A Lost Opportunity In San Juan Capistrano

The government, and people acting on behalf of the government, may not endorse religion, and may not favor religion over non-religion. By the same token, they may not endorse atheism nor favor non-religion over religion. The government, and those acting on behalf of it, must be neutral about religion. The most oft-cited Supreme Court passage supporting this proposition — one which ought to be intuitively obvious — is “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) 393 U.S. 97, 103-104.

It seems generally to be the case that this idea, part of what is typically referred to by the intellectual shorthand of “separation of church and state,” is brought up in protest to situations in which religion and government are married and one advances the other. But it can be the case that the government is enlisted in the cause of discouraging religion too, and since what makes us a free people is limits on the power of government, I see protecting the freedoms of religious people to practice and believe as they see fit to be an integral part of the protection of my own freedom not to believe or worship at all. For me, at least, it’s not about being an advocate for atheism, but rather about being an advocate for the appropriate limits on the exercise of state power. Leave the believers alone, leave the non-believers alone, treat them the same. Easy enough as a general proposition to be (mostly) non-controversial. Difficult, however, to implement in specific cases.

Which is why cases like Friday’s Ninth Circuit decision in what could have been a very interesting Establishment Clause case really frustrate me.

The case of Farnan v. Capistrano Unified School District is one that has given me a bit of heartburn because it’s a case of an atheist acting on behalf of the government behaving badly. I’d prefer to say that all my fellow non-believers are good stewards of state power when it is vested in them. But that just isn’t the case; we’re human and fallible just like people of faith are. In the Farnan case, a teacher at a public high school, Dr. James Corbett, got into a serious squabble with a bright young Christian student, Chad Farnan, with roots going back to Corbett’s description of creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense.” Young Mr. Farnan took offense, got some Christian activist lawyers, and sued Corbett and his employer, the school district.

The District Court found two things — first, that Corbett had crossed the line from permissible commentary into endorsement of non-religion, and second, that the student could recover monetary damages* from the teacher as a result. The Ninth Circuit on Friday reversed that decision, on grounds of qualified immunity. “Qualified immunity” applies in a situation in which the constitutional right in question is not so clearly-defined that a person of reasonable intelligence in the defendant’s position would have known that his conduct violated the rights of another. The Ninth Circuit found no case in which a teacher’s putatively hostile-to-religion remarks had been found to violate the Establishment Clause, so Corbett was within the sphere of qualified immunity and cannot be held liable for monetary damages.

Now here’s where the trick comes in. Farnan has graduated already. He sued for injunctive relief and declaratory relief, and got it, in the form of the District Court’s finding that Corbett’s statement(s) violated the Establishment Clause. The Ninth Circuit found that because Farnan had graduated, his claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot; he will not again be subject to Corbett’s disparagement of religion. “But wait,” you say, “Corbett seems quite likely to be able to make similar sorts of statements to future students, and that would mean that their rights would be violated too! Doesn’t that make this an incident readily susecptible of repetition?” Yes, but that’s not a live case or controversy before the Federal Courts, says the Ninth Circuit; Farnan has no standing himself to bring that claim. A future student who is insulted by Corbett must bring her own lawsuit, if it happens.

Now, Farnan’s lawsuit was stil live as to the monetary damages. The District Court awarded him money, so there is still a live issue of whether Corbett has to write a check. But since we now know that no teacher in Corbett’s position could have been reasonably expected to have known that he was violating the Establishment Clause with his remarks, Corbett enjoys qualified immunity, and therefore there is no liability on the only live part of the case remaining. That means that the District Court never needed to decide whether or not Corbett’s remarks violated the Establishment Clause at all, and therefore any opinion by the District Court about whether Corbett crossed that line or not is dicta, unnecessary to resolve the live issues before the Court.

This leaves us without guidance as to when, exactly, a teacher (or some other kind of public official) crosses the line into endorsing non-religion over religion. The Ninth Circuit basically says in response to that, “Yep, there’s a void in the law there and we’re not going to offer you any guidance on how to fill it”:

The Supreme Court has long recognized the importance of protecting the “robust exchange of ideas” in education, “which discovers truth ‘out of a multitude of tongues.’ ” “Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding… .” This academic freedom will sometimes lead to the examination of controversial issues. … In broaching controversial issues like religion, teachers must be sensitive to students’ personal beliefs and take care not to abuse their positions of authority. … But teachers must also be given leeway to challenge students to foster critical thinking skills and develop their analytical abilities. This balance is hard to achieve, and we must be careful not to curb intellectual freedom by imposing dogmatic restrictions that chill teachers from adopting the pedagogical methods they believe are most effectiveAt some point a teacher’s comments on religion might cross the line and rise to the level of unconstitutional hostility. But without any cases illuminating the “‘dimly perceive[d] … line[ ] of demarcation’ ” between permissible and impermissible discussion of religion in a college level history class, we cannot conclude that a reasonable teacher standing in Corbett’s shoes would have been on notice that his actions might be unconstitutional. (Some internal quotations and citations removed).

While I think this is the right result in this case, it would not have been amiss for the Ninth Circuit to have offered some of the guidance that in this section it points out is needed. This is why there are test cases. And Corbett’s conduct is right there on the margin between teaching using the challenging methods approved of and abusing his position of authority. It looks to me like Corbett stepped over the line. Not by much, debatably, but I think he did step over the line. To say “religion is not science, creationism is religion because it relies on religious doctrines to reach its explanations, and we’re here to talk about science” is on one side of the line, to say “creationism is religious nonsense” is on the other. The difference is one of endorsement. The first statement sidesteps the issue of which is the better way to look at things, the second statement is an official condemnation of a particular viewpoint.

But that’s just my opinion. It’s probable that the Ninth Circuit didn’t take that step because it didn’t have to in order to resolve the case before it, and were it to have gone further, the panel would have broken down from its unanimous holding and fragmented badly. To be sure, that is where the decision gets really difficult and therefore that is why guidance from the courts here is really needful. Standing, mootness, qualified immunity, and other procedural obstacles are used with relish here to avoid addressing that more difficult, but ultimately much more important, part of the law. An opportunity to illuminate and develop the law has been ignored, and that’s a shame.

* Farnan sought only “nominal damages” in this part of his claim for relief. The award of damages would have been on the order of a dollar or something like that. So don’t get the idea that the plaintiff was seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars for his emotional distress at having his religious sensibilities insulted. But at the same time, understand that if the teacher could be found liable for nominal monetary damages in this case, the next teacher in the next lawsuit might be potentially susceptible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in emotional distress damages. And that in that future lawsuit, it might be going the other direction — it could just as easily be an atheist student suing a Christian teacher as the other way around.

Cross-posted at the main page; please comment there.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Really, getting the facts straight is somewhat important. There are so many errors, I’m not interested in correcting each but a good example is your fantasy that I “might have to write a check.” In fact, the trial court ordered the Farnan’s to write a check. That order was vacated. There was never any possibility that I could be held financially responsible.

    FYI-NONE of Chad’s assertions were factually correct. That’s why, in 24 years of teaching the same course, I’ve never had a complaint. He edited the tapes to avoid showing the clearly curriculum related aspect of each comment. To take one as an example: “Jesus Glasses”

    My reference was to Joseph II and 18th Century Austrian monarch who tried to free the serfs from servitude to the monasteries and distribute the land from the monasteries to the landless peasants. The Church, I said, put “Jesus Glasses” on the serfs and so they opposed their own best economic interests because the Church told them that to ask for freedom and land was an offense to God.

    • Getting the facts straight is important. That’s why I took my facts from the court’s opinion, to the extent I recited facts. Bear in mind that the court is obliged to look at disputed facts from a lawsuit through a particular lens, which means in some cases accepting one or the other party’s version of disputed facts as true.

      Of course, it’s also important to get instructions correct. I did ask that comments be directed to the main page, which is where most Readers will look for commentary. Please see the first comment in this thread. I think that the dozen or so others who weighed in on the post, and many more who read without commenting, would have benefitted from your commentary, Dr. Corbett, and they still can.

    • Interesting to hear Mr. Corbett’s left-wing propaganda and Catholic-bashing from the horse’s mouth. If indeed this is the real Corbett.

      Joseph II is an Enlightenment-secularist hero, not in the least for his attempt to subsume the church with the state.


      Jesus glasses, my ass. The dude was just another secular imperialist. Nice job of brainwashing the kids, Mr. Corbett. Feh.

      “In 1783, while at Rome, Joseph personally threatened that he would establish an independent state-church; he abolished all exemptions from episcopal authority and by an obligatory oath brought the bishops into dependence on the State. The acceptance of papal titles and attendance at the German College in Rome were forbidden, and a German College was established at Pavia in opposition to the Roman institution. The Edict of Toleration of 1781 granted to all denominations the free exercise of their religion and civil rights; at the same time a series of petty regulations concerning Divine service prescribed the number of the candles, the length and style of the sermons, the prayers, and hymns. All superfluous altars and all gorgeous vestments and images were to be removed; various passages in the Breviary were to have paper pasted over them; dogmatic questions were excluded from the pulpit, from which, on the other hand, all government proclamations were to be announced. “Our Brother the Sacristan”, as Frederick the Great named Joseph, sincerely believed that in doing this he was creating a purified Divine service, and never heeded the discontent of his people and the sneers of non-Catholics.”

      • Well, you quoted the Catholic Encyclopedia quite accurately. I find it appalling that the church simply ignores the fact that Joseph’s “Enlightened Despotism” led him attempt to implement a system of “equal justice under law,” and free the serfs from virtual slavery to the Church. I’m sure Churchmen loved to have slaves they must be easier to manipulate than altar boys. Yes, Joseph sought to prevent the Church from continuing in a position of privilege. I presume you and your ilk think the rule of secular law ought not to apply to the Church.
        Of course you do, it is clear, from the actions of the Church in tolerating and then covering up hundreds of years of pedophilia, not to mention alliances with Hitler and Mussolini, the Inquisition, Galileo, et. al., that apologists such as yourself must be vigilant or the truth about your cancer ridden organization will eventually come out. You defend the indefensible, as the Pope visits AIDS ridden Africa and speaks against condom use. The Church promotes large families in Latin America where the population is now so large, in many areas, that maintaining simple human dignity is impossible.
        The one thing that leads me to suspect there is not God is that the Pope hasn’t been struck down by a bolt of lightening.

        • Mr. Corbett, yr anti-Catholic bigotry is manifest. Dragging the altar boys into an historical discussion.

          Your laundry list of The Black Legend [look it up, sir] and various other anti-Catholic half-truths is appalling. I’m glad you won yr case, but you’re not fit to be teaching kindergarten.

          • This is the second time you’ve misapplies the term “Black Legend” . It refers to exaggerations about the evils of Spanish rule, not those of Catholic rulers in general.

          • If any non-religious institution in the world had protected pedophiles the way the Church (and the current Pope) has, the leadership would be in prison. Why haven’t the Bishops and Cardinals who found out about the molestations, and protected the criminals, been prosecuted? The answer is simple, the Church still thinks the rules of common decency (not to mention the rule of law) don’t apply to the “body of Christ.” Secular authorities are still loath to “interfere” in Church affairs, even if the affair is between an adult and a minor. Catholic leadership better hope Jesus doesn’t return because, if he does, they’ve got a lot of explaining to do.

            Imagine what would happen if a school superintendent covered up pedophilia and then transferred the guilty party to another school where he did it again. What would you say in that case? What would the Catholic Encyclopedia say?

          • Mr. Corbett, your ideological bullying is the question here, and how much you’ve got away with in your 26 years in the classroom.

            I hope the “Jesus glasses” was a slip, and not how you feel a professional educator is entitled to act. I’m pleased you were finally challenged; I’m pleased you won the case. People like you should be dealt with on the local level.

            As for your objections to the Roman church, you’re entitled to your opinion—outside the classroom. It’s your ideology and sophomore-level understanding of history being inflicted on your students that is my concern here.

        • And why not quote the Catholic Encyclopedia? It’s wisdom becomes clearer the more you read of it:


          The obligation of wearing a distinguishing badge was of course obnoxious to the Jews. At the same time, Church authorities deemed its injunction necessary to prevent effectively moral offences between Jews and white women.

          OK, it actually says “Christian women”.

        • Yet, the Catholic Church keeps going, and going, and going–for 2,000 YEARS! And burying all it’s enemies and antagonists along the way.

          I think that pretty much proves its narrative or at the very least, the pope’s infalliibiliy.

          In the meantime blasphemers, get with it or go join Scientology. It would not be possible to provide more proof that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.

          • Mary, you are a wonderfully ironic writer. That was hilarious, especially the part about “burying” enemies. A dry wit is like a desert to morons, to the intelligent–a spring of laughter.


          • People always bring up papal infallibility when they’re arguing against the Catholic church.

            For the record, you might want to read up on the dogma of papal infallibility a bit before you assume that it means, “The Pope is never wrong”. Even most Catholics have no freaking idea what the doctrine of Papal Infallibility means.

            The only actual agreement among Catholic theologians as to instances of papal infallibility are the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary, IIRC.

          • My sincere greetings, Mr. (Dr. Jim?) Corbett-and a fine Irish name at that! “Mary Magdalene” was just one of my many mispellings–it might be Plotinus, St. John of the Cross, Sir Isaac Newton, Gerard Nerval, Meister Eckhard, Charles Manson, R.D.Laing, Bernadette Dohrn, etc. etc. you see I’m banned from commenting on the main page and with the sub-blog, I may as well be banned since 90% of my comments are always deleted.

            In any case, thanks for the kind words Mr. Corbett. Be careful sir, any association with me or expression of any kind of friendship will get you black balled fast–I’m currently, “subversive”, “toxic waste” which means, getting the cold shoulder from everyone at this site. I have attempted to be polite, civil, inoffensive but the slings and arrows of these rather odd “Libertarians” are always at the ready which really, is fine with me.

            I have repeatedly tried to elevate and illuminate their souls with the music of Beethoven and Bach but their general emotional affect is about expressive as a bag of rocks. Do you remember that great stunt Joshua Bell did at the DC subway station? He whipped out his $20,000,000 Strad and proceeded to play Bach’s Chaconne in d minor. Out of thousands of people running this way and that way, only a handful stopped to listen. Now, that’s just sad. It’s also pretty much how most of the folks at this site are–you most certainly are not going to get your tin cup filled with these spiritually, avararicious cranks.

            All the best, and thanks again Mr. Corbett. I’m currently housed in one of those cryogenic tanks which are actually quite comfortable. I’m immersed in these balmy confines with a temperature of around -250F. And these cruel bastards even beheaded and took away my good friend, Teddy Ballgame, Ted Williams!

            Sincerely yours, Martin Heidegger

            p.s. make that, “infallibility” from previous post.–idiot me.

  2. I filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of my daugher Moeller v Schrenko in the State of Georgia for a statement made in a biology textbook which mentioned Creationism for the specific purpose of undermining it as a religious belief ( creationism is religion according to several court decisions). The case was dismissed and then reviewed on appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals .
    To present creationism in a biology text in a biology class in a high school only to demean it is a violation of the separation of Church and State. It is obvious to an ordinary man that the intent of the text was to comment on the validity of a specific religion and not attempt to discuss the scientific merits of that belief system. So much for academic freedom when it confronts atheists

    Don Moeller DDS MD MA

    • Why is calling Creationism a religious belief undermining it?

    • Please tell me about the SCIENCE of creationism. Warning: Do not present unanswered questions in the science of evolutionary biology, abiogenesis, or cosmology as none of those would be scientific evidence for creation. That would just be arguments against three different studies of science, only one of which is The Theory of Evolution. Me nd many others are very interested in hearing about the scientific evidence for Genesis.

    • Interesting, Mr. Mueller. The textbook seems quite accommodating to religious belief to me, indeed generous and temperate.

      Outcome: The textbook criticized by Moeller does not sponsor religious actions or beliefs. To the contrary it points out that the origin of life is to date, unknown, and it lists the most prevalent ideas regarding this issue, including creationism and religion. Although the subchapter containing the offending passage is titled, “ The Mystery of Life’s Origin”, the textbook does make it clear that no definitive answer exists with regard to the origin of life on Earth and lists creationism and evolution as two commonly cited explanations. Contrary to Moeller’s arguments, on the face of the textbook, it indicates that is does not pass judgment on the efficacy of the Creation Theory. It merely states that Creationism is not a Scientific theorem capable of being proven or disproven through Scientific Methods. The textbook also points out that just because creationism may not be subject to scientific proof, it may nonetheless be the proper explanation for the origin of life. Although Moeller may find the textbook/s neutral statements on the matter offensive, the implicated passages do not compromise an inappropriate establishment of religion.

    • Of course, my opinions on the Church are inappropriate for school, although the issue of the double legal and social standard for religious institutions is a part of any AP European History class. The Church, of course, still seems to believe they are not subject to criminal law. I must also note, that while engaged in ad hominem attacks, you made no effort to defend the indefensible behavior of the Church. It’s called “begging the question” as is one of the most common logical fallacies.

      • Mr. Corbett, was “Jesus glasses” was a slip then, and not how you conduct yourself as a professional educator? If so, that’s welcome news. You appear to ideologically lionize Joseph II, however: I question whether they are being exposed by you to his downside, that he didn’t seek to separate church and state, he attempted a state takeover of the church.

        It may not fit into your ideology of history, but state interference in the church was as much the rule as the vice-versa, dating back at least to the Investiture Controversies.

        And yes, I was aware you were the defendant in the case; I thought it could be fairly said you won, which pleases me per my comments earlier in this thread before your arrival.

        I have begged no questions, and I don’t believe you’re using the term properly. It means phrasing a question so that the conclusion is embedded in the premise, such as “How can you defend such a corrupt institution as the Roman church?”

        I do not, at least in this instance. I’m pointing out that your blanket condemnation is clumsy and oblivious to numerous nuances in the historical record, which I would expect from an undergraduate, hence my use of “sophomoric.”

        The secret of doing bad history is to judge previous ages by our contemporary standards. This you have excelled at.

        As for your clear animus against the Roman church [I withdraw “bigotry”: it was hyperbolic], you should fit in just fine at this blog, and perhaps we shall take it up in future as adults. My first concern was for the children placed in your trust.

        • You say, “He attempted a state takeover of the church.” That is a characterization that simply ignores the fact that the church was insisting upon their right to be a state within a state with their own laws and immunity from secular law. Further, you simply ignore that the monasteries Joseph closed were anachronistic vestiges of feudal Europe. Most were run by “noble” second sons of those with feudal titles because, while the first born could inherit the title and land, the second born needed someplace that would allow him to maintain his power and position without upsetting the feudal rules–the church. Many of these “churchmen” couldn’t read or right. Some were appointed Cardinals as young as 8 years old. Joseph, and most thinking people, would admit that the 18th century Church deserved Voltaire’s famous demand, “Ecrase le infamy.” (sp?).

          Your definition of “Begging the question” is accurate, but it is also accurate to note that your “answer” to my observations “begs the question” in that inherent in your argument is the notion that your perspective is correct. You take this position without offering any evidence and that, is “begging the question.”

          I agree about applying contemporary standards to history is often bad history, but then what “history” are we talking about? How different were the standards over the past ten years when the church was protecting pedophiles? In the 1940s?

          As for the “children” in my trust. Over 23 years, my AP pass rate has exceeded the national pass rate by an average of 40%. At least by the standard of what they know, as measured by that exam, I seem to be of some benefit. At the same time, they do the work and my role is small compared to the time and effort they expend.

          In fact, I do recognize that the church as done some good, but finding something “good” to balance protecting pedophiles is a challenge. What would you say redeems that, rather significant, lack of ethics? How about the Pope speaking against condoms in Africa? You see good to balance just those two items? I’m afraid I don’t.

          BTW, I was baptized Catholic but left when the weight of their misogyny, homophobia, pedophilia, and support for the wealthy over the poor became impossible to justify.

        • As to the moral worth of the RCC, that’s an especially interesting issue; there really is no other institution quite like it in human history. Obviously there is a tremendous amount of information that can be brought to bear on either side of the issue. More than is really practical to bring out in comments.

          I rather suspect that this could be an interesting symposium, contrasting the views of the new-to-us but obviously educated and articulate voice of Dr. Corbett, and the equally articulate and learned TVD, a longtime friend and frequent commenter. TVD has his own blog elsewhere but that blog has a relatively tight intellectual focus as compared to the less-structured forae available here.

          As for a structure to the symposium, here’s how I’d do it. I’m not sure if I can extend direct posting privileges to you, so I’ll just relay whatever you post, unedited (other than for a break for a jump after the opening first paragraph, as I tend to do for myself). Three rounds each, postings to be made simultaneously, with the expectation that your second and third posts will react to points made in the others’ prior posts. Posts as long as you like, bearing in mind that a balance must be struck between dealing with the subject matter thoroughly and keeping the post brief enough to hold Readers’ attentions. First post to go up by noon PST on Saturday (8/27), second post on noon PST on Tuesday (8/30), last post on Friday (9/2). Readers would comment as they see fit. I would only interject my own opinions and thoughts as a commenter.

          Bear in mind, an idea I’m throwing out there on the fly, sort of an experiment. I’ve no idea if others have an appetite for this sort of thing or not and I’ve no idea if it would work. But I suspect it would be interesting. What do you say? Are you guys up for it?

          • Likko, Mr. Corbett’s attacks on the Catholic Church are beneath my level of interest, as they are visibly underinformed, especially for a history teacher.

            My only concern is his polluting our children with his ideology, as a professional educator in out public schools and now as a public figure.

            I hope his remark about “Jesus glasses” was a slip, but I suspect that his lack of response means that it was no slip, but an example of his customary ideological bullying of the children left to his care in the classroom for nigh on 26 years now.

            I do not expect a straight answer from Mr. Corbett again—he has already let slip his anti-Catholic animus for all to see, which borders on the pathological.

            Your idea is an interesting one, Mr. Likko, but we already know how it comes out—Mr. Corbett’s laundry list of half-truths vs. the Roman church is beyond the reach of any adult remediation. God help his captive audience in the classroom.

          • Well, I’m only not particularly interested in moderating a symposium with only one participant, so we’ll not be doing this based on that response. Maybe some other time.

          • Likko, Dr. James Corbett is the subject of the post, not the Roman church. I have found his response and attempt to divert the topic unsatisfactory, and I think it baldly illustrates his agenda, bias, and possible lack of professionalism, in his own words [or lack of them on whether “Jesus glasses” was a slip or the way he customarily goes about his business].

            Perhaps some other time indeed, but in nothing resembling this set of circumstances or in reply to the formulaic sophomore laundry list of the Roman church’s failings over the past 1000 years. There have been many.

            Most ironic and probative in this mess was that Dr. Corbett was unjustly accused—his animus apparently is against Catholicism [which accepts evolution], and not creationism [which it does not].

            Go figure. Such a weird world it is.

    • You make me sad. Don’t you find it the least bit telling that your little attack on evolution, tries to be science based, has no positive evidence for creation (only arguments against some evidence for evolution), 18 of the 22 references were from creationist web-sites (not scientific journals), and only 4 of the 10 arguments against evolution had anything to do with the actual Theory of Evolution (that is the biological process of adaptation, not cosmology or abiogenesis)? Doesn’t this make you want to maybe educate yourself a little further? Have you ever looked on a non-christian web-site (Google Scholar; Wikipedia; http://www.youtube.com/user/WhyEvolutionIsTrue ; etc.) in regards to these arguments to see if there is an answer (there is, to everyone of them)? Don’t you think you should do a little bit of research before forwarding damaging non-sense from someone that you want to believe? You have just displayed yourself as an ignorant tool. It’s weird and tiresome.

  3. Hey Weird and Tiresome
    I need your help to try and understand why all craniofacial mutations in ANY experimental animal to include the zebrafish, lab mice, etc ALWAYS result in pathological malformations and result in nonfunctional occlusions. Help me understand how the 500 genes which control the jaws and teeth and the 400 genes which control the TM joint and ear are somehow instantly mutated to produce no transitional or intermediate forms in the fossil record in ANY animal.
    And when you have done that, tell me ,oh great one, where any mutation of the amelogenin gene or any other enamel protein has resulted in anything but a detrimental effect. Then explain to me how no less than twenty enamel subtypes appear in the fossil record with NO pathological enamel and no precursors. And when you answer those let me know why there is NO oral pathology ( eruption sequence, postion variation, developmental cysts, tumors etc) in ANY fossil. Be sure to use words like HOX genes MSX 1, MSX 2 , PAX 6 PAX9 balancing selection and founder populations. Then we can discuss decussation in the microscopic structure of enamel which has no genetic basis,,er ugh how did nature do that? Dont bother me with your generic anticreationist pander asI have a graduate degree in biology as well.

    Don DDS MD MA

  4. Dr.,
    As you well know, I’m not going to be able to go thru all that here, but “Koenigswald, et al., Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56 (1): 11–32” should help you get on your way to updating yourself. I think we can all agree that having a degree doesn’t conclude anything in regards to current knowledge of scientific discovery or intelligence, but thank you for sharing your initials with us. As far as my “anticreationist pander” is concerned, you and I can agree on something. If you actually have a degree in any science from a non-theistic university, you know that an unanswered question implies nothing other than, we don’t have the answer yet. For instance, not having the conclusive science of a black hole, does not conclude that the Theory of Relativity is junk. Everything else still works and you just need to keep working on the answer to that part. I am concerned about your degree in biology if you think that all your biological answers must come from our limited fossil record (which is actually surprisingly larger than we should hope for it to be). However, maybe you really are on the cutting edge of molecular biology and have found that the entire Theory of Evolution is crap and you have proof for Creation. In which case, I would suggest that you stop putting things in print that may jeopordize your claim on your upcoming Nobel Prize. God Speed.

  5. Great attempt to avoid answering the question. Glib answers are your speciality . I am still waiting for a scientific response not just name dropping. As I expected you used NO scientific terminology in your answer. Hard to believe that you actually believe that the fossil record is that incomplete since Benton ( Paleontology 3rd edition) disagrees with you as do many others. With respect to your catchy canard of”updating myself”I noticed your glaring omission of any mention of recent publications in developmental biology such as are easily accessed on http://www.pubmed.gov. If you dont know how HOX genes operate you need to educate yourself. You also might want to read some very recent Craniofacial developmental biology in work by Donald Enlow. I am still waiting for a cogent answer about the lack of ANY developmental pathology in ANY animal. YOUR theory depends on proof of the action of mutations for extended periods of time, creation does not.
    Your response is sophomoric and has little scientific merit. Please read my original post and answer the questions. I learned to look through “smoke and mirror” answers such as yours during my professional education. Since I have passed numerous Board Certifications I dont need validation from a self appointed evolutionary guru.
    Still waiting for an academic answer which I know wont be coming . T

    • What a surprise, a creationist acting like I didn’t just give him scientific evidence. My first sentence gave you a scientific journal reference explaining half your garbage attempts at claiming the entire Theory of Evolution doesn’t work because at this time, you think there isn’t an answer or evidence as to 1% of the puzzle (Koenigswald, et al., Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56 (1): 11–32). In regards to the proof that “my theory” depends on versus what proof creation depends on, well, that’s the joke isn’t it. I will ask that you read my previous post seriously regarding the fact that creation has no scientific evidence of any sort. Your attempts to use science and act educated are embarrasing when you posit supernatural intervention in any gap you can find to throw out an entire scientific fact. Please do not act as though you are a serious study of science. Again, thank you for your own academic references, but as I stated before and we can both agree, that doesn’t mean one has used them well or even has the brain to if they tried. The fact that you believe in talking snakes and unicorns attests to the good use of your scientifically trained mind. Here’s a question in science I would like to hear you explain, vestigial hind leg and hip bones in snakes showing their evolutionary past yet no vocal chords showing their supernatural past. Now, here’s another scientific journal reference to help you with your pitiful issues (that the general scientific community is apparently having no trouble with): Zakany et al., Cell and Tissue Research 296(1): 19-25 (1998). Please note that I have not tried to substantiate what I’m saying with initials or reminders as to what they represent. Grow up.

    • It was created as a post about constitutional law, but it’s evolved into something else. Some of the comments demonstrate transitional forms between the two, but there’s no evidence in the process of any intelligent design.

  6. On the Constitutional issue. The problem here is that the Courts, in trying to be even handed, have failed to recognize the essential difference between those government actors who are driven by faith to violate the establishment cause by foisting their views on others and government actors who, lack “neutrality” with regard to religion because they embrace reason. Further, I doubt there will ever be a “systematic” attempt to subvert religion that does not have a “secular purpose.” So, the entire Lemon test is simply inapplicable when it comes to the “establishing” anti-religion unless, as Chad’s attorneys argue, “secular humanism” is a religion, which, of course, the courts have ruled it is not.

  7. Well Burt, I’ll stay within the lines. But, I have pulled together a reply to Dr. Dr. Moeller MA that I have posted at Stones and Bones

    Re: Corbett

    My current concern is that this case was about the behavior of a single individual. If we start legislating, or adjudicating the minutia of what any random teacher might, or might not say in a classroom, the courts will have no time left to send pot smokers to prison.

    Other than Peloza v Capistrano Unified, or the recent Freshwater case, I cannot thing of an individual teacher sued, or dismissed for their position on Evolution&Science v Creationist Twaddle.

      • Dr. Corbett, Yes, I was referring to Peloza v. Capistrano USD, 1992.
        http://ncse.com/webfm_send/957 (PDF)

        Peloza really used the “shotgun” approach to adding defendants, didn’t he? The School Board, and 10 individuals who “conspired” against him!!11!1!

    • I actually should not have included Peloza, or Freshwater, since it was they who were suing others. I was trying to think of a case where the teacher was sued, but really, I cannot think of any other than Corbett.

  8. Dear Doctor Legend in Your Own Mind
    I am surprised that you did not quote Dr Koenigswald`s BOOK ” Tooth Enamel Microstructure,” which is a much more definitive work than your single article. This work represents a much broader examination of the problems in dental evolution. Why dont you go to page 151 and explain the sudden appearence of Hunter -Schrager bands in the cladogram. Or better yet go to page 204 in a chapter by Koneigswald and explain the differentiation of mammalian enamel without any developmental or biological mechanism . Better yet still , why dont you get Mark Teafords BOOK ” Development , Function and Evolution of Teeth, take the time to actually read it and then ask some intelligent questions. Your rantings are simply moronic. I repeat. YOU STILL HAVENT ANSWERED my original questions. Why would I do you the courtesy to answer yours?
    I feel the reason that NONE of your answers are specific nor much more than ad hominem attacks is that you really dont understand craniofacial developmental biology. Go get Charles Epstein`s “Inborn Errors of Development” and get up to speed. Bet you havent ordered Donald Enlow`s book either.
    I am going to award you the Dr Pangloss Award however. You can read about him in Dr Gould`s Structure of Evolutionary Theory.”
    There is a chance that you might have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder since you dont seem to realize that you havent answered my original questions. If that is the reason, I sincerely forgive you for your oversight so please go back to my previous postings .

    STILL waiting for an academic answer to my questions, NOT an evaluation of my questions but an ANSWER

  9. I think this must be the most bizarre comment thread in the history of this venerable website.

    • I seem to attract that sort of thing. Check out the Amanda Knox thread, too.

      • Burt, could you or Tom pen a post in which you “explain the sudden appearence of Hunter -Schrager bands in the cladogram”?

        It would be like honey to ants, it would!

  10. Dr. Möller, any chance I can order a few tanks of N2O? For inflating balloons of course. Dr. William James was also curious about N2O allowing him to see visions of Blake and Whitman.

    He also claims Hitler married Ludwig Wittgenstein in the bunker just days before the mass suicides. See here:


    Much obliged sir, Herr Martin Heidegger

  11. Well, this seems to be over, and done. No doubt the next episode will open with the next headline.

    Dr. Dr., MA, never made an appearence at Stones and Bones, but his book recommendation of “Development, Function and Evolution of Teeth” looked like a good resource, so I bought a copy.

    I’ll go ahead and finish a write-up in the issues, Dr.Dr., MA demanded answers to, and call it good.

  12. I love passionate teachers that push critical thinking to our youth. On the other hand, the classroom is no place to advance any instructor’s personal, religious or political agenda. My college Poli Sci teacher told us on the first day that he wasn’t going to reveal his political beleifs or leanings. He was able conduct himself in that manner for the whole semester. At the end, no student could identify which side of the political isle he stood and he never revealed it to us. It was one of the best courses I ever took. On the other hand, I had a Macro Econ teacher that made no secret of where he stood. The course was tainted and one sided from the 1st day to the last.

  13. Gentlemen
    When and where an individual yells “fire” is a good example of the of limits of the exercise of Freedom of Speech. When , where and under what specific situations religous topics are entertained for “open discussion” to impressionable minds is also important. Bringing up the topic of the merits of “Scientific Creationism” in a Science classroom and then holding that it can not be proved or disproved by science is a tautology plain and simple. Why bring up any topic in a science class which can not be proved or disproved by the scientific method ? It is obvious to the disinterested observer that the author of the text had already formed an a priori opinion prior to his discussion. The lawsuit was filed on the basis of intentional bias created on the understanding which the students reading the text would reasonably be expected to have i.e. that if these students held that the “real world “was based on scientific principles then their religious beliefs could not be verified in the “real world. That, plain and simple is intentionally induced bias against religious ideas. Furthermore, classifying Creation Science as a religion further supports this contention. Since this textbook was written long after several Court opinions indicated that Creation Science was to be considered a religious belief , the implications of introducing this topic were obvious, to denigrate those particular religious beliefs held by a particular subset of students.
    Finally, an additional tautology exists. The authors decided that they would be the final arbitors of what arguments constitute “Scientific Creationism”. Science by its nature is always open to verification and modification . Arguing a case where the opposing counsel will be the arbitor of what evidence the court should allow is complete folly . The purpose of the judicial system is to weigh the facts, especially the facts in question. It is obvious to a reasonable observer is that the authors offered no scientific arguments in their own scientific forum . They offered fiat statements, which is exactly what they are accusing the creationists of doing.
    The basis of any scientific apologetic is verification. Scientists appreciate that verification of any theory is paramount. The fundamental method of science is to present reasons for and against any facts which will verify or falsify a particular theory. The authors of this text ignored this maxim and replaced it with trust me with ” the truth” and failed to engage in any scientific discussions or Scientific Creation.
    Owning slaves used to be legal . So much for elegance in the argument and missing the entire point.

    dr Molar

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