About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One down against Intelligent Design

US District Judge John Jones III has just ruled that mentioning Intelligent Design in public school science classes amounts to an endorsement of religion, and violates the US Constitution. Judge Jones presided over the high-profile trial in Dover, PA where several parents challenged the local school board (all of whose creationist members have since been defeated at the ballot) on its decision to tell students that the theory of evolution is "not a fact" (duh, it's a theory, just like relativity), and has "inexplicable gaps" (all scientific theories have gaps, whether they are inexplicable or not remains to be seen, and it certainly doesn't constitute evidence for an intelligent designer).

Judge Jones, who is a conservative judge appointed by Bush in 2002, clearly saw through ID proponents' foggy arguments and declared that "the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom," adding "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."

Since the school board that pushed this insanity has not been re-elected, there will be no appeal, which perhaps is unfortunate, since it would have been good to have a Supreme Court statement along the lines of Jones' deliberation. Of course, as the lawyer for the plaintiffs asked a pro-ID witness during the trial -- noting that the wording in a creationist textbook had changed from "creationism" to "intelligent design" to "sudden emergence" -- "We won't be back in a couple of years for the sudden emergence trial, will we?" Oh yes, we will.

31 comments:

  1. "(duh, it's a theory, just like relativity), and has "inexplicable gaps" (all scientific theories have gaps, whether they are inexplicable or not remains to be seen, and it certainly doesn't constitute evidence for an intelligent designer).

    ..."We won't be back in a couple of years for the sudden emergence trial, will we?" Oh yes, we will."

    If you and other secularists would do all this (and this takes a lot of energy and effort on your behalf) for a 'half truth', what would you do if you apprehended and came in contact with something more certain, i.e. the real thing?

    What would you do?

    Seriously.

    cal

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  2. The plaintiff's lawyers did such a good slice and dice job on Michael Behe. Too bad Dembski hadn't shown up too! It would have been interesting to see what he would say when there was no opportunity for evasion

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  3. The judge doesn't know his precedent. According to US v. Holy Trinity Church, 1892, the US is indeed a Christian nation. This is not due to the faith of our citizens, but rather due to the nature of our laws, which are lifted wholesale from the Old and New Testament revelations.

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  4. Cato, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about, which doesn't make for an interesting/constructing discussion. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights are a reflection of the Enlightment, not the Old/New Testament.

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  5. How about the Treaty of Tripoli?

    Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proclaimed it to the Nation.

    Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli states:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

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  6. Cal wrote:

    If you and other secularists would do all this (and this takes a lot of energy and effort on your behalf) for a 'half truth', what would you do if you apprehended and came in contact with something more certain, i.e. the real thing?

    What would you do?

    Seriously.


    Cal, what you fail to see is that Massimo and most of the rest of us who post here do not see evolution as a "half truth" at all, but as proven fact with overwhelming supporting evidence. Therefore, you already have your answer to the "energy and effort" question, since you can see pretty plainly how we feel about fighting the scientific illiteracy and ridiculous religiosity that threaten to undermine the teaching of the fact of evolution.

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  7. This is not due to the faith of our citizens, but rather due to the nature of our laws, which are lifted wholesale from the Old and New Testament revelations

    And lo, God created the electoral college, and it was...well, not so good an idea.

    And later on, God said, "What the hell was I thinking when I designed this?"

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  8. "Therefore, you already have your answer to the "energy and effort" question, since you can see pretty plainly how we feel about fighting the scientific illiteracy and ridiculous religiosity that threaten to undermine the teaching of the fact of evolution."

    Will refer back a bit to the meaning of Christmas issue and priorities in general:

    what people will give their time and energy to provides a wealth of info about what each considers valuable and hopefully truthful. But what people will actually give their lives up for in the face of great persecution (i.e. Christ's disciples) show that his contemporaries who observed his life believed that he was truthful in his claims.

    And the fact that species change, and secondly, that eventually some disappear altogether, hardly rivals the fact hard hearts will not change themselves by themselves, unless an outside force (spirit) acts upon that heart.

    Rational folk know immediately that these are different sorts or levels of "facts", A. And the former cannot legitimately undermine the latter unless it would be able to give a comprehensive explanation for why so many people could even be at odds with a God (and his followers) that does not exist.

    cal

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  9. But what people will actually give their lives up for in the face of great persecution (i.e. Christ's disciples) show that his contemporaries who observed his life believed that he was truthful in his claims.

    That is a logical deduction. What does not logically follow, however, is that because these people died for their beliefs, those beliefs must be true.

    And that's how it is for not only Christianity, but Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and any other religion that, historically, has inspired its adherents to choose martyrdom.

    Just because the 9-11 hijackers believed they were serving God and dying martyr's deaths, does that make their beliefs true? Of course not. And so it is with Christians through the centuries. I will add that Christians, while they may have historically experienced persecution (and no doubt will continue to in some form or other), also are pretty good at "dishing it out" themselves. Many, many Christians have been determined and even sadistic persecuters of those who don't share their religion, and have made martyrs of people from other faiths or even denominations.

    And the fact that species change, and secondly, that eventually some disappear altogether, hardly rivals the fact hard hearts will not change themselves by themselves, unless an outside force (spirit) acts upon that heart.

    Rational folk know immediately that these are different sorts or levels of "facts", A.


    No, cal, rational people know that there is no evidence for and therefore no reason to believe in such a thing as "spirit". Rational people also know that "hard hearts" and "spirits" don't change, only people's minds (brains, really) do. And not always for rational and logical reasons, either. Sadly.

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  10. Sorry, I meant to also say -- if you accept that such a thing as a "spirit" exists, cal, then you do so based on faith, not fact.

    So you are right to use the word "facts" in quotes, as what you describe in your last paragraph aren't facts at all.

    And the former cannot legitimately undermine the latter unless it would be able to give a comprehensive explanation for why so many people could even be at odds with a God (and his followers) that does not exist.

    OK, here's my comprehensive explanation for why people oppose the belief in God(s) and those who profess such a belief:

    1) There is no evidence for a god or gods, and thus no reason to believe in one.

    2) Those "faithful" who believe in a particular god or gods have historically had a nasty habit of oppressing, persecuting, or even killing those who don't -- and precisely because of their sincere and wholehearted belief that this is exactly what their god(s) want them to do.

    This is not to say that religion is the *only* reason for one group of people to oppress, persecute, or kill another. But it is a very common one.

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  11. I don't know anything, so maybe I shouldn't be commenting here. But I'm tempted to be influenced by the Holy Spirit's messages on The Christian Prophet blog regarding dictatorship in public schools and judicial dictatorship. If a judge rules that schools cannot teach what parents want taught, shouldn't the parents get their tax money back? On the humorous side, a message on The Holy Inheritance blog talks about us all being created by love. That would be fun to teach in schools.

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  12. but rather due to the nature of our laws, which are lifted wholesale from the Old and New Testament revelations.

    Most definitely not. Our laws derive from English Common Law which has roots in Roman law which pre-dates Christianity.

    Only 2 of 10 commandments ar even laws -- how can anyone claim they are the basis of our legal system. Thankfully we don't codify into laws any Leviticus or Exodous laws either.

    If our laws were based on the Bible, we would punish not just the perpetrators, but all of their decendents for 10 generations and a host of other nasty things as well.

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  13. Well, at least it is comforting to see a judge being intellectually honest, instead of distorting facts of life like the definition of science and all that with his political/religious views. It's kinda sad to praise somebody for just doing the right thing, but in these times of ressurgence of ignorance, any little thing counts...

    what people will give their time and energy to provides a wealth of info about what each considers valuable and hopefully truthful

    Yeah... I'm trying to decide what to think of people who spend energy and time talking to imaginary friends instead of doing something constructive to society.

    Anyway, back to the defeat of ID in court, nothing surprising to any educated and well informed person with moderate intelligence. But we can be sure "they" wil try again. Some more times with the current IDiocy, until it's so badly beaten it's no hope anymore. Then they'll do another "search/replace" in their books and put something else in there. "Creationism... no, too old fashioned. ID... darn, they shot that one even faster. Too bad, it was quite slick! Let's see, maybe some right-wing nut lawyer who can't even spell 'science' can help us here, it's being done before..."

    Cheers
    J

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  14. The more zealous Christians will not accept this ruling as being a valid interpretation of the Constitution. They don't see separation of church and state as a good thing. Saying that ID is religious and therefor doesn't belong in science class (or school in general) does not get through to them. They WANT religion in schools, constitutional or not. This was just a minor skirmish between the forces of Good and Evil. This time the Devil got to the judge but God will make a comeback. You know it's true, the Bible tells us so.

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  15. “The Christian Constitutional Society, its object is first: The support of the Christian religion. Second: The support of the United States." On July 12, 1804 at his death, Alexander Hamilton said, “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me."

    "For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." -Alexander Hamilton, 1787, following the Constitutional Convention.



    "I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man." -Hamilton, again.



    “ We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart. “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]


    “ It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible."



    “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” [speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs May 12, 1779]



    "To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian" [May 2, 1778, at Valley Forge] -George Washington

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  16. Of course you label this "One down against intelligent design"

    As if this is some kind of victory for liberalism or aetheism or whatever other fringe wacko's see this as a threat...

    It's a victory for denying people access to information. It is a victory for censorship.

    keep clapping.

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  17. OK then, Gunner. In case your histerical temper tantrum abated by now, go read what the real scientists (not the half a dozen IDiots) say about ID and the "controversial arguments" then, and see if the judge wasn't with them on this one. Try Nature, Science, National Academy of Sciences. Heard of these?

    Just requires a modest sized brain and honesty - anyone can do it without much effort.

    Cheers and feed the troll!
    J

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  18. Gunner,

    you are entitled to your opinions, and to express them as best you can (apparently, not very well). But this is my blog, and I delete any post that contains curse words or personal insults. Your choice.

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  19. What I find funny about some of the religious types posting about Christianity on this thread, is that ID was supposedly NOT to be about Christianity. It's "science" remember, not religion.

    Of course the judge in the case saw through this ploy.

    But, of course, some don't seem to want to talk about the actual facts of this particular case, so let me point them out:

    1)The lawers for the plaintiffs were able to prove that the text book "Of Pandas and People" was originally intended as a Creationist (read Christian) text book and not simply a non-religious alternative to evolution.

    2) They also proved, with the help of the Discovery Institute's own Wedge Document, that ID is intended to get the Christian God back into public schools and, again, not simply as a scientific alternative to evolution.

    3) They destroyed Michael Behe on the stand, to the point that he was totally unable to provide a mechanism for his "theory" and was incorrect when it came to those who supposedly peer reviewed his book. (Wether he was intentionaly incorrect, I won't speculate.)

    And the best part....

    4) The caught the defendents, the since ousted school board members, LYING about statements they made about their Christian intentions in advocating for ID and about how they raised the money to buy the above mentioned text books. (On this last point, they are damn lucky the judge didn't charge them with perjury.)

    This is all in the cout transcripts, by the way, in case anyone want's to argue "liberal bias" or "judicial activism."

    Of course, maybe Creationists condone lies and deceit in the pursuit of political gain.

    Noah

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  20. Yeah, Noah, but it shouldn't be surprising (I do sense some sarcasm in your first paragraph there though...)

    When the heat is turned up, people lose control and show the real motives behind all the well planned facade (when there is one to begin with, that is). Just remember how the comedian Pat Robertson blew it up for them with the whole "you voted god out" thing a while ago. I wonder what he'll say of this judge. Who was described as a Republican, church goer, Bush-appointed judge, by the way.

    J

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  21. That 1892 case did not rule that America was a Christian nation, at least not in any formal or legal sense. In the written opinion of the case it was said that America was predominantly Christian (i.e. most citizens were Christian.) ... Duh.

    The whole "it established that America was a Christian nation" thing is another one of David Barton's lies.

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  22. James,

    While it's all nice and good to quote the Founding Fathers extolling the alleged virtues of Christianity (assuming your quotes are even true and not fabrications, as many are), that still doesn't mean that they wanted the government to *enforce* Christianity. Some undoubtedly saw Christianity as a useful thing for keeping the unwashed masses behaving "morally", but that doesn't mean they wanted the government to mandate it.

    Giving a personal opinion that someone ought to be moral and believe X, Y, and Z is not the same thing as saying that enforcing the belief of X, Y, and Z ought to be the law of the land.

    And I'm sure you are aware of the multitude of Founders' quotes condemning Christianity specifically for its bloody history, right?

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  23. "Just because the 9-11 hijackers believed they were serving God and dying martyr's deaths, does that make their beliefs true? Of course not."

    People certainly can choose to die also because of "pride" i.e. they merely believe that others don't have a right to their beliefs. But that was not the case with Christ's disciples. They were not trying to take as many people with them when they died as they could, as terrorists do. (ref to: Irish lib.terrorists, Arab, what have you.) They merely would not deny that Christ was God.

    Therefore, one can't compare all people who choose to give their lives for a cause as being either equal or similar.


    "And so it is with Christians through the centuries. I will add that Christians, while they may have historically experienced persecution (and no doubt will continue to in some form or other), also are pretty good at "dishing it out" themselves."

    One again, there are cultural Christians and there are individuals. As an individual, I occasionally even agree with non-believers and atheists. But while doing so, I will in no way distance myself from Christ and his gospel. People that wind up in the situation to which you refer, may or may not be Christians. It’s easy and almost painless to join a church when Christianity seems to be the most influential and powerful belief system available in a given locality. But that would be the antithesis of what Christ lived and died for. He became so highly unpopular with the religious powers of his time because he proclaimed that “good works” are not enough. And they’re not. Religion becomes dead and destructive when it thinks it can determine what “good” is by itself and on its own terms. Essentially, religious humanism.

    Many have tried it, but scriptures reinforce the idea repeatedly that to truly ‘obey God (having a clean heart) is better than to sacrifice (that is, giving God what WE would WANT to give Him instead.) There is a difference in those two responses to God, and the second leads to death.


    In the end, labels are meaningless if one's life doesn't show evidence of the truth one claims to believe. Part of the truth for me, is being able to live out the truth (and killing and eradicating dissenters is a lazy solution to having to live it out) by contextualizing with persons who don't see things exactly as I do. People who believe that God REALLY is "God" don't fear this.

    cal

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  24. Cal wrote:

    People certainly can choose to die also because of "pride" i.e. they merely believe that others don't have a right to their beliefs. But that was not the case with Christ's disciples.

    Cal, you have no way of knowing this for sure. Your supposition of the motives of Christ's disciples is based on sympathetic sources, not to mention that 1) you weren't there and 2) you have no way of knowing their interior motives for martyrdom.

    And if you really analyze it, you must martyrdom is really not an heroic action at all. Deep down, it's motivated entirely by self interest.

    As Alan Dershowitz writes about Thomas More:

    More followed God’s order and gave up his life on earth for the promise of eternal salvation. For his martyrdom — for his goodness — More has been accorded the honor of sainthood.

    I have never quite understood why people who firmly believe they are doing God’s will are regarded as “good,” even “heroic.” For them the choice is a tactical one that serves their own best interests, a simple consequence of a cost-benefit analysis. Thomas More seemed to understand this far better than those who have lionized him over the centuries.

    To a person who believes that the soul lives forever and the body is merely temporary, it is a simple matter to choose the edge of the sword that will cut off earthly life but preserve the soul. Heaven and hell are forever, while life on earth, especially for a man of More’s age, lasts only a few years. Therefore, if More truly believed in reward and punishment after life, he was no hero. By choosing death over damnation, he demonstrated nothing more than his abiding belief; giving up a few years on earth for an eternity in heaven was a wise trade-off that should earn him a place of honor in the pantheon of true believers, but not in the pantheon of heroes.


    Then cal said:

    One again, there are cultural Christians and there are individuals.

    And there is the "No True Scotsman" logical fallacy as well, which you seem to be very fond of.

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  25. Keep clapping...

    Censorship is awesome!!!
    Thank God (oops!) for liberals. Without them, we'd be forcing our children to think for themselves... or even.. ::gasp:: Make up their own minds!

    Oh the horror!

    Celebrating censorship in schools??? Is this really what the liberal party has become???

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  26. "Liberals" also "censored" the stork "theory" out of sexual education

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  27. Gunner,

    I don't know if you noticed, but the title of this blog is Rationally Speaking not Cheap Inflammatory Rhetoric.

    So I'll ask an honest question and see if you answer in an honest way.

    How many "compeating theories" should we allow in Biology class? I mean in the interest of being fair and letting kids decide for themselves. Because there are literally thousands of them (heck, I can formulate several in the next 5 minuets; you wouldn't want to censor me would you?)

    If we do let them all in, how do we find time to teach other aspects of biology?

    And how about other courses:

    Should we teach Alchemy in Chemistry class?

    Sorcery in Physics class?

    Holocaust denial?

    If your so interested in ending "censoship", where do you draw the line?

    P.S.

    On a side note, I would still like at least one of the evolution deniers on this blog to answer why the judge should have found for the defense after catching them red handed in various forms of dishonesty.

    Noah

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  28. "Censorship is awesome!!!
    Thank God (oops!) for liberals. Without them, we'd be forcing our children to think for themselves... or even.. ::gasp:: Make up their own minds!"


    Every person has the right to say that the sky is colored a bright emerald green. That doesn't mean that such an assertion should be taught as an objective fact.

    I worked with a mentally ill person who "saw" eyes staring at them through non-existent holes in the ceiling. You get to choose your subjective reality (or, as in his case, his brain chemistry made the choice for him), but you shouldn't be able to impose it upon young minds as factual.

    ~ Bob

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  29. Hey, guys, don't give this kind of people attention and the troll goes away... Hopefully.

    I mean, Cal and others who hang around this blog but have different opinions at least try to argue politely and all that.

    But on to the important part! If ID were to make into science classes, I'd want my favotite explanation for life, the universe and everything taught in all schools too:
    http://www.venganza.org/

    At least it makes predictions (something no IDer gave me so far).

    J

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  30. J,

    I agree that gunner is a troll, but i like trolls, they are at least good for a laugh. And trust me, he (or she) is following up on what he writes. Otherwise, he wouldn't keep posting.

    Noah

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  31. Dear Masimo,

    Thanks for the interesting notes on the recent Dover court decision. I have read and thought about this for some time and I still have a question in my own mind about teaching intelligent design and creationism in science class. The problem for me is that we seem to be in this mess (the wide acceptance of creationism by the public) because of the way science is taught. In elementary and high schools it is taught as a collection of facts rather like history rather than as a way of finding out about the world. I would like to see more on method and philosophy of science even in the elementary grades. I see a course that would talk about science, pseudoscience, and non-science, which would touch on such ideas as ID and Creationism as illustrations of what is not science. I would draw on the writings of Martin Gardner, Randi, and yourself for that matter, to make the point that science is based on observation and experiment and ID and Creationism, as well as a host of other beliefs, are not. I realize there are practical problems of time and the need to cover a lot of material but I think a lot of what science courses now cover consists of facts that nonscientists are not likely to use. As far as public schools are concerned, it is better to make people more capable consumers of science than treat them as if they would one day be scientists. They need to be able to evaluate scientific claims and make decisions about the use of science in society. So lets make a curriculum that includes ID. The ID proponents will learn to be careful what they wish for.

    Rick

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