Pharyngula

There’s an ugly case brewing in Ohio. A popular middle school science teacher has been ordered to remove his copy of the bible from his desk. On the face of it, I think letting a teacher have a bible on his desk or on his person should not be a problem — it’s nothing but a personal tchotchke, and it’s not worth fighting over. John Freshwater, though, has made it more than an expression of personal preference. He is proselytizing in the public school classroom. Freshwater is responsible for turning this into a church-state separation case; he’s one of those particularly obnoxious Christians who wrap themselves in sanctimony and loudly demand that they have more than a right to believe (a right I would defend), they have a right to tell their students what they must believe, and who uses every opportunity to evangelize in defiance of his professional responsibilities.

The school has a right and an obligation to tell him to knock it off, and if he won’t comply, they should hold him in violation of his contract and fire him. But I wouldn’t have him fired for being a pretentious Christian, only for refusal to do his job.

There’s another reason he should be fired, however, and the school district should take advantage of his intransigence over his stupid bible to kick his sorry ass off the faculty. He’s an incompetent science teacher.

In one class, Freshwater used Lego pieces to describe the beginning of the world. He dumped the pieces, then asked students if the Legos could assemble by themselves, said Joe Stuart, 18, assistant editor of the high-school newspaper.

When Freshwater taught students about electrical current, he used a device to leave a red mark in the shape of a cross on the forearms of some students, Stuart said.

“If it were just about the Bible, I don’t think people would have a problem with it,” Stuart said.

In his evaluations through the 21 years he’s worked for the district, Freshwater has drawn consistent praise for his strong rapport with students, broad knowledge of his subject matter and engaging teaching style.

In 2006, he was instructed to remove from his curriculum a handout titled “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution — The Premise and the Problem.” A parent had questioned its validity and use in a science classroom.

Mr Stuart is wise. It’s not the bible at all. It’s that he’s a deluded creationist teaching lies to students in a science class. Unfortunately, there’s little recourse for expelling bad teachers (and his popularity is not an indication that he’s a good teacher, don’t make that mistake) on the basis of incompetence.

And the cross thing is just plain bizarre. Burning religious symbols into students’ flesh is not a way to teach them about the physics of electricity; what next, will he teach about the chemistry of oxidation reactions by burning heretical students at a stake? Even religious parents in the community are disturbed by this kook:

The fax stated, “We are religious people, but we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child. This was done in science class in December 2007, where an electric shock machine was used to burn our child. The burn was severe enough that our child awoke that night with severe pain, and the cross remained there for several weeks. … We have tried to keep this a private matter and hesitate to tell the whole story to the media for fear that we will be retaliated against.”

These same parents also expressed the key issue in separation of church and state:

Short said it is alleged that Freshwater used his classroom to advance religion and that he teaches his own beliefs from the Bible and not the approved curriculum. In the fax, the parents also said, “We are Christians who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.”

Freshwater can believe whatever he wants. When he decides to use his public school classroom to shove his beliefs down student throats, he’s in the wrong and should obey the order to keep his class secular. And when his personal beliefs so scramble his judgment that he can’t even teach the evidence and logic of science, his professional duty, fire him.

Comments

  1. #1 Madam Pomfrey
    April 23, 2008

    What’s frightening is all the Freshwaters around the country that we *don’t* hear about who are doing this kind of thing every day.

  2. #2 Shygetz
    April 23, 2008

    Sorry, “teacher brands students” = “teacher gets fired”, I don’t care what symbol he chose to brand the students with. And to think that my teacher was satisfied with lighting up little LED bulbs to teach about electricity…

  3. #3 spurge
    April 23, 2008

    He burned a child?

    He should be in jail.

    If he had burned a pentagram into a students arm what would have happened to this teacher?

  4. #4 Derik N
    April 23, 2008

    At some point, you almost want to raise your hands in disgust and give up.

  5. #5 Dan
    April 23, 2008

    How is branding a child in such a way as this not being seen as child abuse?

  6. #6 Bob O'H
    April 23, 2008

    Huh? Why isn’t the guy being fired for harming his students? Teachers shouldn’t be deliberately burning their students.

  7. #7 Vegan Atheist
    April 23, 2008

    What a sicko! Of course, since they’re singling him out for having a bible on his desk and not, y’know, BRANDING STUDENTS, he will probably raise a big stink about religious discrimination and get all the fundies riled.

  8. #8 Daniel
    April 23, 2008

    Well, duh. Of course god made every single tadpole and gazelle by hand. After all, Legos don’t assemble themselves!

    What a putz.

  9. #9 Keltixx
    April 23, 2008

    News of this type always saddens me…that ignorance can be allowed to flourish. No, I have no problem with him keeping a bible on his desk, or a torah, or a fuzzy haired troll, they all being equal in my eyes. I have a problem with telling kids to believe what the bible, torah, or troll tell him he should believe.

    The only bright spot is that some parents who are religious think he is over the top.

    First post on this site, and have spent all morning catching up on my reading. Wonderful site and wonderful comments. Pretty sure I will be a regular here, even if not much of a contributor. Cheers.

  10. #10 Anon
    April 23, 2008

    Assault and battery. Press charges.

  11. #11 Rowan
    April 23, 2008

    Hey Freshwater…

    Some simple facts:

    1) Lego can’t mutate or reproduce…

    2) Branding hurts…

    3) You are a looney…

  12. #12 firemancarl
    April 23, 2008

    When Freshwater taught students about electrical current, he used a device to leave a red mark in the shape of a cross on the forearms of some students, Stuart said.

    Child abuse?

  13. #13 Reginald Selkirk
    April 23, 2008

    When Freshwater taught students about electrical current, he used a device to leave a red mark in the shape of a cross on the forearms of some students, Stuart said.

    Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

  14. #14 Carlie
    April 23, 2008

    “We are Christians who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.”

    I would just like to offer a round of applause for those parents for such rational words. I just find it frightening that the community they live in is such that they were in fear of retaliation for complaining about their child being branded.

  15. #15 Brian Coughlan
    April 23, 2008

    Assault and battery. Press charges.

    I believe the correct term in this case is assault by battery ……

  16. #16 Aaron Golas
    April 23, 2008

    “Assault and battery. Press charges.”

    Pun intended? (It was supposedly a lesson in electricity, after all…)

  17. #17 Holbach
    April 23, 2008

    I would fire that moron in a heartbeat, in fact so fast that his imaginary god would not have the speed to save him! This is getting to be a onerous problem, with all these halfwits thinking that can they smear their brand of insanity wherever they want. Would I as an atheist teacher be able to wear a sign around my neck that proclaimed “All religions are fairy tales” and start telling the class each day why this is so? Damn it, we will have to institute a policy in all schools that it will be understood that all religious talk and symbols will be banned, have them all sign to that effect with the explicit understanding that you will be fired for violating this edict. Keep your insane crap to yourself when you are on somebody else’s time; there are plenty of places to rant your crap, such as town dumps, bars, churches, sanitary filtration plants, and against the wailing wall and in mosques.
    Hey, the latest news on the floating moron: they found the balloons but not him! He’s probably in the belly of a great white shark; poor Jonah, not to be freed!

  18. #18 Bad Albert
    April 23, 2008

    “He has the right to express his religion.”

    No, he has the right to be religious. He does not have the right to alter the public school curriculum and force others to listen to his beliefs. I’m always amazed at the “rights” people suddenly aquire when they feel they are being persecuted.

  19. #19 Schmeer
    April 23, 2008

    If a teacher ever burns one of my (not yet existant) children he better hope there is a God, he’s going to need it.

  20. #20 DB
    April 23, 2008

    Being that I live in Ohio (not born here), somewhere inside me, I feel ashamed. But then I remember that I work with about 300 very religious people that on a weekly basis try to convert me back from my sinful ways, after learning I was an atheist. One even stating that “You shouldn’t even exist if you don’t believe in Jesus.” So it really doesn’t surprise me.

    I just pleasantly remind those around me that I have a cup of coffee, that is so hot that it was freshly made from the pits of Mount Doom, and that they are within throwing distance.

  21. #21 Ranson
    April 23, 2008

    Quotemine about atheistic oppression in the science classroom in 3…2…1…

  22. #22 Dana Hunter
    April 23, 2008

    I think this is a fantastic demonstration of the sleight-of-hand that goes on with religious issues: make any sort of outrage “about religious freedom,” and suddenly a cut-and-dry issue is complicated. It shouldn’t be.

    When religion behaves like this, it gives up its right to special protection.

    Bravo to those religious parents who have it right: religion doesn’t belong in the classroom, and it sure as shit doesn’t belong branded on a child’s arm.

  23. #23 SEF
    April 23, 2008

    He should be prosecuted for assault (regardless of whether it’s also child abuse or any other criminal or sacking offence). Why isn’t that happening?

  24. #24 Jason Failes
    April 23, 2008

    There has long existed an expression fitting to this situation:

    The stupid, it burns!

    Also, I agree with Carlie @14: that is just about the scariest part.

  25. #25 tai haku
    April 23, 2008

    I’m genuinely shocked this case hasn’t developed along the lines of teacher gives electrical burn in shape of religious icon to child > teacher receives parental beatdown and gets fired.

    I wonder what they would’ve done if it had been a darwin-fish brand?

  26. #26 Ranson
    April 23, 2008

    @ DB #20

    While I work in a fundieland, as well, my areligiosity has yet to come up. However, as my old “funny” stories about high school (giving a speech on how to build an antipersonnel landmine from scratch; unknowingly helping plan what became a hostage situation, etc.), I doubt anyone’s going to say much.

    @ Schmeer #19

    My kids do exist, and I feel much the same way. People can do what they want to me; I can take it. Go near my loved ones, and you’ll disappear. I’m not talking about bloody, screaming vengance; I’m talking that your empty car is found by the side of the road between your house and work one day, and that’s the last anyone knows.

    I’m actually a nice, easy-going person. But don’t touch my family.

  27. #27 Mrs Tilton
    April 23, 2008

    Let me second Carlie @14. I no longer share these parents’ religious beliefs, but I certainly share their view that religion is a private matter that should be kept in its proper sphere.

    People often ask, “Why don’t all those ‘moderate Christians’ take a stand against their lunatic fundamentalist co-religionists?” Well, here’s one small but important example of them doing just that, and fair play to them.

    Oh, and yeah: fire the dude. Leaving everything else to one side, that electrically-burnt cross thing is shocking (and probably criminal, had any of the parents pressed charges). And that would be true whether he burnt crosses, pentacles or a big red atheist “A”; the technical term for what he did is, I believe, battery.

  28. #28 SteveC
    April 23, 2008

    “He has the right to express his religion.”

    “No, he has the right to be religious. He does not have the right to alter the public school curriculum and force others to listen to his beliefs. I’m always amazed at the “rights” people suddenly aquire when they feel they are being persecuted.”

    @#18, I think that the thing people who say things like “he has the right to express his religion” miss, forget, or ignore, as that in the U.S., education is *compulsory*. It is against the law for children not to attend school of some kind. If the school is a public school — public meaning government provided, provided by public funding — then religion cannot be expressed by teachers (who, as public school teachers are agents of the government) to their students, as that amounts to the government, by force of law, subjecting students to religious instruction.

    Does anybody want the government telling their kids what religious beliefs they must hold? If anyone advocates for public school teachers having the right to proselytize, then they must want the government teaching your kids religion, or fail to understand the consequences of what they think they want.

    (Searching back, I’m not sure who you were quoting, actually).

  29. #29 spurge
    April 23, 2008

    “Why isn’t that happening?”

    Religion.

  30. #30 Heather
    April 23, 2008

    I keep a little Buddha statue on my desk. I’m not Buddhist, I just liked it. I had planned to use it when students fall asleep or don’t behave in class…you know, whack them on the back of the head or something. If I get in trouble for that, can I claim my religious freedom is being stifled?

    I also have a little gnome, but it’s not heavy enough to use as a head-bashing implement. I could probably stab a student with it. Would it be anti-gnomism if they tried to stop me from using it in that way?

  31. #31 brokenSoldier
    April 23, 2008

    This is absolutely ridiculous. This criminal branded a child with a cross, and he’s still free, much less teaching children? I agree with spurge in #3 above – even if it hadn’t been a pentagram – if this guy had burned anything except a cross into this kid’s arm, he’d have been gone the second it happened, regardless of the situation. And since when does teaching require tactile confirmation?

    Personally, I’m glad this didn’t happen to any children I know. I do not take it well when I hear of child abuse, and it would be a conscious choice for me to go to jail for a few weeks in order to put this guy in his place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of violence, but I have been trained in how to use it effectively and judiciously, and when it comes to the safety of children I’d much rather spend my time in a cell than have any child spend their time in a hospital room. The bare fact is that I can recover much easier from a stint inside, but damage done to that child could be irrevocable.

    To answer the above question, the name of the charge is ‘assault (intent to commit and ‘battery’ (actual physical contact).

    From Wiki:

    Modern American statutes define assault as:
    - an attempt to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another; or,
    - negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.

    (And once they meet that second requirement by making contact, battery has been committed.)

  32. #32 Orac
    April 23, 2008

    This idiot burned a student with electrical current badly enough that the burn did not heal for several weeks, and he still has a job? I can’t believe those parents didn’t complain. In any school district I’ve ever been associated with (and my wife has worked in several), the parents would have sued for big bucks.

  33. #33 938Mev
    April 23, 2008

    As a high school science teacher myself, I find it incredible that Mr. Freshwater assumes that preaching his brand of gospel in a public setting was going to be met with approval even if his community is predominantly Christian. Predominantly Christian still means there are dozens of faiths represented, and they tend not to agree on the finer points of theology. In fact, they fight about it quite a bit. Not only will he get nailed by people who rightly object to his abrogation of his primary job in the teaching science, he’ll also get hammered by those who do not agree with his particular take on Christian theology. It will be a special little hell of his own making and it’s a totally predictable outcome. No doubt he’ll remain blissfully comfortable in his knowledge that his philosophy is true and correct, but it is pretty entertaining to watch such certainty implode as antagonists from all directions pile on.

  34. #34 brokenSoldier
    April 23, 2008

    @ Orac # 32:

    I agree. I usually scoff when anyone pulls out a lawsuit, but this situation is begging for one. These parents should own half of this man’s wages for the rest of his life, as far as I’m concerned.

  35. #35 Aquaria
    April 23, 2008

    Don’t worry. After seeing what happened with the football game prayer case in Texas, where the lawsuit came from Catholic and Mormon parents, the loons will blame the atheists for persecuting Christians in 3, 2, 1….

  36. #36 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 23, 2008

    I know my Dendrology teacher used to nail us to a tree crucifix style so that we could really see the nature of wood.

    I don’t see a problem here.

  37. #37 Molly, NYC
    April 23, 2008

    Go near my loved ones, and you’ll disappear. I’m not talking about bloody, screaming vengance; I’m talking that your empty car is found by the side of the road between your house and work one day, and that’s the last anyone knows. (Ranson @ 26)

    There’s a story about John Gotti that he had a two-year-old son who was killed in an accident; he was playing in a neighbor’s driveway and the neighbor backed out on him. The neighbor was given a week to get his affairs in order. Basically, what you described happened. He just disappeared.

    Gotti did a lot of terrible things, but this one, I understand.

  38. #38 MAJeff, OM
    April 23, 2008

    He burned students? WHAT?! I’m dumbfounded.

    How did he not get suspended at the least? He’s just being “observed?” He’s not the only person that needs to go. There are a few administrators who deserve to lose jobs over this as well. You don’t protect someone who is abusing children.

  39. #39 Steve LaBonne
    April 23, 2008

    I guess there happened to be no Kenyon College faculty kids in this guys classes. Unlike the local yokels (ah, my wonderful adopted state of North Alabama!)I’ll bet they would have complained about this idiot a whole lot sooner.

  40. #40 CosmicTeapot
    April 23, 2008

    This religious teacher tortures children, but because he is religious means he is not immediately fired.
    A group of religious paedophiles (Yearning for Zion ranch) rape children, but because they are religous means the abuse continues for over 5 years.

    This fear of upsetting the religious community is a bane in American, indeed, any society.

    Fire him. I will provide the stake.

  41. #41 Peter Mc
    April 23, 2008

    Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

    What no tats? What a pillock that LORD is.

  42. #42 CosmicTeapot
    April 23, 2008

    Oh, you meant terminate his employment!

    Sorry, my bad.

    I still have the stake though ;)

  43. #43 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 23, 2008

    Ohio?

    Should I take my grandfather’s geologist hammer to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting? Or is the city of Cleveland far enough away from a place where religious people “tried to keep this a private matter and hesitate to tell the whole story to the media for fear that we will be retaliated against”?

    I mean, this is like the teddy bear incident in Sudan.

  44. #44 Katrina
    April 23, 2008

    I’ve been following the story a bit, and it seems that the original complaint was about the Bible, then about his conduct. As the school started investigating him, it just got worse and worse.

    The parents mentioned in the fax also said they were going to keep it a private matter until the investigation started. ugh.

    But he’s been a problem there for a long while. Just this week, the local paper ran a reprint of a story that they published in June of 2003. At that time, he proposed a “teach the controversy” approach be added to the science curriculum. Fortunately for them, the school board rejected the proposal.

    Here’s the article:
    http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/08/04/16/060303.mv.boe.shtml

  45. #45 Alfonso Armenta
    April 23, 2008

    Well, surely those kids are now linking the bible with getting branded like cattle by a deluded teacher. So maybe there is a good outcome for them, a Pavlovian condition for rejection of the bible. Probably not what parents are expecting their children to develop, though…

  46. #46 Heather
    April 23, 2008

    This story is exactly why I have given up a perfectly dignified career in neuroscience to get a Master’s in Education (because I need ANOTHER degree) and teach High School next year.

    It sickens me to see this. All I can do is try to be the best science teacher I can.

    Oh… and DON’T BURN THE CHILDREN! Animal.

  47. #47 Steve LaBonne
    April 23, 2008

    Or is the city of Cleveland far enough away from a place where religious people “tried to keep this a private matter and hesitate to tell the whole story to the media for fear that we will be retaliated against”?

    Yes. You’re safe. ;)

    Now, out in the boonies around 35 miles east of the city, where I live and work, there are more of those people. But definitely not as many as in Mount Vermin. ;)

  48. #48 Kaerion
    April 23, 2008

    Prediction: If/when this idiot is finally fired, the fundies (every single one of them) and a whole bunch of moderates will completely ignore everything they might hear about him abusing children by branding them, and complain about religious discrimination. Then again, that’s just par for the course; as soon as a cross, bible or religion in general is involved, it seems like a whole bunch of otherwise intelligent people go completely batshit crazy, and start frothing at the mouth.

    Oh well, kudos to the parents of the abused kid for sending that letter, I just hope they’ll do something (more substantial than just sending a letter) and actually stand up for their child.

  49. #49 MacT
    April 23, 2008

    MAJ: “You don’t protect someone who is abusing children.”

    I agree. But if the pope has problems figuring out his position on this, what hope is there for the average religionist?

  50. #50 Katrina
    April 23, 2008

    Oh, and according to this article, there were hundreds of students who rallied Wednesday in his support.

    The original complaint wasn’t just about the bible, he also had a copy of the ten commandments on the classroom wall.

  51. #51 DaveX
    April 23, 2008

    Those parents are idiots. My response would be more along the lines of “have fun convicting me without a body, chumps”

  52. #52 SC
    April 23, 2008

    Um, Molly, NYC – “…was killed in an accident; he was playing in a neighbor’s driveway and the neighbor backed out on him.”

    And you find murder understandable in this circumstance?

  53. #53 Steven
    April 23, 2008

    If he did that to my son I’d make them use the device to brand either his ass or his forehead, though I’m not sure we would be able to tell which is which.

  54. #54 Schmeer
    April 23, 2008

    You don’t protect someone who is abusing children.

    Like the Catholic Church? Hmmm… it appears to be rampant in some Christian groups.

  55. #55 Michelle
    April 23, 2008

    absolutely right. The problem isn’t the bible. Let him keep his stupid boring and miswritten book. The problem is that he’s trying to shove his religion on the kids. It’s none of his damn business.

    It’s a shame really. If the kids rally behind him it’s because he was friendly and had energy. Otherwise they wouldn’t support him. It’s too bad they can’t see what the problem is here.

  56. #56 RBH
    April 23, 2008

    Steve LaBonne wrote

    I guess there happened to be no Kenyon College faculty kids in this guys classes. Unlike the local yokels (ah, my wonderful adopted state of North Alabama!)I’ll bet they would have complained about this idiot a whole lot sooner.

    They tended to steer their kids away from his classes. Freshwater’s been known to favor the teaching of ID creationism for years. In 2003 he proposed that the district add Wells’ crap to the science curriculum. That was rejected by the board of education on a 4-1 vote, with a number of Christians of several denominations speaking against it in board meetings.

    Freshwater’s closest adviser is “Coach” Dave Daubenmire, who has a small fundamentalist ministry, (Pass the Salt), and is a founder of Minutemen United. The latter sent troops to demonstrate in support of Judge Roy Moore. It’s noteworthy that Daubenmire’s district (London, OH) was sued for his practice of praying with his athletes when he was a high school coach. He claims the ACLU suit was unsuccessful, but in fact there was an out of court settlement that paid ACLU’s attorney costs and Daubenmire is no longer a high school coach.

    There’s not a little town-gown (well, county-gown) tension with Kenyon seen as a hotbed of uppity left-wing elitists, and the Freshwater incident is going to rip pretty hard at the community much as the Dover trial ripped pretty hard at their community.

    Local talk radio is right-wing politically (surprise) and has a strong Christian Nation component. Calling in, it’s real hard to get across the point that a teacher in the classroom is an agent of the government, not a private citizen, and that the Constitution puts limits on what agents of the government can do. The callers (and posters on local web fora) are indignant that some malcontent parents are attempting to abridge Freshwater’s free speech and free exercise rights. They put it in terms of being “offended” by Christianity, and play the poor persecuted Christians card left and right. They do not believe in the separation of church and state, and regard opinions of the Supreme Court as either invalid readings of the Constitution or merely advisory. They misrepresent the term “opinion” — as in “a unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court” — in the same way creationists misuse “theory.” It’s just the Court’s opinion. And, of course, the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t occur in the Constitution and is therefore nonsense.

    The most serious allegations so far include:

    1. The cross incident, thought it’s not yet clear just how that was done. It was apparently some sort of demo of electricity, and it’s not clear if it went wrong. That the demo produced a cross on flesh is apparently true — several other students have claimed it, too.

    2. Keeping Bibles in the classroom to hand out to children.

    3. Having the 10 Commandments displayed in the classroom.

    4. Having his personal Bible on his desk.

    5. Holding a “healing” in a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting, and participating in the FCA rather than monitoring as was his ostensible role.

  57. #57 brokenSoldier
    April 23, 2008

    Prediction: If/when this idiot is finally fired, the fundies (every single one of them) and a whole bunch of moderates will completely ignore everything they might hear about him abusing children by branding them, and complain about religious discrimination.

    Posted by: Kaerion | April 23, 2008 9:33 AM

    A student, quoted in the article:

    “If he was doing something wrong I could understand it. He’s not doing anything wrong,” she said. “They have taken everything away out of the schools. … When I was in school, we prayed in the morning. Now, they don’t. That’s what’s wrong with the schools today. The discipline has gotten so out of control. The kids have gotten so out of control. They’ve taken everything [the values] out.”

    Bingo, Kaerion. It didn’t even take THAT long. And no doubt when the Fox News fundies get into this story, they’ll parade these people out in support of this man, despite the fact that they are ignoring the actual crimes he has committed in his classroom so that they can play this game of make-believe with religious discrimination.

    Maybe Ben Stein will make a movie about it – “Fired: No Electrodes Allowed”

  58. #58 Nate
    April 23, 2008

    I agree with some of the others here–his being fired should be about physical abuse to students. Everything else is minor in comparison.

    The child’s parents should have called the police the minute they discovered what had happened. There wouldn’t be any discussion about this now if the police had gotten involved early because the teacher was burning his students. No one would care about the other stuff. It would be just another small story of some teacher getting fired for physically abusing his students. That’s it.

    What am I missing?

  59. #59 RBH
    April 23, 2008

    I should add that the county also has a strong institutional conservative religious cast. There’s a Nazarene college and a district headquarters of the 7th Day Adventists in it. The 7th Day adventists were historically the main pushers of young earth creationism, and there are a whole lot of YECs around.

  60. #60 Exitus
    April 23, 2008

    Luckily you don’t often get this sort of loon in England. Though aged 16 I was condemned to hell by my religious education teacher. That was fun…

  61. #61 Steve LaBonne
    April 23, 2008

    Thanks, RBH, that was quite enlightening.

    I’m thinking I won’t encourage my daughter (now in 10th grade)to apply to Kenyon…

  62. #62 CrypticLife
    April 23, 2008

    Wow, am I really that militant? I think it’s a pretty unambiguous violation of the Establishment clause.

    Now, if he were a good teacher I wouldn’t give him a hard time about it. There are few good teachers, I tend to give them a lot of leeway.

    PS teachers can wear some religiously-themed jewelry. Apart from that, school districts pretty much get to regulate what teachers wear. In fact, Freshwater’s letter complaining that a Muslim would be allowed to wear a burqa is in complete ignorance of the fact that there was such a case where a Muslim woman was prevented from wearing her head covering, and the Supreme Court indicated the school district could act in this manner.

  63. #63 Pablo
    April 23, 2008

    Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

    PWNED!

  64. #64 E in MD
    April 23, 2008

    I’m sorry but if some teacher burned my kid with a brand at the very least he’d be up on assault charges. Fuck what the school wants to do. To hell with firing him. His ass should be learning what the term ‘tossed salad’ means in prison. I don’t give a damn if he burned my kid with a cross, a swastika, a pentacle or a straight line. Assault is assault.

    Now, if he were a good teacher I wouldn’t give him a hard time about it. There are few good teachers, I tend to give them a lot of leeway.

    Good teachers do not deliberately burn children.

  65. #65 RBH
    April 23, 2008

    Thanks, RBH, that was quite enlightening.

    I’m thinking I won’t encourage my daughter (now in 10th grade)to apply to Kenyon…

    Then she won’t get to take my evolutionary modeling course. :(

    Kenyon is an enclave in a pretty conservative county. But it’s not extraordinary in that respect (take that, Oberlin!)

    Like many college and university faculty, with some notable exceptions it’s hard to get Kenyon faculty to get actively involved in the community outside the college. It’s not just in local education and politics. In the 1970s there were five faculty members on the volunteer fire department; now there are none (well, except me, who’s no longer a full time faculty member). But I hope they’ll wake up to this one.

  66. #66 BlueIndependent
    April 23, 2008

    Yeah, this guy needs to be marched out of his school unemployed as soon as is humanly possible. Force him into the arms of his fundamentalist bretheren se we can see him out in the open, and know the damage he wishes to cause civil society.

  67. #67 Pablo
    April 23, 2008

    Kenyon is an enclave in a pretty conservative county. But it’s not extraordinary in that respect (take that, Oberlin!)

    Doesn’t Yellow Springs pretty much put both to shame in that regard?

    I’ll admit that I haven’t been to Kenyon, but Yellow Springs makes Oberlin look like the John Birch Society.

    It will be interesting to see how this Antioch thing turns out.

  68. #68 Steve LaBonne
    April 23, 2008

    You’re right, RBH, it’s not really fair to the college for me to have that reaction. I must say though that I really don’t have the impression that the city of Oberlin is quite as bad. (Lorain County as a whole certainly isn’t.)

  69. #69 wazza
    April 23, 2008

    You’re quite right that the most popular teachers aren’t the best. In my experience, the best teachers are neither most popular nor least popular – they don’t let the kids have as much leeway in class, but they engage them and make learning interesting

    In NZ there was a teacher who shoved tennis balls into his students’ mouths as a punishment, and no one told the authorities until he became a Member of Parliament. Never underestimate the fear factor of challenging the reputation of an authority like a high school teacher.

  70. #70 Kerlyssa
    April 23, 2008

    According to wikipedia, Gotti’s son was 12 and rode his bike out into traffic. The accident was investigated, and the man cleared. He disappeared a month later and was declared dead in 1983. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Favara

  71. #71 Ranson
    April 23, 2008

    It’s also amazing to see the sense of loyalty that some teachers can engender. I have a close friend who has discovered (after the fact) that groups of her students were engaging in some, er, “vigilante discipline” when it came to people acting up in her presence and showing disrespect. It was generally just people saying “Not a smart thing, understand”, but she was totally shocked that a student would show that kind of loyalty to her. She’s not the most popular teacher, by far, because she isn’t an easy grade, but she engages them and doesn’t allow them to get away with spouting off things they obviously haven’t put thought into.

    If this Freshwater schmuck has found a similar group of kids that like his style and find him engaging, outside of his obvious deficiencies, it’s no wonder that kids are speaking on his behalf or that others are afraid to speak against him. It cuts both ways.

  72. #72 RBH
    April 23, 2008

    Naw, there’s no question that Kenyon is embedded in a more conservative part of the state than Oberlin. Antioch, as noted, makes ‘em all look like something to the right of the John Birch Society.

  73. #73 lytefoot
    April 23, 2008
    Now, if he were a good teacher I wouldn’t give him a hard time about it. There are few good teachers, I tend to give them a lot of leeway.

    Good teachers do not deliberately burn children.

    I suspect what was meant in the original comment was leeway about the bible on his desk. I tend to agree: if it were just about the presence of the bible (or, analogously, a buddha statue, or a torah, or a plastic troll) on his desk, this would be a non-issue. If he weren’t preaching, and if he weren’t misbehaving in other ways, I wouldn’t find the bible alone objectionable.

    I’m reminded of the born again teacher at my (small, rural, of course) high school. He always told of his experience of the holy spirit coming into him, as though that would be convincing to someone else. My response was always, “If I ever see a flash of blue light and hear the voice of god assuring me that christ is my personal savior, I’ll consider what you’ve said.” (I am open for god to announce his existence to me at any time, I assure you.) I never took classes with him–I got enough preaching in study hall–but I understand he was more subdued when he was actually providing instruction.

  74. #74 efp
    April 23, 2008

    The most outrageous part of the article: “…through the 21 years he’s worked for the district…”

    In 1994 I took over the physics & chemistry classes at Belle Chasse (public) High School, in one of the more affluent suburbs of New Orleans. The teacher who was leaving was there for decades and universally praised… apparently he was so good, he was leaving to teach at LSU. When I entered the classroom, I found a giant Jesus poster front and center. There was an anti-evolutionary poster over the door (showing some fat guy holding a banana worshiping a bust of an ape), and some other prayer poster in back I don’t remember so well. Apparently no one, no students, parents, teachers, or administrators, ever saw a problem with this. Things are different in the bible belt.

    One day he came back to visit, and was rather miffed that “someone” had torn all his posters down.

  75. #75 Pablo
    April 23, 2008

    In NZ there was a teacher who shoved tennis balls into his students’ mouths as a punishment,

    Sister Claire Marie didn’t do anything like that. She just hit us. Usually with anything she had in her hand, like a ruler or the handle of a scissors. If she didn’t have anything in her hand, she would just turn her big-arse nun ring around and hit us with the stone in the back of the head.

    If she wasn’t hitting you, she was humiliating you in front of the other students. I always tell my students these days that one thing I learned from Catholic grade school was that hitting and humiliating students was not a good way to teach penmanship.

    Fortunately, she never went into government. I would loved to have seen her in jail, though.

    I have often commented, there aren’t many people in life who I hate. I am naturally a friendly person, and try to be nice to everyone. But I can’t say that if I happened to meet Sister Claire Marie Meyer on the street someday, that I wouldn’t punch her lights out. She is probably 90 years old now, but I don’t care. WE were only 7!

  76. #76 Michael Hogan
    April 23, 2008

    Branding a student. I would call the police and have that teacher taken out of the school in handcuffs. He really shows what religious extremism is all about.

  77. #77 Molly, NYC
    April 23, 2008

    SC @ 52 — I’m not saying it’s how I’d handle it myself, just that I understand it. Do you have kids?

  78. #78 NWells
    April 23, 2008

    Next up, a lesson on anatomy by hanging, drawing, and quartering a catholic.

    (/snark)

  79. #79 ash
    April 23, 2008

    How about using this tactic. Give parents the option for their kids to opt out of biology classes in high school, then present them with the enormous list of colleges that will ignore their kid’s applications for admission. Shackling a kid and keeping them from participation in civilized society has GOT to at least make some fundy parents think twice.

  80. #80 Russell Stewart
    April 23, 2008

    Isn’t this always the way of things?

    First you hear a story about some poor, devoted Christian teacher being viciously persecuted by the Secular School System. Then the rest of the details come out, and this meek, humble soul turns out to be a massively egocentric nutbag with delusions of grandeur.

    I believe the last instance of this was a teacher who was (allegedly) fired simply for honestly answering her students’ questions about whether she believed in God and Heaven (in response to the death of a classmate). Cue the righteous indignation.

    Then, fairly quickly, we discovered that she had not, in fact, merely answered questions. She used them as a launching point for a passionate sermon on how all of her students needed to accept Jesus or they would end up in Hell.

    Oh, and most amusingly, the complaint in that case was not brought by atheists. The parents who objected to this teacher’s behavior, and brought her to the attention of the school board, were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  81. #81 Anthony
    April 23, 2008

    If he branded my kid, they wouldn’t need to fire him.

  82. #82 SC
    April 23, 2008

    Two things here that tend to get me in a snit:

    First any whiff of the suggestion that the mafia is anything but a horde of psychopathic killers. I hate this glamorization of the mafia, and the frequent suggestion that it’s some sort of champion of the little guy. It isn’t, and it never has been. Generations of Sicilians have suffered from the dominance of the mafia’s brand of “justice,” and I’m sure they can tell us how great that’s been. (Molly, NYC, I know you didn’t say that, but anything that hints of it sets me off.)

    Second, the fixation on religious symbols. People certainly have the right to them and to their personal display, but really. Religious groups in Germany were roused to mass protest about the Nazis’ removal of crucifixes from classrooms, but their friends, neighbors, and colleagues being denied their civil rights and then loaded into cattle cars and shipped off to death camps didn’t stir them to action? Appalling.

  83. #83 hbar
    April 23, 2008

    From this article.

    “If he was doing something wrong I could understand it. He’s not doing anything wrong,” she said. “They have taken everything away out of the schools. … When I was in school, we prayed in the morning. Now, they don’t. That’s what’s wrong with the schools today. The discipline has gotten so out of control. The kids have gotten so out of control. They’ve taken everything [the values] out.”

    She’s absolutely right. The biggest problem with schools today is that they don’t pray in the morning. All the discipline problems in all high schools across the country wouldn’t exist if everyone held hands and prayed in the morning.

    I agree that Freshwater should be held accountable for the burning he did, but I’m a little leery about screaming that he’s branding kids with the cross. Without more details, I’d imagine it was more of a “+” shape, since I’ve seen classroom demos with little tasters with heads that shape. Still asinine, but distinct from burning full-blown crucifixes on students.

  84. #84 teacherninja
    April 23, 2008

    I grew up in Mt. Vernon and it was fine, but small for my tastes. I went to Mt. Vernon Middle School and hated it. Ironically the only thing I liked was my science teacher, Ms. Makos. That was about a hundred years ago, though. Kenyon is a good school and has little connection to the town. I’m just posting to let you know that not everyone from there is a small-minded twit. My family, all the friends I had there, and I were not like this at all and it really is making me sick to hear about it. I’m going to contact some folks and see whats being done to ride this lunatic out on a rail.

  85. #85 ennui
    April 23, 2008

    Freshwater should be fired for violating the establishment clause and for not teaching the scientific consensus in his 8th grade science class. Period. But it also strikes me that the charge of administering electrical burns, of whatever shape, might be exaggerated. The complaining student’s family has retained counsel, and the scant details of the burn come from a law firm. It sounds to me like the parents are going to sue.

    I know that if my child came home from school with a burn severe enough to last several weeks and cause pain well after the fact, I would document the injury. Where are the photos? Is there a scar? Where is the testimony from a medical professional? Reports say that this was done to several students, so where are their photos/medical reports/complaints of secondary effects such as numbness or tingling? Evidence, please.

    In addition, and understanding the concept of internet hyperbole, I find it stupid and offensive to read the many comments related to physical retaliation. I would much prefer that we arm ourselves with the facts (an investigation is taking place) instead of torches and pitchforks. Due process and rule of law are still worthwhile, even in this fucked-up case.

  86. #86 brokenSoldier
    April 23, 2008

    Without more details, I’d imagine it was more of a “+” shape, since I’ve seen classroom demos with little tasters with heads that shape. Still asinine, but distinct from burning full-blown crucifixes on students.
    Posted by: hbar | April 23, 2008 11:23 AM

    I can understand your point in a general case, but in the greater context of this supposed educator’s other actions, I’d say he’s already burned entirely through deserving any benefit of the doubt on any of this.

  87. #87 SC
    April 23, 2008

    Molly, NYC – So if I have kids I should understand murdering someone for the terrible crime of properly operating a motor vehicle?

  88. #88 Christian Community
    April 23, 2008

    Come on, Fresh H2O, if what the press is telling us is truth, then ‘fess up. You may have had the best of intentions, but the facts are: your acts are no different than the KKK burning crosses in the name of racial hatred. It’s just that you apparently justify burning a cross into the skin of a minor child because of your religious hatred towards people (evolutionists, etc.) who are different than you. I am so glad that the Sovereign Jesus Christ set forth the Perfect Example: He hung on a cross bearing the burden of our sins–including the sins of racial and religious hatred. Come on, burning crosses are not the answer; but believing in the One Who hung on the Cross, Who died, and Who Rose from the Dead is the way to reconciliation, OK? Please humble yourself and confess that you abused that minor child–and pay society back, if you are proven guilty, with termination and jail. Please…get off your high horse of religiousity and lift high the healing (not abusing) Cross of the Sovereign Jesus Christ. You’ll be much more effective in communicating the Holy Bible (i.e. Creator God) that way. Remember, you as a person are loved by God and the Church; but some of your sinful acts are asinine and shame the Name. Get real. Take up your cross and follow Him (and quit using the cross to burn people). Promote healing by displaying the Holy Bible in its rightful place: your heart, your attitude, your actions, your words (when welcomed by others, that is–don’t force it, man! Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, OK?). Remember: It’s all about God’s agenda, not yours; using the Cross and the Holy Bible to promote you instead of God reduces them to idol junk. Something has gone terribly wrong when what you say and do magnifies YOU more than Jesus Christ. We have confidence that you’ll make the necessary amends. Get busy. You and those you have allegedly hurt are in our prayers. The one you have hurt the most is you. God have mercy.

  89. #89 speedwell
    April 23, 2008

    I can imagine common circumstances under which a child’s parents might fear overblown retaliation for complaining about mistreatment of their child in public school. Here in Houston, one of the commonest is that the parents of a US-born, citizen child might themselves be illegal immigrants subject to deportation. I’m not saying that the parents in question are illegal immigrants, but I am saying that we don’t know their circumstances, and it is not hard to imagine plausible scenarios.

  90. #90 Mrs Tilton
    April 23, 2008

    hbar @83,

    what brokenSoldier said.

    Besides, the shape of the burn is the least important thing here; the burn itself is what matters. Had he burnt PZ’s portrait in full pirate regalia, he’d be demonstrating better taste, but he’d just as wrong (and, one hopes, held just as liable).

  91. #91 BlindSquirrel
    April 23, 2008

    You had LEDs in school? We had vacuum tubes.

  92. #92 RBH
    April 23, 2008

    ennui wrote

    I know that if my child came home from school with a burn severe enough to last several weeks and cause pain well after the fact, I would document the injury. Where are the photos? Is there a scar? Where is the testimony from a medical professional? Reports say that this was done to several students, so where are their photos/medical reports/complaints of secondary effects such as numbness or tingling? Evidence, please.

    There are reportedly photographs, the report originating with an anonymous family friend who claims to have seen them, though no corroboration of that report is available yet.

    ennui further wrote

    In addition, and understanding the concept of internet hyperbole, I find it stupid and offensive to read the many comments related to physical retaliation. I would much prefer that we arm ourselves with the facts (an investigation is taking place) instead of torches and pitchforks. Due process and rule of law are still worthwhile, even in this fucked-up case.

    Full agreement. This is going to rip this community badly as it is, and the loons on “our” side are as destructive as the wingnuts on the other side.

  93. #93 hbar
    April 23, 2008

    @90

    Oh, I agree that it’s still disgusting. I’m just saying that the burnings are not necessarily evidence of some nutso burning students with the fundamental symbol of his religion. Just evidence of some nutso burning students.

  94. #94 MOld
    April 23, 2008

    I teach and any child with a burn would get immediate notice from the administrators, if not the school board. A deliberate burn is obviously a cause for dismissal.

    The reason they waited this long is bureaucratic. If the BushMess justice department had the case..it would be filed under ‘religious freedom’ and dropped. This is a group of tru beleevers that interject the power and might of the federal government into local zoning issues on behalf of churches, most of whom are quite wealthy and not being discriminated against (unless you want them to follow zoning laws). Now, with the next President being D, the case will hit about mid-administration and all those child-rapers will face real jail time.

  95. #95 TheZog
    April 23, 2008

    He has the right to express his religion

    I guess as a middle school age student, he or she hasn’t had the chance to take a civics class yet. This seems like a good opportunity for the Mount Vernon High School government teacher to explain the basic meaning and operation of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. Of course, there’s a solid chance that the Civics teacher is a Church buddy with this assclown science teacher.

    I know getting around tenure is a bitch, but I’m guessing opening your school district up to some fairly serious civil liability (for both the Battery and the unconstitutional instruction) has to be a legitimate grounds for dismissal.

  96. #96 Joshua Arnold
    April 23, 2008

    Unfortunately, there’s little recourse for expelling bad teachers

    You know, now the Expelled people are going to quote that as evidence for their “theory.”

  97. #97 CrypticLife
    April 23, 2008

    @73 lytefoot,

    Thank you — yes, my comment was meant to illustrate how I personally would feel if he was otherwise a good teacher and not proselytizing. Having the Bible on his desk alone is a violation of the Establishment clause. If his district told him to remove it, and he did, I don’t think he should be fired.

    If he was a poor teacher, I might well give him a hard time about the Bible on his desk, even if he were not otherwise proselytizing. It’s illegal, after all.

    As for the branding, like ennui I have some doubts over how it’s being protrayed. E in MD, though you would be able to bring a civil case, bringing a criminal case (i.e., “charges”) is technically up to the prosecutors.

  98. #98 CrypticLife
    April 23, 2008

    @TheZog,

    When my elementary son brings home civics lessons his teacher has given him, I always cringe at the misrepresentations.

    Admittedly, going through law schools gives you a finer appreciation than you’d expect an elementary school teacher to have. Still, I frequently wish they’d stop trying to teach legal rights at that age. Teachers live in a world where they get to restrict rights all the time, and have a vested interest in ensuring students don’t know their rights.

    Oh, that, and they just don’t know what the students’ rights are in the first place.

  99. #99 Laser Potato
    April 23, 2008

    Wow, the amont of people jumping up to defend this monster is amazing.
    “OMG YOU’RE JUST PERSECUTING HIM! YOU CAN’T EVEN PROVE HE DID IT! HE WAS OTHERWISE A GOOD MAN, SO IT’S OK!” Oy.

  100. #100 BobC
    April 23, 2008

    I heard about this a few days ago. I thought “wow, a science teacher with a bible on his desk. I bet he knows nothing about science.” I’m not surprised I was right.

    Of course he should have been fired a long time ago for incompetence. I also think just the Bible alone and his refusal to remove it is a good enough reason to throw him out the window. There can be no exceptions to the separation of church and state. The bible is an advertisement for the stupidity of christianity. There’s no way a teacher should be allowed to display his worthless holy book in a public school classroom.

    Letting christian idiots get away with minor violations of the Establishment Clause just encourages them to get away with something else. There must be no god crap in schools. Absolutely no exceptions.

  101. #101 brokenSoldier
    April 23, 2008

    hbar @ 93:

    …the burnings are not necessarily evidence of some nutso burning students with the fundamental symbol of his religion. Just evidence of some nutso burning students.

    (bolds are mine for emphasis)

    Agreed, but I think an even more accurate representation would be that he is some fundamentalist religious nutso burning students…

    And I think that is a distinction that matters as to how the situation should be viewed and handled, in my opinion.

  102. #102 Ryan F Stello
    April 23, 2008

    brokenSoldier (#101) said,

    And I think that is a distinction that matters as to how the situation should be viewed and handled, in my opinion.

    I agree.

    I think hbar is being cautious about it, but if the shape that was burnt on the child was recognized as a cross by the religiously-minded parents, we don’t have any real reason to doubt that it was, in fact, a cross.

    It’s not evidence, but it’s not idle speculation, either.

  103. #103 Ric
    April 23, 2008

    The world was made from legos?

    Wow, I didn’t know that.

    Idiot.

  104. #104 tincture
    April 23, 2008

    “This week class we will be learning about water displacement.

    Student Susie, our volunteer, floats, and what does that mean?

    It means she’s A WITCH!”

  105. #105 Chris (in Columbus)
    April 23, 2008

    Oh God, I’m in Ohio and that’s only an hour away from me!

    The guy should most definitely be kicked to the curb. Branding students? Teaching by Legos? What an idiot.

  106. #106 Laser Potato
    April 23, 2008

    Well, that would explain why we see “LEGO” imprinted on the undersides of molecules and we’re permanently stuck to whatever we touch.

    ….FREAKING idiot.

  107. #107 ThirdMonkey
    April 23, 2008

    When he goes to jail for abusing his students, can I have his legos?

    You can absolutely bet that if my (non-existent) child were to come home with a teacher inflicted injury that the next day that sack of crap teacher would be hauled out of his classroom by the cops.

    Question to the lawyers around here: Can we press charges against this scumbag? Can we at least report him to somebody who will? Would it do any good to contact the local Mount Vernon sheriffs office and let them know that a local teacher is assaulting students? Is there anything that we can DO besides whine about it?

  108. #108 Brownian, OM
    April 23, 2008

    Carlie @14:

    I just find it frightening that the community they live in is such that they were in fear of retaliation for complaining about their child being branded.

    I was confused by this too. At first I naturally assumed they were afraid of the Evil Atheo-Darwinist Conspiracy, but then it occurred to me that there was no reason for Dawkins and PZ to stop Christians from complaining about another Christian. And Christians themselves are nothing but paragons of open inquiry and honest dissent, so what gives?

    I guess the identity of these potential retaliators will never be known.

  109. #109 RBH
    April 23, 2008

    Question to the lawyers around here: Can we press charges against this scumbag? Can we at least report him to somebody who will? Would it do any good to contact the local Mount Vernon sheriffs office and let them know that a local teacher is assaulting students? Is there anything that we can DO besides whine about it?

    This is the kind of loony “help” that does nothing but get in the way. The “we” who isn’t one of us here on the ground attempting to deal with the situation please keep the looniness to a dull roar.

    Law enforcement knows about it, the board and administration know about it, the wider community now knows about it, and Freshwater was admonished by the school administration for the “burning” incident months ago (that just came out in the last few hours).

    We do not know with any certainty the circumstances that resulted in the “burning”, and shooting off our mouths when we don’t know that is not helpful.

  110. #110 Don
    April 23, 2008

    When my daughter was in High School a few years ago, her (popular) RE teacher told the class that homosexuals were destined for Hell.

    My daughter and several of her classmates objected strenuously but politely that there were almost certainly dozens of gay students at the school, whether openly or not, and it was apalling to declare them Hell-bound.

    The teacher responded that she had no personal animosity towards gay people and was saddened, but God had spoken and that was just how it was. Apparently the discussion that followed was one of the best the class had ever had.

    I know the teacher was a devout christian (she left shortly afterwards to work in a christian Foundation school) but I have sometimes wondered if perhaps it was a cunning ploy to spark debate. Either way, it propelled my daughter several steps further into her own journey to atheism.

    I don’t harbour any such doubts about this Freshwater joker. If you deliberately inflict pain or injury on a student you should be out the bloody door with legal proceeding pending. I mean, that’s basic, isn’t it?

  111. #111 peter garayt
    April 23, 2008

    What happened to ‘dad’ walking right over and punching him in the nose.
    Not that I would condone that or anything.
    peter g

  112. #112 Daverz
    April 23, 2008

    In one class, Freshwater used Lego pieces to describe the beginning of the world. He dumped the pieces, then asked students if the Legos could assemble by themselves

    Sounds like Chuck Noblet!

    http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0056365/

  113. #113 J
    April 23, 2008

    spurge @ 3

    If he had burned a pentagram into a students arm what would have happened to this teacher?

    The townspeople would have taken up torches and pitchforks and driven Freshwater out of town.

  114. #114 ThirdMonkey
    April 23, 2008

    #109 RBH –
    Thanks. I just needed to know that something was being done. To those that are “on the ground” let us know if there is anything that we can do to help.

  115. #115 allkom
    April 23, 2008

    I don’t think I would go as far as erasing this block out, but if any teacher ever attempted to “brand” my girls like this, I would surely have to buy me a new walking cane, after parting his hair with the current one. Seriously, I feel depressed that things reached this point in US. I traveled a great part of your country including many small towns in the “bible belt” some 20 years ago, and thought religion was always present, it was not aggressively so. I’m not in position of criticizing, being not an American citizen, but as an admirer of your culture I surely feel sad about the way things went.

  116. #116 phi_one_zero@yahoo.com
    April 23, 2008

    While firing him for his religious buffoonery is perfectly valid, an even easier case can be made: Fire him for physically abusing students. If that’s not an open-and-shut case, I don’t know what is.

  117. #117 MikeM
    April 23, 2008

    Only demented f-wits burn their students on purpose. Fire ‘im.

    We have a case going on in North Highlands (near Sacramento) where a principal decided it was a good idea to take all the African-American students into the school cafeteria to talk about the achievement gap. This just happened last week.

    http://www.sacbee.com/education/story/879602.html

    The achievement gap is a very sensitive issue, but even the very young kids that were taken aside figured out that being singled out because of their heritage was racist. I can see taking the lower achievers aside for a talk, but in doing this the way the principal did it, he undoubtedly missed some low achievers while he included high achievers.

    I think I’d at least suspend this guy, too.

  118. #118 DavidCT
    April 23, 2008

    Considering that there are estimated to be upwards of 15,000 denominations of Christians in this country, Mr. Freshwater’s teaching is probably as inappropriate to Christian parents as it is to those of other worldviews. This sort of thing does not belong in public school science class. It certainly would not be tolerated in a Catholic school.

  119. #119 LP
    April 23, 2008

    …will he teach about the chemistry of oxidation reactions by burning heretical students at a stake>

    I learned about that in my chemistry class too! Yay!

  120. #120 Heather
    April 23, 2008

    This all sounds like a very serious abuse of Legos.

    Seriously though, there are plenty of cool, engaging, safe investigations for static electricity. Even if the effect and the symbol were unintentional, using this “device” is just bizzare on his part.

  121. #121 GrantZ
    April 23, 2008

    My old teacher in math also used to have a Bible on his desk. He used to read some of the more “controversial” parts to us and told us that Jesus and his followers smoked pot and were drunks(“water into wine”). He also showed us The Life Of Brian and Alien. He sometimes had so called mathematical orgasms when he was writing on the blackboard. Damn he was a funny guy! XDDDDD

    …And yet he was an excellent teacher and you could say that he was the one that got me excited about science in the first place.

  122. #122 TheZog
    April 23, 2008

    @ CrypticLife (98)

    As I sit in Con Law right now, incidentally discussing the tension between the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, I understand there’s a great deal of nuance to this area of the law. That said, in a clear cut case such as this, I don’t think a 7th grade social studies teacher would be out of line in saying, “This teacher’s activity is prohibited by the First Amendment.”

    That said, I see how there could be some negative ramification in that the kids may misunderstand the true meaning of that statement. Or worse, a student may tell a parent what the teacher said (perhaps inaccurately) and the parent is then irate since then the teacher is a “religious bigot.” I guess that sort of discussion would be best reserved for high school, where, at least at my school district, government was taught in 12th grade. At any rate, I’m sure there are plenty of primary, and secondary for that matter, school teachers who don’t understand the operation and meaning of the First Amendment, which is, of course, a true shame.

  123. #123 Kain
    April 23, 2008

    So if an athiest uses pseudo-science to try to push their agenda down people’s throats that is okay and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Great world we live in!

  124. #124 GrantZ
    April 23, 2008

    “So if an athiest uses pseudo-science to try to push their agenda down people’s throats that is okay and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Great world we live in!”

    Examples of atheists using pseudo-science to further their own agenda?

  125. #125 Thorn
    April 23, 2008

    Better to have a cross burnt into your kids hand than into your lawn.

  126. #126 Donut
    April 23, 2008

    So if an athiest uses pseudo-science to try to push their agenda down people’s throats that is okay and there is nothing wrong with that.
    Great world we live in!

    #123, does your school have an Astrology class?

  127. #127 DCN
    April 23, 2008

    “Examples of atheists using pseudo-science to further their own agenda?”

    I assume he’s referring to the religio-scientific fringe cult of Militant Darwinism. It’s untestable! NO PICKLE HAS EVER TURNED INTO A SOLDERING IRON!

  128. #128 Polyimide
    April 23, 2008

    What do you mean legos can’t assemble themselves?
    This research indicates that Legos can, in fact, assemble themselves: http://www.molecularassembler.com/KSRM/3.23.4.htm

  129. #129 MikeM
    April 23, 2008

    #123: I’m athier than you. Some are athier than me. I’m not sure who’s athiest, though.

    Yeah, I know what you’re talking about, though. You know, all that weird carbon-dating and stuff. Icky. Yeah, that’s just the pseudo-science stuff we’re cramming down throats.

    I’ve always thought that if people who say stuff like “You atheists love to cram pseudo-science down our throats!” had been alive 300 years ago, you’d have been fans of Spontaneous Generation.

  130. #130 Pierce R. Butler
    April 23, 2008

    All these cry-baby complaints about one True Christian ™ demonstrating his faith with a few sparks.

    What about all those damned atheist teachers who’ve burned their students’ arms with NOTHING?!?

  131. #131 Sam
    April 23, 2008

    That’s terrifying.

    We once had a biology teacher that taught us about evolution, with the disclaimer: “if you chose to believe in alternate theories than evolution that’s fine, but the way that I’m teaching you is as discovered and approved by the scientific community, and more importantly our state board of education. Believe what you like, but learn this or you will fail.”

    I thought it was a nice touch.

  132. #132 Mauro
    April 23, 2008

    I just want to point out that you have a banner ad at the top of this blog advertising a book with a foreword by Christopher Hitchens, who is a militant atheist, a total asshole, and a bigot. Militant atheist, I mean, to the point of being anti-Semitic as well, as I recall him saying in an interview at one point; I don’t find anything wrong with strong atheism in general. I think you should consider removing this ad. As an atheist myself (and a Jew), I’m deeply disturbed by his general stance towards people in general.

    Not that I link you to him, of course, but the banner ad is giving him a positive rap. Just saying. (: (Dawkins is a much more reasonable fellow, by the way.)

  133. #133 The Wholly None
    April 23, 2008

    From what I read, the Mount Vernon school district has a new superintendent who is trying to clean up this mess. It was he who requested that Freshwater remove the Ten Commandments and the posters of Bible verses from his teaching areas. Apparently he had a friendly chat with Freshwater suggesting that he stick to the approved science curriculum or find another job. As is all too common in these cases, then Freshwater (together with his friend Daubenmire) manufactured the religious persecution defense.

    Let me tell you, it can be tough to hire good science teachers for middle school, in a small town, for low pay. Good science teachers have better options. Heck, anybody who studies science at all has better options. Half the time the science teacher is a part time coach with nine hours in physiology (that’s a science, isn’t it?) and a knack for keeping the kids in their seats. I have no idea what Freshwater’s real credentials are, but he was sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, so I’m suspecting….

    It appears that this new superintendent will sort this out successfully, but Ohioans might want to keep an eye on this situation and lend political support and encouragement where it is needed. Oftentimes the new guy who is trying to do the right thing gets to feeling very lonely.

  134. #134 Josh
    April 24, 2008

    Hitchens (a Jew himself) claimed in an interview to be an anti-Semite? Bolix.

  135. #135 Bad Albert
    April 24, 2008

    SteveC @ #28
    I was quoting one of the students who was defending the teacher in the article linked to by PZ.

  136. #136 Amber
    April 24, 2008

    I HAD JOHN FRESHWATER AS A TEACHER… HE IS NOT A MONSTER NOR DOES HE FORCE THE BIBLE OR BRAND CHILDREN…. HOW DO YOU JUDGE FROM READING PRESS STORYS…. HES A VERY GOOD TEACHER…. ONE OF THE BEST.. NOT A BIBLE BANGER… HE IS BETTER THAN YOU… AS A FREIEND AND FORMER STUDENT I SOUPPORT JOHN FRESHWATER…. ALL THE WAY… HE HELPS WITH FCA A PROGRAM (FINE BY THE SCHOOLS AND LAW BEFORE SCHOOL HOURS) HES AN INSPERATION! HE WILL NOT GO DOWN LIKE THIS… HAS… PEOPLE LIKE YOUR SELF NEED TO PICK UP A BIBLE AND READ!… YOU NEED IT **** GOD BLESS ALL THE SCHOOL IN THE USA AND GOD BLESS **** JOHN FRESHWATER **** HE IS A HERO! AND GOD BLESS YOU.. AND ALL YOU HATERS HIDING BEHIND YOUR PC’S

  137. #137 PipeUp
    April 24, 2008

    (clears throat)

    “Attention Pharygulites: Fundie cleanup in aisle # 136!”

  138. #138 ennui
    April 24, 2008

    Amber – shouting in ALL CAPS is not an argument. Judging by your (lack of) command of proper grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation, you are a half-wit who knows not what a decent teacher looks like.

    Your hero, John Freshwater, violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause by posting the Ten Commandments on the classroom door, among other things. He refuses to follow school district instructions and policy. He should be fired.

    One last thing – you will find that the Pharyngula community knows quite more about your precious bible than you, the real ‘hater,’ will probably ever learn. Muppet!

  139. #139 KSENIYA...OM
    April 24, 2008

    WOW… WHAT IS IT WITH FUNDIES… AND THE CAPS LOCK… AND THE ELLIPSES…????

  140. #140 autumn
    April 24, 2008

    Amber, calm down. Your caps lock button appears to have been pushed. I believe that you are defending Mr. Freshwater with sincerity, but your message may be lost in the delivery. No one here will object to a response that is articulate and measured. You will, in fact, be ahead of many of our more passionate posters in the credibility through rationality category.
    Take a few deep breaths, and say what you think, not what you feel.
    I think that most of the posters here would very much welcome a response by one with a first-hand account.
    I, for one, would like to hear your side.
    Autumn

  141. #141 Hematite
    April 24, 2008

    MikeM #129

    Damn you! I’ve been waiting for weeks to make that joke. Not that I noticed that particular misspeeling until you pointed it out. Oooh, it burns me to think of you sitting there, with your smug athier-than-thou attitude. I barely feel aithy at all in comparison.

  142. #142 Hematite
    April 24, 2008

    wazza #69, you’re thinking of David Benson-Pope. The whole incident was rather strange; I know a couple of people who were taught by him over the years and I recall them saying that he was a dickhead at times, but it seemed like somebody was just trying to dig up dirt. The scandal was something like 15 years after the fact – when it could become a political issue. The tennis ball thing was particularly vague, only a couple of the people who were presumably in the class at the time could remember anything. I don’t think anything came of the scandal, except that he resigned in nonspecific disgrace.

    During my schooling I saw a couple of things that could have been spun similarly, if anyone cared to. A student teacher once threw a blackboard duster at a lippy student, nearly hit him in the head. The teacher knew she’d gone too far, the students knew she’d gone too far, and the disruptive student knew he’d pushed his luck too far ;) I don’t think anything more came of it, or was necessary given the one-off nature of the event.

    In a high school science class, the teacher spent ten minutes setting up a small electric fence; we were meant to be doing exercises or something while we waited. When he was finished he tried to get the class’s attention, but there was a guy who was still busy loudly discussing what he’d done at the weekend just like he had been the whole time. The teacher walked up to him and said “hold this…”

    Ah, good times. Completely irresponsible, can’t condone a moment of it. But apart from reminiscing, I wanted to point out that we don’t know very much at all about the facts of this case. The article says the teacher left a red mark in the shape of a cross. Now we have comments talking indignantly about branding and child abuse, and reaching for the torches and pitchforks. It COULD be that the teacher was demonstrating how muscles contract under electric current, offering to zap any students who wanted in the arm to feel their arm twitch involuntarily. Perhaps the device left an X shaped mark that faded in 1-3 minutes.

    Anyway. Just saying. The teacher does sound like a dickhead, with the lego stunt and all. It’s a shame there are so many people complaining about what he MIGHT have done.

  143. #143 Hematite
    April 24, 2008

    Oops! Mea culpa:

    The burn was severe enough that our child awoke that night with severe pain, and the cross remained there for several weeks.

    Boy do I feel stupid now. Don’t know how I missed that the first time round. Fire him! No question!

    Erm. It sure would be handy if there was a feature to edit comments here… help me pretend I didn’t just completely mess that up…

  144. #144 deang
    April 24, 2008

    Yeah, let’s hope administrative action is taken against this guy and he’s fired. But why isn’t the local community hounding the guy out of town for burning a religious symbol into a student’s arm in class?! That is creepy, cultish shit that oughta have the entire town in an uproar.

    But if he was a sponsor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I begin to get a better picture of what the guy and the local community may be like. There was kind of a hands-off attitude toward the FCA jocks in my Texas high school years ago. They were allowed to get away with anything – bullying kids who didn’t fit in, harassing people they thought were gay, endless bullheaded proselytizing, etc. Yet, they were considered “respectable” because they were jocks, were aggressively Christian, and were involved in prominent local churches. I can easily picture some of the FCA coach teachers from my high school doing something like this to some unpopular student and getting away with it. Probably the same in this guy’s town.

  145. #145 ajani57
    April 24, 2008

    My first thought was that the device used was a sharpie, and why didn’t the kid just wash it off? I had to read and re-read the part about it being an electrical device to force my mind to believe something so outrageous.

    That is good cause for immediate removal from the classroom.

    But let’s pretend it was a sharpie. A fundamental (sorry) question should be: Did he put a negative sign on the other arm? Or would that have been the mark of the devil?

    Doesn’t big science claim that electricity flows from positive to negative? Isn’t that proof that big science wants people to abandon God?

  146. #146 phantomreader42
    April 24, 2008

    AMBER, LIAR FOR JESUS?:

    I HAD JOHN FRESHWATER AS A TEACHER… HE IS NOT A MONSTER NOR DOES HE FORCE THE BIBLE OR BRAND CHILDREN

    So, Amber, you insist, screeching in all caps, that John Freshwater does not brand children. What, then, do you make of this:

    Fax from the parents of the child in question:

    “We are religious people, but we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child. This was done in science class in December 2007, where an electric shock machine was used to burn our child. The burn was severe enough that our child awoke that night with severe pain, and the cross remained there for several weeks.”

    Are you calling those parents liars, Amber? Do you have any evidence to support that accusation? And isn’t your imaginary god supposed to have some sort of problem with bearing false witness?

    AMBER, ARROGANT LIAR FOR JESUS?:

    HES A VERY GOOD TEACHER…. ONE OF THE BEST.. NOT A BIBLE BANGER… HE IS BETTER THAN YOU.

    A “very good teacher” does not use class time to promote falsehoods. A “very good teacher” does not burn his students. To claim that this nutcase is better than us, you must have a very strange definition of “better”. Perhaps you’ve just had a string of truly atrocious teachers, so bad that painfully burning a student and leaving a mark that lasted for weeks is a breath of fresh air for you. Or you might just think any act, no matter how vile, is justified in the name of your imaginary god. That seems to be a common position for religious nuts.

    AMBER, ARROGANT ILLITERATE LIAR FOR JESUS?:

    PEOPLE LIKE YOUR SELF NEED TO PICK UP A BIBLE AND READ!…

    Most of us here have read your precious bible. Including the calls for genocide and human sacrifice. The endorsement of slavery. The executions for the most trivial of offenses. Do you honestly not see any problem with these things? Do you think it’s okay to murder a child by throwing rocks at him for disobeying his parents (specifically commanded in the bible)? Of course, you can’t bring yourself to object to burning a student, so I guess you wouldn’t have a problem with stoning either. Do you not see anything wrong with destroying an entire city, including all inhabitants and livestock, for failing to worship your imaginary god (another biblical command)? I guess not.

  147. #147 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    @ # 136:

    Judging by the all caps argument, horrible spelling, and terribly flawed grammar, not only would I deduce that by “former student” she means very recently former (as in a year or two), but it also leads me to disagree with her premise that he was an effective educator.

    Amber, be careful entering into argument with those you do not know, especially if you already know you don’t have the requisite tools to make a fair showing.

  148. #148 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Amber,
    Don’t let these insults from these fools who do not believe in God bother you. Notice that they did not respond to what you said but only insulted you on your grammar. They jump on the story of the parents and exaggerate it without knowing what really went on, but they don’t pay any attention to your testimony of Mr. Freshwater – that is because they don’t want to hear that side. Thanks for shedding some light on this one-sided list of arguments.

  149. #149 phantomreader42
    April 24, 2008

    So, Scott, I see you’re keen to join the Liars For Jesus? club too.

    Exactly what exaggeration is there in POSTING THE EXACT WORDS OF THE PARENTS? Oh, yeah, it’s an exaggeration in your diseased mind, because you can’t face reality. Isn’t your imaginary god supposed to have some sort of problem with bearing false witness?

    I also see that you can’t bring yourself to object to the burning of children, as long as it’s done in the name of your imaginary god. You are a sick, sick man.

    How would you like to have yourself branded with the words “I SUPPORT CHILD ABUSE IN THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS CHRIST“? Because child abuse is exactly what you are supporting. And you don’t seem to have a problem with branding OTHER people’s kids.

  150. #150 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Phantomreader,
    You are too quick to jump to conclusions and to throw out insults. After I write a few sentences you conclude that I have a diseased mind, I can’t face reality, I support the burning of children and child abuse, and that I am a sick man. You probably use the same thought process to come the conclusion that there is no God. It sounds like you have a great deal of hatred and bitterness down deep inside.

    You are also very inconsistent. You are so quick to believe every word of these parents and at the same time call Amber a liar in big bold print. Just because you think she is a Christian?

  151. #151 Kseniya
    April 24, 2008

    Amber hasn’t refuted anything, Scott. She said nothing more than “He was my teacher and I like him.” That’s fine, but it means nothing with regard to Mr. Freshwater’s alleged actions. It appears that she was his student before these events occurred – so how can she say they didn’t happen? You seem quick to accept her word on events she did not even witness. Why?

    Also, please re-read the quoted portion of the fax sent by the parents of the child with the burn. What part of this fax was exaggerated?

    Speaking of jumping to conclusions and throwing out insults, what makes you think that everyone commenting here who thinks Mr. Freshwater’s alleged actions are a serious breach of his responsibilities are fools and/or atheists? Perhaps some of us, like the parents quoted in the original piece, believe in the principles upon which this nation was founded and conclude (pending contradicting evidence) that a consitutional problem exists in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom.

    You are so quick to believe every word of these parents and at the same time call Amber a liar in big bold print. Just because you think she is a Christian?

    Please note that the parents whose words you urge us to treat with skepticism are also religious, and presumably Christians. Perhaps Phantomreader finds the parents’ complaint more credible than Amber’s uncritical support of her former teacher, but not, as you suggest, for reasons of simple religious bias. By your logic, Phantomreader would reject the parents’ claims as lies “just because” he thinks they are Christians.

  152. #152 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Kseniya,

    If Amber has not refuted anything, then why was she attacked so voraciously after her post. It just stood out to me that in bold capitals she was referred to as a “liar” three times.

    I think it is fair to come to the conclusion that many of those posting on this list do not believe in God, that they espouse the beliefs of evolution and want them to be tought to our children without question.

    Do you not find any inconsistencies in the parents testimony. This guy has been a teacher for 20 something years. He has a great reputation with the majority of students (not the kind of reputation a “child burning” teacher would have). The mark that the parents said was burned on their child stayed there for “weeks”. What kind of red mark stays there for weeks that is not a serious burn, and if a serious burn, there would be a scar. This happened in December and they say nothing until now? So, you child comes home with a serious burn that their science teacher caused and it remains on your child for “weeks” and you don’t do anything or say anything to the principle or anybody. There story I believe has some inconsistencies along with being inconsistent with Mr. Freshwaters reputation after 20 years. Therefore, I think it deserves some scrutiny.

    I think my conclusions about phatomreader might come from his frequent use of the phrase “liars for Jesus”.

  153. #153 ennui
    April 24, 2008

    Scott – While some of the facts of the case, specifically the burning allegation, are disputed, some clearly are not:

    1) Mr. Freshwater had the Ten Commandments and other posters with bible verses hanging in his classroom. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment.
    2) Mr. Freshwater’s personnel record shows multiple warnings against using his desk as a pulpit, and to teach the approved curriculum.

    There are plenty of other accusations, but the two noted seem sufficient to remove him from his post.

    As for Amber, when you SCREECH IN CRAYON like a child, you will be treated as such.

  154. #154 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Ennui,

    #1 is not disputed, and Mr. Freshwater complied by taking the 10 commandments down.

    #2 I think could be disputed as I read comments in one article by some of his students stating that he never “preached” or made them feel like they had to believe what he believed.

    Amber apparently is a young person that is still in school. I believe adults should be a good example and act a little more mature.

  155. #155 ennui
    April 24, 2008

    Scott – see here for confirmation of fact #2. Pay close attention to the quote from Mr. Freshwater’s former colleague.

  156. #156 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Ennui,

    The link did not work.

  157. #157 MikeB
    April 24, 2008

    Defending John Freshwater

    The General says:

    Most science teachers expose students to the basic principles of electricity by conducting a simple experiment. They attach two wires to a small light bulb and then touch them against a battery. Light results. The teacher then explains that electrons move through the wire from the battery’s negative terminal to it’s positive one, and that flow is called electricity. Our Lord Jesus is completely left out of the discussion.

    Mr. Freshwater’s approach is different. He replaces the lightbulb with a cross. The cross heats up when he connects it to the battery. He then presses the fiery hot cross into his students’ sizzling flesh, burning the image of Our Lord’s sacrifice into their skin. It’s an experience they will never forget. The connection between electricity and Our Savior will be forever seared into their memories.

    I was born in Ohio and now live about 40 miles from that school. This really is not so uncommon, sad to say. Consider the official state motto: “With god all things are possible.”

  158. #158 ennui
    April 24, 2008
  159. #159 Sylphon
    April 24, 2008

    This really dosn’t surprise me. At my own high school (rural North Carolina) there was a teacher alot of people liked. He worked within this school for 20 years, and his brother still works at the same school, point is people liked him. About two years ago, the police busted a meth lab, and guess whos basement it was in? None other than the beloved teacher.

    Moral of the Story: Just because a person is held in high regard and is liked, dosn’t mean they are beyond such actions as cooking up and selling meth, or in this case branding a cross on someones arm using electric current.

  160. #160 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Ennui,

    Thanks. That worked.

    I would not defend Mr. Fishwater if what George says it true. I would like know how George’s testimony coincides with that of the students that were actually in Freshwater’s class. I believe that even if he is a Christian he should respect the laws of the land.

    I do believe he has the right to keep a Bible on his desk for his own personal use.

    I do beleive he is being unfairly characterized (especially on this list) as a child abuser. I thought the testmony of Mr. Skinner was quite enlightening.

  161. #161 clarence
    April 24, 2008

    Well, he certainly has his defenders, many of which seem to be as sophisticated as Amber.

    For example, there is outrage that Freshwater’s innocent Bible is being expelled when other teachers and students have been known to sport “some head dress thing everyday” or “some little beanie thing” or even “those little Jewish hats” without being persecuted.

    After all, “Christians make up about 80% of the population of the United States but they don’t complain about others actions or beliefs.” So true!

    Maybe I’ve just been totally Poe’d. I’d like to think so.

  162. #162 Master Mahan
    April 24, 2008

    How truly outrageous that some people would question this man. By inflicting pain on these children, he is teaching them first-hand about the suffering of Jesus. The man is a modern-day Pontius Pilate. The true villains here are these parents who, like the Pharisees, hate Jesus so much they won’t let their children be tortured in His name.

  163. #163 Zscientist
    April 24, 2008

    #156: no, the link doesn’t work directly. However, if you type “Freshwater” into the box and hit Search….voila! I am always amazed when such things work….must be the hand of god, don’t you think?

  164. #164 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    Notice that they did not respond to what you said but only insulted you on your grammar. They jump on the story of the parents and exaggerate it without knowing what really went on, but they don’t pay any attention to your testimony of Mr. Freshwater – that is because they don’t want to hear that side. Thanks for shedding some light on this one-sided list of arguments.

    Posted by: Scott | April 24, 2008 11:44 AM

    You obviously choose to take my comments as insults on her personal character, but you are mistaken. I have many times on this board – if you had taken the time to read anything other than this thread, you’d know this – said that I do not resort to personal insults, but instead comment on the efficacy of people’s arguments based on their methods in making those arguments. And the first paragraph in my post was in no way pointed directly AT Amber, but rather pointed out her flaws in argumentation. It is a fact that the things I mentioned as faulty in her post are actually present. And the second segment, where I actually did address her personally, I merely told her that it would behoove her to make sure that – before entering into conversations of the magnitude that exist here – she could effectively and intelligently present her case. Because, if you haven’t noticed, people who come onto this site and make poor arguments with faulty aspects within are usually rebuked for such comments. And as for the comment I made concerning how recently she was taught by this man, her choice of all capital lettering and obvious basic mistakes in her writing lead me – quite reasonably – to such a conclusion.

    If you wish to take what I said as a personal insult to Amber, I would suggest to you that – aside from it not involving you in the least – you should make sure to perform a closer reading of the posts and the apparent intent behind them. What I suspect happened is that you read my post with preconceptions colored by some of the more adversarial and insulting posts that are made on these types of boards. This is in no way meant as patronizing, though you may take it that way if you choose. If you do, however, I will feel none of the remorse or regret that I do feel when I actually make the error of insulting someone in that fashion, because it was not my intent to do so in this case.

  165. #165 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Brokensoldier,

    You are right in your suspicion:
    “I suspect happened is that you read my post with preconceptions colored by some of the more adversarial and insulting posts that are made on these types of boards.”

    My post should have been addressed more specifically to phantomreader.

  166. #166 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    @ Scott in # 165:

    No worries — I usually prefer to avoid those kinds of belittling posts as much as I possibly can because the arguments they ignite almost always draw the discourse away from the essence of the topic at hand. Besides, it it just doesn’t sit well with my conscience to criticize someone personally unless they show – over a volume of posts or speech – that their personal character deserves such attacks.

  167. #167 Scott
    April 24, 2008

    Brokensoldier,

    I couldn’t agree more.

  168. #168 concerned
    April 24, 2008

    What is your problem people? have you not one inch of common sense in your whole bodies? There is no evidence that the child was branded, and the mark magically disapeared in a day! If you ask me, this is that kids parents trying to get their five minutes in the spotlight. what happened to the principles this country was FOUNDED on??

  169. #169 Concerned
    April 24, 2008

    What is your problem people? have you not one inch of common sense in your whole bodies? There is no evidence that the child was branded, and the mark magically disapeared in a day! If you ask me, this is that kids parents trying to get their five minutes in the spotlight. what happened to the principles this country was FOUNDED on??

  170. #170 kmarissa
    April 24, 2008

    what happened to the principles this country was FOUNDED on??

    Indeed.

    I hope that post was sarcasm.

  171. #171 Brownian, OM
    April 24, 2008

    I hope that post was sarcasm.

    Me too, but I have my doubts.

    What, specifically, do you think those principles are, Concerned?

  172. #172 ennui
    April 24, 2008

    Get a room you guys.

  173. #173 ennui
    April 24, 2008

    Sorry, my last post was directed at the newfound love between Scott and brokenRecord. My point is that there is room for both gently reasoned argument and for hammering trolls like Crest hammers the Cavity Creeps.

    Both approaches have been known to work, regardless of what your conscience tells you.

  174. #174 Kseniya
    April 24, 2008

    Scott:

    Do you not find any inconsistencies in the parents testimony.

    That’s a fair question. Let’s scrutinize their claims in the context of what we know.

    This guy has been a teacher for 20 something years.

    Yes, he does. I don’t discount that – but it does not and cannot serve as proof that the events in question did not occur. Everyone in the history of humankind who has ever screwed up has initially done so with a clean record.

    He has a great reputation with the majority of students (not the kind of reputation a “child burning” teacher would have).

    Also true, but who’s claiming that he’s been doing this electrical-cross trick for 20 years? As far as I can tell, nobody. So, again – what does that prove? I have no reason to disbelieve Amber’s claim that, in her experience, Mr. Freshwater doesn’t “brand children,” but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t recently adopted that technique and that it didn’t happen.

    Why is former student Amber’s word worth more to you than the word of current student newspaper editor Joe Stuart, who claims that Freshwater does use an electrical device to leave a mark on the forearms of some students?

    The mark that the parents said was burned on their child stayed there for “weeks”. What kind of red mark stays there for weeks that is not a serious burn, and if a serious burn, there would be a scar.

    Ah, the old “I don’t believe it, therefore it cannot be” argument.

    The pain from the burn allegedly woke the child from sleep. That level of pain is consistent with a second-degree burn. Yet you claim that a second degree burn (and, in this case, one sustained over a very small surface area) couldn’t possibly leave a mark lasting several weeks? Wrong. A second-degree burn, which though initially painful is relatively superficial, can leave a reddish or brownish mark which can last for several weeks – or even several months – without leaving a permanent scar if it’s allowed to heal properly.

    This happened in December and they say nothing until now? So, you child comes home with a serious burn that their science teacher caused and it remains on your child for “weeks” and you don’t do anything or say anything to the principle or anybody.

    Well, that’s a pretty good question, but why not read what the parents wrote? “We have tried to keep this a private matter and hesitate to tell the whole story to the media for fear that we will be retaliated against.”

    The question you should ask is, “Why did they say nothing publicly until now?”

    It appears that the parents had attempted to deal with the matter privately, within the school system, but after weeks or months of apparent inaction they took the opportunity to go public on the heels of the stir over Mr. Freshwater’s Bibles and religious posters – an incident that provided an opening for them to publicly air their as yet unaddressed complaint.

    Why else would Superintendent Steve Short decline to comment as to why the allegations hadn’t been made public sooner? If the parents had filed the complaint with the school in conjuction with their attorney’s fax to the Mt. Vernon News, surely it would have been in the best interest of the school for Superintendent Short to simply tell the truth: The reason the allegations hadn’t been made public sooner was because prior to Tuesday, April 22rd, the allegations hadn’t been made at all.

    I think it deserves some scrutiny.

    Indeed, it does. Are you willing to continue to scrutinize the events, in their entirety, with an unbiased eye?

  175. #175 Kseniya
    April 24, 2008

    And furthermore…

    If Amber has not refuted anything, then why was she attacked so voraciously after her post.

    Maybe we need to agree on a definition of “refuted” before we can go any further on this point. I would say that Amber has attempted to refute the allegations against Mr. Freshwater, but has failed to do so because she can only speak from her own experience. She may therefore qualify as a character witness, but not as an eyewitness to the events under scrutiny.

    I think it is fair to come to the conclusion that many of those posting on this list do not believe in God, that they espouse the beliefs of evolution and want them to be tought to our children without question.

    Yes, you’re right, many (though by no means all) are atheists. As for teaching Evolution, well – yes, but at the risk of muddying the waters here, as opposed to what? Evolution-the-fact as opposed to Creation-the-myth? The scientific Theory of Evolution vs. the pseudo-scientific assertions of Intelligent Design? Questioning evolution is fine – there are disputes within the scientific community about various aspects of the theory – but the material that Mr. Freshwater was instructed to remove from his curriculum was judged to have “not passed the test of scientific review and acceptance of the established scientific community.”

    For the record, I don’t agree with Phantomreader. I believe Amber is sincere, even if she’s not being fastidiously honest on the level of bothering to find out whether or not the allegations have any factual basis. Also, I support Mr. Freshwater’s right to keep a personal bible on his desk. The bibles on the classroom shelves and religious posters are another matter, but those are a non-issue because Mr. Freshwater, in good faith, complied with the reasonable and appropriate request to remove them from the classroom.

    I also don’t believe that Mr. Freshwater intended to harm the unnamed student. Though his demonstration of how an electrical current flowing through a wire can generate heat is undoubtedly effective, and it’s likely he got a kick out of leaving a pale red cross – presumably no worse than a mild sunburn – on the arms of some students as a reminder, I can’t imagine why he’d intentionally give a student a second-degree burn. If he did – out of malice, spite, or to satisfy some grudge – that would be very serious indeed, but the many voices speaking out in support of his good character make that seem rather unlikely.

  176. #176 brokenSoldier
    April 24, 2008

    Sorry, my last post was directed at the newfound love between Scott and brokenRecord

    Posted by: ennui | April 24, 2008 5:40 PM

    I don’t appreciate that obvious insult — exactly what did I do to provoke that one?

  177. #177 travc
    April 24, 2008

    So we are going to end up hearing how the bible is banned from public schools over this one…. So I have an idea.

    How about a bunch of non-bible-thumping teachers with a respect for church-state separation put bibles on their desks. This is not about the bible, it is about inappropriate indoctrination and crappy teaching.

  178. #178 Ichthyic
    April 24, 2008

    Both approaches have been known to work, regardless of what your conscience tells you.

    when applied to trolls, by the very definition of what a troll is, your argument breaks down.

    evidentiary argument does nothing for trolls.

    It is, however, fun to pound on trolls with spiked clubs.

    did you wish to expand your dichotomy beyond the realm of the troll, perchance?

    man, third time this week:

    “Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them.”

    -Thomas Jefferson

  179. #179 phantomreader42
    April 24, 2008

    Scott:

    I do beleive he is being unfairly characterized (especially on this list) as a child abuser. I thought the testmony of Mr. Skinner was quite enlightening.

    If he did, in fact, burn a cross into the flesh of his students, then he IS a child abuser. Intentionally inflicting that kind of pain on a minor child is BY DEFINITION child abuse.

    According to the parents of the child, who don’t seem to have any clear motive to lie, he did do this. And apparently they have some backup from the editor of the student newspaper, and most likely other witnesses.

    Let’s look at Freshwater’s witnesses. You’ve got a teacher who broke the law by proselytizing in science class, failed to do his job, and thus stole tax money. You’ve also got AMBER, the screeching ex-student with nothing more than ARGUMENTUM AD CAPSLOCK. These people are not credible.

    It’s nice to see you NOW getting around to condemning child abuse, Scott. I recall a creationist troll near the end of the EXPELLED *jazz hands* thread by that name who came in spewing AiG-style garbage and Lying For Jesus?. Maybe I confused the two of you. I’m just so used to willfully ignorant religious nuts that I tend to be pretty violent in tearing their worthless arguments to bloody shreds and spitting on the pieces.

    This teacher promoted pseudoscience in science class. He lied to his students. He used his teaching position, in a public school, to promote his religion. He violated federal law. And he has been credibly accused of acts that are, by any reasonable definition, child abuse. These activities are not acceptable. This shouldn’t even need to be pointed out. It should be obvious that you can’t use a teaching position to spread lies to children. It should be obvious that you can’t get away with branding minors who you’re supposed to be taking care of. Why isn’t this obvious?

  180. #180 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Kseniya,
    Sure, I am willing to look at all of the facts. The problem is, we will never get them on this blog. We will never get them from reading a few articles about the story either.

    I was trying to read up on this story and found this blog. The opening article blatantly accused Freshwater of child abuse (burning, branding, torture). Then the following comments all jumped on the band wagon and had this guy in jail. Then a young lady who had actually been a student of his writes in his defense that he is not what all these folks are saying about him, and immediatly gets accused of being a “lying for Jesus” liar.

    So yes, I was somewhat biased when I first posted and I am still somewhat skeptical of the real story behind this kid that supposedly got burned so bad. For a few reasons:
    1. Hundreds of kids that knew him stood in defense of this teacher
    2. Amber, who was actually one of his students refuted these accusations
    3. This guy has been a teacher for 20 years – that means he has had hundreds (thousands?) of students sit under his teaching and there is this one kid who gets burned.
    4. He was an 8th grader. Nothing against 8th graders. I love them, I am raising one right now. But do you know what 8th graders are like? They do stuff like put a clamp on their ear lobe to see how long they can take the pain, put a 9 volt battery on ther tongue to feel the tingle, write in ink all over their arms, etc…. Who knows what this kid was doing that day. Maybe showing off to the girls how tough he was and could take the pain. 8th graders are like that you know.

    All I am saying is, we don’t really know what happened that day and we may never know, but I tend to give this teacher with a good reputation the benefit of the doubt.

    As far as evolution. You don’t believe there are any other alternatives other than teaching evolution as fact? Well, it is not a fact, it is a theory, and really not even a scientific one. It has never been observed, it is refuted by biological laws of reproduction and genetic DNA information, and there are so many “holes” in the theory – big hure gaping holes – but that is a whole other subject.

  181. #181 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    You don’t believe there are any other alternatives other than teaching evolution as fact? Well, it is not a fact, it is a theory, and really not even a scientific one. It has never been observed, it is refuted by biological laws of reproduction and genetic DNA information, and there are so many “holes” in the theory – big hure gaping holes – but that is a whole other subject.

    Oh, FUCKING YAWN.

    go here and educate yourself, Scott:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

    if you are the product of the kinds of teachers common to the area the teacher under discussion comes from, you were at least mentally abused, Scott.

  182. #182 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    oh, I forgot another basic place for creobots to educate themselves at:

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

    now go away.

  183. #183 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Scott: Well, those are good points, and hey – innocent ’til proven guilty, so I’m not going to argue too strenuously one way or the other until more evidence, whatever it may be, comes our way.

    As for evolution – I second Ichthyic’s recommendations. Ill-informed nonsense like what you just wrote just SCREAMS “I don’t know the first thing about this, I am just parrotting what other ignorant fools have told me.” Pathetic. Frankly, I’m not surprised, and you were easily outted. You telegraphed it clearly. (Pattern recognition is a powerful, evolved survival skill… heh.)

    I have not just insulted you, by the way. There’s no shame in not knowing something. There are at least a million zillion things I don’t know, and most of them I’ll never know. However, the act of speaking with authority from a position of desperate ignorance is less than completely honorable, and declining to educate oneself when confronted with the undeniable knowledge of ones ignorance IS shameful.

    Anyway, get the to a nunnery, or laboratory, or library, and fill those “big huge gaping holes” in your personal knowledge base. It’s time to join the 20th century, dude.

    No, that’s not a typo.

  184. #184 Damian
    April 25, 2008

    Scott said:

    “As far as evolution. You don’t believe there are any other alternatives other than teaching evolution as fact? Well, it is not a fact, it is a theory, and really not even a scientific one. It has never been observed, it is refuted by biological laws of reproduction and genetic DNA information, and there are so many “holes” in the theory – big hure gaping holes – but that is a whole other subject.”

    Scott, you were doing so well until you said this. Let me fill in a few more of “holes” for you:

    Evolution is a Fact and a Theory

    A beautiful example of rapid evolution: Lizards Rapidly Evolve After Introduction to Island

    Like Kseniya said, there are no excuses.

    And stealing a fantastic line of reasoning from Sastra: if, as seems highly likely from what you have said, you really don’t know a great deal about MET (modern evolutionary theory), is it not possible that you are denying God’s glory concerning His method of creating the diversity of life on earth?

    What you should be asking yourself is, if I haven’t even bothered to honestly engage with the evidence for evolution, how would I know whether it is persuasive or not? There are many religious people who fully accept that it is the method that God took advantage of, including many religious scientists, so don’t you think that it might be wise to pick up a book or two and at least give it a chance?

    I will allow you to ponder that.

  185. #185 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Well, of course I am not surprised by the barrage of insults, I knew that was coming.

    I did read the article about the lizard as that caught my interest and think that the end of the article should especially be noted:
    “The study demonstrates that a lot of change happens in island environments, said Andrew Hendry, a biology professor at Montreal’s McGill University.

    What could be debated, however, is how those changes are interpreted–whether or not they had a genetic basis and not a “plastic response to the environment,” said Hendry, who was not associated with the study.

    There’s no dispute that major changes to the lizards’ digestive tract occurred. “That kind of change is really dramatic,” he added.

    “All of this might be evolution,” Hendry said. “The logical next step would be to confirm the genetic basis for these changes.”

    Hmmmmmm.

  186. #186 spurge
    April 25, 2008

    I see Scott has ignored all the information presented to him.

  187. #187 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Damian,

    Yes, I also read the article “Fact and Theory”. So now, I am supposed to believe that evolution is now a fact because somebody wrote an article stating over and over again that it is a fact, and quoting others that state that it is a fact?

    Is that what you do?

    I think you and the others on this blog need to ask yourselves some real hardcore questions. Quoting from Kseniya, who is “parrotting what other ignorant fools have told me”?

  188. #188 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Spurge,

    Ignored the information presented to me? The article that was referred to me questioned itself whether the “evolution” of the lizard was really evolution or not.

    Maybe you all are content to see some adaptions within a species and call it “evolution”. That is not good enough for me. I want the hard questions answered. I want to know how all of this mass, energy, and life just happened to accidentally “pop up” from nothing. I want to know how a little primordial glob of cells was able to grow eyes, ears, digestive system, etc. when there was no genetic information existing to tell it to do so (not to mention how a bolt of lightning, wherever that came from, can create a living cell). I want to know how a fish (or whatever imagined creature it was) that was living in water and breathing through gills suddenly decides to start trying to live on land – and survives! How about this one – a lizard leaping into the air repeatedly eventually growing feathers and hollow bones so that it could soar through the air with ease? (that is with no genetic information available mind you). I want to know where plants started “miraculously” growing from (and with a great mechanism of producing seeds so that they could reproduce themselves). And my, what a coincidence that they evolved just in time to provide food for the animals that would soon be walking on land and breathing air! Wow!

    Maybe you are content to believe that everything all of the sudden exploded out of nothing, and then through millions and millions (hey, why not trillions and trillions) of “happy little coincidences” bingo! We have this great mechanism of life on earth.

    Well, that is not good enough for me, and I don’t think it ever will be.

  189. #189 kmarissa
    April 25, 2008

    Maybe you all are content to see some adaptions within a species and call it “evolution”. That is not good enough for me. I want the hard questions answered. I want to know how all of this mass, energy, and life just happened to accidentally “pop up” from nothing. I want to know how a little primordial glob of cells was able to grow eyes, ears, digestive system, etc. when there was no genetic information existing to tell it to do so (not to mention how a bolt of lightning, wherever that came from, can create a living cell). I want to know how a fish (or whatever imagined creature it was) that was living in water and breathing through gills suddenly decides to start trying to live on land – and survives!

    And yet, for all that, I doubt you’re even even interested in taking a class on evolution. Or reading a book about it. Or even spending a good 10 hours online learning about it.

    I know that you haven’t already, or you wouldn’t have written such a misguided rant.

  190. #190 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Kmarissa,

    No, I really am not. But I venture to say that you are no different. How much time have you spent researching the problems of the theory of evolution?

    You are just like all the others. You throw out an insult, yet you know that you have no answers to these questions.

  191. #191 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Insults? Geez… you’re new around here. You got off easy. ;-)

    Seriously, though, we’ve seen statements like yours a thousand times before – “Just a theory… refuted by [blather]… gaping holes…” – and they reduce to one simple statment: “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Understand? Either you want to learn, or you don’t. Either you want that part of your mind to be empty, or to be filled with misinformation – or you don’t. It’s up to you.

    Quoting from Kseniya, who is “parrotting what other ignorant fools have told me”?

    Who? Why – YOU, apparently. Your ill-informed arrogance is nothing short of astonishing, and yet it’s astonishingly familiar. :-|

    With that said, I commend you for declining to pull out the old “science is just another religion” canard. You get a green star for that one discriminating omission. :-)

    I also commend you for your skepticism. So, being a bit of a skeptic myself, I will entertain the possiblity that your claims are well-supported. Perhaps you can point us to the primary sources that have informed your opinions and evidenced your claims.

    Well, it is not a fact

    Why not?

    it is a theory

    Correct.

    and really not even a scientific one.

    Oh? Why not?

    It has never been observed

    Oh? Prove it. To do so, you must convincingly debunk every claim to the contrary. Good luck.

    it is refuted by biological laws of reproduction and genetic DNA information

    Do you have any idea how extreme that claim is? Refuted by “biological laws of reproduction” and by “genetic DNA information”? (As opposed to what? Virtual DNA? Genetic brown sugar? Hand-waving?) Good Lord!

    You’ve determined this yourself, have you? You’re not just repeating what someone – oh, say, a philosopher, a mechanical engineer, a clergyman – told you?

    In short: Prove it. Show us how it has been “refuted”. The burden of proof is on you.

    and there are so many “holes” in the theory – big hure gaping holes

    Please describe these holes. Be prepared to dmonstrate why they are so important that they cast the entire theory into serious doubt.

    but that is a whole other subject.

    Indeed it is.

    Back to the lizards for a moment. In my own less-than-fully-educated opinion, Hendry’s point is well taken, and you are right to bring it up. Though the changes are dramatic, and there are no apparent traces of the new features in the lizard’s ancestor, it may be a case of phenotypic plasticity. As he says, the next step is to confirm whether or not the changes are genetic and heritable, and therefore an example of evolutionary change.

  192. #192 kmarissa
    April 25, 2008

    How much time have you spent researching the problems of the theory of evolution?

    Which problems are these? Your post 188 shows pretty clearly that you don’t even understand what the theory of evolution IS. So how do you expect to learn about any of the nuanced areas that evolutionary biologists are debating about if you can’t even get the basics of the theory straight?

    You may call it an insult if you like. However, if you claim that you want to know something, but refuse all efforts to learn even the basics, people will call you on it. Especially here.

  193. #193 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Kmarissa,

    “Which problems are these?”

    I believe that proves my point. You and many others have swallowed “evolution” hook, line, and sinker – you don’t even think there are any problems in the theory!

    My, my.

  194. #194 kmarissa
    April 25, 2008

    Scott, you are an ignorant, tiresome, arrogant, and appear tragically unable to post anything of substance.

    And yes, that’s an insult.

  195. #195 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    I believe that proves my point. You and many others have swallowed “evolution” hook, line, and sinker – you don’t even think there are any problems in the theory!

    Proves your point? Wow. You sure don’t require much “proof” for your own anemic assertions, Scott. At least try to be consistent, willya?

    You have misunderstood KMarissa, just as you have conveniently ignored MY similar questions and challenges.

    You claim there are problems? What do you mean by problems? Tell us. Phrases like “gaping holes” mean nothing. You claim the theory has been refuted, but have offered NOTHING in the way of evidence to support that remarkable claim. And so on, and so on.

    There are “problems” with evolution, yes, and within the scientific community, research continues into aspects of evolutionary theory that are poorly understood. Somehow I doubt that’s what you mean.

    What DO you mean? Do you mean, “Wow, I read in last week’s church bulletin that Evolution is full of holes! It must be true!”

    Or do you mean something else?

  196. #196 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Kseniya,

    “Seriously, though, we’ve seen statements like yours a thousand times before”

    Yes, I am sure you have. And I am sure that I won’t be able to tell you anything that you have not already heard or read. And you don’t think I’ve seen your evolution mumbo jumbo over and over?

    “The burden of proof is on you”
    I don’t think so. I don’t think it has ever been proven that a creature can develop an unknown mechanism that has never existed before and in which there is not any DNA information to help it develop this mechanism. I certainly do not have to prove that that does not happen – you have to prove that it does.

    “You’ve determined this yourself, have you? You’re not just repeating what someone – oh, say, a philosopher, a mechanical engineer, a clergyman”

    Do you really think that there are no highly educated scientific men and women that do not believe in evolution? Do you really think that there is only philosophers and clergy that I can read and learn from? And you are not repeating what you have learned from someone?

    I already posted my questions in #188. If you don’t think there are any holes in the theory, I am probably not smart enough to help you see them. I know I am not the smartest cookie in the box, but I am smart enough to know that something can’t come from nothing. You tell me what law of science proves that, that you can have nothing and then all of the sudden have something – and maybe you’ll make a believer out of me!

  197. #197 spurge
    April 25, 2008

    Yet another creo-troll declares victory when none has been had.

    Put up or shut up Scott.

    Name the problems with evolution.

    Hell, I would be interested to see you post something that shows you even understand what the theory of evolution states.

  198. #198 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Scott, you’re really rising to the occasion.

    I want to know how a fish (or whatever imagined creature it was) that was living in water and breathing through gills suddenly decides to start trying to live on land – and survives!

    Answer: It doesn’t. The fish doesn’t “decide” anything, and certainly not “suddenly”. The fish either reproduces, or it doesn’t. If it does, its offspring either bear heritable variations, or it doesn’t. The impact of a variation is determined by natural selection… either it disadvantages the creature, or it does not. If so, the creatures carrying the variation are less likely to reproduce, and the variation is less likely to propagate through the population in succeeding generations. If not, it may confer an advantage, and the variation is more likely to propagate through the population in succeeding generations…

    Why am I wasting my time here? In reviewing your recent posts, I have to conclude that No, you don’t, actually. You don’t want to know. You claim you do, but you don’t. If you ever change your mind (about leavin, leavin me behind) you can do quite a bit better than this: There are hundreds of thousands of pages of research and analysis for you to dive into. I realize it’s easier to simply sit back and wallow in uninformed incredulity, but that’s your choice – either way.

    Before we leave this specific topic, I have one word for you: Mudskipper. It’s a fun word, and a fun critter. It can’t speak, but it’s trying to tell us something. Any way you look at it, a fish that can breath air and climb trees is pretty cool. :-)

    As for lizards jumping into the air and growing feathers and hollow bones (and I will accord you enough respect to assume you don’t mean that literally) if you’re interested in browsing a few papers on the subject, follow this link and read through a few of the 36,500+ papers relating to the subject of the evolution of birds and reptiles. Many of them may not address the subject in which you are (allegedly) interestd, but the first page alone should keep you busy for a while.

    Please do us the honor of letting us know when you’ve refuted the contents of some of those studies and falsified the theory of evolution. I’ll cheer you on when you pick up your Nobel Prize.

    The article that was referred to me questioned itself whether the “evolution” of the lizard was really evolution or not.

    Yes, yes it did. (But have you missed the point of the valid question you yourself brought up? I’m not sure…)The “question” wasn’t, as you probably interpret it yourself, a statement of “I doubt it” – it was a statement of “let’s find out.” If the features are the result of heritable genetic change, then yes, it’s evolution. If not, it must be phenotypic plasticity, and though that is an interesting and exciting phenomenon, it’s not quite as exciting as a readily verifiable and easily understood example of evolutionary mechanisms in action.

    No, I really am not [interested in learning squat, or even spending more than two minutes in a token attempt to do so].

    Sigh.

    But I venture to say that you are no different. How much time have you spent researching the problems of the theory of evolution?

    Oh dear.

    You really don’t understand science, do you? Not even on the most basic level.

    You are just like all the others. You throw out an insult, yet you know that you have no answers to these questions.

    If you think KMarissa has insulted you (prior to post #194) then your skin is amazingly thin. And you haven’t even been called “fucktard” yet. :-b

    If criticism of your educational level and your penchant for claiming knowledge and authority when you have neither is an “insult”, then you’re in for a very disturbing life – that is, if you ever venture out of your little cocoon, whatever form that may take.

  199. #199 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Oh, speaking of cocoons, you could read up on the evolution of insect metamorphosis. Interesting stuff.
    :-)

  200. #200 spurge
    April 25, 2008

    “I don’t think it has ever been proven that a creature can develop an unknown mechanism that has never existed before and in which there is not any DNA information to help it develop this mechanism.”

    What you don’t think is entirely irrelevant. Your total ignorance of evolution puts you in a poor position to critique it.

    “Do you really think that there are no highly educated scientific men and women that do not believe in evolution?”

    No one cares what they believe. What we want to know is what they have evidence for.

    “I already posted my questions in #188.”

    If you really cared about the answers you can go read some books about evolution.

    It is quite clear that you have no interest in curing your ignorance.

    “If you don’t think there are any holes in the theory, I am probably not smart enough to help you see them.”

    Bullshit.

  201. #201 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Ok. See if I can spell this out for all of you highly intellectual, educated, sophisticated, and so completely open minded people that in your own minds have seemingly evolved a little higher than us common folks.

    Problem #1
    EVERYTHING from NOTHING! (Wait, don’t tell me, matter and energy exist eternally, right?)

    Problem #2
    A living thing from a non-living thing. There you go, that’s pure science right there!

    Problem #3
    The development of mechanism with non-existent information. DNA information does not come from any outside source, but is inherited by the parents. All of your evolutionary examples already have existent information! Give me a break!

    Problem #4
    The development of the reproduction system (uh, what happened before that developed?)

    Problem #5
    From water to land. (that one totally baffles me)

    Problem #6
    From land to air (as in flying) (also quite baffling)

    Ok. There is a few. Satisfy my ignorant little brain and answer these questions.

  202. #202 guthrie
    April 25, 2008

    Remedial education is expensive these days, but you’ll find we’re willing to give it a go for free, Scott.

    But first you have to establish your assumptions.

    Firstly, what do you understand by the word “information” in the above context.
    Secondly, why do you lump the big bang in with biology? That is a different field, and I’d like to see you argue cosmology…
    Thirdly, what is your definition of living?
    Fourthly, what do you think a reproduction system is?
    Fifthly, why do you think flight is baffling to you? This is an argument from personal ignorance, and has no place in science.

  203. #203 Sastra
    April 25, 2008

    Scott #188 wrote:

    Maybe you all are content to see some adaptions within a species and call it “evolution”. That is not good enough for me.

    One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in understanding evolution is our universal human-based tendency to put everything into separate categories, in order to distinguish between differences. Richard Dawkins calls it “the discontinuous mind.” Everything is either one thing, or it’s something else. A lizard, or not a lizard. A or not-A. That’s logic, and it feels right to us.

    The problem is that nature is not neat and clean like that. We humans label categories — nature is actually a continuum of grays, with everything also being an in-between. A child is not a man, but is there a second where you have a child, and then wham! there’s a man instead?

    No, it wasn’t sudden. And the “transitional form” between child and man was not some bizarre combination with a child’s torso and a man’s arms and legs. No, it was a perfectly reasonable and consistent person of its own.

    Every single one of your “hard questions” assumed there was some radical all-of-a-sudden transition. But evolution doesn’t work that way — for the same reason children don’t become adults by waking up one morning like Tom Hanks did in the movie Big. No life – then life just “pops up.” Cells suddenly growing ears. Fish flopping onto land. Lizards leaping into the air and growing feathers. A biological equivalent to Big.

    This I think is one of the first places where you go wrong, far back before it gets into details and specifics. Bottom line, it’s all nothing more than “adaptations within a species.” ALL of it. That’s all that ever happens. Same way you’re only a day older than yesterday, and a day younger than tomorrow. Always.

    But then when you step back and look at the Big picture, you see some good places to draw lines — because the changes accumulated. You could not see it up close, but from distance there are clearly different species now, as the little changes branched out in different directions. And the categories are not logically distinct, but “good enough.”

  204. #204 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Kseniya,

    Speaking of cocoons, how did that little creature develop the ability to do that? We are talking random evolution, right? No guidance or help from any intelligence?

    Absolutely amazing!

  205. #205 True Bob
    April 25, 2008

    Scott, your problem #1 has assertions not in evidence. “Everything from nothing” – when was there nothing? We do not know what “preceded” the Big Bang, if anything did. For us humans, all matter, energy, and time began at the Big Bang, so there’s a problem with “before” that.

    And don’t get an attitude, Scott.

  206. #206 Michael X
    April 25, 2008

    Far be it from me to attempt to improve on anything Sastra says. So I won’t.
    Instead, I’ll answer your questions as concisely as possible.

    1) If everything must have a cause, then at some point, something must be self causing, or else we end up with infinite regress. So, either it’s the universe, or it’s god. Occam’s Razor favors the universe as the most parsimonious, but it isn’t a logical proof. Yet, if you assume god to be the answer all you’ve done is push the question one step back (who created god?), and now you have to explain how god works. If you say that god always existed, then why not the universe?

    2) What you really need to be asking is replicating and non-replicating. Abiogenesis. Read up.

    3) This isn’t even a relevant contention. I have no doubt that you understand information theory less than those who wrongly proposed it as a reason why evolution cannot occur. This simply isn’t how information works. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB102.html Read up.

    4) Self replicating RNA is the one that jumps to mind first.

    5) & 6) Both are arguments from ignorance. Quantum theory is also baffling to you I expect. It is no less true.

  207. #207 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Do you really think that there are no highly educated scientific men and women that do not believe in evolution?

    No, I don’t think that – there is evidence that some “highly educated scientific” persons do not. But tell me: how many are biologists, zoologists, biochemists, or even geologists? If the percentage of people with advanced degrees in science who don’t “believe” in evolution is less than one, what does that tell you? Have you ever heard of Project Steve?

    As for your questions… good grief. Nobody claims that lightning struck a mud puddle and created a living cell. That’s a classic creationist strawman. You bring up nonsense like that, and have the nerve to be offended when people question your level of education and your willingness to absorb new information?

    There is more than enough literature to answer most or all of your questions. Remember – the theory of evolution says nothing and makes no claims about the origin of life. It attempts to explain the diversity of life on earth. One cannot make an informed and honest claim that the theory is broken or unscientific on the grounds that it does not explain abiogenesis. One might as well argue that a Porsche is a failed automotive design because it cannot fly.

    You clearly don’t understand it well enough to intelligently criticize it, let alone refute it. Again, that is not an insult. (Feel free to point out my, ah, tentative grasp of the chemistry of base-soluble long-chain polymers, Mandarin Chinese, the rules of Cricket, Indonesian history, vector calculus, Zoroastrianism, or how to make a non-lethal salmon mousse.) As I said before, there’s no shame in not knowing things.

  208. #208 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Guthrie,

    “Secondly, why do you lump the big bang in with biology? That is a different field”

    No. It is the same field. We are talking about our origins. How we got from 0 to where we are right now. It all goes together. You had to have something come into existence first, before there could ever be biology.

    You can keep answering my questions with questions and no, I can not answer them all. I do believe I am one against a bunch on this blog.

    I did not say that flight baffled me, I said that a creature that does not have the capability of flying learning how to fly and growing the necessary tools for flight – without any intelligence – pure random chance and coincidence – that is what baffles me. Sorry that is not a suitable argument. It was not an argument as much as a statement of my personal questions about the issue.

  209. #209 True Bob
    April 25, 2008

    Scott, evolution is not “random chance”. I’m no evolutionary scientist, but I know that the premise is descent with modification. The modifications come about as a result of mutations and environmental pressures. And you need to include the time factor. Variety in life forms on Earth has taken millions upon millions of years, an enormously vast period. It is a (literally) mind-boggling amount of time we speak of. The universe is even older.

    Scott, you are working backwards. You know the answer you want, but sceince doesn’t work that way. You need to follow the evidence, no matter where it leads, no matter how incredulous you become.

    And yes, it all is amazing. Think of this – all life on this planet, past and present are ALL interrelated. Isn’t that an awesome thing? Not merely you and I, but we and dinosaurs, trilobites, elephants, fish, birds, everything, all related. Now that’s cool.

  210. #210 Michael X
    April 25, 2008

    pure random chance and coincidence – that is what baffles me. Sorry that is not a suitable argument.

    You’re baffled because you’re making an argument that no one makes. If you think evolution is nothing but random chance, you’re already wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection Read up.

  211. #211 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Sastra,

    Thank you for your respectful reply. That was refreshing.

    Of course, your example of a child growing into a man does not match up with what evolution teaches. That it is such a slow gradual process that we do not notice it. If that were true, there would be “left over” processes still in place and there should be millions of links inbetween a creature with no legs to a creature with legs.

    I do believe that there are clear distinctions between the species.

  212. #212 spurge
    April 25, 2008

    “You had to have something come into existence first, before there could ever be biology.”

    True, but you do not need to know where the first replicator or the origins of the universe started to study and understand evolution and how that caused the great diversity of life we see.

    Do you need to know where all the elements came from to understand chemistry?

  213. #213 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Kseniya,

    “good grief. Nobody claims that lightning struck a mud puddle and created a living cell”

    Now see. You talk like that is the most ridiculous thing that you have ever heard. Yet, that is what they used to teach, and that came from the “scientific community”. Now it is silly.

  214. #214 True Bob
    April 25, 2008

    Scott wrote to Sastra:

    That it is such a slow gradual process that we do not notice it.

    Scott, it sure is gradual, and yet covers a really really small amount of time. Evolution has been happening for what, billions of years on earth.

    Over those years, only a teeny tiny fraction of things got fossilized – that’s why you fall for the “gaps” argument. Not everything that lived and died left a hardcopy for us to review. However, you need to learn more about it. Have you googled tiktaalik? Did you see about the fossilized snake that had legs? And of course, since nobody else wrote it yet, everything is a transitional species.

  215. #215 Michael X
    April 25, 2008

    Are you asking in different words “Why are there still apes?”
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC150.html

    Or claiming that there should be leftover Vestigial Organs?
    http://www.livescience.com/animals/top10_vestigial_organs.html

    As for existing links. It’s called DNA. You my friend are a half chromosome away from a Chimpanzee.

  216. #216 spurge
    April 25, 2008

    “Yet, that is what they used to teach, and that came from the “scientific community”. ”

    Got any evidence for this claim.

  217. #217 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Now see. You talk like that is the most ridiculous thing that you have ever heard. Yet, that is what they used to teach, and that came from the “scientific community”. Now it is silly.

    The misinformation nevers stops.

    It has been hypothesized that a lightning strike may have played a part in jump-starting the first self-replicating molecules. But a lightning strike on water forming a single-celled organism? I don’t think so. It appears, Scott, that you’ve constructed yet another strawman. If you can produce a textbook that contradicts me, please do so, and I will adjust my thinking accordingly.

  218. #218 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    “If you think evolution is nothing but random chance, you’re already wrong.”

    Well, that is news to me. I thought we were talking about going from “0″ to “today” without any guidance from any intelligence at all. I mean, that is atheistic evolution, isn’t it?

    “Descent from modification” – does that mean that the process of life had this hidden ultimate goal that it was working toward? I mean, that is what it looks like now, that it had a goal and finally reached it and then stopped? So was there a purpose to all of it, and it didn’t even know it?

    I do not see how you can take intelligence out of the picture and have anything left but random chance. Actually, you can’t. But random chance doesn’t make evolutionary sense, so now it seems there has to be some kind of guided process. So, evolutionist come up with another word to make it sound like they are not talking about random chance. Convenient.

    As I stated before – from nothing to now with millions and millions of really neat coincidences. I just can’t buy it.
    You all have described processes that are absolutely amazing, yet you don’t believe there is any intelligence behind it. I, myself, can not believe that.

    I do appreciate the discussion. Especially those who were respectful.

  219. #219 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Oh, I forgot to add: Even if it’s true that some textbooks used to teach that a lightning strike may have played a part in forming the first single-celled organism, the fact that we no longer accept that hypothesis is an indication of the self-correcting nature of science.

  220. #220 Michael X
    April 25, 2008

    Atheism does not equal random chance.

    Please read the links I gave you so that you may understand how the process takes random mutations and weeds out ill-adaptive ones according to the environment.

    Chance plays its part, but it isn’t the only part. And if you would read up, you’d know that by now.

  221. #221 spurge
    April 25, 2008

    “I do not see how you can take intelligence out of the picture and have anything left but random chance. ”

    We know. Too bad you have no interest in changing this fact.

  222. #222 Sylphon
    April 25, 2008

    mmm, this board needs a “Don’t feed the troll” sign, lulz.

  223. #223 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Scott:

    But random chance doesn’t make evolutionary sense, so now it seems there has to be some kind of guided process. So, evolutionist come up with another word to make it sound like they are not talking about random chance. Convenient.

    Gah… you really, REALLY need to learn something about this if you want to discuss it intelligently. Evolution was always about random variation and natural selection – selection wasn’t tacked on later because “random chance” alone seemed silly. Good grief.

    I do not see how you can take intelligence out of the picture and have anything left but random chance. Actually, you can’t.

    Oh, but you can. Scott, once again you offer nothing more than an argument from incredulity. Did you pass up the article on Natural Selection? It appears that you did…

    Variation is random. Selection is not. Chance plays a part in what selective pressures are imposed on a population, but it’s not random. Selection guides an organism towards, or away, from success, depending on how well the organism adapts to those pressures. It’s not intelligent, and has no identifiable goal – as Gould said, “Life shows no trend to complexity in the usual sense – only an asymmetrical expansion of diversity around a starting point constrained to be simple” – but it’s not random.

    Tell me, Scott: Is the course of a river determined at random? No, it is not. A river does not randomly jump this way and that en route to some unpredictable destination; it does not suddenly fly into the air and soar across the landscape like a giant fluid worm; it does not suddenly “decide” to flow uphill; it does not suddenly stop and form a lake in the absense of a retaining feature of the landscape over which it flows.

    Is there an intelligent agent involved in determining the course of the river? No, absent interference from Man, there is not.

    The course of a river is determined by a number of things:

  224. 1. The inherent properties of the system of which the river itself is a part. That is, the river must not behave in a manner that is inconsistent with hydrodynamics, the effects of gravity, etc.
  225. 2. The guiding effects ot the landscape over which the river flows. These effects may change over time, and the course of the river will change accordingly.

    For a number of reasons, the river analogy is an imperfect analogy to evolution, and I do not intend it to serve as one, but it does serve (I think) as an illustration of how guidance needn’t be either intelligent or random.

    As for “something from nothing,” which you assert is absolutely impossible – without addressing, of course, how the creator of “something” seems to have appeared out of “nothing” – let me quote Tanner Edis:

    Quantum events have a way of just happening, without any cause, as when a radioactive atom decays at a random time. Even the quantum vacuum is not an inert void, but is boiling with quantum fluctuations. In our macroscopic world, we are used to energy conservation, but in the quantum realm this holds only on average. Energy fluctuations out of nothing create short-lived particle-antiparticle pairs, which is why the vacuum is not emptiness but a sea of transient particles. An uncaused beginning, even out of nothing, for space-time is no great leap of the imagination.

    Regarding order-from-chaos, here’s a nifty little demonstration you can try at home:

    Get ahold of a glass jar with a screw-on lid. Fill it (but not to the top) with a mix of different sized and colored marbles – say, in the simplest case, large red marbles and smaller blue marbles. Screw on the lid, and shake the jar up and down. Eventually, the marbles will sort themselves into layers, with the largest marbles on top and the smallest marbles on the bottom.

    Presto! Order from chaos, the product of a) the inherent properties of the system, and b) the injection of energy into the system. No intelligence – or magic – needed.

  • #224 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    correction:

    Is there an intelligent agent involved in determining the course of the river? No, absent interference from Man,

    or Beaver,

    there is not.

    :-)

  • #225 bryan
    April 25, 2008

    Was the “shape of a cross” in the electricity lesson a positive sign per chance? “+” is used a lot when talking about electricity.

  • #226 Nick Gotts
    April 25, 2008

    “I do believe that there are clear distinctions between the species.” – Scott

    Sometimes there are; sometimes there are not. In fact in nature we find a range of cases where it is not clear whether there are one species or two – for example, the common house mouse used to be considered one species Mus musculus, with several subspecies, but is now increasingly considered to be three species (the others being Mus domesticus and Mus castaneus). I don’t have all the details handy, but for Mus domesticus this is because although they do sometimes interbreed with Mus domesticus, their populations remain distinct. The same is true of the carrion and hooded crows, and there are many, many other examples, covering a range of cases intermediate between what is clearly one species and what are clearly two or more. Among the most interesting are “ring species”. Living in the UK and being an amateur ornithologist, I have no difficulty distinguishing the herring gull from the lesser black-backed gull; they appear to be two distinct species, which do not normally interbreed, and whose ranges overlap. However, if you take a trip clockwise (westward) round the north pole from the UK, first of all the lesser blackback disappears, then as you proceed, the herring gulls get more and more like lesser blackbacks, with neighbouring populations interbreeding all the way, until by the time you get to western Siberia there are only what are clearly blackbacks, until you get back to the UK. This is by no means the only example – just google “ring species”.

    So I am afraid your belief is just plain wrong, and the sort of complexities we find are exactly what we would expect to find if one species can split into two or more over time.

  • #227 Scott
    April 25, 2008

    Kseniya,

    Your illustration of the river was real nice. It did help me understand what you guys are thinking when you talk about random chance and selective pressures and all of that. But I would argue that the course of the river is determined randomly, because all of the “selective pressures” – hydronamics, gravity, landscape – all randomly landed where they are. There was nothing there to guide them in their process. So even if you say that evolution is not just random, but guided by other forces or pressures of nature – all of those forces that guided it randomly landed or “came about” without any guidance whatsoever. Therefore, you have another handy little coincidence and everything coming about randomly.

    As far as the jar. Well, here is what I see. A jar – made by and intelligent being, filled with marbles – made by an intelligent being, with a lid – made by, well you know. Shaken by an intelligent being – and wallah! Order!

    You can’t get away from intelligent design. Every example you guys use has some control and design built into it.

    I know. That is the difference. We all make our choice. You believe that matter and energy is eternal and randomly landed in place guided by randomly placed forces to miraculously get where we are right now.

    I believe in a God that is eternal and was smart enough to know how to make it all.

  • #228 MAJeff, OM
    April 25, 2008

    Amazing. Evolutionary biologists are required to demonstrate each and every step from the origin of the universe to this very moment in order to convince Scott. But, place any burden of proof on Scott to produce evidence for his deity, or for the processes through which said deity produced what exists….well that’s off limits.

  • #229 kmarissa
    April 25, 2008

    So even if you say that evolution is not just random, but guided by other forces or pressures of nature – all of those forces that guided it randomly landed or “came about” without any guidance whatsoever. Therefore, you have another handy little coincidence and everything coming about randomly.

    If one person out of a million wins a certain lottery, and that one person happens to be me, it might be a nice coincidence — but that doesn’t mean the outcome wasn’t random.

    However, I suspect that this type of attitude greatly impacts those scientists who believe in one or another form of theistic evolution. Scott, you may be interested:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theistic_evolution

  • #230 Ichthyic
    April 25, 2008

    You can’t get away from intelligent design. Every example you guys use has some control and design built into it.

    like I said…

    FUCKING *YAWN*

    like where Scott would end up, regardless of anything presented, would be anything BUT predictable.

    I hardly think even “Scott” thinks he is being honest in his deliberations at this point.

  • #231 Michael X
    April 25, 2008

    So lets play with this logic shall we?

    If natural selection somehow counts as “random chance” then so does god’s will. Either he decides something according to given circumstances beyond his control, or he decides randomly what he will or will not do.

    Again, either he has a reason to act because of circumstances that arise “randomly” or he decides “randomly” with no informing circumstances or reason at all. Leaving his intelligent design only one step back in the infinite regress of “random chance.”

    That is of course if you abuse the words “chance” and “random” past all common understanding. But I suppose if you already have your answers before you set out, utter abuse of the meaning of words must seem petty.

  • #232 Kseniya
    April 25, 2008

    Scott, “random” and “unplanned” are not synonymous. Variation is random, and selective pressure, though it occurs in a seemingly arbitrary way, works on organisms in a non-random way. Fitness is determined non-randomly. This is the key to understanding why it’s not all “happy coincidence.” The process guarantees that it’s not. The stuff that works is the stuff that propagates. That’s non-random.

    (I confess that I feel I’m doing a crummy job of explaining this… sorry. This is what I get for trying to work on a project AND attend to the blog at the same time. Duh. My impatience earlier is tied to this, too.. sorry if I was inappropriately brusque.)

    As far as the jar… . Well, here is what I see. A jar – made by and intelligent being, filled with marbles – made by an intelligent being, with a lid – made by, well you know. Shaken by an intelligent being – and wallah! Order!

    No no, you’ve misunderstood. The process is not an intelligent process. Nobody is reaching inside the jar (the origin of which is completely irrelevant to this example) and moving marbles around. The same jar, sitting on the ground during a prolonged earthquake, would wind up in the same state. Replace the jar and marbles with a tortoise shell filled with gravel. The smaller stones would still filter down to the bottom of the shell, leaving the largest stones at the top.

    Are you arguing that earthquakes are beings? Or that marbles or glass jars are intelligent? Or that tortoise shells and gravel have intentions and goals when they interact with seismic disturbances? Surely not. So tell me, then: What’s the difference bewteen my shaken jar, and earthquake-shaken tortoise shell? None, really. The process is the same. You’ve focused on the wrong details.

    You’ve seen intelligence and design in the jar example because you want to – not because it’s there.

    You can’t get away from intelligent design. Every example you guys use has some control and design built into it.

    (Oh? The river example had control and design built in? How so? Or shall we discard it because it’s not intended to be an analogy to evolution?)

    Yes, you can get away from intelligent design – if you allow yourself to see beyond its seductive, but superficial, allure. You’ve chosen to ignore the best example of all: biological evolution. I realize you’ll see this as a circular argument, but bear with me for a minute.

    Biological systems have the appearance of design, because they are evolved to perform some function – or more specifically, to solve some survival problem – for the organism. They are typically “for” something. Variations that result in systems which work well enough to get the job done will propagate.

    If you really want to take the design stance, and attribute design to some super-powerful, super-intelligent entity, you’re going to have to defend the stupid and mediocre design “choices” that exists all over the natural world. Are you sure you want to go there? It’s going to take a whole hell of a lot of rationalizing to justify, unless you’re willing to concede right off the bat that your divine designer does some pretty shoddy work. And even then, you won’t have explained why. Doesn’t he love us enough? Or does he just suck at it? These are questions that need to be answered.

    Evolution is a mindless, but non-random, process which designs biological systems. It does a pretty good job, apparently, but the results are sometimes pretty weird. Have you read anything about evolutionary computing or genetic programming? It’s pretty interesting stuff. The solutions that come out of random-variation generators and fitness functions can be very powerful, but very non-intuitive and sometimes incomprehensible from a human (design) point of view – hey, not unlike naturally-occurring biological systems. Imagine that.

    You know, evolution isn’t inconsistent with belief in a god. There’s no reason to believe in a god and NOT believe that this god set the whole thing up, like a big factory, and is sitting back watching it run, run, run, as it churns out people, puppies, horses, butterflies, hummingbirds, peacocks, goats, cows, wolves, bears, sharks, electric eels, jellyfish, candiru, brown recluse spiders, all manner of invertebrate parasites, not to mention viruses and baterica such as malaria, ebola, HIV, influenza, staphylococcus, you name it. Good stuff!

    Well, I’ve got to go, and I’ve written too much on this already. Take care.

  • #233 Jack
    April 26, 2008

    I see nothing wrong with a little religion in the teaching. Isn’t school a place to allow thought? Let the kids hear all sides and let them make up their own minds. Geez, you guys over react.

  • #234 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    I see nothing wrong with a little religion in the teaching.

    Which religion? In which classes? Presented in what fashion?

    Isn’t school a place to allow thought? Let the kids hear all sides and let them make up their own minds.

    Oh, yeah. That’ll work. Did you even read the article? A science teacher is misrepresenting scientific concepts. Kids are supposed to make up their own minds when they’re being fed crap?

    Say – are you by any chance a member of a school board in Florida?

  • #235 Katrina
    April 27, 2008

    Say – are you by any chance a member of a school board in Florida?

    Kseniya FTW!

  • #236 Amanda
    April 27, 2008

    You can judge Mr. Freshwater, but in the end you will be judged also! If you were not in his class you dont know the truth!!! If this was such a problem and he was doing so much wroung then why didnt the school system do something a longtime ago???? For all of you that like gossip this is the perfect story for you, but if you are going to tell about it then make sure your information is from more than one source!!!!!!!! Get your facts straight!

  • #237 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    If you were not in his class you dont know the truth!!!

    Were you in his class?

  • #238 notkieran
    April 28, 2008

    Theistic evolution: God is a CEO.

    Creationism: God is a factory-floor peon.

    ID: God is a shadowy figure who owns the company through intermediaries and is constantly micromanaging the aforesaid factory floor, resulting in massive screwups as the directives are not in any way related to reality.

    The last actually almost makes ID plausible, as it explains some things such as why men have nipples and keep their testicles in easily-damaged areas.

    God is a mafia micromanager!

  • #239 Scott
    May 2, 2008

    #238

    Wow. In your own mind, you must really be somebody!

  • #240 Nanu Nanu
    June 18, 2008

    #238
    Wow. In your head

    Notice I left it blank. I doubt you’ll get it.

  • #241 Nanu Nanu
    June 18, 2008

    oh shit i realized how old this is

    :[

  • #242 scot
    June 20, 2008

    John Freshwater is an example of what is wrong with this world. get religion out of the schools!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • #243 anonymous
    June 20, 2008

    i went to that school its in mt.vernon, my friend had him as a teacher he was kind of a bible thumper. we are both christians but at times he did cross the line. We in society are a melting pot and teachers shouldnt bring their personal choices into a public school classroom.

  • #244 Thomas Ho
    June 21, 2008

    I had to get to comment #85 BEFORE I FINALLY FOUND A REASONABLE RESPONSE!

  • #245 Pastafarian
    June 23, 2008

    An annual example of evolution – the flu. Every year, the dreaded “flu shot” comes which is painful, scary, sometimes causes bruises, and does not come with a lollipop reward.

    So why do we need to get one every year?

    The flu strains are different from year to year from the notorious Spanish flu to mild strains which people can easily fight off. Vaccines are continuously developed for different strains which is why the start of each flu season comes with a visit to a doctor’s office.

    The flu aka influenza is an RNA virus which has a high mutation rate. By high mutation rate, I mean thats why health authorities are panicking about the avian flu. Currently avian flu can only be transmitted to humans through contact with poultry. But should the H5N1 strain mutate so it can be transmitted from human to human – we’re pretty screwed to put it bluntly.

    Keep in mind that the flu is not the best example of evolution. Its an RNA virus – pretty low on the evolutionary tree. But I believe that it is relevant. You may not be discussing changes in allele frequencies over time but I’m sure you or someone you know have received a flu shot.

  • #246 SonOfLiberty2008
    July 8, 2008

    In reading all of these posts, I’m rather struck by the lack of imagination here. The essential fallacy of Scott’s thinking is that the way the earth is today is the ONLY way it could have ended up. All of the anti evolution arguments I’ve seen are based on a total lack of understanding of probabilities and basic math. If you consider that the earth has been here for 6 billion years or so, and look at the animal life in Australia, which has only been separate from the rest of the earth for a fairly short time, a few million years, you really should get a grasp on what bizarre things might have happened here on our little corner of the universe. Mathematically, it’s a SURE bet that other worlds have life forms that are very fundamentally different from life forms on this planet.

    Scott, you are working backwards from where we are with the basic premise that this is the only way things could have worked out. Use your imagination, don’t let people with a vested interest in controlling your thoughts own you.

  • #247 kate
    July 9, 2008

    I was surprised that no one had seen a picture of the child’s burn – it was in many news reports

    here
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/20/teacher.cross/

    Jack – schools are not a place to argue about which scientific fact is right – that’s where you learn science in science class. If you can’t get your opinion branded an official theory from the scientists, then it’s your problem. the government isn’t required to promote your ideas to other people’s children and pretend there’s some validity to it.

    Religion belongs in classes about religion – only verified science belongs in science classes. Religion doesn’t get to co-op the credibitlity of ‘that which works’ with ‘that which I want everyone to think works’ for free.

  • #248 Justin
    August 20, 2008

    I am glad this is a nation of laws, where even the most egregious offenders are given a day in court to face their accusers. For a crowd I assumed prides themselves in rationality and logic there is frightening religious fervor here.

    If someone intentionally burns or brands a student, they are gone. But all sides must be heard, not just the side with a financial interest (both the teacher and the student’s family). There is a court date set. See the outcome before the lynching ropes are strung.

    Even more frightening is the emotional response to even the slightest hint that macro evolution as a natural force does not cause transitions from one species to the next. Where is the open mind, where is tolerance? Have you no confidence in your views?

    Just as a Christian is foolish when rejecting science out of insecurity in their own belief, so too is the rationalist that stubbornly will not loosen a grip on an fallacious theory for fear there may be something greater than their own intellect.

    Both react in irrational emotionality when threatened. Both try to silence any objective scrutiny of their positions. Both are as a religion exposed and naked.

    Please take the time to really examine evolution. We have all been infused with the dogma of evolution from birth. It is hard to really know something that is so much a part of you. The Chinese have a saying “if you want to know about water, do not ask a fish.” Mentally step back. Think about probability. With the Big Bang evolution no longer has the crutch of eternity to justify its improbability. How many monkeys on typewriters and how much time would it take to write one line of Shakespeare let alone the genetic code. Do the math.

  • #249 LanceR
    August 20, 2008

    Justin,

    Do you actually have anything new, or are you just going to repeat the same tired old gibberish? See the talk.origins FAQ on creationist claims if you are actually looking for a real discussion. Everything you mentioned has been (repeatedly) debunked there.

    In short, are you actually discussing this, or are you another Liar for Jebus?

  • #250 Chiroptera
    August 20, 2008

    Justin, #248: Please take the time to really examine evolution.

    I did. That was why I realized that the theory of evolution was a far better explanation for biological phenomena and stopped being a creationist.

    I completely agree that people should really examine evolution.

  • #251 Sven DiMilo
    August 20, 2008

    Please take the time to really examine evolution.

    Allow me to make the same request of you. The Big Bang? The “crutch of eternity” (WTF?)? Monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare? Improbability? These are high-flying flags of ignorance. As someone who has spent my adult life studying biology firsthand, I can only say that I do not appreciate condescension from somebody who so obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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