El Tejon, CA Settles Lawsuit

| 78 Comments

Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced that the El Tejon School District has agreed to terminate the antievolution course currently in session, and will not offer that course or other courses promoting antievolution in the future.

Under the terms of the settlement, the course will terminate one week early. The district’s board of trustees has also agreed to language stating, “No school over which the School District has authority, including the High School, shall offer, presently or in the future, the course entitled ‘Philosophy of Design’ or ‘Philosophy of Intelligent Design’ or any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design.”

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director,”We are delighted with the board’s decision to discontinue the ‘Philosophy of Design’ course and never offer it again. Public schools have no business promoting religion. I hope that other public schools learn from this incident and reject efforts to bring religious doctrines into classrooms.”

78 Comments

Ah so the soccerfootball coach got red carded, eh?

Bob

I hope that other public schools learn from this incident and reject efforts to bring religious doctrines into classrooms.

I would hope so, also. However, I still see this movement as entirely a socio-political movement. I think it might take many beat-downs to show that it is not politically healthy to continue on. Even this may not stop the true culture warriors.

I suppose we’ll find out in Ohio next. I look often to out PT friends from Ohio for information–keep up the good work.

or any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design.”

A clear victory. The school board would have lost the case under existing precedents for the inclusion of YEC “Creation Science” material, so it goes above and beyond that the statement specifically mentions Intelligent Design creationism.

According to news on Pharyngula, Luskin claims to have forced the school to drop the course. Apparently, the DI is terrified by the possibility of judges patiently reviewing their ‘scientific evidence’ for ID. Oh well.

However, I still see this movement as entirely a socio-political movement. I think it might take many beat-downs to show that it is not politically healthy to continue on.

Don’t forget the financial costs. I don’t know the details of the El Tejon case, but I imagine even with the case ending with a settlement, there were significant legal costs for a small school district to bear.

For those who have suggested its unfair of the ACLU to stick the Dover school district with massive attorneys fees, may I suggest that the prospect of having to pay a seven figure sum to the ACLU probably helped bring about a rapid settlement of this case.

Journalists are still not quite getting it.

Similar battles are being fought in Georgia and Kansas. Critics of “intelligent design” say it is biblical creationism in disguise, but defenders argue it is based on science and doesn’t require adherence to any religious belief.

The last sentence should be changed to:

Critics of “intelligent design” say it is biblical creationism in disguise, but its defenders, who are predominantly biblical creationists, argue it is based on science and doesn’t require adherence to any religious belief.

Thank-you Russell. I had meant to mention the financial costs also, but somehow didn’t. It may indeed be the financial costs that get those who back ID for political reasons to back off. Nothing speaks to politicians like a heap of cash…or more importantly: A heap of cash doing a disappearing act.

Without this political backing, it should be easier to discuss ID on its scientific (or lack thereof) merits.

I guess the Disco Institute is pleased that ID won’t be promoted in public schools…as creationism.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the “costs too much” approach. There’s some law (I hope our forum lawyers can speak up) I’m sure, to address the chilling effect of the Big Guys using the threat of expensive litigation to maintain the status quo. For example, American handgun manufacturers are small, poorly-funded companies who simply can’t afford to defend themselves when they are sued for every misuse of a handgun. And those bringing the suits admit the manufacturers bear no responsibility; the goal isn’t to find them responsible, but to bankrupt them right out of business. And how can a private individual, living paycheck to paycheck, hope to defeat Three Initial Corporation, who can field a thousand high-powered lawyers endlessly?

The danger is that a valid legal complaint can be silenced by the sheer cost of raising it. Or alternatively, that a rather insidious religious guerilla instruction can thrive because cost issues prevented a decisive case from reaching a court high enough for the precedent to be broadly applicable.

So I think the taxpayers at large should fund both prosecution and defense in these cases, so that the law can be thoroughly aired out.

So, ID does not require adherence to any religious belief according to its defenders? Quote from Sharon Lemburg a social studies teacher who was teaching the class in El Tejon “I believe this is the class the Lord wanted me to teach” So much for a transparent religious agenda.

As long as there are people who genuinely believe in ancient books being 100% true in all regards of human endeavors, there will be conflicts between the world of reality and what those books claim about reality.

And while fewer and fewer people may cling to “unchanging truths” in the future, I don’t think it will ever be the case that humanity will lack people who desire the comfort of having a seemingly unambiguous reality spoon-fed to them (via gurus, holy books, etc.) rather than face the cold, hard, realities of life.

Some in the media get it:

Looks like some in the media are seeing through the intelligent designer, space alien, time traveler nonsense and are calling it like it is.

I wonder how the honest creationists (those creationists who do not hide their beliefs like the IDCers) feel about the intelligent design creationists cult wanting to distance themselves from creationism.

.

Mr Christopher Wrote:

I wonder how the honest creationists (those creationists who do not hide their beliefs like the IDCers) feel about the intelligent design creationists cult wanting to distance themselves from creationism.

There are no honest creationists, only unsophisticated ones…

I worry, however, that this sort of action will be interpreted too broadly by the media and the ID supporters.

I’m sure we’ll hear some sort of outcry about “Look, we can’t even teach in religion classes!”; there will be no mention of the fact that equivalent courses for other religious views were not offered, nor the fact that it was a religious class attempting to directly contradict a science class. This amounted to an end run around the prohibition against teaching creationism.

The biggest issue the scientific community faces, in my opinion, is taking back the language around the issue and properly framing the questions, in context. If that is done, the ID case falls apart very rapidly.

Comment #72957

Posted by JONBOY on January 17, 2006 04:41 PM (e) (s)

So, ID does not require adherence to any religious belief according to its defenders? Quote from Sharon Lemburg a social studies teacher who was teaching the class in El Tejon “I believe this is the class the Lord wanted me to teach” So much for a transparent religious agenda.

Perhaps the lord had entirely secular reasons for wanting her to teach the class.

Ever think of that?

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the “costs too much” approach.

I’m slightly concerned about the cost, because of the known strategy of bleeding the beast. Some home-schooling Fundagelical could get on the school board and deliberately attempt to bankrupt the district’s public schools.

Perhaps the lord had entirely secular reasons for wanting her to teach the class.

Ever think of that?

Gosh, I didn’t think of that. Thank you for pointing out the possibility.

Sorry to go off topic, but I’m following Flint

“American handgun manufacturers are small, poorly-funded companies who simply can’t afford to defend themselves when they are sued for every misuse of a handgun.”

I don’t know the validity of this statement, but doubt it applies to Remington, Colt, Smith and Wesson and Remington. Furthermore, these suits are not brought for “every misuse.”

“And those bringing the suits admit the manufacturers bear no responsibility”

Again, not really true. The contention is not that the manufacturer did the crime the gun was used in, but facilitated it by continuing to sell guns to distributors who can’t account for their inventories that repeatedly end up being illegally trafficked to inner city criminals.

Perhaps second amendment absolutists are actually relying on evolutionary principals to help restore their view of a balanced society. JK ;-)

There are no honest creationists, only unsophisticated ones…

s/creationists/antievolutionists/g;

Have no doubt that this will be portrayed as brave little David being brutally forced to the ground by the big bad Goliath of elitist lawyers and tyrannical judges (therefore all good Americans must pray, donate to XYZ Ministries, and demand the Senate immediately confirm Alito).

When each legal victory is accompanied by proportionate public resentment about perceived hostility against religion, what has science really gained? The pro-evolution side has so far done a lousy job of showing that this sort of litigation is for the benefit of the students in each school district involved.

Steve, Based on Romans 12 verse 2, thats a pretty good observation

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the “costs too much” approach.

I raise the issue, not so much as an “approach”, but as a fact.

Pierce: what do you suggest as an alternative???

JohnBoy Said…Steve, Based on Romans 12 verse 2, thats a pretty good observation

I am not Steve but I find it odd that the lord would take time out of his busy schedule to communicate with a social studies teacher about the content of her high school creationism course.

Don’t get me wrong, between the war in Iraq, Iran building nukes, millions of people starving to death each year, this Asian Bird Flu, I’m sure this intelligent design creationism course in hick town California has got to be one of the lord’s top priorities.

Oh, I didn’t mean the lord, silly me. I meant the intelligent designing, time traveling, space alien. Let’s keep it scientific, shall we?

Some in the media are getting it:

http://www.blueoregon.com/russell_sadler/

Mr christopher,Read the scripture(you do have a bible dont you?)and you will see I was being some what sarcastic. By the way, you forgot to mention hurricanes and tsunamis.

Sometimes feels good to flog a foundering horse if you are really pissed at it doesn’t it? Let me take a stab at it.

I speak only for myself when I say this: God isn’t real. Well, our holy books reflect nothing other than human insight. The stories are fake. FakeFakeFakeFake. Magic doesn’t happen. Flying carpets,, magic flying horses, ressurection, walking on water, pulling a rabbit out of the hat without a trick, sawing people in half without hurting them, esp, parting a sea, burning bushes talking, 5000 people eating one loaf of bread and being full, gates of hell, hell, heaven, pearly gates, ghosts, spirits, djinn, satan, god, allah, jesus, krishna, shiva, tketlqitekl, zeus, fountains of youth, rapunzel, goblins, orcs, gandalf, world drowning floods, etc.

So, go ahead and doubt that evolution is correct. But just know that people mock religious wingnuts because they have chosen to believe in fairy tales. Hello, we just brought back stardust to earth, we have sequenced the human genome not to mention a whole lot of other things, fractal geometry and relativity have given us the equations that the universe uses to organize itself.

I’m going on and on here. I know that I’m probly not politically correct here and I glossed over that last bit but I’m right and you all know it. How you choose to deal with that information is your deal.

wes, what in the world does “s/creationists/antievolutionists/g;” mean?

Wes knows UNIX. “Globally change all occurances of ‘creationist’ to ‘antievolutionist’.”

Larry,

“Also, as for political costs, there are political costs for continuing on, but there are also political costs for stopping. Opinion polls show that the majority of the public wants ID or creationism to be taught in the public schools as well as evolution theory.”

Opinion polls are worthless, unless conducted among experts (and even then, only when directly relevant to their field of expertise). Or are you going to make a serious argument to me that throwing the Jews into concentration camps is a viable proposition because, in late 1930s and early 1940s germany, opinion polls would show that a majority of the public hated them?

There’s a very good reason this course was removed - why don’t you do some investigation into the actual course content? You’ll find it was a creationism course designed around directly contradicting science. It was a science course being called something else in a dishonest ploy to slip it into the curriculum. Worse, it was someone without scientific standing commenting repeatedly on science in an academic setting where they are assumed to be an authority. The rough equivalent of this, Larry, would be letting an atheist preach as an authority about the non-existence of God at your church. Now you explain to me why that’s not a good idea…

Lastly, you should be applauding this sort of decision. It exists precisely to protect minority religious views, such as your own. Keep that in mind when you rail against the structure that allows you to exist. Else, at some point when we allow the states and government to further religion in a classroom, what are you going to do when it is not your religion which is the one in favor?

CreatoIDism is really running out of places to hide.

First it was ID school boards,and classes, then it was stickers (still in play, but they will likely eventaully go away), then it was a bogus ‘philosophy class’ taught by the special-ed/gym teacher ( I bet he has see some EPIC dodgeball games), next I suppose they will just retreat to ‘science seminars’ in Wed. night bible study classes, complete with pamphlets for students to hand out to their peers during bio class.

The computer website Ars Technica has a write-up on El Tejon: Intelligent Design as Philosophy Fails http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/pos[…]17-5997.html

Way back in college I signed up for a philosophy of religion class. Everyone who took it told me how great the prof was and how great the class was so I signed up.

The prof died 2 weeks before the class started and was replaced by a christian woman who ran us through the writings of all the big christian thinkers and the theme of the class was basically “here’s the logic that points to christianity being accurate-written by a bunch of christians”.

The entire class would have worked for any religion based on faith though. I discovered that they all seem interchangeable and that the main thing that they rely on is the threat of hell. (shrug) When I mentioned to the teacher that if hell lasted for infinity then it didn’t mean much since infinity is outside of time and we have no reference for what that would be like she replied “Oh, we understand infinity now.” I was surprised and asked her to explain. She didn’t, but she pointed me toward a few books which she said would explain it to my satisfaction. I read the books, never asked a question in class again, regurgitated her lectures and the readings for the tests, and left feeling like I’d wasted my time. (I get the feeling that’s how a lot of people feel about church. (shrug))

If I never would have asked questions or if I would have accepted her authority and if I had not had a lot of science in my background (and if I was dumb as a stump) I might have swallowed the story. If big words and thoughts could have frightened me, I would maybe have accepted these ideas (St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Pascal’s wager etc) simply because they seemed to big to challenge.

My point is that, had this been a real philosophy of religion class, without speakers from many different religions and a basic understanding of the physical sciences (so you know when to call BullS**t) what you are getting is basically a one sided view of some religion. The teacher can pick and choose the material. Or rev. robertson. THank you for the info by the way. I’ll be sure to use the paypal link. Unfortunately, I still haven’t joined the 700 club cult.

That was an exceptional article, Arthur. Thanks!

Oops, I meant to offer this quote from the article mentioned above

this course appears to have been an attempt to turn philosophy against a field that should be viewed as a limited subset of philosophical inquiry, namely science. In doing so, it turns education into a bizarre zero-sum game: learn something in science class in the morning, and learn why you shouldn’t believe it in the afternoon. Chris Mooney posted a transcript of a portion of the CNN coverage of the issue which illustrates this well:

Reporter: What have you learned?

Sam Alexander, [El Tejon] student: I’ve learned that evolution has become, over the years, more and more — more and more people decide that it’s not completely true and that there has to be another belief or another thing that replaces it.

Reporter: And what is that?

Alexander: That is an intelligent designer.

Reporter: Meaning God?

Alexander: Yes, God, the Christian God who created earth in 6 days.

Mooney views this as an indication of the clumsy and blatant promotion of creationism in the class. More important, though, is how it illustrates how much damage to education this “philosophy” course has done during its limited run.

The El Tejon Legal Compaint

Not surprisingly, Kitzmiller V Dover was quoted again and again in this complaint. Looks like the Judge Jones ruling will be affecting much more than Dover, the IDC cultists suggested otherwise.

I wish this had gone to trial. It would have been a slam dunk.

.

Larry Fafarman Wrote:

No, I did not know that, and I don’t agree. AU gave no indication that it would have accepted the course under any circumstances. And the Dover decision, by the way, suggested that ID might be OK in philosophy classes — “our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.” page 137 of opinion

Had there been some actual… philosophy in the course (which was purporting to be a philosophy course), the AUSCS suit might have been groundless.

But since the featured works & speakers were almost exclusively YEC pseudoscience masquerading as fact, the course description also was peddling that particular brand of garbage, no actual philosophy texts (or even authors) that would be pertinent to ID were mentioned at all in the syllabus, and it appears that even the fraction of the course that has been taught was as scientific advocacy of the YEC & ID viewpoints, the AUSCS most certainly had valid cause for complaint.

Putting pseudoscience in a course as fact, and labeling it “philosophy” is like putting sewage in a wooden barrel, aging it for a few years, and then calling the resultant product fine wine.

improvius Wrote:

The last sentence should be changed to: Critics of “intelligent design” say it is biblical creationism in disguise, but its defenders, who are predominantly biblical creationists, argue it is based on science and doesn’t require adherence to any religious belief.

If you mean “rank and file” defenders, you are probably right in most cases. If you mean the leaders of the ID movement, however, I strongly disagree. They all seem to know that biblical creationism (BC), in all its mutually contradictory versions, is nonsense. Michael Behe even said so early on, and to date no ID leader has challenged him directly on it (as real scientists would do). I agree that IDers knowingly and willingly, if indirectly, promote BC, but there are many clues from their own words that they privately think that it’s nonsense, not just the absurd young earth timeline, but even the “independent origins” that OECs promote. Furthermore, their “wedge” strategy gives them a motivation to promote something that they do not personally believe. Ronald Bailey made the case well, IMO, two years before the “wedge” document was discovered.

My only question is whether IDers are genuinely afraid that the public can’t handle the truth of evolution (as Bailey suggests) or whether they are just getting their kicks selling pseudoscientific snake oil.

Note that, even without your added words, that common statement is misleading, though, because, in a way, defenders and critics of ID are both right. ID may not “be” biblical creationism, but certainly promotes it. ID is “based on science” in the sense that it takes well-established science and misrepresents it. And even though ID actively encourages certain fundamentalist religious beliefs, it really does not require adherence to any particular one; Raelians for example are impressed with ID.

Now I don’t expect any ID activist to approve of my analysis, but I think that critics of ID can, and must, agree to this common ground, and stop assuming that ID promoters honestly believe what they promote. Unless they can be shown to be deceitful, the public will always give an unfair advantage to “underdogs” who challenge science, no matter how wrong they are.

From DI’s Ministry of Propaganda:

Discovery Institute Praises School District for Withdrawing Class Misrepresenting Intelligent Design

Seattle – A California high school has agreed to withdraw an elective philosophy class titled “Philosophy of Design,” which Discovery Institute said was misrepresenting the theory.

“We are pleased that the school district followed our recommendation to withdraw this class,” said Casey Luskin, an attorney with the Institute. “From the very beginning this course was not formulated properly and was confusing students by including discussion of intelligent design with material that promoted young earth creationism as fact.” Luskin sent a letter to the El Tejon Unified School District last week urging that the district drop or reformulate the class, and he testified to the school board in person on Jan. 13 that the class should be scrapped.

The out of court settlement orders the district to cancel the class by Friday next week and forbids them from ever teaching this class “or any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design.”

“While we are pleased by the outcome in this case, we continue to believe that teaching objectively about intelligent design is permissible in public school science classes, and is certainly acceptable for philosophy or social studies courses,” said Luskin. “We offered to work with the district and with Americans United to create a philosophy course on origins which people on all sides agree would be acceptable and that they could re-teach next year.”

Luskin noted that Americans United and other Darwin-only lobbyists had previously expressed a willingness for intelligent design to be taught in social studies or philosophy courses rather than science classes.

Last year, for example, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was quoted by the New York Times claiming intelligent design is religion and that: “when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they can be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class.”

“If Americans United really believes that it’s OK to teach about intelligent design in philosophy or social studies courses,” said Luskin, “we challenge them to join with us to come up with an objective course that can be taught in the El Tejon district. Otherwise, it will become clear that their real goal is the suppression of any discussion of intelligent design in any classroom anywhere in the country.”

The out of court settlement orders the district to cancel the class by Friday next week and forbids them from ever teaching this class “or any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design.”

“While we are pleased by the outcome in this case, we continue to believe that teaching objectively about intelligent design is permissible in public school science classes, and is certainly acceptable for philosophy or social studies courses,” said Luskin. “We offered to work with the district and with Americans United to create a philosophy course on origins which people on all sides agree would be acceptable and that they could re-teach next year.”

Um, perhaps someone should explain to Luskin what “forbids them from ever teaching this class ‘or any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design’ “, means.

I wish this had gone to trial. It would have been a slam dunk.

Cheer up – we still have slam dunks in Ohio and Kansas.

“If Americans United really believes that it’s OK to teach about intelligent design in philosophy or social studies courses,” said Luskin, “we challenge them to join with us to come up with an objective course that can be taught in the El Tejon district. Otherwise, it will become clear that their real goal is the suppression of any discussion of intelligent design in any classroom anywhere in the country.”

That would be fantastic. I suggest that they cover the “Wedge Document” on day 2.

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Frank, to be fair, I also believe that at least some of the DI fellows are simply con artists. (Dembski almost certainly is.) There is no denying that this is a profitable venture for many of them. You won’t go broke telling people what they want to hear. But there are at least a few, like Wells, who are true believers. And, of course, the real force behind the ID movement comes from the hordes of fundamental creationist believers, all flocking to the “big tent” to fight Darwinism.

wes, what in the world does “s/creationists/antievolutionists/g;” mean?

Yup, that is syntax for a global search & replace, such as in the *nix stream editor, sed.

When Jonathan Wells speaks about “my father”, he almost certainly means not his biological one but the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head honcho of the Unification Church, Washington Times, and other enterprises too numerous to mention.

You guys are the 75601 best, thanks so much for the help.

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on January 17, 2006 2:46 PM.

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