Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Expelled Syndrome

One of the great things about the blogoverse is the variety of viewpoints on certain subjects. One of the most contentious subjects is the alleged persecution of teachers/professors who advocate or merely mention ID. Some say it's real, others say it is non-existent or blown out of proportion.

There are professors in secular universities (Dr. David Heddle and Dr. Keith Miller come to mind) who have not experienced the persecution claimed by others. They claim that they are free to express their viewpoints in open discussion with their colleagues. I believe their testimony to be true.

On the flip side, you have the cases of Dr. Richard Sternberg and Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, both of whom claim persecution for supporting the ID position - in the case of Dr. Gonzalez, it probably cost him tenure and subsequently his job at Iowa State. I also believe the testimonies of Drs. Sternberg and Gonzalez are true.

So am I fence-sitting here? Hardly. I believe the individual testimonies of persecution documented in Expelled are probably true. However, are the persecutions wide-spread, isolated, or somewhere in-between? I personally think it's "Door #3". Thus, while Expelled is still a movie that'll make it into my video library, and a movie I'll probably enjoy, the movie probably exaggerates the widespread-ness of the persecutions.

Update 02 June, 2008: Portion of post deleted after much thought and debate - see comments for further details.

I would like to close with several points:

  1. Just because you don't see persecution taking place where you are at does not mean that it isn't happening elsewhere.
  2. Everyone in the IDM should tone down the rhetoric. This is NOT the USSR under Stalin.
  3. Playing with people's careers just because they have a different view from you is dastardly and should be condemned by all.

I think I've adequately ticked off people on both sides, so my job is done.

22 comments:

  1. Tony Hoffman29 May, 2008 10:49

    The testimony you link to states "Believing that there is intelligent design behind the universe has thus effectively disqualified me from teaching, as no school wants to hire a potential troublemaker who doesn’t toe the Darwinist line."

    That's not true. The man's personal beliefs were not the reason he was no longer hired as a sub; it was because he used his position as a teacher to instruct a bunch of impressionable students about ID.

    Also, you wrote "What makes the stakes are higher is it would appear that high school teachers have little, if no, recourse for appeal and they risk losing their chosen career due to only one "anonymous" complaint."

    The anonymous complaint is not why the man lost his substitute teaching position - his actions were the reason. The complaint triggered the investigation, and given the man's responses and admitted actions, he was no longer hired as a substitute. That's the law. Those are the rules.

    What I find despicable is cloaking this man's actions under the guise of academic freedom.

    Science is not a religion. ID is. If you want your children to be indoctrinated by a religion, send them to a religious school. Or tell me you'd be just as happy with an Islamic teacher using some of your children' educational time to learn about what they'd learn if they went to a Madras.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually, I agree with you. We also have to remember that some high school teachers are persecuted for teaching evolution in their science classes.

    The whole dog fight could be rectified if people would just stop with the dogma and allow both the evidence for and against evolution taught in the science classroom.

    If evolutionists want ID banned, then their philosophical views in regard to evolution should be eliminated as well.

    If they want to continue teaching certain aspects of evolution as a "fact" rather than a historical inference, then they need to include ID in their curriculum.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tony, I think you left out the other half of the story which was the Washingtion school district showing the "science" video and passing it off as science, rather than history or philosophy. The sword cuts both ways (as FtK implied in the previous comment).

    I would rather the teacher criticise the video on the scientific merits rather than introduce ID, but I can't really criticise him for succumbing to human nature. Lord know I have, many times. What's descpicable is that only one complaint (anonymous at that; nice accountability there!) can cost someone his/her job even if there was no written rule the teacher violated.

    Science is a tool whose purpose is to learn the how of nature not to "bash" religion in the name of a predisposed philosophy. That's corrupting the usage of science.

    If you said IDM is a religion, I would at least partially agree with you. Central to ID is the Design Inference, which is a valid inference and IMO stands on equal footing with naturialism. The Design Inference has been central to the rise of science (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, etc.) and has even been employed by naturalists, who then quickly backtrack and state that the inference is an illusion (My question to them is if the illusion seems so real, maybe it is not an illusion?).

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Science is not a religion. ID is."

    How so exactly. I've heard endless opinions in this regard, but I'm curious about your personal view. I'm not looking to debate you or jump down your throat...I'm just honestly curious.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Tony Hoffman29 May, 2008 18:27

    JJS p.eng., you wrote: "I would rather the teacher criticise the video on the scientific merits rather than introduce ID, but I can't really criticise him for succumbing to human nature."

    If the video was bad science criticize it on its merits and/or stop showing it. (By the way, what's the name of the video, and who produced it? Doesn't it seem odd that this unnamed video was mysteriously foisted on the unsuspecting substitute teacher, as if it was some kind of secret and untested piece of propaganda? What are the exact quotes from the video that denigrate early Christians? Doesn't the whole setup seem a little one-sided and scarce on details to you?)

    You should be able to find it within yourself to criticize him for succumbing to human nature. He acted immaturely; a professional would stop the tape and take the issue up with his administrators, not take the fight to the children. That's why we accredit teachers, review them, etc. We expect them to act like professionals.

    forthekids, I don't want to get into a debate on why science isn't a religion either. Yes, there are analogues between science and religion, but there are differences as well, and those differences are substantial. If you've heard endless opinions on this topic then I doubt I'll persuade you with my reasons.

    I think ID is a religion because a) it is not science, and b) its adherents are overwhelmingly brought to it by their religious convictions.

    ReplyDelete
  6. tony hoffman said:

    "That's why we accredit teachers, review them, etc. We expect them to act like professionals."

    Actually I have a problem with the so-called "professionalism" of teachers, but that's a whole other post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Personally, I have a difficult time accepting that, on the one hand, those who delve into the scientific issues surrounding IC, the anthropic principle, etc. are entirely religiously motivated. Yet, on the other hand, those who are convinced that the historical inferences toted as "facts" in regard to molecule to man belong in the science classroom rather than philosophy or history of science classes.

    I agree with the guy in this video clip. If we're being honest, we'd have to say that there are aspects of evolution that, if held to the same standards that ID has to overcome to be considered "science", would never be taught in the *science* classroom.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Tony Hoffman30 May, 2008 07:08

    forthekids, if you think that ID is equally valid as a scientific theory with Evolution, and that the video you link to is an honest and fair assessment of the debate, then you are either willfully ignorant about Evolution and scientific definitions or simply uninformed.

    I think the story of the sub teacher who says he was railroaded is a basic attempt to "gin up" those who want to feel persecuted by scientists. Once again, doesn't it bother anybody here that the article makes nothing but a series of statements that can't be checked by a 3rd party -- no reference to the actual video that was played, etc.? Is there a legal action underway, if so, why no reference? If not, why not state the facts -- there's nothing libelous about stating the facts of a case.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "forthekids, if you think that ID is equally valid as a scientific theory with Evolution..."

    It all depends on your definition of "evolution". I certainly think ID is as equally valid as certain philosopical aspects of evolution. But, obviously continued discussion about this will get us know where.

    ReplyDelete
  10. From the teacher's testimony:

    "I was very careful not to say that evolution was wrong and that intelligent design was right. However I did say that it was ironic that schools could affirm in the Declaration of Independence that the Creator could create man but not any other life. And I merely explained to them what intelligent design was—no mention of the Bible or any religious doctrine.

    The next day I was called out of my assignment. An earring-adorned young man from the District office questioned me as to what I had said about intelligent design. He then read a single complaint by ... a ... parent who didn’t want their child exposed to the teaching of ‘intelligent design’.

    I was asked to write a statement of what I had said, and the young man suspended me on the spot. No warning was given or considered. I was then systematically ‘hung out to dry’. No reason was given, such as breaking a written school policy. They read the complaint, I wrote a response, and they then basically said, ‘Hit the road, Jack and dontcha come back no more, no more.’

    I have made a written request and numerous phone calls to the District Assistant Superintendent (DAS) asking for a letter explaining why I was suspended but I have received no response. I did get one call from the school lawyer who grilled me about what I said and told me he would be back with me after he talked to the DAS. That has never happened. I somehow doubt that I will get an explanation. ...

    Furthermore, I was effectively ‘blackballed’ by Washington from subbing in other districts. I was told that suspensions were reported to other districts if they were asked—regardless of the reason. ..."
    [emphasis mine]


    This is one example of the unprofessionalism that IMO is wide-spread in the teaching profession. Let's examine how the school district failed in its professional duty:

    1. There appeared to be only one accuser, who conveniently remained anonymous. It would be different if it was a majority of parents who did not approve. However, it appears that it only takes one anonymous letter to fire a teacher with a spotless record.

    2. No warning or reprimand was given to a teacher who had an otherwise spotless record. Also, no explanation was given for the dismissal. This was an abuse of power by the school district and a violation of due process owed to the teacher.

    3. No trial in front of disciplinary committee was granted to give due process to the teacher and also to give the teacher an opportunity to face his accuser(s) (which is done by engineering professional societies/associations).

    There are probably more, but I'll get off my soapbox here since I'm only getting more steamed by this unprofessionalism by the public school system (one of the reasons I'm not putting my kid in the public school system).

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tony Hoffman30 May, 2008 10:20

    forthekids,

    My very short definition of the Theory of Evolution is that natural selection and genetic variation are the sole mechanisms for the diversity of living organisms and their behavior.

    Seeing as how there is no theory of ID, I don't know how you're going to equate ID with the Theory of Evolution for teaching in high school science classes, but I'm still curious about how you think the two are equal.

    Also, you say that "continued discussion of this will get us nowhere." I am not asking you to renounce your religious beliefs or share my enthusiasm for the Theory of Evolution; I agree that would be unproductive. I do think, however, that it's not unreasonable for you to address / resolve some of my disputes with the original posting's intent, chiefly:

    - How would you differentiate this teacher's actions from a Muslim teacher who then suggested that the children do their own research on alternative views of biology hosted by Islamic sites on the Internet? Do you think they're both equally excusable, and if not, why not?
    - Doesn't it bother you that the story is unsubstantiated? Again, were are the verifiable facts? The story-teller seems to be getting big mileage by saying that the original complaint was "anonymous," but the fact that the name of the offending video itself, his letter to the superintendent, etc. are all not presented seems to trouble you not at all. Once again, what's scandalous in this story can actually be verified?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Tony Hoffman30 May, 2008 10:36

    jjs p.eng,

    Here’s my story:

    “My name is Tony Hoffman. I work as an advertising copywriter. My boss and my clients all say I do great work, and I have gotten 3 raises in 2 years.

    “One day I was asked to present work to a client, who worked for a municipality. During my presentation the client asked me I believe in God. I said no, and then he said, “I don’t want no atheists working for my group.” I was told to leave the meeting.

    “The client then went on to tell all of his other co-workers that I was an atheist, and they shouldn’t give me work. Since that time, my agency was unable to get any more work from the municipality, and with the loss in revenue I was laid off.”

    Now imagine if I hosted a blog that linked to this story as further evidence of how hard it is to do business and hold a career as an atheist. Guess what? It would ring true to a lot of people, but it would still be an unsubstantiated story, and one that should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

    My point is that there are examples of evidence of scientific prejudice that are constantly be thrown around that, while appearing to be factual, do not live up to scrutiny. I have a special distaste for the one in discussion because it gives all the appearances of substance – links, photographs, quotes – but that following those links is largely circular and simply extends the hearsay to another place.

    The story might all be true. But as it’s written, it gives no confidence that it is, and seems purposely created to deceive.

    ReplyDelete
  13. From the article:

    "As a music teacher, the author, Roger Paull, received glowing commendation from parents, teachers and even the State Govenor. ..."

    "One of my music classes singing the Lee Greenwood song, ‘God Bless the USA’ caught the attention of the principal, then a US senator, then the governor’s office, and so on. In due course, there I was, a substitute teacher, putting on probably the biggest elementary school patriotic concert in Arizona state history; and it was going to be broadcast around the world as well as on several Phoenix TV stations. It was quite an honor for any teacher, especially a sub. I was given a great deal of praise by parents, teachers and even Governor Napolitano herself. In fact the principal of the school wrote a glowing evaluation of my performance as a teacher ..."


    With these statements, Roger Paull is establishing his character. He gives specific names and events which can be corroborated. I am not a professional journalist/blogger, nor do I have the time to look into Roger's above claims. However, until proven otherwise, these statements are good enough for me to consider his character as sterling, and thus strengthen his subsequent testimony.

    Just for the record, if that story that you stated in your last post was true, then I would be consider the client's actions unprofessional, too. Professionalism cuts both ways.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Tony Hoffman30 May, 2008 12:04

    jjs p.eng,

    You wrote: "With these statements, Roger Paull is establishing his character. He gives specific names and events which can be corroborated. I am not a professional journalist/blogger, nor do I have the time to look into Roger's above claims. However, until proven otherwise, these statements are good enough for me to consider his character as sterling, and thus strengthen his subsequent testimony."

    And there's the problem; I would say that Roger's testimony about his own character is practically worthless. Saying that others hold you in high regard is not the same as the actual testimony of others saying they hold you in high regard. And more importantly, positive job reviews are not proof that everything Roger Paull later recounts are true. They are, to use a legal term, immaterial to his later assertions.

    Also, does he really give specific names and events that can be corroborated? Yes, he provides the name of the governor of Arizona, Napolitano. Hmm, looking up her on Google she first became Governor of Arizona in from the election of 2002, so she probably became active governor in 2003. The article begins "The year was 1996." So, right off the bat he says he was subbing for 3 years and the governor gave him glowing reviews, except that the governor couldn't have been governor at least 4 more years after he says he was subbing.

    Again, I don't think that a positive comment from the Governor about a children's concert is evidence of this man's later assertions being true. But, once again, don't you think it's at all funny that my casual, non-journalistic investigation would uncover factual mistakes so quickly? It makes me wonder how many other factual mistakes there might be in the story. I think it should make you wonder the same thing.

    My point: You might want to do at least some casual investigation before submitting examples of positive evidence. Because if you're so easily persuaded to consider this "good enough for me" it makes me wonder what else you could be easily persuaded of.

    ReplyDelete
  15. tony hoffman said:

    "I would say that Roger's testimony about his own character is practically worthless. Saying that others hold you in high regard is not the same as the actual testimony of others saying they hold you in high regard. And more importantly, positive job reviews are not proof that everything Roger Paull later recounts are true. They are, to use a legal term, immaterial to his later assertions."

    I may not be a lawyer, but as a potential juror, those commendations and reviews (which leave a paper trail that can be traced) establishes reliability and trustworthiness of his testimony, unless it can be shown otherwise. Once character is established, it is up to cross-examination to poke holes in the character.

    If you know of evidence that damages the character of Roger Paull, as established by the commendations and reviews, then bring it forward. If that evidence is satisfactory to overrule Roger Paull's commendations and reviews, then I'll delete that portion of the post (examples could include records from the school district showing this was not a one-time event, that Roger Paull acted defiantly during his meeting with the school district, records showing that the district did in fact give their reasons for dismissing Roger Paul in writing, etc.).

    As it stands now, it sounds like you're bringing your presuppositions to the table and using it to slant your view of Roger Paull's character, which is not evidence against his character.

    Let me be clear: this was a substitute music teacher who, IMO, had no standing to intervene like he did - most music teachers do not have adequate science training. He also would have been better off pointing to the weaknesses and errors in the video. That said, a reprimand or suspension-with-pay would have been more appropriate than what he got.

    ReplyDelete
  16. jss p.eng,

    Paul says that he has impeccable character. He also says that in 1996 he received a commendation from Governor Napolitano. Napolitano was not governor until 2003.

    Why are you choosing to believe what he says about himself, when there is so obvious a lie in the first few paragraphs of his story?

    ReplyDelete
  17. JJS P.Eng. said in a comment on my blog,

    >>>>>> I'm in a debate on my blog, and the issue of the establishment of character is one of the main points. Am I legally correct with what I said in the 2nd paragraph of this comment? <<<<<<

    I am posting my answer both on this blog and my own blog.

    OOPS. At first I misunderstood your question -- I thought that you were asking about Roger Paull's credibility as a witness in court. You confused me by saying,

    "I may not be a lawyer, but as a potential juror, those commendations and reviews (which leave a paper trail that can be traced) establishes reliability and trustworthiness of his testimony, unless it can be shown otherwise. Once character is established, it is up to cross-examination to poke holes in the character."

    I later discovered that this is not about being a witness in a court. Since he was not testifying under oath, your question is not really a legal question. However, by the time I realized this, I had gone through the following long legal analysis, so I am presenting this legal analysis here anyway.

    States may have their own rules regarding testimony by witnesses. The federal rules for testimony by witnesses are contained in Article VI, Article VII, and Article VIII, and parts of Article IV of the Federal Rules of Evidence:

    ARTICLE IV. RELEVANCY AND ITS LIMITS

    Rule 403. Exclusion of Relevant Evidence on Grounds of Prejudice, Confusion, or Waste of Time
    Rule 404. Character Evidence Not Admissible To Prove Conduct; Exceptions; Other Crimes
    Rule 405. Methods of Proving Character
    Rule 406. Habit; Routine Practice

    ARTICLE VI. WITNESSES

    Rule 601. General Rule of Competency
    Rule 602. Lack of Personal Knowledge
    Rule 603. Oath or Affirmation
    Rule 604. Interpreters
    Rule 605. Competency of Judge as Witness
    Rule 606. Competency of Juror as Witness
    Rule 607. Who May Impeach
    Rule 608. Evidence of Character and Conduct of Witness
    Rule 609. Impeachment by Evidence of Conviction of Crime
    Rule 610. Religious Beliefs or Opinions
    Rule 611. Mode and Order of Interrogation and Presentation
    Rule 612. Writing Used to Refresh Memory
    Rule 613. Prior Statements of Witnesses
    Rule 614. Calling and Interrogation of Witnesses by Court
    Rule 615. Exclusion of Witnesses

    ARTICLE VII. OPINIONS AND EXPERT TESTIMONY

    Rule 701. Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses
    Rule 702. Testimony by Experts
    Rule 703. Bases of Opinion Testimony by Experts
    Rule 704. Opinion on Ultimate Issue
    Rule 705. Disclosure of Facts or Data Underlying Expert Opinion
    Rule 706. Court Appointed Experts

    ARTICLE VIII. HEARSAY

    Rule 801. Definitions
    Rule 802. Hearsay Rule
    Rule 803. Hearsay Exceptions; Availability of Declarant Immaterial
    Rule 804. Hearsay Exceptions; Declarant Unavailable
    Rule 805. Hearsay Within Hearsay
    Rule 806. Attacking and Supporting Credibility of Declarant
    Rule 807. Residual Exception


    Here are some excerpts from those rules (the rules have links to explanatory notes -- notes and footnotes are often very important) --

    Rule 403. Exclusion of Relevant Evidence on Grounds of Prejudice, Confusion, or Waste of Time

    Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. (emphasis added)

    Notes

    Rule 404. Character Evidence Not Admissible To Prove Conduct; Exceptions; Other Crimes

    (a) Character evidence generally

    Evidence of a person's character or a trait of character is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion, except:

    - - - - - - -

    (3) Character of witness - Evidence of the character of a witness, as provided in rules 607, 608, and 609.

    (b) Other crimes, wrongs, or acts

    Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, provided that upon request by the accused, the prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial.

    Rule 601. General Rule of Competency
    Every person is competent to be a witness except as otherwise provided in these rules. However, in civil actions and proceedings, with respect to an element of a claim or defense as to which State law supplies the rule of decision, the competency of a witness shall be determined in accordance with State law.

    Notes

    Rule 602. Lack of Personal Knowledge

    A witness may not testify to a matter unless evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter. Evidence to prove personal knowledge may, but need not, consist of the witness' own testimony. This rule is subject to the provisions of rule 703, relating to opinion testimony by expert witnesses.

    Notes

    Rule 603. Oath or Affirmation

    Before testifying, every witness shall be required to declare that the witness will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation administered in a form calculated to awaken the witness' conscience and impress the witness' mind with the duty to do so.

    Notes

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Rule 607. Who May Impeach

    The credibility of a witness may be attacked by any party, including the party calling the witness.

    Notes

    Rule 608. Evidence of Character and Conduct of Witness

    (a) Opinion and reputation evidence of character.

    The credibility of a witness may be attacked or supported by evidence in the form of opinion or reputation, but subject to these limitations: (1) the evidence may refer only to character for truthfulness or untruthfulness, and (2) evidence of truthful character is admissible only after the character of the witness for truthfulness has been attacked by opinion or reputation evidence or otherwise.

    (b) Specific instances of conduct.

    Specific instances of the conduct of a witness, for the purpose of attacking or supporting the witness' character for truthfulness, other than conviction of crime as provided in rule 609, may not be proved by extrinsic evidence.(emphasis added) They may, however, in the discretion of the court, if probative of truthfulness or untruthfulness, be inquired into on cross-examination of the witness (1) concerning the witness' character for truthfulness or untruthfulness(emphasis added), or (2) concerning the character for truthfulness or untruthfulness of another witness as to which character the witness being cross-examined has testified.

    The giving of testimony, whether by an accused or by any other witness, does not operate as a waiver of the accused's or the witness' privilege against self-incrimination when examined with respect to matters that relate only to character for truthfulness.

    Notes

    (I don't know why the rule says that specific instances used for attacking or supporting the witness' character for truthfulness "may not be proved by extrinsic evidence.")

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Rule 701. Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses

    If the witness is not testifying as an expert, the witness' testimony in the form of opinions or inferences is limited to those opinions or inferences which are (a) rationally based on the perception of the witness, and (b) helpful to a clear understanding of the witness' testimony or the determination of a fact in issue, and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.

    Notes


    So it appears that witnesses in federal courts are presumed to be truthful unless their truthfulness is attacked, and I presume that the same is true in state courts. Also, only past conduct related to character for truthfulness or untruthfulness may be addressed (unless the witness has been convicted of a serious crime -- see Rule 609) -- other aspects of a person's character may not be addressed -- see Rule 608 (b), "Specific instances of conduct." The alleged instances of bad character that you presented (examples could include records from the school district showing this was not a one-time event, that Roger Paull acted defiantly during his meeting with the school district, records showing that the district did in fact give their reasons for dismissing Roger Paul in writing, etc.) do not appear to be directly related to truthfulness. If Roger Paull's truthfulness is attacked, he is of course entitled to defend himself.

    Again, these are the federal rules -- state rules could differ.

    ReplyDelete
  18. jjs p.eng,

    You seem to be skirting a point I am trying to make -- that the story is one-sided, and because parts of the story either seem suspect or are clearly lies, it should be viewed with skepticism. I am not trying to make legal points here, I am trying to make points about fairness and credibility.

    You wrote: "I may not be a lawyer, but as a potential juror, those commendations and reviews (which leave a paper trail that can be traced) establishes reliability and trustworthiness of his testimony, unless it can be shown otherwise."

    Where is the paper trail that can be traced? You have admitted that you don't have the time to do the legwork. Neither do I. If you are going to provide the evidence -- the story itself -- you have a responsibility to vet its veracity (and provide the results), or, better, to refer to a story whose veracity can be vetted independently.

    The other cases you cite -- Sternberg and Gonzalez -- can be easily researched online, and one can hear both sides of the story and make personal decisions if one is telling the truth or the other. Then you slip in the one about Paull, which is not documented by two parties or independently, but by one person.

    How you can fail to see that Paull's story is obviously one-sided (and thus ultimately unpersuasive without the opportunity for cross testimony and examination), and how you can so easily cite it as an example despite its easily uncovered deceits, is what I find so mystifying.

    In other words, this is not a matter of complex legal definitions. It's a matter of basic argument. And your citing of the example of Paull, because it does not present an opportunity for independent verification, remains practically worthless.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Larry, thank you for a legal perspective.

    Tony,

    I am curious as to what specifically in Roger Paull's article did you read that makes you believe he is lying?

    As for another high school example, Roger DeHart comes to mind.

    Now that I've read into DeHart's case, I can see why the Arizona school district dealt with Paull they way they did. Who needs a lawsuit from the ACLU when you have a very limited budget?

    My point in the original post was that this is a touchy point at the high school level (as can be seen by your comments) and the stakes are high due in part to legend (Scopes) and the way the media covers the topic (Dover).

    I have to say, Tony, that you have made me think hard about this and whether I should ammend or delete the high school portion of the post. At this point in time, the link to Paull's testimony stays until exculpatory (did I spell that right Larry?) evidence is found.

    ReplyDelete
  20. jjs p.eng,

    You wrote: “I am curious as to what specifically in Roger Paull's article did you read that makes you believe he is lying?”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this – whether you mean what did I find to be a lie, or what originally led me to investigate the article’s truthfulness.

    These statements lead to a lie: The author wrote: “The year was 1996…. My three-plus years spent ‘subbing’1 with the district was somewhat notable…. I was given a great deal of praise by parents, teachers and even Governor Napolitano herself.”

    Last time I want to have to say this: Napolitano was elected in 2002. The man’s story is unclear on the year of the event, but even a generous reading puts the timing as occurring in 1999 – THREE TO FOUR YEARS BEFORE NAPOLITANO COULD HAVE BEEN GOVERNOR. How could Governor Napolitano have praised Roger Paull when she was not the governor at the time he cites?

    But removing this lie does not make the rest of the story appear credible. In fact, the story-teller uses techniques throughtout that are common with con-men and scoundrels – chiefly by providing exact details on facts that cannot be easily checked, and vague assertions on those facts that are easily verified. Let’s look at just one paragraph to illustrate what I mean:

    The story-teller wrote: “My three-plus years spent ‘subbing’1 with the district was somewhat notable. One of my music classes singing the Lee Greenwood song, ‘God Bless the USA’ caught the attention of the principal, then a US senator, then the governor’s office, and so on. In due course, there I was, a substitute teacher, putting on probably the biggest elementary school patriotic concert in Arizona state history; and it was going to be broadcast around the world as well as on several Phoenix TV stations. It was quite an honor for any teacher, especially a sub. I was given a great deal of praise by parents, teachers and even Governor Napolitano herself. In fact the principal of the school wrote a glowing evaluation of my performance as a teacher and asked me to take the position permanently. She even offered to help me get state certification.”

    Okay, Lee Greenwood wrote the song “God Bless the USA.” This is a fact, but it doesn’t support any of the man’s contentions in the story – it’s just thrown in there. Next, the US Senator goes unnamed. There’s really no good reason not to use the Senator’s name, especially because, unlike Lee Greenwood, the Senator could provide independent verification of some of the man’s assertions. Why should this be missing?

    Next, he asserts that the concert was “probably the biggest elementary school patriotic concert in Arizona state history.” This sounds impressive, but are there really statistics for this sort of thing? Next, he states that the concert “was going to be broadcast around the world as well as on several Phoenix TV stations.” First off, he says “was going to be” when previously he talked about the concert as having occurred. Which is it? Also, “broadcast around the world” is usually reserved for truly global events like Moon Landings, World Cup Soccer, etc. Going from that to including “several Phoenix TV stations” seems incongruous. Did the broadcast ever actually occur, and was it truly a “broadcast around the world” event? If not, why hype it other than to lend a false import to the events surrounding his dismissal? Also, I work in advertising, and I can tell you that if there’s one thing local stations hate it’s broadcasting the same program. It seems deeply suspect that two stations would plan on, let alone broadcast, the same event.

    Lastly, we have the statement that the school principal “offered to help me get state certification.” This is a meaningless statement – principals don’t get teachers certified, colleges and universities do that (with state involvement). That would be like your boss telling you that he’s going to help you get your engineering degree. Really, there’s a secret back door of principal connections where you don’t have to go to school, pass tests, and fulfill curriculum requirements? The teacher who accepted the offer as sincere would have to know nothing about state certification, and the principal would be passing on a meaningless offer.

    So that’s one paragraph in this story. Throw in the fact that the footnotes are a joke, the story cites a number of well-known fallacies about science, Darwin, etc., and that the story is hosted on a website that has a clear creationist agenda and I think you’ll see why this citing this story alone is not credible evidence for your assertion – that high school teachers are facing unfair pressure based on their personal religious beliefs.

    Here’s what I think would be productive and good for your audience (I include myself here): if you would post a topic on what the standards ought to be for argumentative evidence used on this site, and by extension, sites like it on the internet. There is a lot of false and misleading information on the web, and arming your audience with the ability to independently verify all that is available would make for better discourse and a higher level of fairness. That is, if that’s one of your intentions for hosting this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Tony, you do bring up good point. I am stubborn myself, but only to a point. I will remove the portion of the post with Roger Paull's testimony immediately.

    While I am not in total agreement with you on the credibility and traceability of the statements, the dates are fuzzy. Also, it appears my own views on the public school system have clouded my judgment on the topic of Roger Paull.

    Bottom line, the post remains, but without the Roger Paull or high school reference.

    ReplyDelete
  22. jjs p.eng,

    I appreciate your taking the time to consider my arguments.

    ReplyDelete