September 2, 2007 - September 8, 2007 Archives

One of the most puzzling aspects of the recent Dembski - Baylor spat over the web site for Robert Marks’s “Evolutionary Informatics Lab” was the basis for Dembski’s part time appointment at Baylor as “Senior Research Scientist” (a post-doctoral position). Dembski has stated that Marks had “procured a small grant from the LifeWorks Foundation” specifically for him to work on the project. The impression given is that an indepedent agency found Dembski and his ideas scientifically worthwhile enough to put some dough into them. The strange thing was, a Google search for “Liferworks Foundation” only seemed to yield a Tennessee-based charity with a focus on the arts, and little apparent interest in science, whether of the mainstream or pseudo- varieties.

With great pleasure I hooked up via teh internet with those crazy cats at the AtBC (After the Bar Closes) disscussion forum last month, to visit the Darwin Exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago! (I love people who diss creationism.)

Before I describe our adventure, I want to remind you that you can join my Facebook group, or friend me on MySpace. The Facebook group also serves as the fan group for PT. I also have a gallery of pictures from my adventures that you can look through. I working on collecting all my pictures there.

Also don’t forget to submit your best science blogging posts to the 2007 Science Blogging Anthology and join us at the 2008 Science Blogging Conference.

Last week, I reposted four old articles that I wrote back in 2005, when a group representing a number of Christian schools in California filed a lawsuit against the University of California claiming that UC’s rejection of several of their courses was illegal “viewpoint discrimination.” In a more recent post, I mentioned that there’s a hearing on motions for summary judgement scheduled for later this month. I also mentioned that the Christian schools claim that all they are doing is “adding a religious viewpoint” to “standard course material.” It doesn’t take a genius to see that the “viewpoint” presented in some of the textbooks used in the rejected courses is explicitly opposed to the actual science of biology. It certainly represents something very far from the “standard” course material for high school biology. (Or, for that matter, biology anywhere in the reality-based universe.) Nevertheless, the Christian schools seem to be determined to argue that they really do teach the “standard” scientific material.

And they’ve got help - an expert witness. That’s right, the Christian schools have found themselves someone who is willing to stand up and argue that a textbook that “puts the Word of God first and science second” really does teach standard science. Who, you might wonder, is the scientist brave enough to stand up to the harsh wind of reality and claim that teaching that, “man is a special creation that is completely separate from the physical universe and the animal kingdom,” is just an addition to “standard” science? Professor Michael Joseph Behe of Lehigh University, that’s who.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority, where comments can be left):

The aptly named Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, in his push to fund religious schools in Ontario, says it would be just fine with him if Christian schools teach creationism as a legitimate alternative to evolution.

Read more at Recursivity.

Intelligently designed confusion

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On Evolution News, Crowther argues that

The Privileged Planet: Such a Dangerous Idea Its Author Had To Be Stifled

Of course, most who are familiar with the facts will understand that Crowther’s assertions are without much merit. First of all, even Hauptman, who spoke out against Gonzalez, was clear to state that it was the scientific vacuity of ID which affected his vote about Gonzalez.

“[But] intelligent design is not even a theory. It has not made its first prediction, nor suffered its first test by measurement. Its proponents can call it anything they like, but it is not science,” added Hauptman. “It is purely a question of what is science and what is not, and a physics department is not obligated to support notions that do not even begin to meet scientific standards.

Over the last few days, I reposted a series of four articles that I wrote two years ago. Those articles discuss a California lawsuit filed by a group of Christian schools against the University of California. They are suing in an attempt to force UC to recognize some of their classes as meeting the requirements that UC sets for high school students who are applying for admission to the system. Several subjects are involved in the suit, but as a biologist I’m mostly interested in the biology courses that are involved.

At the moment, the next scheduled event in the case comes on September 24th, when the judge will hear arguments on motions for summary judgement. I’m not a legal expert, and I don’t spend as much time following Constitutional Law for fun as Ed does, but I’ve got a feeling that the motion for summary judgement filed by the Christian schools will fail, and the case will go to trial. A motion for summary judgement can only be granted if there are no significant disputes about material facts in the case. In this particular case, at least as far as the science books are concerned, there is a significant dispute about the facts.

The plaintiffs (the Christian schools) claim that their courses, “add to standard content a banned book, a religious viewpoint that God created man and woman, or the viewpoint of creation or Intelligent Design,” and that this constitutes “viewpoint discrimination.” (Brief for Summary Judgement p. 20). Someone from the Association of Christian Schools International, one of the plaintiffs in the case, left a comment on a couple of the old articles that elaborated a bit on that - the case, he claimed, is not about creationism, it’s about “illegal viewpoint discrimination.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority, where comments can be left):

Another bizarre chapter in the Dembski-Baylor spat ?

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Last night, a strange post appeared at Uncommon Descent, under the byline “Botnik”, claiming to report on a letter by Baylor University President John Lilley about the University’s disavowal of the Orwellianly named “Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory” that had been created a few months ago by engineering professor Robert Marks in collaboration with Dembski. The alleged letter had a decidely non-“presidential” tone, and caused many UD commenters to immediately attack Lilley as a puppet of the ACLU, a member of the vast NCSE-led atheist conspiracy, etc. As tempers flared, the letter was identified as a “P-A-R-O-D-Y” a few hours after the original posting.

What the intended goal of the “parody” was, other than to risk getting the Baylor Administration more upset about ID-related shenanigans, is unclear. Wes discusses the matter further at The Austringer.

SEE UPDATE BELOW FOLD

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