kitzmiller versus dover, 2005, a review (24 March, 2007 08:53:59 PDT)
Bob Bradford, I knew him a tad (8 January,
2006 10:47:33 PST)
New Orleans flooding - who's responsible (8 September,
2005 20:55:21 PDT)
(6 November, 2004 14:52:59 PST)
None dare ... call it conspiracy (29 October, 2004 21:24:39 PDT) - Update (14 April, 2007 21:55:00 PDT)
The power of hoodoo
(26 September, 2004 15:14:08 PDT)
Film treatment - The
Lord of the Rings (4 January, 2004 20:44:16 PST)
Thoughts of The Federalist on the onset
of Geroge Bush II (19 November, 2000 20:24:07 PST)
kitzmiller versus dover, 2005
See here for references:
A couple weeks ago I heard on Science Friday and also the Skeptics
Guide to the Universe, commentaries that referred to the recent court
case pertaining to teaching of evolution in the public schools. It
sounded interesting, so I looked it up on line and found the
transcripts at the address noted above.
So for the last several days, every evening or so, I found myself
picking up the narrative of the trial, mostly with the Behe cross-
examination, and then the final opinion delivered by the trial Judge,
John Jones, US District Court in Pennsylvania. I suppose one must be
a bit deranged to be entertained by court transcripts, or perhaps
there must be good transcripts that one just comes across and anyone
would appreciate their significance. In the course of this reading
I was reminded of the Gish/Doolittle debate on the ISU campus (CY
Stevens auditorium, maybe?), back in 1980 or so.
I picked up the trial in the middle, so there were legal foundations
discussed early in the trial that I did not witness, per se, but it
was not hard to pick up the flow, nonetheless. I did not keep notes
as I was reading the transcript, so if you don't want to follow the
links above, you'll have to take my memory for what it's worth in
what follows. At any rate, the trial kept my attention for several
The lying of leaders of the school board, under oath, as pointed out
by the judge in his opinion at the conclusion of the trial. Lying
about prior discussion they had regarding creationism in the apparent
hope that when they just changed the terminology to "intelligent
design" no one would notice. Lying about their interest in advancing
scientific discussion, when they admitted knowing nothing about
science or even what ID was supposed to represent.
I was particularly drawn to the testimony of the defense expert
witness, Michael Behe, who is associated with the Discovery
Institute. Michael Behe's testimony was filled with his comments to
the effect that experiment and findings in evolutionary biology were
either non-existent, impossible to show evolutionary explanations for
his examples of "irreducible complexity", or just not convincing.
During his cross-examination the plaintiffs' attorney pressed him on
this point, presented into evidence a stack of peer-reviewed articles
and texts, which 1) he had not read, 2) he did not think needed to be
read, and 3) he believed were not persuasive anyway. He was asked
about a previous challenge to his theory, and prior admission in
print years earlier of a flaw in his reasoning that he would have to
address in "future work"; of course no such future work has come out
of him. His one paper in a peer-reviewed journal that even touches
on his claim addressed an evolutionarily insignificant time frame and
only one evolutionary pathway. His whole foundation of irreducible
complexity goes in the wrong direction, asking whether the item would
function if a part was removed, while evolution starts from some
prior state that was either passive or did something and is modified
There area few points of humor in the proceedings. Behe has only
about four particular examples of "irreducible complexity" which he
brought up time and again; his testimony goes on for a couple days
so we hear those remarks repeatedly. The cross-examination focused
on a couple of these in detail and at one point well in to it, Behe
again mentioned one of the others. This is where the plaintiffs'
attorney remarks something like "I had sworn a blood oath with my co-
counsel to not bring up this point again, and now you have made me do
The primary text that the school board wanted to introduce, "Of
Pandas and People", has a darkly amusing aspect. Plaintiffs found
earlier drafts which showed that there was a wholesale substitution
to replace "creationism" with "intelligent design", that was done
immediately after a prior court decision had shown creationism to
violate the establishment clause of the first amendment.
I don't recall exactly now whether it was a portion of Pandas that
Behe wrote, or a different work, but he tried to equate that writing
to something from a peer-reviewed journal, when the supposed
reviewers of Pandas knew virtually nothing about the text. Behe
admitted that the plausibility of intelligent design grew greater if
one was predisposed to religion.
The legal foundations have quaint references. Among them are the two
"prongs" of the "Lemon test", which refer to a prior Supreme Court
decision (Lemon) that defined "purpose" and "effect" as points at
issue in determining whether a particular government action
"establishes" religion in violation of the 1st amendment.
The final decision captured in the Judge's opinion was a thorough
indictment of all parts of intelligent design and the attempts by the
school board to introduce this in the science classrooms. Taking
what he describes as the "belt and suspenders" approach, Judge Jones
appeared to deal with every prior precedent and showed how this case
violated all defined legal criteria, and furthermore concluding ID is
not science to begin with. The science teachers in the school
refused to comply with the Board instruction to introduce ID as an
alternative to evolution, so in practice the school administrators
came in at the start of each session to read the statement, each
sentence of which Jones showed to establish religion.
I don't know whether the school board was ever charged with perjury,
but they should have been. As it was they were forced to pay the
attorney fees, and hopefully this complete defeat will keep down
similar attempts in other jurisdictions.
Sunday March 24 I found this in my morning news read:
"The two-day event will feature well-known supporters of intelligent
design. Dr. Michael Behe is the author of Darwin's Black Box and was a key
witness in 2005 at a federal trial that produced a ruling that intelligent
design was religion rather than science."
They don't give up.
Addendum (24 March, 2007 10:36:07 PDT)
An argument made during the trial was the point by the defense
that they need to supplant the foundation of science that requires testability,
that requires a theory be possible to refute. They want to allow scientific
explanations to invoke supernatural forces, and grant that ID will never
be accepted as science until that foundation is removed.
What they think will happen after that is anybody's guess.
My impression is they oppose evolution solely because it flies
in the face of literal readings of their received wisdom, that they can not
stand evidence to stand against their faith, and don't really care what it
takes to reject the evidence. They think their philosophy can drive
the universe rather than the other way around.
<BEGIN philosophical aside>
There is a sense in which I support the notion that philosophy drives the
universe, in as much as it drives how one interacts with the universe on
all levels, which in turn has certain consequences in the world around us.
The fact that those consequences are somewhat predictable returns me to the
sense of the statement as originally written.
<END philosophical aside>
Bradford Dies, Liberty Survives (8 January, 2006 10:47:33 PST)
I discover in my post-holiday
reading that R W Bradford has died of illness.
I recall my first connection to the man - it was though the money and currency
newsletter and precious metals exchange he operated in Michigan back in
the 1980's. What drew me was his avowedly libertarian take on global
politics and economics, and how that might suggest future values for gold
and silver moneys, from both the specie and numismatic value considerations.
The newsletter was always entertaining, his margins were always very small,
deliveries extremely reliable, and as a result as a small provision against
the dark times I have a small hoard (as he would put it) of Austrian 100
Coronas, British sovereigns, and US 90% silver coin. By the way, Gold
really does have a fantastic "ching" sound when it is struck.
But after those initial contacts, and based on my enjoyment of his newsletter,
I became a founding subscriber to Liberty, the magazine he published
after removing himself from the metals exchange, and it has been reading
Liberty that I have since found more valuable.
Liberty published on a huge range of topics, with many different contributors,
capturing perspectives across a broad swath of the libertarian landscape,
with scope from global realpolitik to life in small backwaters, including
historical analysis, current events, movie and book reviews, some fiction
here and there, pointed cartoons sprinkled through the pages, and "Terra
Ingognita" wrapping it up with oddities drawn from news sources scattered
everywhere. Liberty provided a home for analysis and discussion
of philosophical foundations, political strategy and tactics, broad and focused
cautions over the concentrations of power, and celebration of the vast differences
among us, all with a perspective that on one level or another valued the individual's
right to choose one's own path.
Which is not to say the editorial policy was all goodness and light, or
that contributions were never in conflict; far from it. But
those differences of opinion made the content all the more valuable to me.
And Bradford did not soft peddle problems in the movement, with the LP
in particular; informative reporting from the conventions, and the
pre- and post--election analysis was insightful and quantitative in a way
that blew away fallacious assumptions and exposed (oft-missed) opportunities
for the party.
Notable among that work was his criticism of the presidential campaigns
in 1992 and 1996 by Harry Browne, which were hobbled by huge staff expenses
and conflict of interest problems that may not have had any airing were it
not for Liberty. As much as I admired Browne for having written "How
I found freedom in an unfree world",
and who had previously been an editor on Liberty's masthead, my esteem
for him dropped considerably in the face of Bradford's dispassionate analysis
of campaign fundraising, FEC filings, and LP HQ minutes. Browne's stonewalling
in response to these criticisms did not improve his standing in my eyes
(and has colored my impression of all his subsequent activity). But
Bradford's point was not to tear down, but expose correctable weakness in
the movement, which criticism I found to be very constructive for improving
the prospects for liberty.
In recent years I have not been up to date in my reading, but once I sit
down to it, I continue to find most of every issue to be engaging at some
level, and it is a rare article that I skip entirely.
I have R W Bradford to thank for that
I hope the future editors continue to produce such a varied, intelligent,
and entertaining magazine.
New Orleans flooding - who's responsible (8 September, 2005 20:55:21 PDT)
Here's a related article from 2001 Scientific American that has been floating
around the office recently.
Today I finally took the time to read it, and find the content quite similar
to the 2004 article referenced below (flood is inevitable, wetlands restoration
is essential, ...).
And these are just the popular press acknowledgments of the risks, so
clearly the hazards were clear for years to anyone paying attention.
So, who's "job" is it to pay attention? I would start with the people
closest to the action.
An unattributed source mentioned the national Sierra Club opposition to
precautionary measures; one could infer their homes weren't at risk
and one might question the legal standing of such organizations to the disposition
of local concerns. The NGM in October 2004 (http://www3.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0410/feature5/
mentioned local fish farmers opposition to mitigating steps; I presume
they were among those flooded out when the levy broke, so perhaps there is
a just god (too callous? let me tell you about the man who enters a
talent agent's office to describe a new act ...).
National politics has an attention span of about a month, while projects
like this require attention over decades. So why are any of us surprised
that Bush and the FMEA screwed the pooch? It's a huge bureaucracy led
by politicos and will always be that way. Meanwhile people make plans
expecting the FMEA to help out somehow in all their local emergencies.
New Orleans has floods which are very predictable. Cliff's earlier
post clearly revealed who had the most economic interest at stake - the port
system and shippers, while the other references show huge economic interest
by oil and agriculture concerns. They are the ones who had the most
to lose, but I'm not overly surprised they did not make it happen - why
pay for insurance if the feds will bail you out?
"The national Sierra Club was one of several environmental groups who
[successfully] sued the Army Corps of Engineers to stop a 1996 plan to raise
and fortify Mississippi River levees.
The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river
in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman
told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because “a failure could
wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi which the states
would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all.”
But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in
New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at “the impact on bottomland
hardwood wetlands.” The lawsuit stated, “Bottomland hardwood forests must
be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a
species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of
all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley.”
In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group
American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana,
Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations. The lawsuit was settled
in 1997 with the Corps agreeing to hold off on the work while doing environmental
Film treatment of The Lord of the Rings (4 January, 2004 20:44:16 PST)
I (again) largely agree with Bill's review of the final LotR film.
I'd give it a B overall; a good execution, but the departures from the book
were at times incomprehensible, especially in as much as they diminish
the humanity of some of the major characters.
Better than the second film, though, in that regard, as I found to be
worse in The Two Towers the side track of Aragorn going over a cliff on
the way to Helm's Deep, how the ents were enticed into attacking Isengard,
and the appearance of elves rather than rangers just prior to the battle
at Helm's Deep (and what happened to them in the third film - bad continuity
there). Not to mention the treatment of Legoloas skateboarding down
the stair, firing arrows all the way (which was just juvenile direction),
or Aragorn kicking in frustration the ashes of the burned orcs (juvenile
As for missing the scouring of the Shire, more would have to be done with
Saruman for that part of the tale to be explicable, but the way they _did_
end up handling the return to the shire was consequently anticlimactic, and
perhaps only served to make it clear to viewers unfamiliar with the original
that there would be no sequel.
Perhaps the TV miniseries format would allow these flaws to be avoided.
The power of hoodoo (26 September, 2004 15:14:08 PDT)
It is "Monkey Business",
or maybe "The Bachelor and
the Bobby-Soxer", that has Cary Grant perform the following exchange
with some stuffed shirt grup:
"You remind me of the man"
"The man with the power"
"The power of hoodoo"
"Remind me of the man"
... and so on.
What the hell - see them both.
None dare (29 October, 2004 21:24:39 PDT)
None dare ... call it conspiracy (because maybe this really is a hoax).
"It" being whether the real story of the 9/11 Pentagon crash has been
Actually there are lots of people who would call it conspiracy, but not
Usually my response to conspiracy theories is skeptical, from the standpoint
that keeping things secret is pretty hard when there are lots of people involved.
Nonetheless, a few weeks ago I promised myself to scour the web for images
of the Pentagon on 9/11, to see if I could find any showing aircraft debris
consistent with a 757 crash.
Try this to begin with. I kept the sound down when watching it - apparently there
is a rocking sound track, though
Here is some of what else I found.
Links offering more or less support or skepticism to the theory that a
missile struck the pentagon that day: asile,
This note about a famous person on AA 77 (discredited in other sources)
And some specific photos, including from defenselink, some clearly enhanced,
but it is hard to see a 757 in any of them:
army.mil/.../evacuate.html (appears from perspective of the approaching aircraft, but the intervening
light poles remain standing)
and then ...
This from Reuters:
"The video, which Al Jazeera said it received at its Islamabad office on
Friday, even came replete with an English-language translation for its full
18 minutes. The Arabic broadcaster only aired about five minutes of the
tape. A State Department official said Washington had asked Qatar's
government to stop Al Jazeera airing the tape. A spokesman for
the channel said the tape was too newsworthy to ignore, but declined to say
what was in the 13 minutes it did not air."
Missing 13 minutes? Excerpts from the speech are here, but where is the entire transcript?
update (14 April, 2007 21:55:00 PDT)
I have come to a revised perspective on this topic, based on further
reading, namely a perspective more inclined to believe the standard
model for the disaster of 9/11/2001, in regard to the collapse of WTC
7 and the Pentagon attack.
[Not that I'm staying awake at night pondering these points. I just
came upon the following and remembered having written about this way
back, so I figured I should allow myself some personal revisionism]
First, WTC7. Not mentioned below, but separately discussed, has been
the question of what explained WTC7 collapsing, when it was not
struck in the attack, and video of the North side showed no reason
for it to fall. I found the following through a couple other
links, which shows the damage to WTC 7 being very severe on the south
side (the side facing WTC 1 and 2 - photos on the link below are from
the north side), and that "pull" remarks are all about pulling people
out of the area because it looked like it would collapse.
The photos of large fires burning in the building also are way
different than suggested by video of the north face.
As for the pentagon, this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVDdjLQkUV8)
links to a dynamic model of the last few seconds of flight, and has lots
of photos of damaged airplane parts. This video is of a
statement by an eye-witness of that attack, newsman Mike Walter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycPUDktZpCU).
Election predictions, 2004 (6 November, 2004 14:52:59 PST)
I saw [LP Presidential candidate Michael] Badnarik in Seattle last year.
At the time I deemed his approach was too obtuse for the electorate, but
supported his campaign. One of my approaches this year was to point
out the workings of the Electoral College, noting that Kerry was bound to
win the west, so people around here could vote on the basis of factors other
than simply the fear someone worse would get elected.
As for my predictions,
some of you know that last spring I bet a couple people that Bush would
be re-elected. Not a pleasant prospect (Kerry's most noted advantage
was that he was not Bush), but I thought the bet could be a hedge against
the worse outcome. Unfortunately I expect substantially greater loss
in civil liberties than my financial gain from these wagers. No doubt
Kerry would have proceeded along a similar path, but my best hope was that
the R's would retain control over congress and we'd have deadlock for four
I also tracked the Iowa Electronic Markets for the outcome prediction,
which had been showing Bush to win for months. As I watched the results
come in on Tuesday I admit to some denial. I looked at the Florida
results and thought that clearly Kerry would prevail there, even as my eyes
saw the preponderance of red counties.
Go see "Team America". It will be even more relevant 4 years from
All Rants copyright John R Palmer, except where attributed elsewhere