Michigan’s Impending ID Lawsuit

| 124 Comments
The Thomas More Law Center, the same legal group defending the school board in Dover, PA, is threatening to file a lawsuit against the Gull Lake Public Schools for telling two junior high science teachers that they could no longer teach creationism in their classrooms. Michigan Citizens for Science, an organization whose board I sit on, has been involved with this case for several months behind the scenes, since being notified of what was being taught there by a parent whose child was in the class. That parent is a biologist and was shocked when his daughter brought home not only pro-ID material, but young earth creationist material as well, including classroom material claiming that the Grand Canyon had formed in a single year as a result of Noah's flood. The parent contacted us and we made contact with the Gull Lake administration, the school board and the teachers. We worked to resolve the situation without the bounds of the law and responsible curriculum standards, even holding an in-service day with the teachers to show them the lack of scientific credibility in the material they were using.

At one point, an agreement was reached within the school district. They appointed a 7-member committee internally to review the situation and reach a decision. That committee included the two teachers who were using the material, the principals of both the junior high and high school, the superintendent and two other science teachers. They all agreed that the committee would review the situation, hold a vote, and then all 7 of them would back the decision of the committee regardless of how it went. That vote was 5-2 against using the creationist materials in the science classes, with the two teachers obviously being the only dissenting votes. But the teachers decided not to honor their agreement and are now threatening a lawsuit.

The fact that the lawsuit will be coming from the teachers instead of from the ACLU or Americans United is an important distinction between this case and the Dover case. It changes the legal claims entirely because the plaintiffs must challenge the constitutionality of the policy. In Dover, the plaintiffs, being the ACLU on behalf of local parents, are claiming that ID is an essentially religious idea and therefore to teach it violates the establishment clause. But in Gull Lake, the teachers must claim that their constitutional rights are somehow violated by not being allowed to teach what they want to teach, and that is a much tougher case to make. The letter that the TMLC wrote to the Gull Lake school board hints at the legal argument they will attempt to make, which is that not allowing the teachers to use creationist material violates their academic freedom. This is an argument that has consistently lost in court.

Also ironic is that the TMLC makes a point of arguing that ID is not creationism, yet the teachers in this case used a mixture of ID and traditional young earth creationist material. This will be fun to watch the ID crowd deal with, as they are loathe to have their ideas associated in any way with "creation science", despite the fact that all of their arguments originated in creationist material. But here we have ID and YEC material mixing together, even while their attorneys attempt to claim they have nothing to do with each other. Stay tuned for much, much more on this one.

124 Comments

Excellent – more over-reaching please!

I just love to hear the sound of religious extremists frying in the morning.

http://www.nwanews.com/story.php?pa[…]oryid=114091

Sen. Mark Pryor lashed out Wednesday at the Christian evangelicals who have joined the attack on Democratic filibusters of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Their tactics threaten “to make the followers of Jesus Christ just another special-interest group,” Pryor said in a conference call with Arkansas reporters. “It is presumptuous of them to think that they represent all Christians in America, even to say they represent all evangelical Christians,” added Pryor, 42, a first-term Democrat who has considered himself an evangelical Christian for 25 years.

http://insidedenver.com/drmn/state/[…]7209,00.html

“I do think that what has happened here is there has been a hijacking of the U.S. Senate by what I call the religious right wing of the country,” Salazar said at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday.

He singled out Focus on the Family by name, objecting to full-page newspaper ads that the ministry’s political arm recently placed, targeting 20 senators in 15 states.

“I think what has happened is Focus on the Family has been hijacking Christianity and become an appendage of the Republican Party,” Salazar said in an interview. “I think it’s using Christianity and religion in a very unprincipled way.”

The Johnsonite Christian cult is much smaller than the Disclaimery Institute would like its members to believe. Evidently the fog in Washington prevents them from noticing the Schiavo case fall-out. I can hardly wait to hear the juicy soundbites that will erupt from Frist’s shindig this weekend …

Michigan Citizens for Science, an organization whose board I sit on, has been involved with this case for several months behind the scenes, since being notified of what was being taught there by a parent whose child was in the class.

Why was a parent teaching in the class? Where was the teacher?

Ending the Evolutionary War

The “creation” controversy has splashed down in Gull Lake, Mich. Last spring, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette, a parent complained that two middle school biology teachers were giving the concept of “intelligent design” equal treatment in the classroom with the theory of evolution. The district has told them to stop, and both are now crying foul, appealing to the community for help.

Steve-

A parent wasn’t teaching the class. It wasn’t taught by a parent, we were notified of it by a parent.

You know what the local school board should do? They should mandate teaching “the problems with scientific creationism”. That’d be fun.

P

Interesting piece of political hackery you found there, Pim. Private schools? By far the majority of private schools in America avoid ID. They have much higher standards – their local dioceses and their ultimate supervisor in Rome demands that crap not be put into the heads of kids in biology class.

Why should we relax high academic standards in biology? What biology expertise has the Mackinac Center? What does Mr. Coulson think he gains by lowering the standards in any school?

Seems Pennock spent a day educating the teachers at Gull Lake about biology and science… Good move.

69. “Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science” In-service workshop for Gull Lake district school K-12 biology teachers. (8/30/04)

Pierre Stromberg Wrote:

You know what the local school board should do? They should mandate teaching “the problems with scientific creationism”. That’d be fun.

Too much fun! “Young Earth Creation science” has so many problems, I think, that it would take up an entire class period for a whole school year, at a minimum, to cover them thoroughly. But how long would it take to cover the “basics”?

Pim-

Yes, that was the in-service day I referred to in my post. We even had a geologist on our board go through the Grand Canyon stuff they were using and show why it’s nonsense. We hoped this could be resolved behind the scenes, but the teachers obviously can’t be reasoned with.

Pierre Stromberg wrote:

You know what the local school board should do? They should mandate teaching “the problems with scientific creationism”. That’d be fun.

Some of my best physics profs have used quackery as a tool. In an early test, years ago, we were given a quick explanation of the fringe belief that gravity does not exist–that apparent gravity was really just induced dipole-dipole effects. We had to think up three experiments which would distinguish the two scenarios.

If I were a biology professor, I would probably use basic D*mbski and Behe errors similarly, on freshman exams.

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]iscoMainPage

Richard Shill Neuhaus of the Disclaimery Institute writes

Some school boards have very modestly suggested that students should know that evolution is not the only theory about the origin and development of life. What they want students to know is an indisputable fact. There are other theories supported by very reputable scientists, including theories of evolution other than the established version to which students are now bullied into giving their assent.

(emphasis added)

Does anyone have any idea who these “reputable scientists” are that Richard is talking about? Or is Tricky Dick Neuhaus simply reciting more of the lies which are designed to please the Disclaimery Institute’s dubious donors?

Neuhaus reminds me of the spokesman in this comic: http://images.ucomics.com/comics/tr[…]ll050418.gif

Also ironic is that the TMLC makes a point of arguing that ID is not creationism, yet the teachers in this case used a mixture of ID and traditional young earth creationist material. This will be fun to watch the ID crowd deal with, as they are loathe to have their ideas associated in any way with “creation science”, despite the fact that all of their arguments originated in creationist material.

I think it’s only the leaders of the ID movement who try to maintain this distinction. The rank-and-file creationists don’t seem to have gotten the message that the two are supposed to be separate.

As an example, my senior year of college, I went to a presentation given by a campus Christian group. The fliers advertised a talk about “intelligent design”, but every single thing they said that evening came straight from the classic YEC playbook - Noah’s flood, no transitional fossils, the second law of thermodynamics, you name it.

@pvM

the article you linked to ends with:

“Wouldn’t we all be better off giving school choice a chance instead?”

the answer is unequivocally, NO!

while perhaps an extreme example, I could easily envision the formation of a “redneck U” as a private university. The 45% of americans who then believed that redneck U would be the best place for their kids would send them there, and the resulting misinformation taught there would become more ingrained than ever. Just because that is not typically the case with private schools at present does not mean that it wouldn’t be if we decide that public vouchers for school choice is the way to go.

there are reasons for national science standards that have nothing to do with politics. shall we just abandon them just to alleviate discomfort at public debate surrounding the issues?

How on earth could that possibly end up being a good thing for the progression of science as a discipline?

cheers

If they were including traditional “Creation Science” material, then they have qualified themselves for ample legal precedents. In the immortal words of Geogre Tenet, “It’s a slam dunk.”

We hoped this could be resolved behind the scenes, but the teachers obviously can’t be reasoned with.

I wonder what you expected. Maybe these teachers, after seeing the Grand Canyon presentation, will jump out and shout “I see the light! My faith was wrong, scripture must be wrong, but True Geology has led me to reason!”

Somehow, I doubt it. These people are teaching Truth, not facts. Souls are at stake, not minds.

Isn’t Peloza v Capistrano School District (sadly, my own school district) directly on point here?

Let me know if I can provide any legal assistance.

I’m still trying to figure out why the teachers in question were on the committee to investigate the matter. Why on earth would you put the people suspected of misconduct on the panel to review it and pass judgement?

sounds like the 9/11 commission.

Adam

I think it’s only the leaders of the ID movement who try to maintain this distinction. The rank-and-file creationists don’t seem to have gotten the message that the two are supposed to be separate.

Emphasis on the word “try”.

In principle, once someone is willing to pretend that that “mysterious alien beings somehow created all the life forms on earth” is science, then it’s just a teeny tiny baby step to pretend that “mysterious alien beings have somehow altered physical reality so that things appear older than they actually are” is also science.

There is no principled distinction between these two “theories”, at least as far as science is concerned. I wonder if any of the Master Rhetoricians at the Disclaimery Institute would care to argue otherwise?

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Isn’t Peloza v Capistrano School District (sadly, my own school district) directly on point here?

Along with Edwards v Aguillard, Maclean v Arkansas, Webster v New Lenox School District, and Segraves v California.

Peloza and Webster are really the cases on point here, since both involved claims by teachers that their rights were violated when they weren’t allowed to teach creationism. It’s a loser of an argument. State actors have limited personal rights when they’re acting on the state’s behalf, and necessarily so, because their actions are ascribed to the state. If the state can’t do something, then neither can its representatives while acting in that capacity.

Perhaps the teachers can argue along the lines of those pathetic so-called Christian pharmacists: “Now that you’ve hired me, you have to pay me except I need to tell you now that you can’t force me to do some aspects of this job (like teach evolution without teaching creationism, too) because Ayatollah Johnson said it interferes with the practice of my religion. Oh, and you can’t make me say anything nice about homos either.”

GWW quoted Richard Neuhaus:

There are other theories supported by very reputable scientists, including theories of evolution other than the established version to which students are now bullied into giving their assent.

Maybe he’s referring to our own estimable Dr. Davison’s PEH?

If so, how would you like them apples?

Sigh. It’s sad that such a suit is finally coming to West Mighigan. Though, frankly, creationists are so plentiful here I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.

Air Bear: that was hilarious.

Unfortunately, these lawsuits can cost school districts a lot of money, win or lose. It seems to me that’s where this tactic has its bite. The Religious Right have the resources to sustain such legal attacks and school districts may just capitulate for financial reasons. There’s nothing good about this.

In your first paragraph, “We worked to resolve the situation without the bounds of the law …” should probably be “within the bounds of the law . …”

Buridan, I’m not a lawyer (see nom de plume) but even I know that frivolous filers can see judgements for expenses levied against them.  If the district has the fortitude to countersue, the fundies could find themselves bankrupt.…

… and with the new bankruptcy law that is a lot less attractive than it is now.

He thinks evolution leads to atheism

Gee, I wonder, then, why the vast majority of Christians worldwide accept evolution and all the rest of modern science. …

Ya know, the fundies do seem to be *awfully scared* of this particular group of people – who make up less than ten percent of the entire population . … . …

, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity

Gee, perhaps I should introduce him to some of the students from the local “Christian” school in PA that I grew up near. …

Some of the fundie students there were the best doobie connection in the area. And it’s a good thing he left out “alcohol abuse” —- I had some awfully late-night boozefests with local fundie kids.

And the girls were ridiculously easy to get in the sack – just feed them the line about “well you’ve already THOUGHT about it, haven’t you? Since *thinking* about it is already a sin, just like DOING it, then why not just go all the way and ask for forgiveness afterwards?” Worked every time.

and voting.

Well by golly, we can’t have people VOTING, can we. How the hell can we have a theocracy if everyone insists on VOTING ?? ;>

Dembski said, here in Dallas a few weeks ago, that his fear is that kids lose their moral compass when they get nothing but materialism thrust at them.

Maybe instead of travelling around the country spreading lies, Dembski should spend more time at home with his kids, fixing his own moral compass.

Yeah, creationists are motivated by fear, like most ignorant people. Dembski knows that and he feeds their fears by claiming that “materialism” taught in science class is causing his kids to “lose their moral compass.”

Tell Dembksi to prove it. Or shove it.

Creationists who respond to fear need to be presented with a new reason to be afraid: if they continue to mindlessly recite scripts handed to them by charlatans like Dembski, they risk being “outed” as pathetic script-reciting robots who can’t distinguish lies from truth.

I have no doubt that thanks to this blog and others like it that more and more people are “getting it”.

More and more people are waking up and realizing that slick peddlers like Luskin, Behe, Dembski, Wells, Johnson, Berlinski, Beckwith et al. are pushing some of the most rank snake oil ever manufactured.

It’s like the WMD story. I sat incredulous as stories of Saddam’s “threat” to the United States were fabricated and shoved down the throats of Americans, many of whom ate it up. And why not? That hairsprayed jackass with the ultra-white teeth on TV reported it without question.

Now the polls show that half of the population realizes they were lied to. Is that hairsprayed jackass going to apologize for spreading those lies? Don’t hold your breath.

Likewise, if we keep up the heat and are disciplined about calling the ID peddlers on their garbage and continue educating Americans about the lies these charlatans spread, the “ID” cretins will officially join the Sasquatch lovers and alien abductees in supermarket tabloid oblivion.

Meanwhile, science marches on …

GWW,

I think you have excavated the exact reason why so many science educators at America’s universities, like me, are so passionate about science and science education.

Did you see the cover story of the latest issue of the Skeptical Inquirer about the young Russian lady who has hoodwinked the vast majority of the Russian press into thinking that she has X-ray vision? The two articles on her showed how a simple scientific test showed that her purported powers are completely bogus. I passed parts of the issue to some future elementary school teachers and asked them to devise a test to determine if her claims were genuine. Within 30 minutes the whole class, which consists of people who had formerly dodged science for most of their academic careers, had designed a test that was similar to the one reported in the article.

This is what can help us become more discerning - science - learning science and how to do science. We need our teachers to be more discerning by teaching them how to do science. Only then will we get the discussion away from the ideological graveyard into the realm of evidence and results and interpretation, where the discussion belongs.

@michael:

“We need our teachers to be more discerning by teaching them how to do science. Only then will we get the discussion away from the ideological graveyard into the realm of evidence and results and interpretation, where the discussion belongs”

this is exactly why i am trying to get opinions and feedback on the outreach program i designed to assist secondary school teachers with content and issues surround the teaching of evolutionary theory.

If you would like to take a look, I located it in a free public forum over on google:

http://groups-beta.google.com/group/evolution-ngo

(ingore the “adult warning” message)

cheers

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This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on April 21, 2005 3:01 PM.

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