Archive for the 'Religion in Schools' category

Seed Magazine in the Classroom: Grounds for Suspending the Teacher??

Oct 31 2009 Published by under Religion in Schools

Apparently, offering high school English students the chance to read an article on the Seed Magazine website is ground for suspension - at least if you're an English teacher in Piasa, Illinois.

According to several media reports, teacher Dan DeLong has been suspended with pay pending a Monday evening board meeting. The suspension came about when a parent complained about the content of an optional, extra-credit assignment that DeLong had offered students in one of his 10th grade honors classes. The assignment? Read an online version of an article by ScienceBlogger Jonah Lehrer that appeared in a 2006 issue of Seed Magazine. The article in question deals with homosexuality. In animals.

That's right. Apparently, Teh Gay is so offensive that students need to be protected from being permitted to read about it in any form whatsoever, even in animals.

The Superintendent of DeLong's school district is Larry Elesa. His email address is

HT: Jonathan Turley

12 responses so far

Summary Judgment in California Creationist Case: Behe Shoots, Scores, We Get Point (Part 3 of 3)

Given that today really is April 1st, let me start by saying that although Behe is a fool, this post isn't a joke. Everything you're about to read is real. This is the third part of my post on the summary judgment decision in the California Creationist Case. Part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.

It would seem that Mike Behe has, once again, managed to shoot an own goal in the courtroom. The last time that he was an expert witness, during the Dover case, the judge quoted extensively from Behe's testimony, but not in a way that he particularly liked. Ultimately, it seems that he scored more points for his opponents than he did for his friends. He's also an expert witness in the California Creationism Case, and he seems to have once again managed to put the ball right through the wrong goal.

Behe's contribution to the pro-science side of the case appears on page 40 of the written order:

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182 responses so far

Summary Judgment in the California Creationist Case: The Lawyers for the Creationists Argue Like Creationists (Part 2 of 3)

(This is Part 2 of a three part post on Friday's summary judgment ruling in the ACSI v. Stearns creationism lawsuit. Part 1 is here; Part 3 will be up later today.)

If you read Judge Otero's ruling on the summary judgment motions in the California Creationist Case, you'll see that he discovered something that most of us already know: if you're looking for dubious argument tactics, you'll almost always find them when you're reading things written by professional creationists. In the case of the California lawsuit, the Christian schools are being represented by the law firm of Wendell Bird. Bird is no stranger to creationism battles - he served as the general counsel for the young-earth creationist Institute of Creation Research, threw a wrench into Arkansas' efforts to defend it's pro-creationsim policies in the McLean v. Arkansas case, and represented Louisiana's interest in promoting religion during the Edwards v. Aguillard case. After so much time spent working on behalf of creationist groups, it probably shouldn't be surprising that Judge Otero spotted many of the same argument tactics in the Christian schools' legal filings that we see when we look at the day to day output of anti-evolution groups such as the Discovery Institute.

There are some real gems scattered through the ruling. I'm just going to hit on a few of the high points.

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6 responses so far

Summary Judgment in California Creationist Lawsuit: Bottom Line, and What's Next (Part 1 of 3)

On Friday, Judge James Otero of the Central District of California issued a ruling granting the University of California's request for partial summary judgment in the California Creationist Lawsuit. I've written about this case several times before now, but it's been a long time since the last update, so before I get into the details of the ruling, I'm going to quickly review the details of the case.

In 2005, a group of plaintiffs that includes the Association of Christian Schools International, Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murietta, and the parents of several students filed a lawsuit against the University of California. In their suit, they claimed that UC unfairly and unconstitutionally refused to accept a number of courses taught at Christian schools as meeting UC's admissions criteria. The courses in question covered a range of topics, including English, history, religion, and government, but I've mostly focused my attention on the biology courses that failed to make the grade, because that's the area that I know the most about.

One of the specific issues that the Christian Schools are challenging in their lawsuit is UC's decision to reject any course that uses either the A Bekka Books or the Bob Jones University Press biology textbooks as the primary text for the course. As I've said before, this decision makes perfect sense to me. Even the most cursory look at some of the things that these books claim is enough to show that the unfortunate students who are forced to use this text are being taught things that are totally incompatible with science. The Christian schools, it should go without saying, disagree with my assessment.

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8 responses so far

Discovery Institute: Dishonest or Incompetent? I Report, You Decide.

Mar 06 2008 Published by under Religion, Religion in Schools

First, the Discovery Institute didn't seem to know about the anti-evolution bill introduced in Florida last week. Now, they don't seem to actually understand what the bill does. Both of these things are quite strange, considering that the Discovery Institute folks actually wrote all of the substantive parts of the bill.

Rob Crowther just devoted most of an article over at the Discovery Institute's Media Complaints Blog to scolding the media for their coverage of the Florida legislation. Apparently, most of the news coverage made the outrageous claim that the "Academic Freedom Act" would actually permit the teaching of "alternative theories" to evolution. Crowther is outraged, claiming that the bill does no such thing. He thinks that the various media outlets have "been fed some 'smelly crap'" by pro-evolution groups such as Florida Citizens for science. I think it's because the various media outlets have actually read the bill.

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19 responses so far

The Discovery Institute and the Gonzalez Tenure Issue: Why Should Intelligent Design be Privileged?

The Discovery Institute is currently making hay (again) over Iowa State's decision to deny tenure to Discovery Institute Fellow Guillermo Gonzalez. They've held a press conference and issued a press release claiming to have proof that Intelligent Design was "the" issue that resulted in Gonzalez not receiving tenure. I've read the release, and I'm unconvinced.

For starters, their release relies heavily on fragmentary quotes taken from emails that they obtained through an open records inquiry. Given the notorious track record of the entire anti-evolution movement when it comes to quoting scientists, I'm somewhat reluctant to accept the quotes provided at face value, particularly since the DI has not made the full text of the sources available for examination. Even if all of the quotes the DI uses do accurately capture the spirit of the full emails they are taken from (and does anyone want to offer me odds on that), I still don't think they've made their point. At most, they've demonstrated that Intelligent Design was a factor in the decision. Since people who were involved in making the decision have already said as much publicly, that's not exactly a shocking revelation.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Intelligent Design was the overriding factor in the tenure decision. Heck, let's assume that it was the only factor that came into play in the tenure process. Let's pretend, in short, that the Discovery Institute has actually provided overwhelming evidence to support their argument. Let's set aside the facts and evidence that the Discovery Institute's using to support their claims, and look instead at the truly strange nature of the claims themselves.

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60 responses so far

The Discovery Institute, Casey Luskin, "Judicial Activism", and Blatant Hypocrisy

One of the joys of procrastination is that sometimes if you wait long enough, someone else really will take care of things. I mention that because Ed Brayton just did a good job dismantling Casey Luskin's latest whine about how big bad Judge Jones was such a nasty judicial activist for daring to issue a ruling in the Dover, PA Intelligent Design case that addressed the question of whether or not ID is good science. I was planning a long and detailed post on the same thing, but now all that I have to do is highlight one point that Ed didn't make in his post.

As Ed points out, there were a number of reasons for Jones to rule on that point. For starters, he had to look at that if he wanted to handle the case in front of him the same way that the Supreme Court handled its last creationism case. (That's called following precedent.) He also needed to look at that point in order to apply the test commonly used by the Federal Courts when they look at Establishment Clause cases. (That's also called following precedent.) As Ed also notes, both the plaintiffs and the defendants specifically asked the judge to rule on that point.

What Ed doesn't mention is that the plaintiffs and the defendants were not the only ones who asked Judge Jones to rule on whether or not Intelligent Design is good science:

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26 responses so far

More Bob Jones "Biology for Christian Schools" Howlers

A couple of weeks ago, I posted two ridiculous quotes that are found in the Bob Jones textbook that's involved in the California Creationism lawsuit. I'm still wading through these texts and Behe's report explaining why it's really a very good book for high school students to use to learn biology. It's a slow process, and a painful one, but I've found another couple of outstanding quotes to share with you.

This time, I'm including three different types of quote. There are a couple where the authors say things have absolutely nothing to do with science of any kind (and are totally out to lunch even by the standards of a lot of religious people I know). There's one where the book takes a brief detour into right-wingnuttery. I've also got one quote that I'm including as a special treat for those of you who might still want to claim that the book's fine if you just overlook the insane religious stuff - an example of a case where the authors manage to mangle a very basic concept from genetics.

We'll start with the insane, and move from there to the political, then conclude with the merely wrong.

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78 responses so far

Today's Bob Jones "Biology for Christian Schools" Howlers

I've been continuing to put some time into criticizing Michael Behe's expert report on the creationist texts involved in the California Creationism Case. This is a slow process, partly because I'm also working on other projects and partly because it's difficult to read the Bob Jones "Biology for Christian Schools" text without encountering a range of unpleasant side effects. I've been fighting the increased blood pressure and the nausea, and soldiering on. Along the way, I've encountered some real gems that I thought I'd share with you.

Today, I'm going to give you two quotes: one on Darwin, and one on sexually transmitted diseases. The two are connected only by the surreal nature of what's being said. As you read them, please remember that this is material that's being taught to high school students, and that the folks who are teaching this stuff are suing the University of California, because for some strange reason UC doesn't think that people who have been taught this stuff have adequately completed an actual college preparatory class in biology. All quotes are taken from the most recent (3rd) edition of the text. I'm transcribing by hand, so unless indicated otherwise, all typos are mine.

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66 responses so far

Behe and the California Creationism Case

Sep 05 2007 Published by under Church/State, Religion, Religion in Schools

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

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

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40 responses so far