Once again Larry Moran decries legal battles against creationism

Larry Moran of Sandwalk  has commented twice (here and here) on my post about Pennslvania’s problem with creationist science teachers, and on the results of a poll showing that showed that between 17% and 21% of high-school teachers in the U.S. actually introduce and favor creationism in the science classroom. Since Larry is a science teacher and well familiar with fighting creationism, I thought I’d put his comments above the fold.
I have to say that I disagree strongly with them, since he’s extending the stand he took on the Ball State affair to lower-level students: we should be able to teach creationism in American public school classes, and the law should stay out of it.  Presumably the kids will be able to sort out the issue for themselves.
Larry Moran
Posted July 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Jerry,

According to the poll you quoted, about 20% of high school science teachers in Pennsylvania teach creationism. We also know from other polls that most high school students never get an adequate exposure to evolution.

So how’s that Establishment Clause thingy working out for you and FFRF down in the trenches?

Looking objectively from the outside, it doesn’t look like that strategy is working in spite of “victories” like Dover. Maybe threatening people with lawsuits isn’t the best way to change their minds?

******

Larry Moran
Posted July 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

The reason why teaching creationism isn’t much of a problem in many other countries is because it’s bad science, not because it’s illegal.

I think you should concetrate more on convincing school boards and teachers that creationism is nonsense rather than fighting a rear guard action through the courts. You are not going to change people’s minds by threatening them with a lawsuit. The problem will never be solved unless you convince people that creationism is wrong.

One way to do that is to teach the controversy in school. But you can’t actually teach children why creationism is wrong because your primary strategy is to keep creationism out of schools because of some 225 year old piece of paper.

Your strategy puts you on the defensive. You should be taking the fight to the trenches by attacking bad science and superstitiuos nonsense.

My response to Larry will be brief, as I’ll let the commenters weigh in, and will email him about this post.

1.  Americans are much more religious than Canadians or Europeans, and THAT is why creationism is a problem in the U.S., even though it is illegal.  Now take a look at Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, or at Orthodox yeshivas: those are religiously oriented schools, and there creationism is a big problem.

2. If we didn’t have a Constitution, creationism in American schools would be much more of a problem than it is now. Remember, between a quarter and a third of American school teachers are creationists, and do we really trust them to teach kids the truth about evolution? It’s only the law that makes them afraid to do so. As it is, many of them finesse the problem by watering down evolution or not teaching it at all.

3. As I pointed out to Larry, he doesn’t have a smidgen of evidence that the legal strategy isn’t working. Where’s his control, which would consist of suspending the First Amendment in schools and then seeing what happens? My money is on an increase in creationist teaching.

4.  In fact, many of us, particularly the National Center for Science Education, are trying to convince school boards and teachers that creationism is nonsense. You know I wrote a book about this, right, Larry. And that book is being used in high schools and colleges in the U.S. In fact, it’s only when that strategy fails that organizations go to the legal option. That option is time-consuming and expensive, and nobody wants to use it except as a last resort against creationist teachers and schools.  And have you ever tried to teach the facts of evolution to a religiously-biased school board? Check out what happened in Texas.

5. Are you serious, Larry, about “teaching the controversy”? What controversy? It’s not a scientific one, so do you want precious hours of high-school science education occupied by giving students the arguments of creationists and ID advocates? (I do that to a limited extent, but in college courses, and only when giving the evidence for evolution.) And, you know, a lot of teachers wouldn’t tell students that creationism was wrong. They’d either tell the students it was right, or teach all alternatives without pointing out which one is supported by the facts. That, after all, would be the safest thing to do, for no parent would be offended. “Teach the controversy” is the mantra of the Discovery Institute that Moran so despises, so it’s ironic that he adopts it himself.

6. Larry, you’re always banging on about how Canada is not America. Well, on this issue America is not Canada. We’re worse, and we need our First Amendment.

The readers are free to address their comments to either me or Dr. Moran.

241 Comments

  1. Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Also, I know it’s the current vogue in Washington to use the Constitution as toilet paper; that’s why the NSA is able to get away with a level of surveillance that the Stasi and the KGB combined couldn’t even have fantasized about.

    But if we are to have even a smidgen of hope of becoming a civilized people again, it will be by embracing civil liberties, including keeping that wall between state and church as high as we can build it. It will not come from sprinting on the road to Somalia.

    Besides, “Teach the Controversy” is a classic case of something that would look much better on religion’s résumé than on rationality’s.

    b&

  2. gbjames
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I commented/questioned in the original context. Dr. Moran didn’t respond there and I’m skeptical he’ll respond here. But I’m dismayed by how little respect he has for our Constitution and I don’t understand why lawsuits don’t provide excellent opportunities for public education.

    • Marta
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I could be mistaken, but I believe Dr. Moran is Canadian. There’s no particular reason why he should respect the US Constitution.

      That said, “that Establishment Clause thingy”, (being the first amendment to the US Constitution and thus the beginning of the Bill of Rights) has worked out very well, all things considered, including Dr. Moran’s rather prideful ignorance.

      Disappointing, though, isn’t it?

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        I’m inclined to say something rude, like:

        “How’s that Section 13 (Hate Speech) legislation working out for you?”

        Except it appears that enough Canadians have come to their senses. (but only after many millions wasted in the courts defending frivolous lawsuits mostly brought on by offended religiots.)

        Anyway… just a side issue. But it does irk me when folks from better-behaved societies presume that it’s the legislation itself that is responsible for said behavior. Section 13 was a case in point, as it was an attempt to play nicey-nicey, and it predictably got turned around on them mostly by recent arrivals that are not so well-behaved.

        • Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          Except that the analogy doesn’t really work.

          Section 13 was a bad law that inspired frivolous and detrimental litigation. It deserved to go.

          Dr. Moran is trying to say the same thing about the US’s Establishment Clause.

          • Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            I know… what only works is a backwards bit of logic, and only halfway at that. A “godsbuster” was making similar remarks to Dr. Moran’s – he said: “so how’s that Establishment Clause working for you?” Kind-of makes me think Moran read it and agreed. In any case, I asked godsbuster if he had any better suggestions. Ben chimed in to underscore that he’d rather not have a Ministry of Truth involved. Undaunted, godsbuster went ahead and crafted a “fix” for the clause, essentially establishing self-appointed ministries of truth whenever anybody anywhere makes some kind of truth claim. (such claims would hold up if they were backed by evidence such as that which we use in courts of law, or in science) Yeah, right.

            Both points of view, Moran’s and godsbuster’s – and the well-meaning folks that crafted Section 13, seem to be a quaint one where people from a very homogenous and kind culture will use these tools to play nicey, and no one will get hurt.

            To which I say, “welcome to reality”. The courts really suck. And science, at least in my field, has some serious problems as well. There are some really not-so-nice people champing at the bit that would love for there not to be an Establishment clause. Just like there were some assholes that took every chance they could get to abuse Section 13.

            And in both cases, either the removal of the establishment clause or enacting Section 13 would have a net result of punishing freedom of speech. I think some personality types really don’t see this as a problem, because they don’t empathize with destructive personality types or criminal minds. — cannot see how it might backfire. That’s my best guess.

            • Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

              Ah. Eye sea.

              I think your guess is a good one. I might add that it’s not even just the destructive or criminal personalities you need to worry about in such situations. Given the right circumstances anyone might succumb to the urge to abuse or take improper advantage of a law (or the absence thereof). Which is why we need that defensive line waiting in the wings. That recourse needs to be available.

  3. Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    The whole creationism movement is only partial about evolution, is primarily about undermining secular government. The religious are seeing how science is increasingly undermining their claims to truth, and therefore eroding religion’s political source of power. Since evolution is among the strongest evidences against religious authority, it’s logically also their most important of focus. By bringin evolution in descredit among the general population the religious hope to restore their power.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      It’s the “wedge”

  4. Christopher
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I had a conversation with a friend a long time ago about “teaching the controversy”. When I highlighted that there is no “controversy” (one is correct, one is wrong), he did say something that I think is correct – that when classes on evolutionary theory (or possibly biology in general) formally begin, spending just 30-45 minutes discussing the various religious hypothesis for the origin of life (and a review of other creation myths – existing or extinct). Once completed, then move on to the real science lessons and the creation myths are not mentioned ever again.

    That way the children hear the stories, *comparatively* within a context, thus are aware of them before then getting a proper education in science and biology. Kind of like:
    “Welcome to biology 101. We begin by looking at how *all* the religions think the world/life started, we’ll compare them to other creation stories/myths, then we will learn how it *really* happened. This is science…” or something like that!

    I think this method would destroy creationist ideas in children’s head because they will ultimately see them for they are, anthropologically speaking, old fashioned, obsolete, ignorant explanations of the origin of the world and life.

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      The problem with this is that it might well be illegal to discuss religious myths in public school science classrooms, even tangentially. I well remember both Michael Ruse and Michael de Dora (of the Center for Inquiry)maintaining that while you could teach that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, you could NOT TEACH THAT IT IS NOT 6,000 years old. That seemed insane to me, and probably wouldn’t stand, but it would clearly cause a lot of objections in parents to outline creationism and then knock it down. That is, unless you’re suggesting that you discuss what creationism is and NOT knock it down, which would simply confuse kids and not accomplish any good science education. If you teach creationism, you’re going to have to show the kids why it’s wrong.

      • Christopher
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Ah yes, I see your point. I admit I didn’t consider the legal side as I was speaking from a British perspective and background. Over here in England there wouldn’t be any formal objection to covering obsolete theories/myth as a precursor to actual science, or if myth was covered in a historical context (a bit like gbjames (below) suggests).

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          I agree with you, Christopher. The whole ‘don’t touch that with a 10-foot pole’ approach represents just one more case of religious exceptionalism.

        • Katkinkate
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          As a part of an overview of the history of science maybe leading up to the Renaissance and the birth of modern science out of the superstition of our ancestors.

      • Arabiflora
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        I can’t get my head around the notion that a pedagogical approach to evolutionary theory that involved smashing ill-reasoned misconceptions based on theology and familial traditions could be considered unconstitutional. The relevant clauses of the first amendment are:

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

        The first is commonly referred to as the Establishment Clause and it is entirely beyond me how any approach used in classrooms to provide evidence to students regarding the validity of evolutionary science could be considered a violation of that proscription.

        The second clause (“Free Expression”) is a bit trickier from a legal standpoint, I suppose, but is dealt with on a regular basis in areas of the science curriculum without undue hassle. For example, an Astronomy teacher/professor could hardly have hopes of keeping his or her job if they were to present the notion of a geocentric universe as an “alternative” theory complete with epicycles to accommodate those students whose faith demands that the earth is the center of God’s world. Nor could a chemist be justified in devoting precious class time to the debunked theories of alchemy, despite any subset of students in their classrooms whose personal belief is that such principles are true.

        Examples of curricula that may run afoul of a student’s religious beliefs run the gamut from those noted above but extending to holocaust declaimers to climate change denialists. The “free Exercise” clause is a very thin reed to cling to and yet many, including the author of this site, seem all to ready to cede that ground for reasons that, like I say, i can’t get my head around.

        Correcting students’ pre/misconceptions about the way the world actually works is, to my mind, an essential part of science education. We must recognize them and help our students to understand why they are in error and contradicted by evidence. Will this be politically difficult? Of course! Will it piss off alot of parents? You betcha. But to do otherwise seems the very epitome of accomodationism and I thought that was a Bad Thing.

        I would appreciate any guidance from Dr Coyne or contributors for citations to the legal doctrines that Ruse or any others espouse that would seem to argue against professing an openly, militantly atheistic philosophy in the science classroom. I’ve asked the FFRF for similar pointers in my annual dues payment letter; they said they’d get back to me but 5 months on, no response. Any help would be appreciated.

        Scott

        • Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

          Correcting students pre/misconceptions about the way the world actually works is, to my mind, an essential part of science education. […] I would appreciate any guidance from Dr Coyne or contributors for citations to the legal doctrines that Ruse or any others espouse that would seem to argue against professing an openly, militantly atheistic philosophy in the science classroom.

          You’re implying that the only — or best — way to correct misconceptions is with a abrasive atheistic approach.

          First, courts have have consistently held that you can no more suppress religious expressions (and beliefs) than you can endorse or establish them. It’s equally unconstitutional to tell students that they’re going to Hell unless they eat a cracker or to tell them that they’re not going to Hell if they don’t eat the cracker.

          So, like it or lump it, the flame wars you’re advocating aren’t allowed in the classroom.

          But that doesn’t mean that students can or should be left with their misconceptions! Quite the contrary.

          A very common misconception is that the eye couldn’t possibly have evolved naturally. Your approach would be to tell them that they’re idiots for thinking some magic man done it. Not only is that illegal, it’s not going to work.

          What does work and is legal is to re-create the demonstration that Richard did in his Christmas Lecture that I linked to elsewhere in the thread. Snip the first thirty seconds where he sniped at the religious nature of the objections to Evolution, and you’re left with the best lecture an American teacher could possibly give on the evolution of the eye — and one that will correct their misconception that divine intervention was necessary.

          When you get out of the classroom, sure, go ahead; go full throttle on the ridicule. I do. And the religious do, too; they even put up billboards claiming their BFF is going to infinitely torture everybody who doesn’t kiss his ass the right way.

          But none of that has any place in the classroom, outside of sociology or current affairs or the like.

          b&

          • Arabiflora
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

            You surely put alot of words in my mouth there, Ben, many of which I simply do not agree with. What you failed to do, however, is to provide any evidence in the form of case law or even pointers towards same to support your contention that espousing an openly critical view of religiously inspired misconceptions in the science classroom would be unconstitutional.

            Funny how that seems to happen almost every time I ask anyone purportedly well-versed in the relevant literature. I suspect there must be some case out there in which, for example, a student’s grades were negatively impacted by maintaining a YEC viewpoint of a 6,000 year old earth in response to a test question related to radiocarbon dating techniques. If so I would like to read the legal opinion to understand the judicial reasoning behind the decision– however it was resolved. That’s all I am asking.

            • Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

              If nobody has cited case law, it’s because you’ve been asking elementary-level questions of the subject. Tossing out case references to novices is generally more apt to overwhelm and bamboozle than educate.

              This Wikipedia page — which includes case references — should serve as a good introduction to the subject:

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

              b&

    • gbjames
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Another issue is that this suggestion is not practical. The “*all*” requirement simply can not be met. There is far too many different creation myths that humans have invented. One could study them for years and never get around to the actual subject of the class.

      I do, however, think it is completely appropriate to incorporate a bit of the history of science into science classes. Any study of biology quite properly should expose students to names like Agassiz, Cuvier, Lamark, and Lyell and would address historical processes by which evolution came to replace creationism in the 19th century.

      • Christopher
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Yes, when I said *all* that was pretty loose and sloppy language. I didn’t literally mean all, but a selection of eastern and western creation myths, alongside perhaps Egyptian, Persian, Greek, etc, myth.

        Your second point, yes, something like that would be good. Would that be legal in American schools?

        • gbjames
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Why slight the Aztecs, Hopi, Huron, ….?

          As for teaching the history of science, certainly it is legal to teach history of science in schools.

          • Christopher
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            “alongside perhaps Egyptian, Persian, Greek, etc, myth.”

            We are back to the *all* problem again. If you wanted to include the Aztecs, Hopi, Huron, great! They weren’t slighted; key term is “etc”. Take your pick 🙂

            • gbjames
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, I know. But I guess the point is that there is little basis for deciding what counts as a representative sample and no matter which ones you choose you are inevitably slighting someone’s god(s).

              • Diane G.
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                Why be explicit at all? Why not just state that a multitude of creation myths have arisen all over the world to explain what at the time was not addressable by science? With just a little elaboration, of course.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

                In addition, it would be perfectly appropriate to cherry-pick a small representation of the more colorful and popular ones.

                But, in an introductory-level class, none should get more than a single sentence.

                For example:

                In the years before Darwin published his seminal work, many guesses had been made throughout the ages as to the origins of life (and especially human life). Many ancient societies thought that chaos was primordial: in the Pacific Northwest, a Raven tricked a child into releasing the stars and the Sun and the Moon, while Hesiod has Gaia (the Earth) emerging from Chaos (the void) and subsequently giving birth to Eros (love personified), Tartarus (the Underworld), Uranus (the sky), and the Titans. Emergence of one sort or another was a popular theme; the Hopi climbed up a hollow reed that the Spider Grandmother planted for them, and they emerged somewhere in the Grand Canyon. Many others feature an emergence from a nothingness, such as the Judeo-Christian story of Yahveh breathing upon the darkness of the waters of the deep and, a bit later, molding the first human from clay. Separation of the land from the water is another popular feature: the Cherokee tell the story of the Little Water Beetle digging mud out of the bottom of the endless ocean, and piling it up to create the land; when the Yourba tell their story, Obtl empties soil from the shell of a mollusk.

                …and that is all that need be said in biology about Creationism.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

                @ Ben

                I approve this message.

                😉

                Kinda smushes together cosmology, abiogenesis, and, uh, the origin of at least one species (us); but then the target audience doesn’t usually worry about making those distinctions either.

              • Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

                Tanks!

                Yeah, it’s smushy, but it’s also brief. Students who want more can go sign up for Anthropology 101, or perhaps History of Biology 417.

                b&

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      Actually, that’s exactly how it was done in my Intro to Bio Anthro class…

      To be fair, that was a college class, but still… we started what our book called “the Journey to Evolution” (or… something like that), highlighting different creation myths before hitting Christianity, then we got to Darwin and evolution and it was nothing but pure, unadulterated science from there. Our teacher took all of one class to actually teach that “journey”.

      • Charles
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        It’s quite strange to read this from a UK perspective, the idea that any religious idea would even be hinted at as an alternative in a school / college setting is almost unthinkable…

        • gbjames
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

          Almost. Not completely.

          http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/nov/30/free-schools-creationism

          • Charles
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

            Yikes! Seems even more odd that some people are moving towards fairy tales instead of away from….

        • Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          I can see why. But it was presented just as a “history of the discover of the theory of evolution” kind of thing… like… you know…

          “It was Darwin who discovered evolution, but here’s the path that led to Darwin making his discovery, starting with the state of scientific thinking on the subject before his birth.”

          For the record, we also covered other “evolution” idea pre-Darwin, like Lamarck and others. We actually started with the ancient Greek(?) idea of “spontaneous creation” (you know… mice just spontaneously appear in a barn full of wheat or something like that). Creation myths, including the Bible’s, were just a small part of that, is all.

          Actually, I just found the notes our teacher used, and she called it “The History of Evolutionary Thought”.

          • Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            Also… for the record…

            Our teacher (and most teachers in the Anthropology department) is an atheist. We had a great talk about religion and fanaticism this past semester (when I was in her Primatology course). She’s one of those like Daniel Radcliffe, where while she’s not personally invested in being all activist about her atheism, she loves those who are (and apparently has a major collection of atheist books, including all of Dawkins and Hitchens).

  5. eric
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    #6: Bible-as-literature (and, thus, ‘Creation story as story’) classes are already legal. Yet creationists continue to want to modify HS biology curricula even though they have legal access to this route of teaching their creation story.

    So voluntary discussion of creationism, in an academic manner, by the students curious about it does not appear to meet the creationists’ true goal. If it did, they’d have nothing to complain about under the current system becaues we already allow that. The bottom line is that they don’t want evolution and creationism taught in a rigorous academic manner; they want only creationism, taught as truth, and they want it mandatory.

    • Keith
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Exactly! If we allowed a discussion of creationism through “The History of Evolutionary Thought” the religious in this country would never stand by quietly and let their belief(s) be torn down. With their foot in the door, by simply mentioning creationism as part of that history, they would not be content until their agenda of teaching creationism (ID) as fact was realized. It just won’t work in this country.

  6. Kurt Helf
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Larry should listen to the FFRF podcast because almost every week they discuss cases in which threatening a lawsuit does work with respect to reducing Establishment Clause violations at the state and local government levels.

    • steve oberski
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      I believe that Larry Moran’s objections are strategic rather than tactical.

      While the FRFF does win lawsuits and does stop some of the most egregious violations, the battle isn’t won until you have convinced creationists that their world view is wrong.

      As a Canadian I find it interesting that among 1st world countries, the US has the only constitutionally mandated separation of church and state (as far as I know) yet it seems to have the biggest problem with religious subversion of the eduction of children.

      I’m not trying to assign a cause here, but it seems to me that constitutionally mandated separation of church and state is at the very least not sufficient to prevent the pollution of science by religion.

      • Gary W
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        As a Canadian I find it interesting that among 1st world countries, the US has the only constitutionally mandated separation of church and state (as far as I know) yet it seems to have the biggest problem with religious subversion of the education of children

        This certainly is not true. In Britain, for example, religious “education” is not just legal but mandatory in state-funded schools. And there are special schools in Britain for particular religions that receive direct state funding just like any other school.

        • steve oberski
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          We have a similar situation in Canada, in Ontario the Catholic school system is taxpayer funded.

          If you go by polls showing the percentage of people who claim to believe in a 6,000 or so year old earth, I think that the US ranks just before Turkey.

          Which was really the only point I was trying to make, legal protections against incursions of religion into science education do not seem to be entirely effective or at least not sufficient in and of themselves.

          Despite the fact that Britain has a state religion and tax payer funded religious eduction, polls show that fewer British claim to believe in a 6,000 or so year old earth than Americans by a significant amount.

          • Larry Cook
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            Without having our Constitution on our side to fight with, the problem would be much bigger. Secondly, because there is controversy in the U. S. over this issue, don’t think the religious are winning the fight. My children were taught evolution and so was I. It isn’t correct to think that millions of American children are being taught creationism. Without the protection of the Constitution, Im afraid they would be. Using the legal system is very important in the prevention of religious influence in our schools.

            • steve oberski
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

              You are asserting that the problem would be much bigger, I suspect it would be difficult to back up this assertion up with facts.

              And I’m not saying that belief in creationism is decreasing in the US, in fact data from polls indicates that it is static and possibly decreasing.

              I merely point out that countries like Canada and Britain that do not have legally mandated church/state separation have lower belief in creationism.

              I’m pointing out a correlation here, not assigning a cause.

              There are obviously other factors at play here, for example among 1st world countries the US seems to have the largest disparity between the rich and the poor and this gap seems to be increasing.

              And just because I point out problems with depending on legally mandated church/state separation does not mean that I’m against it, personally I say litigate those bastards to perdition and back again.

              But there’s a lot more to it than that and I think that Larry Moran has a point in that if there are finite resources to fight the battle against teaching creationism in the classroom (which there are) then some though should be given as to how they are allocated.

              • Gary W
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

                If you’re not suggesting a causal relationship, I don’t know why you think the correlation is relevant. The U.S. is unusual in many respects compared to other developed countries. There are many correlations. I see no evidence, and no plausible hypothesis, that constitutional separation of church and state has the effect of promoting religion (including the teaching of creationism in public schools) rather than retarding it.

              • tomh
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

                You are asserting that the problem would be much bigger, I suspect it would be difficult to back up this assertion up with facts.

                How about the fact that the 1968 case, Epperson v. Arkansas , which invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution, was based on First Amendment grounds. Or the 1987 case, Edwards v. Aguillard, which held unconstitutional, as an endorsement of religion, Louisiana’s “Creationism Act”. This statute prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools, except when it was accompanied by instruction in “creation science”. Or a number of other cases. I think it’s safe to say that the problem would be much bigger without the safeguard of the First Amendment.

              • Larry Cook
                Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

                If the problem wouldn’t be bigger without our legal protection then pursuing legal remedies when a teacher or school begins to teach creationism would be a waste of time and money. I find it difficult to believe there aren’t teachers in our schools who only refrain from putting their religion into their lessons because they might get in trouble legally if they did so. In fact, without the law on our side, schools would be teaching creationism in all its various forms with impunity. Politicians have made it clear that’s what they want, teachers do sometimes try to get away with it – how can you possibly say it wouldn’t be worse without our Constitutional protection? Do you think I need to do a controlled study in order to know that schools and teachers would be teaching all kinds of crazy things their religions have taught them unless they were legally constrained? They have put us on notice that that’s what they want to do and you’re telling me I can’t prove they would?

            • gbjames
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

              legal protections against incursions of religion into science education do not seem to be entirely effective or at least not sufficient in and of themselves

              Nothing by itself is going to provide a silver bullet. Nobody that I know has suggested that. What is under consideration is the suggestion that confronting creationists using the legal system is a mistake or not. It seems clear to me, and most others on this page, that these confrontations are NOT a mistake.

              There is nothing preventing Mr. Nice Guy from convincing all those oh-so-convinceable creationists of the error of their ideas. Nothing except the facts of how said creationism actually works.

          • Gary W
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            To the extent that public school education in the U.S. is being subverted by religion (teaching creationism in science classes, or whatever), that is happening in spite of the constitutional separation of church and state, not because of it. Constitutional separation is a good thing. What’s driving the teaching of creationism is a religious culture.

        • Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          Yes.

          “Schools have to teach RE but parents can withdraw their children for all or part of the lessons. Pupils can choose to withdraw themselves once they’re 18.

          Local councils are responsible for deciding the RE syllabus, but faith schools and academies can set their own.”

          In practice, councils’ syllabi don’t favour any religious, although I guess they’d be characterised as “accommodationist”. But I’d suggest that exposure to different religions is likely to make you less certain about your own. I also suspect that more fundamentalists withdraw their children from these classes than atheists do.

          Faith schools are quite a different matter which the BRitish Humanist Association and National Secular Society are campaigning against. However, even faith schools cannot teach creationism in science classes.

          /@

          • Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            * any religions

            And many do teach about “alternatives to religion”.

          • Gary W
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

            But I’d suggest that exposure to different religions is likely to make you less certain about your own.

            I’m not talking about merely teaching kids about religion or comparing different religions, but about teaching children that religious doctrines are true. That is not only legal in British state schools. It is mandatory.

            And according to Wikipedia, in Britain “all schools are required by law to provide a daily act of collective worship.” Worship!

            Parents have to explicitly opt out if they don’t want their child indoctrinated with this nonsense.

            However, even faith schools cannot teach creationism in science classes.

            Or, rather, they’re not supposed to do that.

            • Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              “I’m not talking about merely teaching kids about religion or comparing different religions”

              Then you don’t know what you’re talking about, Gary.

              The Department of Education guidance is that children should be taught about religions (reflecting national and local norms), and, explicitly: “Syllabuses must not be designed to convert pupils, or to urge a particular religion or religious belief on pupils.” Ergo, RE classes in state schools (other than faith schools) do not teach children that religious doctrines are true. That is not legal.

              And while it is mandatory that schools provide RE, attending RE classes is not mandatory, as parents can withdraw their children.

              Collective worship is something separate from RE, but, again, is non-denominational and children can be withdrawn. Yes, it would be better if it were opt-in rather than opt-out, but that’s not different from the situation another commentator described re the Pledge of Allegiance, if I understood that correctly.

              And, well, duh. I’m sure you realised the implied “legally” in what I wrote. Such instances of schools’ misbehaviour continue to be weeded out.

              /@

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

                PS. I also note that schools can seek approval not to hold collective worship.

            • Gary W
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

              You’re the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

              From the UK Department of education:

              “All maintained schools in England must provide a daily act of collective worship. This must reflect the traditions of this country which are, in the main, broadly Christian.”

              The idea that a legally required act of worship reflecting Christian traditions is not government promotion of religion, and of the religion of Christianity specifically, is ludicrous. This isn’t a matter of merely teaching children about religion. “Christian worship” is an explicitly religious act. It’s mandatory school prayer.

              Moreover, British state schools can discriminate in hiring and promotion on the basis of a teacher’s personal religious beliefs:

              “preference may be given when appointing or promoting teachers, or deciding about their remuneration, to teachers whose religious opinions or practices are in accordance with the tenets of that religious character or who are willing to teach RE at the school in accordance with those tenets.”

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                Gary, you would be wise to shut up on this. Your ignorance is painful to observe.

                Yes, the official line is that every student in Jolly Olde England must be indoctrinated into the Church of England in the schools.

                But the reality on the ground is so different from the official line that your foot-stomping insistence that that’s what really happens is…well, pathetic, really. It makes it quite clear that you’ve not only never been to the British Isles, but that you’ve never even listened to anybody who’s ever been there — let alone the people who are actually raising their children there.

                It’s much like America in some ways, really. Here we have a Fourth Amendment prohibition against warrantless searches, and we also have the NSA’s unrestricted wiretaps. When you’re telling British subjects that their students really are being indoctrinated into the Church of England at school, you’re looking like as much of an idiot as somebody who would tell a group of Americans that they’ve never had any of their own communications intercepted by the NSA.

                But why am I wasting my time typing this? You’re just trolling for the lulz, as usual.

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                But the reality on the ground …

                You’ve provided no evidence that you have the slightest clue regarding the reality on the ground of religious “education” in British schools. You’re just continuing on your well-trodden path of making things up and pretending they’re facts.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

                Youve provided no evidence that you have the slightest clue regarding the reality on the ground of religious education in British schools.

                True. And I haven’t even pretended to provide such evidence.

                But I’m not the only person trying to apply the clue-bat to you.

                Pro tip: WEIT contributors are posting from all over the globe.

                b&

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

                Nothing in your third (quoted) and second paragraphs contradicts what I said about collective worship. While it should reflect broadly Christian traditions, it cannot favour any one denomination, and should reflect other religions in the local community that the school serves; i.e., there’s no mandate to promote Christianity specifically. And, again, collective worship is not mandatory and, in any case, is not religious education.

                The last (quoted) paragraph applies only to schools “of a religious character”; i.e., faith schools, which I’d already noted were an anomaly we’re campaigning against. It’s not true of the majority of state schools, which are under the aegis of councils.

                Do pay attention.

                /@

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

                @ Ben

                “Yes, the official line is that every student in Jolly Olde England must be indoctrinated into the Church of England in the schools.”

                That’s not actually the case. See above. 😉

                /@

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for the clarification.

                While it should be obvious that I’m not exactly an expert on primary and secondary education in the British Isles, I think it should also be obvious that I’m not quite as clueless as a certain other person who’s fond of erecting strawmen built from out-of-context quotes….

                b&

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                Post posted July 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm in reply to Gary W, of course… 

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

                @ Ben

                Of course not.

                (Also note: British Isles ≠ UK! 😀 )

                /@

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

                But it sounds so much more elegant to say “isles”.

                Also how do you make that fancy not equals sign?

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

                If I ever figure out the differences between England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and any of the other relevant political not-quite-synonyms all y’all Limeys use, I’ll be deserving of some sort of Nobel prize….

                b&

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

                Well, Diana, if you want to annoy the Irish… 

                On an iMac, [alt][=].

                /@

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

                Oooo now I can make ≠

                and now I don’t want to annoy the Irish because that ≠ nice. 🙂

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                Or, on anything that understands HTML, ≠ (ampersand, lower-case n, lower-case e, semicolon) should do the trick: 1 ≠ 0.

                b&

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                @ Ben

                Cut out and keep this. (It’s not quite accurate as Great Britain is geographical and political.)

                /@

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                Cheeses fried, that’s almost as insane as the New York payroll tax liability report I had to create a year ago.

                How ’bout we just start from scratch, and call the whole thing and all its inhabitants, “Fred”? That I think I could handle, Fred.

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

                And watch this.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

                All y’all’re just trying to make me think I’m stupid and shut up, right?

                Or is this some sort of elaborate prank? Yeah…that must be it….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

                Octopodes. I can’t eat them anymore because I looked at their eyes at an aquarium and I felt bad about it.

              • Diane G.
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                Jeez, it’s even worse than I thought!

                (@ ant)

              • Gary W
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

                Nothing in your third (quoted) and second paragraphs contradicts what I said about collective worship.

                Not terribly surprising, since what you said is irrelevant to the fact that “collective worship” in British state schools is the promotion of not only religion, but the Christian religion in particular.

                Unfortunately, your country’s fossilized legal system has yet to embrace this new-fangled idea (only several centuries old) that in a liberal democracy the government has no business pushing religion on its citizens.

                And, again, collective worship is not mandatory and, in any case, is not religious education.

                It is mandatory for all schools to provide “collective worship.” In the United States, that’s not even legally permissible, let alone legally required.

                The last (quoted) paragraph applies only to schools “of a religious character”; i.e., faith schools

                “Faith schools” part of your state school system, funded by the government. British taxpayers are compelled by law to fund the religious indoctrination of children.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

                “‘collective worship’ … the promotion of … the Christian religion in particular”

                Not true, as I just noted above.

                “It is mandatory for all schools to provide ’collective worship.’”

                Not true, given the exception I noted earlier.

                “‘Faith schools’ [are] part of your state school system”

                I don’t dispute this (or the notion that they should not be). Nonetheless, what you quoted about teachers is not true in the majority of state schools, contra how you presented it.

                And by now you’ve strayed rather far from your bogus assertion that “teaching children that religious doctrines are true … is not only legal in British state schools [but] mandatory.” In summary: It is not mandatory; it is allowed only in faith schools (which humanists and secularists here duly deprecate); and it is not allowed in other state schools.

                /@

              • Gary W
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

                Not true, as I just noted above.

                The DoE document clearly states that it is mandatory for British schools to provide a “daily act of collective worship,” and it privileges Christian forms of worship over those of other religions. Some religions don’t involve worship at all, so having any form of worship privileges worshipping religions over non-worshipping ones. The idea that secular schools should promote ANY kind of worship is ludicrous. Schools are for educating children, not indoctrinating them.

                Nonetheless, what you quoted about teachers is not true in the majority of state schools, contra how you presented it.

                I don’t know whether it’s a majority or not. The point is that no taxpayer-funded school should be discriminating against teachers on the basis of their personal religious beliefs.

                And by now you’ve strayed rather far from your bogus assertion that “teaching children that religious doctrines are true … is not only legal in British state schools [but] mandatory.” In summary: It is not mandatory

                For the umpteenth time, yes it is mandatory, in both regular schools and “faith schools,” both of which are part of Britain’s tax-funded state school system. The very fact that parents are allowed to remove their children from “religious education” but not the rest of the syllabus demonstrates that “religious education” is a matter of proselytization and indoctrination, not simply social science.

              • Posted July 30, 2013 at 1:01 am | Permalink

                Honestly, Gary? What reality distortion field do you live in where you can get from the DE’s “Syllabuses must not be designed to convert pupils, or to urge a particular religion or religious belief on pupils” to your “‘religious education’ is a matter of proselytization and indoctrination”?

                /@

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

                A syllabus does not have to be “designed to convert pupils” to have the effect of proselytizing and promoting either religion in general, or a particular religion. The UK Department of Education guidelines repeatedly promote not just religion, but the particular religion of Christianity, and the particular denomination of Church of England.

                The argument you’re making here — that unless the government explicitly tells students what to believe it isn’t engaging in religious proselytization — was made American religious conservatives to try and sneak organized prayer and other religious activities into public schools. The Supreme Court has decisively rejected this argument, in multiple rulings. To quote from the landmark school prayer case, Engel v Vitale:

                “When the power, prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain.”

                And again in Wallace v Jaffree:

                “The State’s endorsement … of prayer activities at the beginning of each schoolday is not consistent with the established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.”

                “Prayer activities” in this case does not refer only to formal sectarian prayers, but to any kind of collective action that represents the endorsement of religion, including a period of silence ‘for meditation’ only. And it applies even if students are given the option of not participating. How you think Britain’s mandatory “collective act of worship” reflecting “Christian tradition” could possibly pass this test of neutrality I have no idea. It is clearly an endorsement of religion, and of Christianity specifically.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 31, 2013 at 12:05 am | Permalink

                @Ben
                “If I ever figure out the differences between England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and any of the other relevant political not-quite-synonyms all y’all Limeys use, I’ll be deserving of some sort of Nobel prize….”

                It’s quite simple really. It’s similar to the difference between America, North America, the USA, the continental USA, etc. Just remember that Middle America is not the same as Central America, that Americans all come from the USA (unless they’re South Americans, who may also come from Central America, except that a lot of them now live in the USA but this is quite different from Southerners who come from the American South which is NOT in South America). Hope I’ve got that right. 🙂

      • tomh
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        steve oberski wrote:

        I’m not trying to assign a cause here,

        Sure seems like you are. The fact is that America was extremely religious long before the Constitution came into existence. The Founders recognized this, and the dangers it could bring, and worked hard to keep religion out of the government. Religionists have been unhappy with this for over 200 years, and it’s a constant struggle to keep them at bay, in science class and just about everywhere else. The idea that separating church and state is the cause of this is laughable.

        the battle isn’t won until you have convinced creationists that their world view is wrong.

        That will happen when religion disappears.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Can someone explain to me what has prevented Larry Moran’s strategy of polite accommodation with from having succeeded? We shrill and strident FFRF types have only really been active for a decade or so. I would have thought Larry’s strategy would have already solved the problem if there was any value in it.

        • Larry Moran
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          For the record, I am not an accommodationist. I am a cofrontationist. I want to confront the IDiots and crush them. High school might be a good place to do this.

          NCSE is the accomodationist in this scenario. They managed to covince Judge Jones that science and religion are compatable as long as long as they stay in their respective corners. In the case of science that means sticking to methodolgical naturalism. The idea is to avoid attacking religion but don’t we all agree that religion is the problem?

          That’s part of the strategy you need to adopt if you use the legal arguments.

          BTW, I’m not used to being called “polite.” I guess I am compared to some of the people who comment here.

          • jesperbothpedersen1
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            BTW, I’m not used to being called “polite.” I guess I am compared to some of the people who comment here.

            LOL. We’re an extremely rude bunch…..and strident, don’t forget strident. 🙂

          • gbjames
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            The only thing I can tell that you’ve established is that you think legal action to protect secular democracy is somehow problematic. Beyond that, you seem happy to be telling folk how they need to “do it” while neglecting to provide the list of examples of how your much-superior strategy has succeeded.

            If you like, I’ll withdraw the term “polite”.

          • Larry Cook
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

            I’ve been reading The posts and comments here for about a year. I have found almost everyone to be polite. Following Dr. Coyne’s lead, commenters here engage in civilized discourse. Telling people when they’re wrong and showing a bit of emotion while getting to the point are not impolite. In fact, they make things a bit more interesting and lively.

  7. tomh
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    If Larry Moran actually thinks that right-wing school boards and creationist teachers can be convinced out of their beliefs with reason, he merely shows that he has no clue about the religion-drenched American society. The courts are the only thing standing between secular science classes and full-blown mandated creationism in science classes. This has been shown several times in the Supreme Court, not to mention Dover. I’m a believer in the courts – I guess I’m one of the few who think court action should have been the first line of defense at Ball St – filing a complaint, rather than sending a letter.

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      tomh – agree with your perspective. This is not a matter of trying to ‘correct a misconception’ but rather involves a challenge to a foundation for many xian’s faith. Although high quality science education certainly could help, it really is a matter of theology more so than science. I have taught a course in science and religion, and one of the first assignments is to research and present a variety of ‘origin’ myths, and most of the students understand that the Genesis myth is not much different [and similarly outrageous if taken literally] than the dozens of other incredible creation stories.

  8. John K.
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that Dr. Moran is mostly just a bit naive and overly trusting here. He seems to think that all the teachers in the US are steadfast upholders of truth and reason that will surely give creationism the proper debunking that it deserves in each and every classroom if only they were allowed to do so.

    Sadly, if given the chance, I suspect the “balanced” time for evolution against creationism would end up a lot like Mr. Garrison’s lesson here.

    Quite frankly, the creationist side of the “controversy” offers nothing at all to the scientific understanding. Concentrate on what evolution is and why we think it operates the way it does. There is no need to bring up any kind of myths that oppose it. Just present the scientific evidence as flat fact and let the students compare with other imaginary stories on their own time.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 30, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Just present the scientific evidence as flat fact and let the students compare with other imaginary stories on their own time.

      How’s that working out?

      • Larry Cook
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        Pretty well in that creationism is not being taught in our schools except when a teacher breaks the law. And then it only lasts until he/she is caught and stopped. Legally!

      • Larry Moran
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        @Larry Cook,

        Try reading for comprehension. This conversation would be a lot more interesting if more people did that.

        • godsbuster
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. A lot of the reading on this page appears to predominantly involve reading for conjuring up straw out of which to construe strawmen.

  9. Greg Esres
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “he doesn’t have a smidgen of evidence that the legal strategy isn’t working.”

    Absolutely. Larry’s comment is silly, coming from a scientist. You’d need a control group to know for sure.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      I agree about the need for a control. Without a control there isn’t a smidgeon of evidence that the legal strategy is working.

      Yet, when anyone points this out, the true believers pop out of the woodwork and heap insults on anyone who would dare disagree with them.

      The reality is that the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state isn’t working very well. Nobody knows what America would have been like without this emphasis on lawyers for protection but maybe it’s worth tyring another strategy?

      • Taz
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, we’re not about the revoke the 1st amendment any time soon, and that’s what it would take to “try another strategy”. Any parent with a child having religion pushed on them can sue to stop it, and I don’t favor turning our backs on them.

      • Karst
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        “The reality is that the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state isn’t working very well. Nobody knows what America would have been like without this emphasis on lawyers for protection but maybe it’s worth trying another strategy?”

        Many strategies should be used, perhaps, but there is a long history in the U.S. whereby the legal approach has been necessary.

        Actually, the separation of church and state issue goes far beyond (a) the Supreme Court decisions against creationism (and so called ‘balanced treatment’ mandated when evolution was included in the curriculum) and (b) the Dover decision ruling ID to be religion rather than science.

        Decisions in the realm of first amendment jurisprudence have allowed school children to be allowed to opt out of mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and mandatory prayer.

        I can recall school districts mandating such recitations, despite the previous Supreme Court rulings, when I was in high school in Houston, Texas. My high school required students to stand for the Pledge and the Lord’s Prayer daily, and called students in to see the administration if they refused, no matter how benign the refusal to stand and recite the Pledge, or to remain standing and listen to the prayer. (Some recited the prayer while standing.)

        Without Supreme Court decisions against mandatory prayer and pledging, the religious atmosphere of public schools in the U.S. would be far worse, making it even harder for evolution to be taught, or to be taught unemcumbered by tactics designed to cast doubt on evolution.

        The 1st amendment is a useful legal tool to prevent such tactics as the following:

        1. Outright banning of the teaching of evolution. (Many conservatives would do this, if they could. Once upon a famous time, Dayton, Tennessee showed the absurdity of this tactic.)

        2. Mandated teaching of creationism or ID if evolution is taught. (Tried and ruled unconstitutional at several legal levels, including at the Supreme Court—at least for creationism.)

        3. Mandated teaching of weaknesses of evolution, global warming, cloning.

        4. Mandated ‘balanced treatment’ where evolution is taught. (Arkansas case.)

        5. Statements warning of evolution being ‘controversial’, ‘just a theory’, etc., required to be read by teachers or administrators in biology classes. (Dover case.)

        6. Stickers pasted onto biology textbooks which denigrate evolution in ways identical to or similar to those listed in number 5. (Georgia case.)

        No year goes by without conservatives attempting to meddle (in multiple states)in the realm of teaching evolution in public schools.

      • tomh
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        Larry Moran wrote:

        The reality is that the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state isn’t working very well.

        On the contrary, it’s working just as it was designed to work. Religion is pervasive in America, yet the Constitution gives secularists the tools to prevent it from taking over the government, including schools. It’s difficult, and there are always setbacks, but given the power and influence of churches so far it has worked very well.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          + 1

      • Greg Esres
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        The reality is that the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state isn’t working very well. Nobody knows what America would have been like without this emphasis on lawyers for protection but maybe it’s worth tyring another strategy?

        Can we agree, instead, that it’s insufficient? I do think the legal strategy has made the pro-science forces a bit complacent, much as the Roe v. Wade decision removed the need to convince the population that abortion should be a legal alternative.

      • johnpieret
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        Larry, we have discussed this many times. It has been persuasively argued that the reason the US is so much more religious than other developed nations is because of our particular (even peculiar) constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Freed from being associated with government (which most everyone hates at sometime or another) religion has prospered in the US. Like everything else, there are tradeoffs. Unlike you, Larry, I don’t pay taxes to support Catholic schools (though, to be fair, my government gives tax breaks to religious institutions … but so, I think, does Canada).

        More importantly, freedom of conscious is a real and important human right. While Canada has caught up to us and even surpassed us in many ways, our Constitution was an important advance in human government that we are loathe to abandon, which, ultimately, you are recommending we do. Thanks for the advice … but no thanks. We’ll muddle through, even if, in the case of science education, the mechanism can be clunky.

        A far more important way to reform our education system would be to wrest the control of ELHI education away from the tens of thousands of local school boards, which we have made a start on with the Common Core State Standards. We still have some constitutional problems with that, but it is a beginning.

  10. David Thompson
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    By all means, let’s let the students decide. While we’re at it, let’s give them a baseball glove and a gun, and let them decide. Or chocolate milk and a bottle of tequila, and let them decide. “Teaching the Controversy” as it is almost always presented, is not teaching.
    As soon as you present Science as merely one of many optional world views, you have lost.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      There’s a lot of data in the pedagogical literature on this. Your ignorant comments suggest that you are completely unaware of the literature.

      When students have serious misconceptions about a subject (like evolution) you can’t correct those misconceptions by just teaching good science. You have to address the misconceptions directly by bringing them up in class and showing the students why they are wrong.

      That’s what we would do if we want to show them that astrology is wrong or that their misunderstanding of climate change is wrong. That’s what we would do if we want to teach them that conspiracy theories about 9/11 are crazy.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that teachers shouldn’t address misconceptions when they arise.

        But good teaching is also quite capable of dispelling misconceptions without directly addressing pseudoscience.

        For a superlative example, watch Richard’s Christmas Lecture on the evolution of the eye. Though Richard himself parenthetically addresses creationism, there’s no need to say anything about an intelligent designer when stepping through all the minor evolutionary changes the eye went through.

        Indeed, dignifying the pseudoscience with a serious exposition at that point only serves to elevate it to the same respectability of the science and simultaneously undercutting the position of the science by giving the false impression that it’s not on solid enough ground for the scientific consensus to be unanimous.

        b&

      • tomh
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Larry Moran wrote:

        You have to address the misconceptions directly by bringing them up in class and showing the students why they are wrong.

        Bringing up misconceptions like creationism and claiming to show it is wrong, would be telling the students that their religion is wrong. That their religion is lying to them, in fact. I don’t know how it is in Canada, but you can’t do that in America. Nor should you be able to. It seems you would change the American laws so that teachers could, in fact, teach that certain religions are wrong. Not very practical, I’m afraid.

      • Karst
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        “When students have serious misconceptions about a subject (like evolution) you can’t correct those misconceptions by just teaching good science. You have to address the misconceptions directly by bringing them up in class and showing the students why they are wrong.”

        Yes. Yes. Yes. But in the U.S., public school teachers have to be very careful about how they do this or they will have major conflicts with students, parents, administrators, local school boards, local politicians, religious leaders, state boards of education, state politicians, and politicians from other states, not to mention the groups attempting to influence state textbook standards and selections. And teachers can easily lose their jobs or become so embroiled in controversy that administrators assign them to different schools teaching different subjects.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        “You have to address the misconceptions directly by bringing them up in class and showing the students why they are wrong.”

        Is that what teachers like Hedin are doing?

        You seem to be arguing a straw-man, or at least you and Jerry are talking past one another.

        The FFRF isn’t, as far as I’m aware, going after teachers who engage creationism in order to show why it’s wrong. That isn’t what they’re trying to prevent.

      • Notagod
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        You have to address the misconceptions directly by bringing them up in class and showing the students why they are wrong.

        Even if it was legal to do that what are you intending to do with all the teachers that want to slant their students in favor of creationism instead of showing the students why they are wrong. That is a large part of the problem, that the ones doing the teaching are teaching creationism. I think what you are wanting to address, the students that are creationists, is a lesser but still significant problem. But, if you can’t stop the creationist teachers the students don’t have a chance and that is what I’m concerned about.

      • David Thompson
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for replying to my comment Mr. Moran. This is one of the first comments I have made to Dr.Coyne’s blog, and I am honestly quite flattered by your attention. I am certain that there is much literature of which I am ignorant, and I can only assure you that a link directing me to those which you clearly had in mind would not have been wasted on me.
        I am happy to say that what I take to be your ultimate goal, giving students the tools for critical thinking, and encouraging them to use it in their lives, is one that I stand behind most staunchly. However, sadly you give the impression of someone who has never had a conversation with a 16 year old, much less developed a semester long lesson plan for 150 of them.
        I think there is a temptation to treat creationism in the same way that we might treat Newton in a Quantum world: the older view is wrong and we know better now, but we can still use it to show how we got where we are today. Unfortunately, the comparison is false. Newton wasn’t wrong in the same way that creationism is wrong. In fact he was right, we have just expanded our domain. Creationism and Evolution do not share a domain. Evolution needn’t include creationism in the way that quantum mechanics must include and account for Newtonian laws of motion.
        I really don’t meant to be putting words in your mouth only to argue against them, but I can’t get myself to see any other reason you might suggest that creationism would actually be a suitable learning device.

        • David Thompson
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

          I also see nothing wrong with having laws and lawyers to address them so that teachers can focus on teaching.

          • Richard Olson
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

            It seems to me that if the distinction between claim, hypothesis, and theory is strictly maintained in a classroom setting (no pseudo definitions from school-board creationists permitted!), disputes are less likely to arise and less difficult to deal with when they do. Consistent adherence to definition of terms simplifies dispute resolution, and stymies ideological stealth weasels.

            Scientists, science writers, science friendly media, teachers: in print they are not so egregious, but listen to news broadcasts and audio/visual (science podcasts, YouTube content, and the like), or read many media stories covering science issues — less so in the case of, for example, research outcomes reporting a la Carl Zimmer; but op-ed stuff! — and focus attention on how frequently ‘theory’ is used to describe something that may prove at best a potential hypothesis or, too often, is only just some wild-assed claim or off-hand speculation. It is ubiquitous, it is overwhelming.

            There are plenty in the fantasy community, especially the pros at AIG and the DI, who deliberately (& gleefully) seize on this sloppy, careless abuse of speech to mislead their flock and to muddle public policy discourse into near impenetrable viscous goo.

            I think a great deal of the blame placed on the lay “Teach the Controversy!” advocate and school-board voter, who continues to believe in creationism or refers to evolution as ‘only a theory’, is attributable in no small part to the confusing message the reality community routinely disseminates.

            Theory is one of the most misused and abused words in the public discourse. The group that wants it used accurately re evolution vs creationism only employs it with consistent accuracy in the context of that particular discussion, while frequently using it flat fucking wrong the rest of the time, and is unable to recognize this is a major component of the problem they want to fix. Words matter.

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

        “That’s what we would do if we want to show them that astrology is wrong or that their misunderstanding of climate change is wrong. That’s what we would do if we want to teach them that conspiracy theories about 9/11 are crazy”

        Better yet would to teach students the thought process behind the assertion that such ideas as conspiracy theories and astrology are wrong. I believe that teaching these ideas are wrong is a poor strategy if a main goal is to promote science as a mode of inquiry.

  11. Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    “Well, on this issue America is not Canada. We’re worse, and we need our First Amendment.” Exactly – we ARE worse. And laws and lawsuits can change people’s minds, although it usually takes a rather long time. Changing minds about illegal (since the 50-60’s) Jim Crow laws has been awfully slow and isn’t yet finished but a good many minds have changed. Gay/lesbian marriage and anti-sodomy laws seem to be changing minds at least a bit faster.

  12. Larry Cook
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    “225 year old piece of paper” is all I need to read in order to ignore his “advice”. The further we stray from the secular principles in the U.S. Constitution the further down the road to ruin we go.

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      And yet Creationism in schools is a bigger problem in the U.S. than in European countries that don’t have explicitly secular constitutions…

      /@

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Shhhh, you’ll attract them over there!

      • Larry Cook
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        All the more reason to pay attention to the Constitution. The number of Americans ignorant about the principles on which the U. S. was founded is probably as disheartening as the number ignorant about evolution.

        • Larry Moran
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          I’m not ignorant of the principles on which America was founded. It was founded on the principles that slavery was legal and only men of property could vote.

          • Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

            Then, with respect, you are utterly ignorant of the principles on which America was founded.

            Was the Constitution perfect? Far from it.

            But if you had even a hint of an inkling of the text of the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the rest of everything else that went into the founding of the American legal system, you’d know that the treatment of slaves was highly contentious and the 3/5 compromise was exactly that — the result of a compromise.

            And if you had even a vague hint of an education about American history, you’d know that one of the bloodiest wars ever before the 20th century was the American Civil War, where we practically ripped ourselves apart in order to right that wrong.

            You might not want to admit it, but the Constitution was the crowning glory of the Enlightenment, and the first modern expression of the civil liberties you dismissively suggest we don’t give a damn about.

            b&

            • Greg Esres
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

              I think many Americans don’t give a damn about the civil liberties that the Constitution embodies. It would never pass today.

              Larry was making a bit of a joke, but one with a point. Just because something is in the Constitution doesn’t make it a good thing.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

                I think many Americans don’t give a damn about the civil liberties that the Constitution embodies. It would never pass today.

                That’s both irrelevant to the conversation at hand and something to be reviled, not something to be tacitly taken advantage of.

                Larry was making a bit of a joke, but one with a point.

                If a joke, it was in exceedingly poor taste. Right up there with one accusing all Germans of being closeted Nazis.

                Just because something is in the Constitution doesn’t make it a good thing.

                No, of course not.

                But, in reality, the US Constitution is one of the greatest documents in all of legal and political history. Prudence dictates granting it the benefit of the doubt.

                And the First Amendment has proven to be the cornerstone of the document. That part of the Constitution is as good of a good thing as it gets. No people can be free without freedom of expression and freedom from having a religion imposed upon them, and that’s exactly what the First Amendment guarantees.

                Larry’s “joke” is that, foundational legal documents and Enlightenment principles be damned, maybe we should just turn the crazies loose in the classroom so they can create their long-desired theocracy.

                Excuse me while I don’t laugh.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

                Larry was making a bit of a joke

                I dont’ think Larry is much of a comedian.

              • pacopicopiedra
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

                “Larry was making a bit of a joke…” No, he wasn’t. He was saying that the ideas presented in the US constitution are outdated and worthless. He does not appear to believe that a secular democratic republic, based on the rule of law, is a good thing. Perhaps a divine right monarchy would be more to his taste.

              • Larry Moran
                Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

                Ben Goren says,

                But, in reality, the US Constitution is one of the greatest documents in all of legal and political history.

                Out of curiosity, how many of you believe what Ben said?

                Are there any other significant countries in the world that heave adopted the system of government oulined in the original constitution?

              • tomh
                Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

                Are there any other significant countries in the world that heave adopted the system of government oulined in the original constitution?

                Why are you so focused on the original constitution? It has been changed a number of times, starting with the First Amendment. That’s the Constitution we’re working with today. And that’s what has kept creationism out of science classes through a number of court cases. Without the justification of the First Amendment creationism would have equal footing with evolution in science classes in religion-drenched America.

              • Posted July 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

                What tomh wrote. Nowhere did I refer to the 1776 version of the Constitution.

                b&

              • Larry Moran
                Posted July 31, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

                Ben, look back at your first comment in this thread where you said (among othe thigs), “the Constitution was the crowning glory of the Enlightenment.”

                What exactly did you mean by that if it didn’t refer to the original document.

                You make the point that your Constituion has been amended a few times and that’s a valid point but it’s not relevant to the original claim about the principles on which America was founded.

                BTW, if you’re so open to change then why do you put up such fierce resistance to different interpretations of separation of church and state? All your arguments seem to be based on the sanctity and glory of the American Constitution rather than on what might be more suitable in the 21st century.

              • Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

                Larry, being a Canadian, you might not be aware of this.

                But “The Constitution” refers not to the original 1776 document, but to the fully-amended document as it stands today. In many contexts, that also means “as interpreted by established Supreme Court case law.” For example, though the word, “abortion,” appears nowhere in the Constitution, women in America have a Constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment to one; see Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

                Even when speaking in historical terms, unless explicitly stated otherwise, the generic term always includes the Bill of Rights.

                This is grade-school stuff here in the States; kids learn these sorts of thins at the same time they learn about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

                You’re really making yourself look not only like an ignorant fool in this discussion, but an authoritarian one, at that. The Constitution is what guarantees Americans freedom of expression, the right of a jury trial, freedom from excessive fines and cruel or unusual punishment, freedom from warrantless searches, and more.

                You might not be paying to the news, but all those Constitutional rights have been severely impinged upon, especially in the last decade.

                And all of that’s been done in the name of “homeland security” because that stodgy old piece of paper can’t protect us in the post-9/11 world.

                So I’ve actually been remarkably restrained in your case, seeing how you’re an ignorant foreigner. Because, if you were an American spouting such nonsense, I’d rip you a new one for being an America-hating Nazi-wannabe Tea Party fascist who hates our freedoms and is too cowardly to deserve even a hint of respect.

                Cheers,

                b&

                P.S. Apologies for typos…there’s a cat napping on my left arm, and I’m the world’s worst one-handed typist. b&

            • godsbuster
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

              For those unaware that there exists a secular equivalent of full strength all American Bible (t)humping every bit as virulent and irrational as it’s religious counterpart, try suggesting a change to that most hallowed of holy books: the U.S. Constitution. And brace yourself for an ad hominem avalanche.

              Let’s see if more of a rational less dogmatic reaction is possible.

              Since rights engender responsibilities; what could possible be wrong with the following update to the 1st amendment:

              “Truth claims upon which religions are established and Truth claims made in the exercise of free speech are subject to the highest standards of reason and evidence such as those that obtain in a court of law and science.”

              Kinda what already happened during
              Tennessee v. Scopes
              Epperson v. Arkansas
              Lemon v. Kurtzman
              Daniel v. Waters
              Hendren v. Campbell
              McLean v. Arkansas.

              Except that half of the population of the godbotheringest developed nation in the world feel that the 1st amendment exempts them from it. And they are right.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

                Truth claims upon which religions are established and Truth claims made in the exercise of free speech are subject to the highest standards of reason and evidence such as those that obtain in a court of law and science.

                Sorry, but, as I tried to explain to you earlier, whomever you put in charge of deciding the Truth under your scheme is instantly granted absolute power. Yours is a recipe for pure, unchecked totalitarianism in the mold of North Korea. Probably even worse.

                Come up with a serious alteration to the First and we’ll talk. But the nonsense you’re spouting barely even deserves the dignity of an acknowledgement.

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

                Actually, both sides of the political spectrum try to change it frequently. The one wants to make flag-burning a capital offense; the other tries to squeeze through lightning-rod issues like, oh, say, the Equal Rights Amendment…

              • Gary W
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

                For those unaware that there exists a secular equivalent of full strength all American Bible (t)humping every bit as virulent and irrational as it’s religious counterpart, try suggesting a change to that most hallowed of holy books: the U.S. Constitution

                The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times, most recently in 1992. More than 11,000 additional measures to amend it have been proposed by members of the U.S. Congress, and tens of thousands more by state and local lawmakers, political pundits, and others, of diverse political persuasions.

                So no, it’s not really “hallowed.” Lots of Americans are constantly trying to change it.

            • Greg Esres
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

              I think some Americans are a bit prickly about criticism of the Constitution.

          • Richard Olson
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

            Larry is correct when he says that the Constitutional document ratified in 1789 limited voting rights to males who satisfied property requirements; in practice, of course, this meant almost exclusively Caucasion males. Jewish males were first granted the vote by a state (forget which one) in 1810. From Wiki: The Jacksonians believed that voting rights should be extended to all white men . By 1820, universal white male suffrage was the norm, and by 1850 nearly all requirements to own property or pay taxes had been dropped.[3]

            There are more than a few teapublicans today who would dearly love to remove the franchise from those they deem do not have “skin in the game” — meaning some sort of asset criterion, the correct gender, incorrect sexual orientation, who knows what-all.

            European world power states introduced African slaves into the Western Hemisphere well more than a century before the USA came into existence. Someone had to deal with this stack of reeking feces in the America’s first, it was the nascent Republic, and
            southron oligarchs made it impossible to both have a nation able to withstand British military might, and simultaneously abolish slavery. That is not the same as founding a nation on the principle of slavery.

            • Richard Olson
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

              forgot the little button

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

              I’m not disputing what you say just the point of Larry bringing it up when I say “whoop de do” about universal suffrage a whole whack of western countries were like that right up to the 19th C.. I suspect Larry was just trying to be provocative. It neither supports nor refutes his claims.

            • Larry Moran
              Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

              I was told that I am ignorant of the principles upon which America was founded.

              Don’t those principles include the fact that slavery is legal and only men with property are allowed to vote?

              Don’t they inlude the principle that the people can’t be trusted to directly elect a President?

              Just asking since Ben Goren inststs that I am “utterly ignorant of the principles on which America was founded.”

              • gbjames
                Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

                We have this mechanism for modifying the Constitution. Turns out to have been used quite often to correct problems like those you mention. So far very few people other than the theocratically inclined have sought to undue the Establishment Clause. And you.

                Thanks for the advice, but I think we’ll decline.

              • Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

                Larry, you’d get a lot more respect if you’d stop with the strawmen.

                You keep pointing to the un-amended original text of the Constitution and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that the complaints you make were resolved much closer in time to the original authorship than to today.

                Should I accuse Canada of being a nation of imperialist warmongers because all y’all burned down the White House?

                b&

  13. Jonathan Smith
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Larry but you don’t seem to have a clue what’s happening in the US. I’ve spent the last ten years fighting to provide good science education for K-12 students. 70% of that time is spent on rebutting Creationism/ ID in some form or other. Remember the intentions of the “Wedge Document “Larry? Let me remind you.
    ‘To see intelligent design “permeate religious, cultural, moral and political life.” By accomplishing this goal the ultimate goal as stated by the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) of the “overthrow of materialism and its damning cultural legacies” and reinstating the idea that humans are made in the image of God, thereby reforming American culture to reflect conservative Christian values, Ergo theocracy”

    There is no scientific persuasion that will work with these people, ever; invoking the law is the only sure method we have to keep these religious fundamentalists at bay.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      I’m well aware of the goals of the IDiots.

      I’d love to go into an American high school and explian to the students why the IDiots are idiots. I’d love to stmulate a debate between funamentalist Christian students and their rational friends. That would probably be the very best way to make creationist students realixe how silly their ideas are.

      I’ve done that three times in Canadian high schools. The IDiots are demanding that American teachers and scientists should be allowed to do this in American high schools. What are you afraid of? Accept their challenge and destroy them just like we do in the bogosphere.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        What I’m afraid of is the dismantling of a secular government that was created in that silly old paper centuries ago. And I’m afraid of allies who think that secular democracy is not worth defending in the courts.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

          Larry is no ally in this fight.

          • gbjames
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

            It seems not.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

          Hear, hear. It was only a fluke of history that that constitution was written by Enlightenment thinkers. In the US now, irrationalists and special interests can and do easily carry the day.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        It appears your knowledge of American demographics are as deficient as your knowledge of American history and American Constitutional law.

        I can’t be arsed to look it up, but Jerry’s done repeated posts on the percentages of Creationists teaching biology in public schools.

        If we do as you suggest, in depressingly large numbers of communities especially in Red states and rural counties, the rationalists who tried that would get ridden out of town on a rail and a great many biology classes would be nothing more than Sunday school Bible study lessons about Genesis.

        b&

        • godsbuster
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:24 am | Permalink

          b&, sorry to reply here but there is no reply button under your comment that I wanted to reply to.

          “Whomever you put in charge of deciding the Truth under your scheme is instantly granted absolute power. We don’t need to add a Ministry of Truth to the mix.”, was the gist of your “explanation”.

          We already have a “Ministry of Truth”. It’s called the scientific community. In which the fastest way to get laughed out of your career is by trying to make a truth claim from authority let alone “tyrannical” authority which last existed in science when it was still known as religion.

          It was this world community, which, for example, arrived at anthropogenic climate change. Where is it a badge of honour, a point of pride for politicians to deny it? The same country where presidential candidates can and do get in front of a national TV audience to proclaim, without embarrassment, their denial of Evolution.

          • Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

            We already have a Ministry of Truth. Its called the scientific community.

            The scientific community has no power of enforcement. You’re proposing granting them the ability to imprison anybody who dares contradict them. You’re as nave as Plato and his philosopher kings.

            b&

            • godsbuster
              Posted August 1, 2013 at 3:41 am | Permalink

              I have nowhere proposed nor even hinted at any such thing. This is one of your more egregious strawmen in a very strong field which includes ad hominems, rank national chauvinism and knee-jerk dogmatism. “The Constitution was the crowning glory of the Enlightenment” Yes, and the Enlightenment took place in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Magna Carta was its equivalent in its day. “But, in reality, the US Constitution is one of the greatest documents in all of legal and political history.” Yes, and even if it were THE greatest, from that does not follow your howling absurdity that “Prudence dictates granting it the benefit of the doubt.”

              Scientists, if they had to choose one, (even prominent physicists like Lawrence Krauss and Steven Weinberg) consider On the Origin of Species the greatest document in the history of science. “Prudence dictates granting it the benefit of the doubt” you will never hear a scientist say even without the threat of imprisonment.

              Almost 2 centuries ago a great American accurately diagnosed your condition and that of many of those commenting here: “[s]ome men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.” Thomas Jefferson.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 1, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

                Calling someone who praised the adaptability of the Constitution, and the fact that it has been amended many times over the centuries, as paying “sanctimonious reverence” is passing strange.

              • Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

                …especially one who has repeatedly expressed support for the ERA….

                The Constitution’s strength comes from the fact that it is a living, evolved document. We’ve kept the bits that work and fixed the bits that didn’t. We’ve got two centuries of legal jurisprudence distilled into the thing, and it started with the benefit of a couple millennia of evolution in similar documents.

                It’s not perfect, of course. It doesn’t define “people” as individuals, for example, meaning we have the great travesty of rights being granted to corporations that they have no right to have.

                But if it’s survived in the Constitution so far, it’s a good idea to think twice about tampering with it — and that is most especially true of the Bill of Rights.

                b&

            • godsbuster
              Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

              “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;…”

              But it has. And in flagrant violation of your precious First Amendment. From the Federal Trade Commission website and sounding suspiciously like my proposed “tampering” with the First Amendment:

              “When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.”

              Now you will either have to argue for the repeal of the truth-in-advertising laws on the basis of their unconstitutionality or you will have to explain why advertising is so much more important to deserve this restriction at the cost of violating the First Amendment than competing claims on the origin of species (the foundation of Biology, a quaint hobby that nerds engage in for fun).

              Or you will have to claim that objective truth does not exist or we have no reliable way of determining it or that creationism might turn out to be true after all once the results from Discovery Institute and Templeton Foundation funded studies are in.

  14. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    While I’m all for educating people about the facts, it is completely naive to think that attempting to persuade teachers about the facts of evolution and the fallacies of creationism alone will convince them that creationism is not the way. Many of these people don’t care about facts (we’re talking about personal identity and belief systems here) and if anything, this will just make people knuckle under. It’s like saying oh there is a forest fire but let’s just educate people about forest fire prevention and that should take care of the raging fire that is occurring right now! The FFRF’s reminders and letters help put out the fire (fast!) and I suspect they are very successful without going to the expense of litigation (but if they have to, it’s money well spent).

    The last few decades have tried Larry’s approach and underestimated just how determined and organized religious zealots can be. As everyone thought of them as harmless, they got together and made the Wedge document; to think there aren’t similar machinations in other countries is to ignore all evidence. I’ve already cited the Christian law school example that is going on in Canada where the religious right try to insert their beliefs into affairs of the state to influence and ultimately change the values of that state as this quote from the article details:

    When the university proposed the law school last year, it wrote on its website: “Establishing a law school has been on the strategic plan for the university for many years and fits well with the university’s mission to develop godly leaders for the marketplaces of life.”

    This is something everyone should be ever vigilant about.

    As for Larry’s “teach the controversy” I couldn’t believe he said that when I read his reply this morning…adopting creationist rhetoric to boot! I’m even more against creationism entering the classroom than Jerry is because I hate the idea of wasting anyone’s time with ridiculous junk when you can instead learn real facts (most likely I’m just scarred from dealing with this when I was a student).

    It’s frankly embarrassing Larry has taken this position – it is just going to embolden the DI folks.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      You should be embarrassed that the USA ranks just above Turkey when it comes to belief in Young Earth Creationism. There’s something seriously wrong with your education system.

      What are you going to do about it? More of the same strategies that you’ve tried for the past fifty years?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Oh Larry. I’m a Canadian like you and I’m embarrassed at your stubborn acerbic arguments. Is this how you actually try to persuade people to see your point of view? You won’t be able bring this level of vitriol to your chats with the creationists you’d like to persuade as they will not be as tolerant as the people here that you have insulted time and again.

        I think a lot of people are doing something about the insidiousness of religion in the classroom in a very effective way — they are using their constitution and legal system to stop it before more minds are corrupted while at the same time educating – you are just too stubborn to see it. I think they are making headway too; after all, the under 30 crowd are a whole lot less religious.

        I’m disappointed that you made assumptions about me as a poster then tried to rile me up with such an obvious attack. At least take a look at what I said and refute my arguments for crying out loud!

        • godsbuster
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:15 am | Permalink

          Americans have been known to identify themselves as Canadians when traveling abroad. Some of the attitudes expressed on this page show why they might want to do that.

          Many of the attacks on Mr. Moran revolve around the fact that he’s Canadian wherefore 1. He must be declared ignorant of the United States, see, because that imaginary line on a map prohibits any information about the US to reach Canada.
          2. How dare he make any comments about the US, unless of course they are fawningly complementary.

          Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is basically the observation that Mr. Moran and I are making.

          The First Amendment in its present state is a license to bullshit. Now, if we just dial back our butthurt nationalist chauvinism long enough to allow us to recognize this, then we can start contemplating solutions.

          Which would require taking the Constitution out of its multi-ton bomb-proof vault and bronze-framed, bulletproof, moisture-controlled glass vacuum sealed containers.

          • gbjames
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 5:16 am | Permalink

            Asserting that (presumably) Gnu Atheism and use of the courts to protect secular democracy and science education is somehow failed, that it has been tried over and over without success, is simply to ignore history.

            The existence of the FFRF does not stretch far back in time, only a few decades. Most of that time it was a very small organization. The much-maligned “gnu atheist” movement is only about a decade old. The growth of blunt “gnu” atheism has powered the effectiveness of the FFRF. And in recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of Americans who are no longer affiliated with organized religion.

            If anything has failed it is the idea that religions require respect, that it is unseemly to confront absurdities of faith, and that legal protections provided by a secular democracy don’t need protection.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 30, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

              Yes I was looking at when the FFRF formed and that was really around 1980. I didn’t see litigations in the 80s so really it hasn’t been active for very long.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

            I don’t know if I’ve been reading different comments than you but I didn’t see anyone arguing that Larry doesn’t know what he is talking about because he is Canadian. The arguments are that he is just wrong and they’ve been pretty well made so far.

          • Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

            Many of the attacks on Mr. Moran revolve around the fact that hes Canadian wherefore 1. He must be declared ignorant of the United States, see, because that imaginary line on a map prohibits any information about the US to reach Canada.

            No, we attacked Larry’s ignorant attacks on the United States. I made the comparison earlier and I’ll make it again now: if I was to “joke” about how Germany was founded on the principle that Jews are an inferior race fit only for extinction, I’d deserve the exact same response that Larry got for “joking” about how America was founded on slave-owning white supremacy.

            The First Amendment in its present state is a license to bullshit.

            And you of all people should get on your knees and worship the First Amendment, because you’re doing nothing but bullshitting yourself. Under your proposed scientific theocracy, you’d be one of the first ones locked up.

            Oh, the ironing.

            b&

        • Larry Moran
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          I apologize for assuming that you were an American.

      • tomh
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        Larry Moran wrote:

        There’s something seriously wrong with your education system

        Really? You think that problem is the educational system and it would be solved if there were just better classes? If that’s as far as you’ve delved into the issue, you really should stop pontificating about it.

        • Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          Actually, the US education system is fucked up and could do with a serious overhaul. I, for one, think it’d be good if we tested Finland’s education model in a state or two to see how it worked out… and I’d bet money that that state (or those states) would be the highest-ranked states in education in the US within a decade…

          • tomh
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

            Nathan Hevenstone wrote:

            Actually, the US education system is fucked up and could do with a serious overhaul.

            Even if true, that has nothing to do with the creationism problem in schools. That is entirely due to the pervasive power of religion.

            • Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

              Sorry. I know that. I was just responding to the school thing, not the “controversy” thing. You are 100% correct when you say the problem with the acceptance of religion is the “pervasive power of religion”. I agree wholeheartedly.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        Have you considered, Larry, that we are the most religious of first-world nations, and that THAT might have something to do with it?
        My view is that creationism (which is always promulgated by the religious–ALWAYS) won’t go away until religion does, or at least those religions that aren’t down with evolution. And that is why I work to loosen the grip of religion along with trying to teach evolution.

        Don’t blame the educators; blame the religious.

        • Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          Amen, Brother.

          Creationism in the schools is the symptom. The gullibility of the American public, as demonstrated by our love affair with “faith,” is the illness.

          And bringing even more faith into the classroom isn’t going to cure the illness. Not by a long shot.

          b&

          • Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

            How about if we just bring the teeniest, tiniest bit of faith into the classroom… like only a couple molecules of it. Then shake the whole classroom until they all develop a memory of it? Dilute some more, then repeat? Viola. uh… Voila. No more faith.

            Betcha hadn’t thought of that.

            • gbjames
              Posted July 30, 2013 at 5:01 am | Permalink

              Brilliant!

            • Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

              That’s such a weak solution that it’s beyond homeopathetic.

              b&

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 31, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

                Trouble is, that according to homeopathic theory, that’d make it super-effective. I think.

        • Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

          EXACTLY!

          Why are so many atheists (including you, Larry Moran) utterly refusing to blame the religious?

          “Oh… over 40% of you Americans think the world is 6000 years old? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR EDUCATION?!?!?!?”

          “Oh… you atheists are having trouble in the US and fanatic Christians are trying to encroach on your freedoms as a US citizen? WHY ARE YOU ATHEISTS SO MEAN?!?!?!?”

          I’ve had it with this shit….

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 2:22 am | Permalink

            Oh, ceilings of cats! You can’t make “a controversy” out to be simply black and white, you know. It is “strident” and makes people clutch their pearls. =D

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 30, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

              “clutch their pearls” made me LOL! 😀

            • Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

              Don’t clutching pearls come with a certified fainting couch, as well?

        • Larry Moran
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

          Jerry says,

          My view is that creationism (which is always promulgated by the religious–ALWAYS) won’t go away until religion does, or at least those religions that aren’t down with evolution. And that is why I work to loosen the grip of religion along with trying to teach evolution.

          We agree, as you well know. The IDiots are practically begging you to take that fight to the classroom by teaching the controversy. Go for it.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 2:15 am | Permalink

        I am surprised that Larry replies with a tu quoque, especially as it was agreed earlier that there are no good controls either way.

        But trying to get compliance with existing law (as commonly interpreted) has two things going for it:

        – Everything else equal, striving for compliance and better yet getting it is beneficial for US society.

        And it can benefit science and atheism since it is the moral thing to do. You just have to be “strident”, open, about that this is a motivation.

        What benefits science should benefit education, and vice versa.

        – There has been a doubling of open nones in US. “Teaching the controversy/NOMA” correlates less well with that. Open atheist efforts does better in that regard. (But can’t really predict the trend, it isn’t concurrent.)

        The best we can say in the absence of controls is that putting more energy into compliance and other “strident” approaches doesn’t seem to harm, is complementary and could even be more or most beneficial of actions.

  15. Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Well, in a sense I have never understood how one can teach evolution without “teaching the controversy” at the same time. As in WEIT, as in Darwin’s own famous book, the entire story of evolution is one of many instances of “and this fact also makes a lot of sense under this theory and no sense under the previously popular theory of special creation”. Teaching evolution is always at the same time teaching why creationism is a failed idea.

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Teaching Evolution in the science classroom is no more and no less teaching the failure of Creationism than teaching astronomy is teaching the failure of Astrology.

      It is reasonable to teach both Creationism and Astrology in an history of science class, and it is also appropriate to include a lecture or two on history of science in a general introductory class.

      But, outside of the historical context, referring to Creationism in a biology class is as far out of line as is referring to Alchemy in a chemistry class.

      b&

      • Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        The point is that putting things into a historical context, to show how ideas were developed is what good teaching looks like. It is one thing to say, “evolution is true, swallow it already”. But it is better to say, “evolution is true because this biogeographic pattern and this badly ‘designed’ organ, both of which don’t make sense under any other hypothesis”. Eh voila, you have already mentioned the ‘controversy’ merely by explaining the ‘why’.

        • Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

          There is no more need to constantly remind students that there are no competing hypotheses that can explain biogeographic dispersal patterns or the recurrent pharyngeal nerve than there is to constantly remind students that there are no competing hypotheses that can explain Mercury’s orbit or electron diffraction. Indeed, even hinting that there are alternative theories that would wish they could explain such observations not only is an irrelevant distraction, it’s counterproductive as it plants seeds of doubt where none existed and waters them where they do exist.

          If your students actually raise objections, deal with them head-on as they arise. But, for the sake of all that’s unholy, don’t go about proselytizing for Jesus in the name of being fair and balanced or teaching the controversy or encouraging critical thinking or what-not.

          b&

        • gbjames
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

          Providing historical context and providing specific factual evidence are not mutually exclusive. Understanding biology and evolution requires both. It is all factual content relevant to the subject.

          • Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

            Exactly. And teaching why we know X is better than merely postulating X.

  16. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I used to subscribe to Larry Moran’s web site but it is strange thinking like this which made me stop reading his posts six months ago. It takes him forever to get to a point and,more often than not, I found the point to be invalid.

    • Buzz
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      Moran’s irrational arguments drove me away from his site as well. The last straw was that when I argued that whether an organism passed on its genes should be the ultimate arbiter of fitness, he accused me of blaming the victims of Nazi atrocities.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 4:35 am | Permalink

      I’m delighted that both of you have found a place where you feel more comfortable.

  17. Gary W
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I think Moran is correct that, ultimately, persuading people that creationism isn’t true is the only effective long-term strategy for eliminating the teaching of creationism in public schools. But there’s no conflict between pursuing that long-term strategy and using the law to stop particular instances of creationism teaching where they appear today.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Yes, as long as the long-term strategy is being pursued. We haven’t make a lot of progress on that and in the meantime, the rightward tilt of the Supreme Court has made the legal strategy look as if it might be less effective in the future.

  18. Druie Cavender
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I find it humorously ironic when Larry states that we should back off (legally) because one of our best arguments against teaching “creationism” is based on a “225 year-old piece of paper” when the creationists’ arguments depend on stories thousands of years old. If it wasn’t so funny, I would have to cry!

    • Hempenstein
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      Yep, better a 225y/o piece of paper than an 1800y/o bundle of made-up fables (in two inconvenient bales) in which something can always be found to justify anything and everything. Well, anything but evolution, of course.

      (Or, there probably is something somewhere that does support evolution. So many Bible verses are followed by, “What this means is…”, anyway, that it wouldn’t take much to skew a quote to that interpretation. And I suspect someone has already done just that, so what is the verse?

  19. Edward Hessler
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    The University of California-Berkeley has a website on evolution “Understanding Evolution”. Here is the page on misconceptions which includes a short misconceptions diagnostic quiz, teaching pit-and pratfalls, etc. Most, well many of us, come to classrooms with mixed conceptions/misdconceptions–one way to think about it is we are “intelligently wrong”, a phrase coined by Charles Ault. Conceptual change is not easy or foolproof as more than one study has shown in various disciplines. Telling will not do it but when learners are engaged in/with data (evidence) which challenges their ideas, the liklihood of change is higher. One thing that Professor Moran mentioned is the existence of a rich literature on the concept in general and evolution in particular.

  20. jesperbothpedersen1
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Late sub.

  21. Edward Hessler
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Oops. As my Momma said to me more than once but apparently not often enough, “Haste makes waste.”

    Here is the website ( )

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I think you should try one more time. 🙂

  22. Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Dr. Moran would agree that we should deep-six equal-opportunity employment laws. After all, you won’t change employers’ minds with lawsuits. Rather, you simply point out to them that their discriminatory practices aren’t right.

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Hey, if it works in Canada… 😉

      Pssst… will all you drunk and rowdy folks please stop horsing around in the pool? Ah, that’s better, thank you.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Why’re you being so strident?

        b&

        • Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          We swing that way in Col’rada Springs. YEE-HAW! (blasts a couple rounds in the air)

          • jesperbothpedersen1
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            I should move to Colorado.

            • Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

              …kills home invader… turns another page of “Atlas Shrugged”… clicks on James Dobson’s programming on the AM talk radio… and lights up a doobie.

              Did I mention we can be a confusing lot?

              • jesperbothpedersen1
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

                I don’t care about your mixed signals, man.
                I’m too triggerhappy and stoned to care about such miniscule differences.

                …puts on The Big Lebowski and puffs away into the haze…

  23. Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I applaud your efforts in this, Jerry.

    …My vote from Germany, where I hope Creationism never gets the kind of political and cultural influence it has in the US.

    I think backing up your excellent work in public education with the preparedness to take matters to court sends a very clear message to all.

  24. Matt G
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I think nobody has mentioned Kitzmiller vs. Dover. Part of the beauty of this case is that a huge chunk of the testimony WAS SCIENCE!! This case made clear, for all to see, that IDC was simply traditional creationism repackaged. It showed the pro-IDC crowd to be ignoramuses and liars. Not only were legal approaches effective, but a lot can be learned about science: what it is, what it ISN’T, and how it’s properly practiced.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Actually, that is a good point. I’ve used it to show that creationism isn’t science.

  25. MNb
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I think teaching bad science – like Flat Earth Theory – in science classes should be illegal indeed. Let alone pseudoscience. The day I have to teach astrology versus Newtonian Laws holding the Solar System together is the day I quit.
    The same should apply to any biology teacher when it comes to the non-controversy.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      The day I have to teach astrology versus Newtonian Laws holding the Solar System together is the day I quit.

      Try and keep up. Nodody is asking you to teach astrology.

      However, what you SHOULD be doing is teaching your students how to distnguish real science from pseudoscience. Astrology is a good example to use in class and so is Young Earth Creationism.

      You definitely should quit if you are not teaching your students how to evaluste scientifc claims and think critically. You can’t do this if you avoid mentioning any examples of bad science—especially if you know that your students believe those pseudosciences are true.

      I realize that debunking astrology is easier than debunking Young Earth Creationism because religious views get special protection in schools even if they are total nonsense from a scientific perspective.

      I suggesting that should change.

  26. Thanny
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s absolutely true that the problem won’t be solved by legal battles. But that’s not what those battles are for.

    Court cases against creationism are a defense against invasion. Stopping an invasion from happening is clearly the ultimate goal, but you don’t let the invaders waltz in and set up shop while trying to accomplished that goal.

    So Larry Moran really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Without the legal battles, creationism would be taught in countless schools today, and our populace would be even more appallingly ignorant than it is.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      As Jerry would say, what’s your control?

      • Thanny
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        The actual state of affairs prior to legal defeats for teaching creationism in school.

      • Larry Moran
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        Excellent! Can I use that when I claim that another way would have worked better?

        • tomh
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          Excellent! Can I use that when I claim that another way would have worked better?

          I don’t know what that means, but I’m curious as to what other way would have worked better. For example, prior to 1968, for forty years the law in Arkansas made it unlawful “to teach the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals,” or “to adopt or use in any such institution a textbook that teaches” this theory. Violation was a misdemeanor and subjected the violator to dismissal from his position. It wasn’t just unlawful to teach that it was true, it was unlawful, subject to dismissal, to make students aware that such a theory existed.

          Then a high school adopted a textbook that included a chapter on evolution, and a biology teacher, fearful of dismissal, sued to have the law overturned, and in 1968 the Supreme Court did just that in Epperson v. Arkansas, based on the First Amendment encompassing the establishment of religion.

          My question is, what other way would have worked better? How could the study of evolution have been brought into the classroom without this legal action, all of which was based on the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.

        • Larry Moran
          Posted July 31, 2013 at 4:13 am | Permalink

          How could the study of evolution have been brought into the classroom …

          I was under the impression that evolution is not being taught in most American classrooms … or at least not being taught thoroughly or properly.

          • tomh
            Posted July 31, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

            In other words, you don’t know of another way that would have worked better. You just want to claim that another (unspecified) way would have worked better.

  27. pacopicopiedra
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Moran appears to be blinded by irrational anti-Americanism (United States-ism?) in this case. Irrational because he is ignoring the fact that lawsuits and courts are utilized when everything else he suggests we try has failed. I mean, do you really think that no one is trying to convince school boards and educators to teach good science except by suing them when they don’t? As Jerry said – have you not heard of his book? And I add anti-American because calling the US constitution a 200 year old piece of paper, as if it is valueless, betrays your motive. Do you think the establishment clause was a bad idea, in need of updating for the 21st century? We right minded (read: liberal) Americans admire Canada very much and wish our country could be more like yours in a lot of ways. One thing we would never trade, however, is our constitution and bill of rights for your monarchy and state religion. Get over your antipathy to the US. I mean really, your idea of the founding principles of the US government extends no further than “legal slavery and only land owning men could vote?” (as you wrote in a comment above)

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      pacopicopiedra quoting Larry: “legal slavery and only land owning men could vote?” (as you wrote in a comment above)

      Yeah, that really was a bitch ass thing to say. The fact that there wasn’t much of an emotional uproar is testament to how rational readers here are. As a Canadian who says sorry a lot, I apologize for Larry’s bad behaviour. 😀

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        ^ ^ *like*

      • Posted July 30, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. And I didn’t even mention the part about “that Establishment Clause thingy.” Really, Larry? “Thingy?” You are so blinded by anti-Americanism that you can not even admit that religious freedom and separation of church and state are good ideas, worthy of respect? It turns out that the Establishment Clause thingy is working out very well, thanks. It was a very good idea.

        • Larry Moran
          Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          If separation of church and state is such a good idea how come all the other democracies haven’t adopted it?

          Just asking. This is not a criticism of America, it’s a critism of the implied claim that separation of church snd state is the best way to run a country and no other possibilities can work.

          • tomh
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

            If separation of church and state is such a good idea how come all the other democracies haven’t adopted it? … it’s a critism of the implied claim that separation of church snd state is the best way to run a country and no other possibilities can work.

            Perhaps all the other democracies don’t need it, perhaps in less god-soaked countries it’s not necessary. America has had an intensely religious population since long before the Constitution was written. State religions were the norm, and various churches were supported by state governments. The Founders saw the problems this created, in America, and the persecution it led to, in America, and added the First Amendment to keep government and religion separate. In America it is absolutely necessary. Perhaps in other, more enlightened countries, it is not necessary. Why would you think every country would be exactly the same? And where was it said, or even implied, that no other possibility can work? No other possibility can work in America, but that says nothing about other countries.

          • Gary W
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

            If separation of church and state is such a good idea how come all the other democracies haven’t adopted it?

            I think most liberal democracies HAVE adopted it, except in a few residual ways that are largely ceremonial or symbolic and do not really affect the way the country is governed. The separation may not be explicitly stated in their Constitution, but it’s still there.

  28. Carl
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Arggghh! This is painful. Evolution is a fact. Those “science” teachers that want to teach creationist nonscience – teach it an institution that receives NO Federal funds, otherwise do not teach that or IDiot Design. An NSF accredited imprimatur for any Science related text should be required nationally for it to be taught. Period.
    There is no controversy. Giving these folks an audience for their evwoolutionary thought disorder should be done through the NSF or a Science peer review process to set the record straight. Book sellers that peddle this malarkey in the first place should be outed. Making it a controversy just confuses those with no,limited or an adulterated science background.

    • Larry Moran
      Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Argggghh! There IS a controversy. Ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. You’re playing right into their hands by not challenging them.

      Yoy can pretend all you want that there isn’t a SCIENTIFIC controversy but that only works if you adopt a very narrow definition of science. The conflict is between rationalism and superstition and we should be teaching rationalism, and opposing superstition, in every class … that includes science classes.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        we should be teaching rationalism

        As my old dad used to say, you are crashing through an open door.

        Is there someone here who is advocating support for superstition, especially in science classes?

        • Larry Moran
          Posted July 31, 2013 at 3:58 am | Permalink

          I don’t know. Why do you adk?

          My position is that superstitious beliefs exist and we should be exposing and refuting them in our schools in order to create critical thinkers.

          • gbjames
            Posted July 31, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink

            I don’t know of anyone here who would argue that superstitious beliefs don’t exist. Nor that they shouldn’t be exposed. Nor that we have more critical thinkers.

      • Carl
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

        Sir, as I thought and re-thought your position; weighed the previous posts and the swirl of very good arguments. I Felt compelled to keep an open mind and consider your alternative of engaging creationists/ID on some equal footing instead of going head to head and confronting them in the courts, school boards and now it seems in state supported universities. This to me is a form of intellectual capitulation to a fanciful notion – one that has not a shred of scientific evidence to support its position. I’ll borrow a couple of words from Daniel Dennett further along and spin the meaning a bit – it would take a special circumstance for me to “believe” that I could engage non-rational people about Evolution. The very folks that have arrayed and marshaled formidable opposition to the teaching of Evolution. They have everything at stake. The intellectual capital that is expended to maintain the creationist belief is amazing to me. It would be an intentional stance that would mostly go nowhere. Simply because it depends on trying to convince the non-rationalist to become rational. You are asking me to engage with this Biblical notion and by doing so, I get to participate in a “controversy”. Evolution is Fact. Again, there is no controversy. If so, see you in court. Doing otherwise is being Neville Chamberlin. The intentional stance fails because I can’t treat creationists or ID folks as rational.
        Religion has created the software glitch and if the courts are what is necessary to keep this tripe out of the classroom – then so be it.

        is pure you and the creationists and the ID folks share a domain

  29. Hempenstein
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    If the goddam gun lobby can use the Constitution against common sense, the least we can do in return is use the Constitution against willful ignorance.

  30. El Schwalmo
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Here in Germany we science teachers do exactly what Larry proposes: teaching evolution and showing where and why creationists are wrong.

    But the situation here is a little bit different. Most christians here see evolution and creation as different views of the world but perfectly compatible. These christians are more aggressive against the not too common creationists than we naturalists. The main reason for rejecting Intelligent Design for these people is fearing that these people don’t respect the boundary between science and religion, inviting naturalists to do the same.

    I guess that Larry is right in proposing to use creationism as an example for poor science and debunking it.

    • godsbuster
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

      The situation in Germany is a whole lot different. You’re dealing with a culture in which intellectual incompetence is considered a source of shame not a point of pride as in the US were a relentless steady stream of spectacularly stupid pronouncements issues forth unabated from the mouths of politicians (themselves thick or catering to their constituents)-people in positions of power that make decisions that affects millions of people.

      Moreover, could you imagine Angela Merkel closing her address to the Bundestag or any speech during a campaign with God bless Germany? The reaction would be second only to where she to say sieg Heil. In the US, ironically, which so beats its chest and pats itself on the back for being the world’s benchmark for the separation of church and state failing to intone the phrase “God bless America” at the end of your speech is as good as a guarantee to not get elected.

  31. Peter
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m concerned with remarks about using litigation to defend against Creationism. There is absolutely no guarantee that Federal Courts will continue to make decisions favoring evolution.

    Before someone points out the list of precedents such as Kitzmiller versus Dover Area School Board, they won’t make any difference.

    The danger is that Congress can change the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts by simple majority vote. In a single bill Congress can remove cases dealing with Creationism from the jurisdiction of Federal Courts.
    At one stroke the possibility of any more cases such as Kitzmiller are whisked away. This isn’t some far-out hypothetical; Congress’s authority over jurisdiction is explicit in the Constitution.

    This is a real threat right now. The “Constitution Restoration Act of 2005” (CRA)removes the Federal Courts’ jurisdiction over cases involving the question “of acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” The CRA would require only a majority of Congress to completely eliminate any appeal to the Federal Courts in any case involving the intersection of God and Government — almost certainly including Creationism. It doesn’t require modification of the First Amendment. This bill has been filed twice but hasn’t made it out of committee. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_Restoration_Act)

    This is a little-known threat to any judicial defense of evolution. I’ve seen very little discussion of it. We ought to be on guard for this and others or we may find ourselves “Teaching the Controversy” or even just the Creationist half of it.

    • Posted August 5, 2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink

      Poi, is it an Act if it hasn’t been enacted?

      /@

    • gbjames
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Does your concern, Peter, extend to other matters of law? Do you also think it a bad idea to use the courts to resist voter disenfranchisement? How about lawsuits against violators of food safety regulations? After all, Congress might change the laws!

      We should use whatever weapons that are available. In the United States, that includes the Constitution.

    • tomh
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      Peter wrote:

      There is absolutely no guarantee that Federal Courts will continue to make decisions favoring evolution.

      Well, you’re right about that, though not for the reason you detail. After all, any such change as you envision would require it passing both the House and the Senate and be signed by the President, which all seems very unlikely. Much more likely is the possibility that an ID case will get to the Supreme Court, the Court will have undergone a few changes by then, and the Scalia wing will decide that ID is science and can be taught in public schools. If you’re determined to worry about something, there’s a more realistic worry for you.

  32. godsbuster
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    “We should use whatever weapons that are available. In the United States, that includes the Constitution.”

    As long as we don’t bring the Constitution into the 21st century but leave it in its mummified 18th century state. Which is the source of our troubles in the first place.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      I don’t understand what your point is. The Constitution isn’t in a “mummified 18th Century state”. It has been modified many times, as recently as 1992.

      • Posted August 5, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        godsbuster has no point, except to try to convince people to submit to his totalitarian fantasies in which he is the ultimate arbiter of Truth and none may dare utter lies lest they feel his wrath.

        The Constitution, obviously, stands in the way of his fantasy — especially the First Amendment — so it’s clearly gotta go.

        b&

      • godsbuster
        Posted August 5, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        I am referring to the first amendment of bill of rights fame, which has remained embalmed in its original state since 1791. There is even an institute (http://billofrightsinstitute.org) dedicated to its embalming. Mr. Goren, known on this page for his magical facility with strawman arguments is an honorary member fond of sniffing the embalming fluids on the sly.

        Joking aside, specifically I draw your attention to this part:

        “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

        This, you will have to admit if you can muster the honesty, gives the proclamation of falsehood (creationism) equal licence as the proclamation of truth (evolution).

        Congress, in its infinite wisdom, seems to have recognized this problem and at least in one area has in fact “made a law” which appears to “tamper with” the First Amendment.

        From the Federal Trade Commission website:

        “When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.”

        Sounding not unlike my previously proposed upgrade (“tampering with”)to the First Amendment:

        “Truth claims upon which religions or ideologies are established and Truth claims made in the exercise of free speech are subject to the highest standards of reason and evidence such as those that obtain in a court of law and science.”

        You may continue proclaiming anything through any method and means you like. You just can’t claim it to be true when it’s not.

        If truth in advertising is important enough to allow “tampering with” the Constitution then how can the origin of species not be?

        • gbjames
          Posted August 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          With “…if you can muster the honesty…” you demonstrate that you are not respectful enough to spend my precious time in conversation with.

          Goodbye.

          • godsbuster
            Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

            Touchy touchy for someone who a few comments back had no compunction finding it “respectful enough” to proclaim me ignorant of history.

            Your reply leaves intact the uninterrupted streak of emotional, dogmatic non-rational reactions to my observations that typify those on this page. And which, leading American sociologist Robert Bellah would have recognized as endemic to what he theorized as American civil religion.

  33. Peter
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m not suggesting that we not use the Courts when we must. I am suggesting that we use other means when they are available.

    For example, the school board that precipitated Kitzmiller was replaced in the next election. What would it have cost to wait until that election rather than taking the issue to Court? The profit would have been a case in which ID had been thrown out by the voters, removing any complaints about “unelected judges.” Were we really afraid that the Board would be returned to office?

    If I were a Creationist I’d argue that Kitzmiller was another case in which Evolutionists went to court because they were afraid of a scientific comparison between evolution and Intelligent Design (Creationism in drag).

    And, if I weren’t an engineer, I might think that they were right.

    • tomh
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Why do you think the Board was replaced? They were replaced because they dragged the District into court and cost the taxpayers a million dollars.

      • Peter
        Posted August 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        I believe that there was strong public opposition to the Board’s decision even before the Court case was filed. I’ll agree that the cost of the suit did exacerbate the situation.

  34. Peter
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    jbjames and tomh, I’m not arguing that there aren’t other real, and probably more serious, threats. I am saying that this one seems to have remained below the radar.

    As for passing and signing the bill, I don’t think the current Constitution Restoration Act has much chance of passage(although the 170-member Republicans in the Republican Study Committee has endorsed it). I’m worried about simpler, smaller bills that might start by nibbling their way toward larger goals.

    For example, we might start with a bill removing jurisdiction over cases dealing invocations at public events (which, in most cases, has been ruled unConstitutional). Given the right wording, the Return Freedom to Pray bill might be hard to oppose. From there things might progress in small steps.

    I’m not saying that this will happen but that it might happen. Ten years ago I would not have thought that the NSA might be collecting metadata on all telephone calls either.


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