The Cobb County decision

| 55 Comments | 13 TrackBacks

The decision in Selman is pretty straightforward. When deciding whether something violates the Establishment Clause, courts apply the Lemon test, which says that something violates the Establishment Clause if it is (1) not adopted for a secular purpose (2) if its operation inhibits or promotes religion, or (3) if it creates an excessive entanglement of government and religion. More recent cases have combined the second and third parts of this test, but that's still the rough outline.

With regard to part 1 of the test, the court finds that the disclaimer was not created solely for a religious purpose (p. 22): "To the contrary, the court found that the School Board sought to advance two secular purposes...to encourage students to engage in critical thinking...[and] to reduce offense to those students and parents whose personal beliefs might conflict with teaching on evolution." Are these, indeed, legitimate secular purposes? The first certainly is--assuming that's what the School Board really had in mind. (And it's not for me to dispute, since that's the judge's call, and he provides a very thorough discussion of that issue.)

But the second one, I'm not so sure. Government may not soothe the irrational fears of the populace in ways that undermine constitutional restrictions. Consider, for example, the days of segregation. In the cases enforcing its decision in Brown v. Board of Ed., the Supreme Court repeatedly rejected appeals by school boards that tried to delay desegregation purportedly to prevent civil disorder. "Private biases," the Court said in another race case, "may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect. ‘Public officials sworn to uphold the Constitution may not avoid a constitutional duty by bowing to the hypothetical effects of private racial prejudice that they assume to be both widely and deeply held.'" Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429, 433 (1984) (quoting Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217, 260-61 (1971) (White, J., dissenting)). I'm not likening religion to segregation; I'm saying that I am unconvinced that merely reducing offense felt by some religious folks is a legitimate secular interest.

But then, I'm a bit of a hard-liner. The judge is clearly very concerned with giving school districts room to maneuver in a society full of non-specialists and those ignorant of, and hostile to, the concept of evolution:

[T]he School Board adopted a sticker that is not openly religious but served to put students, parents, and teachers on notice that evolution would be taught in a manner that is inclusive rather than exclusive. The School Board sought to show consideration for their constituents' personal beliefs regardig the origin of life while still maintaining a posture of neutrality towards religion. The school Board's decision to adopt the Sticker was undisputably influenced by sectarian interests, but the Constitution forbids only a purpose to endorse or advance religion. (p. 28).

In other words, "cut the Board a little slack."

That being said, the Court goes on to part 2: "[T]he effects prong asks whether the statement at issue in fact conveys a message of endorsement or disapproval of religion to an informed, reasonable observer." (p. 31) The Court finds that the sticker violates this part because the history of religious hostility to evolution education, combined with the controversy that led up to the adoption of the sticker by the school board,

The critical language of the Sticker that supports the conclusion that the Sticker runs afoul of the Establishment Clause is the statement that "[e]volution is a theory, not a fact, concerning the origin of living things." This statement is not problematic because of its truth or falsity, although testimony from various witnesses at trial and the amicus brief submitted by the Colorado Citizens for Science, et al., suggest that the statement is not entirely accurate. Rather, the first problem with this language is that there has been a lengthy debate between advocates of evolution and proponents of religious theories of origin specifically concerning whether evolution should be taught as a fact or as a theory, and the School Board appears to have sided with the proponents of religious theories of origin in violation of the Establishment Clause. (pp.33-34)

(I'm proud to say that I wrote the amicus brief for the Colorado Citizens, et al., with the help of Georgia attorney Lynn Fant, and you can read it here. It even cites Panda's Thumb entries!) In addition, the Court notes that "encouraging the teaching of evolution as a theory rather than as a fact is one of the latest strategies to dilute evolution instruction employed by anti-evolutionists with religious motivations." (p. 35) These facts and more support the Court's conclusion that a reasonable, informed observer would interpret the sticker as an endorsement of a religious viewpoint, and therefore a violation of Lemon's part 2, and therefore a violation of the Establishment Clause.

The decision is thorough, well-reasoned, and entirely consistent with the law of the First Amendment. We should be grateful to Judge Cooper for his careful attention to detail and his very thoughtful opinion. Congratulations also to the Colorado Citizens for Science, Kansas Citizens for Science, Michigan Citizens for Science, Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education, New Mexico Academy of Science, New Mexicans for Science and Reason, New Mexico Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education, and Texas Citizens for Science, for having the guts to stand up and speak in court. Good for you folks!

Update: More at Scrivener's Error here and here.

13 TrackBacks

Cooper Rules from De Rerum Natura on January 13, 2005 10:09 PM

Well the verdict is in; the Cobb County disclaimers are unconstitutional. Still no reaction from the Discovery Institute. On can read some [url=http://www.ajc.com/metro/... Read More

As reported in the York Daily Record, the Dover, PA evolution disclaimer — a statement to be read to students explaining that evolution is "just a theory," and implying that Intelligent Design is a feasible alternative explanation for the origins... Read More

As is appropriate, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the evolution disclaimers being used in Cobb County, Georgia, are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and must be removed. Religious critics of evolution weep in anguish, but sci... Read More

As is appropriate, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the evolution disclaimers being used in Cobb County, Georgia, are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and must be removed. Religious critics of evolution weep in anguish, but sci... Read More

It's been an excellent week for science all around! The attempt by religious fundamentalist board members and residents in Cobb County Independent School District, to place misleading stickers on biology textbooks concerning evolution, was struck down ... Read More

It's been an excellent week for science all around! The attempt by religious fundamentalist board members and residents in Cobb County Independent School District, to place misleading stickers on biology textbooks concerning evolution, was struck down ... Read More

It's been an excellent week for science all around! The attempt by religious fundamentalist board members and residents in Cobb County Independent School District, to place misleading stickers on biology textbooks concerning evolution, was struck down ... Read More

It's been an excellent week for science all around! The attempt by religious fundamentalist board members and residents in Cobb County Independent School District, to place misleading stickers on biology textbooks concerning evolution, was struck down ... Read More

Cobb County from reality based community on January 17, 2005 7:32 PM

At some point soon I'm going to tackle the entire Cobb County School District opinion with some in-depth legal analysis, but for now, I'll just say: 1) Yay! 2) Wow. I didn't quite expect this, being that so many other... Read More

Cobb County from reality based community on January 17, 2005 7:36 PM

At some point soon I'm going to tackle the entire Cobb County School District opinion [pdf] with some in-depth legal analysis, but for now, I'll just say: 1) Yay! 2) Wow. I didn't quite expect this, being that so many... Read More

Cobb County anti Evolution stickers invalidated from Law Evolution Science and Junk Science on January 18, 2005 4:09 PM

I wrote about the Cobb County evolution creation trial a few months ago on my other blog. Read More

Cobb County anti Evolution stickers invalidated from Law Evolution Science and Junk Science on January 18, 2005 6:09 PM

I wrote about the Cobb County evolution creation trial a few months ago on my other blog. Read More

Cobb County anti Evolution stickers invalidated from Law Evolution Science and Junk Science on January 18, 2005 8:31 PM

I wrote about the Cobb County evolution creation trial a few months ago on my other blog. Read More

55 Comments

I second Mr. Sandefur’s congrats to the amici, and extend my thanks and congrats to him as well.

And thanks for this nice overview, too!

And Congratulations to you, Mr. Sandefur. Thanks for the hard work you put in on that brief, I know it was a bit of a scramble to get done in time. In fact, as it turned out, it didn’t get done in time, but the judge obviously read it and thought it contained important information anyway. Great work. I’m sure I speak not only for the Michigan group but for all the other state science organizations who signed on to that brief in saying thank you for doing such a terrific job with it.

I’m proud to say that I wrote the amicus brief for the Colorado Citizens, et al., with the help of Georgia attorney Lynn Fant, and you can read it here.

Hey, I helped too, as did Sarah Pallas.

Tim,

I echo your sentiments about a society full non-specialists.

It is quite distressing to me that biologists who do not specialize in the design of complex machines pretend to be experts in design.

Most of my 25 year professional career has been a computer hardware and software design engineer. I recognize an intelligent design when I see one. It’s too bad most biologists do not, but why should they, since they’re not design specialists?

Dave, biologists do recognise design. They just realise that natural selection et al was the “designer”. They understand life evolved the way it has due to selective pressures, amongst other things. Just because you don’t know what you’re talking about, or understand biology, doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

I’m very sorry, Mr. Cartwright. I certainly didn’t mean to demean anyone’s contribution. You and Dr. Pallas did indeed help write it, and several other people proposed changes that we incorporated. It was a big, fast-paced project, and everyone was very helpful. In fact, Mr. Cartwright was the leading client among the amici curiae.

DaveScot’s attempt at wit falls pretty flat, in my view. Evolutionary biolgoy is the study of design, rightly understood, and it has revealed a thorough, fascinating, brilliant, exhaustively proven explanation of the apparent design around us, that is genuine science. It’s called evolution. ID proponents, by contrast, parade about with a childish, unscientific sham argument which they dress up in a lab coat and call “design theory.” It just ain’t so.

No, biologists don’t recognize design. If they did they wouldn’t cling for dear life to the materialist dogma. Perhaps if you were a designer you’d understand.

I am a designer. I’m an electrical engineer. I understand perfectly: you don’t know what you’re talking about.

DaveScot Wrote:

It is quite distressing to me that biologists who do not specialize in the design of complex machines pretend to be experts in design.

I would guess that it is quite distressing to biologists that computer hardware and software design engineers sometimes pretend to be experts in biology.

DaveScot Wrote:

Most of my 25 year professional career has been a computer hardware and software design engineer. I recognize an intelligent design when I see one. It’s too bad most biologists do not, but why should they, since they’re not design specialists?

Don’t you really mean that you recognize an intelligent human design when you see one? Computers and living things are quite different. For one thing, computers don’t reproduce. Or maybe you know something I don’t…

Sandefur Wrote:

I’m very sorry, Mr. Cartwright. I certainly didn’t mean to demean anyone’s contribution.

No offence taken, I just want to take my props, just like you. In fact, the entire Panda’s Thumb crew should take props since they helped with the revisions.

To DaveScot: Please enlighten me about design, and what it is about design that makes biologists unable to recognize it. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m seriously interested.

DaveScot Wrote:

Most of my 25 year professional career has been a computer hardware and software design engineer.  I recognize an intelligent design when I see one.  It’s too bad most biologists do not, but why should they, since they’re not design specialists?

No,  biologists don’t recognize design.  If they did they wouldn’t cling for dear life to the materialist dogma.  Perhaps if you were a designer you’d understand.

I’m a designer and a biologist. As is Cartwright. I am sure Reed will agree, software design is quite far removed from biological design, though there are a few similarities. Perhaps if DaveScot had ever tried to design a protein or a catalytic RNA he would understand. Random variation and selection for function happens to be the most efficient and successful method known for designing biological systems. Imagine if randomly deleting or changing characters in the text in C code usually had no effect on the operation of a binary, and in fact made it better a significant fraction of the time. The syntax of C code essentially prohibits such a thing, while the physical properties of nucleotides, amino acids, and folded proteins are quite amenable.

DaveScot do you use GAs? The only way you’d say some of the programs that are created by one of my systems are “designed” is that you can’t imagine a system that wasn’t designed. The scheduling component of my system was not designed by me but rather evolved over generations with random mutations.

It also makes me annoyed when people that don’t know biology say biologists don’t know about math or statistics or design or even computer programming. All it does is show a massive ignorance on your part.

The interesting thing is that engineers are beginning to use random mutation and natural selection as enginerring techniques to solve their design challenges. The results are often better and more creative than anything that human, “intelligent” designers that they are, could come up with. IIRC, evolution was used by NASA to design light-weight trusses for the space station.

I’m curious how DaveScot defines “design” such that “materialistic” mechanisms are excluded.

Among the logical fallacies, I believe DaveScot’s argument would be classified as begging the question. To extrapolate from his claim to be able to recognize an intelligent design when he sees one, I take it he would claim that if something appears to have been designed by an intelligent agent, then it necessarily was designed by an intelligent agent. But the whole point of evolutionary theory is that it demonstrates, in great detail and with a gigantic amount of evidence to support it, how life on earth can have the appearance of design without any directing intelligence behind it. In effect, DaveScot seems to be claiming that evolution is false because the appearance of design is always a reliable indicator of an intelligent agent, when in fact the reliability of that appearance is precisely what’s in question.

I would also note that the rather condescending statement that “perhaps if you were a designer you’d understand” combines an ad hominem (“You’re not a designer so your views are worthless”) with an appeal to (his own) authority. The evidence is what matters, not how many years you’ve been designing things.

My apologies to DaveScot if I’ve misrepresented his views.

Wayne Francis Wrote:

It also makes me annoyed when people that don’t know biology say biologists don’t know about math or statistics or design or even computer programming.  All it does is show a massive ignorance on your part.

There is a good argument to be made that biologists, specifically evolutionary biologists and population geneticists, are essentially wholly responsible for the foundations of modern scientific statistics. Ronald A. Fisher, A. W. F. Edwards, Sir Francis Galton, George Yule, Karl Pearson, William Gosset (AKA “Student”), William Cochran, C. R. Rao, Jerzy Neyman – these are all the greats in modern stats and they all were biologists too of some sort. And evolutionary ones at that.

http://www.jtbf.org/article_iii_jud[…]cooper_c.htm

Judge Cooper was appointed a United States District Court Judge for the Northern District of Georgia by President Clinton on May 9, 1994.

A Clinton appointee during the time when the U.S. Senate was controlled by Democrats rubber-stamping all Clinton’s judicial nominations.

That sure explains the decision.

Wayne,

Start changing random bits in MS Windows executable files. Let me know when a random change makes it work better. Better yet, let Bill Gates know.

LOL!

A Texas Republican software engineer creationist-apologist who claims to be agnostic?

And I thought Charlie Wagner was a fish out of water.

Wayne Francis and others that think complex machines can be made better by mutation/selection:

Start changing random bits in MS Windows executable files.

If the change does no apparent harm, keep it and repeat the process. If there’s harm then kill that version and go back to the previous iteration.

Y’all are trying to sell me on the concept that this will eventually fix bugs and add features to Windows.

Sorry, I ain’t buying what you’re selling.

To demonstrate that I’m not a mean guy I strongly suggest you back up your disk one time at the beginning of this experiment and keep the backup handy because I know what the nature of the results will be.

If you want to waste even more time & money, since it’s now possible to introduce random changes into the DNA of critters, try making one fitter for its environment through random change to its DNA. Please use a lower animal for this as I’m something of a PETA sympathizer and, as with the computer experiment, I know what the nature of the results will be.

Dave Scott says, “Start changing random bits in MS Windows executable files. If the change does no apparent harm, keep it and repeat the process. If there’s harm then kill that version and go back to the previous iteration.” Design something that can produce offspring or atleast spontaneously divide and then call me with the evidence. Maybe we will agree that living things are “designed”!

Wayne wrote

DaveScot do you use GAs? The only way you’d say some of the programs that are created by one of my systems are “designed” is that you can’t imagine a system that wasn’t designed. The scheduling component of my system was not designed by me but rather evolved over generations with random mutations.

And on any given day, the artificial traders my company’s GAs evolve control up to $1bil in market positions. Autonomously. And we poor suffering humans have no idea why they have any particular position on!. That makes clients edgy sometimes. :)

Similarly, there is research (Reed’s anti-spam filter won’t let the URL through: search on [“hardware evolution” AND (Layzell AND Thompson]) in which real physical circuits evolve to perform tasks (e.g., oscillation) and produce ‘designs’ no human designer would produce, but that nevertheless work. In fact, some of the evolved hardware designs (that actually work) are inscrutable to the programmers of the GAs evolving the circuits: the humans can’t figure out how the circuit is actually doing the task.

For a nice platform in which computer programs evolve, see Avida. It evolves digital critters whose genomes – instructions – are assembly language programs. And yes, the instruction sequences (programs) are mutated – changed by substitution, deletion, and insertion – and the bloody programs evolve! Remarks about how computer programs can’t evolve rest on (1) the brittleness of the languages in common use and the syntactic constraints imposed by the languages (and programmers, come to that), and (2) the inability of programmers like DaveScot to think in population terms. So what if a mutation is lethal? That instance dies but the rest of the population keeps going.

RBH

How about bacteria?

Nature 387, 703 - 705 (1997); doi:10.1038/42701

Evolution of high mutation rates in experimental populations of E. coli

PAUL D. SNIEGOWSKI*, PHILIP J. GERRISH† & RICHARD E. LENSKI†

* Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA † Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.D.S. (e-mail: [Enable javascript to see this email address.]).

Most mutations are likely to be deleterious, and so the spontaneous mutation rate is generally held at a very low value. Nonetheless, evolutionary theory predicts that high mutation rates can evolve under certain circumstances. Empirical observations have previously been limited to short-term studies of the fates of mutator strains deliberately introduced into laboratory populations of Escherichia coli, and to the effects of intense selective events on mutator frequencies in E. coli. Here we report the rise of spontaneously originated mutators in populations of E. coli undergoing long-term adaptation to a new environment. Our results corroborate computer simulations of mutator evolution in adapting clonal populations, and may help to explain observations that associate high mutation rates with emerging pathogens and with certain cancers.

DaveScot is priceless. “A Clinton appointee during the time when the U.S. Senate was controlled by Democrats rubber-stamping all Clinton’s judicial nominations,” he says. “That sure explains the decision.” I suppose. Or the decision could be explained by reference to the law and controlling precedent. The latter interpretation has the added benefit of explaining why a person such as myself–hardly a defender of the Clinton administration and its ideological current–agrees with the judge. But then, DaveScot’s fondness for ad hominem has already been noted.

DaveScot says:

Start changing random bits in MS Windows executable files. Let me know when a random change makes it work better.

Which suggests that it all began with a design. Well, that’s faith, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with DaveScot’s experience as a software design engineer.

Here’s a better analogy: 100 software design engineers are locked in a room without food or water. After a panicky struggle to escape, in which 50 of the designers are trampled, the other 50 try to work cooperatively toward making an escape. As that effort becomes prolonged, it breaks down in acrimony; cliques develop and fights break out. Before long, there are only a few dozen engineers left, and they have split into three camps.

One camp (the scientists) believes it can discover a method of escaping the room, given adequate observation and analysis. The second camp (the mystics) believes that there’s no way out and prepares for death by calmly meditating. The third camp (the pragmatists) is agnostic about escape, but isn’t ready to die, so its members begin to kill and eat the mystics.

As they are being killed by the pragmatists, the mystics console themselves by saying that it’s all part of a grand design, and that they’ll have food and water in the next life.

What happens next? After eating the mystics, do the pragmatists turn on the the scientists and eat them as well? Or do the pragmatists keep (some of) the scientists alive, in case the scientists can discover a way out of the room?

If the pragmatists eat the scientists, the pragmatists will then begin to eat each other. The last pragmatist to die (of starvation) will say that it was the inevitable outcome, given the initial conditions in the room.

If the pragmatists spare the scientists (or some of them), and the scientists don’t find a way out of the room, the pragmatists will begin to finish off the scientists, then each other. The last pragmatist to die (of starvation) will say that it was the inevitable outcome, given the initial conditions in the room.

If the pragmatists spare the scientists (or some of them), and the scientists find a way out of the room, the pragmatists will claim that it was the inevitable outcome, given the initial conditions in the room.

The scientists, on the other hand, will say that escape was merely one of many possible outcomes. It merely seems inevitable in retrospect.

And the cynics among the scientists will say: If the mystics had survived they would have claimed that it was all part of the grand design.

P.S. to the last paragraph of my comment #13689. I wrote:

And the cynics among the scientists will say: If the mystics had survived they would have claimed that it was all part of the grand design.

To which I should have added: And the cynics would be right.

Posted by frank schmidt on January 13, 2005 10:28 PM

How about bacteria?

Nature 387, 703 - 705 (1997); doi:10.1038/42701

Evolution of high mutation rates in experimental populations of E. coli

PAUL D. SNIEGOWSKI*, PHILIP J. GERRISH† & RICHARD E. LENSKI†

* Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA † Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA

That lead author would of course be the same Paul Sniegowski that was one of the ringleaders of the UPenn faculty letter to the Dover Area School Board.

What’s not funny about Dave Scott entering a discussion of legal issues in evolution and in essence saying, “I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it…”?

On a more serious level, the random mutagenesis experiment that Scott suggests has been done many times, with precisely the results he thinks won’t be found. That he is unaware of this suggests that he knows vastly less about biology than he thinks that he does. And that’s not funny; it’s just sad.

Using evolution to do what engineers can’t is already big business. One can’t help noticing that their products appear messy and irregular and positively biological compared with the products of intelligent, that is to say human, design.

For DaveScot: Avida

You can read about it in the February 2005 issue of Discover magazine.

If DaveScot refuses to believe that changing bits in code randomly can produce functional results, then he clearly isn’t well informed on the research within his own field. For his edification, here is a partial listing of some of the things that have been produced by such a technique:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/gen[…]tml#examples

DaveScot Wrote:

Wayne Francis and others that think complex machines can be made better by mutation/selection:

Oh you show how much you don’t know. Do you realise that there are tons of items that are no longer “designed” by humans but via GAs. They are modified randomly and selection over many generations produces a product that does the job most often much better then a human could design it? Many circut boards are evolved not designed.

You also don’t understand that biological systems are orders of magnitude more tolerant of mutations then code. That said I see my scheduling system work every day very efficiently useing code that no human has written because it was evolved over many generation. Please read up on GA before opening your mouth and haveing only stupid statements come out.

Where the Cobb opinion is flawed. Justice Clarence Cooper states:

In this case, the Court believes that an informed, reasonable observer would interpret the Sticker to convey a message of endorsement of religion. That is, the Sticker sends a message to those who oppose evolution for religious reasons that they are favored members of the political community, while the Sticker sends a message to those who believe in evolution that they are political outsiders.

The fact that evolution is being presented in the textbook without criticism or mention of opposing theories sends a message to those who believe in evolution that they are favored members of the political community and sends a message to those who question evolution that they are political outsiders. The Sticker, by encouraging critical thinking and pointing out that evolution is not irrefutable fact, sends a message that those who do not believe in evolution are POLITICAL EQUALS with those who do believe in evolution.

Justice Cooper clearly got it wrong in who is being favored. Cooper’s flawed logic in deducing favoritism is the basis of his finding that the Sticker fails to meet the Lemon test. Absent this conclusion of political favoritism he finds no other failure to meet the Lemon test and would thus have to rule in favor of defendents. I believe that his decision will be reversed on appeal, if there is an appeal, because of this.

Wayne,

You have absolutely no clue how commercially saleable computer hardware and software is designed if you think genetic algorithms play any part whatsoever in the design process. I’m not going to argue with you about it further. I’ve worked in the computer industry as a hardware and software design engineer my entire adult life. You are simply full of crap about any role that GA plays.

Hmm…someone’s getting a mite touchy that his professionalism is being impugned. I’d call it irony, except that combining stupidity with hypocrisy doesn’t really count.…

Sure he does, DaveScot. He spent a day studying it in college. You have no idea how fast his brain works.

David Scott Springer continues digging his hole:

The fact that evolution is being presented in the textbook without criticism or mention of opposing theories sends a message to those who believe in evolution that they are favored members of the political community and sends a message to those who question evolution that they are political outsiders.

No, it just sends a message that those who question evolution are outside the scientific community, as a matter of fact.

Same with those who question the moon landing and the holocaust and the double-helical structure of DNA.

Adam,

The GA you reference is not modifying either the hardware or the software that comprises the computing platform. That simply is not done in the computer design business.

Evidently you’re failing to distinguish between application software and computer hardware, firmware, and operating systems which host the applications.

GA is being employed to help discover unique and unexpected solutions in various applications but those applications do not include modifying the platform which supports the application software. Fixing a bug in Windows or adding a new feature to it via random bit flipping is preposterous and will get you laughed out of any shop involved in platform development.

Random searches through solution spaces is not a new concept and it is sometimes applied as an adjunct to directed design, but not as a replacement for design. In my experience it’s employed usually as a result of sloth. It’s easier to design an algorithm that simply tries and tests all possible solutions than it is to think up intelligent restrictions which reduce the size of the set to search and test, trading off brain power for computer power.

Be that as it may, evolution does not posit some design and some random searching through solution spaces. It posits no design and nothing but random searches through solution spaces. Complex machines simply don’t come about through completely random mechanisms. At least not any complex machine I’ve ever seen where the origin of the machine can be determined.

DaveScot Wrote:

The fact that evolution is being presented in the textbook without criticism or mention of opposing theories sends a message to those who believe in evolution that they are favored members of the political community and sends a message to those who question evolution that they are political outsiders. The Sticker, by encouraging critical thinking and pointing out that evolution is not irrefutable fact, sends a message that those who do not believe in evolution are POLITICAL EQUALS with those who do believe in evolution.

Justice Cooper clearly got it wrong in who is being favored. Cooper’s flawed logic in deducing favoritism is the basis of his finding that the Sticker fails to meet the Lemon test. Absent this conclusion of political favoritism he finds no other failure to meet the Lemon test and would thus have to rule in favor of defendents. I believe that his decision will be reversed on appeal, if there is an appeal, because of this.

A more basic question might be why a SCIENCE textbook should be sending any political message at all. It should be passing on SCIENCE, and Creationism has repeatedly been found to be religion, not SCIENCE.

It’s pretty simple: if Creationists want their message in or on a public school textbook, they need to get their ideas accepted scientifically. So far they have failed miserably at that, and the stickers are an attempted end-around.

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DaveScot, you are obviously a part of the priveleged coder conspirisy, unwilling to accept new ideas that threaten your dominant position even though you know that Wayen Francis is absolutely correct. You dont keep an open mind, you just ignore the evidence and keep repeating your mantra. Why are you so scared, trying to keep evolution out of the computer field?

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You are such a gigantic tool DaveScot. The Theory of Evolution has been scrutinized for over 150 years. It has withstood the rigors of scientific scrutiny and skepticism and been modified accordingly. It will continue to be scrutinized, just as it always has been. Why do you think that high schoolers, who barely get any evolutionary biology education in the first place, need stickers on their textbooks. Have you even seen the textbooks in question?

By that do you mean that skepticism isn’t allowed in science anymore?

Your kind of skepticism is not useful to science, Mr. Springer.

DaveScot Wrote:

Adam,

The GA you reference is not modifying either the hardware or the software that comprises the computing platform. That simply is not done in the computer design business.

Evidently you’re failing to distinguish between application software and computer hardware, firmware, and operating systems which host the applications.

GA is being employed to help discover unique and unexpected solutions in various applications but those applications do not include modifying the platform which supports the application software. Fixing a bug in Windows or adding a new feature to it via random bit flipping is preposterous and will get you laughed out of any shop involved in platform development.

Making a new operating system via random mixing of two operating systems is preposterous and will get you laughed out of any shop involved in platform development.

By this reasoning, biological reproduction is ridiculous.

But of course, it is NOT ridiculous. Whether a GA works (or even qualifies as an evolutionary algorithm) depends critically on how the random changes get implemented.

Early attempts at applying evolutionary principles to computing to solve problems were complete failures precisely because they were trying things like making random bit flips in executables.

DaveScot Wrote:

Random searches through solution spaces is not a new concept and it is sometimes applied as an adjunct to directed design, but not as a replacement for design. In my experience it’s employed usually as a result of sloth. It’s easier to design an algorithm that simply tries and tests all possible solutions than it is to think up intelligent restrictions which reduce the size of the set to search and test, trading off brain power for computer power.

The whole point is that you can’t search all possible solutions.

DaveScot Wrote:

Be that as it may, evolution does not posit some design and some random searching through solution spaces. It posits no design and nothing but random searches through solution spaces. Complex machines simply don’t come about through completely random mechanisms. At least not any complex machine I’ve ever seen where the origin of the machine can be determined.

Nor do complex machines come about from reproduction, that you have ever seen. Should make you think - maybe living things are not designed.

DaveScot Wrote:

By that do you mean that skepticism isn’t allowed in science anymore?

I guess science has changed a lot while I wasn’t looking. When did this paradigm shift occur?

Would you consider someone who was ‘skeptical’ of the heliocentric solar system to be “in science” or wallowing in psuedoscience?

Mr. Sandefur:

From a chilled and getting chillier Minnesota, thanks to you and all others involved. Thank goodness, this view of life, a science as a way of knowing view, has been upheld.

Cheers.

Mr. Sandefur:

From a chilled and getting chillier Minnesota, thanks to you and all others involved. I’m glad to know that this view of life, call it science as a way of knowing, has been upheld. It is what we learn and teach in science classrooms; based on evidence, too or especially.

Cheers.

DaveScot, you need to drop that little buzzword, “random”, as in:

Be that as it may, evolution does not posit some design and some random searching through solution spaces. It posits no design and nothing but random searches through solution spaces.

Then go look up certain little things in the scientific literature - starting with “selective pressure”, proceeding to e.g. “nosocomial infection”, “multiple-antibiotic resistance” and so on. Then get back to us when you´ve seen the light, ´cause, you know, the Truth will set you free…

DavScot,

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.

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.

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.

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My comments are in regard to Mr. Jones’ comment #13926. You said, “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.” I apologize for not being readily familiar with the term “heliocentrism”, but in regard to the other, the fossil record shows no macroevolutionary transition, but just the opposite. Most scientist believe in the “Cambrian explosion” or Big Bang theory (approximately 540 million years ago. I respectfully submit that Darwin’s Tree of Life represents his theory and it is not supported by the physical evidence scientist have found in fossils to date. I believe Darwin said, “if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications my theory would absolutely break down.” He acknowledged that major groups of animals–he calls them divisions, now they’re called phyla—appear suddenly in the fossil record. That is not what his theory predicts. His theory predicts a long history of gradual divergence from a common ancestor; with the differences slowly becoming bigger and bigger unil you get the major differences we have now. The fossil evidence, even in his day, showed the opposite: the rapid appearance of phylum-level differences in what’s called the Cambrian explosion.” If you are aware of any fossil records which support his theory or contradict the sudden appearance of much more complex animals during the Big Bang, please let me know.

Respectfully submitted,

Larry Bishop

If you are aware of any fossil records which support his theory or contradict the sudden appearance of much more complex animals during the Big Bang

Please somebody please archive this post in the Hall of Shame with a big fat blue ribbon.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on January 13, 2005 3:06 PM.

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