Chris Comer strikes back

Chris Comer, who was fired for whispering "Barbara Forrest", is fighting back. This could get interesting.

Christina Comer, who lost her job at the TEA last fall, said in a suit filed in federal court in Austin that she was terminated for contravening an "unconstitutional" policy at the agency. The policy required employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism - the biblical interpretation of the origin of humans, she said.

The policy was in force, according to the suit, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism as science in public schools is illegal.

"The agency's 'neutrality' policy has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and thus violates the Establishment Clause" of the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit said.

Although…every time the evolution issue goes to court, I feel like we're sailing off into a dangerous fantasy land where decisions will be made on the basis of something other than their correspondence to reality.

More like this

Well, she's right. It's true it's a bit dangerous but that must be done and she's righteous.

Frankly, it's frustrating that options for people like Comer come down to church/state issues, instead of the blatant disregard for competence that is displayed by organizations like the TEA.

That having been said, let's hope the TEA is held accountable.

Religious discrimination!!!

I said many times at the beginning that Chris Comer was a victim of religious discrimination. Her constitutional rights were being violated by Death Cult fanatics. And that she should go to court on this basis.

Creationism and its camoflagued version ID, aren't even xian dogmas. They are narrow sectarian inventions of fundie cults mostly from the south central USA.

Worldwide, most xian denominations don't have a problem with evolution, mainline protestants, Catholics, Mormons. What is rarely said, some evangelical, fundie, and pentocostal sects don't either. Creationism is as much a loser position to defend as geocentrism and eventually all but the most hardcore cults move on. Pope Pius said it decades ago, "One Galileo in 2,000 years is enough."

Chris will win; here's why. State employees can't be fired for taking a position on an issue in their own time (recall the email was sent from her personal account), and especially she can't be retaliated against for doing her job by learning about an unconstitutional policy. If she loses, I'll eat my own hat. Yes, the big one.

Although...every time the evolution issue goes to court, I feel like we're sailing off into a dangerous fantasy land where decisions will be made on the basis of something other than their correspondence to reality.

Relying on the courts is a second best strategy. They are the last line of defense between dictatorial cultist fanatics and the rest of us. And it isn't much of a line especially if they take control of the judiciary which they are well aware of. At the end of the day, the US constitution really is just a piece of paper.

OTOH, if the courts get corrupted we might as well find out sooner rather than later. Reality is what it is, and playing ostrich never works well or for long.

If we are going to end up living in a theocratic hellhole banana republic, that knowledge can be useful for making plans.

From the article:

The theory of intelligent design holds that the origin of the universe and humans is best explained by an unknown "intelligent cause" rather than through evolutionary processes such as natural selection and random mutation. Critics - including at least one federal judge - contend that intelligent design is nothing more than creationism in disguise and has no business being taught in science classes.

Ugh. It's so annoying when, for the sake of "balance", they throw in these obligatory descriptions of ID that make it sound as if it were a real theory. The descriptions are almost always the same (as if there's some agreement between all journalists on how to describe ID), and they always make it sound as if ID actually has something like a theory, rather than just some bogus attacks on evolution that were long ago refuted.

Why can't they just be honest? What's wrong with saying something like, "ID consists of a series of arguments aimed at discrediting evolution. Scientists almost unanimously agree, however, that these attacks have been sufficiently refuted, and that the real goal of the movement is to promote religion in the guise of science. In that regard, ID also proposes that there is an intelligent force involved in the formation of life on Earth, but no experimental evidence or theoretical explanation of this force's existence or methods have been produced"?

That's about as balanced as one can get in describing ID without being dishonest or making it out to be more than it is.

#3, we don't want to make this a religious discrim case. Potential for ba precedent re: atheism is a religion. Let's stick to plain old public employee speech rights.

#3, we don't want to make this a religious discrim case. Potential for ba precedent re: atheism is a religion. Let's stick to plain old public employee speech rights.

every time the evolution issue goes to court, I feel like we're sailing off into a dangerous fantasy land where decisions will be made on the basis of something other than their correspondence to reality

Yah, especially considering the current trends in the SCOTUS. I started to say we could only hope this case wouldn't make it to the Supreme's 'til after President Obama has made an appointment or two... but then it occurred to me that the first several appointments he's likely to make will only replace people who are likely to vote the correct way anyway. Given the relative youth and vigor of the current 4-vote hard-right bloc, it'll probably be decades before any president has a chance to move the court to the left even a little bit.

OTOH, a Republican president would almost certainly have the opportunity to move the court way to the right within a single term, and then the Chris Comers of the world (and all of us who cheer them on) would be utterly, totally screwed for all of the foreseeable future.

Just one more reason not to cynically opt out of the upcoming election.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

#3, we don't want to make this a religious discrim case. Potential for bad precedent re: atheism is a religion. Let's stick to plain old public employee speech rights.

Two things come to mind.

The first is that at the time of Comer's firing, The TEA indicated that the e-mail was not the only factor. To date, I haven't been made aware of the other factors involved in the firing, but I'm confident that the TEA has some other stuff to cover their asses.

The other thought that comes to mind is Chris Comer being held down on the floor while Don McElroy annoints her with oil, and pulls her teeth which he feels are posessed by demons caused by heresy and poor flossing.

Better get your teeth right with God Chris, and good luck with your lawsuit.

By Benjamin Franklin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Chris will win; here's why. State employees can't be fired for taking a position on an issue in their own time (recall the email was sent from her personal account), and especially she can't be retaliated against for doing her job by learning about an unconstitutional policy. If she loses, I'll eat my own hat. Yes, the big one.

I wouldn't assume anything when it comes to discrimination cases. I dealt with a case where the plaintiff lost based on the most solid of defenses, they said they didn't discriminate. In the pre-trial discovery interviews both people responsible for the discriminatory action made statements that confirmed that their actioned were based on discriminatory practices, but the judge just "felt" that their statement that they didn't discriminate was proof enough.

I agree Ames, keeping it as a 1st amendment free speech case is far better. The religious right already trots out the tired old claim that atheism was classified as a religion by the Supreme Court and that is based on a single dissenting statement made by one justice.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

That's for agreeing Dogmeatib! And ugh. That's sad about the loss. I have my fingers crossed. Also, we never know what Tx will do; look at the exorcism & abuse case their Supreme Court just handed down (although this would be a federal case).

PS, I'm very sorry for posting three times in a row by accident. Goddamn iPhone.

I started to say we could only hope this case wouldn't make it to the Supreme's 'til after President Obama has made an appointment or two... but then it occurred to me that the first several appointments he's likely to make will only replace people who are likely to vote the correct way anyway. Given the relative youth and vigor of the current 4-vote hard-right bloc, it'll probably be decades before any president has a chance to move the court to the left even a little bit.

Indeed, it is bizarre to read counterfactual fantasies about how Obama will turn the court around ... that ship sailed when GWB was elected. All Obama can do now is prevent further disaster ... replacing Stevens for sure, and Souter unless he stops hating his job. That's it for the first term, but Ginsberg, Scalia, and Kennedy might be up in a second Obama term. We'll have Alito, Roberts, and Thomas for another three decades (Thomas actually said when he joined the court that he was going to stick around as long as possible to stick it to "them").

By truth machine (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

The first is that at the time of Comer's firing, The TEA indicated that the e-mail was not the only factor. To date, I haven't been made aware of the other factors involved in the firing, but I'm confident that the TEA has some other stuff to cover their asses.

I'm sure they made up some bogus cover your ass claims against Comer to hide their religious and free speech discrimination. OTOH, if one can prove in court that they made up stuff after the fact or invented it, that weakens their case not strengthens it.

There was a government whistle blower case recently where they fired someone for disclosing illegal conduct in a government agency. The agency made up a bunch of stuff about incompetence etc. to justify their firing. It came out in court that it was made up after the firing and none of it was true and the judge had some scathing things to say about it. It isn't the crime that nails these people, coverups are as old as The Big Boat episode and everyone knows what they are.

Lets sponsor more hunting trips for SCOTUS justices with Dick Chaney.

.

By Benjamin Franklin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'm sure they made up some bogus cover your ass claims against Comer to hide their religious and free speech discrimination. OTOH, if one can prove in court that they made up stuff after the fact or invented it, that weakens their case not strengthens it.

All this is covered in the lawsuit.

The Termination Memo reads in pertinent part:
On October 26, 2007, Ms. Comer forwarded an email from her
TEA email account to a group of people, including two external
email groups, that announced a presentation on creationism and
intelligent design entitled "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse."
The email states that the speaker [Barbara Forrest] is a board
member of a science education organization, and the email clearly
indicates that the group opposes teaching creationism in public
education.
When Dr. Jackson asked Ms. Comer about this situation, she
replied that she was only forwarding information. However, the
forwarding of this event announcement by Ms. Comer, as the
Director of Science, from her TEA email account constitutes much
more than just sharing information. Ms. Comer's email implies
endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the
speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must
remain neutral. Thus, sending this email compromises the
agency's role in the TEKS revision process by creating the
perception that TEA has a biased position on a subject directly
related to the science education TEKS.

Ms. Comer's email implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.

blood boil

Sadly, I used to work in the Texas school system on the administrative side. As one educator explained to me, the TEA is run by dinosaurs. These are people who don't want to use textbooks in PDF format because they're worried about them there liberal booksellers slipping in information about sex and evolution that they don't want kids to see.

And don't even get me started on the managers who gather folks up to pray and discuss Jesus, and have big wooden crosses mounted on the wall in their office. (Yes, it was more than one manager.) That shit pervades the entire education system in Texas, from the TEA down to the campus level.

ps - i love the blog! :)

Thus, sending this email compromises the agency's role in the TEKS revision process by creating the perception that TEA has a biased position on a subject directly related to the science education TEKS.

Of course that is the fatal flaw in their rationalization. Creationism isn't a scientific theory equal to evolutionary biology. It is simply sectarian xian wingnut mythology. It isn't legal to teach it to kids in public schools. It isn't even bought as fact by the majority of xians worldwide.

#16, you're right in that the immediate SCOTUS effects of the Obama presidency will be preventing disaster, by replacing liberals (Souter, Stevens) with liberals, but I wouldn't be shocked if we saw Scalia step down, or... uh... be biologically forced off the Court... in the first Obama term. He's a fairly old dude. Ditto for Kennedy, and for Ginsburg (but that's just another disaster prevented, not a gain). Keep in mind that, to get a majority, all we need is 1 net gain in conservative slots, and I do count Justice Kennedy as a conservative.

All Obama can do now is prevent further disaster ...

Yah... but given the potential scope and impact of this particular "further disaster," it's important not to let people think a term like "all [he] can do now..." minimizes the importance of what he can do.

...Ginsberg, Scalia, and Kennedy might be up in a second Obama term. [emphasis added]

I had forgotten Scalia was that old (72) — time flies when you're having fun, eh? — but he'll still only be 80 when Obama's second term ends. Unless his health fails (and 80 is no guarrantee of that these days), I can't see him quitting unless he believed Obama would appoint someone like him (which would be a whole different disaster, but IMHO extremely unlikely). I think those of us who hope to see the court moving in a different direction need to be not only hoping for 2 Obama terms, but hoping that they're sufficiently successful and popular that we'll be able to elect another progressive (OK, OK, relatively progressive; spare me another thread about how narrow the American political spectrum is) president to follow him.

Of course, we need that result for more reasons than just saving SCOTUS, as well....

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

And don't even get me started on the managers who gather folks up to pray and discuss Jesus, and have big wooden crosses mounted on the wall in their office.

History says that if people keep trying to cram religion down everyone else's throats, eventually their victims gag and throw up.

A lot of European countries have state supported religions and very apathetic and cynical populations.

For all the people commenting on the possible Supreme Court nomineees, please remember: Earl Warren, nominated to the Supreme Court by Eisenhower, and John Jones, nominated to the Circuit Court by George W. Bush.

fusilier
James 2:24

fusilier (@27):

Your point? Yes, I'm aware that individual judges don't always end up reflecting the ideology of the president who appoints them. Are you suggesting that the ideology of the president makes no difference in the character of the judiciary? In that case, I ask you to review who appointed Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito, who are the ones giving me agita at the current moment.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Obviously telling education officials that they have to be neutral regarding teaching science vs. teaching religious apologetic dreck should be considered unconstitutional.

They're really supposed to be neutral on matters already decided by the Supreme Court? I wonder if they're allowed to speak in favor of the Brown v. Board of Education... ruling.

But here's the chance for the DI to try to show that their various "free speech" proposals really are about free speech. They can speak out for Chris Comer in this lawsuit by filing a brief on her behalf.

Sure, I wouldn't believe them if they did, rather I'd see it as a cynical ploy. It would still work, though, since arguing the cynicism behind it would be difficult. I'm not in any danger here, though, since the DI and others of their ilk who claim to care about "free speech" wouldn't dare to help Comer out, since their contributors (like themselves) have no desire at all for freedom, let alone freedom of religion.

Every time you fail to support the freedom of Comer, and others who are expelled for supporting science and freedom from religious control of schools, you show yourselves to be the utter hypocrites that you are, DI. Just think, you get to reveal your hypocrisy yet again, days after the Louisiana sham was signed into law.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Can we resolve one discrepancy?

One commenter says email was sent from personal account. Another commenter quotes text which says email was sent from state TEA account.

By interested (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Can we resolve one discrepancy?

One commenter says email was sent from personal account. Another commenter quotes text which says email was sent from state TEA account.

From the lawsuit:

memorandum recommending that Director Comer be fired:

On October 26, 2007, Ms. Comer forwarded an email from her
TEA email account to a group of people, including two external
email groups, that announced a presentation on creationism and
intelligent design entitled "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse."
The email states that the speaker [Barbara Forrest] is a board
member of a science education organization, and the email clearly
indicates that the group opposes teaching creationism in public
education.
...

29.
On Friday, October 26, 2007, Director Comer read an email dated October 23
from Glenn Branch, Deputy Director of the National Center for Science Education ("Branch
email") (Ex. H). The subject of the Branch email was "Barbara Forrest in Austin 11/2." The
email read:
...

30.
Director Comer "googled" Dr. Forrest and found that her credentials appeared
impressive. Because Director Comer thought that Dr. Forrest's comments about the Kitzmiller
trial might be interesting to science educators, she forwarded the Branch email to two listservs:
STATBOD@googlegroups.com, which is the private listserv of the officers of Science Teachers
Association of Texas, and texasearth@googlegroups.com, most of whom are local geo-science
educators.

31.
Director Comer also forwarded the Branch email to seven individuals: Kamil
Jbeily, Executive Director of the Texas Regional Collaboratives at UT; Carol Fletcher, Assistant
Director and R&D Coordinator of the Texas Regional Collaboratives at UT; Kevin Fisher, Past
President of the Science Teachers Association of Texas; Gina Day, then Director of Student
Support Initiatives at TEA; Julie Harris-Lawrence, Director of Math and Science Partnerships at
TEA; Irene Pickhardt, Assistant Director of Science for the Curriculum Division at TEA; and,
Barbara ten Brink, Elementary Science Specialist at Austin Independent School District and Past
President of the Science Teachers Association of Texas.

32.
Director Comer forwarded the Branch email only to science educators in the
Austin area, a total of about 36 people. She sent her forwarding email at 9:49 a.m. on October
26. The only comment on her forwarding email was "FYI." (Ex. 1.)
...

37.
Deputy Associate Commissioner Jackson ordered Director Comer to draft and
send a disclaimer.
38.
Director Comer left immediately to draft the disclaimer. Director Comer sent
three drafts of her disclaimer email to Deputy Associate Commissioner Jackson for her review
and approval. (Exs. J, K & L.)
39.
At 1:33 p.m. that same day, Director Comer sent an email to everyone to whom
she had forwarded the Branch email, stating: "Please disregard the previous email with the
subject title `Barbara Forrest...'; it was sent in error. This email does not represent the position
of the Texas Education Agency." (Ex. M.) Both Deputy Associate Commissioner Jackson and
Deputy Commissioner Reynolds reviewed and approved this disclaimer. (Ex. N.)

http://blog.darwincentral.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/comer.pdf

Can we resolve one discrepancy?

One commenter says email was sent from personal account. Another commenter quotes text which says email was sent from state TEA account.

I believe it was the State TEA account, for two reasons:
1 - TEA press release states its the TEA account. Said press release is quoted in Comer's complaint, but there is no denial that it was her TEA account in the complaint and I would expect there to be one if a significant fact such as that.
2 (and more important) - While I cannot see the actual from address on the emails included as exhibits in the complaints (only her name is shown), she signed them with her title and the name and address of the TEA, and her TEA email address.

Also, going by memory, I don't believe Comers was fired. She was asked to resign, which she did. I'm not sure what legal ramifications that has vs. straight up termination.

So Ms. Comer sent an email about an upcoming relevant event, a lecture. Big deal. Millions of emails are sent every day.

This was just a pretext. They were gunning for her and would have found something even if they had to lie. Crossing the street, drinking too much coffee, an office full of demons, an evil eye, she made Jesus cry, the angels are avoiding her, having lunch with an elderly walking, talking snake and so on. For fundies living in a reality free half world, pretexts are a dime a dozen.

She was lucky not to be labeled an "enemy combatant" and "disappeared" to Guantanomo for some severe interrogation. If there is a difference between christofascists and any other fascists, no one has been able to find it.

Put judge John E Jones on the bench for a little more hedge for a rational trial.

Comer may have been the target of KKKristians in Texas government for some time. This incident may have provided the scant cause they needed to remove her. She might have resigned to retain benefits or to keep her record clear so she could enter another state or federal agency.

Government agencies are supposed to be neutral. It's all about being fair. Though I suspect that the KKKristians are pretending to follow the rules until they can return to open malfeasance.

The policy required employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism - the biblical interpretation of the origin of humans, she said.

The policy was in force, according to the suit, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism as science in public schools is illegal.

There is nothing neutral about firing someone for not buying into a sectarian cultist dogma that claims that reality is all wrong.

It seems like a lot of Americans have the South Park-ish idea that all issues can be solved by some compromise between them, no matter how irreconcilable the two may actually be. Where did this bullshit come from?

In any case, it needs to stop. Agreeing to disagree is not a satisfying conclusion in any circumstances - especially not matters of objective reality. Agnosticism in the face of evidence is almost as bad as rabid, teeth-grinding, shit-hurling creationism.

By Facehammer (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

"Potential for bad precedent re: atheism is a religion."

Is Chris Comer even an atheist? I think the religious discrimination case is a good idea: religion running roughshod over scientific/educational policy.

I wouldn't be shocked if we saw Scalia step down, or... uh... be biologically forced off the Court... in the first Obama term. He's a fairly old dude.

He's only 72, and he loves being on the court. There's no way that he would step down voluntarily under Obama. I allowed for the possibility of his being "biologically forced" in 4-8 years, but I think the odds are against it.

Ginsburg (but that's just another disaster prevented, not a gain)

Yes, and she's 12 years Stevens' junior.

Keep in mind that, to get a majority, all we need is 1 net gain in conservative slots, and I do count Justice Kennedy as a conservative.

He's the least conservative of the 5 by far, and only 71 ... a baby by SCOTUS standards. Like I said, that ship sailed when the foolish American electorate selected the greater of two evils twice over. Obama will replace Stevens, probably Souter, in his first term, Ginsberg in his second, with some chance at Scalia and Kennedy, but they're likely to hold out until forgetful Americans elect another Republican.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Yah... but given the potential scope and impact of this particular "further disaster," it's important not to let people think a term like "all [he] can do now..." minimizes the importance of what he can do.

Uh, that's why I used the word "disaster".

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

For all the people commenting on the possible Supreme Court nomineees, please remember: Earl Warren, nominated to the Supreme Court by Eisenhower

That's the Eisenhower who sent federal troops to Little Rock and gave this speech: http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html

and John Jones, nominated to the Circuit Court by George W. Bush

Does "single issue" mean anything to you?

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

As one educator explained to me, the TEA is run by dinosaurs.

See, it's true! Humans and dinosaurs have lived side by side!

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Been hoping a suit like this would come about. If it goes to court, what's the over/under on the number of times "breathtaking inanity" shows up in the transcripts?

--Traffic Demon
Swordchucks, yo

By Traffic Demon (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

The people responsible for firing Chris Comer deserve nothing short of a nice extended exile from any power, leisure, or responsibility.

Being shunned by anyone who might give them respect or approval for a while might change their ways.

I'd suggest something like a few months sitting at a bus stop downtown, maybe with their lunch and clean underwear in a Wal-mart bag next to them.

By Will Von Wizzlepig (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

PZ, I never thought I would say this, but don't be so pusillanimous!

Since 'scientific creationism', 'creation science' and 'ID' (at least as practiced at Dover) have all been found to be in violation of the Establishment Clause, it seems to me that state educational agencies and their employees would be in deep doo-doo to suggest otherwise. To be 'officially neutral' as to the question of whether or not these notions can be taught in the public schools as science seems almost equally problematic. Clearly, those questions have been settled in court, and pretending that they haven't isn't really 'neutral' if it affects the classroom.

Equally clearly, the Texas state agency that employed Ms. Comer fired her for failing to remain 'neutral' in some fashion. If the effect of that firing is to be neutral with respect to the Establishment Clause (as her suit apparently argues) then I think she's got a case. And, even if she loses, I'd like to see it go forward...because then you could start digging into the sick underbelly of the Texas educational establishment, including the maniacs on the State BOE and the textbook clowns that have for decades held Texas and the rest of the nation back.

So, I say, go get 'em, Chris!

Ugh. It's so annoying when, for the sake of "balance", they throw in these obligatory descriptions of ID that make it sound as if it were a real theory. The descriptions are almost always the same (as if there's some agreement between all journalists on how to describe ID)

Posted by: Wes | July 3, 2008 9:23 AM

That's because the journalists are copying right from a DI press release. That's how "balanced" journalism is done, just quote from each side's press release. If there are more than two "sides", just pick two. You don't want to confuse the readers.

#27 - fusilier - James 2:24, if memory serves - Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Interesting tag.

For all the people commenting on the possible Supreme Court nomineees, please remember: Earl Warren, nominated to the Supreme Court by Eisenhower, and John Jones, nominated to the Circuit Court by George W. Bush.

fusilier
James 2:24

Posted by: fusilier | July 3, 2008 10:56 AM

Eisenhower was a liberal by today's standards.

Fusilier @ 27 Yes, judge John E Jones was appointed by religionist George W Bush, but it is certainly obvious that the sane judge let reason prevail by ignoring Bush's agenda for irrational decisions.

Fusilier @ 27 Yes, judge John E Jones was appointed by religionist George W Bush, but it is certainly obvious that the sane judge let reason prevail at Dover, Pennsylvania by ignoring Bush's agenda for irrational decisions. Good man, John Jones; screw Bush!

Time to abolish the TEA. They obviously do a shitty job administering the schools:

* Texas is #49 in verbal SAT scores in the nation (493) and #46 in average math SAT scores (502).
* Texas is #36 in the nation in high school graduation rates (68%).
* Texas is #33 in the nation in teacher salaries. Teacher salaries in Texas are not keeping pace with the national average. The gains realized from the last state-funded across-the-board pay raise authorized in 1999, which moved the ranking from 33 to as high as 26th in the nation, have disappeared over the last five years.
* Texas was the only state in the nation to cut average per pupil expenditures in fiscal year 2005, resulting in a ranking of #40 nationally; down from #25 in fiscal year 1999.
* Texas is #6 in the nation in student growth. The general student population in Texas public schools grew by 11.1% between school years 1999 and 2005, with the largest percent of growth seen among low income and minority children.
* Between school years 1999 and 2005, the number of central administrators employed by Texas public schools grew by 32.5%, overall staffing in public schools grew by 15.6%, while the number of teachers grew only 13.3%.

http://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/wwstand/wws0512ed/

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Uh, that's why I used the word "disaster".

Yup. I didn't mean to be arguing with you; simply emphasizing our point of agreement so nobody could possibly misunderstand.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Mr. Dauphin - The last seven years should be an educational lesson in what exactly people can willfully misunderstand (the Constitution, their oath of office, etc.). Anyone can misunderstand anything when it is not in their interest to understand it clearly - of course, that also requires others compliant people to support the misunderstanding, but we have a lot of those, too.

The policy required employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism - the biblical interpretation of the origin of humans, she said.

Well, here's a question, which I'm sure Chris Comer's attorneys will also be asking: Did the policy require employees to be "neutral" regarding non-Biblical creation myths?

Honk if you love Nyx!

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Hap (@55):

The last seven years should be an educational lesson in what exactly people can willfully misunderstand

Yeah, well I hope you'll forgive me if I try to make them work as hard as possible to misunderstand... like forcing the other team's pitcher to throw more pitches: Hopefully it'll pay off in the end.

Plus which, not all misunderstanding or complacency is willful. Groups of smart, intellectually diligent people (in which category I place most of the regular posters here) often forget that the world is full of folks who are not quite as sharp or diligent; for them, it's not always a bad thing to say stuff more than once, and to try to be as clear as possible.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

ndt: That's because the journalists are copying right from a DI press release. That's how "balanced" journalism is done, just quote from each side's press release. If there are more than two "sides", just pick two. You don't want to confuse the readers.

It's not about confusing the readers. Doing more than stenography takes time, and time == money. Today's media is run for short-term, quarterly profit, therefore stenography is what they do.

Reading the papers is like reading Pravda -- where the political officers have been replaced by PR agents.

Thus, sending this email compromises the agency's role in the TEKS revision process by creating the perception that TEA has a biased position on a subject directly related to the science education TEKS.

Yes, it would be really awful if an EDUCATIONAL BUREAUCRACY were actually biased towards true science education.

While I'm no lawyer, I can not imagine how Comer could lose this case short of hiring the prosecution team in the OJ Simpson case.

I've been found to be unclear at times, and I suspect (at least once that I can remember) I may have been willfully obtuse (or convening with its next-door neighbor). I have been more prone lately to assuming the worst (well, the not-so-good) of people, but it makes more sense to assume that people want to understand and perhaps cannot, and to make it clearer for them, than to assume that they refuse to understand and damn them.

The caveat is the more creationist arguments I see, the less is my ability to understand exactly how clear something can be shown to be and still be willfully misunderstood. As said by others, there is nothing foolproof, because fools are amazingly ingenious.

I don't understand why the creationists feel the need to try to force public schools to teach their dogma when they have a place for that - it's called a CHURCH! Forcing it into the schools is nothing less than a push toward public funded government mandated prostelyzation of their faith.

Oh yeah, THAT'S why they're doing it!

By Eric Paulsen (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

I still don't understand why forwarding notice of a talk isn't neutral; isn't part of their job to gather information (from both sides)? Weren't there announcements of The Other Guys' talks being sent around?

Ms. Comer didn't advocate anything. She just let peoole know what's going on.

still don't understand why forwarding notice of a talk isn't neutral; isn't part of their job to gather information (from both sides)?

It has nothing to do with neutrality. What is the point of being a christofascist with power if you can't persecute someone or some groups. Might as well believe in democracy or something equally benign otherwise.

It's really simple.
Christofascists=fascists

To be neutral was probably put in to stop creationists from expressing their beliefs and it backfired to the mirth of creationism.
If you can say the bible is false on origin subjects then you can say its true.
If you can't say its true then you can't say its not true.
That neutrality. Thats equality. Thats a accurate understanding of the founding fathers of America on this matter. Not the incompetent and silly conclusion of some Judges that say only one side is banned and not the other. Theres separation and theirs separation.
One must remember the constitution was made by a very religious Protestant population. They never would of imagined anything they put in their forms of goverance could be twisted into government policys of oppression and censorship on the truths of christianity. Especiallly protestant christianity.
The same dumb errors on schools and origins has since moved into so many aspects of jurisprudence as to make even children know that the party who wins power decides which judges , read preconceived conclusions on matters, get to decide who gets their way.
Truth on origins and truth on religion should not ever of been a matter for courts to decide. Its absurd.
Let the people be free to decide what is taught or not taught .
EXPELL censorship, thought control, and attacks against religious doctrines.
Creationism is more legitamate in the essence of America then evolutionism.
Let both slug it out before the students of a free intelligent people.
Only the side lacking confidence would be afraid of that.

By Robert Byers (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

"One must remember the constitution was made by a very religious Protestant population."

Or by a bunch of post-Enlightenment deists and freethinkers.

"They never would of imagined anything they put in their forms of goverance could be twisted into government policys of oppression and censorship on the truths of christianity."

What truths would those be?

"Especiallly protestant christianity."

Well, naturally. Especially Sun Myung Moon Protestant Christianity. *nods sagely*

"Truth on origins and truth on religion should not ever of been a matter for courts to decide."

Yes. That's for the scientists to decide. The courts can stick to ruling on someone's wrongful firing.

"EXPELL censorship, thought control, and attacks against religious doctrines."

But religious doctrines are thought control. Pretty much by definition.

"Creationism is more legitamate in the essence of America then evolutionism."

The "essence of America" is bollocks.

Let the people be free to decide what is taught or not taught .

But since the topic is science, only science should be taught in it. Religion could have had its own topic (and does in the UK, unlike the US) but it's off-topic in science. It's reality not fantasy which is the arbiter of deciding what goes in science. It's very stupid to let ignorant people decide to put faulty things (such as creationism) into legitimate subjects.

Creationism is more legitamate in the essence of America then evolutionism.

It doesn't matter how many idiots and fantasists believe in something. That doesn't magically make their false belief true. You're apparently still of pantomime age: now, children, all shout out as loudly as you can that you do believe in fairies and Tinkerbell will be alright again.

Let both slug it out before the students of a free intelligent people

But you're not intelligent people at all - and many aren't particularly free either, certainly not free from religious indoctrination.

Byers the facist troll is here again.

This web-seagull just comes here from time to time to post his nonsensical crap and goes away, like the big coward that he is. Because nobody reads his crazy cristofacist blog.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

Byers ... just comes here from time to time to post his nonsensical crap ... Because nobody reads his crazy cristofacist blog.

Yet he failed to include a link to it with the post. :-/

"One must remember the constitution was made by a very religious Protestant population."

Bwahahahaaa. How deluded can one get.

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814.

"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent."
Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789.

"but the Bible is such a book of lies and contradictions there is no knowing which part to believe or whether any..."
Thomas Paine - Age of Reason

"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies."
Benjamin Franklin

"Revealed religion has no weight with me."
Benjamin Franklin

What patriots these revisionists are, knowing nothing about the origin of the country they live in, only a fantasy to desperately cling to.

By Dutch Delight (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Yet he failed to include a link to it with the post. :-/

Ah well, it's impossible to guess what goes on in such an irrational and deluded mind !
He signs with his true name, but hides his blog :
http://watchmanswords.blogspot.com/
Probably wants to prevent us Pharyngulites to invade his comments section with the appropriate insults and ridicule that he deserves !

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

I viewed the NOVA piece on the Dover trial last night. There were a lot of things about it that angered me, both on the creationist side and on the evolutionist side. But what strikes me most broadly is that it just doesn't matter either way. It's all partisan bickering over TRIVIA.

On the creationist side, there is a partisanship which results in disingenuous behavior of all sorts. Including perjury. It's a sneaky business to introduce a banned agenda under an assumed name.

On the evolutionist side there is an even madder partisanship to prove that ID is covert creationism and therefore a forbidden idea. NOVA shows considerable bias towards this view, and takes pains to make the believers in creationism out to be fools. But it's hard to ignore the self-righteousness of the evolutionist partisans! And sadly most of the rabid partisans are scientists. Defending an arcane theory is a shameful waste of their intelligence.

I'm a research scientist. I'm used to empiricism and scientific method. Neither creationism or darwinianism has any bearing on what I have learned, how I think, or what I do for a living as a scientist. These are philosophical topics, which only incidentally bear on science. Neither of these theories is responsible for the development of a vaccine, or better optics/microimaging, or genetic selection and hybridizing, etc. etc. All the scientific advances have gone on regardless of which theory one believes. They proceed from research work by the likes of Mendel and Edison, not from philosophical and religious screeds. As far as science is concerned these theories add nothing. Both of them belong out of the biology and science books, and should be filed next to the books about astrology, Marxism, Technocracy, the collected works of Paul Tillich and Elbert Hubbard, and Danny and the Dinosaur.

By the way, I like Christopher Hitchens writing too. His summary critiques of English literature are always fascinating. And in describing John F. Kennedy as a hooligan I think he gets it exactly right. Very apt word choice.

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Well Tom has settled it, Biology is just philosophy.

By Dutch Delight (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

negentropyeater at #70..

Cripes, are there *two* Robert Byers? Because the site you linked to is RB in Tulsa or some such, and the RB I'm familiar with is a Toronto creationist who regularly spouts 'explanations' based on some alternate reality that only exists in his head.

"I'm a research scientist. I'm used to empiricism and scientific method. Neither creationism or darwinianism has any bearing on what I have learned, how I think, or what I do for a living as a scientist. These are philosophical topics, which only incidentally bear on science."
You have got to be freaking kidding me... Excuse me, but the only way that we can understand the difference between what science is, and what completely bullshit is, is due to clear philosophical arguments. Empiricism is a philosophical movement, which has been adopted for scientific exploration, and for very good reasons.
Besides, evolutionary theory (really, cut the crap about "darwinism"; it just shows a lack of respect) is what basically every freaking scientific endaveour wants: an overarching complete theory that can explain all the phenomena within it. Physics is looking for one, but hasn't found it yet and the same goes for every scientific field, including psychology. Without a grand theory, everything is just a hollow collection of empty facts that lack structure and, indeed, meaning.
Theories are essential, and the theory of evolution is one of the most complete and biggest ones out there due to being proven over and over again in 150 years to explain what it is supposed to explain. It is important and should be defended for all the right reasons.

tom quick @ 71 If I interpret your summary correctly, Darwinism, (I won't even give credence to the other crap by mentioning it) belongs in the realm of philosophy? What the hell was Darwin working with for most of his life, shoe laces and tarot cards? Barnacles, worms, and all the many biological forms he investigated, not to mention animals and the epitomy of Biology, humans, exist because of Biology. Philosophical matters would not arise if it were not for Biology to give it impetus.

tom quick lying Death Cult troll:

I'm a research scientist. I'm used to empiricism and scientific method. Neither creationism or darwinianism has any bearing on what I have learned, how I think, or what I do for a living as a scientist. These are philosophical topics, which only incidentally bear on science. Neither of these theories is responsible for the development of a vaccine, or better optics/microimaging, or genetic selection and hybridizing, etc. etc.

************************************************

No tom q, lying doesn't make you a research scientist. Unlike you, many of the commenters on this blog are real scientists. Wrong place to lie. Save it for church where the lies start and should end.

And BTW, in medical research and agriculture we see, deal with, and use evolution every day. The current paradigm for cancer is an evolutionary one where somatic cells lose growth control, evade host defenses, and evolve resistance to any and all treatment modalities. This obscure fact will kill 100 million of the current 300 million US citizens living today.

And evolution has resulted in vaccines, we formulate new flu vaccines every year based on computer models of what the newly evolved strains will be as well as developing preemptively vaccines for newly emerging diseases such as H1N5 avian.

Without evolutionary biology, medical and agricultural research would be hobbled and there is a reasonable chance you and a few millions or billions would be dead.

tom quick is probably a sock puppet for byers. Both live in a self created alternate reality that has almost no contact with our space-time.

As I've mentioned before and it is proven everyday, the hardcore creos who bother to post in public venues invariably seem to be seriously in the medical sense crazy. Which makes them unreachable intellectually.

I once saw a doc evaluate a patient (his job) who had been living on the streets on and off for 20 years. He managed to discover that the guy had been lobotomized by a traumatic head injury a year before his life fell apart permanently. How do you treat a lobotomy?

Robert Byers at #64 is just making a gabbier version of the same old "we ought to teach both sides and let the children decide!" argument that so many creationists make but don't even believe themselves. Would he accept such a policy with regards to, say, whether the earth is round, or whether 2+2=4? I seriously doubt it. For lurkers who are wondering why we're so snarly and sarcastic with evolution doubters, here's a perfect example of how frustratingly dishonest they are when arguing.

Then again, maybe he would agree to such a policy when it comes to teaching spelling. Oy.

tom quick,

On the creationist side, there is a partisanship which results in disingenuous behavior of all sorts.

3 Examples of "disingenuousity";

"It is interesting, that termites don't build things, and the great builders of our nation almost to a man have been Christians, because Christians have the desire to build something. He is motivated by love of man and God, so he builds. The people who have come into (our) institutions (today) are primarily termites. They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, our own traditions, that we have.... The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation."--Pat Robertson, New York Magazine, August 18, 1986

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians." -- Pat Robertson, fundraising letter, 1992

"I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."-- George Bush

So now, we have Tom Quick saying ;

On the evolutionist side there is an even madder partisanship to prove that ID is covert creationism and therefore a forbidden idea.

So please Mr Quick, can we have ONE evidence of "even madder partinsanship" of the evolutionists so that we can compare with the "disingenuosity" of the creationists ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Defending an arcane theory is a shameful waste of their intelligence.

Defending (and testing) arcane theories is what science is all about. If you don't believe that, you're not a scientist.

As far as science is concerned these theories add nothing.

Without evolution, biology makes no sense.

My my, thanks for all the comments guys. Quite a lot for a first time post completely unrelated to the original blog topic.

I'm used to listening to arcane theories - I listened to a whole host of them last week and had to dig down into the details to see whether any of them contained a kernal of truth. It was difficult, because they were presented with great enthusiasm in a blizzard of hype. I'd say that two of the five key ideas have some chance of success, but a lot hangs on fluid mechanics and mechanical engineering problems. It'll be a great spending-fest if we ever get underway on any of it. My preference would be to transfer it to someone else and go back to working full time on sustainable agricultural packaging.

I don't recall bringing religion into this directly. But if you'd like maybe it would be worth comparing the pentateuch with what little I know of Darwin. [And I still don't think it's worth bringing religion into it.] Moses (or whoever wrote it) was a leader, an administrator and a historian. The creation account is anthropomorhic, and I think it fits as a piece into the historical/legal codex that follows. It's not a scientific account by any means. Moses may have lacked tools for scientific research but he wasn't poorly educated, and I'm reasonably certain that he would have bought into Darwin's basic tenets. In an agrarian culture he would have had some knowledge of selection. But I repeat, the creation account is not the foundation for any kind of science. It's the foundation for a governmental system which has survived to the present day. To a great degree this system has determined how our society runs - schools, judicial systems, etc.

Without it there wouldn't have been a Darwin. What Moses did was considerably more important for the development of western civilization.

Some 3000 years later Darwin appears. He's no Moses, but he accomplished more than I ever will in my little niche. He conducts research and contributes a theory on the origin of the species. This theory explains things that occurred several million years ago in a plausible way. Someone explain to me the scientific benefit of such a theory. It appears to me to be an extension of well-developed biological science used for thousands of years in agriculture for crop and livestock improvement, but is really only a scientific history lesson. It's more cosmological in its effect than scientific.

Biology was well developed before Darwin arrived. Someone please explain to me which forms of scientific research were advanced by this theory. What light bulbs, periodic tables, atom bombs, microchips or electron microscopes were launched as a result? I hate to say it, but the most obvious contribution that it see is the group of socio-political evolutionary theories known as Social Darwinism, which only connect to things like Aryanism and eugenics.

Now as to the self-righteous attitudes of scientists (lawyers, etc.) I saw on NOVA. Analysis of a book to find poor textual overlays proving that the book originally contained the words "creation science". Yes, that is damning evidence. But the camera angles used in the recreated courtroom and the eloquence of the speaker reminded me of the Salem witch trials or a Perry Mason episode. Piling books in front of Behe - same thing - cheap detective show drama. Behe was not allowed to respond - it would have taken months. I was not convinced either that the bacterium flagellae-cum-botulism injection needle was a relevant disproof of his complexity argument. In fact, it still appears to me to illustrate the weakness of the darwinian theory in explaining complexity, which was Behe's point. The explanation of this complexity would require the use of scientific equipment and testing methods Darwin couldn't possibly have imagined. None of these methods were developed because of his work, and perhaps none of them would be effective to prove an evolutionary pathway from needle to flagellae. In the end the result would be only an expensive, likely unproductive experiment to win a cosmological point, akin to determining how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Bring it on.....I'm used to sports blogs.

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

correction - bubonic injection needle

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Biology was well developed before Darwin arrived.

Biology had no (true) overarching explanation for organismic similarity or history until Darwin. That is a profound contribution to biology, similar in nature to the Standard Model in physics. Prior to Darwin, many phenomena had no explanation -- now they do. That is the mark of a successful theory.

Someone please explain to me which forms of scientific research were advanced by this theory. What light bulbs, periodic tables, atom bombs, microchips or electron microscopes were launched as a result?

You've confused "science" with "technology". There is very little practical knowledge that has come out of large particle colliders, yet we've spent billions on them, because they reveal to us the underlying structure of matter.

"So please Mr Quick, can we have ONE evidence of "even madder partinsanship" of the evolutionists so that we can compare with the "disingenuosity" of the creationists ?"

Oh sure. Every single quote from every single evolutionist where they dare to put forth the proposition that they are right because they've done some "experiments" or "research" or an appeal to "evidence" or some other similar tool of reality-based oppression.

"I don't recall bringing religion into this directly."

Perhaps not. But without religion, why would you have any problem with evolution? Why wouldn't you accept what the vast majority of biologists posit as the overarching explanation for the diversity of life on Earth?

"But I repeat, the creation account is not the foundation for any kind of science. It's the foundation for a governmental system which has survived to the present day. To a great degree this system has determined how our society runs - schools, judicial systems, etc."

You can thank the Greeks for most of that, actually. The extent to which society has survived is an indication of how much of the pre-technological, slavery-condoning, genocidal, and oppressive "creation myth" has been consigned to the dungheap of history.

"The explanation of this complexity would require the use of scientific equipment and testing methods Darwin couldn't possibly have imagined."

Well then it's a good thing we don't take Darwin's theory as dogma then, isn't it? Biologists have built upon his theory since then, discarding the parts that have proven faulty, and strengthening the rest. You really don't know much about science, do you?

About Tom Quick I only have one question - where do they come from? What a mish-mash of gibberish. At least there was some humor: Tom Quick: Behe was not allowed to respond - it would have taken months. That's a good one. Behe responded, and it only took him one sentence, "I haven't read any of it."

I expected a good bashing, thank you. You may gather by now that I am not a biologist or a theologian. After I watched the NOVA show I was mad at both sides. On the one hand I saw hypocrisy. On the other, self righteous drama. And in the end I wondered what the point was of teaching either theory in a biology class. But I didn't take any biology at university level (and in high school evolution got 5 minutes max, followed by dissecting something and memorizing the structure of beta carotene), so I need some enlightenment on the benefits which evolutionary theory has produced. The crack about Aryans was lame, but outside of an overarching cosmological basis for modern biology, what are the benefits out in the peanut field. Or wherever. Be as specific as you can. What exactly have the biologists built out of it?

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

tom quick @ 81 "Bring it on... I'm used to sports blogs".
There you go again, confusing two opposing disciplines. In your first posting you deigned Darwinism should be relegated to philosophy, and now you deign that this important subject should be relegated to the sports mentality level! What are we discussing here, batting averages and drunken fans? We may at times get frivolous when the topic runs off on a tangent and gets lost in serious commenting, but we do manage to get back on track and be serious with the subject at hand. Do you think you can apply the sports mentality and have it maintain some semblance of continuity and discourse in a logical way? This is not a sports blog; most of us take these discussions seriously and we don't need the sports level of rabble rousing with limited verbal and writing ability.

I mentioned schools and judicial system specifically as examples of Mosaic contributions because they are real. I am fully aware that the Greeks and Romans also made major contributions. I'm not trying to make a religious point, only saying that the pentateuch has been influential, and that the creation story is an important component therein.

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tom@87. Modern medicine.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

I was not convinced either that the bacterium flagellae-cum-botulism injection needle was a relevant disproof of his complexity argument.

Why the hell should anyone care whether you, a self-confessed biological ignoramus, were convinced? Who the hell do you think you are?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

By criticizing the NOVA show, I have been called a sock puppet, and most of the rest of the responses have been, well, reactionary (though politer). That's the kind of tone I see on the sports blogs, and I assumed it was normal here, too. Sorry.

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Nick, I was just a viewer and it all made me angry. Both sides. I thought Behe was trashed for drama's sake. I thought the school board were a collective of hypocrites.

I really wish I could write like Hitchins......when in Egypt Heroditus asks the Egyptians about when the gods walked on the earth. He believes that it was a couple of centuries before, but the Egyptians tell him that is was much longer ago than that. This leaves him confused. His basic Greek mythological footing has been damaged by those that know more than him.

Ranting doesn't convince me. Tell me what you know. Then I'll go away and quit bothering you.

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tell me what you know. That would take a long time. I can well believe you wouldn't have the same problem.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

By the way, Tom, you're not bothering me. You're amusing me. Carry on as long as you like. I'm off to bed soon, but I'll check in tomorrow for another laugh at your inanity.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

I need some enlightenment on the benefits which evolutionary theory has produced.

It explains how life has changed over time, and so makes sense of the fossil record. It explains how organisms are related, and so makes sense of why, for example, all mammals have four limbs (if they didn't share common descent, why couldn't elephants have eight legs, like spiders?). It helps to explain the patterns of development that we see in organisms. It explains the commonalities we find among organisms at even the biochemical level. It explains the instances of bad design, like (famously) the panda's thumb, or our own appendix, since evolution does not generate completely optimal solutions, but tries to optimize the genetic variation that is available to it (and in many instances, the necessary "optimal" variation may simply not be present). It can even in some cases explain patterns of current behaviour based on the prior history of a species.

That's a start -- there are plenty of popular science books on evolution that would fill in the details.

Thanks, Tulse, for #83 and #96. I found this site on wiki, and figured it would be a good place to get some discussion of the NOVA program, but I will go elsewhere to get more information. I'm a little disappointed in the quality of the dialogue here. I've contributed my share of peer-reviewed papers and patents to the literature in my field (but sadly less and less of this is being paid for) and hadn't expected so much roughhouse on what I thought was a scientist site. If you've got any general texts to recommend let me know and I'll hunt down copies on abe. It's about time I got around to reading Voyage of the Beagle, too.

BTW, I thought that the appendix was a relict from hunter-gatherer ancestors who ate a lot more meat and needed it for digestion.

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Neither creationism or darwinianism has any bearing on what I have learned, how I think, or what I do for a living as a scientist.

That does very much depend on the specific narrow field in which you might claim to work and on just how ignorant you are of the entirety of the rest of science, eg biology, geology and astronomy. However, since creationism is something for the artificially retarded which has never produced anything worthwhile and "darwinianism" is merely a revealingly inaccurate name given by those same retarded people to a fruitful set of reality-based ideas which they could never hope to emulate themselves, you could still be right on a technicality.

Neither of these theories is responsible for the development of a vaccine ... or genetic selection and hybridizing, etc. etc. All the scientific advances have gone on regardless of which theory one believes.

Quite wrong - apart from the aforementioned technicality. Only one term (mis-)refers to a genuine scientific theory at all, viz to the Theory Of Evolution By Natural Selection (or any modern variant of that), and that theory is very responsible for guiding vaccine development and genetic manipulations. It's very important to recognise that life is going to be continually changing and fighting back. The evolution of a disease can render a vaccine or antibiotic ineffective. Knowing the most likely paths of evolution and the relationships between life-forms can help mitigate that problem.

Decades were wasted while complacent doctors, who unfortunately tend to be largely ignorant of actual science such as evolution, smugly thought penicillin was the final solution. That time should have been spent researching new and different types of solutions to guard against the inevitability of evolutionary change. It was also a mistake to abandon asepsis for antisepsis, to allow bugs to mix and share survival information and to under-prescribe drugs such that bugs learned rather than died.

Tom Quick,

You're a troll, and an easily identified one. Raven@76 gave you specific examples of practical advances evolutionary theory led to, and you ignored them completely. I strongly suspect you're also a barefaced liar: you claim to be a research scientist, to have publications and patents, but you display complete ignorance of the importance of theory in science, and you do not identify your papers, patents or field. Point us to one of your papers, and explain why you did the work described therein.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tom Q..perhaps you could tell us what your field is.

I watched the NOVA programme and found it to be near Reality. Oh, I used to live near there and have contacts that can attest to the outright falsity of the former school board.

Behe was hired to sell Lehigh U to Catholics. His c.v. was less important than his ability to draw students (and their money) from nearby religioskools. The problem for many KKKristians is that they may be called to task. Most of the academic world has faced this numerous times and tend to speak only to the subject and as accurately as is humanly possible. The NOVA tele-documentary showed this tendency. Most competent scientists share this compulsion. You do not. That is why I ask for your field.

Nick I thought you were off to bed. I reread raven's comments and thank her as well, but still have some questions as to how Darwin's theory is pertinent to this research. Perhaps you could suggest a text. I hold a patent on a process for agglomeration deinking for removal of xerography toner, I believe issued 1980 - you can now practice it for free if you like, and have another one pending in the field of paper coating. I wish I had published more (a handful of papers for TAPPI Journal, and a few conference presentations, mostly in the field of deinking), but such is industrial research. I also regret not going on to get my PhD at UC-Berkeley, where I graduated with an MSChemE in 1977. Good night and good luck.

By tom quick (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tom,
I went to bed, and got up again. Where I am, it is now Saturday. I'd say that industrial research of the type you've done is not "research science" - certainly it's a bit of a stretch for you to swank about being a "research scientist" on the basis you now give - but I admit not an outright lie.

You have this fixation on "Darwin's theory". What is much more relevant to recent practical advances is of course modern evolutionary theory, which has been developed on the foundations laid by Darwin (and others, including Mendel) over 150 years. However, the basic principle of natural selection - that better-adapted members of a population are more likely to transmit their characteristics to future generations - are thoroughly relevant to raven's examples, and many other medical ones: antibiotic resistance, the relevance and limitations of animal experiments, inherited diseases and propensities to disease, nutrition, ageing... A popular work you might like to consult in the medical area is Hesse and Williams (1994) "Evolution and Healing: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine". Another area of great practical importance is agriculture; not only the study of pests and diseases and the ways to combat them, but the search for new genes in wild relatives of crop plants: evolutionary theory tells scientists a lot about where to look for useful genes - i.e. in habitats where they are likely to have evolved. Almost certainly more important than any specific practical application, however, is the way in which evolutionary theory allows the vast number of facts about organisms to be organised coherently; and tells scientists what is missing from their understanding and where to look for it. As Theodosius Dobzhansky said: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution".

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tom's a chemical engineer then. Makes sense - and chemistry was my best guess of a scientific field in which one could contrive to remain ignorant. Chemistry hasn't been much of an issue for the religionists since they dropped their silly ideas in that area a long time ago and most of them fail to see its significance to abiogenesis. The engineering side of things (including the medical version) is of course a prime breeding ground for IDiots, as we've repeatedly seen.

For Tom Quick
Right on about the importance of the bible to western , read Christian, civilization.
The actual impact came from Protestant interpretations of the whole bible and not Moses.
Of coarse Moses just recorded Gods word it must be remembered.
Therefore a very Protestant, even puritan/Evangelical, new nation of America where more then any other nation did the peole have a impact on its constitution etc DID NOT put in the great laws a prohibition of teaching God and genesis was the truth of origins. In fact they would of banned any concept of athesism or evolution. Surely this is so.
To deny the very Christian Protestant beliefs and whims and prejudices of the majority of the British settlers is to deny the obvious. Regardless of opinions of a few famous folk the great part of the public and famous folk were aggresively Christian in how the government was founded on.
Only in the 1960's was it DISCOVERED that the founders of america put in the constitution a prohibition of the teachings of the bible/God in matters of origins of major issues.
To see that creationism in any shade must overthrow "legal" banning would to all Americans up to some recent date be a astonishment.
The censorship of the truth and inquiry and contention over the truth is what is headed for the ashheap of history. Evolutionists and atheists and most posters here are just the bad guys in the story. Including attitude and character and ability.

The best bet is to learn to make a persuasive case before the american public on the merits and not trust to establishment control of dissent or claims of authority. People seek out second opinions no matter how many degrees on the first doctor's wall.

By Robert Byers (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'll make one last post in this thread, which I have so rudely stolen. Thank you Nick for the Hesse and Williams reference and the Dobzhansky quote. Robert, English Commonwealth history interests me greatly, and I greatly recommend the Wedgwood series on the civil war. In the mid 1600's the Puritans turned the world upside down, upsetting the divine right of kings. But they didn't know what to do once in power and were quickly turned out. The implications for development of modern western governments resound down through the centuries....revolutions, division of powers, modern armies, genocide, etc. etc. The Puritans opened a Pandora's box they couldn't shut. I've been trying to read primary materials from the period - talk about your pedantic ranters - I prefer the history books.

One last comment. I'm glad that you are all involved in a dynamic field of research. I wish mine was more so (even though in title and paystub I am a "senior research scientist", Nick). Our funding and staffing have been cut to the bone, and every project must yield revenue or the rest of us are history. At that point it's back to school for me, maybe in nutrition or food science. I don't mind your belittling my education and achievements. I'll admit that they don't amount to much compared to yours.

By tom quick (not verified) on 05 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tom,
My own achievements are not that great, and I only alluded to yours because you did so, using your standing as a "research scientist" in an attempt to bolster your argument. Don't try that sort of thing here - I've been rightly whacked down myself for trying to use the fact that someone I was arguing with was using a pseudonym, while he could google me and check "my achievements, if any". I take back my characterisation of you as a troll - we get so many dropping in here, some of us including me are perhaps over-inclined to identify those putting forward daft arguments as such (and your arguments about the uselessness of evolutionary theory really are daft). Ciao.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 05 Jul 2008 #permalink

I just wanted to bring up a point that tom quick mentioned and that I see crop up a fair amount concerning the Dover trial. To whit: the so called "trick" whereupon the lawyer for the prosecution piled up books in front of Behe.

This was not a trick. This is standard cross interrogation. Behe was testifying on the strength of his expert status. His expert opinion was that no biologists had adequately researched the evolution of the human immune system. The prosecution presented him with a collection of publications on the subject -- a fairly large collection -- and asked if he had read it. He hadn't, thus casting doubt on the expertise of his testimony in the area.

There's no denying the theatricality of the move; the lawyer could have just rattled off a list. However, theatricality is a big part of trial law. Go ahead and ask any trial lawyer.

Incidentally, you were called a sock puppet because everything you said was textbook "concern troll" post. In other words, you seemed "unsure" whether evolution or creationism was "right," but "think" that both of them "deserve equal time." It's very rare that anyone actually believes that, since creationism/ID/whatever you want to call it simply doesn't meet the criteria most scientists have for scientific theories, and this is relatively obvious to most people who know anything about science. Also, the evidence for evolution IS overwhelming. ID proponents who claim otherwise are engaging in PR spin. "Concern trolls" start out on a science blog as "unsure" and rather rapidly move to spouting the same garbage as the rest of the trolls, usually.

Byers, are you actually going to engage in discussion or just spew a bunch of nonsense?

"Only in the 1960's was it DISCOVERED that the founders of america put in the constitution a prohibition of the teachings of the bible/God in matters of origins of major issues."

I would assume that might happen for the same reason that a slave owner might write the words "...all men are created equal..." For that matter, the same man argued the whole continental congress out of writing Christ into the constitution, and coming to terms with a creator only in terms of "Nature and Nature's God." That's about as agnostic as it gets in the eighteenth century, pal. Furthermore, it explicitly accomodates all gods besides the Christian one. "Nature's God," doesn't have to be Christian in the constitution's formulation, and as written, doesn't have to exist at all! ("Nature and Nature's God" reduces to "Nature" as the source of our natural rights -- sounds good to me.)

"In fact they would of banned any concept of athesism or evolution. Surely this is so."(sic)

Surely this is so? How do you know? John Edwards hook you up with John Adams and Ben Franklin? I would have thought you'd be opposed to that kind of "witchcraft."

Also, what kind of no-goodnik commie fails to capitalize the word "America"? I can't even take you seriously as a evangelical nutjob.

Ah, Dan, finally some considerate comment. For me biology was always an optional field, and the Dover program was like a sock in the jaw. I expected that all this had ended with the Scopes trial. I fully expected a hard shove coming in here and criticizing the show, but in the end I got the reference materials I wanted. Nesse and Williams was out of my price range (cheapest cc was in the Netherlands, with $20 postage), but I didn't have much trouble finding Dobzhansky at the library. I also took a fast skim through the body and conclusions of Origin of the Species, and googled/wiki'd up some more reference materials. I'll pick up Des Chene's book on Descartes if I can find a cheap copy.

So in effect I was trying to cheaply squeeze out the benefits of your collective education, for which I thank you all. I have learned that evolutionary biology has made great contributions to the development of vaccines, for which I also thank you. And I can now appreciate Darwin's importance as the progenitor of modern biology. While it still appears to me that Mendel's contribution was more earth shattering for the development of genetics, Darwin was at the forefront as a competent scientist who also had tremendous foresight. None of this was clear to me watching the NOVA show, and it helped fill out the picture.

But I'm still a little sore about being called a sock puppet. That's the part I didn't like about the biologists on NOVA, too. Snooty holier-the-thou attitudes. On the whole I'd rather be reading Proust, Gaddis or Pynchon than Dobzhansky, but I suppose I'd better broaden myself before my current career crashes and burns. I don't want to end up being an English teacher.

By tom quick (not verified) on 06 Jul 2008 #permalink

You may or may not be a sock-puppet but you are a troll. You pretended to know enough science to be able to say that the theory of evolution had contributed nothing while actually knowing (at least to some extent) that you were pig ignorant on the subject (something which your choices of words continually betrayed). It's that arrogant ignorance and rampant dishonesty which you share with the creationists and which raises the suspicion of sock-puppetry. You could have made an honest request for information instead of being deceitful.