April 22, 2009

You Don’t Trust Creationists With Your Science Education… Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Trust Their Lawyers, Either

Posted in Atheism, Creationism, Law tagged , , , , , , , at 11:36 am by Andrew

Okay, some quick background on the issue, taken from NCSE Reports, Mar-Apr 2008.

In 2007, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — that’s the headquarters for pure, unadulterated, Henry Morris crazy — moved its headquarters to Dallas, Texas, and requested that the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board (THECB) permit ICR to offer a master’s degree in science education. This request was for a “state Certificate of Authority,” which is somewhat different than “accreditation” (as this story was sometimes reported).

Fortunately for sanity, on April 24, 2008, the THECB unanimously voted to deny ICR’s request. And that should have been the end of it.

Oh no. Late last week, ICR sued the THECB (and, bizarrely, their officers in their individual capacities) in federal court for an injunction requiring THECB to issue the Certificate of Authority and permit ICR to issue Master of Science degrees in science education. The full complaint can be found online, here.

I am a practicing attorney who specializes in civil litigation (like this) and I have a J.D. from Harvard Law School. I am not admitted in Texas — although I have litigated several matters in that state. So I think I am particularly qualified to weigh in on this lawsuit. Obligatory disclaimer: nothing in this blog post constitutes legal advice or an attorney-client relationship; the opinions I express herein are my own and no one else’s. Now, on to the show:

This lawsuit is gloriously insane. From top to bottom, this is exactly the kind of lawsuit you would expect from the kind of minds who think the world is 6,000 years old. I can only highlight just some of the glaring defects in this bizarre lawsuit.

A. The Complaint appears to have been authored by someone with no serious experience in litigating federal cases.

Although the signature block is cut off in the complaint, the ICR’s lawyers are clearly identified in this document. Apparently, the briefs were written by the ICR’s own James J.S. Johnson, whom FindLaw describes as a “family lawyer.” Mr. Johnson is not listed in Martindale-Hubbell (which is where you should go to read peer reviews on anyone you’re thinking of hiring as a lawyer), but he does write some crazy, crazy stuff for ICR’s website. (ICR’s local counsel in Texas seems to be the firm of Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C., but they do not appear to be actively involved in the litigation so far.)

I should add that “family law” generally means as “divorce law,” and in general, I would not trust a divorce lawyer to bring a sec. 1983 compliant in federal court, any more than I would feel qualified to represent someone in divorce proceedings. There are very few hard-and-fast specialties in the law (with the exception of people like bankruptcy lawyers, who have their own bar and own courts) — so this isn’t unethical or illegal, but it is very, very weird. If you called me up and asked me to incorporate your business in Delaware or represent you at a custody hearing, I would very politely refer you to one of my colleagues who actually does that sort of work for a living. It’s not like we have a shortage of lawyers in this country or anything. :)

With that in mind, the first thing that strikes me about the complaint is the bizarre, blog-like use of bold, italics, underline, large and small caps, different fonts and different font sizes — all in the first two pages. No sensible litigator would file something that looks like this in federal court.

B. Relatedly, the Complaint makes arguments in sections that do not call for argument.

The weirdness continues. The first few paragraphs of any complaint are generally “form” (almost boilerplate) paragraphs. For example: usually, paragraph number 1 will summarize the complaint, and the next few paragraphs will identify the parties and state the basis for jurisdiction in federal court and venue in the court selected. While these things can give rise to litigated issues (i.e., is it permissible for a plaintiff to sue a defendant in a state where she does not reside?), the initial complaint itself is not a legal argument. The complaint is where the plaintiff gets to set forth his view of how the world is and what sorts of injuries he has suffered at the hands of the defendants. You don’t have to argue in your complaint; you can just assert stuff and prove it later.

So it’s very strange to see footnotes beginning to appear in these initial paragraphs that make legal arguments — such as footnote 2 that preemptively argues that it is permissible for ICR’s Graduate School to appear as a plaintiff; footnotes 3 and 4 citing legal authority for ICR’s right to seek injunctive relief; footnote 6 presenting arguments for venue, and so forth. I have literally never seen anyone write a complaint this way. (What one would typically do — what I would do, for example — is to plead that venue is proper in the complaint and save the argument in the event that the defendant challenges venue.) The only explanation I can begin to offer for this is that Mr. Johnson has tried to file these sorts of lawsuits before, had them dismissed on motions to dismiss, and believes that by “pre-empting” argumentation he can avoid such a dismissal in the future. Such a thought process is, to put it charitably, misguided.

C. The central claim in the lawsuit — that the THECB has violated the First Amendment — is absurd.

Next, we get to the gravamen of ICR’s lawsuit:

25. Due to adverse actions of the THECB, … ICRGS is faced with a legal dilemma, with both choices requiring ICRGS to experience unjustly discriminatory consequences:

(a) ICRGS could actively stand on its First Amendment rights and continue to offer its academic programs to Texas residents, and then be (unjustly) prosecuted for offering what the THECB and defendants (acting under color of state law) unjustly characterize as a “fraudulent or substandard” degree program, via legal process that potential [sp] implicates Texas Deceptive Trade Practices — Consumer Protection Act jeopardies [sp] (including prosecution-of-crime jeopardies [sp]; or

(b) alternatively, ICRGS could passively surrender its First Amendment rights and permanently discontinue offer [sp] its academic programs to Texas residents, in order to avoid being (unjustly) prosecuted for offering what the THECB and defendans (acting under color of state law) characterize as a “fraudulent or substandard” degree program, via legal proceedings that potentially implicate Texas Deceptive Trade Practices — Consumer Protection Act jeopardies [sp].

26. In particular, ICRGS has been told, by representatives of THECB (i.e., by the Commissioner, individually and/or via his representatives, under color of state law), that its Texas-based publication, ACTS & FACTS, may not institutionally advertise ICRGS’s “Master of Science in Science Education” program unto Texas residents, if the advertisement indicates any willingness (on ICRGS’s part) to admit Texas residents into its M.S. program, even though ICRGS’s M.S. program has been (and continues to be) offered under California state law via an online (interstate telecommunications-based) format.

[All formatting -- including the bold, underline, italics, all capitals, and random use of parenthesis -- unchanged from the original. No, seriously.]

There are no words to describe the vacuity of this argument. It is so preposterously stupid that I cannot imagine any second-year law student who has paid the slightest bit of attention in his Con Law class at a seventh-rate law school would make it.

There are, in fact, lots of ways that the government can violate your First Amendment rights. They can shut down your newspaper (“prior restraint”); they can force you to say one set of things but not another (“viewpoint discrimination”); they can force you to swear allegiance to Allah every morning before homeroom (that one violates the “Establishment Clause”); they can prevent you from holding your Nazi rally in a community of Holocaust survivors; and so on. It’s a big list.

But one of the things that almost never violates the First Amendment is when the government decides to restrict advertising. In fact, for a state’s regulation of advertising to violate the First Amendment, it has to be something on the order of the statute at issue in 44 Liquormart, Inc., et al. v. Rhode Island, et al., 517 U.S. 484 (1996). In that case, Rhode Island had a complete ban on any advertisement in the state that mentioned the (correct) price of alcohol for sale in the state, on the theory that advertising lower prices would stimulate more consumption of alcohol, and the state has a ‘compelling interest’ in encouraging its citizens to drink less. That, the Supreme Court held, went too far.

But 44 Liquormart makes clear that the First Amendment protects only “truthful and nonmisleading” advertising, making commercial speech a far less protected area than core free speech. (Imagine if the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protected only “truthful and nonmisleading” political ads, for example!)

So let’s apply this standard to the THECB. Unlike Rhode Island, the THECB did not prohibit all advertising by ICR; the only thing they prohibited was ICR advertising that they offer a Masters’ Degree in Science Education. Under Texas law, the ICR is not authorized to offer a Masters’ Degree in Science Education. Thus, if ICR were to advertise that it does in fact offer such a degree, that advertising would plainly be non-truthful and highly misleading.

Here’s the kicker: the ICR nowhere alleges that its advertising is truthful and nonmisleading! ICR doesn’t even claim, on face, to have a First Amendment right worth protecting. (And, of course, they don’t have one in actual fact, either.)

D. The Complaint essentially concedes that the ICR has failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, and thus should be dismissed.

The strangeness continues. The section dealing with exhaustion of administrative remedies is basically an “own goal.” This will require a little more law school 101, so bear with me.

When you have an “administrative” remedy, generally, the rule requires you to “exhaust” those remedies before suing someone in federal court. What this means is that before you can sue a government agency, you have to follow the agency’s internal policies and procedures to resolve your grievance in full. If you go through the whole process and they haven’t fixed things, then — and only then — can you sue.

It’s not difficult to see the reasons behind this policy; as with decisions encouraging arbitration, mediation, and other forms of ADR (alternative dispute resolution), we’ve made a general social judgment that it’s better to work things out outside the courts than run around suing people when you can be assured that a reasonably formal and fair process exists to redress your grievances out of court. It’s not perfect — sometimes very poor people are literally “exhausted” out of pursuing meritorious claims — but generally speaking, it works.

So it will not surprise you at all to learn that ICR has not exhausted its administrative remedies. The section attempting to justify their failure to exhaust those remedies — paragraphs 29 through 35 — are nonsensical. Essentially, despite admitting that their administrative appeal is pending, ICR claims that it is required to bring suit now because of statute of limitations grounds.

This is insane for at least two reasons. First, the statute of limitations begins to run when your cause of action “accrues.” (Statutes of limitations generally exist to prevent you from sitting on your rights for years and then surprising someone way down the line long after the injury occurred.) If you are pursuing an administrative remedy, the law is clear that either a) the cause of action has not yet accrued and/or b) the statute of limitations is equitably tolled during the pendency of the administrative review process. This is common sense: you don’t preclude someone from bringing a claim if they’ve acted consistently with that claim and followed the appropriate procedures.

Secondly, this statute of limitations argument makes no sense in that earlier in the same complaint, ICR alleges that the injury they are suffering is “ongoing.” (It would have to be; otherwise, you can’t get an injunction.) If the harm is “ongoing,” then the statute of limitations — except in certain limited circumstances, like copyright law — hasn’t begin to run.

So the bottom line is that the Complaint itself gives a judge a good reason to dismiss it (for failure to exhaust). Again — as with part (B) above, no sensible lawyer would argue these issues in their Complaint. You would file the Complaint, let the other side move to dismiss, and then raise these points in opposition. Here, ICR’s lawyers have helpfully flagged another easy reason for the federal judge to dismiss their lawsuit outright.

E. The remedy sought in the Complaint is nonsensical.

ICR seeks an “injunction” in their Complaint. As the name might suggest, an injunction generally prohibits someone from doing something. If you are dumping trash on my lawn, for example, I might be able to get an injunction prohibiting you from dumping any more trash on my lawn. Dumping the trash is the behavior I’m seeking to “enjoin” you from doing. But, by and large, I cannot get an “injunction” requiring you, personally, to go pick up the trash. (I can get damages that will pay for someone to clean up my lawn, and in some cases I can get a “mandatory” or “permanent” injunction to force you to comply with prior procedures.) But for the most part, injunctions force you to not do things, not to affirmatively correct things.

You see where this is going.

ICR’s requested injunction (this is part A of “Relief Requested,” on page 63 of the Complaint) is as follows:

Such injunctive relief should include provisions that require THECB’s Commissioner, individually and in his individual capacity as the CEO of the THECB, to mitigate and undo the defendants’ discriminatory actions by promptly approving and granting ICRGS a Certificate of Authority to grant Master of Science degrees in Science Education, with optional minors in Biology, Geology, Astro-geophysics, and General Science.

[italics and bold italics in original]

This is simply not an injunction. It might be characterizable as a request for a writ of mandamus, but of course ICR hasn’t pled it that way. It’s yet another sign that the person writing this complaint has no idea what they’re doing.

I’ve omitted ~100 “factual” paragraphs (because this writeup is already nearing 2,500 words) from the middle because I’m critiquing this from a legal perspective. But rest assured: those paragraphs are equally demented.

The bottom line is that there is literally no way this complaint survives a motion to dismiss.

ADDENDUM: The madness continues! Part 2 of this story analyzes the recent press release put out by the ICR’s lawyer, James J.S. Johnson, and considers some of the issues raised in the comments below.

161 Comments »

  1. Great take down. Not even taking into account the subject matter, having the stupidity of the law mistakes made makes this so much more hilarious.

  2. So any idea why they would file such a ridiculous document? Lawyers generally seem to understand when they are not in their area of expertises. James Johnson apparently does not. There’s a temptation to make a general comparison to what YECs do in general in not understanding when they just don’t have the necessary background. This suggests that they have that problem not just in biology but in law as well. (Given the Kent Hovind history this isn’t an isolated incident either) We may be seeing a large scale version of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

    • tmaxPA said,

      Their meta-strategy is obvious. In fact, the worse their complaint, the better – they want nothing more than to be ‘dismissed’. Feeds the persecution complex they’ve built up into a world-view.

      • Thelonious said,

        I was thinking the same thing, but thinking also in terms of the PR spin they’ll put on it – “We can’t even get our day in court”

  3. Andrew said,

    My amateur psychoanalysis would be that it’s relatively easy to fool yourself into thinking you know more than you do. Law students do this all the time, for example, including yours truly back in the day.

    (EDITED to clarify that I am not currently a law student; that was 15 years ago!)

    • Sili said,

      There’s a research paper on that; it’s mentioned quite often by Ben Goldacre: “Unskilled and Unaware of It”, I think it is.

      Scary, really. I’m seeing the traits in our accountant here at the school at the moment.

      • MHB said,

        AKA a “Palin”

    • me said,

      As the saying goes stupid people think they know everything, smart people know they know nothing.

  4. John the Skeptic said,

    One of the things that I found to be amusing is that in footnote 4, the plaintiffs cited a patent law case to allege subject matter jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgment Act. Needless to say, the MedImmune case they cited bears no relationship to their complaint.

  5. JackC said,

    Excellent work. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for this.

    As for “Why” this would be done. let’s see…

    The ICR wants to have a degree program listed which Texas believes to be inadequate and therefore refuses to list the degree. The ICR is also intent on removing much in the way of detailed analysis with respect to scientific argument and understanding from the classroom. They appear to believe that conferral of a degree without adequate study is as valuable as one that does have adequate study and is conferred adequately.

    I think I see a pattern there. They obtained their lawyer from their own education system. Brilliant!

    JC

  6. Andrew said,

    John the Skeptic,

    That’s an excellent point, and it highlights yet more craziness. First, every lawyer knows there’s no such thing as a “See, accord” signal (which is what the Complaint uses to flag the MedImmune decision). This is a weird hodgepodge of two actual signals — 1) “see,” which a lawyer uses when a case directly supports the proposition for which the case is cited; and 2) “accord,” which a lawyer uses to highlight other cases applying the same or similar standard but with different facts. “See, accord” is something a nonlawyer trying to pretend he understands the lingo might say.

    This strange “See, accord” non-signal rears its head elsewhere; see, e.g., footnotes 38 and 57, so it’s not simply a typo. In the same vein, footnote 40 uses the phrase “E.g., see,” which gets the signal backwards.

    Worse, the MedImmune decision’s analysis of Ex Parte Young that the ICR cites has nothing to do with the proposition for which it is cited in footnote 4. All the MedImmune decision stands for in that context is that the plaintiff can seek declaratory relief as to the constitutionality of a statute without first violating it; that the threat of harm itself gives rise to a cause of action.

    That’s arguably tangentially related to the ICR’s lawsuit (because they claim that they are being “threatened” by the THECB, I guess), but it has nothing to do with the specific proposition for which MedImmune is cited in footnote 4, which relates to particular named defendants identified in their individual as well as representative capacities.

    The more I look at it, the more this is a cargo-cult complaint. It sort of looks like something a real lawyer might file, but without any understanding of why real complaints look the way they do.

  7. Thanks for your critique. I enjoy thlearning about law but I often need it translated.

  8. Kurt Denke said,

    Andrew, a few notes:

    I spent 19 years as a civil rights litigator doing Section 1983 work, and I would say that I have never seen such a horrible complaint drafted by an actual lawyer. This sort of thing is characteristic of crazy people (who, as you may know, do file a lot of Section 1983 litigation). Your comments on the pleading work are all spot-on.

    I am not sure you’ve correctly characterized their main claim, however. I do think they’ll lose, but I think that the question, properly characterized, is not whether restrictions on their right to advertise are proper, but whether the standards for determining whether they have the right to grant the underlying degrees are proper (or, alternatively, whether those standards have been applied in an improper manner). I think that what they’re trying to get at–and it is badly, inartfully done–is that because the state will not allow them to grant the degrees, and because the state’s reasons for denying them this right are thought to be motivated by some sort of religious prejudice, they are being denied the equal protection of the laws. Equal protection claims go to “strict scrutiny” analysis if the inequality is based upon a “suspect classification” or if the unequal treatment implicates a “fundamental right,” and I would assume that, if the plaintiff’s counsel ever gets his issues sorted out right, he’ll be arguing that the free exercise of religion is such a fundamental right (correct), and that the denial of the right to issue these degrees on the basis of the religious content of the curriculum, while others with different religious views are granted the right to issue such degrees, is a denial of equal protection of the laws (incorrect, I would think). I think the real offense, in the plaintiff’s eyes, is that the state won’t let it grant the degrees, and the point being made about advertising is to highlight that the state’s refusal to allow the degrees has real adverse consequences for the plaintiff.

    Now, I think that claim is meritless, but I think it would ordinarily probably survive a motion to dismiss. I would not expect it to get past summary judgment. However, US District Judges are notorious for their interest in trimming down their dockets, and given that the complaint is such a nightmare and basically telegraphs, from page one, that the plaintiff doesn’t know which end is up, I would not be surprised if this particular case fails to get past 12(b)(6). If I were the judge, I would be tempted to dismiss the complaint, with leave to amend, on the basis that it does not present a plain and simple claim for relief, in the hopes that the plaintiff’s counsel would get the idea and submit something ten to twenty pages long, double-spaced, and clear.

    On administrative remedy exhaustion: I don’t know what on earth (well, maybe something thought not to dwell on earth…) motivated him to make such a production of that in the complaint. But actually, exhaustion of administrative remedies is never, as such, a requirement in an action under 42 USC 1983. There are things that look like exhaustion: for example, it may be a defense in an action for denial of procedural due process that the plaintiff had state-law process available to him which he did not take advantage of, and in some cases a US District Court will abstain because pending state-law proceedings may resolve the underlying controversy. But exhaustion, as such, simply is not required to present a 1983 claim. If the State of Texas were engaged in enforcing unlawful discriminatory policies, or enforcing facially neutral policies in a discriminatory manner, against the plaintiff, the plaintiff would be under no obligation to exhaust administrative remedies. It might be wise to exhaust them–if you don’t, the defense will always argue that had you pursued your state-law remedies, the result might well have been different–but it is not a requirement, and it is unlikely that this case will go down on a motion to dismiss on that basis.

    Anyhow: what a crazy bit of litigation. It will be interesting to see how the State proceeds on defense…

    Kurt

    • Andrew said,

      Kurt: I agree with you almost entirely here. I do think that the advertising bit is the only way you can even plausibly get to a First Amendment claim. But none of this makes any sense.

      • Kurt Denke said,

        One of the most important things which people not experienced in Section 1983 work tend to omit is to do a really, really careful analysis of the claims before filing. If I were put in the position of representing these people (FSM Forbid!) I would try to identify a single, solid, good claim and make a sort of wham-bam tactical strike, rather than file a complaint that tosses everything into the mix.

        My assessment, based on what I’ve seen, is that they haven’t got a good claim anywhere. If I had to take a shot on their behalf, I’d probably go with something on the order of an assault on the statute governing what can be called a “degree”, and I’d argue that the statute is overly broad relative to its purpose (which seems to be in the nature of consumer protection) and that statute and regulations fail to provide meaningful criteria for evaluating degree programs, tending to make the process arbitrary and susceptible to discriminatory application. Then, I’d plug my nose and argue that just because ICR’s degree programs involve a denial of mainstream science, that doesn’t mean that they’re not legitimately educational, especially in the limited sense which, I would argue, was required if the only objective of the statute is consumer protection. I would argue that the absence of objective statutory and regulatory guidance, coupled with the philosophical prejudices of the agency, led to a result which is the product of religious discrimination and which therefore violates both the free exercise clause and the equal protection clause.

        Not, to be absolutely clear, that I think that would actually be a GOOD argument. Rather, it is an argument that should fail, for various reasons (I’m not tedious enough to set them all out here…). But it would be, in my view, about the closest thing to a winning argument which the circumstances allow.

        Kurt

    • fgenej11 said,

      So, are you saying that anyone who believes in creation is insane. You used that word several times in your rant. The last time I checked,The Theory of Evolution was indeed still a theory, since it cannot at all be proven.. I believe there is a little problem with nobody, actually being there at the time, accept for maybe God. But, I guess you feel that He wouldn’t know anything about it even though He was an eye witness who cannot lie. But then you have to believe He exists before you would actually listen to Him. Now tell me, How exactly did you prove that He doesn’t exist? The same way you proved evolution? You just believe it without proof. Why then, am I insane?

      • Andrew said,

        fgenej,

        I don’t mean to offend. But I don’t really know a better word for someone who thinks that the earth is 6,000 years old. This contradicts not only the evidences from biology (the theory of evolution), but also anthropology, archaeology, history, astronomy, geology, chemistry, physics, and probably a few other disciplines that aren’t coming to mind right now.

      • Spiv said,

        Funny, I was reading “insane” as “incapable of representing/responsibility of one self in a legal manner.” However, anyone still arguing the “just a theory” garbage is either dishonest or ignorant. If, by some chance you’re simply ignorant, go to either of these places and read:

        http://www.notjustatheory.com/
        http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html

        There is a third option, which would imply that you were incapable of understanding this very basic principle of the word “theory.” However, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.

      • imaginarylandscape said,

        fgenej11,

        You’ve fallen into that trap that so many die hard “cultural” Christians fall into: you can’t disprove it, so therefore it’s true… or a similar ending to that: therefore it’s possible it’s true. It’s simply a fallacy that, applied to the rest of what you deal with in life, would make life unlivable. You can’t prove that someone doesn’t come into your house while you sleep every night, steals everything, but replaces it with exact identical copies. Must be true. Don’t bother staying up at night to wait for them. They’re smart. They won’t show up if you’re awake.

      • Earthling48 said,

        fgenej,

        If you want to convince anyone that God created the world, the burden of proof is on you to provide valid, convincing evidence that God exists. Even though the Bible is very special to you, it is just a book and is not sufficient in itself to prove the existence of God. You need to provide tangible, empirical, convincing evidence.

        If God doesn’t exist, then none of the actions attributed to him are true.

        If you cannot prove his existence, we have no reason to consider your claim to be the default position.

        • GP said,

          There is no burden, on anybody, to prove that God exists. There are GLARING holes in Darwin’s theory. There are inconsistencies. And there have been recent adjustments to his biological drawings, in order to hide some of the flaws of Darwin’s original thinking. In short: Revisionist history. America is full of adults who, as children in the public school system (which is a socialist creation, by the way), were conditioned by their teachers to accept Darwinism because it presents itself as fact. When, in FACT, it is a theory. At some point, a mature person has to stop the belittling of others so that he can objectively consider that what he had been taught as a child might not be the whole truth. Instead, we have lots of little experts running around parroting each other as if what they were taught as a child is the end all, be all. I can no more prove that God does or doesn’t exist, just as an atheist can no more prove that everything was created by accident-Because neither of us was there! The “accident” theory means that everything is an accident: You are an accident, the love you have for your child is an accident, etc. Or is there somehow a level of PURPOSE involved? Can it be that there exists the possibility that the universe, the earth, and its contents have purpose? Purpose is all around us: The sun fuels plants, which produce oxygen, which fuels humans, who therefore produce carbon dioxide, which fuels plants. How a person can marvel at creation and its complexity, and know damn well that things have been designed somehow to operate in sync with one another, yet scoff at the idea of a creator, is the ultimate height of humanistic ignorance. I love how this one stupid lawsuit topic is built up as a Christianity strawman that you humanists have been busy burning down, in an effort to say “See! God doesn’t exist!”

        • GP, there seem to be a large number of mistakes in what you are saying.

          For example, you seem confused about the scientific definition of a theory. A theory is not a “guess” in the sense that people mean it when they say “I have a theory.” A theory is a hypothesis which has been well-tested and has broad explanatory power. Thus, we talk about the atomic theory or the theory of gravity. This doesn’t make the existence of atoms or the existence of gravity any more tentative. (Note that there are a few other, slightly different, definitions of theory that a scientist might use but they are about the same as this one to a close approximation)

          I’m honestly not sure what you are talking about when you say that “there have been recent adjustments to his biological drawings, in order to hide some of the flaws of Darwin’s original thinking.” This sounds like a very garbled version of the classic story of Haeckel’s embryos. Haeckel was a biologist who did most of his work shortly after Darwin and developed ideas relating the development of embryos to their evolutionary history. There were problems with some of his claims and reports. Discussing them in detail would take a while. However, there appears to be a more fundamental problem here in your understanding of science: You seem to think that there is a desire “to hide flaws of Darwin’s original thinking” as if somehow problems with Darwin are problems for evolution. That’s not how science works. Science changes. It adapts to knew evidence. Darwin got many things wrong. For example, Darwin had no understanding of how genes function and that effected much of what he wrote (indeed, when Mendel did his work on peas, Darwin more or less ignored it, not at all realizing how significant it was to his own work). Evolution as understood today shares basic similarities with that as outlined by Darwin, but not much else. And that’s ok. That’s how good science works.

          You also seem to insist on a false dichotomy of evolution against Christianity. Many Christians accept evolution. Francis Collins and Ken Miller for example are both prominent biologists who are religious Christians.

          You also seem to think that if one can’t prove something that somehow puts it on equal ground. That’s not how either science or life work. If you find crumbs near your kid and a cookie missing from the cookie jar you don’t say “oh. He says he didn’t do it. I can’t prove he took the cookie so I’ll just assume he didn’t.” You evaluate the evidence and make a conclusion of what likely happened. That’s exactly what scientists do. In the situation of evolution, the evidence is fairly overwhelming. We can’t prove much of it, just as we can’t prove almost anything in life. Proof is for mathematicians and alcohol. For the rest of life, we need to be happy with what the evidence shows. In this case, what it shows is pretty clear.

          Frankly, you don’t seem to know much about what you are talking about. You misunderstood what the term “theory” means. You constructed some garbled claim about Haeckel’s embyros that betrayed not only ignorance of the subject but also fundamental misunderstandings of how science functions. And that’s just for starters. Earlier, in this thread there was discussion of the Dunning-Kruger effect. This effect is the tendency for people who know the least about a subject presume they know quite a bit. You seem to be demonstrating just that. So please, pick up a basic science textbook. Read a bit about how the scientific method works. Then pick up an undergraduate evolutionary biology textbook. After you’ve read that, you might have the knowledge to participate in this discussion. But right now, you are just making yourself look like a fool.

        • James P said,

          Joshua

          Just wanted to say how much I liked your remark: “Proof is for mathematicians and alcohol”

          Very apposite!

        • GP
          Wow, it’s like someone make a computerized expert-system to comb the interwebs for Creationist/Christian Right bullet points, then post them here. From ToE’s incompleteness to Haekel’s drawings to the evils of “socialist” public schools to “it’s just a theory”…all in just the first five sentences!

          “There is no burden, on anybody, to prove that God exists.”
          There sure as hell is if you want Him in science class! Or sex-ed! Or Law! Or…!

          “At some point, a mature person has to stop the belittling of others so that he can objectively consider that what he had been taught as a child might not be the whole truth.”
          Considering the hack job you just did on the Theory of Evolution, at best that statement is a tu quoque.

          “The “accident” theory means that everything is an accident: You are an accident, the love you have for your child is an accident, etc.”
          Actually, if the universe is purely deterministic, then nothing is an accident (but terms like “accident” and “purpose” are meaningless without an agent behind them).

          “The sun fuels plants, which produce oxygen, which fuels humans, who therefore produce carbon dioxide, which fuels plants.”
          Billions of years of evolution and many times more than that of failures of evolution will do that. You’re the end result of an unbroken chain of successes. What you’re forgetting is how many other chains never made it this far. The wins are a pittance compared to the failures.

          “How a person can marvel at creation and its complexity, and know damn well that things have been designed somehow to operate in sync with one another…”
          Tell that to my prostate.

          “…yet scoff at the idea of a creator…”
          Hey, Creator! Look at my prostate!

          “…is the ultimate height of humanistic ignorance”
          Hey! Another tu quoque! Woo!

  9. Lowell said,

    Thanks for writing that up, Andrew. It was fun, and it spared me the agony of having to read that monstrosity of a complaint.

    (The court should sanction the attorneys who filed this thing, by the way, even though I know it probably won’t.)

    I do have one issue with your analysis regarding injunctive relief. In my understanding, it’s not necessarily negative relief ordering a party not to do something. It can also be positive. My Black’s (7th ed.) defines an injunction as “a court order commanding or preventing an action.”

    I have a case right now where my clients are seeking an injunction ordering the state to take certain positive steps in the future. I’m going to double-check on whether that’s appropriate now, so thanks for raising the issue.

    • Steve said,

      You’re right. Injunctive relief can command or prohibit.

      • Calvin said,

        There is a “mandatory” or “positive injunction,” but (as Andrew says below) I think what the ICR is asking for here goes far beyond that. It would help if the complaint clearly set out the cause(s) of action allaeged instead of forcing us to guess.

  10. Kurt Denke said,

    Come to think of it, that’s the other thing I was going to mention. Injunctive relief certainly can be positive and is not limited to “prohibitory” content. However, of course, the relief ordinarily is tailored to the wrong, and so if the plaintiff here were successful, the nature of the success would determine the scope of the relief. The state might be obligated only to consider the application without reliance upon the challenged policy, for example. One runs into that in procedural due process cases: the relief might, in the right sort of case, wind up just being a hearing on the merits, which may itself end adversely.

    In other words: even if the plaintiff shows that it was wronged, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a different result should have been reached, and the Court might well decline to grant the sort of full injunctive relief requested in the complaint.

    Kurt

    • Andrew said,

      Kurt and Lowell: fair criticism; I definitely oversimplified here. I still think it is literally unprecedented to request an injunction requiring someone to do something as open-ended as the request for relief here. But I should have spoken more precisely; thanks for calling me on that.

  11. Paul said,

    Here’s my question: In the complaint, they claim that Texas Supreme Court rulings bar people from making an “epistemological judgments” of truth about religious claims. So they are arguing that their attempts to give an MS degree in “Science Education” is based on religion. But then then double back and claim they are teaching science, but are not subject to the same tests and rigor that other sciences are required to have. It seems to me they are actually admitting that what they are teaching isn’t science in order to invoke First Amendment protection of their religious views.

    • Andrew said,

      Paul: As an added bonus, the advertising claim makes reference to the fact that ICR was (formerly) permitted to award M.S. degrees in California… under a religious exemption. So yeah, the facts underlying this complaint are somewhat south of “consistent.”

      (Typically, you can plead inconsistent claims in the alternative within a single lawsuit, but you can’t plead inconsistent facts within the same claim.)

  12. Nathaniel said,

    Andrew,

    That was amusing. Well done.

    Perhaps this exercise will help you to understand how most people with training in history view the writings of the Jesus-mythers.

    • MartinH said,

      Nathaniel, please expand on this comment. I find the hypothesis of “Jesus as myth” the best explanation of the data as I understand it.

      Can you list some of the egregious errors the Jesus-mythers make?

      • Nathaniel said,

        Martin,

        I could list some of them briefly — their tendency to accept numerous false facts passed on by the likes of Gerald Massey; their low standards for judging “parallels”; their jumbling together supposed precursors with accounts that are subsequent to the publication of the gospels (e.g. Philostratus’s Life of Apollonius); their grasping at conspiracy theories in the face of evidence that has produced a virtual consensus among credentialed scholars of all persuasions (e.g. regarding the non-interpolated version of the Testimonium Flavianum — see Alice Whealey’s thorough treatment of the state of modern scholarship on this question); their lack of attention to the context of Palestinian Second Temple Judaism, which makes syncretism of this sort extraordinarily unlikely; etc.

        But it would really be better for me just to point you to this book, which has a pretty good takedown of the whole genre. The authors give extended consideration to the theories of G. A. Wells, Earl Doherty, and Robert Price.

      • MartinH said,

        Nathaniel

        Thanks for the references – I will certainly purchase “The Jesus Legend,” though I confess I am skeptical about its content from what I saw in the Amazon preview.

        If I may, let me beg your indulgence and ask you to answer a few more questions.

        1. If I have questions or comments on the material, where would be a good place to engage with some knowledgeable people on the web?

        2. What is your personal judgment of the probability the “Jesus-mythers’ are actually correct? [Based on the textual evidence, and not assuming philosophical naturalism] I’m looking for a number, which I’m sure would be rough, an order of magnitude -e.g. 1 in a million, 1 in a thousand…

        3. What level of probability could someone else assign to the same evidence with the same assumptions before you felt they were departing significantly from standards of historical argument?

        4. Similarly for Josephus, what is your judgment of the probability the Testimonium is an interpolation?

        Thanks!

        Martin

      • Nathaniel said,

        Martin,

        Glad to hear you’ll be looking at the Boyd and Eddy. It’s a good piece of work.

        For your questions:

        1. If I have questions or comments on the material, where would be a good place to engage with some knowledgeable people on the web?

        Stephen C. Carlson’s blog Hypotyposes would be one good place to go. Jason Engwer over at Triablogue does his homework well and is courteous in conversation, though I cannot say the same for some of the other bloggers there. Christopher Price (“layman”) at Christian Cadre is another thoughtful blogger who sometimes engages with the historical material. By all means see Glenn Miller’s discussion of the issue at the Christian Think Tank; Glenn does his homework and is happy to entertain thoughtful questions.

        2. What is your personal judgment of the probability the “Jesus-mythers’ are actually correct? [Based on the textual evidence, and not assuming philosophical naturalism] I’m looking for a number, which I’m sure would be rough, an order of magnitude -e.g. 1 in a million, 1 in a thousand…

        Vanishing — I wouldn’t lay a bet in their favor at trillion-to-one odds. The position is completely bankrupt.

        3. What level of probability could someone else assign to the same evidence with the same assumptions before you felt they were departing significantly from standards of historical argument?

        Exact numbers here are, as you note, not the sorts of things we can compute. But if someone thought that there were significantly more than a chance in a million that they were right, I would have to question either his knowledge of the facts or his judgment.

        4. Similarly for Josephus, what is your judgment of the probability the Testimonium is an interpolation?

        There are really two questions here: (a) is the Testimonium a wholesale interpolation, and (b) has it suffered interpolations.

        Like the overwhelming majority of historians who specialize in this period, I am persuaded by the evidence that the Testimonium as we have it has almost certainly suffered interpolations (“He was the Christ …” as opposed to “He was believed to be the Christ”) by some boneheaded Christian scribe.

        Numbers? Perhaps something on the order of 1000 to 1 odds in favor of the hypothesis of interpolation of the more overtly Christian phrases. The idea that the entire passage as it stands was authentic Josephus is just barely possible, but does not deserve serious consideration.

        The idea that the whole thing is an interpolation is down in the same category: barely possible, but not (given the evidence we have) worthy of serious consideration.

        The idea that the other reference to Jesus at Antiquities 20.200 is also an interpolation is a complete non-starter. I made Andrew the offer that if he could find any living, credentialied historian or classicist with an academic affiliation and a specialty in the first century who thinks both passages are complete interpolations, I will read that scholar’s work. (I’ve already read G. A. Wells, Richard Carrier, and Robert Price, even though none of them, so far as I know, meets all of these criteria.) So far, no references have been forthcoming. That’s how overwhelming the consensus of professional historians and classicists is that at least one of the references is authentic.

      • MartinH said,

        Nathaniel

        I really appreciate your detailed responses. I’d love to continue this conversation and explore your evaluation of the probabilities more, but this seems not to be the forum. I’ll content myself with observing that a confidence level of one in a trillion, even one in a million, against “Jesus as myth” – given the textual evidence of which I am aware – is astonishing to me. I now expect great things from the Boyd and Eddy book.

        Martin

      • Nathaniel said,

        Martin,

        If you have a blog, point me to it; you can blog on it and I’d be willing to drop by when I have time.

        Perhaps the single most important thing to realize about the Jesus-myth position is that arguments from silence, which are absolutely critical to the myther position, are generally terribly weak. If we started applying them to secular historical records in the same way that people like Wells and Doherty apply them to this question, the result would be preposterous on its face. So the best antidote to Jesus-mything is not simply a rehearsal of the existing evidence for the existence of Jesus (though that is perfectly adequate) but a working knowledge of some other aspect of ancient history that also involves the evaluation of written sources.

        While I’m at it, I forgot to give you a link to this website, which has, by internet standards, well-researched debunkings of most of the purported pagan parallel “Saviors.” Other parts of Phil’s website are under construction, but that page is adequately finished.

      • MartinH said,

        Nathaniel

        I have no blog, unfortunately.

        From a Bayesian point of view, it comes down to the question of whether the textual evidence as it is would be more likely to arise under the “Jesus as myth” hypothesis or under the “Jesus as reality” hypothesis. If the former, then it weakens the prior probability of “Jesus as reality,” if the latter, then it strengthens it.

        The probability that the “Jesus as reality” creates the existing corpus is certainly not 1, since Paul’s near-silence on the ministry is peculiar and not what one would expect, but let us assume 1 for the sake of argument.

        If I assume that you don’t apply a huge prior probability in favor of “Jesus as reality” then given the probability 1 accepted above then I must interpet your 1 in a trillion to mean that the probability of finding the attributes of the extant corpus of texts after 2000 years in the “Jesus as myth” world is vanishingly small. This is what I find astonishing. All we seem to need is an existing community of Christ mythologists for Paul to wrangle with, a Mark to create the first gospel, a scribe or two to interpolate in Josephus and the climate to propagate the interpolation and we have the myth and the texts.

      • Nathaniel said,

        Martin,

        Thanks for the further thoughts.

        From a Bayesian point of view, it comes down to the question of whether the textual evidence as it is would be more likely to arise under the “Jesus as myth” hypothesis or under the “Jesus as reality” hypothesis. If the former, then it weakens the prior probability of “Jesus as reality,” if the latter, then it strengthens it.

        This is almost right; it assumes that the textual evidence is screened off from the other evidence (e.g. the archaeological evidence, the sheer fact of the explosive growth of the primitive church, various arguments from prophecy, etc.) conditional on Jesus’ existence and conditional on his non-existence.

        If you have an interest in Bayesian approaches to the subject, you might want to have a look at this paper.

        The probability that the “Jesus as reality” creates the existing corpus is certainly not 1, since Paul’s near-silence on the ministry is peculiar and not what one would expect, but let us assume 1 for the sake of argument.

        Strictly speaking, probabilities of 1 are not generally available in historical (or scientific) work. Allowing for that, I think the drift of this claim is simply false. The “near silence” argument is incredibly weak; you could not get away with the application of something like this to, say, the letters of Pliny. What we have from Paul is explained far, far better by the existence of Jesus more or less as he appears in the gospels than by his non-existence. So the Pauline corpus favors – indeed, I would say, strongly favors – his existence.

        If I assume that you don’t apply a huge prior probability in favor of “Jesus as reality” then given the probability 1 accepted above then I must interpet your 1 in a trillion to mean that the probability of finding the attributes of the extant corpus of texts after 2000 years in the “Jesus as myth” world is vanishingly small.

        This is pretty much correct; I could finesse it a bit, but I don’t think that would substantially change the point.

        This is what I find astonishing. All we seem to need is an existing community of Christ mythologists for Paul to wrangle with, …

        Which we simply would not get in the context of Second Temple Judaism. See S. Freyne, Galilee and the Gospels (2000), R. Reich, “The Great Mikvah Debate,” BAR March/April, 1993, and E. M. Meyers, “The Pools of Sepphoris,” BAR July/August, 2000.

        In any event, there was not a significant gentile presence in Galilee at the time. See, e.g., Aryeh Kasher, Jews and Hellenistic Cities in Eretz-Israel (1990), E. P. Sanders, “Jesus’ Galilee,” in Dunderberg et al., eds., Fair Play: Diversity and Conflict in Early Christianity (2002), and M. A. Chancey’s doctoral dissertation, “The Myth of a Gentile Galilee,” Duke University, 1999.

        Besides this, you have the awkwardness of trying to explain away 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Galatians 1:19, and the numerous other references throughout the Pauline corpus to the crucifixion and resurrection.

        … a Mark to create the first gospel, …

        Out of whole cloth? When? Why? How did it happen that all of the people who actually knew about the time period at which Jesus was supposed to have lived failed to notice? What about the partly independent accounts in Matthew, Luke, and John? (On the degree of independence, see, among many others, Andrews Norton’s discussion here.) What about the various undesigned coincidences among these gospel accounts? None of this is explained by the mythic hypothesis.

        … a scribe or two to interpolate in Josephus …

        Plus the early loss of all existing copies of, and all references to, the original, uninterpolated Josephan text.

        … and the climate to propagate the interpolation …

        Which doesn’t seem to have arisen early, since apparently the doctored version of the Testimonium was unknown to Origen, who expressly says that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

        … and we have the myth and the texts.

        Actually, you still have to account for the book of Acts and its numerous internal connections to the Pauline epistles as well.

        Additionally, everyone who knew anything about the actual time period and place where the gospels locate Jesus has to have dropped into a black hole so as not to raise a murmer of dissent.

      • Barry Trask said,

        You know, I think that the whole inquiry is sort of upside-down here. The proposition is that there was a Jesus. The question is whether there is evidence sufficient to make a convincing case for the proposition, not whether there is sufficient evidence to negate it. I am always puzzled by the way in which people seem to accept that the burden is upon the skeptic to negate Jesus rather than upon the believer to validate Jesus.

        I am familiar with the arguments made by the apologists on this one and I have not really found them very convincing. There may have been a Jesus, certainly. But the lack of contemporaneous evidence, the thinness of evidence which is not in the nature of advocacy (that is to say, excluding Christian devotional works like the gospels), and the inherent incredibility of large parts of that advocacy material really does strip the positive evidence of any real credibility. There may have been a Jesus, but there is no clear and convincing evidence that there was–only a bunch of tales told well after the fact by people whose credulity seems to have known no bounds, to judge from the strange occurrences related therein. I think that Thomas Huxley’s essay on the Value of Witness to the Miraculous is right on point here.

        And then, of course, is the question: what do you mean by saying that Jesus was real? Surely most of what he does in the gospels is fictional, and so at best what you’ve got is a guy, for a composite of several, at the center of the tales who ran around doing the witty aphorism thing–a kind of Mike Mailway of Judea, who would not be recognized as Jesus by the vast majority of modern followers because–well–he just didn’t do the things, like raising the dead, that make Jesus more interesting than Mike Mailway.

        Whether or not there was a Jesus is, of course, not actually very important to understanding Christianity, which is surely false whether there was a Jesus or not. But the fact that nobody really has any bloody idea whether there was a Jesus or what he might have actually been like is one of Christianity’s little dirty secrets.

        Barry

      • Barry Trask said,

        Oops…I said “a guy, for a composite of several…” This should have read “or,” not “for.”

      • Nathaniel said,

        Barry,

        Your comment here conflates two issues: (a) was there an itinerant Galilean Rabbi named Yeshua who got himself crucified and whose followers came to believe, after the fact, that he had risen from the dead? and (b) did any of the miracles attributed to him, and in particular his resurrection from the dead, actually happen? Having foreclosed discussion of (b), you have given yourself no choice but to try to disentangle fact from fantasy in the narratives. But even among historians who agree with your negative verdict on (b), such as Michael Grant, the evidence for the existence of Jesus in the sense of (a) is considered to be overwhelming.

        You obviously don’t see it that way. I can only suggest that you make an effort to learn something about the evaluation of historical evidence. Pick something secular, some period of Greek or of Roman history. This will largely disentangle the miracles from the matter — and frankly, it’s easier.

        As for Huxley, I happen to think that he was well answered in the late 19th century by Henry Wace. But this is giving Huxley too much credit; for the principal line of argument he advances in “On the Value of Witness to the Miraculous” had been anticipated and eviscerated by the early respondents to Hume such as William Adams and George Campbell.

      • Barry Trask said,

        Oh, my goodness…

        First, to “conflate” twp things is not the same as to discuss both of them. If there were convincing evidence of the biblical miracles, that would be a different scenario. As you well know, there is no evidence of the biblical miracles, and they accordingly cannot be considered to do anything but erode the credibility of their tellers. That’s not conflation; that’s just a fact.

        But I am absolutely astonished that you would mention the name of Henry Wace. You do realize, of course, that Wace was completely disemboweled (a bit more Anglo-Saxon than “eviscerated,” but the same idea) by Huxley in their only public debate? That, by his last essay in that debate, Wace had been reduced to an incoherent, blithering, nasty little troll? Huxley’s handling of Wace was absolutely the most artful bit of stupid-baiting I have ever seen, a thing of rhetorical beauty. I doubt Wace ever walked straight again.

        And, as I guess you don’t recall: Wace had no answer at all to Huxley’s Value of Witness to the Miraculous. None. He gave up, presumably because the humiliation he’d already endured, as Huxley demonstrated Wace’s poor grasp of philosophy, of theology, and of biblical criticism, was warning enough not to wade into deep pools.

        Golly…if Henry Wace is the sort of fellow you think actually makes a good argument, you have a very odd taste for argument. Wace would make a good martyr to worship, if crucifixion in the course of a debate is as good a martyrdom as crucifixion in the ordinary, literal sense…

        Barry

      • Nathaniel said,

        Barry,

        You write:

        As you well know, there is no evidence of the biblical miracles, and they accordingly cannot be considered to do anything but erode the credibility of their tellers. That’s not conflation; that’s just a fact.

        As I well know, there is indeed evidence for the biblical miracles. Your assertion to the contrary does nothing to advance the discussion, though it does confirm my original impression. For a secular discussion of the value of Hume’s argument against the credibility of reported miracles, you might want to have a look at this book.

        You do realize, of course, that Wace was completely disemboweled (a bit more Anglo-Saxon than “eviscerated,” but the same idea) by Huxley in their only public debate?

        [... further drooling praise of Huxley omitted ...]

        And, as I guess you don’t recall: Wace had no answer at all to Huxley’s Value of Witness to the Miraculous. None. He gave up, …

        Really? Is that why he published this book on the subject in 1895, six years after their exchange? You will note Wace’s explanation on p. v of the Preface for the termination of the dispute with Huxley’s final paper; it has nothing to do with the quality of Huxley’s arguments but was due rather to the decision of the editor of the Nineteenth Century and to Wace’s judgment that Huxley had himself, by backpedaling, conceded the principal points at issue.

        Huxley was an adroit and entertaining controversial writer, but he was neither a philosopher nor a biblical scholar. His sweeping statements about the New Testament reflect little familiarity with the work done beyond the Tubingen school, and as a philosopher he simply retails Hume’s critique of miracles without even pausing to engage with the well-known and devastating rejoinders to Hume by Campbell and others.

  13. Joel Grant said,

    Consider this: in spite of the fact that the suit is without merit, the ICR and their supporters can honestly say that they have sued the government, bravely taking on the forces of Satan and humanism, and this is expensive, and please give us money.

    Hiring a good lawyer might be expensive.

  14. Aaron said,

    Lawyers generally seem to understand when they are not in their area of expertises.

    And why would you think this would stop Creationists?

    If I’ve learned anything from debating them, it’s that (they think) lack of expertise is NEVER a reason to not engage in an argument, as long as the subject matter is important to you.

  15. Geoff said,

    Maybe they’re being really clever, putting out this horrible document, in the hopes that someone competent would give it the devil’s advocate treatment (like Kurt’s comment above, treating their claims in the most positive, or least negative, possible light). They can then skim these arguments, and assemble a marginally better second attempt, after getting increased donations by suing the government (as suggested by Joel).

  16. Awesome McCool said,

    ICR’s take on all of this is absolutely piss-your-pants hilarious, incidentally.
    http://www.icr.org/article/4598/

    • eyesoars said,

      Wow! That is some concentrated laugh-out-loud deranged accidental hilarity there. Thanks for the link & laugh.

      My how they’re persecuted — we’re _laughing_ at them. Such cruelty.

      /es

  17. RBH said,

    Joel Grant said

    Consider this: in spite of the fact that the suit is without merit, the ICR and their supporters can honestly say that they have sued the government, bravely taking on the forces of Satan and humanism, and this is expensive, and please give us money.

    I had a related thought: This complaint is not designed (!) to win a suit, or even a hearing on the suit, but rather to set the stage for another Christian persecution myth with an immediate tactical goal.

    That is, I suggest that it’s a punching bag purposely tossed out to be punched just in order that ICR can say to its adherents “Christians are under attack!” And many of those adherents, I add, are residents and voters of Texas, in whose legislature a bill has been introduced to exempt institutions like ICR from the onerous requirement of actually meeting the requirements of the THECB with respect to awarding degrees.

  18. Tualha said,

    But, you see, they will prevail in court. They can’t help but prevail in court. Because God is on their side.

    Or so they perceive it. And this is why they never ever learn. They never say, gee, we’ll have to learn how the law works before we do that again. We’ll have to avoid committing perjury when there’s video evidence of what we said. We’ll have to have some arguments that make sense.

    No, they never say that. They just say, it’s part of God’s plan that we lost this one. We’ll win in the end. Stay the course.

    • Matt said,

      That hasn’t helped them before, examples such as the Dover trial spring immediately to mind.

      I guess God never passed the bar exam.

    • GP said,

      Maybe they don’t own Christianity? Did any of you ever think about that?

      I don’t let Hitler and his genocidal, “Gee, look at all of these mistakes and let’s get rid of them” ideology speak for atheists. So why is THIS particular group being heralded as the mouthpiece for belief in God?

      Man, when thinking in humanistic terms, can skew data, stats, research, and even claim that a person in history didn’t even exist, if it means that the conclusion HE believes to be right is arrived upon.

      If this doesn’t speak to the wretchedness of the condition of man, when he looks within himself for the answers and will toil endlessly to prove that he is right and everybody else is wrong, nothing else will. Man will do whatever it takes to champion himself as having figured everything out. Just come to me! I solved it!

      There is much smugness on the side of atheists AND Christians, and I’m a Christian. There is a wide array of atheists who are sincere in their unbelief, and then there are some who are obnoxious and arrogant about it. I have found, in this blog, that the vast majority of atheists are smug about their absoluteness. There is also a wide array of Christians who are sincere in their belief, but the vast majority of the ones that seem to hold the microphone are the ones that shouldn’t be doing the talking. Agreed?

      A little less obnoxiousness, on both sides, would be great. And I’ve probably come across as obnoxious, due to my frustrations with how this debate generally goes between the two groups of people. So for that, I would apologize for what might seem as me being smug.

      • James P said,

        “the vast majority of atheists are smug about their absoluteness. There is also a wide array of Christians who are sincere..”

        Atheists are smug, but Christians are sincere? There’s a lot I could deduce from that, but you’d only accuse me of being impolite.

        • GP said,

          Uh…you are PARSING, James.

          How about this little gem I wrote in the very same post you quoted me on:

          This is ALSO what I said, James: “There is much smugness on the side of atheists AND Christians, and I’m a Christian. There is a wide array of atheists who are sincere in their unbelief, and then there are some who are obnoxious and arrogant about it. I have found, in this blog, that the vast majority of atheists are smug about their absoluteness. There is also a wide array of Christians who are sincere in their belief, but the vast majority of the ones that seem to hold the microphone are the ones that shouldn’t be doing the talking. Agreed?”

          I easily cop to the atheist’s gripe that Christians need to cool it with the Church Lady routine. But you only shared one snippet.

          It’s on both sides more times than not. It’s a rare thing, and yet it’s also a great thing, when the atheist and the Christian can discuss things without resorting to insulting each other. All I can say is read my other posts, which I think shows that I’m probably on here with an attitude of being contributor and not a sniper.

        • GP “It’s a rare thing, and yet it’s also a great thing, when the atheist and the Christian can discuss things without resorting to insulting each other.”
          Try learning about “Darwinism” before you pontificate on its failure, and you’ll go along way to promoting a good discussion. (start with these: Your Inner Fish, Making of the Fittest, Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Relics of Eden).
          Don’t take a dump in my house, and I won’t in yours.

          …and I may have put comments to one post in the wrong place. Wups.

      • GP “Maybe they don’t own Christianity? Did any of you ever think about that?”
        Yes. Who are the True Christians™? How can I tell the difference? More importantly, when are the Real True Christians™ going to crack down on these pesky False True Christians™, so that there’s only one Official Brand of True Christians™?

        “Man, when thinking in humanistic terms, can skew data, stats, research, and even claim that a person in history didn’t even exist, if it means that the conclusion HE believes to be right is arrived upon.”
        And thinking in theistic terms helps, how? (see above)

        “If this doesn’t speak to the wretchedness of the condition of man, when he looks within himself for the answers and will toil endlessly to prove that he is right and everybody else is wrong, nothing else will.”
        The what of the condition of who?

        “Man will do whatever it takes to champion himself as having figured everything out. Just come to me! I solved it!”
        Sounds more like Fundamentalism, to me. I’m quite aware that I don’t have all the answers. This, I freely admit. I’m not trying enshrine my ignorance by forcing the State to issue me a diplomas on same.

        “I have found, in this blog, that the vast majority of atheists are smug about their absoluteness.”
        I don’t know if this helps, but I am pretty confident in just about nothing, and I’m not even absolutely sure about that. Even bananas, which I despise, I don’t hate absolutely (thanks to banana bread). If God is (or are), I’m reasonably certain that, aside from the deist possibility, it’s none of the ones of the various “revealed religions”, which bear all too clearly the marks of their human origin (either that, or God’s kind of an asshole, which is another possibility I can’t discount).

  19. Tualha said,

    Actually…thinking about this a little more, I wonder how much of this is just for propaganda purposes, directed at fellow fundies and evangelicals. If you’re clueless about the law, as their intended audience is, their ranting about constitutional violations would probably be quite enraging. And the inevitable dismissal will be similarly enraging. Properly spun, this would just be more “evidence” to those people that the U.S. government is out to get them. And that, of course, has a political payoff.

  20. MadScientist said,

    A plea for a writ of mandamus – hahahaha. Yes, it does read that way. “We want the courts to grant us *this* even though we never went through the appropriate channels to obtain what we are demanding.” Could such a petition even be accepted and make it to court? The only reason I can think of that we haven’t heard of it being rejected yet is that the clerks have a lot of more serious petitions to wade through and haven’t got to this one yet. I can hardly wait to hear of the rejection and the ensuing claims of a homosexual-atheist-government conspiracy.

  21. a said,

    “passively surrender its First Amendment rights and permanently discontinue offer [sp]”

    Shouldn’t this be a [sic] since it’s missing a word (‘to’) and not an issue with their spelling?

  22. John Kingman said,

    @ RBH. Which is probably why they filed it now, since there are only about 5 weeks left in the current legislative session.

  23. Me said,

    Seems odd. Maybe I’m just giving them too much credit, but I can’t see how this is accidental, at all. It’s just *too* wacky; it’s not a simple mistake, or them desperately trying to push a case they know they can’t win but they’re trying anyway, they’ve just messed a lot of stuff up in a bizzare way. It has to be intentional, surely?

    I’m with Joel above. Simply by trying to sue in the first place they can make a point of “taking a stand” against the evil atheist government (or whatever). Win or lose, they get support.

    It also helps them play the victim. Religions in general love playing the “wah we’re being persecuted” game, and creationsim as a “science” is basically founded around “science is bullying us :’(” and so forth. By filing a ridiculous claim, they lose and thus solidify the persecution complex that many of their followers have.

    That said, maybe I’m being generous and over analysing. Maybe they just are that dumb. It just seems unlikely that they can do it *that* wrong by accident.

  24. GW said,

    It will be dismiss, yes. But they “win” because it will just fuel their persecution complex.

  25. SourBlaze said,

    Great analysis. But if it is one thing we can all take from creationists, it is that you’re never out of the game as long as you try harder (and have friends in high places, of course).

  26. Melissa said,

    I’m a divorce attorney practicing in Texas. I would never have taken this case, of course, but I can assure you that if I had, I would “spell check” my complaint. I actually cringed when I saw the strange format and errors. All inexperience in civil litigation aside, I truly can’t understand how any self-respecting lawyer could submit a document so poorly drafted.

  27. Rhonan said,

    Given what you have showed us of this, I am sure I could have submitted a pleading that was far superior to this, and I’ve never spent a day in law school. Now, my housemate is a legal secretary and a grammar geek, and I’m a sane and rational person, I’m certain we could have done better. Of course, that’s the rub. Sane and rational people would never think for a minute that people who think the world was created 6000 years ago, over the span of seven literal days, should every have anything to do with the teaching of any form of science.

  28. [...] Myers has posted a link to a blog article (Evaluating Christianity – You Don’t Trust Creationists With Your Science Education… Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Trust The…), which dissects the legal action taken by the Institution for Creation Research against the Texas [...]

  29. H.H. said,

    I do think that the advertising bit is the only way you can even plausibly get to a First Amendment claim.

    I might be reading you wrong here, but I think you’re taking a First Amendment claim to mean a violation of free speech. But the First Amendment also covers freedom of religion, and I agree with Kurt that their angle is going to be religious discrimination.

    This >> “I would assume that, if the plaintiff’s counsel ever gets his issues sorted out right, he’ll be arguing that the free exercise of religion is such a fundamental right (correct), and that the denial of the right to issue these degrees on the basis of the religious content of the curriculum, while others with different religious views are granted the right to issue such degrees, is a denial of equal protection of the laws (incorrect, I would think). I think the real offense, in the plaintiff’s eyes, is that the state won’t let it grant the degrees, and the point being made about advertising is to highlight that the state’s refusal to allow the degrees has real adverse consequences for the plaintiff.”

  30. Peter said,

    Caveat: I am not a lawyer, I am a physicist.
    So what’s your take on the ICR suing members of the board individually and in their official capacity instead of suing the board itself ?

    I skimmed the document with regards to the big bang and the origin of the universe and Earth, as these subjects have an academic interest, and came upon this quote in paragraph 73: “When Earth began, Commissioner Paredes was not there, so he was an eye-witness to Earth’s origin.” isn’t there a “not” missing in that sentence ? It possibly got deleted by accident in the process of making it bold, italic and underlined ;)

  31. Walton said,

    I’m an English law student, so I can’t comment with any expertise on the substantive issue of US constitutional law; but on the procedural point, I want to echo what some have said above. In English law, one can have mandatory injunctions (ordering a party to take a positive action) as well as prohibitory injunctions (ordering a party to refrain from an action), and since injunctions are an equitable remedy, they are fairly open-ended and can be issued in a wide variety of circumstances. I don’t know if this is the same in US federal law or Texas law, of course.

    Moving away from law, on a political point – although I agree with everyone here that the ICR are a bunch of intellectually bankrupt loonies and propaganda artists, I actually think there may be an argument to be made that anyone should be allowed to award degrees without state approval. There is no need for government regulation; the free market will take care of it, as voluntary accreditation programmes (which already exist) will ensure that consumers can get information on whether a given degree course is or is not widely respected. And allowing a completely free market in higher education will allow more scope for innovation and new methods.

    That said, I’m inclined to agree with all the lawyers here (though this isn’t an expert opinion, as I haven’t formally studied US constitutional law) that there’s no merit to the plaintiff’s case under the First Amendment.

    • Paul said,

      Walton,

      There is a substantial problem with letting the free market sort things out and letting anyone grant any sort of degrees they want to give. It begs the question: how does one tell the difference between a legitimate science degree and a science degree based in pseudoscience (like what the ICR wants to do here in TX)? using the same argument, I could call myself a laywer even though I never went to law school or passed the bar. Accreditation serves a very important purpose in maintaining a minimum standard for degree programs and institutions. In fact, it was recommended to the ICR (by the arbitration committee) they could obtain certification for degrees in religious studies since they clearly didn’t meet the definition of “science”–but this is not about granting degrees for them–they are fighting a culture war and are bent on redefining science to fit their theological worldview.

    • Peter said,

      @Walton

      “I actually think there may be an argument to be made that anyone should be allowed to award degrees without state approval.”

      You think anyone should be allowed to issue the degrees of pilots, surgeons, midwives… without state approval and let the market take care of the regulating ?!

      • Walton said,

        “You think anyone should be allowed to issue the degrees of pilots, surgeons, midwives… without state approval and let the market take care of the regulating ?!”

        Yes. Because sensible airlines and hospitals will only hire employees whose qualifications come from an accredited, respected institution. Those airlines and hospitals which don’t take such precautions will quickly lose consumer confidence and go out of business.

    • David Marjanović said,

      the free market will take care of it

      When has the free market ever taken care of false advertising?

      • Matt H said,

        Yes. Because sensible airlines and hospitals will only hire employees whose qualifications come from an accredited, respected institution. Those airlines and hospitals which don’t take such precautions will quickly lose consumer confidence and go out of business.

        Of course, by the time that a sensible employer discovers that their employees are incompetent in their professed subject area, there could be lots of dead people – deaths from plane crashes & medical misconduct. I think that whatever prior restraint is placed on conduct by accrediation is a small price to pay for prevention of larger-scale damage perpetrated by a system designed to fix-after. And please don’t tell me that the courts will allow redress – the same people who want a free market vigorously defend soi-disant ‘tort reform,’ aka letting businesses off the hook by capping damages.

  32. I am a Canadian lawyer and I just wanted to thank-you for your intellectual vivisection of the ICR suit. It’s regrettable that anyone can file a “lawsuit” and the process alone seems to add credence to claims which, if examined reasonably, aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

  33. James P said,

    “bizarre, blog-like use of bold, italics, underline, large and small caps”

    That’s always a give-away, isn’t it? IANAL, but it’s not the done thing for legal submissions, I’m sure. Still, I’m in favour of the action – it can only cost them money that might have been be spent on even crazier projects. :-)

  34. RMM Barrie said,

    Two things in this thread, the legal which has been proven as inane, and the motive. When you have nothing, attack the source, which in this case cannot be done in meaningful forum for them, so put in your argument, in advance, and then all is ready made to sell the converts, and approach the Governor et al. I normally resist forecasting, but we are in for lots of whining from this group of cretins, or should that be creatins. Since they have no steak to sell, they make lots of sizzle.

  35. Paulina Wojnar said,

    thanks for writing this, it’s ‘good’ to catch up on the creationism circus in the states from time to time :)

  36. If you read one of Johnson’s articles at the ICR site, To Tell the Truth: The danger of accommodating Darwinism through false testimony, you’ll note his opinion that because creationism is Truth, any support of Darwinian evolution is false testimony. So his cause is true by definition.

    Aside from that, I agree with others that ICR is looking for the court to “Expel” them. Johnson actually mentions “Expelled” (the movie) in the complaint.

    As for why Johnson took on this case, how many other choices did ICR have? Who would want to be professionally associated with this mess.

    Note also that the Discovery Institute is nowhere to be found in this. They haven’t even mentioned it at their blog.

    • Andrew said,

      I don’t know that I buy the “Expelled” theory. Remember that the ICR has an administrative appeal pending with the THECB that they’re also going to lose; that should be proof enough to satisfy their persecution complexes.

      I really think the ICR thinks they’ve filed something smart here. That’s mind-boggling, I know, but I just don’t see any other plausible explanation.

    • No_Kin_To_A_Monkey said,

      Anything to be seen as a martyr. Par for the course with this crowd.

      BTW, you’re a poopy-head. :)

  37. [...] Evaluating Christianity, Pharyngula, William Lane Craig at 10:35 am by Andrew In addition to my evaluation of the ICR’s recent lawsuit to which PZ linked, hopefully you’ll stick around and find some other posts of interest. [...]

  38. Another over-zealous complaint. It is obvious to anyone reading this that your agenda, not the issue at hand, was the motivating factor in you writing this article. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, nobody likes someone who tries to force an opinion. When you write such an article as this you should let your desire to convey information be your motivator, not your hatred for a particular group or cause. Doing the later causes you to lose all credibility, provided that you had any to begin with.

  39. Your post makes stark serious sense. I’m legally trained (in English and Hong Kong law) but not a practising solicitor/lawyer. We in Hong Kong are starting to see the same kind of problem. Last year in 2008, we had elections for our Legislative Council (our lawmaking body) and District Council (sort of our city hall). Some of Hong Kong’s more moderate politicians lost their seats because the religious hawks (there being no left or right in Hong Kong) were telling our ever-diminishing number of electorates that the moderates were destroying our basic fabric of life because the moderates were in favour of same-sex marriages. The religious hawks have a long history of suing people for no good reason, and they’re quite content to have their suits thrown out or set aside by our courts. The point is, their mission is to cause disruption and inculcate fear. Yes, it’s a little off-topic from your post, but I think it shows a noticeable trend.

  40. Very illuminating parsing, thanks for posting.

  41. Michael said,

    It never ceases to amaze me how the actions of supposed “Christians” are in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ (real or imagined depending on your opinion). I don’t know if the Christian community sides with them simply out of a sense of solidarity (they still love God and Jesus just like we do) or the fact they don’t bother to question their inherent motives or behavior as sinful.

    Hypocrisy, lies, pride, arrogance, not rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Not just this but everything they brought to the table at Kitzmiller vs. Dover. The list goes on and on. One would think they should drop the law books and legal proceedings and return to reading their Bibles, because I think they skipped over some vital details in Matthew.

    (not a law person – biochemist, actually – but love the vivisection of cognitively dissonant text)

  42. BABH said,

    You are making a basic assumption that this brief was written in order to actually win its case. In fact, it was more likely written to be included with fundraising letters. This is why it reads like a direct mailer (including weird attention-grabbing fonts, caps, italics, etc.) and why it has legal arguments on the first page (which is as far as most donors will read – they need to be reassured that there’s a real case here, relying on real law). They know they can’t possibly win. The brief is a snow job to con supporters out of cash.

  43. GP said,

    As a “believer,” I must admit that the overall effectiveness of the litigation might be hampered by the awkward problems that have been addressed by the author of the post.

    Having said that, it doesn’t serve as an “Aha!” moment where an atheist can definitively prove that the idea of creation is wacky. We could each cherry-pick things that support our current beliefs. Andrew has commented in this comments section and has easily admitted that, having looked back on his years and years of lawyering, he can definitely say that he didn’t have it all the ins-and-outs of his profession figured out back in the day.

    If there’s anything as annoying as Christians who cherry-pick to prove their point, it’s an atheist who attempts to do the same thing for his or her cause.

    OK, OK, we “get it.” Those crazy creationists filed a clumsy doc…and so the whole thing is a sham. Without going into Christian apologetics, because it will do little good here in this realm of blogdom, I will say that atheists should be as open to the idea of creationism as they demand others to be open to the idea of atheism. Dialogue is the key. I can’t prove there’s an afterlife no more than an atheist can prove there isn’t–Because neither of us have been there yet.

    I also have to wonder what would have happened if Christianity had not been institutionalized by the Roman emperor Constantine in about 300 A.D. It’s my opinion that the faith would have had followers who had skills in communicating and expressing God’s love…instead of learning how to wall itself away from the outside world and confining itself to a “You’re either with us, or against us” attitude to the secular world around them. I fear that “the church” is woefully inept at representing the tenets of Christianity.

    • 'Tis Himself said,

      CP wrote: “I will say that atheists should be as open to the idea of creationism as they demand others to be open to the idea of atheism.”

      We are open to the idea of creationism. As soon as the creationists present reliable, reproducible and falsifyable evidence, we’ll consider it on its merits. Baldly stating that a 2,500 year old creation myth is THE TRUTH isn’t evidence. Attempting to poke holes in evolution isn’t evidence. Producing actual evidence is what’s needed for non-creationists (there are plenty of those who aren’t atheists) to seriously look at creationism.

      Evolution has literally tons of evidence to support it. Creationism has hand-waving, tap dancing, and wishful thinking. Given the choice, most people go with evolution.

  44. GP, there’s a difference between creationism in the sense of belief in God and creationism in the Young Earth sense. To most atheists the first is just wrong but not necessarily insane. The second to many people, whether atheists, agnostics or theists, is just insane when one looks at the evidence. The post is about a new example of continued YEC silliness.

    In any event, the comment about Constantine seems misguided: Different forms of Christianity have had very different attitudes over time. Moreover, Protestantism (and the ICR is primarily Protestant) forms as a reaction against that establishment.

    • Nate said,

      Joshua, I understand you’re point, but you should realize that to someone who does believe that the Bible is from God, the earth only being around 6000 years old is not insane. According to the account in Genesis, the earth, planets, stars, and even plants, animals, and man were all created fully formed, in an instant. Adam and Eve didn’t start out as tiny cells, embryos, or even infants. They were fully formed adults. Some Christians believe that a God who can perform such a feat could easily create the rest of the Universe to appear as it if had been here for quite a while already.

      Now that argument probably seems foolish to many people, but that doesn’t mean it’s insane. After all, if you already accept the existence of an ominpotent God, anything is possible.

      As GP said, neither side can conclusively prove their position. So keeping a respectful dialogue open would probably benefit both sides. People tend to get a little reactionary when their beliefs are called “insane.” :)

      • Andrew said,

        Nate,

        So just to be clear: you think the Earth is 3,000 years younger than this tree?

      • If you need to fall back on omphalism there’s a problem. Claiming that the universe looks old fails. At that point I can call anything such as claim that the world was created last Thursday with all our memories intact. Or it was created 10 seconds ago. If you are willing to have a world that looks old then you should just throw up your hands and give up. That’s aside from the issue that it implies an incredibly nasty, deceptive God. Moreover, it directly contradicts verses in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. (For example, In Isaiah God is said to be truth)

        At the point where you need to construct a deliberately deceptive God you aren’t engaging in science and you aren’t engaging in particularly healthy theology either.

      • Nate said,

        If the earth really looks older than it is, I don’t believe that makes God deceptive. According to the account in Genesis, everything that was made was made complete and “fully grown”.

        Of course, that’s only a possibility — there are plenty of other possibilities that don’t necessarily contradict God’s existence. Perhaps our methods of dating things is unreliable, perhaps the Gensis account is figurative and the earth is as old as science says. There are lots of different possibilities.

        My point is this: There are many people who look at the world around us and think that none of this order could be possible without a Creator. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable observation — at least no more unreasonable than thinking that everything started by some massive explosion.

        I know you disagree with those points, but it doesn’t hurt us to show respect for both perspectives, does it? Both positions are using logic based on observations.

      • Nate, actually, nothing in Genesis says that they were created fully formed. Indeed, one gets quite the opposite impression. There is subsequent building at each step. Furthermore, Genesis 1:12 and Genesis 2:5-6 make it clear that plants were not “fully formed.” And yes, doing that is deceptive. It is creating starlight, geologic records and hundreds of other data points so that anyone who looks at them gets the wrong impression. That’s deceptive. Moreover, even if you don’t find it deceptive, whatever it is, it certainly isn’t science. Science cares about ideas which are falsifiable. The notion of an earth created to look old is an ideal example of a non-falsifiable hypothesis. By definition there is no way to disprove it. Thus, even if you want to accept a sneaky deity, claiming it is science is nonsensical.

        As to your suggestion that are dating methods are wrong, thinking that does require either insanity or ignorance. For that to be true basic understanding of physical laws would need to be grotesquely wrong. Are understanding of stars, light, radioactive decay, tree rings and many other things would all need to be wrong. There is not a single chain of evidence for an old earth but many all of which yield interconsistent data.

        Finally, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough when I focused on YECism. The claim being made is not that the existence of a deity or deities is insane. The point is and remains that insistence on a young earth is insane. And I’ll be as blunt as I want whether or not it produces reactionary results. Sugarcoating isn’t helpful. I’m not going to be any nicer to the UFO nuts or the 9/11 Truthers or the Apollo Hoaxers simply because calling their views insane might make them become more reactionary. I don’t see why when a view is based on a religion I then should magically show respect for it. YECism fails at theological, philosophical and scientific levels. It doesn’t deserve respect.

      • Siamang said,

        Nate,

        You’re insane.

        “As GP said, neither side can conclusively prove their position.”

        Yes we can, and we have. You won’t listen. But then again, nothing we could ever say would change your mind or get you to listen.

        Just because one side is insane doesn’t mean that the other side hasn’t proven its position. Insane people don’t get to vote on reality.

        Besides, everyone knows the world was created last Thursday.

        • GP said,

          Siamang,

          When you end your statement with a blatant belittling of your opposition, it reveals that your true intent is NOT to engage in dialogue with the other side. Your intent is to humiliate. The mocking of others is a weak way to try and convince others that you’re right.

          Once again: None of us have died and lived to say “There is something else after we die,” nor “Nope, nothing there.”

          I never cease to be amazed at the caustic nature of this debate. How can atheists be so driven to prove that this is all a random accident, and that we’re the beneficiaries of a bang here, some mingling of stuff over there, and a dab of evolution over here? I mean, if there is NO purpose or no design, then what’s the purpose of atheists who struggle so mightily to disprove the design theory? What’s in it for them, to win this debate? Why the struggle? Why the doggedness? What’s awaiting them when they win?

          All I see is humanistic, self-inflating “God’s not God. I am God” thinking. The schools, universities, and other forms of influence have driven out the idea of God. It’s as if “because we say God is a stupid idea, then so it is.” Is this how we arrived at the cure for illnesses? Because scientists accepted current thinking as irrefutable truth? Or did they press in and beyond what their authorities said couldn’t be done? I mean, at one point in time…the idea that there was anything beyond the cellular level was considered to be mere folly. Atoms? That’s insane!

        • James P said,

          “Is this how we arrived at the cure for illnesses?”

          No. That was science. And who put the illnesses there in the first place? And what do Creationists call it when bacteria evolve into new strains to preserve themselves against the cures?

          I’ve often wondered.

        • GP “When you end your statement with a blatant belittling of your opposition, it reveals that your true intent is NOT to engage in dialogue with the other side.”
          Um, he’s taking about YECs. Anyone who, faced with the mountain of evidence to the contrary, believes that the world (if not the universe) is 6,000 years old has already belittled themselves. Any YEC to tries to force the State to recognize it as genuine science deserves nothing but scorn. And speaking of “smug absolutism”, witness the common Young Earth Creationist.

          “I mean, if there is NO purpose or no design, then what’s the purpose of atheists who struggle so mightily to disprove the design theory?”
          We like having facts and theories taught in science class, rather than myths and arguments from ignorance.

          “All I see is humanistic, self-inflating “God’s not God. I am God” thinking.”
          It sounds like you’re projecting. I’m not God. Then I’d be fictional, which makes it tough to buy pants.

          “The schools, universities, and other forms of influence have driven out the idea of God.”
          I take it that you’ve never taken a Comparative Religion course, history course or visited the Theology department at the University.

          “Is this how we arrived at the cure for illnesses?”
          We arrived at cures for illnesses by asking “How does that work?” It’s a pretty good way to figure out how things actually work, actually. It works even better when you leave the supernatural out of the natural, as it turns out that the only right supernatural answer is all of them.

          “Because scientists accepted current thinking as irrefutable truth?”
          You’re thinking of theology.

          “Or did they press in and beyond what their authorities said couldn’t be done?”
          Science is built on asking questions. To a certain extent religion is too. The difference is that science investigates and discards the failure. Religion just schisms. That’s why, as data accumulates, competing scientific theories come closer together, while religion continues to splinter, as one man’s bad orthodoxy is another’s heresy.

        • GP “When you end your statement with a blatant belittling of your opposition, it reveals that your true intent is NOT to engage in dialogue with the other side.”
          Um, he’s taking about YECs. Anyone who, faced with the mountain of evidence to the contrary, believes that the world (if not the universe) is 6,000 years old has already belittled themselves. Any YEC to tries to force the State to recognize it as genuine science deserves nothing but scorn. And speaking of “smug absolutism”, witness the common Young Earth Creationist.

          “I mean, if there is NO purpose or no design, then what’s the purpose of atheists who struggle so mightily to disprove the design theory?”
          We like having facts and theories taught in science class, rather than myths and arguments from ignorance.

          “All I see is humanistic, self-inflating “God’s not God. I am God” thinking.”
          It sounds like you’re projecting. I’m not God. Then I’d be fictional, which makes it tough to buy pants.

          “The schools, universities, and other forms of influence have driven out the idea of God.”
          I take it that you’ve never taken a Comparative Religion course, history course or visited the Theology department at the University.

          “Is this how we arrived at the cure for illnesses?”
          We arrived at cures for illnesses by asking “How does that work?” It’s a pretty good way to figure out how things actually work, actually. It works even better when you leave the supernatural out of the natural, as it turns out that the only right supernatural answer is all of them.

          “Because scientists accepted current thinking as irrefutable truth?”
          You’re thinking of theology.

          “Or did they press in and beyond what their authorities said couldn’t be done?”
          Science is built on asking questions. To a certain extent religion is too. The difference is that science investigates and discards the failure. Religion just schisms. That’s why, as data accumulates, competing scientific theories come closer together, while religion continues to splinter, as one man’s orthodoxy is another’s heresy.

  45. Endor said,

    I’m just a lowly little legal secretary and I’m appalled. The only thing I can think is “Hmm. must have gone to creationist law school.”

  46. Endor said,

    “I will say that atheists should be as open to the idea of creationism as they demand others to be open to the idea of atheism. Dialogue is the key.”

    No, *evidence* is the key. Creationism offers nothing in the way of evidence. Ergo, we don’t have to be “open minded” about something that, after all this time and all their babbling, has failed to produce well, anything.

    Evolution, otoh, doesn’t have that problem.

    • GP said,

      Endor,

      You don’t see any holes in what you just said?

      Evolution, on the other hand, doesn’t have that problem.

      Oh it certainly does. But because you have arrived at an absolute, 100% acceptance that it doesn’t have that problem…you won’t allow yourself to objectively look at the problems and say “Gee, there’s some valid arguments against Darwinism…”

      This all goes back to humanistic thinking, which is: I am right, and that’s the end of it. No wonder we have so many “irreconcilable differences” divorces in our culture: Two people both thinking they are right, with no willingness to engage in meaningful, truthful, sincere communication. One side says “I’m right,” and the other side says “No, I’m right.” And instead of laying down pride and trying to figure out how they managed to love one another in the first place…the focus is upon w-i-n-n-i-n-g.

      If all you believe in is what can be proved through evidence, then you would have laughed at most of history’s great scientists who failed to accept the common knowledge of their day(s).

      There’s this idea that science exists outside the confines of God. I would argue that many great scientists understood that there’s something bigger than man, and or own self-ascribed genius, going on that made their discoveries possible in the first place.

      If man is all that man can depend on, then we’ve done a pretty bad job of running this place. If an atheist wants to exalt the accomplishments of man, he has to own the failures, too. And I’m afraid that means that the failures far outweigh the accomplishments. Which makes for a pretty miserable existence if all we have to strive for is man’s ownership of this world.

      • James P said,

        “This all goes back to humanistic thinking, which is: I am right, and that’s the end of it.”

        While you’re entirely open to persuasion, I suppose? Something about motes and beams comes to mind…

  47. [...] We wrote about our first impressions in this earlier post. There’s also a good blog article by a litigation attorney who rips the ICR complaint apart here. [...]

  48. [...] You Don’t Trust Creationists With Your Science Education… Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Trust The… [...]

  49. Trip said,

    Thanks for the excellent analysis of that ‘complaint.’

    I would like to see accredited universities take the proactive step of actually offering courses in ‘Creationism’ and address the topic in a scientific way.

    There are many dozens of documented creation myths to study, including the ones found in the bible. They could study the development of different creation stories and how they evolve and are sometimes shared between cultures. They could survey architectural sites related to different stories. They could review the activities of these modern ‘creationism institutes.’ They could discuss the psychology of myth-believing and its effects on social systems. I think the serious scientific study of creationism is a valid academic pursuit that would put creationism in its proper perspective.

    I wonder if universities have offered such a course and, if not, why not?

  50. Melissa said,

    GP wrote:Andrew has commented in this comments section and has easily admitted that, looked back on his years and years of lawyering, he can definitely say that he didn’t have it all the ins-and-outs of his profession figured out back in the day.

    If there’s anything as annoying as Christians who cherry-pick to prove their point, it’s an atheist who attempts to do the same thing for his or her cause.

    OK, OK, we “get it.” Those crazy creationists filed a clumsy doc…and so the whole thing is a sham.
    ————————————-
    I think you missed a big point in the article. Lawyers are expected to have a basic level of competency, which protects laypersons like you from hiring someone who says they’re experienced in a specialty but are not. Sure, most new attorneys make some little mistakes here and there, and often ask more seasoned attorneys for advice. However, these are not minor errors. The legal arguments are faulty, but even more basically, the format is ridiculous. If you aren’t an attorney, you might not know that courts have rules for the format of most documents for good reasons: uniformity and easy reading. Filing a document which doesn’t meet those basic requirements is disrespectful to the court, and I would be embarrassed to do so.

    As for “cherrypicking” , rest assured you would and should want an attorney to cherry pick over any document that could instantly win or lose your case.

    Overall, this complaint is a glaring example of ICR”s lack of credibility. One need not bother attack their personal beliefs when it is clear that they do not take themselves seriously enough to hire someone other than a family law attorney to file a civil rights suit. (no offense intended toward my peers!)

    • GP said,

      I don’t argue that the ICR is incompetent. They are. It’s obvious in how they didn’t take the time to spell-check, and that they tried to impose beliefs as being fact. Pretty careless if you’re trying to put that document forward in an actual court of law.

      I see lots of lawyering on here. I want to poke a stick out at the lawyers and highly-educated who will read this. I’m from the country, and so the term “poke a stick out at you” means this: I want to say something, and it might seem inflammatory, but I’m doing it because I want to tell how how I feel and see if you can tell where I am coming from. So here goes….

      Lawyers want to win. Period. There is a winner, and there is a loser. The idea of truth is supposed to be water-tight. Truth is truth. Sand is sand, and water is water. And so truth is truth. But in the realm of lawyering, truth can be built. It can be crafted. And the level of expertise of a lawyer, regardless of if his client is innocent or not, can spell doom for the cause of “truth.” Prisons are full of innocent people, and streets are full of guilty people. So the truth never can win absolutely, even though the truth is what our legal system says it wants to arrive at.

      What I find on here, within this thread of posts by people who admit to being atheist, is that God cannot exist because He can’t be proven. And I am afraid that even though the ICR looks foolish, their silliness does not deny the possibility for the theory of intelligent design. And the fervor of the people on here, the doggedness and passion, and the extent that I see people trashing people who believe in i.d. is disheartening.

      It’s as if this particular court case is a soft pitch that all of you are enjoying hitting out of the ballpark. Why don’t you take on the better communicators of the i.d. theory? Why choose THIS legal topic to say “HA HA! Look at these dumb Christians. Fools!”? It doesn’t do your cause any justice to belabor the point. In fact, it’s like beating up an old lady. Congratulations, you overpowered your opponent.

      And even as I type this, I am almost certain that most atheists were giggling when I typed that I am disheartened by what I see on here. There’s a blood-chilling coarseness and lack of courtesy for each other’s differences. The Bible, in the New Testament, records that “In the end times, the love for one another will grow cold.” Jesus said “People will be offended at my name. They will hate you because of Me.” If, for a second, we can say that Jesus was a real person and those words were actually said and recorded in accuracy…I’d have to say that either He really was who He said He was, or He was at the very least a pretty good predictor of the future.

      What I see all too often, and it’s especially bad on the internet and on blogs and message boards, is that everyone posts what he thinks is true…and because it appears on a screen, it must be true. And it’s just funny to me, in our culture, to see what extents we’ll go to in order to puff ourselves up as if we’re so brilliant and so genius. Alas, I am guilty of it, too.

      I think that you did a great job of addressing my posts without belittling me. You and about three others are the only ones who at least approach my posts without laughing at me (or at others like me). And for that, I say “Thank you.”

      • James P said,

        “I see lots of lawyering on here”

        Maybe that’s because the OP is about a legal matter and is written by a lawyer..?

        What’s the problem? That you can’t trump reason with quotes from Revelations? Or simply that humanists are busy getting on with their lives while you are looking forward to the next one?

        I doubt that anyone here means to be overtly rude (I certainly don’t) but it’s very difficult to argue against a position of faith, without appearing to undermine it. That’s why few people discuss religion at dinner parties – that sort of discussion is likely to offend, unless you know you are entirely in like-minded company.

        Anyone commenting on a blog titled ‘Evaluating Christianity’ should have some idea what to expect!

        • GP said,

          Oh, I know what I expect when I post on here. A poster named “Dave” made a lengthy contribution, and Andrew replied to him and told him that that’s the sort of thing he wants on here. I took that as an invitation by the person who operates this blog (Andrew) for people like me to interject some churchianity.

          All I am trying to do is give you more details about why a Christian thinks the way he does, says what he does, etc. If that contributes to what I presume to be a blog that says it’s open to opposing views, then great. But if I am nothing more than a punching bag for cute one-liners and zingers all day long…then that’s another story.

          You’re right about how religious talk is not dinner party talk, and neither is politics. For the same reason: People internalize and personalize their religious beliefs and political beliefs because we’ve determined that those views are “who we are” and we won’t have anybody attacking who we are.

          I’m not the standard Christian, so my views and responses won’t be the norm for what most atheists will receive from a Christian. And why do I have to capitalize Christian is a question I need an answer to. christian. (that was liberating!)

        • James P said,

          “I’m not the standard Christian”

          Glad to hear it. The fact that you are debating on here, without getting all shouty, is evidence of that. The difficulty for non-believers is that anyone announcing a religious faith is automatically in a different camp to those who want to discuss evidence-based science. There’s plenty to discuss, all right, as not all scientists are squeaky clean or unbiased (if you want an unedifying example of that, look on any global warming site!) but at least they’re mostly trying to sift the evidence, and a disagreement there is not an opening for creationists, say, to jump in and promote their view. Their beliefs are based on biblical texts that they revere – which is perfectly OK, but not a position from which to debate science.

          Christian with a capital ‘c’? Hmm… If it was his name, then that’s probably correct, and I usually write God the same way, even though I have my doubts about him. Those creationists will have to make do with a small one, though…

  51. [...] You Don’t Trust Creationists With Your Science Education… Here’s Why You Shouldn&… Okay, some quick background on the issue, taken from NCSE Reports, Mar-Apr 2008. In 2007, the Institute for Creation [...] [...]

  52. RBH said,

    Nathaniel wrote

    This is almost right; it assumes that the textual evidence is screened off from the other evidence (e.g. the archaeological evidence, the sheer fact of the explosive growth of the primitive church, various arguments from prophecy, etc.) conditional on Jesus’ existence and conditional on his non-existence.

    According to a reasonable analysis of the historical data, such as they are, the “explosive growth” of the Jesus cult up to Constantine was about comparable or slightly less than the growth rate of the Mormon Church over a comparable period. Does that constitute evidence for the veracity of the story of the golden plates? See here for a summary of the analysis.

  53. Nathaniel said,

    RBH,

    Thanks for the link. There are so many problems with that analysis that I can’t even begin to list them all here. Disregard all figures given in primary sources. Invent a much lower number instead. Extrapolate a constant rate of growth derived from this invented figure. Assume without argument that “Christianity seemed insignificant until about 300.” (Someone page Pliny, please. And Tacitus.)

    And then compare the growth computed on these terms with the growth of Mormonism, which had … er … a very well thought out approach to demographic growth. On top of that, Mormonism in its inception was expanding at a time when the entire US population was growing rapidly, a factor not paralleled in the Roman world in the first century. On top of that, Christianity went through several purges in the early years, notably Nero’s rounding up of “an immense number” of Christians at Rome and burning them in A.D. 64.

    I think I’ll stop there.

  54. RBH said,

    I actually first heard that comparison from Bart Ehrman, but I can’t post a DVD here.

  55. popurls.com // popular today…

    story has entered the popular today section on popurls.com…

  56. James Hanley said,

    Thanks for saving me the trouble of reading the complaint myself.

    Oh, my, an “injunction” that requires somebody to do something, rather than to stop doing it? My undergrad con law students know better than that.

  57. sauer kraut said,

    Is the Discovery Institute or the Thomas Moore Center involved in this?

    As to his licensure, it may well be that he’s a J.D. but many law school grads practice without being admitted to any bar in any state. Corporate in-house lawyers do this, as do a number of government jobbers. Don’t need the license unless they actually step into the courtroom to argue a case.

    • Andrew said,

      sauer,

      1) Not that I can tell. I would expect the DI to stay far, far away.

      2) The link to Johnson’s CV is posted earlier in this thread; he’s definitely admitted in Texas.

      That being said, it’s not really an admissions issue — taking the bar exam is tough, but it’s not really that tough. The types of weird errors that show up in this document aren’t really things you would expect from a non-practicing JD; they’re things you would only really expect from a non-lawyer.

      I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are in-house counsel and government lawyers, and none of them would write something this awful.

  58. Kim said,

    Empires commonly destroy themselves from within . It is usually due to a massive moral decline . This has certainly occured during the Bush adminstration including the right wing fundamentalists . People who are supposed to be moral have anything but moral courage . Decades ago – back in the mid 70′s – the USA went into stupid mode . The creationists are very far from reality . Does anyone care ? probably not . Evolution kicks in . Other peoples rise to the top . New countries take over . Life goes on .

    • GP said,

      I don’t think I understand this post.

      Everything that operates as an entity (humans, or even an organization for that matter) has four stages: Birth, maintenance, decline, and death. In organizations, it’s possible to cycle through the stages of maintenance and decline–keeping the entity alive–but at some point, the best governments and the best companies are going to die. It just happens. Period.

      Things that destroy themselves from within are not limited to right-wing causes. Air America (liberal, left-wing talk radio) failed over and over. It simply cannot compete with conservative radio today. They blame it on all sorts of things other than the possibility that maybe, just maybe!, they suck at what they do. There was no moral decline by Air America: They just fail to do what conservatives do better. Conservatives suck at doing protests and marches to get the word out about what they care about. So, all in all, it evens itself out in my opinion.

      There’s this overwhelming need to discredit an opponent and assess only the bad things to them. The opponent can never have anything of good quality. No, the opponent must be destroyed and made out to be fools.

      The polarization of our country is simply amazing. Things are either all good or all evil. There’s no way of analyzing the good and bad and then trying to press forward with the best of both sides. Maybe this is the fault of the course our country took when it went to a two-party system? Somewhere in the middle, there seems to be a lot of wisdom…but you can only vote for a liberal or a conservative.

      I’m becoming more moderate the older I get, because I cannot see any good that comes from the zealous nature of left-wing and right-wing philosophies. There’s this “totality” attitude about them: If we win, we get ALL that we want! And then four or eight years later, the other side gets what they want. Back and forth. Back and forth. So nothing of any real substance occurs, and voters get more indifferent. Sorry, I veered from the main topic here. Just thinking out loud…

      • “So, all in all, it evens itself out in my opinion.”
        Hardly. An hour of The Daily Show/Colbert four days a week and a march every once in a while vs. three hours a day of Rush plus Fox? A little satire vs an onslaught of faux-populist outrage?

        “Maybe this is the fault of the course our country took when it went to a two-party system?”
        It started before that (the bickering over what should go into what became the Constitution), but the Civil Right movement kicked it into high gear (leading to the Southern Strategy and the homogenization of both parties).

        “I’m becoming more moderate the older I get, because I cannot see any good that comes from the zealous nature of left-wing and right-wing philosophies.”
        I move a little more toward the anti-authoritarian Left every year. That seems to be where the best people are.

  59. Thanks for saving me the trouble of reading the complaint myself.

  60. Dave said,

    I am always amazed, as well as a little saddened that atheists find it necessary to fight with such visceral hatred against a God that they claim doesn’t exist.

    Why, if he doesn’t exist should ICR asking for the right to confer a degree that you neither believe to be real science or would ever accept as valid, bother you.

    Let the crazies at ICR have their degree and their faith. You are not required to get it any credence. And, since there is no God, you will never have to consider the consequences of your hatred toward these folks.

    • H.H. said,

      Dave, we aren’t fighting against a god who doesn’t exist, we’re fighting against a band of cultists who insist on giving their insane beliefs an imprimatur of validity. It is precisely because their beliefs are false that we cannot allow them to teach them as sound science and be given government endorsement. Yes, let the crazies at ICR have their degree and their faith. Just don’t expect anyone in the real world to recognize it as valid, any more than a bus driver should accept a piece of cardboard with $1 written on it in crayon as fare. Freedom of religion means you get to believe any fool thing you wish. You don’t, however, get to demand that other people treat it as anything other than foolish.

      • Dave said,

        H.H.

        You are absolutely right. I don’t get to demand anything from anyone. We are all born with a free-will to believe as we choose. However, when a Christian speaks his beliefs, born of faith that the universe didn’t just come into existence by mere circumstance and an ever evolving time frame, you who aren’t fighting God then lambast us for having faith.

        It’s really OK, because your disbelief won’t really effect me or my life as long as we both respect the other’s right to have an opinion. You are free to disbelieve and you are free to criticize me for my belief. What is happening like in the case with ICR is that the state of Texas is saying that one’s disbelief can be taught in a college in Texas while one’s belief cannot. That is where the rub comes in.

        You brought up the concept of freedom of religion. You and I both have that freedom and we should stand for it with all our might. Because you see H.H., if the state of Texas can take away my freedom to take a course on biblical cosmology, they can also take away freedoms that you also hold dear.

        I don’t want special treatment, just equal treatment.

        PS – Please define “cultist” because I don’t even think the majority of American citizen would put Christianity into the category of a cult. (Especially since 78% of Americans still consider themselves Christians)

        Let me say one more time – please live life as you choose. God has given you that opportunity and I respect God’s wisdom and your choice. Just afford me the same respect.

  61. H.H. said,

    Dave, you are mistaken on many fronts. Firstly, you say that “Let the crazies at ICR have their degree and their faith. You are not required to get it any credence.” This is precisely the problem. I am required to give it credence if they are allowed to issue a master’s degree in science education. The ICR can teach what they want, by why should the state be forced to license a school to issue degrees if they fail to meet the minimum standards? Obviously the ICR is not content to merely teach what they want, they want it labeled valid science as well. The problem is that it isn’t.

    You also say “I don’t want special treatment, just equal treatment.” But you do want special treatment, because you want ICR to be able to issue degrees even though they fail to meet the requirements. What do you call it when someone who flunks every exam demands that they be given an A in the class if not a plea for “special treatment?”

    Your religious beliefs are not science, they are faith. I know you mistakenly believe that science itself is a form of faith, but that’s precisely the delusion that’s causing your confusion. Science is not faith, it is established through the evaluation of empirical evidence. Several different lines of evidence from various scientific fields (from archeology to geology to paleontology to genetics to physics) all independently support the theory of evolution. It is as well established as it is possible for any scientific fact to be. The ICR lies to students when it teaches them otherwise. Now, you are free to believe those lies, but you aren’t free to demand that the state license a group to teach those lies with the approval of the government.

    If it was your religious belief that all illness could be healed through prayer, should the state be forced to license a doctor that offered nothing but prayer in place of standard medical treatment? Would that be “fair” to all the other doctors who labored through medical school? Fairness does not mean treating all claims as equal, it means holding all claims to the same standards. The ICR does not meet the standards required to issue accredited science degrees.

    You have the right to worship whatever god you choose and believe whatever facts you wish, but in private and on your own time. You do not have the right to demand that the government teach your beliefs as science. That’s just never going to happen, and the sooner you realize that you are fighting a battle you have no chance of winning, I think all sides will be better off for it.

  62. Dave said,

    H. H.

    Let me explain to you why you are wrong. In this country we have a cool little document called the Declaration of Independence. In that document, the framers of this great nation stated; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    To go along with this thought the authors of our constitution stated: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    Since the constitution is the highest law in this land, of which the state of Texas has declared its allegiance, it has no constitutional right to deny ICR the opportunity to train at a college level those who are willingly seeking this knowledge. In doing so they are declaring that I do not have the right, as a biblical creationist, to observe the known universe through the eyes of my faith. While you, as an atheist do simply because they have narrowed the definition of science to meet their standard of unbelief.

    Now let’s talk about the concept of faith. Faith means to believe in something that there in no empirical data to prove. The problem with atheists is that they don’t accept that their atheism IS a faith based concept. You have no empirical data to prove that God does not exist. This being true, you believe to not believe by faith.

    That faith taints all of your life, just as my faith taints all of my life. Any observation that we both make in the realm of science is tainted by our faith. I believe that God created the world in six days because I believe in the veracity of God. You believe that the universe came into existence through the process of natural scientific law because, since there is no God, that is the most logical view in your opinion.

    See, I wasn’t there when God spoke the world into existence and neither were you there when the “big bang” occurred. You will argue that the scientific method supports the “big band” and I will say that the sheer splendor of the universe declares the greatness and power of my God. I do not discount the physical universe nor the laws of science that are truly observable and repeatable. Since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it makes sense that the universe he created would have physical laws that are consistent.

    What I am trying to get at is that you DO have a system of faith that controls your view of the universe and that you want that view to be taught as FACT when it is not. It is called the theory of evolution for a reason. A theory is an educated guess based on current conditions and the speculation that your underlying premises are indeed correct.

    Even you would have to admit that there are a multitude of theories when it comes to cosmology and that some of them are even contradictory one from another. There is not now nor will there ever be a consensus opinion even among “big bangers.”

    Now to answer your ridiculous comment about my religious beliefs and medical treatment. No, I personally don’t think that people should forego medical treatment and just pray. I think that the God who created us has given us minds to use for his glory and the betterment of mankind. However, I do think that if someone is diagnosed with a terminal decease for which medical treatment would only prolong the inevitable that the one diagnosed should have the right to forego treatment.

    This being said, I don’t think that the state of Texas should determine that prayer is a bunch of bunk and therefore preclude me from seeking and asking for prayer on my behalf. If it did, it would be violating my right under the constitution and that were considered inalienable, given me by my Creator.

    You are wrong about my right to worship so long as I do in private and on my own time. There is that pesky “free exercise” clause in the first amendment. If the ecologists can stand on the street corner and try to convince me to live green (and teach their beliefs in our schools). If the anti-war protestors can march on Washington (and teach their beliefs in our schools). If the atheists can go on TV and denounce my faith, then I have the right to speak the truth as I believe it.

    That is what ICR is asking to do and that is what the state of Texas is denying them. That is what I mean by equal treatment under the law.

    At this point is guess I will conclude. I have observed two facts in this conversation: (1) We are not going to change each others opinion. (2) With all that is going on in the world and with truth being raved on every side, I am glad that I live in a country that allows us both to speak up and not be afraid.

    Thanks for hearing me out!

  63. Dave said,

    H.H.

    Just as a matter of record, I went to the ICR website and found the Technical Advisory Board members.

    Edward F. Blick, Ph.D., Professor of Petroleum and Geological Engineering, Retired, University of Oklahoma

    David R. Boylan, Ph.D., Professor of Chemical Engineering, Retired, Formerly Dean of Engineering, Iowa State University

    Malcolm A. Cutchins, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering, Auburn University, Alabama

    Raymond V. Damadian, M.D., Inventor and Professor, Woodbury, New York
    Robert H. Eckel, M.D., Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado

    Carl B. Fliermans, Ph.D., Microbial Ecologist, Westinghouse, Savannah River Company, Aikon, South Carolina

    Joseph L. Henson, Ph.D., Chairman Emeritus, Director of Natural Sciences, Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina

    Gailen D. Marshall, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Director, Division of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, University of Texas (Houston)
    David Menton, Ph.D., Associate Professor Emeritus, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri

    John R. Meyer, Ph.D., Formerly Professor of Biology, Baptist Bible College, Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania; Currently Director, C.R.S. Research Center, Arizona

    John W. Oller, Jr., Ph.D., Professor and Department Head of Communicative Disorders, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

    Ker C. Thomson, D.Sc., Professor of Geophysics, Retired, Baylor University, Waco, Texas

    John C. Whitcomb, Jr., Th.D., Formerly Director of Doctoral Studies, Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana; Currently founder of Whitcomb Ministries, Inc.

    In this list you will notice that the majority of their Technical Advisors held positions or were degreed at Universities that are not “wacko” universities with no credibility. So, some “credible” scientists do believe the crazy teaching of this organization.

    Thanks again!

  64. Ben said,

    Hello Dave,

    You are right, and wrong. The constitution is the highest law of the land. However you are wrong in that the state does have the constitutional right to deny the ICR the right to teach within its state. This is because the state has a vested interest in training of real biologists and teachers. This may seem condescending, and it is meant to be. I say “real” because biologists and teachers have these things called professional standards that must be met before someone can be competent to engage in being a biologist or teacher. There is a certain body of knowledge that a person must be able to grasp, and in the case of a teacher convey to someone else.

    This has nothing to do with religion vs atheism. It has everything to do with someone espousing beliefs which are verifiably false (creationism), and trying to pass these beliefs off as being on the same intellectual and professional footing as beliefs which are verifiably not false (the entire fields of astrophysics, biology, and geology. I make the distinction between not false and true because I am a working biologist [grad student in behavioral and evolutionary ecology] and know of this criteria for being a real science called falsifiability. A concept creationists seem to lack the ability to grasp)

    You have every right to espouse that belief, you even have every right to teach that belief to others. What you do not have the right to do is say that you meet professional standards which you do not. That is false advertising.

    You would not want a school that teaches as a religious belief, that amputation and bleeding with leeches will cure cancer, being certified to offer medical degrees now would you? Your argument leads down a slippery slope where any arbitrary and untested claim would be put on equal footing with claims which have been winnowed by the blistering light of of the scientific method. It is short sighted, ideologically grounded, and frankly, stupid.

    Your characterization of atheism is equally fatuous. You might have a case for people making the positive and certain claim that “there is absolutely no god”. However to simply deny belief in the existence of a deity requires no faith whatsoever. It is the antithesis of it. To say that “your claim has not met a reasonable burden of proof, therefore I will not accept its accuracy” requires faith is to completely change the definition of faith. It is a testament to a certain lack of intellectual honesty which I suspected you had when I read your first sentence.

    You also project your own intellectual dishonesty on to us. You started with the a priori assumption that God exists and created the world in 6 days. You then, given this proverbial box, try to stuff all the data that speaks to the contrary into the box, without ever considering the proposition that your assumptions are not true. Yes, it is correct to say that your view of the world is tainted by your faith.

    We (real scientists) do not do this. We start my making testable predictions about the universe that are grounded in prior knowledge and experience (we use induction). Then we design tests in order to explicitly scrutinize our assumptions (we use deduction). In this way we systematically build and rebuild the proverbial box around the data, so everything fits without us having to climb on top of the box and jump up and down on it, breaking everything inside like you do.

    Is there debate among scientists? Certainly. That is what makes science interesting. We work with complex systems and those complex systems are hard to study, this leads to debate, and rival groups trying to design experiments to prove the other guy wrong. That is how science works, and how we make progress. As we answer one question and reach consensus or as technology advances, we open up more questions and then engage in the same self-correcting process all over again. We do not have nor can we afford the myopic certainty of the phrase “God did it”.

    As for your religious beliefs and prayer, this situation is not in any way analogous. No one is stopping the ICR from teaching. Only stopping them from offering an unaccredited program which they lack the competence to administer. What would be more analagous would be if the Christian Scientists tried to set up a School of Faith Healing and offer medical degrees.

    And lastly, in regard to free exercise, you also have the right to get on a street corner and rant and rave to your hearts content. I see someone carrying a Repent sign at least once a week. What you dont have the right to do is claim you have professional credentials that you do not in fact possess, which your self serving strawman aside, is exactly what the ICR wants.

    Have a pleasant day.

    ~Ben

  65. Dave said,

    Ben,

    I am not going to continue this conversation. Not because you are correct in your arguments but rather because nothing that I say will change your mind so it is pointless to carry on.

    However on my way out let me try once again to explain myself.

    First of all I do understand the concept of professional standards, I have held several licenses over the years in which I have had to be tested by the state to meet a set of standards. However I don’t believe that a creationist’s position would automatically disqualify anyone from meeting such a standard. (If you noticed the list of advisors for the ICR they have some pretty real credentials and held professorships, acted as department heads, and even one dean at state universities) These men all obtained PhD’s which means that they used the scientific method to present their dissertations to their review boards and were granted their PhD’s based on their ability to prove their assertions. I don’t believe that they would risk their reputations and credibility by associating with an organization that lack basic scientific understanding. (By the way “real” doctors in the 18th century DID believe in bleeding people to cure just about every thing that caused people to be sick.)

    As far as my characterization of atheists as being people of faith. It is obvious you don’t understand the concept of faith. Faith, as I stated earlier is a belief in something that cannot be proven. If you can prove that God doesn’t exist then you may have a point. However, as long as I live (and those who are like me) you will not be able to “prove” that God doesn’t exist. So, since there is no way for you to prove the non-existence of God, that belief that you have is one of faith. It is not religious faith, but it is faith none the less. (I have faith in the strength of a chair every time I sit down. Not that God will make the chair stay together, but that the laws of science will continue to be consistent so that the chair will not collapse under me.)

    As far as my intellectual dishonesty is concerned, I do believe that the same set of statistics can be viewed by different people with different world views who because of that world view will come up with differing opinions as to what the data indicates. To say that “real” scientists don’t do that IS intellectually dishonest.

    You said, “We (real scientists) do not do this. We start my making testable predictions about the universe that are grounded in prior knowledge and experience (we use induction). Then we design tests in order to explicitly scrutinize our assumptions (we use deduction).” What you are not saying is where your base assumption comes from. Where do you through induction or deduction show that there is no God? You see, if you consider the universe from the position of an atheist you must assume that uniformitarianism reign and that what is now true has always been true and will always be true. That’s a huge assumption that cannot be conclusively proven. So, you “real” scientists DO start from a pre-disposed position that is unprovable (faith).

    I love to study science as well. However, my scientific curiosity is never impeded by my belief that “God did it.” Your intellectual dishonesty is showing again because many scientific break-throughs were discovered by people who believed in the existence of God. Their belief in God did not suck their brains out. I guess that this is the thing that makes me frantic about you “real” scientists. You think that no one with a belief in God has the same intellectual prowess as those of you who don’t let God get in the way of their brain power.

    There are universities that already exist that have a real “faith” element to their medical programs (Oral Roberts University for one). This does not mean that they don’t also know, understand, and/or teach the science of medicine. They have both the competence and the skills to administer their accredited medical school while also teaching the benefit of faith and prayer in the health of their patients.

    By the way, have you had a chance to preview the entirety of ICR’s Masters program or are you speaking “out of school” just assuming that because the state made this decision that they must be right and ICR must be wrong?

    Lastly, I don’t rant on street corners, nor do I carry Repent signs. What I do is carry on civil conversations with thinking people who want to know why I believe in God. These people, like you, often disagree with me and I with them. We enjoy our conversations and when they are finished we part friends. You paint with too wide a brush!

    As I told H.H., you have the right to disagree with me, to deny God, and to engage in a closed minded approach to life. I cannot change your mind and God has given you the freedom to go your own way. So, thanks again for listening to my “rant.”

    I hope on day you will accept the fact that creationism and science are not mutually exclusive. If not I hope you will tolerate those of us who do.

    Dave

  66. Ben said,

    People always say “I will not continue this conversation” and then they continue to do so, contradicting themselves and seeming to be an indecisive fool. Therefore, I will disregard your statement of intent. You may rest assured that I will be here as long as you keep replying. I have a difficult time caring about convincing you, but rather doing damage control so fence-sitters are not convinced by your drivel. You may also be certain that I have every intention of making good on this goal.

    First thing first, nice appeal to authority. That is a rhetorical fallacy by the way. Most of the people on your list have no credentials to speak of biology at all, and those who are “biologists” or even “geologists” have never been publishing and practicing individuals within their field. There are a few that this does not apply to. They can be lumped into three categories. People who during their careers engaged in compartmentalization, using science when asking a very specific set of questions, and using magical thinking when asking others (Fliermans probably fits in here), or people who go nuts later in life (the guy who invented Gene Gun technology goes here), and the people who deliberately duped the entire professional community during graduate school (Sternberg and Wells go here)

    Depending on what category they fall into, they dont have any credibility to begin with, or simply would not care because they have accepted your a priori assumption that God Did It in 6 Days and Nothing Can Convince Me Otherwise, and are more concerned with saving people’s souls than they are their professional credibility.

    The simple fact is, the ICR does not have any professional credibility, and it does lack an understanding of the very principles that it purports to teach its students. More on that in a minute.

    As for doctors using leeches, yes. Real doctors used to do that. And we would not longer admit such people to medical school, or allow them to treat any but the most special of cases (leeches can restore blood flow to reattached limbs). That is because their claims were falsified when we came up with this thing called the Germ Theory of disease, which if you have noticed is much better at helping us treat bacterial, viral, and fungal infections than blood-letting.

    As for faith. You are moving your goalposts. Another rhetorical fallacy. You clearly intended in your original post to equivocate the two types of faith you are now making a distinction between. Also: there is a BIG difference between believing in an all-powerful sky pixie like Jehovah, and being reasonably confident that the chair that supported your mass yesterday will do so today. The first is faith in the sense you refer to it. The second is a reasonable assumption based upon prior experiences. This does bring up the problem of induction though, and why science tests its assumptions and prior experiences with Deduction. We systematically remove even the faith you discuss from the processes we use, and rather than prove things true (because that is impossible for any proposition), prove them false.

    As for your claim about statistics… No. You cannot actually see two datasets and have two people reach different conclusions about them, provided the two individuals are looking at the same data set. If I run a Nested ANOVA and find that the variation is partitioned such that the variance is explained by treatment effects between subgroups, then someone else cannot reach the conclusion running the same test with the same data that the variance is partitioned such that it is best explained by treatment effects between groups.

    In the following section, the pronoun You is used in the impersonal manner.

    You are capable, with different assumptions of making any claim regarding evidence that you want. You can claim that the tree you see in front of you was placed there by God 5 seconds before you got there, and that he altered the memories of everyone who has ever NOT seen that tree there in order to coincide with your belief. You CAN do this, you can even interpret evidence very creatively to support the argument. But that does not make it any less insane. Why? Because your fundamental premise is not capable of being evaluated. Namely, we cannot ever design a test to falsify the little causal narrative that you construct. It is completely safe from scrutiny, and thus is Worthless, with no explanatory power. We could not for example apply it to solve a problem, and have that problem actually be solved like we can with evolution.

    I did not mention that assumption because it is not there. Science makes no assumption about the existence of a God. I am an atheist yes, but that position is ancillary to my being a scientist. We assume natural things cause other natural things, and that natural laws are constant for two reasons

    1) We have no reason to think otherwise. IE that proposition has yet to be falsified

    2) It is the only way we can evaluate any proposition.

    We cannot prove them true, but because we can put those assumptions to work and get results, they have not been falsified. And it seems that you are contradicting yourself. You equivocated the two types of faith in your first post, then you made a distinction between them, now you are back to your false equivocation. At least make up your mind.

    Now to address your strawman argument.

    Many scientists believe in a deity (not even a large minority of Ph.D Holders, but enough to warrant consideration). I have never claimed otherwise. In fact many cool things were discovered by christians, and hindus, etc. The difference though is that while they might believe in a deity they did not posit their deity as a causal agent save at a level of ultimate causation beyond that which they could evaluate. Newton for example lacked the math to explain how a multi-body system remained stable, so he said “god did it” and stopped trying. It took LaPlace to say “I have no need for that hypothesis [god]” and complete Newtons work.

    It is one thing for a scientist to believe in God and say that he created the laws of physics chemistry and biology as revealed by science. It is another for a scientist to do what creationists do and say “God did it” as the explanation for an observed and otherwise understandable phenomenon and then stop looking. Preferring the scribbled words of 5000 year old semi-literate shepherds over what they see with their own eyes. That stops innovation and discovery, it did it for Newton, and it did it for countless biologists before Darwin.

    Another strawman argument. Faith etc are parts of the doctor patient relationship. I have taken my courses in biomedical ethics, thanks. It can serve as something supplementary, to help a patient through rough chemo etc. What it is not is treatment, a substitute for real medical care. Given your prior statements I thought this was something you would understand, but it seems instead you are content to construct your own strawman and set it on fire.

    Speaking of which, I never once accused YOU of ranting on a street corner. Only of saying have the capacity to do so and that no one is stopping you or any member of the ICR from doing so.

    I have indeed looked at their masters program. I am not some neophyte, wet behind the ears. I have been involved in this particular discussion for around a decade now. I am well acquainted with the ICR and its “graduate school” as well as with the history of the organization in and of itself.

    It is funny, seeing as I am an actual scientist who in addition to working in science am also formally trained in the philosophy of science, and in the academic study of religion… i can tell you flat out, as a professional that the two are mutually exclusive.

    • Dave said,

      Ben, you are obviously much smarter than me. I cannot get anything by your mental prowess. Therefore, as I said in my previous post, I will not continue. It is apparent that you know more than all of these men and should probably consider a run for the presidency. We could sure use the help!

      Have a nice day,

      Dave

      PS – your angry and bitter arguments have not convinced me anything. I will reach some of the fence-setters as will you.

      • Ben said,

        Nice passive aggressive cop-out. The simple fact is, I DO know more about biology than those people. That does not qualify me to run for president by any means, and I have no political aspirations.

        I fail to see how my comments could be construed as angry or bitter. Condescending and Sarcastic yes. Angry and bitter not so much. However the condescending sarcasm is justified. I cannot help it if you cannot put a coherent argument together that is free of fallacies and factual inaccuracies.

        That having been said, I very much doubt you will persuade any but the most credulous fence sitters. In much the same way Sarah Palin only managed to appeal to the most buck-toothed and ignorant of undecided voters.

        • GP said,

          I think Dave did a great job of sticking to the argument, Ben.

          He easily presented the “God agenda” along the same lines that I would have. And that’s why us “God folk” get so irritated at most atheist apologists: The way atheists tend to attack the i.d. crowd is by parsing those details which strengthen their case, and then using crafty language to present themselves as being smarter than us backwoods Christians who are dumb and ignorant of science.

          Most scientists today do not speak out about their belief in God because they would be blacklisted if they did. There is reverse McCarthy’ism going on in the intellectual community today. Which makes it appear that scientists all agree that there is no God…when in fact, it just has the appearance of such. Part of the radical atheist agenda (not all atheists, by the way) is to belittle the opponent, discredit anything and everything that the opponent has to offer, and bedazzle everyone with crafty and pseduo-intellectual statements that paint themselves as being right and true.

          I think this is why Dave is done with this discussion. Anytime a God believer can adequately defend his position, using tact and reason, the response by the atheist is almost always to increase the arrogance and condescension. It honestly becomes a no-win for either side. And then the atheist says that they have won because science and evidence is on their side.

          To your defense, Dave did inject some snarky responses at the very end. And I think both sides are guilty of that when the going gets tough and we all get frustrated because we haven’t (a) converted the other person, or (b) we feel we’ve been treated poorly by the other side. ‘Tis human nature, I suppose.

        • GP “The way atheists tend to attack the i.d. crowd is by parsing those details which strengthen their case, and then using crafty language to present themselves as being smarter than us backwoods Christians who are dumb and ignorant of science.”
          Actually, they do it by breaking down the ID argument as fundamentally an Argument from Ignorance. Then they point out that even if ToE is wrong, ID doesn’t become right by default. Then point out that IDists need to do the research to prove ID, instead of not, then complaining about how they aren’t taken seriously.
          Then the other side says, again, “What good is half an eye?” and the cycle continues.

          “Most scientists today do not speak out about their belief in God because they would be blacklisted if they did.”
          Most theist scientists do science just fine. Ken Miller does science just fine, and he’s Christian, and he talks about both, and he’s still got a job. It only becomes a problem when it gets in the way of the science. Declaring that the bacterial flagellum is Intelligently Designed then crying “Oppression!” when people don’t listen is not a surprise when the declarer hasn’t bothered to research the subject. ID didn’t get torn apart at Dover because scientists hate Christians. It got wiped out because others did the research that they ignored before declaring by fiat that, since they didn’t know of plausible evolutionary pathways, no one else had, either.

          “There is reverse McCarthy’ism going on in the intellectual community today.”
          You do realize that you’re on a page about people who think that the “Vapor canopy theory” is valid, right? If they’re pushed to the periphery it’s not because they’re Christians, it’s because they’re dead wrong and trying to get the State to endorse that wrongness.

  67. James P said,

    “What I do is carry on civil conversations with thinking people who want to know why I believe in God.”

    Which is? Seriously, I’d be interested to know.

    • Dave said,

      James,

      If you are truly interested, let’s talk by email. This kind of public forum is not the setting for a serious discussion.

      I have set up a special email account for this discussion. It is:

      God.Question123@gmail.com

      If I get inundated by unwanted emails, we will have to find another medium.

      Email me your intent and I will answer your question.

      Dave

      • Andrew said,

        Dave,

        I too would be interested in why you believe in God. Go ahead and post a reply on this thread, and if it makes new points, I’d be happy to front-page it. That’s part of what this whole blog project is about!

  68. [...] creationists are going to consistently get their butts kicked in the courts (it also helps that the creationists are incompetent at both science and the law). With that success, however, comes complacency and overconfidence and a belief that their approach [...]

  69. Steve said,

    As a English lawyer I find US pleadings already over-complicated, but that’s another issue. It’s interesting to see one dissected.

    I noticed a weird paragraph numbering thing. It says (just after para 42, I think) something like “the following 21 criteria were satisfied”, and then there follows a series of numbered sub-paragraphs detailed those 21 criteria.

    Er…and then it goes to paragraph 22. Er – and 22A; and 22B… and so on. Are there 21 criteria, or 22? If the latter, shouldn’t the paragraph 22 be 42.1? or 43? If the former, then he can’t even keep track of his own averments.

  70. Steve said,

    Oo boy. “As a English lawyer”. Serve me right for posting when I’m half asleep.

    Paragraph 42 in my last post should be taken to mean 41; paragraph 43 as 42; and similar.

  71. [...] lawsuit is gloriously insane. You Don’t Trust Creationists With Your Science Education… Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Trust The…   « Anyone else associate the word “entrepreneur” with “person [...]

  72. [...] ICR, ICR lawsuit, Law, lawsuit, lawyers, THECB at 4:02 pm by Andrew In the ongoing saga over the ICR’s ridiculous, ill-founded, written-in-crayon lawsuit against the THECB, we’ve won a tiny little victory, at [...]

  73. [...] found this analysis of the complaint entertaining, and enlightening. __________________ "Ignorance more [...]

  74. Long Past Settled In said,

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly certain ICR named the officers in their individual capacities to get around potential 11th Amendment (State sovereign immunity) problems that could arise from suing THECB. In some circumstances, suits against public universities can fail under the 11th Amendment. To be sure, this situation is different than suing a university, and without more on THECB (such as how much state money flows into it) I would’t really know whether to characterize it as an “arm” of the state of Texas.

    However, assuming THECB could be characterized as an arm of the state of Texas, Ex Parte Young allows a federal court plaintiff to name state officers as defendants in an action for prospective injunctive relief. This may be why ICR named the officers individually, although I am loathe to give them that much credit.

  75. Shubee said,

    I live in the Dallas area and would like to see ICR demonstrate their inability to distinguish between faith and science in court. How do I find out when and where this trial will be? I’d also like to find out if a blogger can bring a video camera into the courtroom. I assume that I have to petition the court for that. What’s the procedure for making such a request?

  76. John Stiles said,

    There is no place for religion and the law. They are polar opposites in this universe

  77. [...] Higher Education Coordinating Board. This made the ICR angry, and they made a wacky lawsuit. A genuinely deranged brief. Their minds work in very twisty weird [...]

  78. [...] Board to hand out degrees in science education and were rightly denied.  Now these idiots are suing the THECB to hand out their worthless degrees to people who think the earth poofed into existence [...]

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