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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Down the bayou: Louisiana passes "It's okay to doubt" act

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted unanimously to adopt rules today implementing the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), the landmark academic freedom bill passed last summer.

The rules approved by the BESE effectuate the academic freedom bill’s purpose to allow teachers to use supplementary materials to teach controversial scientific theories
without threat of recrimination.

Well, I hope it all works out. I worry about Louisiana's low rating in the education stats, but, quite honestly, having lived through so many exploded popular science myths - overpopulation, nuclear winter, global warming, the necessity of human embryonic stem cells for science research, the danger that supposedly exists if anyone believes that the universe shows evidence of intelligent design - I can't imagine why teachers should not be permitted to supplement official insanity with private eccentricities. It would just make so much sense.

Hey, Louisiana man - and just my type (he shoots his own food):

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Talk at University of Toronto suggests an organism can change species during its lifetime. No riots ensue.

A friend draws my attention to this recently given talk by Mohan Matthen, Philosophy Department/IHPST, University of Toronto, Octobewr 1, 2008:
Standard biological and philosophical treatments assume that dramatic genotypic or phenotypic change constitutes instantaneous speciation, and that barring such saltation, speciation is gradual evolutionary change in individual properties. Both propositions appear to be incongruent with standard theoretical perspectives on species themselves, since these perspectives are (a) non-pheneticist, and (b) tend to disregard intermediate cases. After reviewing certain key elements of such perspectives, it is proposed that species-membership is mediated by membership in a population. Species-membership depends, therefore, not on intrinsic characteristics of an organism, but on relationship of an organism to others. A new definition of speciation is proposed in the spirit of this proposal. This definition implies that dramatic change is neither necessary nor sufficient for speciation. It also implies, surprisingly, that an organism can change species during its lifetime.'
Actually, U of T is a pretty decent place for ideas, and usually worth the money. I wouldn't have expected any riots, actually.

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Darwinism and popular culture: Celebrating Darwin in the prison system

Over at MercatorNet, ethicist Bill Muelenberg observes the social disaster that Darwin's theories (as adopted by social scientists and policymakers) have visited upon us:

Consider the issue of crime and punishment. For much of human history crime was about punishment and restitution, based on the belief that humans had free will and were morally responsible for their actions.

But with the advent of Darwin -- in part -- academics and elites increasingly began to view humans as simply animals who needed treatment, not punishment. After all, if we are simply the products of our biology, how can we be held accountable for our actions? Such thinking flows directly out of Darwin’s materialistic account of evolution.

Thus the American lawyer who defended evolution in the famous Scopes trial, Clarence Darrow, for example, took materialistic Darwinism to its logical conclusion and argued that criminals are basically programmed by material forces. If men are simply machines, powerfully determined by their heredity and background, then crime and punishment must be radically redefined. Crime began to be studied not only in terms of one’s biology, but also in psychosocial terms. Crime was seen as a mental illness, not willful immorality. Criminals came to be seen as victims, and punishment was replaced with rehabilitation and therapy. If crime is just an illness, then cure, not punishment, was required.
Quite apart from the disaster Darwinism visited on victims of crime, it has also been a disaster for the wrongdoer. He may come to believe that he cannot just change his life, so as to avoid further conflict with the law.

(The reality is that - in Canada, at least - most men who have been imprisoned for a criminal offence DO change their lives. They never return to prison, and can get a governor general's pardon for no further offences after a number of years.)

So the "two years less a day" guy does NOT need to learn is that he is just an ape who can't help his behaviour. He needs to learn that it is easy to be part of the future law-abiding majority who never return to prison.

Hat tip to the Binks at Free Mark Steyn - your one stop shop for intellectual freedom in Canada.

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