread,

It’s about the 1st amendment not using the phrase wall of separation between church and state.

It’s about the 1st amendment reading freedom *of* religion not freedom *from* religion.

It’s about a majority standing up for its rights.

It’s about powers not explicitely granted to the federal gov’t reserved for the states and the people.

It’s about freedom of speech.

And it’s about teaching the *theory* of evolution like it was the *law* of gravity.

Board members said they would pursue the appeal at no additional cost, a promise stemming from board attorney Glenn Brock’s pledge to do his remaining work on the case for free. Brock’s law firm has charged the board roughly $74,000 so far.

Being from Canada I’m not very familiar with the US legal system, but does the loser in a civil suit have to pay the attorney fees of the winner? Is the Cobb school board required to pay the ACLU’s legal bill, since the ACLU won the case?

Although the school board’s attorney pledged to work for free, if the board loses its appeal will it be required to pay the ACLU’s costs during the appeal as well?

David Scott Springer, evoking the proud spirit of those poor white Christians who lived to see the unspeakable horror of interracial marriage, writes

It’s about a majority standing up for its rights.

Their right not to be offended by facts that disagree with their religious creation tales? Which amendment is that, Dave?

By the way, Dave, which Austin school teachers aren’t allowed to say Merry Christmas? You still haven’t corroborated that bogus claim of yours (among others – don’t worry, I have the list in a safe place).

I have been thinking that the finding held that while the motivation of the school board could be secular (eventhough it wasn’t really) their actions could be sectarian.

This is actually a bigger finding than (I) people seem to think.

The backlash begins…

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/bl[…]i#trackbacks

“I tried to exercise my basic rights as a citizen to propose a new idea, and school officials responded by suspending normal procedures, publicly attacking my personal religious beliefs, and even threatening to sue me to stop me from speaking out,” reported Caldwell. “These are tactics you’d expect in a banana republic, not the state of California.”

Unbelievable. There’s no civil right in the United States more sacrosanct than freedom from discrimination and persecution due to religious beliefs. If that charge is true someone is going to hang for it.

Jason,

How did you wander in here? Welcome anyway.

As far as I know, the obligitory fees are paid differently in different states.

DaveScot said: “ If that charge is true someone is going to hang for it.”

But if it is yet another lie from the DI proponents/creationists, you’ll just won’t mention it again and continue to troll, won’t you, DaveScot?

Please note that both GWW and me are still waiting answer to our very reasonable, very easy answers to our questions. Until you answer them, I think I will assume tht everything you post is a flame/lie/distortion, mainly because you have given me no grounds to think otherwise.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

By the way, Dave, which Austin school teachers aren’t allowed to say Merry Christmas?

Far as I know, all of ‘em.

Check this out:

http://www.austinisd.org/search/sea[…]ry=christmas

The word “Christmas” hasn’t been mentioned on Austin Independant School district website but one time and that was in 2003.

Now check out a search for “winter break”

http://www.austinisd.org/search/sea[…]ageField.y=7

79 hits

So did you have a Merry Winter Break, GWW? Hope you got the present you wanted under your Holiday Tree. Did you hang a Holiday Stocking on your fireplace? Sing any festive Holiday carols - maybe the classic “Dreaming of a White Holiday”?

ROFLMAO

Grey Wolf

I think I will assume tht everything you post is a flame/lie/distortion

Oh gee, that really hurts. I care about your opinion so much and all…

DaveScot, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that neither Christmas nor winter break was mentioned on the website - rather they were mentioned in news releases. Now, this might just be because the official name of the break is “winter break”, not “Christmas break”.

Also, how does this in any way show that the teachers are not allowed to say “merry Christmas”? Until you show an official policy, or other proof to that effect, I’ll say that the claim is unsupported.

DaveScot:

“And it’s about teaching the *theory* of evolution like it was the *law* of gravity.”

Dave, hate to break it to you but Einstein’s general relativity is only a *theory* of gravity. Newton had a well-accepted *theory* of gravity until Einstein found a better one. Einstein himself reckoned that he didn’t have the whole story but the rest of the rational world agrees that he has the best one yet. Incidentally, Einstein was always on about coming to know the mind of God.

Like Newton, Darwin had a pretty good theory but it too has been refined in the subsequent century and a half, what with the discovery of DNA and the observation that we’re only 1.5% different DNA-wise than chimpanzees.

There’s a lot of gravity-defying in the Bible, as well as some instant creation. Maybe it’s time you literalist types widened your scope instead of just concentrating on evolutionary theory.

On the other hand, you could usefully recall Jesus’ parable of the talents and start to use your God-given brain.

DaveScot trolled: “Oh gee, that really hurts. I care about your opinion so much and all … “

I wonder, DaveScot, why do you come here? You are certainly not here to listen, since by your own words you don’t care about opinions other than your own (or probably other than those that agree with your own).

I was not trying to hurt you. I was just telling you that, until you answer what amounts to the most basic questions about the belief you are trying to defend as being scientific, your words will carry no weight as far as I am concerned. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that many other people here are thinking the same thing - that you can either defend your loud, but empty, statements with some facts, or you should stop trolling.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Dave,

You’re attempting a proof in the negative. Like trying to claim that, because you don’t find any indian elephants in your neighborhood, they don’t exist.

Give us positive proof that the Austin teachers are forbidden from saying ‘Merry Christmas’.

Cary

Davescot,

Anti-evolutionists call macroevolution “just a theory.” There is an essential distinction between the phenomenon of macroevolution and the theory of evolution. A scientific theory is a well-supported and useful general explanation or organizing principle as exemplified by the theory of gravity, the theory of relativity, and the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution refers to the mechanisms, such as mutation, competition, and population isolation that cause evolution. Macroevolution itself is a scientific fact, not a theory in any sense of the word. Because of overwhelming evidence, such as the fossil record found in the geologic column, comparative anatomy, and the distribution of species, almost all professional biologists accept the phenomenon of macroevolution with the same confidence that they accept heliocentrism. Scientific facts are not absolute truth. They are accepted beyond a reasonable doubt by a near consensus of scientists, but by definition are tentative. It is a scientific fact that if you let go of a pencil, it will fall toward the center of the Earth, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it will fly into space.

You know, if you ignore the obvious troll “DaveScott” it might go away. If you did ignore it, there might be a bit more intellectual discourse here.

On the other hand, I’ve noted that most people on internet message boards prefer to waste time responding to trolls. I guess it gives them a bit of intellectual pleasure doing so. But for most of us, it makes it clear that reading comments isn’t all that useful

The Austin, Texas, Independent School District policies have nothing suggesting that a teacher may not say “Merry Christmas” to anyone – and in fact, were a teacher to be ordered not to do so and take offense at such an order, there are procedures to expedite the grievance without retaliation to the teacher: http://www.tasb.org/policy/pol/private/227901/ (Do a search for “Merry Christmas,” and it will come up dry.)

On the other hand, the policies toe the Constitutional line very well, requiring protection of a student’s rights to pray: http://www.tasb.org/policy/pol/priv[…]ext=RELIGION

The policy says:

FIRST AMENDMENT: The District shall take no action respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Board for a redress of grievances. U.S. Const. Amend. I

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. At school and school events, students have First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. Student expression that is protected by the First Amendment may not be prohibited absent a showing that the expression will materially and substantially interfere with the operation of the school or the rights of others. Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S. Ct. 733 (1969) [See also FNCI] The inculcation of fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic society is part of the work of the school. The First Amendment does not prevent school officials from determining that particular student expression is vulgar and lewd, and therefore contrary to the school’s basic educational mission. Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 106 S. Ct. 3159 (1986)

PRAYER AT SCHOOL ACTIVITIES A public school student has an absolute right to individually, voluntarily, and silently pray or meditate in school in a manner that does not disrupt the instructional or other activities of the school. A student shall not be required, encouraged, or coerced to engage in or refrain from such prayer or meditation during any school activity. Education Code 25.901 Nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday. But the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the District affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer. The District shall not adopt a policy that establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion and has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events. Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 120 S. Ct. 2266 (2000) (addressing school-sponsored, student-led prayer delivered over the public address system at high school football games) [See also FMH(LEGAL) at INVOCATIONS/BENEDICTIONS]

One needs to get one’s facts straight before arguing about them, I think.

Dave,

A fifth grade teacher in California may NOT have a right to preach to children in a public school room. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from passing a law to authorize such an infringement of the children’s rights to religion and belief. Neither the nation as a whole in the U.S. Constitution nor the people of California in their state constitution have delegated any rights, duties or privileges in religion to government, and especially not to state agents such as teachers, to infringe on the religious rights of the kids.

So where that clown Caldwell gets off saying his rights are infringed is a mystery to any student of the Constitution and religious freedom.

I think the most intelligent comment I’ve read on this whole matter was the student:

[They] kind of say, ‘consider it critically,’ as if we wouldn’t have,” Emily said.

Amen.

DaveScot wrote (emphasis added):

There’s no civil right in the United States more sacrosanct than freedom from discrimination and persecution due to religious beliefs. If that charge is true someone is going to hang for it.

Davey, did you notice that there is nothing in the piece you cite which even hints at what actually happened?  It is all Caldwell’s unsupported opinion with no facts, factual claims or rebuttal.

If the charge is false, it means that Caldwell (and the DI) are a posse of pathetic poseurs.  Applying a bit of of critical-thinking skills would unveil this immediately, but nothing you post falls into this category.

Incidentally, there are some very interesting similarities between the tactics of Dave and the DI, and the practice of Muslim apologists known as taqqiya.  They are both based on lying as a religious duty.  (How people who see themselves as genuine Christians can reconcile their cynical falsehoods with the veneration of martyrs who died for telling the truth is beyond me.  Don’t their lies make them less holy, less Christian, further and further from salvation?)

I have the sneaking suspicion that DaveScot is not a creationist troll, but an anti-creationist who wants PT to get plenty of practice at refuting creationist nonsense.  That is the effect he’s having.

Folks, I would advise against spending time and energy responding to any comments by “DaveScot”. Some might characterize him as a “troll” in the parlance of the Internet, but I would consider the traits on display on the comments above. His statements are disingenuous; his choice of words is specious; he diverts the thread to tangential or off-topic matters; and, most repugnant of all, he exhibits a mean-spirited attitude and an affection for sophomoric sarcasm. He isn’t worth our time, folks.

Actually Dave,

It’s about Thomas Jefferson using the phrase “wall of separation between church and state.”

It’s about the 1st Amendment reading “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

It’s about a majority standing up for its wrongs (but not getting away with it). 

It’s about powers not explicitly granted to the federal gov’t to force religion down citizen-student’s throats.

It’s about not distorting the concept of freedom of speech to force religious preaching in the form of stickers on citizen students.

And it’s about teaching the *explanation* of evolution like it was the *explanation* of gravity.

Atrios today had a post where he made the following germane comment

we shouldn’t forget the value of reminding people of the jokes that they really are.

He was speaking about conservative pundits like Hugh Hewitt et al. who gleefully lie in our faces on a semi-daily basis. But the same holds true for the ID peddlers and their apologists.

And for what it’s worth, the difference between DaveScot and David Heddle and Phil Johnson are inconsequential. That should be obvious to everyone by now.

Actually, folks, if there were no Dave-to-dump-on it would be necessary, or at least advisable, to invent one.

Dave Scot wrote (comment 14095):

It’s about the 1st amendment not using the phrase wall of separation between church and state.

Response:

This issue was laid to rest nearly two centuries ago!

Thomas Jefferson, as president, wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut on 1802-JAN-1. It contains the first known reference to the “wall of separation”. The essay states in part:

“…I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State…”

During the 1810’s, President James Madison [often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution”]wrote an essay titled “Monopolies” which also refers to the importance of church-state separation. He stated in part:

“Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

The US Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment as if it requires this “wall of separation” between church and state. It not only prohibits any government from adopting a particular denomination or religion as official, but requires government to avoid excessive involvement in religion.

Source:http://www.religioustolerance.org/scs_intr.htm

Dave Scot wrote:

It’s about the 1st amendment reading freedom *of* religion not freedom *from* religion.

Response:

Your freedom of religion is protected as long as it doesn’t interfere with my freedom of religion (or vice versa). However, individual religious freedom is irrelevant in the Cobb County case. What’s at issue here is the government (i.e., the Cobb County School Board) taking sides with a particular religious viewpoint. That is what the 1st Amendment prohibits.

Dave Scot wrote:

It’s about a majority standing up for its rights.

Response:

The Constitution and its amendments is not so much about the rights of the majority as it is about protecting minority viewpoints from the “tyranny of the majority”. That is the beauty and strength of the American system of government.

Dave Scot wrote:

It’s about powers not explicitely granted to the federal gov’t reserved for the states and the people.

Response:

The Constitution and its amendments cover ALL of the people. States have the authority to pass laws that add to or strengthen the basic rights and protections conferred by the Constitution; they don’t have the authority to weaken them. States and local governments cannot show favoritism toward one set of religious beliefs and practices in the same way that they cannot abridge the right of citizens to bear arms.

Dave Scot wrote:

It’s about freedom of speech.

Response:

The Cobb County case has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech. The School Board is a unit of government, not a person (even a corporate one); it does not have the right of free speech under the Constitution. Also, the legal precedent is well established that a teacher, as a condition of their employment with a unit of government (i.e., a public school district), does not have the right to contravene school policy or to teach material that is contrary to the established curriculum. Nor does a teacher, as an representative of a local government, have the right to promote specific religious beliefs and practices in the public school classroom.

Dave Scot wrote:

And it’s about teaching the *theory* of evolution like it was the *law* of gravity.

Response:

This statement demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of scientific terminology. A scientifc “Law” is a descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances. For example, we know that gravity affects masses in a consistent fashion everywhere it has been measured.

A “Theory”, on the other hand, is a well substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses. Thus, theories, are more significant scientific statements than are laws.

The Theory of Evolution is more firmly based than the Theory of Gravity. We have a very good understanding of the mechanisms behind biological evolution, yet we know very little about the nature of gravity, why it exists, and how it works.

I know that this is a bit off-topic with with respect to the Dover situation, I thought I’d put in my own $0.02 regarding Caldwell. I read through Caldwell’s complaint (available at http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]d.php?id=274) and found that – much to my amusement – one of the two “science experts” Caldwell cites as representing the “minority scientific viewpoint” with respect to evolution is none other than Phillip Skell, a crackpot who was pestering PZ Myers just a couple of weeks ago. If you want the amusing goods on Skell (and have a few minutes to waste on some cheap laughs), just wander on over PZ Myers’ blog (www.pharyngula.org) and use the search utility to dig up the Skell posts.

If Skell is the best talent that Caldwell can enlist for his cause, Caldwell will be laughed out of court in a matter of minutes (remember that if Caldwell *does* get a court hearing, his case will be heard by a judge who resides in California, not Alabama or Georgia).

Arrrggghhhh! in my previous post, s/Dover/Cobb/

They’re only going to appeal if the lawyers will do it for free? Their faith must not be that strong, if they’re not willing to put their district’s own money on the line.

“The appeal is contingent on their lawyers doing it for free.”

I’m not sure, but I’ll bet that the Thomas More Center would take it on for free. They were sharply critical of Judge Cooper’s opinion. Of course, as has been noted of their involvement in Dover, it’s more than a tad hypocritical to retain an overtly religious law firm, whose stated goal involves promoting Christian beliefs into public policy, to argue that no religious purpose exists for the questioning of evolution. Not that the court would consider it, but it’s hilarious nevertheless.

Perhaps the Discovery Institute would take it for free. They were reportedly upset with the school board’s lawyer that none of their scientists were called on to testify. But they’ve also made statements about ‘waiting for the right time’, which involves a SCOTUS turnover, and how the Dover case could hurt its grander, wedge-like designs by establishing a precedent which would then be harder to overturn.

The Thomas More Center would have a far easier time with the facts in the Cobb County case than they’re going to have in Dover, where the school board has created a series of nightmares for them.

Whoever appeals Cobb County will have a rough time too, however, because of the deference that will be granted to Cooper’s findings of fact, since the case went all the way through to the end.

Dylan Thomas Wrote:

Not precisely. One of the witnesses against the evolutionary position and in favor of the ID-creationist position was a Dr. Stickle, who, judge Cooper said, also criticized evolution theory’s relatively poor understanding of the mechanisms behind biological evolution.

LOL. Sorry, but I was in the courtroom when Stickle testified. He did not testify against evolution or for the “ID-creationist position.” In fact, he said in his testimony that evolution was a fact, just like the gravity or the shape of the earth.

Hey Dylan, did you check PubMed or Lexis yet?

Cartwright: “LOL.  Sorry, but I was in the courtroom when Stickle testified.”

But I was present at Creation itself.

Great White,

If I’d had my gluteus kicked, I’d have lashed out too.

Mr. Pilutik is right, DI is probably sweating the Dover case a lot. Think of the barrels they’re over: Should they stick to their guns, and file an amicus consistent with their claim that there is nothing to teach in high schools yet, and so the school’s policy should be shot down? Or do they go against their press releases and support the teaching of ID?

If they support the teaching of ID, do they expose themselves to serious analysis by stating a hypothesis that may lead to theory, or do they weasel as usual, claiming that ID is an X-Files case, with the truth “out there?”

It’s probably a sin, but I do enjoy their squirming. It’s a minor sin, I’m sure.

“Biologists consider evolution to be a fact in much the same way that physicists do so for gravity. However, the mechanisms of evolution are less well understood, and it is these mechanisms that are described by several theories of evolution.”

—Evolution is a Fact and a Theory, The Talk.Origins Archive, http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/[…]olution.html

“It is important to note that Darwin’s book ‘The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ did two things. It summarized all of the evidence in favor of the idea that all organisms have descended with modification from a common ancestor, and thus built a strong case for evolution. In addition Darwin advocated natural selection as a mechanism of evolution. Biologists no longer question whether evolution has occurred or is occurring. That part of Darwin’s book is now considered to be so overwhelmingly demonstrated that is is often referred to as the FACT of evolution. However, the MECHANISM of evolution is still debated.

“We have learned much since Darwin’s time and it is no longer appropriate to claim that evolutionary biologists believe that Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection is the best theory of the mechanism of evolution. I can understand why this point may not be appreciated by the average non-scientist because natural selection is easy to understand at a superficial level. It has been widely promoted in the popular press and the image of “survival of the fittest” is too powerful and too convenient.”

—Laurence Moran, “The Modern Synthesis of Genetics and Evolution,” http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mod[…]nthesis.html

“Epistemological considerations. There is no reason to think we have a complete understanding of the operation of the genes. There are central areas of genetics, such as the question of how genes build bodies, that are still very poorly understood. It is also implausible that we have a full understanding even of those genetic processes for which we have highly specified models and vast amounts of experimental data supporting these models; this limitation is simply due to the inherent limitations in the activity of knowledge (see No Final Theory: Science as Perception). Such chronic incompleteness is a reason to be open to the discovery of new levels of order in the operation of the genes in ontogeny and under natural selection, to improved definitions of the scope of current models, and to a clarification of the mechanisms at work.

“Current debate. There are various grounds on which to question aspects of the current evolutionary model, and a lively debate persists today. Evolution is in principle hard to model precisely, since the changes it describes usually takes place over time periods that are inaccessible to human beings. Consider the related situation in astronomy. Changes in the movement of the stars are slow, and until very recently were too slow to be detected within the lifetime of an individual. However, with the help of a continuous series of observations dating back to the fifth century BC, Copernicus was able to formulate a detailed model that fit two thousand years of data. Unfortunately, in the case of biology, two thousand years of continuous observation would in most cases reveal very little. We must thus rely in indirect evidence, such as fossil remains and systematic structural similarities and differences in living forms. This evidence leaves room for a variety of possible interpretations of past events, and thus of the mechanisms of change that underlie them. I can examine only a few focal points of contention.”

—Francis F. Steen, “Evolutionary Theory: A theory of changes in organic design through controlled random mutations and contingent selection,” Communication Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, http://cogweb.ucla.edu/ep/Evolution.html

Dylan, alleged “science writer”, writes

If I’d had my gluteus kicked, I’d have lashed out too.

You’re too lazy to lash out at anything, bro’. Enjoy your trolling.

Great White,

Here, take these little white caps. The nice man over there (the one in the white smock) calls them antipsychodelusionals. And soon, veeery sooon, eeeverything will be all right.

“[D]iversity is a direct and inevitable outcome of speciation, the process whereby a single species evolves into two or more distinct ones. The conditions required to initiate, promote, and complete the speciation process are still poorly understood and hence controversial. To resolve this problem, a major effort has been made in recent years to examine the biological and genetic attributes of closely related taxa actively undergoing various degrees of differentiation. Three approaches are taken in these investigations: field, experimental, and theoretical. Significant advances have come from the analysis of the genetic variation and structure in natural populations. Many of these studies are of insects. For example the Hawaiian Drosophila, which have proliferated rapidly on the emerging islands of the archipelago, serve as an outstanding model system for examin- ing the relations among geographic isolation, population size, sexual selection, .…” —“Evolution and Diversity,” National Academy of Sciences (2004), http://www.nap.edu/openbook/0309039[…]tml/260.html

“Biologists know little about the genetic mechanisms of speciation. Some think series of small changes in each subdivision gradually lead to speciation; others think there may be a few key genes that could change and confer reproductive isolation. (One famous biologist thinks most speciation events are caused by changes in internal symbionts. Most doubt this, however.)

“Populations of organisms are very complicated. It is likely that there are many ways speciation can occur. Thus, all of the above ideas may be correct, each in different circumstances.”

—Fredric L. Rice, “Evolution Is One of the Most Powerful Theories Science Has Ever Known,” The Skeptic Tank, http://www.skepticfiles.org/evolut/evolutwo.htm

We can’t use the theory of gravity to predict the size and distribution of masses of planets in the solar system. Does this mean that the theory of gravity is in crisis? Similarly we can’t explain lots of historical evolution down to the minutest level. The theory of evolution by means of mutation, selection, drift and extinction doesn’t explain every event in detail but the history of life is entirely consistent with this theory.

“Biologists consider evolution to be a fact in much the same way that physicists do so for gravity. “

Actually, this is a pretty good analogy, because we don’t really understand the “mechanisms” of gravity, either. General relativity describes various gravitational observations very well, but we don’t understand the details of how the gravitational force is carried. The search for grand unified theory, or GUT, which incorporates both gravity and quantum mechanics is a hot area of physics. But nobody questions the reality of gravity. Perhaps it is too technical for the general public, but it seems like a good comparison for biologists to make.

euan Wrote:

The theory of evolution by means of mutation, selection, drift and extinction doesn’t explain every event in detail but the history of life is entirely consistent with this theory.

Dylan was not arguing (I think) that evolution is inconsistent with the history of life (or more precisely, the observations we can make about the history of life). He was questioning the claim that we have a good understanding of the mechanisms of evolution. I think it is a good point, because when scientists overstate our current level of knowledge and/or capability, it causes a lot of problems down the road. IDers, of course, love to point out that currently evolutionary theory cannot produce a detailed, specific, causal mechanism for this or that phenomena. The fact that ID cannot produce even a vague, noncausal mechanism with no details doesn’t faze them. But, combating ID is frequently a rhetorical and public relations campaign, as distasteful as that may be to many scientists. And making unsupportable claims merely gives IDers rhetorical ammunition (“You say you have a good explanation of the mechanisms of evolution? Can you explain the mechanisms of speciation? No? Well, then, why should we trust anything else you say? Blah, blah, blah, irreducible complexity, yadda, yadda, yadda, DNA compression, etc., etc., etc.”) Which is all a load of crap, of course, but why give them the opening?

Correction regarding the Dylan Thomas post above quoting “Fredric L. Rice” - “Evolution Is One of the Most Powerful Theories Science Has Ever Known” -

Fredric Rice is merely the host of the site where the article appears. Chris Colby is the author of the article.

Correction: “Fredric Rice is merely the host of the site where the article appears. Chris Colby is the author of the article.”

My bad. Fredric Rice must be an unintentional plaigerist, not giving Colby credit.

Mike S.: Dylan was not arguing (I think) that evolution is inconsistent with the history of life (or more precisely, the observations we can make about the history of life).  He was questioning the claim that we have a good understanding of the mechanisms of evolution.”

You’ve got my position down cold, Mike.

Some stuff for Dylan to ponder:

Is our understanding of the general mechanism by which DNA replicates itself “good” in 2005?

What about DNA mutations? Is our general understanding of ways in which DNA mutations occur “good” in 2005?

How about the relative fitness of living things with mutations that cause them to be ill versus those that cause living things to be healthy and more attractive mates? Is our understanding of that process “good” in 2005?

What about the general mechanism by which the gametes of sexually reproducing organisms find each other? Is our understanding of that process “good” in 2005?

How about the reason that male st. bernards generally don’t mate with female chihuaha’s? Is our understanding of that difficulty “good” in 2005?

How about the reason that very few bears in California mate with bears in Florida? IS our understanding of that difficulty “good” in 2005?

Our understanding of all of the above is surely better than “good” for the purposes of explaining evolution to any high school student who may never take another biology class in his life. And remember: it is the robustness of evolutionary biological principles as they are taught at the high school level that are at issue here, not the details of evolution-related questions at the level they are addressed by Ph.D. scientists.

It should go without saying that there are an infinite number of questions to be asked about any branch of science. And it should go without saying that terms like “good” are relative.

So I wonder when Dylan questions the “claim” that we have a “good” understanding of the “mechanisms” of “evolution”, what exactly is he referring to?

In particular, for the reasons I alluded above, the terms “good” and “evolution” seem to cry out for definition in order for any “questioning” of the abovementioned “claim” to have any point.

Lastly, my experience has been that Federal judges don’t take kindly to quote mining. A quote such as

The conditions required to initiate, promote, and complete the speciation process are still poorly understood and hence controversial,”

makes it sound to the unthinking reader as if the “mechanism” of evolution is a black box. But a critical reader will note that the word “mechanism” is not used here. Rather, the quote refers to “conditions”. And two sentences later we see the following:

“For example the Hawaiian Drosophila, which have proliferated rapidly on the emerging islands of the archipelago, serve as an outstanding model system for examining the relations among geographic isolation, population size, sexual selection …”

Geographic isolation? Population size? Sexual selection? “Outstanding model”? Why, it seems that scientists aren’t fumbling along in the dark. One might even say that they have a “good” idea about the “mechanisms” of evolution. And one might ask, how many papers have been published showing that geographic isolation is a likely reason for the divergence of two related groups of animals? Then one might go to PubMed or Lexis and do a search to find out how many scientists believe that geographic isolation is a “good” or worthy “mechanism” for explaining the evolution of some animals.

Thanks for the “stuff,” Great White. I’ve pondered it.

PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed

“A congenital atresia of the bulbo-membranous urethra had been reported. The atresia extended for 1.5 cm. It presented early in the neonatal period with major dilatation of the upper urinary tracts. After a preliminary urinary diversion, the surgical repair through the perineum was done at the age of 18 months. Such cases are not seen frequently. This atresia must be differentiated from posterior urethral valves type III, and from other stenoses either iatrogenic, traumatic, or inflammatory. The partial atresia is the only type compatible with life. It may be presented in two forms: annular constriction or extended stenosis. THE MECHANISM OF EVOLUTION IS NOT VERY CLEAR: it is either due to a bad resorption of the urogenital membrane or a defect in the embryogenesis of the urethral tube. Treatment differs according to the site and extent of the lesion simple dilatation, internal urethrotomy, or urethroplasty in one or several stages can be done.”

—Dodat H, Sellem C, Pouillaude JM, Bouvier R, Takvorian P., “Extensive congenital stenosis of the bulbo-membranous urethra in a child. Apropos of a case discovered in a newborn infant,” Chir Pediatr. 1987;28(2):125-8. PMID: 3621390 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/[…]opt=Abstract

PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed PubMed

Gosh. I hope that’s sarcasm, Dylan.

Heh heh heh

 Abstract: Plant parasites can often employ more than one host species, and show intra-specific variation in host use. A central question in evolutionary biology is how such variation originates and is maintained, and under which conditions it may lead to host-race formation and speciation. In phytopathogenic fungi, host specialisation is well documented, BUT THE UNDERLYING EVOLUTIONARY MECHANISMS ARE POORLY UNDERSTOOD. Aim of this project is to study such mechanisms explicity, with emphasis on the role of vector behaviour and mating system variation in the pathogen. As a model system, we investigate strains of an insect-vectored, host sterilising fungus, Microbotyrum violaceum, in sympatric populations of two of its host species, Silene alba and S. dioica.

Title: Host specialization and mating system variation in the vector-borne fungal plant pathogen Microbotryum violaceum

Period: early 1996 - end of 2001

Status: completed

Dissertation: Yes

Financier: NWO Council for Earth and Life

Sciences Secretariat: NIOO Centre for Terrestrial Ecology - CTE

Doctoral/PhD student: Drs. P. van Putten

Project leader: Dr. A. Biere

Supervisor: Prof.dr. J.M.M. van Damme

Research theme 3: The ecology and evolution of plant-pathogen interactions

http://www.onderzoekinformatie.nl/e[…]/OND1252714/

Here’s another chance, Dylan, to redeem yourself from your confused troll-like state. Simply address the points in my earlier post (repeated below) without dissembling.

Our understanding of all of the above is surely better than “good” for the purposes of explaining evolution to any high school student who may never take another biology class in his life. And remember: it is the robustness of evolutionary biological principles as they are taught at the high school level that are at issue here, not the details of evolution-related questions at the level they are addressed by Ph.D. scientists.

It should go without saying that there are an infinite number of questions to be asked about any branch of science. And it should go without saying that terms like “good” are relative.

So I wonder when Dylan questions the “claim” that we have a “good” understanding of the “mechanisms” of “evolution”, what exactly is he referring to?

In particular, for the reasons I alluded to above, the terms “good” and “evolution” seem to cry out for definition in order for any “questioning” of the abovementioned “claim” to have any point.

Good luck to you, my troubled “science writer” friend!

Dylan,

In leiu of spamming the comments in this post with abstracts, how about you actually read the papers you are finding on pubmed?

Any further off topic comments will get the comments closed.

“We confine our remarks to the applicability of the BSC [biologic species concept] to birds, a group with obvious and easily studied reproductive isolating mechanisms. WE WITHHOLD JUDGMENT ON THE APPROPRIATENESS OF BSC FOR THE MULTITUDE OF NON-AVIAN ORGANISMS WHOSE REPRODUCTIVE ISOLATING MECHANISMS ARE EITHER POORLY UNDERSTOOD OF UNKNOWN (E.G., MARINE INVERTEBRATES) or whose breeding systems are diverse and complex (e.g., plants). That reservation notwithstanding, we believe that the essence of the BSC — both from a philosophical and practical standpoint — is unassailably superior for the treatment of avian species. Therefore, we disagree with Cracraft (1983), McKitrick and Zink (1988), and Zink (1996), who intimate that the supposed popularity of the PSC [phylogenetic species concept] among workers on other groups of organisms is reason to apply it to birds. Flocks may follow errant shepherds.”

—Johnson, N.K., Remsen Jr., J.V. & Cicero, C. 1999. “Resolution of the debate over species concepts in ornithology: a new comprehensive biologic species concept.” In: Adams, N.J. & Slotow, R.H. (eds) Proc. 22 Int. Omithol. Congr., Durban: 1470- 1482. Johannesburg, South Africa

http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~c[…]concepts.pdf

Peace to one and all. Bye.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on January 17, 2005 9:56 PM.

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