Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Kitzmiller Roundup at eSkeptic

Ed Brayton (St. Cynic) and Burt Humburg have written an article for eSkeptic magazine, discussing the Kitzmiller case and ruling.

...After 40 days and nights of testimony, the first evolution-Intelligent Design trial of the 21st century drew to a close in Federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While evolution trials in the 20th century had focused more on traditional creationism, Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District pit the teaching of evolution against a more legally sophisticated challenger, Intelligent Design (ID).”

“This is a stunning blow against Intelligent Design and creationism, but we are not surprised by it given how the trial unfolded. The first handicap that ID advocates had to deal with was the zeal of the law firm representing them. The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC),... TMLC sought out confrontations with the ACLU on a number of fronts, from public nativity and Ten Commandment displays to gay marriage and pornography. But the fight they really wanted, it seems, was over evolution in public school science classrooms,..

Its a very good article discussing the origins of the case: from the legal precedents concerning the teaching of Creation Science in science classrooms, Edwards vs. Aguillard (1987), to how the book of Pandas and People evolved from the Creationist Science manifesto it was at the time of that ruling, by replacing “Creator” with “Intelligent Designer”, to how the legal teams for each side came to represent their clients:

“TMLC representatives traveled the country from at least early 2000, encouraging school boards to teach ID in science classrooms. From Virginia to Minnesota, TMLC recommended the textbook Of Pandas and People (Pandas) as a supplement to regular biology textbooks, promising to defend the schools free of charge when the ACLU filed the inevitable lawsuit.”

and for the Plaintiffs

“Eric Rothschild, one of the partners of the Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton LLP and a member of the NCSE legal advisory council, enthusiastically offered to take the case, telling Scott, ‘I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years.’”

Despite the deep divide between the two sides in this issue, evident in the many internet fora where discussion about this case has raged, it is encouraging to consider this from the article:

“Eventually, the attorneys would make closing statements and summarize their cases. Judge Jones, in a gesture of class, complimented the attorneys for their advocacy, stating “Every single one of you made me aware of why I became a lawyer and why I became a judge.””

Hopefully, we can all go back to performing our own roles as scientists, teachers, religious instructors, parents,... and set aside the unnecessary differences activists groups like the Discovery Institute and the TMLC have sought to exploit in this issue.

Go check it out.

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Kitzmiller decision conclusion of Judge Jones

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs’ rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants’ actions.

Defendants’ actions in violation of Plaintiffs’ civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

John E. Jones III
United States District Judge

(emphasis mine)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dembski: "I told you so."

(Update: Apparently there are a lot of people eager to here what Dembski had to say about the ruling. He has temporarily exceeded his Bandwidth for the site.)
(Update2: He's up again.)

William Dembski has broken his silence on the Kitzmiller verdict. Several bloggers have been anticipating a reaction from Dr. Dembski, who is known as “the Issac Newton of Information Theory” and is one of the most prominent advocates of Intelligent Design Creationism, after the predictable response from the Discovery Institute proclaiming Bush appointee, Judge John Jones, as a "judicial activist" who is attempting to “censor criticism of Darwin” by ruling against the teaching of an inherently religious concept like Intelligent Design.

Rather than going on the attack, like the Discovery Institute, Dembski stands behind his earlier post predicting three possible outcomes in the case:

"As I see it, there are three possible outcomes:

  1. The Dover policy, in which students are informed that the ID textbook Of Pandas and People is in their library, is upheld.
  2. The Dover policy is overturned but the scientific status of ID is left unchallenged.
  3. The Dover policy is not only overturned but ID is ruled as nonscientific."

Since Dembski has previously shown a lack of ability to properly estimate statistical probabilities, perhaps it should come as no surprise that he gave this particular possibility, that the Judge would rule against the School Board’s policy and declare that the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, only a 10% chance of coming to fruition.

In his summation Dembski says:

“I trust that Providence will bring about the outcome that will best foster ID’s ultimate success.”

I agree, Providence will most certainly bring about the appropriate outcome for ID.

Since part of that outcome appears to be the righteous smackdown ID received at the hands of Judge John Jones, I estimate a 90% probability that the outcome Providence has in store for ID will be negative!

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Intelligent Design Creationism ruled Unconstitutional!

Well the verdict is in! Judge Jones has ruled in the case of Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, and he has decided to rule broadly against the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism in public school science classes calling the whole endeavor an “inherently religious” alternative to the theory of evolution.

This is excellent news not only for students in the Dover School District, but for students and teachers all across America.

The Judge’s ruling which is well written and very, educational for a scientist with no legal training, ruling can be found here. Perhaps I’ll do another post after reading the whole thing. As you might expect the ruling is being discussed around the blogosphere right now.

PZ Meyers has rapid-fire posted several thoughts on the ruling, and has even beaten me to the Discovery Institute’s sadly typical reaction. (This blogging thing may be more competitive than I thought! Oh well, we may never sing the lead, but at least we can add another voice to the choir.)

The Discovery Institute's reaction is standard issue political fare these days, attack the other side, attack the judges

"/The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate,../"

Judge Jones of course is a Bush appointee, Bush himself has said he supports teaching both sides of the debate. Not to mention scientific ideas are spread through publishing them in peer-reviewed journals not through indoctrinating school children.

(The original case that ruled the teaching of Creationism in public schools is Edwards v. Aguillard.)

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We're just getting started here.

Still figuring out the publishing and layout aspects of having a blog. Things will be undergoing changes here for a while. So far we plan on having three bloggers"
  • Moment of Science-- A science educator and scientist.
  • Pharma-Bawd-- A former biologist, now working as a sales rep for the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Reverend Timothy Tidwell-- An ordained Minister and fan and student of science.
We were inspired to start this blog by a bumper sticker:

"What schools today really need is a moment of Science!"

We wholeheartedly agree. We will post about science, primarily biology, its uses, abuses, and misuses in an hopes of making some small contribution towards reversing current trends to corrupt or disrupt the teaching of science in America today.

In addition to writing about recent scientific accomplishments in the news, we will be discussing current political maneuvers that help or hurt science, the efforts to corrupt the teaching of science in high school science classes by Intelligent Design Creationists and the like, and we will occassionally discuss current research papers from the scientific literature. In addition to these essays we will have an irregular feature that will offer science experiments that can be done in the home or classroom (think: ideas for your kid's science fair project!) to help our readers understand and experience some aspects of the science that we are discussing.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Let Us Give Thanks,

for S-1317.

Congratulations to the US Senate for passing a bill to fund a national umbilical cord blood stem cell bank in the US. Senate Republicans prevented a related bill, H.R. 810, that would have overturned President Bush’s ban on research exploring the full potential of stem cells for regenerative medicine from coming to a vote this year. But at least the Republicans were forced to spend money creating an umbilical cord blood stem cell registry that will benefit the American people:

The new bill creates a national databank that can be used by doctors to treat diseases – including leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and Krabbe disease, which mostly affects infants – and will provide 79 million dollars to increase the availability of cord blood, making it easier for doctors to find a match for patients, according to the Associated Press.

The number of units available would increase to 150,000 making matches available to 90 percent of patients who need it. “

This shows that the Republicans are under tremendous pressure on the area of funding embryonic stem cell research.
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