Freshwater (Updated): Summary of the referee’s recommendation

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Update: PDF of the recommendation at NCSE and NCSE’s article on it.

I obtained a copy of the referee’s recommendation (not from any of the principals in the case or their legal representatives) concerning John Freshwater’s termination and summarize it here with heavy quoting. I expect that the full document will be available on NCSE’s site soon, where “soon” is probably Monday.

The Board’s Amended Motion to Consider Termination adopted in June 2008 cited four grounds for the action. The referee addressed all four in his recommendation. They were (summarized briefly):

1. Using the tesla coil to mark the shape of a cross on students’ arms.

2. Failure to adhere to the established curriculum.

3. Participation in (rather than passive monitoring of) Fellowship of Christian Athletes activities.

4. Disobedience of Orders (insubordination).

More below the fold

1. Use of the tesla coil

With respect to the first ground, use of the tesla coil, the referee regarded the administration’s action to have taken care of the matter, since no evidence was offered that Freshwater continued the activity after having been instructed to not do so. The referee wrote

Due to the sensational and provocative nature of this specified ground, it and the facts and circumstances surrounding it became the focus of the curious, including those in the video, audio, and print media.  Once sworn testimony was presented, it because (sic) obvious that speculation and imagination had pushed reality aside.  There was a plausible explanation for how and why the Tesla Coil had been used by John Freshwater.  Further, and more crucial to a review of the Amended Resolution, the use of the Tesla Coil by John Freshwater did not seem to be a proper subject for the Amended Resolution.  By letter of January 22, 2008 as authorized by Principal William White (Board Exhibit 6 - Attachment 16) the Tesla Coil matter had been concluded.

In other words, the action of the administration was a sufficient remedy for that matter.

2. Failure to adhere to the curriculum

With respect to the second ground, failure to adhere to the established curriculum, the referee recognized that Freshwater was a good teacher:

Initially, it must be noted that a wealth of evidence was presented to substantiate that John Freshwater was a successful eighth grade science teacher.  Many, possibly most of his students seemed to enjoy his class and remember it fondly.  On the average, Freshwater students performed at or above the state requirements and expectations for eighth grade science students. 

However, the referee found that Freshwater went well beyond that:

Unfortunately, John Freshwater was not satisfied with the positive results of his teaching in terms of successful state test scores and the development of a love for the subject of science in the minds of his students.  John Freshwater was determined to inject his personal religious beliefs into his plan and pattern of instruction of his students.  In so doing, he exceeded the bounds of all of the pertinent Bylaws and/or Polices of the Mount Vernon City School District - “Religion In The Curriculum”; “Controversial Issues”; “Religious/Patriotic Ceremonies And Observances”; “Religious Expression In The District”; and “Academic Freedom Of Teachers”.

Shepherd noted that

Webster defines bias as a particular tendency or inclination that prevents impartial consideration of a question.  John Freshwater’s bias grew from his fervent and deep seated Christian beliefs.  Such beliefs and convictions, while admirable character traits in other settings, proved to be John Freshwater’s downfall as an eighth grade science teacher in a public school.  Time after time after time he injected his beliefs as associated with his own religious tenets into his science instruction.

After outlining the testimony and evidence for that, he concluded

Both overtly and covertly, John Freshwater began to instruct his eighth grade students in such a way that they were examining evidence both for and against evolution.  The evidence for evolution was the material(s) contained within the science textbooks as approved and provided by the Board.  The evidence against evolution was in the form of handouts (e.g. Board Exhibit 6 Attachment 10) motion pictures (“Expelled - Ben Stein”); videos (“The Watchmaker”); as well as a shortcut method of citing passages in printed materials that could be questioned (students needed only say “here”).

Exacerbating this situation was the fact that the evidence against evolution was based, in large part, upon the Christian religious principals (sic) of Creationism and Intelligent Design.  Thus, John Freshwater’s instruction, in these “against evolution” instances, ran afoul of the District’s Bylaw/Policy regarding “Religion In The Curriculum” (2270 - Employee Exhibit #9) - “Instructional activities shall not be permitted to advance or inhibit any particular religion”.  Further, the District’s Bylaw/Policy regarding “Religious/Patriotic Ceremonies And Observances” was violated as pertains to that portion of said Bylaw/Policy which states “Decisions of the United States Supreme Court have made it clear that it is not the province of a public school to advance or inhibit religious beliefs or practices”.

3. Participation in FCA activities

The referee found that Freshwater participated in, rather than passively monitored, Fellowship of Christian Athletes activities, including contacting at least one speaker and participating in prayer. Shepherd wrote

The testimony of Father Mark Hammond (TR 6066) indicated that John Freshwater had asked him (Father Hammond) to speak at the FCA.  The testimony of Ruth Frady (TR 5194) indicated that John Freshwater moved from the back of the room toward a prayer circle which had formed to pray for Pastor Zirkle.  She further testified that John Freshwater instituted a “concluding prayer” in order to get the students moving toward their next class.  Ruth Frady testified that the concluding prayer, though innocuous, ended with an “amen”.  The testimony of former Assistant Principal Brad Ritchey (TR 5945) indicated that John Freshwater admitted to having “put my hands up” during the prayer for Pastor Zirkle.  The testimony of Principal White (TR 503) indicated that John Freshwater admitted that he (John Freshwater) “probably did pray for him to be feeling better and well.…”.

There is ample evidence that John Freshwater knew or should have known of these mandates and restrictions and that he knowingly or recklessly violated them.

4. Disobedience of orders (insubordination)

This section reviewed the events of April 2008, when the Dennis family’s federal suit was looming and the administration was attempting to get Freshwater to bring his classroom into compliance with the district’s policy on religious displays.

Principal White testified that “there were several meetings and several conversations in April” (TR 506).  He further testified that multiple contacts with John Freshwater became necessary “because the things that I had asked to happen on April 7th were not attended to” (TR 507).  Granted, there may have been some confusion about the instructions, orders, and directives which Mr. White gave John Freshwater.  However, it is abundantly clear that what may have begun as confusion soon transformed into defiance.

Two days prior (April 14, 2008), Mr. White and John Freshwater had a discussion about whether his disobedience would constitute insubordination.  He (Freshwater) was told that it would be (TR 513).  Nevertheless, John Freshwater decided to comply only in part.  To make matters worse he (Freshwater) also decided to add another element to the controversy.  He checked out religious texts from the school library and added them to the array on his classroom desk.  John Freshwater’s explanation for this act included the phrases “it was a curiosity” and “it’s my inspiration” (TR 447).  These explanations seem questionable.  The act appears to have been one of defiance, disregard, and resistance.

Conclusion

In the conclusion, Shepherd first noted that his consideration was independent of the several federal actions and their outcomes. He also commented on the level of proof he employed:

Secondly, the debate concerning the level of proof required in this matter need not be argued further.  After a thorough review of the evidence as presented to me, I am satisfied and do so determine this matter by either and both a preponderance of the evidence and clear and convincing evidence.

That is, on either level of proof–less stringent or more stringent–his conclusions hold.

I will quote the last paragraphs of the recommendation in full:

Thirdly, as concerns the applicability of the pre or post 2009 version of Ohio Revised Code § 3316.19, my determination rests upon the standards established for termination in either of those versions.  Each version permits termination for “good and just cause”.  The Ohio Supreme Court provided some clarification of the phrase “good and just cause” in it’s 1968 case Hale v. Board of Education 13 Ohio St. 2d 92.  Therein, the Court notes that the conduct of the teacher in question must constitute a “fairly serious matter” in order to cross the threshold of “good and just cause”

John Freshwater’s conduct as set forth hereinabove represents a “fairly serious matter” and is, therefore, a valid basis for his termination in accordance with ORC 3319.16 based upon “good and just cause”.  It is not herein determined whether any one of the bases/grounds for consideration of termination would be sufficient in and of itself.

However, the multiple incidents which gave rise to the numerous and various bases/grounds more than suffice in support of termination.

“Families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.  Students in such institutions are impressionable, and their attendance is involuntary.” Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578 (1968) (at pg. 584)

John Freshwater was given ample opportunity to alter or adjust his content and style of teaching so as to avoid running headlong into the Establishment Clause and the Policy/Bylaws of the Mount Vernon Board of Education.  Instead, he persisted in his attempts to make eighth grade science what he thought it should be - an examination of accepted scientific curriculum with the discerning eye of Christian doctrine.  John Freshwater ignored the concept of in loco parentis and, instead, used his classroom as a means of sowing the seeds of doubt and confusion in the minds of impressionable students as they searched for meaning in the subject of science.

John Freshwater purposely used his classroom to advance his Christian religious views knowing full well or ignoring the fact that those views might conflict with the private beliefs of his students.  John Freshwater refused and/or failed to employ objectivity in his instruction of a variety of science subjects and, in so doing, endorsed a particular religious doctrine.  By this course of conduct John Freshwater repeatedly violated the Establishment Clause.  Without question, the repeated violation of the Constitution of The United States is a “fairly serious matter” and is, therefore, a valid basis for termination of John Freshwater’s contract(s).  Further, he repeatedly acted in defiance of direct instructions and orders of the administrators - his superiors.  These defiant acts are also a “fairly serious matter” and, therefore, a valid basis for termination of John Freshwater’s contract (s).  My recommendation to the Board of Education of the Mount Vernon City School District is that the Board terminate John Freshwater’s contract(s) for “good and just cause”.

NCSE will have the full document up in the next few days.

83 Comments

I have to say that I was disappointed that the referee didn’t pick up on Hamilton’s Christian conspiracy theory. :)

But seriously, having been blessed by the Lord with such an appropriate pulpit for saving the souls of children, would God not have wanted Freshwater to take advantage of the opportunity? Why would God have provided it, if not to use it? Surely in good faith he couldn’t have ignored or countermanded God’s clear wishes, could he? His clear and divine authority FAR outranked mere mortal (and obviously incorrect) restrictions.

I imagine Freshwater is baffled that the BOE and Shepherd can’t see that. How could someone with a name like Shepherd possibly recommend against him?

Finally.

RBH said:

I have to say that I was disappointed that the referee didn’t pick up on Hamilton’s Christian conspiracy theory. :)

Reading that reminds me of all the creepy innuendo and paranoia that come from fundamentalist pulpits.

I would suggest that the kind of innuendo that comes from those pulpits is closely linked to all the vicious political rhetoric that incites the kind of violence we have just seen today against Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona.

Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, that kind of violence came from the extreme left. Now it is coming from the extreme right; and the rhetoric has a familiar ring of vague enemies, persecution, destruction of individual liberty, “second amendment remedies,” and the “removal of God from society.”

I see the dismissal of the “cross burning” issue on the technicality that Freshwater stopped doing it when he was told to directly and explicitly to stop.

I am still a little disappointed he was not charged with child endangerment.

OH WELL.

At least he wasn’t trying to murder liberals with a gun.

Mike Elzinga could at least have waited for the nut to speak for himself, or for the bodies to get cold, before he went off topic to score political points.

Gabriel Hanna said:

Mike Elzinga could at least have waited for the nut to speak for himself, or for the bodies to get cold, before he went off topic to score political points.

Take a look at Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s briefing.

The whole affair finally worked itself out about the way it should have, with the exception of the amount of time wasted in the process.

FWIW, I believe the AZ shooter was a mis(under?)diagnosed mental patient. Looking at his videos, it’s hard not to believe he didn’t pick up on some of the ‘gold standard’ nutjob appeals of Beck et.al. His biggest beef seemed to be those at his former school though. Not sure why he was targeting the congresswoman.

Enjoy.

Gary Hurd said:

I see the dismissal of the “cross burning” issue on the technicality that Freshwater stopped doing it when he was told to directly and explicitly to stop.

I am still a little disappointed he was not charged with child endangerment.

OH WELL.

At least he wasn’t trying to murder liberals with a gun.

I skimped on my summary of this issue. Here is what the referee said:

Due to the sensational and provocative nature of this specified ground, it and the facts and circumstances surrounding it became the focus of the curious, including those in the video, audio, and print media. Once sworn testimony was presented, it because obvious that speculation and imagination had pushed reality aside. There was a plausible explanation for how and why the Tesla Coil had been used by John Freshwater. Further, and more crucial to a review of the Amended Resolution, the use of the Tesla Coil by John Freshwater did not seem to be a proper subject for the Amended Resolution. By letter of January 22, 2008 as authorized by Principal William White (Board Exhibit 6 – Attachment 16) the Tesla Coil matter had been concluded. John Freshwater was instructed to cease and desist the use of the device “for purposes of shocking students”. No evidence was presented that John Freshwater used the Tesla Coil for any purpose thereafter. The issue and incident was dealt with by the administration. That case was closed.

I agree with Dr Hurd. Use of the coil to mark students was grounds for termination, whether in the shape of a cross or not, whether stopped when told to or not. There is no plausible explanation for the abuse of minors as acceptable behavior.

As an orthodox Christian, who accepts evolution , I object to the statement that John Freshwater’s bias grew from his fervent and deep seated Christian beliefs. That is not so as it stems from his FUNDAMENTALIST and CREATIONIST beliefs which are not the same

Michael Roberts said: As an orthodox Christian, who accepts evolution , I object to the statement that John Freshwater’s bias grew from his fervent and deep seated Christian beliefs. That is not so as it stems from his FUNDAMENTALIST and CREATIONIST beliefs which are not the same

John Freshwater’s bias grew from his fervent and deep seated Christian beliefs.” Freshwater’s beliefs are not Hindu beliefs or Muslim beliefs or Buddhist beliefs - they are Christian beliefs. Yes, they are narrowly fundamentalist / creationist beliefs - which are, unfortunately, a subset of Christian beliefs. But they are Christian beliefs.

Perhaps the majority of Christians who accept evolution should start speaking out more forcefully against the minority of fundamentalist creationist Christians who hold scientific illiteracy to be a virtue and who treasure their willful ignorance as a core value.

Mike Elzinga said:

Gabriel Hanna said:

Mike Elzinga could at least have waited for the nut to speak for himself, or for the bodies to get cold, before he went off topic to score political points.

Take a look at Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s briefing.

I would’ve let this be if Mike hadn’t decided to double down.

The mentally ill kid who killed all those people thinks the government is trying to control our minds through grammar. He didn’t learn that from Glenn Beck, and it is wrong for the sheriff to use this against his political enemies. It also makes me wonder where Sheriff Dupnik was from 2003 - 2008, if he thinks violent rhetoric is something that only comes from the right.

But hey, politics ain’t beanbag, right? As the President says, if they bring a knife he’ll bring a gun, because Republicans are hostage-takers with bombs strapped to them. (Of course I’ve run together statements he made on separate occasions.)

If you want to blame violent rhetoric for the actions of a mentally ill kid, I don’t think it is right to do so selectively. Nobody knows yet why that kid wanted to killed all those people, most likely he is mentally ill and he needs treatment–but some people had to use it for political advantage even before the facts came out. Not only is this in bad taste, but is hypocritical as well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_[…]t_(2006_film) http://twitter.com/mmfa/status/22739013962

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

As the President says, if they bring a knife he’ll bring a gun, because Republicans are hostage-takers with bombs strapped to them. (Of course I’ve run together statements he made on separate occasions.)

This isn’t “humor”, it isn’t “satire”, it’s just a patently false description of President Obama. I have plenty of dissatisfaction with President Obama, but to imply that he isn’t conciliatory and “bipartisan” enough toward Republicans is to either lie or live in a fantasy world.

I have no idea why you inserted this kind of sleaze into your comments. Although I didn’t entirely agree with you, the rest of what you said was defensible and connected to reality.

The shooter was a tragically mentally ill young man, lacking clear cut “motive”. That is true. I think that he was almost certainly influenced by an environment of violent political rhetoric, but that’s just my educated opinion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_[…]t_(2006_film)

1) Even if we assume that this film represented an exhortation to kill former president Bush, in the paraphrased words of that great American, Benjamin Franklin, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Why do conservatives persist in using the “somebody else did it too” excuse? Most five year olds can grasp why that isn’t logically sound. We all know that there have been violent people who were on the “left”.

2) However, the contrast of economically right wing violent extremists and economically left wing violent extremists is a false one. In fact, they are somewhat similar, and tend to equally despise human rights respecting “liberals”. As what you might label a “liberal”, I oppose all violent authoritarian human rights abusers, regardless of the economic policies which they may happen to attach to their fundamentally authoritarian ideology.

3) I never heard of this film before, and I am very aware of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Sharron Angle. To the best of my knowledge, there were no assassination attempts made on George W. Bush. I condemn violence and disregard for human rights no matter who is guilty, but right now, in the US, quantitatively, it is the right wing that is doing most of this, and getting its message out better.

OK folks, that’s it for the derail. Any more on that topic and I’ll toss everything to the BW. And that’s a chore on this software, so let it go, please.

Thank you. Every time something like this happens, it gets milked for all it’s worth.

RBH said:

OK folks, that’s it for the derail. Any more on that topic and I’ll toss everything to the BW. And that’s a chore on this software, so let it go, please.

My fault; I should have anticipated the political offense taken when pointing to an ideological atmosphere.

Sorry.

I’m guilty of three comments, although all of them were responses.

Any future comments I make on this thread will be directly related to Freshwater.

Freshwater is part of a broad cultural phenomenon, of course. I have absolutely no reason to think that he is associated with advocacy of direct political violence, but he is an example of a public school teacher attempting to use a tax payer funded position to push dogma, and he did commit mild but unacceptable violence against students with the Tesla coil; indeed, if he hadn’t, he’d probably still be employed.

Although the case has been long and convoluted, it seems, ultimately, to be likely to end in a victory for law and order. Freshwater could not resist trying to “get away with” actions that clearly violated local standards as well as the Establishment Clause, and eventually, his career was affected.

He could have taught the curriculum well, worshiped privately, and set a good example, but he couldn’t resist trying to take over from students’ families, and pushing his own sectarian religious dogma, during the time period when the taxpayers were paying him to teach high school science.

What is especially ironic is that Freshwater’s apparent talent and popularity as a teacher are not only now wasted, but served as enablers. It is a documented fact that his not especially selected class did reasonably well on standardized tests. We don’t have a control, but this rules out teaching deficiencies beyond a certain degree of severity. He seems to have been relatively popular, and although some students may have felt bullied or excluded, it isn’t clear that he was a massive offender in that sense, either. Probably, if Freshwater had been a less effective teacher, efforts to push creationism would have gotten him in trouble much earlier in his career. Sadly, instead of using his ability to promote excellent education, he made it a tool of his dogma pushing.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

stevaroni said:

[Off topic arguments]

We were already warned by RBH not to talk about those shootings here.

You guys can fight the larger political battle at After the Bar Closes, OK?

I have mentioned on other threads about Freshwater that I know personally a teacher who was not let go after he had openly and brazenly proselytized and denigrated other religions.

Given Freshwater’s disregard for the law and his insubordination; and given that concocted “conspiracy theory” against him, I was attempting to suggest that it is fairly clear the kind of ideological atmosphere in which he operates outside of his job.

It is not hard to find examples of such atmospheres. There are plenty already available over on AiG. Here is Ken Ham’s ”State of the Nation 2”. And here is A. Charles Ware.

There is much more on just this site alone. And one can find these on the religion channels on TV very easily.

The teacher I know displayed similar defiance, in the face of evidence recorded on tape and video by his students, to administrative demands that he stop. Yet he hasn’t been fired. The teacher is a church member with one of our local politicians who, when in the State Legislature, sponsored or cosponsored bills that would inject ID/creationism into the public school curriculum (that’s his only legacy).

I’ve visited some of these churches, and I know some of the people who go to these churches. Some of them have written angst-filled letters to the editor of our local newspaper about the horrible effects of the teaching of evolution on our children.

These are not isolated ideological environments out on the fringes that few people notice. These are the kinds of thoughts and fears that unscrupulous demagogues exploit to derail intelligent dialogue on crucial issues facing all of society.

The Freshwater incidents are simply the more visible hints of the mental states that become the fodder for exploitation and manipulation.

Paul Burnett said:

Michael Roberts said: As an orthodox Christian, who accepts evolution , I object to the statement that John Freshwater’s bias grew from his fervent and deep seated Christian beliefs. That is not so as it stems from his FUNDAMENTALIST and CREATIONIST beliefs which are not the same

John Freshwater’s bias grew from his fervent and deep seated Christian beliefs.” Freshwater’s beliefs are not Hindu beliefs or Muslim beliefs or Buddhist beliefs - they are Christian beliefs. Yes, they are narrowly fundamentalist / creationist beliefs - which are, unfortunately, a subset of Christian beliefs. But they are Christian beliefs.

Perhaps the majority of Christians who accept evolution should start speaking out more forcefully against the minority of fundamentalist creationist Christians who hold scientific illiteracy to be a virtue and who treasure their willful ignorance as a core value.

I get told off in my church when I criticize creationism. There is a mindset which does not want to believe how awful creationists are

The REAL Dale Husband said:

stevaroni said:

[Off topic arguments]

We were already warned by RBH not to talk about those shootings here.

Yeah, eventually I saw that. It wasn’t up when I went into the reply window to work on my post, so I didn’t know the venue had moved till I hit “submit” and returned to the thread.

I get told off in my church when I criticize creationism.

all the more reason to keep bringing up the issue then.

denialism is a hard thing to break.

harold said:

What is especially ironic is that Freshwater’s apparent talent and popularity as a teacher are not only now wasted, but served as enablers. It is a documented fact that his not especially selected class did reasonably well on standardized tests. We don’t have a control, but this rules out teaching deficiencies beyond a certain degree of severity. He seems to have been relatively popular, and although some students may have felt bullied or excluded, it isn’t clear that he was a massive offender in that sense, either. Probably, if Freshwater had been a less effective teacher, efforts to push creationism would have gotten him in trouble much earlier in his career. Sadly, instead of using his ability to promote excellent education, he made it a tool of his dogma pushing.

He undoubtedly was a good teacher, in the sense of being enthusiastic, caring and interested in the kids. In that way this is a tragic waste.

Several variables contributed to what the referee called Freshwater’s determination to “…to inject his personal religious beliefs into his plan and pattern of instruction of his students.”

First, he himself wholly buys into the AIG/Hovind/Wells anti-evolution view. He had a Hovind video and Wells’s Icons of Evolution in his classroom in 2008, and I put no credence whatsoever in his claim that he was using them merely to illustrate “bias.” That was a desperation move to attempt to tie that crap to the Academic Standards.

In 2003 when he pushed Intelligent Design Network’s “Objective Origins Policy” he used Wells’s materials–Survival of the Fakest and Wells’s Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution as supporting materials.

Second, he was part of a group of teachers and coaches in the middle school of similar views. At least three other teachers–Andrew Thompson, Lori Miller, and Dino D’Ettorre–shared both his evangelical views and his disregard for the First Amendment in the school. Teacher Kerri (Carrie?) Mahan testified that Freshwater taught hydrosphere theory, that tracks showed that dinosaurs and humans had lived at the same time, that Mt. St. Helen’s eruption could have produced coal rapidly, and that T. rex’s teeth showed it couldn’t have been a carnivore, some of the worst creationist trash, and that it was probably she who sent him the Watchmaker video. Finally, Tim Keib, former middle school assistant principal, was a co-religionist and sympathizer who provided administrative cover for Freshwater and the others.

There are doubtless other contributing variables, but as I was quoted by the Columbus Dispatch as saying, “It looks to me like he was running what amounts to a private Christian school embedded in the public school.” He wasn’t alone in it.

I get told off in my church when I criticize creationism.

Several years ago, perhaps around 2001, a colleague of mine in the physics department invited me to talk to his church about creationism – or rather the debunking thereof. I got up at some ungodly hour and met the elders of the church for breakfast, and they pronounced me, um, kosher. We set a date, and I started preparing my talk. I had given similar talks at several churches and a synagogue in Boulder, so I anticipated no difficulties.

Shortly thereafter, I got a call from my colleague – he was mortified to tell me that the opposition to my talk was so intense that he was obliged to cancel. The church had divided into factions, and at least half were unwilling to even tolerate such a talk in their church. I am sure that if the talk had taken place the church would have committed mitosis.

My colleague was utterly bewildered that so many otherwise intelligent people in his own, supposedly mainline church were so completely unwilling to come to grips with modern science. We have, as he noted, a long way to go in the US.

Michael Roberts said:

I get told off in my church when I criticize creationism. There is a mindset which does not want to believe how awful creationists are

Matt Young said:

Several years ago, perhaps around 2001, a colleague of mine in the physics department invited me to talk to his church about creationism – or rather the debunking thereof. I got up at some ungodly hour and met the elders of the church for breakfast, and they pronounced me, um, kosher. We set a date, and I started preparing my talk. I had given similar talks at several churches and a synagogue in Boulder, so I anticipated no difficulties.

Shortly thereafter, I got a call from my colleague – he was mortified to tell me that the opposition to my talk was so intense that he was obliged to cancel. The church had divided into factions, and at least half were unwilling to even tolerate such a talk in their church. I am sure that if the talk had taken place the church would have committed mitosis.

My colleague was utterly bewildered that so many otherwise intelligent people in his own, supposedly mainline church were so completely unwilling to come to grips with modern science. We have, as he noted, a long way to go in the US.

The only churches I feel represent real spirituality anymore (if ever) are Unitarian Universalist churches. You can be Christian there without swallowing any Creationist bull$#it, or even putting up with people who insist Creationism must be true if Christianity is a valid religion. The idea that God would create a universe and leave clues that would eventually trick scientists into accepting evolution, while also leaving us with a book about himself that denies evolution, is rank blasphemy that no one who really beleives in Jesus should tolerate anymore.

eric, I hope you’re right. I know that Freshwater’s tactics are universal among the hard core creationists, as Lenny Flank kept pointing out. Maybe such people are decreasing in number, but it’s hard to tell. I suspect public support for Freshwater’s antics may have faded, but support for his theology is something quite different, and at best it’s driven underground for a while. Do you think you could find a single person in Mt. Vernon who would say “golly, Freshwater is such an expensive nuisance that I guess humans must have evolved after all”? Do you seriously expect the Discovery Institute to acknowledge that their views are false because Judge Jones said so?

I’ll be curious to see where Freshwater goes from here, and whether his past behavior will be an asset or a liability.

Sincerity is no excuse for being wrong.

But nobody is looking for excuses. I’m looking for explanations for this kind of consistent scorched earth take-no-prisoners irremedial religious faith. And I note that the faith is sincere. And I’ve NEVER encountered a creationist willing to admit that he has EVER told a lie. They believe what they are doing is Truth!

As long as you tell the truth, your cause is valid.

And who gets to decide “what is truth”? When they KNOW they are in the right, I’ve noticed that huge compendia of lies they’ve posted can be trotted out, and they treat it like they do all evidence of anything - they ignore it because it is not Truth! The human ability to kid ourselves is boundless. if you KNOW you’re right, everyone on earth can tell you you’re lying, and it won’t bother you a bit. They’re all wrong. You KNOW so.

The “black knight” problem is very real.

Kevin B said:

Perhaps the analogy needs to be more completely split, by noting that you have to *pay* someone to make the bed and the hotel only keeps going because it’s an open system, with replacement money coming in with the guests.

There doesn’t have to be any association with order or free energy or anything like that. All the good statistical mechanics and thermodynamics books are very clear on this. This applies only to particular cases; cases which unfortunately have been used to illustrate the concept, and which have lead to the misconception that entropy is about spatial order.

Entropy simply refers to the number of available microstates that is consistent with the total energy of a system. It’s actually the logarithm of that multiplied by Boltzmann’s constant; and that is for an isolated system. And if you want to be more general it’s

S = - kB Σ pi ln pi.

And in statistical mechanics it is the partial of that with respect to the total energy that becomes the definition of temperature. The relationships among thermodynamics variables are what become important.

But in discussing this with laypeople, it is not necessary to even mention the logarithm or any of that other stuff. But it is important to dismantle the misconception that the second law of thermodynamics is about everything coming all apart and disintegrating (contrary to what biologists say about evolution being about everything going in the opposite direction). Matter condenses at every level of complexity; and the second law is required for this to happen.

Kevin B said: Your new mixing analogy still loses energy in going round a complete cycle, which is really what the 2nd Law is about.

Eh? Thermodynamically, mixing beakers of the left- and right-handed molecules is the same as mixing beakers of identical fluids. The scrambling of the left- and right-handed molecules is irrelevant to the calculation of entropy.

Again, the trick is that changes in spatial relationships IN AND OF THEMSELVES are not addressed by the SLOT.

mrg said:

Take two beakers, each with a liquid molecule in them that happens to have mirror forms. One is full of right-handed molecules, the other is full of left-handed molecules. Mix them together, it’ll be hell to sort them out … is there an increase in entropy? If the beakers were at the same temperature, no.

No, when you mix the left- and right-handed molecules there is an increase in entropy, the entropy of mixing.

I once mentioned here the fellow I worked who I hated to ask a question. He was a nice enough guy, but I would end up knowing less than I did before I asked.

You must have asked him who the intelligent designer is.

SWT said: No, when you mix the left- and right-handed molecules there is an increase in entropy, the entropy of mixing.

OK, looks like I’m getting in over my head here. But would this be different if the fluids were the same or different? The wikipedia article seems to say that the entropy increase is simply due to the addition of volumes.

Karen S. said: You must have asked him who the intelligent designer is.

Nah. Usually, when that question is asked the answer is: “We don’t have to identify the Designer. We just need to identify Design.”

“TAKE THE FIFTH! TAKE THE FIFTH!”

“I exercise my constitutional right not to incriminate myself … “

“HOORAY!”

mrg said:

SWT said: No, when you mix the left- and right-handed molecules there is an increase in entropy, the entropy of mixing.

OK, looks like I’m getting in over my head here. But would this be different if the fluids were the same or different? The wikipedia article seems to say that the entropy increase is simply due to the addition of volumes.

If you increase volume by adding more particles, you add more ways energy can be distributed among microscopic states.

This is probably getting this thread way off track, but here are some links to a talk I gave last October. The audio recorder died about 2/3 of the way through the talk, but the PowerPoint presentation has some simple examples of calculating entropy.

Perhaps we should take this over to the Bathroom Wall or one of those previous thread on thermodynamics.

mrg said:

“TAKE THE FIFTH! TAKE THE FIFTH!”

Take the fifth until you are too drunk to answer coherently.

eric said:

“It could save a soul” could justify any act. But they don’t do any act. They don’t torture to save souls, for instance. So obviously they weigh the social and ethical costs and benefits of their actions to their cause.

Ahem! They do torture to save souls! Many of them torture their own children. Freshwater tortured other people’s - with that Tesla device. Or is everyone following the referee’s example in ignoring that now?

Mike Elzinga said: If you increase volume by adding more particles, you add more ways energy can be distributed among microscopic states.

Yeah, that’s what the wikipedia article seems to say and it makes sense, but I was curious as to whether it made any difference (in general) if the fluids mixed were the same or different.

I suppose further discussion should be on the BW. It’s not like it’s an inconvenience to do so and it is good to encourage the practice.

Mike Elzinga said: Take the fifth until you are too drunk to answer coherently.

Yes, but creobots don’t need to get drunk to do that.

mrg said:

SWT said: No, when you mix the left- and right-handed molecules there is an increase in entropy, the entropy of mixing.

OK, looks like I’m getting in over my head here. But would this be different if the fluids were the same or different? The wikipedia article seems to say that the entropy increase is simply due to the addition of volumes.

Right – it’s about the volume available to each species. The key is that the species you’re talking about have to be distinguishable – the ideal entropy change is the same for any set of distinguishable species. It’s an interesting example because the result is not intuitive; at least, it wasn’t to me the first time I came across it.

Back to the topic at hand, I have to say that I’m relieved that the referee ruled as he did, but it’s a pity that so many resources, public and private, were wasted due to Freshwater’s stupidly defiant behavior.

Freshwater tortured other people’s - with that Tesla device. Or is everyone following the referee’s example in ignoring that now?

I don’t think even the Dennises regarded that as “torture”. It was really more like an initiation rite, very very mild hazing at best.

Even if we take very seriously the psychological power of having gone through the initiation and become a member of the holy brotherhood (and such rites ARE powerful), it still doesn’t fit any sensible notion of “torture”, even psychologically.

And vanishingly few religious people, even fanatics, deliberately injure their own children. Those who do tend to have other mental issues unrelated to religious faith. But we know that religious authorities have used torture to spread their faith when they could, here and there in the past.

SEF said: Ahem! They do torture to save souls! Many of them torture their own children. Freshwater tortured other people’s - with that Tesla device. Or is everyone following the referee’s example in ignoring that now?

I’m a little tired of that level of hyperbole.

Flint said:

very very mild hazing at best.

Hazing is on the torture spectrum. It isn’t magically not torture just because you’re habituated to it in your culture. It just means you’re too uncivilised to notice. Rather like white, male (anglo-saxon, protestant) privilege being oblivious to itself.

Flint said: I suspect public support for Freshwater’s antics may have faded, but support for his theology is something quite different,

Well, my original comment about him demeaning his own religion was related to your first suspicion. His actions have reduced his credibility (in the eyes of other people) to the point where no outsider will take him seriously. His acts will not result in the Mt. Vernon flock growing; if anything it may cause the flock to shrink.

Do you think you could find a single person in Mt. Vernon who would say “golly, Freshwater is such an expensive nuisance that I guess humans must have evolved after all”?

I hope not! The ethicalness or unethicalness of Freshwater’s actions are irrelevant to the evidence of evolution. Your hypothetical quote is an example of someone using the false dichotomy we typically argue against. Even though the result is the one we agree with, if someone did make that argument, we should correct them: its the massive amount of multiple independent lines of evidence that provides support for the theory of evolution - not the unethical behavior of some of its opponents.

I think what we should hope for is that some regular folks, who really didn’t know much about the creation/evolution issue at the start of this, changed their minds from thinking creation had some “there” there to understanding that it doesn’t. I.e. “if that’s the sort of teaching Freshwater means when he says ‘teach alternatives,’ I’ve changed my mind - I don’t want it in my kid’s schools.”

SEF -

One thing you’re accomplishing with the hyperbole is creating a false equivalence between the life-devastating experiences of the millions of people who have experienced torture (some of whom experienced it as a form of “hazing”), and an experience of mild pain and social discomfort.

Freshwater was abusive, and that was part of the reason he was fired.

Torture does not have a cut and dried definition, as the infamous debates on whether or not “water-boarding is torture” of a few years ago illustrated in a despicable way.

Still, some things are clearly torture, and other things clearly don’t meet a reasonable person’s idea of torture. To refuse to make such a distinction is to engage in hyperbole.

Ok, so, next time I will only talk about 5 folded pairs of socks, in a drawer with 10 “spaces”, and call all the different possible arrangements an example of entropy.

Ntrsvic said:

Ok, so, next time I will only talk about 5 folded pairs of socks, in a drawer with 10 “spaces”, and call all the different possible arrangements an example of entropy.

:-)

But you will have to fold in the statistical law that says that at least one pair of socks will have a sock missing.

Mike Elzinga said:

Ntrsvic said:

Ok, so, next time I will only talk about 5 folded pairs of socks, in a drawer with 10 “spaces”, and call all the different possible arrangements an example of entropy.

:-)

But you will have to fold in the statistical law that says that at least one pair of socks will have a sock missing.

Hozone (ho’ zohn) - n. The place where one sock in every laundry load disappears to. - Rich Hall Sniglets

RBH said: I’m a little tired of that level of hyperbole.

Ditto. I’ve no basic objections to outspoken atheism, but I don’t think I’m going to forget the guy who started railing at me about faith healing when I told him I didn’t recall having any neighbors who performed human sacrifices.

This unfortunate professional was not able to overcome the conditioning that pervades our society and the better part of western civilization, that perpetuates the myth that God’s will trumps all other authorities. Furthermore it follows that he has specifically been chosen as a unique agent and endowed with the tools of his mission by none other than the creator of all, The Great I Am. He will always feel this way and any atempt to restore him to reason will be seen as an attack of the enemy who is bent on the destruction of his and his charges souls. He will awaken each day with a small sadness in his psyche that says that he failed in this particular mission, yet will feel worthy of the Lords blessings by the very fact that the enemy saw him as a sufficient threat to warrant the intervention of the enemy’s most fearsome of agents: The State.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on January 8, 2011 6:37 PM.

Freshwater: Referee recommends termination was the previous entry in this blog.

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