Re: [asa] Cobb County settles lawsuit

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Wed Dec 20 2006 - 22:40:44 EST

I have to accept David's analysis of the consequences of this decision.
However, it strikes me that the decision here and in Kitzmiller are
consequences of stupidity. In Kitzmiller, Judge Jones was asked to rule
broadly, with DI backing out and then trying to get back in. Also, the
Dover board was warned not to enact their action. With the decision
contrary to what the "Christians" desired, there is sniping at the judge.
I would not want to answer at the judgment seat of Christ for such
demeaning of a brother.

In Georgia, trying to apply the "theory"="guess" popular usage to
scientific theories is notably stupid and was costly to the district. The
legal remedy to such stupidity is to make sure that no fool in that
jurisdiction will repeat the idiocy. This, unfortunately, is not fool
proof because, as someone noted, the fools are so ingenious. But it is
extreme. The basis of several similar actions is the tacit insistence
that OUR fundamentalist interpretation of scripture is correct (excluding
a stationary earth on the one hand and an ancient earth on the other, for
example) and will be taught in the public schools. As Michael has noted,
this is possible in the British counterparts, but it will not pass muster
in the US courts.

I personally insist that the universe follows the design of an omniscient
and omnipotent Creator, and adore him. But I recognize that this is not a
scientific theory, but springs from religious and philosophical
commitments. If God is omnipresent and omnific, how do I scientifically
pin him down to a specific location or action?

On Wed, 20 Dec 2006 10:43:43 -0500 "David Opderbeck"
<> writes:
I haven't studied this case in any depth and don't know the politics that
led up to this settlement, so I'm only going to make a couple of
provisional comments. My initial reaction is that I find some aspects of
Consent Order settling this case disturbing.

For example, paragraph 2(a) of the order enjoins the school board and its
agents, employees, and successors from "making any disclaimers regarding
evolution orally, in writing, or by any other means." Paragraph 3 of
the Order states that it is binding on the school board "and its officers
and members in perpetuity, notwithstanding any changes to the Board's
membership that may result from further elections, appointments,
vacancies, or other changes to the Board or its composition." The trial
court retains perpetual jurisdiction to enforce these provisions.

If this broad language is interpreted literally, depending on what
"disclaimers" means in Paragraph 2(a), no teacher in Cobb County can ever
criticize the theory of evolution in any way, nor can the citizens of
Cobb County vote to adopt a policy that would allow teachers to criticize
the theory of evolution in any way, even in a philosophy or history

When Kitzmiller was decided, I took lots of heat for arguing that, even
if the result was right, the fact that a federal trial judge took it upon
himself to provide a philosophical definition of "science" was bad for
science as a discipline. This Consent Order seems to me like another
step towards control over the philosophy of science by the federal trial
courts. I can't see how this is good for science or for democracy.

Footnote: I would note here two aspects of my initial thoughts on this
that makes them provisional: (1) I'm not sure how a different judge or
an appellate court a few years from now might interpret the term
"disclaimers" in this Order. A court could give it a narrow
interpretation that means only "officially endorsed statements of
policy," which makes the Order somewhat less problematic though still
troubling; (2) In the event a court gave the term "disclaimers" a broad
interpretation -- or even a more narrow interpretation were adopted -- it
seems to me that these provisions would be subject to a strong first
amendment free speech challenge. A free speech challenge, however, would
face some difficult procedural hurdles, since this is an Order entered by
consent, which would make a challenge by a later-elected school board or
its agents or employees difficult on grounds of claim or issue
preclusion. (Claim and issue preclusion is a doctrine that says a party
generally cannot relitigate claims or issues that were raised or could
have been raised in an earlier proceeding).

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Received on Wed Dec 20 22:50:44 2006

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