View Full Version : Pandas and peoples

10-01-2005, 02:22 PM
Of Pandas and Morons
Jeff Dean

On September 26, the eyes of the nation should be focused with laser precision on a courtroom in Harrisburg, PA, as proceedings get underway in the premier battle of evolution vs. Intelligent Design.

The case of Kitzmiller, et al vs. Dover Area School District, et al, is expected to last a month before going on the road to its inevitable stop at the Supreme Court. The case, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Dover resident Tammy Kitzmiller and several other parents in the Dover school district, alleges that the Dover school board has willfully attempted to infuse religious doctrine into the curriculum, violating constitutional separation of church and state.

The genesis of the complaint is reportedly a school board meeting in June of last year, during which board member William Buckingham, head of the district’s curriculum committee, suggested that the board not approve the popular science text Biology by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine. Buckingham complained that it was “laced with Darwinism.”

As a replacement, Buckingham suggested that the board approve instead a 1989 textbook called Of Pandas and People. The book is widely regarded as the first intelligent design textbook. Buckingham said the text would offer a comparative balance between Darwinism and Biblical creationism. When it was suggested that such a change to the curriculum would violate church-state separation, Buckingham angrily countered that “This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as much.” At a meeting the next week, Buckingham continued his rant, presumably between bouts of handling serpents and speaking in tongues: “Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?”

As far as the separation of church and state, Buckingham has since denied making the much, much-quoted blathering rant: “...nowhere in the Constitution does it call for the separation of church and state.”

Meanwhile, the Dover board approved Biology by a 5-3 vote, declining to purchase Of Pandas and People. Immediately after the vote, Buckingham announced that fifty copies of the fairytale book had been anonymously donated to the district. Later, the board voted 6-3 to accept the donation and resolved that students would be “made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including...intelligent design.”

Science teachers in the district revolted after being told that they would be required to read the “gaps/problems” preamble to their class discussions, arguing that such a requirement violated the Pennsylvania Code of Professional Conduct for Educators. In a January 6 letter to the board, the teachers stated: “We believe reading the statement violates our responsibility as educators as set forth in the code. Students are allowed to opt out from hearing the statement. We should be able to opt out from reading it.”

The teachers won their argument, but administrators have been standing in to read the “gaps/problems” statement.

Since the debate flared last summer, the school board underwent drastic changes. After Of Pandas and People was accepted, the three board members who voted against it resigned. One, Carol Brown, issued a statement in which she claimed other board members had asked if she was “born again.”

Angie Zeigler-Yingling, who voted for the book, also resigned, saying she regretted her vote, and did so only after other board members accused her of “being un-Christian.”

The heavy-handed conservative Christian agenda is at the base of the complaint, and it will be difficult for the defense to prove that the ID move is just about exposing kids to differing views of the origins of life. For its part, the leading ID think-tank, the Discovery Institute, has issued statements distancing itself from the Dover case. Dr. John G. West, associate director for the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, said in a statement that “Although we think discussion of intelligent design should not be prohibited, we do not think intelligent design should be required in public schools.”

However, on September 30, West wrote on the Discovery Institute’s website that “While Discovery Institute does not support efforts to require the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it also strongly opposes the ACLU’s attempt to censor classroom discussion of intelligent design.”

This modification of the Institute’s position is eerily compliant with the directions of ID proponent Philip Johnson, who advocates using evolution vs. ID as a wedge to get ID into the curriculum, creating a Trojan horse from which creationism can spring. In a similar fashion, the Discovery institute has taken the First Amendment and turned it around on its secular foes.

Unfortunately for the defense, there’s no science to back up their scientific theories. ID proponents like to say that ID is a theory, just like evolution, and that since no theories can be proved, ID should be taught along with evolution. However, as most scientists like to point out, science involves theories that can be tested under observable conditions. Intelligent Design can not be tested, and is therefore an invalid scientific argument.

In a fantastic interview on National Public Radio, Dr. Donald Lamb, the Director of Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, said he helped his students understand the ID debate by telling them that “the world began one second ago. Tell me why I’m wrong.” A student would say that it was impossible, because they had been talking for ten minutes. “No, the world began one second ago. God put those memories in your head to make you believe we’ve been talking.” Another student would give him another bit of scientific proof, and he would counter with another theory. The point, he would finally explain to them, is that while they were arguing science, he was arguing belief, and that they can not be homogenized.

Although the current political climate allows no sure things, it is unlikely that the Dover board of education will win the Kitzmiller case. The case, which concerns the separation of church and state, seems pretty clear-cut given the comments of record by Mr. Buckingham. The final nail in the coffin, at least before the case goes to the State Supreme Court, may be the “Pandas” book itself. The book is published by the Texas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), a fundamentalist Christian organization. In the past, the organization stated its mission as “proclaiming, publishing, preaching and teaching the Christian Gospel and understanding of the Bible and the light it sheds on the academic and social issues of the day.”

More recently, the mission statement has been toned down, claiming that the goal is “to restore the freedom to know to young people in the classroom...in matters of worldview, morality, and conscience, and to return the right of informed consent to families in the education of their children.” There is almost no mention of religion on their website. However, on their IRS Form 990, required of all non-profit groups, FTE claimed to be in the business of “promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective of academic studies.”

The Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State recently told the media that “Public schools are not Sunday schools...[and] there is an evolving attack underway on sound science education, and the school board’s action in Dover is part of that misguided crusade.”

“Intelligent design,” Lynn added, “ has about as much to do with science as reality television has to do with reality.”

While the case looks good for Tammy Kitzmiller and the other plaintiffs (some are wondering if the defense will be required to prove any ID theories, something they have been reluctant to try and unable to do; or even if they will be required to go so far as to prove the existence of God), stranger things have happened. The way the Discovery Institute and the FTE have been altering their positions (or the wording thereof), Kitzmiller vs. Dover could be headed for a violent and worrisome twist in the direction not of separation of church and state, but freedom of speech, something the ACLU will be reluctant to argue against.

But freedom of speech is not the issue. These people are free to push any old cockamamie theory they want on the street, but you don’t dissect frogs in church (well, no church I’ve been to anyway) and you don’t teach religion in biology class.

web page (http://www.buffalobeast.com/84/pandasandmorons.htm)

It's gonna be pand-a-mic

Fran Crimi
10-01-2005, 03:47 PM
Clearly a very amateurish attempt of the writer to make a personal rant look like a piece of journalism.

Take this passage for instance:

"As a replacement, Buckingham suggested that the board approve instead a 1989 textbook called Of Pandas and People. The book is widely regarded as the first intelligent design textbook. Buckingham said the text would offer a comparative balance between Darwinism and Biblical creationism."

Widely regarded by whom?

The job of the religious community is to continually try to link intelligent design with their religious beliefs.

The job of the liberal is to continually try to link intelligent design with religious beliefs.

Neither are right, but it suits their belief systems to act accordingly.

Bad on them.


10-02-2005, 12:47 PM
Can't quite agree with your "amateurish" classification....and the correct title of the book is
"Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins"
Laughingly dismissed by one reviewer from Princeton (University?)...and it's author does admits to one major error in the book.
There seems to be better(?) books on the subject by
Stephen Jay Gould, recently deceased.
And just reading further down, over at Amazon:
The Secret Origins of the Bible (Paperback)
by Tim Callahan

"This book demonstrates that the stories and themes of the Bible were part of the great mythic systems of the ancient world by u sing comparative mythology, tell tale verses in the Bible and archaeology. The abstract God of modern monotheistic Judaism, Christianity and Islam is a comparatively recent creation. In later times the myth of a messianic deliverer was combined with that of the pagan god-man who suffered a horrible, excruciating death but was phys"ically resurrected to produce the Christ myth."
please note, I am just quoting someone else here

But, see, I ain't gonna go there, because I not only have no opinion, on creationism Vs ID Vs Darwinism.....and because someone, namely one Tony Annigonni (USPPA) borrowed and failed to return my VHS set of Joseph Campbell's "Myth and Mythology" before I had the chance to view it.......I also have no facts to support any beliefs pro or con....and really, all I want are my *****tapes back, and to be able to drive up once a week, on a 1/4 tank of gas to play league pool, and drive back on a 1/4 tank of Bombay & tonic....and hopefully not get pulled over
I always said I wouldn't argue politics, religion, or whether, in fact, a Cabo Wabo would beat a Bombay Gin & tonic, in a blind taste test (amongst only those with an educated palate, like myself)
and here I am, accused of being a liberal, and now probably an atheist ( and I ain't never met Madalyn Murray O'Hair )
and leave politics and religion to be debated by the more learned/opinionated/dedicated souls on this here POOL discussion board. Now I axe you....is that too much to axe?

I'm adding this as an afterthought....if there really was Intelligent Design, and there was a directive to "go forth and multiply".....why would my nephew, Vlad....well, that ain't really his name, but since he is anatomically "gifted" as Grady wrote in his book, so we nicknamed him after Vlad, the Impaler....anyway, why would God let him roam around, and with each new encounter, take a chance on lowering the avg. IQ of the human race......why wouldn't say a Stephen Hawking, or a Kim Peek, be allowed to go around propagating?
Even better.....why not me??

10-02-2005, 02:33 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote wolfdancer:</font><hr> violating constitutional separation of church and state.

When it was suggested that such a change to the curriculum would violate church-state separation,

As far as the separation of church and state, Buckingham has since denied making the much, much-quoted blathering rant: “...nowhere in the Constitution does it call for the separation of church and state.”

<hr /></blockquote>

Would someone PLEASE give me the quote from the constitution where it says anything about separation of church and state?????????????????

The only think I can find says that the state will not have an official religeon. I don't see how anyone gets one from the other, but then, I'm just a simple southern boy.


10-02-2005, 03:15 PM
You're asking the wrong person about the Constitution....but it all seems to be tied up in the first amandment. Here's one "take" on that:

web page (http://themetropolistimes.blogspirit.com/government_and_religion/)

I can only comment, with some alcohol fueled expertise on the designated hitter debate.
Is that what you southern boys call it "religeon?"
and another:
web page (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/rel_liberty/establishment/index.aspx)
It didn't quite come out the way Mr. Jefferson envisioned it.....but these damn liberals...

10-02-2005, 03:45 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote pooltchr:</font><hr>
Would someone PLEASE give me the quote from the constitution where it says anything about separation of church and state?????????????????

Steve <hr /></blockquote>

Separation of Church and State Myth: Is It In The Constitution?

If It's Not in the Constitution, then it Doesn't Exist

The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution.

That is true, the phrase "separation of church and state" does not actually appear anywhere in the Constitution. There is a problem, however, in that some people draw incorrect conclusions from this fact. The absence of this phrase does not mean that it is an invalid concept or that it cannot be used as a legal or judicial principle.

There are any number of important legal concepts which do not appear in the Constitution with the exact phrasing people tend to use. For example, nowhere in the Constitution will you find words like "right to privacy" or even "right to a fair trial." Does this mean that no American citizen has a right to privacy or a fair trial? Does this mean that no judge should ever invoke these rights when reaching a decision?

Of course not - the absence of these specific words does not mean that there is also an absence of these ideas.

The right to a fair trial, for example, is necessitated by what is in the text because what we do find simply makes no moral or legal sense otherwise. What the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution actually says is:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

There is nothing there about a "fair trial," but what should be clear is that this Amendment is setting up the conditions for fair trials: public, speedy, impartial juries, information about the crimes and laws, etc. The Constitution does not specifically say that you have a right to a fair trial, but the rights created only make sense on the premise that a right to a fair trial exists. Thus, if the government found a way to fulfill all of the above obligations while also making a trial unfair, the courts would hold those actions to be unconstitutional.

Similarly, courts have found that the principle of a "religious liberty" exists behind in the First Amendment, even if those words are not actually there:

<font color="blue"> Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...</font color>

The point of such an amendment is twofold. First, it ensures that religious beliefs - private or organized - are removed from attempted government control. This is the reason why the government cannot tell either you or your church what to believe or to teach. Second, it ensures that the government does not get involved with enforcing, mandating, or promoting particular religious doctrines. This is what happens when the government "establishes" a church - and because doing so created so many problems in Europe, the authors of the Constitution wanted to try and prevent the same from happening here.

Can anyone deny that the First Amendment guarantees the principle of religious liberty, even though those words do not appear there? Similarly, the First Amendment guarantees the principle of the separation of church and state - by implication, because separating church and state is what allows religious liberty to exist. <hr /></blockquote>

web page (http://atheism.about.com/od/churchstatemyths/a/phrase.htm)
Thomas Jefferson &amp; the Danbury Baptists

Myths About the Separation of Church and State

Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists is not important.

Although the idea of a "wall of separation" originated with Roger Williams and not Thomas Jefferson, it is Jefferson's phrasing which has been most used by judges, lawyers and politicians when it comes to interpreting the First Amendment. This is unsurprising because of Jefferson's role in the development of our nation and our political system.

The phrase itself stems from a letter which Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Church in Connecticut. Jefferson was president at the time and the Danbury Baptist Association had written to him on October 7, 1801, expressing their concern about their religious freedoms. At the time, they were being persecuted because they did not belong to the Congregationalist establishment in Connecticut. Jefferson responded to reassure them that he also believed in religious liberty and said, in part:

<font color="blue">Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all of his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.</font color>

Jefferson realized that a full separation of church and state did not exist yet, but he hoped that society would make progress towards that goal. Was this just a political ploy, however? It certainly can't be considered an off-hand comment, because Jefferson had it reviewed by Levi Lincoln, his attorney general, before he sent it. Jefferson is recorded as having told Lincoln that he considered this letter to be a means of "sowing useful truths and principles among the people, which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenets."

This was, by the way, not the only time he used this phrase. It appears again in a letter he wrote to Virginia Baptists in 1808:

<font color="blue">Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.</font color>

Some have argued that his letter to the Danbury Baptists had no connection to the First Amendment at all, yet that is clearly false because Jefferson precedes his "wall of separation" phrase with an obvious quote of the First Amendment. Others have tried to argue that it was written to appease opponents who had labeled him an "atheist" and that the letter was not meant to have any larger political meaning.

But this would not be consistent with Jefferson's past political history. An excellent example of why would be his tireless efforts to eliminate the compulsory funding of established churches in his native Virginia. <font color="blue">The final 1786 Act for Establishing Religious Freedom read in part that:

...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions of belief...</font color>

This is exactly what the Danbury Baptists wanted for themselves - an end to repression on account of their religious beliefs. It is also what is accomplished when religious beliefs are not promoted or supported by the government. If anything, his letter could be viewed as a mild expression of his views, because an FBI analysis of portions scratched out from the original draft show that Jefferson had originally written about a "wall of eternal separation" [emphasis added].

Finally, it has also been argued that Jefferson's opinion about separating church and state have no relevance because he wasn't around when the Constitution was written. This ignores the fact that Jefferson was in constant contact with Madison, who is largely responsible for the development of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and that the two of them had long worked together to create greater religious liberty in Virginia.

It also ignores the fact that Madison himself referred more than once to the concept of a wall of separation. In a letter from 1819, he wrote that "the number, the industry and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church and state." In an even earlier and undated essay (probably early 1800s), Madison wrote, "Strongly guarded...is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States."

Jefferson believed in the principle of separation of church and state so much that he created political problems for himself. Unlike Presidents Washington and Adams, and unlike nearly all following presidents, Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and thanksgiving. It is not, as some charged, because he was an atheist or because he wanted others to abandon religion.

Instead, it was for the simple reason that he was president of the American people, not their pastor, priest or minister. He realized that he had absolutely no authority to lead other citizens in religious services or expressions of religious faith and worship. Why is it, then, that other presidents have assumed that authority over the rest of us?

It is little wonder then that successive Supreme Court decisions through the past two centuries keep referring to Thomas Jefferson's writings as instructive in how to interpret all facets of the Constitution, not merely with regards to First Amendment issues. But those issues do receive particular attention, considering Jefferson's principle interests. In the 1879 decision Reynolds v. U.S., for example, the court observed that Jefferson's writings "may be accepted as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment."

No, Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists was not just a simple courtesy, and it is not unimportant when it comes to understanding the nature of the First Amendment.
<hr /></blockquote>

web page (http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/cs/blcsm_sep_danbury.htm)

10-02-2005, 04:13 PM
That was pretty interesting stuff to read.
and here's a little more (from findlaw)


An Overview

Madison's original proposal for a bill of rights provision concerning religion read: ''The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.'' 1 The language was altered in the House to read: ''Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.'' 2 In the Senate, the section adopted read: ''Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion, . . .'' 3 It was in the conference committee of the two bodies, chaired by Madison, that the present language was written with its some what more indefinite ''respecting'' phraseology. 4 Debate in Congress lends little assistance in interpreting the religion clauses; Madison's position, as well as that of Jefferson who influenced him, is fairly clear, 5 but the intent, insofar as there was one, of the others in Congress who voted for the language and those in the States who voted to ratify is subject to speculation.

Scholarly Commentary .--The explication of the religion clauses by the scholars has followed a restrained sense of their meaning. Story, who thought that ''the right of a society or government to interfere in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons, who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice,'' 6 looked upon the prohibition simply as an exclusion from the Federal Government of all power to act upon the subject. ''The situation . . . of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states, episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in others presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in others, quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.'' 7

''Probably,'' Story also wrote, ''at the time of the adoption of the constitution and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.'' 8 The object, then, of the religion clauses in this view was not to prevent general governmental encouragement of religion, of Christianity, but to prevent religious persecution and to prevent a national establishment. 9

This interpretation has long since been abandoned by the Court, beginning, at least, with Everson v. Board of Education, 10 in which the Court, without dissent on this point, declared that the Establishment Clause forbids not only practices that ''aid one religion'' or ''prefer one religion over another,'' but as well those that ''aid all religions.'' Recently, in reliance on published scholarly research and original sources, Court dissenters have recurred to the argument that what the religion clauses, principally the Establishment Clause, prevent is ''preferential'' governmental promotion of some religions, allowing general governmental promotion of all religion in general. 11 The Court has not responded, though Justice Souter in a major concurring opinion did undertake to rebut the argument and to restate the Everson position. 12

10-02-2005, 04:34 PM
What I get out of all that is that the State should not tell me what I should or should not believe, nor prevent me from practicing my religeon. The state shouldn't establish a "national religeon", nor should it prevent anyone from practicing any particular religeon.

It seems as if those sentiments have been twisted so that now the "state", in an effort not to offend anyone, tends to say that no one should practice any religeon in public if the state is around. This is why you can't have prayer in school. This is why you can't have a prayer before a high school football game. There are places where town's are afraid to have a Christmas display, because it celebrates a religeous holiday. If you want to celebrate Easter, it better be with a bunny and eggs, cause the real meaning behind the holiday it just too darn offensive to some.

The problem I have with this is that unless every person in the country practices the same religeon, the state feels compelled to eliminate all religeon. By banning all religeous references from schools, it seems like the official religeon of the state has, by default, become athiest. Can't talk about God or the athiests will be offended. So by their actions, the state is not separated from religeon. In fact, it seems the state has taken a firm stand on the issue.

I think the original intent was to prevent a government sanctioned religeon in this country, and allow individuals the right to practice religeon as they see fit. But as the state is so prone to do, they have exercised power and authority which they never had in the first place.


10-03-2005, 08:56 AM
I think you have summed the issue up nicely.