Thursday, January 05, 2006

Math in San Antonio

Next week I'll be flying down to sunny San Antonio, Texas for The Joint Mathematics Meetings. The “Joint” refers to the fact that both of the major mathematical organizations in America, the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America, are organizing it. I will be delivering a rhetorical masterpiece of a talk about the obscure problems in algebraic graph theory I work on during those rare moments when I am not blogging. I'll also get to watch two of my summer research students deliver their first conference talk. Ahhh, you never forget your first time!

Sadly, the burden of preparing for the conference, and for the start of the new term on Monday, has left little time for blogging. So I will be taking the rest of this week and all of next week off. If you're looking for a little entertainment, go reread the big Dover decision. Always brings a smile to my face. Or you could go see King Kong. That's good too.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Schlafly Loses It

Phyllis Schlafly has weighed in on the big Dover decision. Now, I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure she is unhappy about the way things turned out:


Judge John E. Jones III could still be chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board if millions of evangelical Christians had not pulled the lever for George W. Bush in 2000. Yet this federal judge, who owes his position entirely to those voters and the president who appointed him, stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Jones issued his ruling, a 139-page rant against anyone who objects to force-feeding public schoolchildren with the theory of evolution, on Dec. 20. He accused parents and school board members of “breathtaking inanity” for wanting their children to learn that “intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Charles Darwin's view.”


Melodramatic much?

Anyway, from here Schlafly unloads a few specific criticisms on Mr. Jones. After that calm and erudite introduction, I was expecting a serious legal analysis of the issues involved in the case. Instead we get things like this:


He lashed out at witnesses who expressed religious views different from his own, displaying a prejudice unworthy of our judiciary. He denigrated several officials because they “staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public.”


Wow! No shame at all. This entire paragraph comes straight from Neptune.

Here's what Judge Jones actually wrote:


The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy.


Apparently Schlafly missed the part about the witnesses telling lies.

When Schlafly isn't making a total hash out of the basic facts of the situation, she is writing things that don't make any sense at all:


Jones exhibited his bias for judicial activism with public remarks that should have caused his recusal. Signaling that he would exploit the dispute, Jones boasted, “It certainly is one of the most significant cases in United States history. ... Even Charles Darwin's great grandson is attending the trial.”


Someone's going ot have to explain this one to me. How do Jones' statements here signal a bias for judicial activism?

And how about this one:


The atheist evolutionists would not have made such a big case out of the four innocuous paragraphs ordered by the Dover school board unless they were pursuing an ideological cause. They converted the trial into a grand inquisition of religious beliefs instead of addressing science or the statement to be read to students.


Is it worth pointing out that Judge Jones' opinion contains five pages devoted solely to a textual analysis of the Dover ID statement? And twenty-four pages devoted to addressing scientific questions (and finding in the process that ID is a total sham)? And should we point out to her that no one's religious beliefs were on trial, and none were addressed in the opinion?

Now, Schlafly's entire column is a pack of lies from start to finish. It is so divorced from reality that we can only conclude that getting the facts right holds little appeal for her. Every paragraph in this silly column is nonsense. Yet she remains an honored member of the right-wing commentariat. I'm sorry, but I know of no prominent liberal columnist who is even capable of achieving this level of dishonesty.

Schlafly closes with this:


In an era of judicial supremacy, Judge Jones' biased and religiously bigoted decision is way over the top. His decision will ultimately hurt the evolutionist cause because it shows that the evolutionists cannot defend their beliefs on the merits; they can only survive by censoring alternate views.


As I have discussed elsewhere, this decision actually shows what happens when both sides have a chance to present their best evidence in a forum not dominated by flash and rhetoric. And Schlafly's deluded column shows once again that there isn't an ounce of principle to be found in the religious right. Only dishonesty and childish petulance.