Update on South Carolina

| 152 Comments

Here is a report of what transpired today at the “balanced panel” of the Academic Standards and Assessments Subcommittee meeting that I discussed previously. I am going off of accounts by other people who were present, so please don’t take any of this as chiseled in stone.

The subcommittee actually voted (3-0) to take no action on the standards at present. They will be sent back to the state Dept. of Education for more work, then forwarded to the subcommittee, and then the subcommittee will make its recommendation to the full Educational Oversight Committee. There’s no time limit attached to this, so this could effectively table the thing indefinitely (given that the BOE has already instituted a previous version of the standards for the time being), or it could just keep it going a lot longer. Or it could mean that the four indicators get killed altogether. Hard to say.

Below the fold I list some highlights (or lowlights) of the meeting. Again, let me repeat the caveat that this is my second-hand rendition.

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152 Comments

Will we be able to get a transcript?

It was recorded by some who were in attendance. I don’t know if they’ll make a written transcript or not (I can encourage them to), nor do I know if they’ll be an official transcript. But if there’s anything specific you want to know about what was said, someone can review the tapes and find out.

One Senator claimed that there’s no separation of church and state,

Love it. No one in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has really made a big push for ID Creationism, but if they do, I’ll be attending any and all discussions, asking the local proponents leading questions about religion. Get them on record linking ID with Jesus, and our work is half done.

steve s Wrote:

Get them on record linking ID with Jesus, and our work is half done.

What? Hasn’t Pat Robertson already done that job far better than anyone else could possibly ever do it?

Phil Karn asked

What? Hasn’t Pat Robertson already done that job far better than anyone else could possibly ever do it?

For the intent prong to be invoked in an Establishment case, it has to be those making the government policy who have to be linked.

RBH

For the intent prong to be invoked in an Establishment case, it has to be those making the government policy who have to be linked.

But, for the “effect” prong, all you need is popular understanding that ID is religious.

That’s where all the bazillions of “letters to the editor” from the nutters helps us so much. Save every one of them.

Excellent Idea, Lenny.

Can we create a centralized archive that we can submit these letters to?

My God (so to speak), those two news stories that are linked are awful. As a relative newcomer who’s been lurking since the Dover decision, I’m coming to suspect that this one of the biggest problems with public understanding of evolution (and probably science in general). Most non-specialist journalists doing an appallingly lazy and shoddy job of describing the facts and issues. I’m hardly the first here to observe this, but does it ever bear repeating. Eeeee-yuk!

Do you know who from the DI was there? Just curious.

Re “I suppose this is an attempt to keep from getting burned and embarrassed like they did in Dover.”

Way to avoid embarrassment: just remember that old saying - “The closed mouth gathers no foot”.

I used to live in South Carolina, but didn’t have any dealings with the schools there.

Henry

Can we create a centralized archive that we can submit these letters to?

Open a thread on “After the Bar Closes”. Put in the URL, the text, and a citation per message.

Jack Krebs Wrote:

Do you know who from the DI was there? Just curious.

Sorry, I don’t. It’s possible that this was just some local guy doing their bidding, but the words “genuine representative” were used in one of the accounts I read about the meeting. I’ve asked for clarification and will post if/when I get it.

I enrolled at after the bar closes, but don’t have the privilege to start the necessary thread.

Rich

Wesley, Lenny,

I enrolled at after the bar closes, but don’t have the privilege to start the necessary thread.

Rich

Happy Birthday Wesley! (hey it’s still Monday over here)

Rich-

It’s been a while, but i think you have to logout and log back in again after you initially register.

I don’t recall having to do anything special other than that.

“Sorry, you do not have permission to start a topic in this forum

You are currently logged in as.….”

I logged out and logged in again too.

Rich

*shrug*

sorry, I haven’t got a clue past that.

just shoot an email to Wes, and I’m sure he’ll get back to you tommorrow.

Some quotes from the hearings are available here:

“Many aspects of evolution are constantly being challenged. Prominent self-organizational theorists, for instance, propose that many aspects of the organism are not adaptive. That is, they are shaped more by the laws of physics and chemistry than by natural selection and random mutation. Informed students should be able to grapple with such challenges to the Darwinian model, as well as know all the evidence that supports the Darwinian model.”

— Richard von Sternberg, staff scientist with the National Institutes of Health

I have started the relevant topic. Please post contributions there.

Update on South Carolina Steve Reuland posted Entry 1935 on January 23, 2006 06:10 PM. (opening comment on thread)

Keller’s talk apparently focused a lot on “-isms”, noting that “Darwinism” is an “-ism” and is therefore some kind of philosophy or religion. And these have no place in science class. We’ve all heard this nonsense before — the level of hypocrisy it takes for an advocate of ID to accuse the other side of pushing philosophy or religion is mind-boggling, but never mind.

Well, you know the saying – “offense is often the best defense.” Actually, I find evolution theory requires me to make much greater leaps of faith than irreducible complexity does. Irreducible complexity does not require me to imagine such far-fetched things as jawbones evolving into middle-ear bones. It is just impossible for me to visualize macroevolution actually taking place without assuming intervention by supernatural forces. On the other hand, irreducible complexity is much more limited than evolution theory – IC is just a criticism of evolution theory rather than a scientific explanation for the origin of species — but that’s OK with me.

Keller should be aware that the courts have ruled repeatedly that evolution is genuine science and not a religion or a philosophy of some kind.

With the possible exception of Kitzmiller v. Dover, I could find no court opinion that ruled that evolution is genuine science. All I could find was a ruling that evolution is not a religion (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education) — but that could still mean that evolution is a pseudoscience or scientifically erroneous.

The Dover opinion did not rule that irreducible complexity is a religion – the Dover opinion only ruled that irreducible complexity had been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and had been rejected by the scientific community at large. But that is not constitutional grounds for banning irreducible complexity from public-school science classes. There is only a constitutional separation of church and state. There is no constitutional separation of scientific error or pseudoscience and state.

Well, Larry, thanks for admitting, at long last, that those in the know reject ID as pseudoscience, and understand that evolution is not a religion.

If you, as a non-scientist with no real responsibility for getting important results (like a vaccine for this year’s flu virus, for example), have no problem accepting ID because it makes more sense to you, then that’s fine – for you. Just don’t go around trying to foist your opinion off on other people’s kids, okay?

Larry wrote:

“…the Dover opinion only ruled that irreducible complexity had been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and had been rejected by the scientific community at large. But that is not constitutional grounds for banning irreducible complexity from public-school science classes.”

You don’t need a constitutional argument to teach only accepted science in science class. It’s the only honest choice. Period.

Larry Fafarman says

The Dover opinion did not rule that irreducible complexity is a religion — the Dover opinion only ruled that irreducible complexity had been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and had been rejected by the scientific community at large. But that is not constitutional grounds for banning irreducible complexity from public-school science classes. There is only a constitutional separation of church and state. There is no constitutional separation of scientific error or pseudoscience and state.

True, however when scientifically erroneous pseudoscience is taught in public schools for religious reasons, that does violate the 1st Amendment.

Comment #75294

Posted by Larry Fafarman on January 24, 2006 08:12 AM (e)

The Dover opinion did not rule that irreducible complexity is a religion — the Dover opinion only ruled that irreducible complexity had been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and had been rejected by the scientific community at large. But that is not constitutional grounds for banning irreducible complexity from public-school science classes. There is only a constitutional separation of church and state. There is no constitutional separation of scientific error or pseudoscience and state.

IC is to ID as Mass is to Catholicism. It’s not, per se, the religion. But it is, part-and-parcel, part of the religion.

Aagcobb Wrote:

True, however when scientifically erroneous pseudoscience is taught in public schools for religious reasons, that does violate the 1st Amendment.

That got me wondering about the constitutional premissibility of teaching other erroneous pseudoscience. If a school board voted to start teaching astrology and cold fusion as viable alternative theories, would parents have any recourse through the courts?

I would guess not, and that then the fight have to take place solely at the school board level. That illustrates the importance to me of the “intelligent, educated segment of society” getting involved in school boards – it’s nice that the courts are tossing out the most prevelant form of nonsense, but they cannot be relied upon to backstop all such nonsense that gets through the school boards.

Perhaps we should refer to ID as Designism.

Comment #75301 posted by Raging Bee on January 24, 2006 08:28 AM Well, Larry, thanks for admitting, at long last, that those in the know reject ID as pseudoscience, and understand that evolution is not a religion.

I admitted nothing – I only reported what the courts have ruled. As for “those in the know,” I would like to see more polls of scientists’ opinions about ID — the only one I found on the Internet was an outdated 2002 poll of Ohio scientists.

If you, as a non-scientist with no real responsibility for getting important results (like a vaccine for this year’s flu virus, for example), have no problem accepting ID because it makes more sense to you, then that’s fine — for you. Just don’t go around trying to foist your opinion off on other people’s kids, okay?

Vaccine development concerns microevolution – I am talking here about macroevolution.

As for foisting opinions on other people’s kids, isn’t that what evolutionists are doing ?

We have heard almost nothing from those who are most affected by this controversy over teaching ID in the public schools – the students themselves. Students should be polled in regard to whether or not they want their courses to cover irreducible complexity and other non-religious criticisms of evolution theory.

With the possible exception of Kitzmiller v. Dover, I could find no court opinion that ruled that evolution is genuine science. All I could find was a ruling that evolution is not a religion (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education) —- but that could still mean that evolution is a pseudoscience or scientifically erroneous.

Actually, I think there was. A teach in CA filed suit saying that being forced to teach evolution violated the First Amendment.

John E. PELOZA v. CAPISTRANO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

Nos. 92-55228, 92-55644.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

I. The Section 1983 Claim

A. The Establishment Clause

[1] To withstand an Establishment Clause challenge(2), a state statute, policy or action (1) must have a secular purpose; (2) must, as its primary effect, neither advance nor inhibit religion; and (3) must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religions. Lemon V. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 2111, 29 L.Ed.2d,745 (1971).

Peloza’s complaint alleges that the school district has violated the Establishment Clause “by pressuring and requiring him to teach evolutionism, a religious belief system, as a valid scientific theory.” Complaint at 19-20. Evolutionism, according to Peloza, “postulates that the ‘higher’ life forms … evolved from the ‘lower’ life forms … and that life itself ‘evolved’ from non-living matter.” Id. at 2. It is therefore “based on the assumption that life and the universe evolved randomly and by chance and with no Creator involved in the process.” Id. at 1. Peloza claims that evolutionism is not a valid scientific theory because it is based on events which “occurred in the non-observable and non-recreatable past and hence are not subject to scientific observation.” Id. at 3. Finally, in his appellate brief he alleges that the school district is requiring him to teach evolutionism not just as a theory, but rather as a fact.

[2] Peloza’s complaint is not entirely consistent. In some places he seems to advance the patently frivolous claim that it is unconstitutional for the school district to require him to teach, as a valid scientific theory, that higher life forms evolved from lower ones. At other times he claims the district is forcing him to teach evolution as fact. Although possibly dogmatic or even wrong, such a requirement would not transgress the establishment clause if “evolution” simply means that higher life forms evolved from lower ones.

Peloza uses the words “evolution” and “evolutionism” interchangeably in the complaint. This is not wrong or imprecise for, indeed, they are synonyms.(3) Adding “ism” does not change the meaning nor magically metamorphose “evolution” into a religion. “Evolution” and “evolutionism” define a biological concept: higher life forms evolve from lower ones. The concept has nothing to do with how the universe was created; it has nothing to do with whether or not there is a divine Creator (who did or did not create the universe or did or did not plan evolution as part of a divine scheme).

[3] On a motion to dismiss we are required to read the complaint charitably, to take all well-pleaded facts as true, and to assume that all general allegations embrace whatever specific facts might be necessary to support them. Lujan V. Nat’l Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 889, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3189, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990); Abmmson V. Brownstein, 897 F.2d 389, 391 (9th Cir.1990). Charitably read, Peloza’s complaint at most makes this claim: the school district’s actions establish a state-supported religion of evolutionism, or more generally of “secular humanism.” See Complaint at 24, 20. According to Peloza’s complaint, all persons must adhere to one of two religious belief systems concerning “the origins of life and of the universe:” evolutionism, or creationism. Id. at 2. Thus, the school district, in teaching evolutionism, is establishing a state-supported “religion.”

We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or secular humanism are “religions” for Establishment Clause purposes. Indeed, both the dictionary definition of religion(4) and the clear weight of the case law(5) are to the contrary. The Supreme Court has held unequivocally that while the belief in a divine creator of the universe is a religious belief, the scientific theory that higher forms of life evolved from lower forms is not. Edwards V. Aguillard. 482 U.S. 578, 107 S.Ct. 2573, 96 L.Ed.2d 510 (1987) (holding unconstitutional, under Establishment Clause, Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment for Creation-science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act”).

Peloza would have us accept his definition of “evolution” and “evolutionism” and impose his definition on the school district as its own, a definition that cannot be found in the dictionary, in the Supreme Court cases, or anywhere in the common understanding of the words. Only if we define “evolution” and “evolutionism” as does Peloza as a concept that embraces the belief that the universe came into existence without a Creator might he make out a claim. This we need not do. To say red is green or black is white does not make it so. Nor need we for the purposes of a 12(b)(6) motion accept a made-up definition of “evolution.” Nowhere does Peloza point to anything that conceivably suggests that the school district accepts anything other than the common definition of “evolution” and “evolutionism.” It simply required him as a biology teacher in the public schools of California to teach “evolution.” Peloza nowhere says it required more.

The district court dismissed his claim, stating:

Since the evolutionist theory is not a religion, to require an instructor to teach this theory is not a violation of the Establishment Clause.… Evolution is a scientific theory based on the gathering and studying of data, and modification of new data. It is an established scientific theory which is used as the basis for many areas of science. As scientific methods advance and become more accurate, the scientific community will revise the accepted theory to a more accurate explanation of life’s origins. Plaintiffs assertions that the teaching of evolution would be a violation of the Establishment Clause is unfounded.

Id. at 12-13. We agree.

In the legal world, they’d call this a “slam dunk.” And you’d be the dunkee…

Once again, Larry admits he’s lost the argument:

As for foisting opinions on other people’s kids, isn’t that what evolutionists are doing?

This is how children respond when they lose a factual argument: all facts are retroactively changed to “opinions,” and “we’re all entitled to our own opinions.”

We have heard almost nothing from those who are most affected by this controversy over teaching ID in the public schools — the students themselves. Students should be polled in regard to whether or not they want their courses to cover irreducible complexity and other non-religious criticisms of evolution theory.

Yet another admission of defeat: he can’t convince the adults, because he can’t argue on our level, so he tries to manipulate the kids instead, and pretend they’re wiser than the hidebound grownups.

(What about the parents, Larry? Many of those kids’ parents were plaintiffs in the Dover suit. Do you think they’ll appreciate you trying to work their kids over?)

Comment #75620 posted by ben on January 25, 2006 09:29 AM Was that a joke, Larry?

Which one ?

Jack Krebs Wrote:

Do you know who from the DI was there? Just curious.

I’ve finally found out now that it was Logan Gage. I have never heard of him.

Anyway, I’m going to have to send this message to Jack individually because there’s no way he’s going to read through this UTTER TRAIN WRECK of a thread. Since being unable to discuss the event in question defeats the whole purpose of having a comments section, I’m closing it.

For those handful of you who insist on making comment after comment just to hear yourselves talk (and you know who you are), please note that you are making PT less useful for everyone else.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Reuland published on January 23, 2006 6:10 PM.

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