Freshwater Hearing: 3rd Day

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This is a summary of Day 3 of the administrative hearing to determine whether John Freshwater will be terminated as a middle school science teacher in the Mt. Vernon, Ohio, City Schools. Days 1 and 2 are here.

Three witnesses testified today, Zachary Dennis, the boy who was (allegedly) burned with a Tesla coil, his mother Jenifer Dennis, and Freshwater. We’re still in the stage where the Board of Education is presenting its case for termination; later Freshwater will be allowed to put on a defense.

Summaries below the fold.

Zachary Dennis Direct Examination

First up was Zachary Dennis, who was in Freshwater’s 8th grade class last year. Under direct examination by David Millstone, the Board’s attorney, he walked through a number of the issues that have been raised in the case. This is a summary of that testimony.

Freshwater used the Tesla coil in science class to demonstrate how different gases displayed different colors when ionized. But he also used it to demonstrate the effects of the output on students. He first lined volunteers up in a daisy chain, holding hands, and zapped the first student in the chain to see how far the shock would propagate.

He then solicited volunteers to be zapped individually. Zach described how he placed his hand on the plate of an overhead projecter. According to Zach’s testimony, Freshwater held his hand down and made two vertical passes with the Tesla coil and two horizontal passes. Zach testified that Freshwater told him that “It was like a temporary tattoo and those crosses would last a while.” When specifically questioned about it, Zach affirmed that “those crosses” was Freshwater’s phrase. Zach also testified that Freshwater “zapped” another special needs student from behind as the student bent to pick something up.

Zach testified that there was discomfort immediately after the event, and that it became worse as the night wore on, possibly because his hockey goalie gear contributed to the irritation. Even before that, however, it was red and blotchy, he said. He couldn’t sleep for the burning sensation it gave him that night.

Zach testified that Freshwater brought up religion in class in several ways. First, he used a video, “The Watchmaker,” that likens life to a watch (Paley, anyone?). Millstone showed the video in the hearing room. It’s pure Paley, and was produced by Truth4kids.com. Truth4kids is run by an engineer named Dave Hawkins, known on multiple web forums as “afdave.” Dave also blogs at Truthmatters, and he is a young-earth creationist.

Zach testified that Freshwater referred to a “higher being” in the context of Big Bang theory. When teaching the Big Bang, a girl in the class commented “This is magic!”, and Freshwater replied “Or a higher being.”

Zach testified that Freshwater used a handout which said that someone had taken a sample from a Mt. St. Helen’s deposit after the eruption and had it “carbon dated” and it came back dated at millions of years old, when it was supposedly from a 10 year-old deposit by the volcano. That might be associated with Steve Austin mis-sampling specimens in a well-rebutted case.

Either in a handout or in class Freshwater was claimed to have repeated the tired YEC moon dust argument.

Zach testified that Freshwater used Answers in Genesis as an internet resource in class, and assigned Zach to do some reading of AIG.

Zach testified that Freshwater taught what he called “hydrosphere theory.” Asked to describe it, Zach outlined another creationist classic, Water Vapor Canopy. Freshwater apparently didn’t explicitly tie that to Noah’s Flood, though Zach testified that’s how he interpreted it.

Zach testified that Freshwater encouraged Fellowship of Student Athletes members to call the local movie theater to ask that it show “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” Further, Freshwater accompanied a number of FCA students to a showing of it. In his science class he gave an extra-credit assignment to students to write an “unbiased” paragraph about the movie.

Zach testified that Freshwater had a signaling system, so when the class encountered something in text or lecture that wasn’t necessarily true, like an old earth, they were to signal that by saying “Here!” The meaning was that no one was there to see it, and therefore it is not necessarily trustworthy. (Recall Kent Hovind’s Ken Ham’s “Were you there?” rhetoric.)

Though as a faculty monitor of FCA Freshwater was not supposed to participate or lead, Zach testified that Freshwater participated in and led prayers with the FCA leadership group, selected videos for them to see (Including “Obsession,” an anti-muslim video), picked some of the speakers, and occasionally picked students to lead prayers.

Zach testified that Freshwater told him to call two potential FCA speakers, and gave him their phone numbers, violating the instruction to FCA monitors that they are not to take the lead in such matters.

Zach said that FCA students were told by Freshwater that they shouldn’t see “The Golden Compass,” the movie made from the first of Pullman’s trilogy. My notes don’t tell me if he told them why.

Zachary Cross Examination

There was no cross examination. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s attorney, elected to forgo cross since Zach will be called as a hostile witness for direct examination when Freshwater puts on his case. He made the same decision about Zach’s mother. The attorney for the Board, David Millstone, argued that forgoing cross-examination is forgoing cross examination, and Hamilton has his chance now and in direct during Freshwater’s case shouldn’t be allowed to (in effect) do cross then. After mulling over lunch, the referee ruled that he saw no reason for limits on Hamilton during a subsequent direct examination. I suspect there’s much looking up of cases on both sides overnight.

Jenifer Dennis Direct Examination

Zach’s mother Jenifer testified next. She related how Zach came home from school and showed her the mark. She was concerned, but with a neighbor there and Zach due to be driven 1.5 hours to hockey practice (for the obvious reason that Mt. Vernon doesn’t have any ice) she didn’t make a big deal of it then. She did take two pictures of the injury with her digital camera. Later her husband called her from the rink and said Zach was complaining of pain in his arm and was using it strangely on the rink. He took pictures of it with his cell phone.

[Added in edit 11/2/08] Mother informed me that she actually took the pictures late that night after Zachary arrived home following hockey practice, and that’s what she recalled testifying. That’s plausible – my notes are occasionally fragmentary. Her husband took cell phone pictures of Zachary’s arm at hockey practice.

In answer to a direct question from Millstone she denied “doctoring” the pics.

When Zach got home (around 11:30) he was tired and went to bed. However, he couldn’t sleep and called her in. She took more pictures, but elected not to take him to the emergency room. She’s a former surgical technician and evaluated the marks as non-threatening, on the order of a bad sunburn or a burn from a stove burner.

The next morning she and her husband went to the school with the pictures and talked with the Superintendent, Steve Short (who testified on Days 1 & 2 linked above). They told Short the didn’t want Freshwater to be fired, but wanted to ensure that whatever caused the marks to be stopped.

Again, there was no cross examination.

John Freshwater’s Direct Examination

Millstone called John Freshwater as a hostile witness for direct examination. First Millstone rehearsed various public statements Freshwater has made: that hed never burned or branded an student and had never taught creationism. Millstone played videos of Freshwater speaking to the Board of Education in August 2008 and an interview with Fox News sometime in the summer (I didn’t get the URL for the latter). Both supported the assertions above. Freshwater testified that there are three categories: evolution, creationism, and intelligent design. He said that he teaches evolution and not the other two, and that’s been true through his (24-year) career.

He testified that he’d used the Tesla coil on somewhere in the range of 500 to 600 students through the years. He identified two examples of Tesla coils that had been removed from the middle school as similar to the one he’d used, but said that he still has the one he used. Pressed by Millstone, Freshwater did not account for taking the school property home. Asked “Were you authorized b anyone to take it from the school?” he answered “No.”

Asked what a Tesla coil is used for, he responded to show gases of different colors when ionized, and to study human reactions. (That last may not be a direct quote, but it’s close.) Asked what Tesla coils are used for outside the classroom, he responded that he didn’t know.

He testified that he knew the Tesla coil generated over 20,000 volts, but doesn’t know how long he’s known that – perhaps 21 years (the length of time he’s been teaching in Mt. Vernon.). He wouldn’t say if 20,000 volts to 45,000 volts is “high” voltage. He wasn’t certain if he knew previously that it operated at 500 KHz. He doesn’t know if the small amount of ozone produced by its operation is hazardous. He had never seen an instruction manual for the device. He was shown the instruction manual downloaded from the manufacturer’s web site by the independent investigator. He was asked to read into the record excerpts from it bearing on the safety warning to not allow it to touch skin.

Moving to December 6, 2007, when Zachary was injured, and concerning the special needs student who was “zapped,” Freshwater said that it was inadvertent, that the boy was walking past him and he accidentally contacted the tip of the Tesla coil.

Moving on to the Zachary incident, Freshwater described how the dais chain had himself as the first link contacting the Tesla coil, with students chained from him. Again, it was to see how far the electricity would propagate.

Freshwater then solicited individual volunteers to be shocked. Zachary was among 4-6 volunteers. Freshwater denied holding Zachary’s hand on the overhead table, saying the kids just held out their arms and usually quickly withdrew them when the first shock was applied. Asked why they withdrew quickly, he said “Because it hurts.” He said he always shocks himself first.

He denied seeing a mark on Zachary after the shock, and did not recall calling it a temporary tattoo or a cross. He did acknowledge saying he put an “X” on Zachary’s arm. He denied that the pictures taken by Jenifer Dennis and entered as exhibits were an accurate depiction of what was on Zachary’s arm.

Asked if he knew any reason Zach would not tell the truth, he answered, “No.”

Asked if when students are zapped individually does it leave a mark, Freshwater responded “A slight reddening.”

Moving on to FCA, there was some testimony about confusion over parental permission to attend FCA concerning whether it had to be written or could be verbal over the phone.

Freshwater denied initiating contact with potential speakers at FCA. Confronted with an email from his school account to a potential speaker, he claimed his daughter, an FCA member, must have used his official school email account to invite the speaker.

Freshwater acknowledged telling Zach to call a couple of speakers and giving him their phone numbers.

In response to a series of questions, Freshwater denied leading FCA meetings, denied selecting videos for FCA meetings, and denied praying at FCA meetings. He explained that last by saying “I pray all the time, sir.” He testified that it was his daughter’s suggestion to show “Obsession,” the anti-Muslim video.

Thus endeth the morning session at 1:15 pm.

In the afternoon session Millstone turned to the issue of religious displays in Freshwater’s classroom. After establishing the timeline for their removal (Apr 6-16 2008), Millstone asked about the two books Freshwater checked out of the middle school library and placed on his science table in the classroom. They were a Bible and a book titled “Jesus of Nazareth.” Asked why he had them there, Freshwater responded that since he’d been instructed to keep his own Bible out of sight during class time and had not done so, he was afraid he’d come into his classroom some morning and find his own Bible gone and wanted the other available since the Bible is his inspiration. He did not recall saying he had them there to “make a point” as the independent investigator’s report alleged.

He recalled the middle school principal telling him that it would be insubordination to fail to comply with the instruction to keep his Bible out of sight during class hours, but then said he didn’t think it was insubordination.

He agreed that he had posters from an evangelistic event of Will Graham in 2007 but didn’t recall if he posted them in his classroom.

He acknowledged having had a short class discussion of the meaning of Easter in the context of teaching lunar calendars.

He denied showing “The Watchmaker” in class, claiming that his daughter selected it for showing at FCA after watching it at home. He couldn’t remember how he got it. (I’ll note that the version shown in the hearing room during Zach’s testimony appeared to be the original, down to the original file name. It wasn’t the Youtube version.)

He was asked if Answers in Genesis is an apologetics site. He didn’t know, and characterized it as an “informational” site. He was then asked to read into the record the first paragraph from the AIG “About Us” page identifying it as an apologetics ministry. He acknowledged referring Zachary to AIG, and also showed the AIG site in class. He acknowledged making AIG-based assignments to perhaps a dozen students in the 2007-8 school ear.

Moving on to the Big Bang, he acknowledged that he discussed “hydrosphere theory” as Zachary had testified. He said it was in the context of discussing alternatives. It was never clear what hydrosphere theory has to do with the origin of the universe. He evaded question about what hydrosphere theory implies. (Noah’s Flood wasn’t directly mentioned.)

Asked to define a scientific theory, he responded “Something that’s backed up with scientific information and knowledge, that’s not completely proved. It’s not a law yet.” (That’s very close to a direct quote, if perhaps not precisely so. Freshwater speaks softly and it was often hard to hear him even though I was in the front row. I have no idea how the court reporter coped, though her ears are about 30 years younger than mine.)

Asked if a scientific theory was merely a hypothetical, Freshwater responded “There may be some doubt.”

Asked “Is hydrosphere theory a scientific theory?” Freshwater answered “Yes.”

Asked “In order to be accepted, does a scientific theory have to be published in reputable scientific journals and be subject to peer review?” Freshwater answered “No.”

Asked if he presided over a debate in his classroom in 2007-2008 on evolution vs. creationism, he answered “Yes.”

Asked what the scientific consensus is about the age of the universe he answered “About 20 billion years.” Scientific consensus on the age of the earth? “About 5 billion years.”

Freshwater acknowledged telling students in class that it was possible that humans and dinosaurs were on the earth together at the same time.

Freshwater affirmed that he told students that Tyrannosaurus rex had teeth that were “not deep enough” for it to be a carnivore.

Freshwater acknowledged that he read (portions of?) Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul in class (not clear which particular member of that group of books was used).

Handed two worksheets, “Giraffes” and “Woodpeckers,” he acknowledged that the last question on each was identical: “Was an ID involved?” Freshwater denied knowing whether “ID” in that context meant “intelligent designer,” and could not recall where he got the worksheets. He testified that he didn’t use them after 2003 when his proposal to adopt the Intelligent Design Network “Objective Origins Policy” was rejected by the Board of Education. He also testified that he used Wells’ Survival of the Fakest until 2003.

Asked if he had heard complaints on multiple occasions from high school science teachers about his teaching, he answered “Yes.” Asked about the topic of their complaints, he responded “How I teach evolution.”

Moving on to Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, he acknowledged that he had called the theater to ask them to show the movie, and said it was his daughter’s idea to take a group of FCA students to it. (Are we sensing a theme yet?) Freshwater evaded answering whether Zachary’s testimony that he had encouraged FCA members to also call the theater was accurate.

He did not recall telling students that homosexuality is a sin, but did acknowledge using an analogy between sexuality and magnets, saying opposite poles attract and similar poles repel.

Asked if he used a Kent Hovind video, he said “Pieces of it. It relates to the standards that I teach to.” Asked what pieces, he responded “It’s about whales, moths.” Asked what it purports to teach or show, he responded “It examines evolution. It’s showing evidence of evolution. It’s talking about the evolving (sic) of whales.” He would not disagree that it is questioning evolution. (Sorry for the syntax: That’s the way the question was worded.)

Asked why he kept Wells’ Icons of Evolution in his room, Freshwater responded that “It’s looking at evolution and the icons of it.” He agreed that it was not supportive of evolution.

Then a reprise of videos: Does he have a video called “Ten Lies of Evolution” in his room? “Yes.” Does he have a book titled “Refuting Evolution” in his room? “Yes.” Has he shown a video on the Loch Ness Monster that says the earth is less than 6,000 years old? Not since 2003.

Returning to his 2003 proposal, Freshwater didn’t know where he got the “Objective Origins Policy.” He didn’t know much about the Discovery Institute. He said he was “closely tracking” the No Child Left Behind Act at that time (presumably the so-called Santorum Amendment, though that wasn’t explicit in the testimony).

Finally, earlier in his testimony he said “it is possible” that he told students in some context that Catholics are not Christians.

Once again, Freshwater’s attorney elected to forgo cross examination.

Thus endeth the third day.

Editorial Note

I’ve tried to stay more or less neutrally reportial in this summary. However, as you all know, I’m a partisan. I’m too damned tired to editorialize; I think it’s obvious in the summary of Freshwater’s testimony that he is incompetent to teach science in the public schools. I leave rounding up news stories to commenters: I’m too tired now, and there’s another day tomorrow.

Tomorrow: The fourth day.

40 Comments

Outstanding summary. I, and I’m sure many others appreciate your efforts in doing this. Your posts on this case have been much better than any newspaper coverage I’ve seen.

Since I can be partisan, Freshwater certainly sounds like another creotard that doesn’t think “Thou shall not bear false witness” applies to him.

Thanks. I appreciate the good words.

I have the advantage of being able to post a 3,000 word summary, whereas a newspaper article is much more constrained. It also helps that I know a fair amount about the issues and what to listen for, in contrast to (most) news reporters.

Thanks for the update. Why it took 20 years for this wanker to be exposed is a hard question.

Thanks for all of this. It is good to hear what is going on. Not only lying for Jesus but accusing his daughter to be at fault to. Honestly how low can you go.

Ah, good ol’ AFDave. That takes me back. The year…2007…the place…After the Bar Closes.…

I wouldn’t fancy his daughter’s chances if a couple of angels stopped by for the night.

HEY! Freshwater!! Quickly! Stop, drop, and roll! Your pants are on fire!

Does the use of the word “alleged” or “allegedly” in reporting a crime actually offer any protection against a possible slander or libel lawsuit?

I ask because I see this word used repeatedly, especially in the mainstream media, but I recall reading somewhere that it makes no difference - someone making the statement could be face a charge whether or not they had used the “alleged” amulet.

Do any readers here who are more competent in the law than I’ll ever be have any (useful!) comments on this?

You do have to “admire” the way Freshwater tossed his daughter under the bus on the emailing speakers for the FCA issue. (Of course, if he is allowing others access to his school account he is certainly violating another school policy…).

Gary’s question on why it has taken 20+ years for Freshwater to face the music is simple to answer: Communities get the school systems they deserve.

Clearly, Mt. Vernon is a socially and religiously conservative community and Freshwater fits in to a “T”. (Note that Zach’s family did not want to get Freshwater “into trouble”, although by going to the Superintendent, that is exactly what they did).

Liars for Jesus huh. This guy sounds like a tough nut. Well coached. I suspect he will crack. Like Hannibal on the A-Team last night took a chance to paint the bad guy blue with spray paint… made him personally invested in the outcome instead of just the funding of the baddies. Then passions take over and one makes mistakes.

I hope the kid’s family doesn’t get any retribution from the local mouth breathers union. RBH this is great stuff.

exactly the daughter is the perfect Osama. SHE MADE ME DO IT

Any chance that daughter will be called to testify?

Well now that it has become so apparent that this guy has been teaching creationism for years it becmes important what the outcome of this hearing will be. If he gets away with such blatantly illegal activities it will embolden thousands of closet creationists in classrooms all over the country to try to get away with exacctly the same thing. If however he is forced to resign in disgrace, it should send a message that this sort of nonsense will no longer be tolerated.

I must commend the young boy and his parents for standing up to this guy when no one else would. It is only because of their courage that this travesty may finally be brought to an end. There are plenty of places where this guy could preach creationism if he so choose, the public school classroom should not be such a place.

Ian, I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that using the word “allegedly” is not sufficient to protect you against a possible slander or libel lawsuit if you are the first one to make the allegation. So you can’t just make up whatever false accusations you wish and cover your butt by saying “allegedly.” You are legally on the hook for whatever statements you make. But, it’s perfectly legal to pass on allegations made by others so long as you make it clear that they are unsubstantiated. I believe passing on an allegation as a statement of fact can get you into trouble, which is why you see the talisman of “allegedly” used so prevalently when reporting hearsay.

As far as Freshwater goes, is there any doubt this cretin is lying through his teeth?

Handed two worksheets, “Giraffes” and “Woodpeckers,” he acknowledged that the last question on each was identical: “Was an ID involved?” Freshwater denied knowing whether “ID” in that context meant “intelligent designer,” and could not recall where he got the worksheets.

Really? He has no idea what ID could mean in that context? Think you might be able to hazard a guess, Freshwater? The brazen dishonesty on display is simply sickening. Let’s hope the judge throws the book at this lying sack of bibles.

Mt. St. Helen’s deposit after the eruption and had it “carbon dated” and it came back dated at millions of years old…

I love how these morons can’t even keep their own side of the story straight – at least the ICR/AIG etc manage to avoid the most obvious bloopers when they make up lies. Some of their followers, not so much.

H.H. said: Ian, I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that using the word “allegedly” is not sufficient to protect you against a possible slander or libel lawsuit if you are the first one to make the allegation. So you can’t just make up whatever false accusations you wish and cover your butt by saying “allegedly.” You are legally on the hook for whatever statements you make. But, it’s perfectly legal to pass on allegations made by others so long as you make it clear that they are unsubstantiated. I believe passing on an allegation as a statement of fact can get you into trouble, which is why you see the talisman of “allegedly” used so prevalently when reporting hearsay.

Hmmm…in court reporting I thought its use had more to do with whether the court had ruled yet. e.g. reporters use ‘alleged murderer’ before the ruling has been given, ‘murderer’ after.

It will be interesting to hear the defense’s case. He appears to be admitting to numerous acts that would be enough to get a teacher fired, so it’ll probably be something about selective justice/using these acts as cover for illegal firing.

Putting an electrical charge - from an instrument plugged into building power - through a daisy chain of students? In what universe is that a good idea?.

Isn’t it “3rd”?

RBH,

Who was the attorney running the “John Freshwater’s Direct Examination” section? The board’s or Freshwater’s? It sounds like Freshwater was being examined by the board’s attorney. Can you clarify?

Umm… Shouldn’t the title read “3RD” day, not “3th”?

Gary Hurd said:

Why it took 20 years for this wanker to be exposed is a hard question.

Answer: Its a matter of perception, and the assumption that this is rare. There is far more of this going on, to a larger or lesser degree, than most people will acknowledge. Far easier to ignore it. I see the same denial in this forum, where the teaching of creationism is assumed to be so rare that it can be stopped by hauling ‘em to court. In the general population tolerance of this false science education is the norm. What’s rare is for someone to to object, and rarer still for that objection to produce results.

Reed A. Cartwright said:

RBH,

Who was the attorney running the “John Freshwater’s Direct Examination” section? The board’s or Freshwater’s? It sounds like Freshwater was being examined by the board’s attorney. Can you clarify?

In a hearing of this sort the Board puts on its case for termination first, then Freshwater puts on his “case in chief” to oppose that determination. Again, this is an administrative hearing appealing a decision of the Board, not a court case, so there are differences in some procedures. The rules of evidence, for example, are very similar, but there are apparently subtle differences, too subtle for me to detect so far.

And yeah, it’s 3rd. It was late and I’m tired. :)

4th day summary coming later tonight.

While I disagree with much of what Freshwater taught, it doesn’t seem all that different from what I hear of being taught in a lot of public schools in the US, particularly in the South. Indeed, it seems like he kept his Literal Creationism bias a bit more hidden than others. Whether or not this goes to trial seems to be more dependent on the general culture of the school district, than a search for objective truth being taught in school.

I think there’s a problem in the post:

“Zach testified that Freshwater taught what he called “hydrosphere theory.” Asked to describe it, Zach outlined another creationist classic, Water Vapor Canopy. Freshwater apparently didn’t explicitly tie that to Noah’s Flood, though Zach testified that’s how he interpreted it.”

where the link given for Water Vapor Canopy is: http://www.godandscience.org/younge[…]/canopy.html

which is an Old Earth Creationist site debunking the classic YEC “water vapor canopy” nonsense.

Russell said:

I think there’s a problem in the post:

“Zach testified that Freshwater taught what he called “hydrosphere theory.” Asked to describe it, Zach outlined another creationist classic, Water Vapor Canopy. Freshwater apparently didn’t explicitly tie that to Noah’s Flood, though Zach testified that’s how he interpreted it.”

where the link given for Water Vapor Canopy is: http://www.godandscience.org/younge[…]/canopy.html

which is an Old Earth Creationist site debunking the classic YEC “water vapor canopy” nonsense.

No problem. I linked to that site because it describes canopy “theory” sufficiently well and also specifically contains a debunking of it from another religious view.

eric said:

Putting an electrical charge - from an instrument plugged into building power - through a daisy chain of students? In what universe is that a good idea?.

Heh. Eric, back in my high school daze one of my favorite school field trips was a visit the Museum of Science in Boston. High on the list of attractions was the daily demonstrations of a Van de Graff electrostatic generator. If memory serves, it’s output was 100,000 volts.

The girl with the longest hair was always called up to put her hand on the top of the device. Again, if memory serves, it was at least as tall as your average high school kid. Of course, her hair would magically stand out from her head forming the famous “hair halo.”

But the grand finale of each demonstration was the passing out of “souvenirs” which were grand, powerful and highly visible discharges of high voltage right into the body of any kid who felt brave enough. The fellow conducting the demonstration would place his hand on the generator and someone, say you, would approach the platform and stretch out a hand. After pausing to fully charge, the fellow would move his free hand closer to yours and, at a distance of about two feet, a fat blue snake of ionized gas would connect the two of you. Both you and he would feel it. I recall it as a sensation composed of equal parts heat, impact and sting. Not painful, just damn sudden!

Once, several of my female classmates demurred such an offering, clinging together and making high pitched sounds. As I put my left hand up for a jolt I placed my right hand a couple inches from the elbow of the nearest girl. And you can guess the rest.

The upshot is that the application of high voltage current to a person’s body is not automatically a “bad thing.” Of course, this must be done with full regard for the applicable protocols. The museum was well within the safe zone, and as a result, so were my classmates and I.

So, the answer to your question is, “This one.”

I got to this site by trying to find more info on the hearing. I first went to the local paper,Mount Vernon News, and was disappointed that they only have a few lines and mention one or two questions asked of the witnesses but nothing as to responses. The paper is either very pro Freshwater or worried about losing subscribers. Not reliable at all for reporting the Hearing.

Thanks for the very complete reporting. The links are useful, too.

As far as Freshwater’s teaching creationism and not being educated in science, this is common here in the South and I am sure it is elsewhere, too. I have witnessed an increase in religion in schools. More than when I was in school. I am 64.

I got to this site by trying to find more info on the hearing. I first went to the local paper,Mount Vernon News, and was disappointed that they only have a few lines and mention one or two questions asked of the witnesses but nothing as to responses. The paper is either very pro Freshwater or worried about losing subscribers. Not reliable at all for reporting the Hearing.

Thanks for the very complete reporting. The links are useful, too.

As far as Freshwater’s teaching creationism and not being educated in science, this is common here in the South and I am sure it is elsewhere, too. I have witnessed an increase in religion in schools. More than when I was in school. I am 64.

I’ll add my thanks to the piled already being heaped up for your reporting, RBH.

buddy smith said:

I got to this site by trying to find more info on the hearing. I first went to the local paper,Mount Vernon News, and was disappointed that they only have a few lines and mention one or two questions asked of the witnesses but nothing as to responses. The paper is either very pro Freshwater or worried about losing subscribers. Not reliable at all for reporting the Hearing.

Thanks for the very complete reporting. The links are useful, too.

As far as Freshwater’s teaching creationism and not being educated in science, this is common here in the South and I am sure it is elsewhere, too. I have witnessed an increase in religion in schools. More than when I was in school. I am 64.

Welcome to the Thumb, Buddy. I won’t speculate publicly on the Mt. Vernon News’ coverage – I have friends who work there. But bear in mind it’s a lot like most small-town newspapers, as much or more a civic booster as a carrier of hard news.

And I’ve got you by three years. :)

I’m okay with field trips to science museums with interactive displays. I’m not so okay with eight grade science teachers reproducing these professional displays with classroom equipment.

Let me try an analogy. Bungee jumping is reasonably safe. Lots of kids do it. Lots of kids would probably *ask* their teacher to let them do it if they got the chance. But its probably ill-advised to let an 8th-grade science teacher set up their own bungee jump and then let the kids use it without parental consent. What makes this ill-advised is not the result of a ‘successful’ trial but the chance that things won’t go as planned.

IMO the same reasoning applies to electrical current experiments on students. If the Smithsonian wants to set up an interactive display, that’s all well and good. If a teacher wants to plug a tesla coil into wall power and use their kids as living resistors, this is ill-advised. And its not because of what happens when things go right - I agree with you, these sorts of electrical current displays are generally safe and exciting - its because of the possibility that things will go wrong. Consider that Freshwater says he’s been doing this for 23 years. Do you think its safe to trust that a 23-year-old tesla coil won’t short out and send the full wall current through the circuit? I’ll go out on a limb here and say that your Museum of Science was probably far more competent and more regular at testing the safety of their equipment than John Freshwater.

Crudely Wrott said:

eric said: Heh. Eric, back in my high school daze one of my favorite school field trips was a visit the Museum of Science in Boston. High on the list of attractions was the daily demonstrations of a Van de Graff electrostatic generator. If memory serves, it’s output was 100,000 volts.

…The upshot is that the application of high voltage current to a person’s body is not automatically a “bad thing.” Of course, this must be done with full regard for the applicable protocols. The museum was well within the safe zone, and as a result, so were my classmates and I.

So, the answer to your question is, “This one.”

H. H. and Eric -

Thanks for your responses.

I’m not in any way defending Freshwater. He deserves what he gets (and probably a lot more!).

I was just curious about the “allegedly” thing since it’s used to the point of distraction in news reports!

Your comments make good sense, which is what I was aiming for with the question! Sorry for the tardy response.

eric said:

I’m okay with field trips to science museums with interactive displays. I’m not so okay with eight grade science teachers reproducing these professional displays with classroom equipment.

Let me try an analogy. Bungee jumping is reasonably safe. Lots of kids do it. Lots of kids would probably *ask* their teacher to let them do it if they got the chance. But its probably ill-advised to let an 8th-grade science teacher set up their own bungee jump and then let the kids use it without parental consent. What makes this ill-advised is not the result of a ‘successful’ trial but the chance that things won’t go as planned.

I fully agree. In my story of the Museum of Science I was taking a bit of liberty to explain that experiments and demonstrations involving high voltage being routed through people isn’t necessarily startling or fearsome.

I should have stressed that in order to do something of this nature, and to insure that all of the participants are aware of what is safe and established practice, they must all understand a bit of the science involved. It is usually uninformed people relying on second hand information that cannot understand the usefulness of classroom demos and fruit fly research

In my fantasy I see parents who could explain the workings of a Tesla coil or a heart-lung machine. I’m dreamin’.

It’s very funny that you cite a page (http://www.godandscience.org/younge[…]/canopy.html) from a creationist who totally destroys the water vapor canopy theory from both a biblical and scientific perspective. Maybe you should have read the page first!

Rich Deem said:

It’s very funny that you cite a page (http://www.godandscience.org/younge[…]/canopy.html) from a creationist who totally destroys the water vapor canopy theory from both a biblical and scientific perspective. Maybe you should have read the page first!

I did read it. I cited it specifically because it gives a pretty good and succinct summary of the canopy nonsense as well as having the critique you mentioned.

What are people afraid of? I never understand the fear people have. All of the US constitution and laws are based on a Christian Bible. We all want to hear everyone’s ideas except for one group. Strange.

Mike said:

What are people afraid of? I never understand the fear people have. All of the US constitution and laws are based on a Christian Bible. We all want to hear everyone’s ideas except for one group. Strange.

Actually, the US Constitution is not based on the “Christian” Bible: the Founding Fathers made a big song and dance out of not forming a Biblical based government.

Rich Deem said: Maybe you should have read the page first!

Yeah, as RBH more or less tactfully said, keep your shirt on, he was just citing that page for its descriptive value, not as a bad example.

It’s actually a pretty interesting page – I keep thinking I know most of the crank theories out there, but the “water vapor canopy” is a new one on me: “Hooboy, this is almost as good as the Hollow Earth Theory!”

“The truth is out there, Scully.” But all I get from the cranks is amusement.

Mike said:

What are people afraid of? I never understand the fear people have. All of the US constitution and laws are based on a Christian Bible. We all want to hear everyone’s ideas except for one group. Strange.

If you had just waited a couple of months you could have rezzed this thread on the one year anniversary of its death. Patience, please!

Mike said:

What are people afraid of? I never understand the fear people have. All of the US constitution and laws are based on a Christian Bible. We all want to hear everyone’s ideas except for one group. Strange.

Strange indeed.

You know, I always hear the line “The Constitution is based on the Bible” or “The Laws are based on the Ten Commandments”, but, try as I might, I can never actually find any of those biblical references.

The only parts of the Constitution that I’m aware of that even mention religion are the “no religious test clause” (Article VI, section 3, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”) and the 1st Ammendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”).

I’m sure there are probably other references here and there, but if there were something akin to “I am the Lord, thy God” somewhere in the middle of the articles of succession, I’m pretty sure that I would have noticed it by now.

The constitution does endorse slavery, which the OT was big on, but I suspect that’s not exactly what you’re talking about.

Care to enlighten me as to exactly where to look for all the religious foundation, Mike?

Well, this settles one question: People do pay attention to the “recent comments” in the sidebar. :)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on October 28, 2008 11:44 PM.

Interview with mother in the Freshwater cross-burning affair was the previous entry in this blog.

Freshwater Day 4: “Science can’t be trusted” is the next entry in this blog.

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