Category Archives: News

Split decision on Texas evolution standards favors academic freedom

Over at the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News blog, they recently reported that the Texas State Board of Education reached a split decision on the state standards for teaching evolution.

Evolution News says this in their post:

Kudos to the New York Times for filing a story on the actions of the Texas State Board of Education that actually describes what happened last week. Unlike much of the rest of the newsmedia, the Times doesn’t tell only half of what happened or play up the hysterics. The story’s even-handed title is telling: “Split Outcome in Texas Battle on Teaching of Evolution.”

The NYT article they mentioned explains the compromise reached by the Texas State Board of Education.

First, the bad news:

…the board voted to drop a 20-year-old mandate that science teachers explore with their students the “strengths and weaknesses” of all theories.

But the board also passed some good amendments, among them this one:

…one that would compel science teachers to instruct students about aspects of the fossil record that do not neatly fit with the idea of species’ gradually changing over time, like the relatively sudden appearance of some species and the fact that others seem to remain unchanged for millions of years.

Let me explain why this is a big win for ID. One of my previous employers was a major academic publishing company. By major, I mean my alma mater’s campus library featured academic publication databases that I helped to code. In this company, it was well known that California and Texas were the two most important states, because their textbook standards set the guidelines for the other states.

The NYT article explains:

Whatever the 15-member board decides then will have consequences far beyond Texas, since the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks in the nation. The new standards will be in place for the next decade, starting in 2010, and will influence the writing of the next generation of biology texts, which the state will order this summer.

John G. West of the Discovery Institute evaluates the board’s decision as positive:

“They did something truly remarkable today,” John G. West of the Discovery Institute, a group that questions Darwinism, said in a statement. “They voted to require students to analyze and evaluate some of the most important and controversial aspects of modern evolutionary theory.”

I actually have podcasts for you of the testimonies of pro-ID scholars given to the Texas Board. If you want to learn how scientists argue for academic freedom on issues of origins, you should listen to these three 15-minute podcasts.

  1. My favorite ID scholar Stepen C. Meyer testified on the Cambrian explosion and the fossil record, (podcast, article). Meyer holds a Ph.D in the Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University. I once saw him explain biological information using colorful lock-blocks, live. (He stole them from his children). I often draw it up for my co-workers on a white board, just like he does!
  2. Microbiologist Ralph Seelke testified about how his lab research that shows clear limits on how far bacteria can evolve, (podcast, article). Seelke holds a Ph.D in Microbiology from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. He is a Professor in the Department of Biology and Earth Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
  3. Biochemist Charles Garner testified on the chirality problem in chemical evolution, (podcast, article). He also discussed the importance of not glossing over the weaknesses of scientific theories. Garner holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from University of Colorado, Boulder. Garner is now a Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Baylor University.

For those looking for a definition of what intelligent design is, look here. I highly recommend the work of Canadian journalist Denyse O’Leary, who is probably the foremost expert on why there is an ID controversy. Her main blog on ID is called Post-Darwinist.

As a supporter of academic freedom, I sent a donation to the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture yesterday. The CSC is currently offering a free book with donations received before February 28th, 2009. For my annual donation, I chose Stephen C. Meyer’s forthcoming book “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design“.

On another note, I am also excited about Jay Richards’ forthcoming book, “Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem“. Jay did a great lecture on basic economics for Christians and another great lecture on what Christians should think about global warming. Maybe his employer, the Acton Institute, will give me a free book if I send them a donation?

UPDATE: Casey Luskin just posted audio of Stephen C. Meyer responding to questions after is presentation at the hearing.

Ezra Levant: “the best news on the freedom of speech front in a year!”

Ezra Levant, champion of free speech
Ezra Levant, champion of free speech

Alberta is the most conservative province in Canada, and the most free. It is therefore shocking that they have one of the worst Human Rights Commissions in the country, just behind British Columbia and Ontario. But it looks like there may finally be hope for free speech in Alberta, at least, as Ezra reports here.

Ezra begins by recounting his own brush with the Alberta Human Rights commission.

Fifteen government bureaucrats and lawyers investigated me for 900 days, leaving me with $100,000 in legal bills — and the taxpayers of Alberta out five times that — before the charges were dropped.

He notes how the phony right to not be offended now trumps real civil rights, like freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But there is hope. Lindsay Blackett, the provincial Cabinet minister in charge of the Alberta HRC, was interviewed by Rick Bell in the Calgary Sun. And he is not happy about their little kangaroo court.

Here is my favorite quote from the interview:

“People shouldn’t feel they can’t come to Canada, like a university professor who talks about a subject matter and then there are reprisals,” says the cabinet minister.

“They should have the ability to say what they say and somebody should have their ability to have the counter argument. That is what a free and open society does. Let’s get away from trying to mediate everybody’s feelings.”

And this one:

Lindsay talks about being turned down by a girl at a school dance with all his pals watching.

“You feel about two inches tall. I guess maybe I should have taken her to the Human Rights Commission because I had hurt feelings. Where does it end?”

Levant concludes that the interview is “the best news on the freedom of speech front in a year”. We can only hope that Blackett acts on his convictions. Fire. Them. All.

UPDATE: If you want to see Ezra Levant in action against leftist opponents of free speech, click here.

Michele Bachmann explains why we need to cut corporate tax rates

Representative Michele Bachmann
Representative Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann is by far my favorite House Representative. In a post dated 2/17/2009, she draws attention to the little-known fact that the combined corporate tax rate of the United States is the fourth highest in the world. This is important because the higher to corporate tax rate, the more likely it is that a corporation will move overseas and lay off all of its American workers. Also, a lower corporate tax rate attracts the best and brightest from abroad to move here to start their businesses, powered by American workers.

This might come as a surprise to you, but the United States is near the top of the list of industrialized countries with the highest corporate tax rates.

You may be asking yourself “so what,” or “who cares,” but it’s important to recognize that lower corporate tax rates result in attracting more investment capital. A reduction of the federal corporate tax rate would increase firms’ productivity and investment incentives, and ultimately stimulate our nation’s long-term competitiveness by enhancing economic freedom.  The end result would be a boon to your family budget.

The problem gets even worse when you realize that many eastern European nations are slashing their corporate tax rates and even imposing flat taxes, leading to astonishing economic growth. This growth attracts foreign investments away from the USA, because investors can get a better return wherever there are lower corporate tax rates.

Bachmann post cites a study from KPMG showing just how bad the USA is compared to other nations.

“U.S. corporate income tax rate is higher than all other global regions—14 percentage points higher than the global average and nearly 17 percentage points higher than the average among European Union nations. Of the 106 countries surveyed, only the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Japan impose a higher corporate tax rate than the combined rate of 40 percent. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait each have a staggering tax rate of 55 percent; Japan’s rate is 40.69 percent.”

She also cites alarming figures from Heritage Foundation.

“Even Europe’s old welfare states have joined the aggressive tax cut parade: Sweden has cut its corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 60 percent; Norway’s rate has dropped over 50 percent to 28 percent; and Denmark’s corporate tax rate is now 25 percent.”

Is it any wonder that American firms are laying off workers and shipping jobs overseas? Cutting corporate tax rates creates jobs, increases economic growth and, eventually, increases consumer spending. If you don’t believe me, believe the 69-page research paper published by the Congressional Budget Office. The Tax Foundation summarizes their findings here.

A new study from three prominent economists finds that employees suffer most when their corporate employers must pay high corporate taxes. That contradicts the theory that has prevailed for decades — that corporate taxes mainly hurt investors — but it supports a recent CBO study by Randolph that found workers bearing 70 percent of the burden of corporate income taxes.

They find that the workers’ share of the corporate tax burden ranges from 45 to 75 percent.

The Tax Foundation has a complete study of corporate tax rates across the world. We are not winning. We are losing. Badly.

On a positive note, I find it charming and delightful when women speak passionately about how fiscal conservatism supports marriage, family and charity. Bachmann and her husband Markus run their own business. She’s worked as a tax lawyer and an elected legislator, but she still found time for a period of home-schooling. And not only did she raise her own 5 children, but also 23 foster children.

In her speech at the Republican National Convention in 2008, (video, transcript), Bachmann makes the connection between fiscal conservatism, small government, a strong family and private charity.

As Republicans, we recognize that service is an innately personal characteristic. It is best achieved by individuals and community groups, faith-based organizations and charities. And, service thrives best in an environment of freedom. Government fosters service best when government binds it least.

As Republicans, we recognize that when you keep more of your hard-earned dollars, you are free to spend it as you choose on the charities that touch your heart and make a difference in your community.

Bachmann believes in marriage, family and charity. My favorite quote from her is from her profile in World Magazine.

Bachmann says for her one thread ties all the day’s obligations together: “radical abandonment to God’s call.”

For more on big-government socialism and its conflict with marriage, family and charity, see this video lecture, by the eminent economist Jennifer Roback Morse.

Bobby Jindal pushes education reform in Lousiana

Governor Jindal speaks about budget reform
Governor Jindal speaks about budget reform

Last year, my favorite Governor, Bobby Jindal, passed several laws to address discipline problems in the schools. One bill’s goal was to re-establish discipline in classrooms by empowering teachers. Another bill sought to protect teachers from frivolous lawsuits. A third toughens penalties for students who are absent or tardy. That was a great start, especially since it was miles away from the typical teacher union plan to spend more money without any guarantee of better student achievement.

But he goes even further here, in a post dated 2/17/2009. First, he expands the laws governing discipline in the classroom even further.

We will give teachers more authority to remove students from the classroom for unruly behavior, require that parents be notified when their child is removed, and administrators will have to give their teachers feedback and management skills to help them work with misbehaving students.

Additional plans to increase discipline include requiring that suspended students make up missed work, permitting courts to help our schools hold parents accountable for attending mandatory intervention programs with their kids, and to allow schools to work with the courts to enforce truancy penalties. These steps will ensure that not only teachers and administrators will be taking a more active role in discipline – parents will be held accountable as well.

He also proposes to strengthen charter schools.

…we will require that our public elementary and secondary education boards use a high-quality third party review process for approving charter school applications. By ensuring that all applications are measured by the same high-quality standards, we can make certain that only the best applications are approved.

The regulation of charter schools is OK because as I understand it, charter schools are public schools. And lastly, he proposes something that the teacher unions and children will hate, but that parents and taxpayers will love: teacher and student evaluation criteria.

…we will work to implement a comprehensive value-added assessment model, which will aid our schools in better determining teacher effectiveness and student improvement. Our state has completed nationally recognized research, which was recently praised by the National Council on Teacher Quality, dealing with the use of value-added data well-positions in teacher preparation programs to improve our current system. This model takes student achievement into account, which better informs our parents, teachers, and kids on the progress our students are making.

The article also mentions a dropout prevention program that is coming out soon. The press release goes on to discuss budget reforms and coastal infrastructure. He proposes web sites to make budget expenditures transparent to the taxpayers, as well as subjecting all spending to accountability standards.

Bobby Jindal, along with Mark Sanford in South Carolina, are my two favorite governors. Being a person of color myself, it is a real joy for me to see an Indian-American man universally regarded as the savior of the Republican party. In the Republican primaries of 2008, I favored Fred Thompson, because he had good ideas. But Jindal is a policy genius. And at 38 years old, he has youth, charisma and passion. What we need in the Republican party are compelling ideas, and people who are willing to debate with our opponents in order to convince them.

To find out more about Bobby Jindal, check out these links:

Interview with Michael Medved (audio, 25 minutes)
Interview with Rush Limbaugh (PDF)
The American Spectator: Hope Floats on the Bayou Bobby Jindal Saves Louisiana The Future of Conservatism (Isn’t Running for President)
The Weekly Standard: Jindal All the Way
The National Review: The Governor Is Right
The Wall Street Journal: Bayou Boy Wonder Want real hope and change? Try Louisiana

William Lane Craig Ontario debate videos (York, Toronto, Waterloo)

Video and audio from William Lane Craig’s January 2009 speaking/debate tour in Ontario, Canada are here.

VIDEO: William Lane Craig vs Ronald De Sousa at York University (DivX Video File)

I watched this one and this was a lively debate, with cross-examination. I recommend this one, De Sousa is fully engaged in the debate. They’ve debated before. He really bears his burden of proof and doesn’t give an inch. He makes a lot of emotional denunciations, like “Christians are mean” and “the Bible is mean”. He proposed the unobservable multiverse to explain the fine-tuning. Is this what atheism has come to? Belief in fairies in order to weasel out of the progress of science?

He argues that the laws of physics, (math formulas that describe physical regularities), caused the entire physical universe to come into being. He argues that morality is what most people do in particular times and places, and Craig nails that. I found it silly to argue that morality is what people decide, yet God is expected to conform to this changing standard or he’s evil. I blogged about that problem here. De Sousa’s problem of evil argument is pretty vague. This is a solid engagement!

AUDIO: William Lane Craig vs James Robert Brown at the University of Toronto
Part 1 (welcome) Part 2 (Intro) Part 3 (Debate 1) Part 4 (Debate 2) Part 5 (Q&A)

They’ve known each other for a while and debated before. I just listened to the first two speeches and it sounds lame. Brown is a good speaker, but he talks about arguments that Craig never raises, like Aristotle’s prime mover and Behe’s irreducible complexity. He also started out with the genetic fallacy about how beliefs originate. His speech is really disorganized, flipping between snark and argument. He also proposed the unobservable multiverse to explain the fine-tuning. Sigh.

He believes in objectively morality, but he believes that there is no purpose in life, (no reason to follow the moral rules beyond personal satisfaction). He tried to argue the problem of evil, but it was not rigorous. Too much snark about Greek gods and flat earths. Atheists seem to think that the high number of false religions somehow disproves the claim of Christianity to be correct. There are lots of wrong answers to math questions – how does this undermine the correct answer? Because it hurts the other people’s feelings? WHO CARES!

VIDEO: William Lane Craig vs Christopher Dicarlo at University of Waterloo (Video)
(Or, watch it in 14 Youtube clips, starting here).

This is a pretty lame debate. Dicarlo is completely out of his element and has probably never debated a Christian scholar in his life. I don’t recommend this debate. I found him to be as uninformed as he was insulting.

I also posted video of Bill Craig’s appearance on the Michael Coren TV show, here. Bill’s latest newsletter talks a bit about his upcoming Quebec tour in February 2009:

Next week I’ll be back in Canada, this time in the even colder climes of Quebec. I have a debate on Jesus’ resurrection scheduled with the Muslim apologist Shabir Ally at McGill University on February 11, sandwiched between lectures I’ll give in French at L’Université Laval and L’Université de Montréal on February 10 and 12 on “Dieu Existe-t-il?” As always we appreciate your prayers!

By the way, I mailed my annual donation for Bill’s ministry today. If you like what Bill does, be sure and stop by his Reasonable Faith web site and leave him a contribution. You want to participate in the work of this fine defender of Christianity. If you can’t spare the money, then please pray for Bill.