A view from across the pond

The Guardian commented last week on the Dover decision and delivered a stinging rebuke to “George Bush’s United States”:

This ruling matters, not just to the parents who brought it on their children’s behalf, but because the belief in biblical literalism is on the march in America. A recent survey found only 26% of Americans believe, with Darwin, that life on earth has evolved through natural selection. Two-thirds favour the teaching of creationism alongside evolution, against which the judge ruled, while 38% think evolution should not be taught in school at all. ID has powerful adherents – including Mr Bush himself – and rich and militant supporters who will make trouble for those who hold the line on behalf of Darwin, evolution and science – no corporate sponsors came forward this year for the big Darwin exhibition now in New York, for instance.

America’s evolving confrontation

Guest Blogger: Ellery Schempp

Warning: Gravity is “only a theory”

All physics textbooks should include this warning label:

This textbook contains material on Gravity. Universal Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding the natural law of attraction. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

The Universal Theory of Gravity is often taught in schools as a “fact,” when in fact it is not even a good theory.

First of all, no one has measured gravity for every atom and every star. It is simply a religious belief that it is “universal.” Secondly, school textbooks routinely make false statements. For example, “the moon goes around the earth.” If the theory of gravity were true, it would show that the sun’s gravitational force on the moon is much stronger than the earth’s gravitational force on the moon, so the moon has to go around the sun. Anybody can look up at night and see the obvious gaps in gravity theory.

The existence of tides is often taken as proof of gravity, but this is logically flawed. Because if the moon’s “gravity” were responsible for a bulge underneath it, then how can anyone explain a high tide on the opposite side of the earth at the same time? Anyone can observe that there are two high tides every day–not just one. It is far more likely that tides were given to us by an Intelligent Creator long ago and they have been with us ever since. In any case, two high tides falsifies gravity.

While micro-gravity is observed when, for example, dropping an egg on the floor, this does not prove that macro-gravity exists. If there is macrogravity, why don’t the sun, the moon, and the planets all fall down and hit the earth? Some say that planetary orbits are proof of gravity. According to gravitationalists, gravity applies in a straight line between different objects. Gravity does not make things spin in circles. But the planets do move in circles, and then gravitationalists say such orbits prove macro-gravity. This is merely circular reasoning.

There are numerous alternative theories that should be taught on an equal basis. For example, the observed behavior of the earth revolving around the sun can be perfectly explained if the sun has a net positive charge and the planets have a net negative charge, since opposite charges attract and the force is an inverse-square law, exactly as the increasingly discredited Theory of Gravity. Physics and chemistry texts emphasize that this is the explanation for electrons going around the nucleus, so if it works for atoms, why not for the solar system? The answer is simple: scientific orthodoxy.

The U.S. Patent Office has never issued a patent for anti-gravity. Why is this? According to natural law and homeopathy, everything exists in opposites: good-evil; grace-sin; positive charges-negative charges; north poles-south poles; good vibes-bad vibes; etc. We know there are anti-evolutionists, so why not anti-gravitationalists? It is clearly a matter of the scientific establishment elite protecting their own. Anti-gravity papers are routinely rejected from peer-reviewed journals, and scientists who propose anti-gravity quickly lose their funding. Universal gravity theory is just a way to keep the grant money flowing.

Gravity totally fails to explain why Saturn has rings and Jupiter does not. It utterly fails to account for obesity. In fact, what it does “explain” is far out-weighed by what it does not explain.

When the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, he relied on “gravitational calculations.” But Tombaugh was a Unitarian, a liberal religious group that supports the Theory of Gravity. The present-day Unitarian-Universalists continue to rely on liberal notions and dismiss ideas of anti-gravity as unfounded. Tombaugh never even attempted to justify his “gravitational calculations” on the basis of Scripture, and he went on to be a founding member of the liberal Unitarian Fellowship of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The theory of gravity violates common sense in many ways. Adherents have a hard time explaining, for instance, why airplanes do not fall. Since anti-gravity is rejected by the scientific establishment, they resort to lots of hand-waving. The theory, if taken seriously, implies that the default position for all airplanes is on the ground. While this is obviously true for Northwest airplanes (relying on “a wing and a prayer”), it appears that Jet Blue and Southwest have superior methods that effectively overcome the weight of masses at Northwest, and thus harness forces that succeed over so-called gravity.

It is unlikely that the Law of Gravity will be repealed given the present geo-political climate, but there is no need to teach unfounded theories in the public schools. There is, indeed, evidence that the Theory of Gravity is having a grave effect on morality. Activist judges and left-leaning teachers often use the phrase “what goes up must come down” as a way of describing gravity, and relativists have been quick to apply this to moral standards and common decency.

It is not even clear why we need a theory of gravity — there is not a single mention in the Bible, and the patriotic founding fathers never referred to it. If gravity wasn’t important in Moses’ day or Jefferson’s day, it is ridiculous to take it seriously at this time.

Finally, the mere name “Universal Theory of Gravity” or “Theory of Universal Gravity” (the secularists like to use confusing language) has a distinctly socialist ring to it. The core idea of “to each according to his weight, from each according to his mass” is communist. There is no reason that gravity should apply to the just and the unjust equally, and the saved should have relief from such “universalism.” And, if we have Universal Gravity now, then Universal health care will be sure to follow. It is this kind of universalism that saps a nation’s moral fiber.

Overall, the Theory of Universal Gravity is just not an attractive theory. It is based on borderline evidence, has many serious gaps in what it claims to explain, is clearly wrong in important respects, and has social and moral deficiencies. If taught in the public schools, by mis-directed “educators,” it has to be balanced with alternative, more attractive theories with genuine gravamen and spiritual gravitas.

Ellery Schemp is a retired physicist who taught physics at the University of Pittsburgh, worked on nuclear waste issues at the Department of Energy, and was a consultant on energy technology. His family successfully sued the Abington School District over the reading of Bible verses in school in Abington v. Schempp, which was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963.

Catching up with Ellery Schempp of Abington v. Schempp

As a result of the Dover decision, we’ve been receiving a lot of correspondence and congratulations from across the country. A long-time friend of the ACLU of PA, Ellery Schempp, called last week to offer his congratulations. As you legal scholars may know, Ellery’s family took on the Abington School District in the late 1950s when Ellery was in 11th grade. At issue was the reading of Bible verses in public schools, as mandated by Pennsylvania law, and the family was ultimately successful before the United States Supreme Court in 1963, after Ellery had graduated and while his sister and brother were still in school. The Court voted 8-1 in favor of the Schempps.

Abington v. Schempp is now listed as one of the ACLU’s 100 Greatest Hits.

We took the opportunity to talk with Ellery about the Dover case and his own experience as an original plaintiff in his family’s case. Now 65-years-old and living in a suburb of Boston, it was apparent that Ellery is passionate about the issue of religious liberty and that he had followed the Dover case closely.

“It’s a great decision,” he said. “Judge Jones wrote it beautifully and got to the heart of the issue.

“I was just giddy for days afterwards,” he said with a laugh.

A lack of knowledge of both government and science seems to be at the heart of the struggle over evolution and the role of religion in schools and government. Ellery noted that some public schools in Massachusetts no longer require civics as part of the social studies curriculum.

“People are very uneducated on these matters,” he said. “They’re not very familiar with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

“If they knew the science of evolution, the desire for intelligent design would diminish. It all fits together to create an amazingly beautiful picture of how the planet formed.”

Ellery’s professional life included time as a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, a position with the Department of Energy working on nuclear waste, and a position as a consultant on energy technology. One of his clients was the government of New Zealand.

As high profile plaintiffs in a high profile case, Ellery feels that the Dover plaintiffs have already been through the worst of the storm.

“They’ve probably received letters,” he said. “Some will be supportive, some will be civil, and some will be nasty.

“The worst of it will have passed by now.”

42 years of hindsight have reinforced Ellery’s feelings about his family’s case. “It was the right decision. It was good for the nation,” he said. “As we’ve become more diverse, it’s made the nation stronger.”

Ellery also expressed his concern about the state of the union on this issue. “In the late ’50s, we were more civil. The country is more polarized than it was. I find that disturbing.”

We spent some time discussing the movement of some evangelical Christians to inject their brand of religion into government. Ellery expressed his belief that this movement has changed since the 1950s.

“They had their beliefs and went about their lives,” he said. “There is now a desire for public piety.”

We finished the conversation by bringing it back to Dover. Ellery is confident that while it may not completely disappear, the intelligent design movement will struggle after the Dover decision.

“The intelligent design movement has internal struggles,” he said. “We see Rick Santorum has backed away from his support. These fissures will become more pronounced. I’m hopeful the intelligent design movement will wane.”

He also stated that conservatives are debating each other over ID, which is evident on the internet and in the press. “It’s quite heartwarming to see conservatives arguing vigorously for evolution,” he said. “There’s a significant number of politically and socially conservative Republicans who vigorously oppose teaching ID in schools. They think it’s making the conservative movement look foolish.”

Andy in Harrisburg

ACLU finally busted in War on Christmas

To bring an end to the bloody war on Christmas, the ACLU of Texas has turned us in.
Operation Kill Christmas: Scenes from the War Room

Atop every mountain we’ve secretly placed an army of green grinches prepared to sled down on Christmas morning into towns across America to steal presents from toddlers.

Don’t believe it? I tell you I’ve seen the secret grinch training facilities.

The War Room for Operation Kill Christmas lies in a bunker deep underground. That’s also where we keep all our Communists. I know most of you thought Communism was dead after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s not true. They’re all huddled deep underground in our secret ACLU bunker.

I knew that ACLU-TX was the Benedict Arnold amongst us. What they say must be true: Don’t mess with Texas.

Have your rights violated, defend your family, get the death sentence

Hot talk in the blogosphere is the case of Corey Maye of Prentiss, Mississippi. For a ton of detail on the case, check out TheAgitator.com, but I’ll summarize it. On December 26, Prentiss police planned a midnight raid of Maye’s next door neighbor with whom Maye shares a duplex. The police thought that the duplex was a single unit and busted into Maye’s home, too. Maye was asleep and at home alone with his 18-month-old daughter at the time. Thinking that there was an intruder in his home, Maye opened fire on the first police officer who came into his bedroom and killed him.

In January of 2004, a jury of 12 Mississipians convicted Maye and sentenced him to death.

Here is TheAgitator.com’s original post on the case, which includes more detail about the raid, the jury’s motivation (which is just bizarre), and the inconsistencies in the story the police told.

As the father of a two-year-old girl, this one hits close to home.

Abolish the Death Penalty, the blog of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, has a fairly thorough vetting of the various blogs that have been commenting on Maye’s case.

Oh, and one last note. Maye is black and the officer, Ron Jones, was white. I know, you’re shocked.

Andy in H-burg

A Brit, a Mexican-American, and a Texan walk into a bar

Or into the ongoing controversy over keeping America both safe and free.

A quick scan through some media sources finds the press continuing its examination of civil liberties issues in the post-9/11 world.

The Oakland Tribune put it quite bluntly on Friday: Big Brother is watching

We are told that it’s better not to know what our government is doing in our name, for security purposes. Meanwhile, our government is becoming omnipresent, spying on us whenever it deems it necessary.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

George Orwell was right after all.

In 1949, Orwell penned “1984,” a dark, futuristic satire in which the totalitarian government used indoctrination, propaganda and fear to enforce order and conformity. His “Big Brother” – the face of this all-knowing regime – was never wrong, and to make sure of it, history was constantly being rewritten.

Orwell wrote his book as a cautionary tale to underscore the insidious danger of slowly eroded individual liberties. His Thought Police may not yet be on the march, but it’s not hyperbole to point out the eerie parallels with today’s America.

In America today, Big Brother is watching.

(If you read the full editorial, please keep in mind that the ACLU takes no position on war. I’ve posted this because of the brilliant commentary about- what else- civil liberties.)

The OT noted this from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: “I’m as concerned about the privacy of American citizens as anyone

(audience laughter) Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy a nice, tall glass of Lip Service.

but we cannot allow libraries and use of libraries to become safe havens for terrorists,” Gonzales said in July, defending one of the act’s most controversial provisions.

This is yet another example of the government using misinformation to distract the public and sway us toward their way of thinking. No one has said that law enforcement should be completely banned from libraries. We simply want there to be evidence to justify a library search. The Patriot Act allows the FBI and the DOJ to gain search warrants or write National Security Letters without showing any evidence of wrongdoing or potential wrongdoing.

Of course, in light of the recent revelation that the FBI thinks that PETA and Greenpeace endanger national security, they probably want to know who is checking out Earth in the Balance and Slaughterhouse.

Columnist J.R. Labbe of the Forth Worth Star Telegram took the administration to task for trampling on the Constitution:

It’s ironic that on the day when Christians herald the arrival of the Light of the World and Jews begin their eight-day Festival of Light known as Hanukkah, our nation is re-visiting a very dark chapter of history.

The same document that guarantees every American the right to mark this day as a Christian holiday, or a Jewish holiday, or a cultural holiday such as Kwanzaa or just a day off from work is the same document that the executive branch of the federal government thinks it can ignore in the name of national security.

The enumeration of citizens’ rights known as the Bill of Rights — everything from free speech to the right to be secure in one’s home — isn’t just a listing of suggestions that can be ignored when they become inconvenient.

Labbe also would not let Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) off the hook:

Cornyn had the gall to say that “none of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead.” He may have a point — a very bad one. That kind of sound-bite fearmongering indicates the weakness of this administration’s argument.

In response, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Bringing it closer to home, the (Harrisburg) Patriot News wrote an editorial yesterday in which the paper called for “more protections for Americans, not fewer” and “more debate and more consideration of civil liberties, rather than less”.
Still time to protect rights

Andy in the HBG

What’s in the House egg nog?

The barkeep needs to cut these guys off.

House OKs one-month Patriot Act extension

I need a poli-sci prof to explain this to me:

Approval came on a voice vote in a nearly empty chamber

Do I have this straight? Rep. I.M. Crazy can walk into the House, bring legislation to the floor, and hold a voice vote with no one there.

That rumble you just heard was James Madison rolling over in his grave.

Andy in the HBG

Patriot Act cliffhanger continues

Wow. That’s all I can say. From the AP:

WASHINGTON – House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner threatened Thursday to block passage of legislation renewing the anti-terror Patriot Act, Republican officials disclosed.

The Senate passed a six-month extension Wednesday night, and House approval is required by Dec. 31 to keep in place the enhanced law enforcement powers first enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Full article

Dover fallout

I see someone beat me to it in the comments on the previous post this morning, but yes, it’s been confirmed in today’s Harrisburg Patriot News that the US Middle District Attorney’s office is reviewing testimony in the Dover intelligent design case to decide whether to pursue perjury charges.

In other fun Dover trial-related news, Senator Rick Santorum is now saying he “intends to withdraw his affiliation with the Michigan-based public-interest law firm [Thomas More Law Center] that promotes Christian values,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I thought the Thomas More Law Center made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did,” Santorum said.

You may remember that Santorum had been a big proponent of teach intelligent design, and his editorial on the subject was featured prominently in the special newsletter the Dover Area school board sent out to the district after it added the intelligent design statement to the curriculum.

Sara in Philly

Common sense prevails in D.C.

There’s a headline you don’t see everyday.

The Senate has passed a six-month extension of the Patriot Act so that the concerns of a bipartisan group of senators, 400 communities across the country, seven state legislatures, and millions of people who love the Constitution can be considered. This will allow the Congress and the administration to consider ways to both protect liberty and protect the homeland. Hmmm, that could make for a nifty little phrase. Safety and Freedom? Safely and Freely? I’ve got it! Safe & Free!

This extension means the ACLU-PA staff will have to buck up and bust it to advocate for serious reform, but we don’t mind. That’s why we’re here, to defend freedom.

Andy in H-burg