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  Topic: Opponents of Evolution Are Adopting New Strategy, NY Times article< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Jason Spaceman



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Joined: Nov. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 03 2008,22:09   

Quote
By LAURA BEIL
Published: June 4, 2008

DALLAS — Opponents of teaching evolution, in a natural selection of sorts, have gradually shed those strategies that have not survived the courts. Over the last decade, creationism has given rise to “creation science,” which became “intelligent design,” which in 2005 was banned from the public school curriculum in Pennsylvania by a federal judge.

Now a battle looms in Texas over science textbooks that teach evolution, and the wrestle for control seizes on three words. None of them are “creationism” or “intelligent design” or even “creator.”

The words are “strengths and weaknesses.”

Starting this summer, the state education board will determine the curriculum for the next decade and decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.


Read it here.

   
Henry J



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(Permalink) Posted: June 03 2008,22:30   

One irony there is that in the hands of a competent teacher, "strengths and weaknesses" would neither add anything nor take anything away from the subject matter.

Henry

  
Texas Teach



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Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: June 03 2008,23:41   

Quote (Henry J @ June 03 2008,22:30)
One irony there is that in the hands of a competent teacher, "strengths and weaknesses" would neither add anything nor take anything away from the subject matter.

Henry

I would absolutely agree, except to add that teaching anything real about the strengths of evolution would be a huge step forward in this part of Texas.   From the schools I've been at and the stories my wife hears as a college prof, I know that most students around here get maybe 3-4 days of evolution, which is completely undermined by the teacher saying something along the lines of, "I don't believe it/you don't have to believe it/it's just a theory."  

If we could get a real "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution curriculum instead of this creationist Trajan horse it would be fantastic.  I already teach a unit on the "strengths and weaknesses" of the various atomic models.  But that's not what we'd get, is it?

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"Creationists think everything Genesis says is true. I don't even think Phil Collins is a good drummer." --J. Carr

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Wesley R. Elsberry



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(Permalink) Posted: June 03 2008,23:47   

"Strengths and weaknesses" is not a new strategy, though. The term has been part of religious antievolution for decades.

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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Occam's Aftershave



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(Permalink) Posted: June 03 2008,23:47   

The only good thing is that they are still going to have to justify why they need legislature for "strengths and weaknesses" in evolutionary biology and not in any other scientific subjects - geology, paleontology, astronomy, chemistry, etc.

It's that selectivity that sunk them in the infamous "textbook disclaimers" cases.

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"CO2 can't re-emit any trapped heat unless all the molecules point the right way"
"All the evidence supports Creation baraminology"
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- Joke "Sharon" Gallien, world's dumbest YEC.

  
Kristine



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(Permalink) Posted: June 03 2008,23:53   

But, isn't teaching that evolution "has weaknesses" just reinforcing the Darwinian notion that only the "strong" theories should survive, thus leading us down a slippery slope to Hitler, Planned Parenthood, and "Imagine"? :p

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Richard Simons



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,07:55   

Next year I am scheduled to teach Grade 10-11 Biology to adults. I was pleased to discover that evolution forms about 1/4 of the Manitoba Grade 11 curriculum (and no mention whatsoever of 'alternatives').

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All sweeping statements are wrong.

  
midwifetoad



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,09:41   

I thought the new buzzword was "historical biology," which of course is completely unnecessary for getting through life.

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Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
J-Dog



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,10:52   

Quote (Richard Simons @ June 04 2008,07:55)
Next year I am scheduled to teach Grade 10-11 Biology to adults. I was pleased to discover that evolution forms about 1/4 of the Manitoba Grade 11 curriculum (and no mention whatsoever of 'alternatives').

Any truth to the rumor that Oh Canada will shortly require all Canadian grandmothers to undergo remedial How To Write More Better classes?

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Come on Tough Guy, do the little dance of ID impotence you do so well. - Louis to Joe G 2/10

Gullibility is not a virtue - Quidam on Dembski's belief in the Bible Code Faith Healers & ID 7/08

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,15:19   

Actually, Occam, we already teach the strengths and weaknesses in all other courses.  A real good example is the critical analysis currently underway with string theory so why should evolution be any different.  The truth is both sides have an agenda and neither has much to do with science education.

  
Reciprocating Bill



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,15:35   

Quote (skeptic @ June 04 2008,16:19)
Actually, Occam, we already teach the strengths and weaknesses in all other courses.  A real good example is the critical analysis currently underway with string theory so why should evolution be any different.  The truth is both sides have an agenda and neither has much to do with science education.

String theory is not an apt comparison because, unlike evolutionary theory, which has massive and consilient empirical support that in broad outlines (e.g. common descent, essential mechanisms) is not subject to rational doubt, no one has yet conceived of string theory in a way that is subject to empirical test. As observed by physicist Lawrence Krauss:

"I wrote a piece where I argued that is a disservice to evolutionary theory to call string theory a theory, for example. Because it's clearly not a theory in the same sense that evolutionary theory is, or that quantum electrodynamics is, because those are robust theories that make rigorous predictions that can be falsified. And string theory is just a formalism now that one day might be a theory. And when I'm lecturing, talking about science, people say to me, evolution is just a theory,  I say, in science theory means a different thing, and they say, what do you mean? Look at string theory, how can you falsify that? It's no worse than intelligent design.

I do think there are huge differences between string theory and intelligent design. People who are doing string theory are earnest scientists who are trying to come up with ideas that are viable. People who are doing intelligent design aren't doing any of that."

--------------
Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

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Tracy P. Hamilton



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,15:47   

Quote (skeptic @ June 04 2008,15:19)
Actually, Occam, we already teach the strengths and weaknesses in all other courses.  A real good example is the critical analysis currently underway with string theory so why should evolution be any different.  The truth is both sides have an agenda and neither has much to do with science education.

Which high school course would enable students to comprehend string theory, much less understand its strengths and weaknesses?

What strengths and weaknesses did you imagine are taught about any theory in chemistry, for example?

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"Following what I just wrote about fitness, you’re taking refuge in what we see in the world."  PaV

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Richard Simons



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,17:29   

Quote (J-Dog @ June 04 2008,10:52)
Quote (Richard Simons @ June 04 2008,07:55)
Next year I am scheduled to teach Grade 10-11 Biology to adults. I was pleased to discover that evolution forms about 1/4 of the Manitoba Grade 11 curriculum (and no mention whatsoever of 'alternatives').

Any truth to the rumor that Oh Canada will shortly require all Canadian grandmothers to undergo remedial How To Write More Better classes?

That's something else again. My wife tested a group of grade 7 students and found none who reached grade 4 reading level, and yesterday a high-school teacher told me that not one of his grade 10 students knew the word 'inherit'. Unfortunately Grandma's English is relatively good.

Edit to correct stupid punctuation.

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All sweeping statements are wrong.

  
qetzal



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(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,19:29   

skeptic,

Do we also teach "strengths and weaknesses" of gravitional theory? How about plate tectonics? How about strengths and weaknesses of the idea that enzymes catalyze reactions?

This 'strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory' business is highly disingenuous, and you know it. It's fair to teach a bit about strengths and weaknesses of every scientific theory. It's NOT fair to specifically single out evolutionary theory for special attention to its 'weaknesses.' Especially since we all know the motivation for doing so is the religious beliefs of those pushing for this approach.

Also, your "both sides have an agenda" claim is crap. At most, a tiny minority of pro-evolution advocates wants it taught because of religious reasons (i.e. because they think it will promote atheism). Conversely, essentially EVERYONE who's trying to water down the teaching of evolution is doing so for religious reasons.

  
Henry J



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Joined: Mar. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 04 2008,21:03   

Quote
What strengths and weaknesses did you imagine are taught about any theory in chemistry, for example?


Well, they haven't studied any of the compounds of element # 119. :p

Henry

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,00:44   

In chemistry we explore the different models of the atom and at successive points replace these models with the next.  In the same way that we apply a classical representation of gravity and then replace it with a relativistic model.  Every theory we have is a snapshot in time as a reflection of our current level of knowledge but no theory is complete and correct.  We take gradual steps forward (and sometimes backward) with more complete theories but we'll never get THE right answer because our data set is finite.  There are strengths and weaknesses to the theory of evolution as we currently understand and define it and to deny that drops you directly into the same arena as the IDers and YECers and reveals the truth behind the agenda.  Anyone who can not approach this topic objectively and without a critical mind (and that's both extremes) is not fighting over science, they're just fighting over religion.  IMO

  
Reciprocating Bill



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,06:50   

Quote (skeptic @ June 05 2008,01:44)
In chemistry we explore the different models of the atom and at successive points replace these models with the next.  In the same way that we apply a classical representation of gravity and then replace it with a relativistic model.  Every theory we have is a snapshot in time as a reflection of our current level of knowledge but no theory is complete and correct.  We take gradual steps forward (and sometimes backward) with more complete theories but we'll never get THE right answer because our data set is finite.  There are strengths and weaknesses to the theory of evolution as we currently understand and define it and to deny that drops you directly into the same arena as the IDers and YECers and reveals the truth behind the agenda.  Anyone who can not approach this topic objectively and without a critical mind (and that's both extremes) is not fighting over science, they're just fighting over religion.  IMO

Don't pretend there is an analogy between the process of theoretical growth and replacement you describe (such as successive models of the atom) and the "strength and weaknesses" code words of the creationist community. They are not proposing an examination of the genuine growing edges and controversies within evolutionary biology; they are advocating presentation of tired creationist chestnuts and objections that have NO RELEVANCE and NO VALUE in the context of the actual science on the ground.

You know this.

--------------
Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

"Here’s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington

  
olegt



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Joined: Dec. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,07:10   

Quote (skeptic @ June 04 2008,15:19)
Actually, Occam, we already teach the strengths and weaknesses in all other courses.  A real good example is the critical analysis currently underway with string theory so why should evolution be any different.  The truth is both sides have an agenda and neither has much to do with science education.

String theory isn't discussed in any high-school physics textbook, as far as I know.

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Richard Simons



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,07:12   

Quote (skeptic @ June 05 2008,00:44)
There are strengths and weaknesses to the theory of evolution as we currently understand and define it

I don't recall: have you ever described to us the weaknesses of the Theory of Evolution that you feel would be appropriate to bring up in a high school classroom?

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All sweeping statements are wrong.

  
Albatrossity2



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,07:40   

Quote (skeptic @ June 05 2008,00:44)
In chemistry we explore the different models of the atom and at successive points replace these models with the next.  In the same way that we apply a classical representation of gravity and then replace it with a relativistic model.

And in biology we do the same thing, noting that creationism was supplanted by Lamarckianism, and Lamarckianism was supplanted by evolutionary theory.

Failed paradigms deserve very little time in a science curriculum in the 21st century.

And pointing out that evolution doesn't explain X or Y is not the same thing as discussing "strengths and weaknesses". Even IF it was true that the "Cambrian explosion" is unexplained by the data and concepts that we have at present (and it isn't true, so don't start down that road), this would merely be an example of an unanswered question. Any area of science that is worth a damn has lots of unanswered questions. A "weakness" would be a piece of evidence (not a lack of evidence) that is clearly at odds with the theory. There don't seem to be any of those in the  list of strengths and weaknesses that Dr. Dr. Dembski linked to. It seems to be (surprise!) just another recycled list of creationist canards, ranging from the irrelevant (Haeckel faked his drawings, evolution must be false!) to the outright lie (There are no transitional fossils!).

So, skeptic, let's hear from you about a real "weakness" of evolutionary theory, a bit of actual evidence that is at odds with the theory AND that could be explainable in a high school classroom.

thanks in advance

--------------
Flesh of the sky, child of the sky, the mind
Has been obligated from the beginning
To create an ordered universe
As the only possible proof of its own inheritance.
                        - Pattiann Rogers

   
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,09:06   

you all demonstrate the problem and to illustrate it another way, when Bush was asked what mistakes he had made he couldn't come up with any.  Why?  Because to do so would just have lent ammunition to his critics.  You guys are at war with an opposing viewpoint and in doing so loose sight of the actual topic.

Consider this, in an actual scientific discussion between evolutionary biology, ID and YEC, evolution wins hands down, every time, end of discussion.  Anything beyond that has nothing to do with science and all to do with religion.

Ask yourselves this question, what are the limitations of the current theory, what remains unanswered and more importantly why?  Can you answer the question?  That answer may be more important than any identification of weaknesses or unanswered questions.  For my part, with very little effort and preparation I could present an entire lecture on the limitations of the current theory and never once mention ID or creationism.  It's purely a matter of understanding the limitations of the science and being objective.

Finally, I don't make these comments to travel the same old tired path once again.  Every now and then, though, you guys just need to be reminded that you fight a battle on the fringes and the majority of people sit in the middle unthreatened and largely uninterested.  again IMO.

  
k.e..



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,10:42   

Quote (skeptic @ June 05 2008,17:06)
you all demonstrate the problem and to illustrate it another way, when Bush was asked what mistakes he had made he couldn't come up with any.  Why?  Because to do so would just have lent ammunition to his critics.  You guys are at war with an opposing viewpoint and in doing so loose sight of the actual topic.

Consider this, in an actual scientific discussion between evolutionary biology, ID and YEC, evolution wins hands down, every time, end of discussion.  Anything beyond that has nothing to do with science and all to do with religion.

Ask yourselves this question, what are the limitations of the current theory, what remains unanswered and more importantly why?  Can you answer the question?  That answer may be more important than any identification of weaknesses or unanswered questions.  For my part, with very little effort and preparation I could present an entire lecture on the limitations of the current theory and never once mention ID or creationism.  It's purely a matter of understanding the limitations of the science and being objective.

Finally, I don't make these comments to travel the same old tired path once again.  Every now and then, though, you guys just need to be reminded that you fight a battle on the fringes and the majority of people sit in the middle unthreatened and largely uninterested.  again IMO.

What war?

Bush's mis-spake on science?

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"I get a strong breeze from my monitor every time k.e. puts on his clown DaveTard suit" dogdidit
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Albatrossity2



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,11:03   

Quote (skeptic @ June 05 2008,09:06)
For my part, with very little effort and preparation I could present an entire lecture on the limitations of the current theory and never once mention ID or creationism.  It's purely a matter of understanding the limitations of the science and being objective.

Funny, I just asked you for a single example (not a lecture), yet you couldn't manage to do that. And quit moving the goalposts; a "limitation" is not the same as a "weakness". Ben Stein thinks that evolutionary theory is limited because it can't explain gravity, for example. I hope we can agree that his example is not a weakness of evolutionary theory, anymore than the inability to explain gravity is a weakness of plate tectonic theory. If, however, you align yourself with Stein and consider this to be a problem for evolutionary theory, you should seriously consider getting a remedial education.

Spare me the lecture and answer the original question. Here it is again, since you seem to have missed it the first time.

Let's hear from you about a real "weakness" of evolutionary theory, a bit of actual evidence that is at odds with the theory AND that could be explainable in a high school classroom.

--------------
Flesh of the sky, child of the sky, the mind
Has been obligated from the beginning
To create an ordered universe
As the only possible proof of its own inheritance.
                        - Pattiann Rogers

   
C.J.O'Brien



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,12:35   

Quote
For my part, with very little effort and preparation I could present an entire lecture on the limitations of the current theory and never once mention ID or creationism.

As noted, "limitation" is not synonymous with "weakness."
However, why don't you put up or shut up? With even less effort and preparation, you could post an outline of this lecture for us to peruse. I suspect it's all bluster anyway.

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The is the beauty of being me- anything that any man does I can understand.
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Tracy P. Hamilton



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,13:25   

Quote (skeptic @ June 05 2008,00:44)
In chemistry we explore the different models of the atom and at successive points replace these models with the next.  



Really?  Tell us more.  

I teach chemistry, by the way.  In yesterday's General Chemistry I lecture I pointed out that the atom is composed of a very small, heavy nucleus made up of protons and neutrons, with electrons distributed probabilistically, with lower density as the radial distance from the nucleus increases.  What are the weaknesses of that theoretical description that I should point out to these students?

Quote
In the same way that we apply a classical representation of gravity and then replace it with a relativistic model.


In a high school?  

Quote

 Every theory we have is a snapshot in time as a reflection of our current level of knowledge but no theory is complete and correct.


Students by definition don't  know the technical details of the theory yet.  How are they supposed to evaluate strengths and weaknesses?  It would be like Miss South Carolina judging whether Stephen Hawking's description of black holes is well founded or not, based on its strengths and weaknesses.



How is that global warming investigation going?  Have you looked at the sophomore level explanation (note the lack of discussion of heat sinks) at
http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/climate/lectures/gh_kushnir.html yet?

--------------
"Following what I just wrote about fitness, you’re taking refuge in what we see in the world."  PaV

"The simple equation F = MA leads to the concept of four-dimensional space." GilDodgen

"We have no brain, I don't, for thinking." Robert Byers

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,13:56   

I appreciate you all missing the point.  I congratulate you as you continue to be part of the problem.

  
Albatrossity2



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,14:17   

Quote (skeptic @ June 05 2008,13:56)
I appreciate you all missing the point.  I congratulate you as you continue to be part of the problem.

Remarkable.

You might consider that if we ALL missed the point, you didn't make it very clear in the first place.

As for myself, I appreciate you not digging yourself in any deeper at this stage. It does get tedious shouting to you down in that ever-descending hole.

--------------
Flesh of the sky, child of the sky, the mind
Has been obligated from the beginning
To create an ordered universe
As the only possible proof of its own inheritance.
                        - Pattiann Rogers

   
midwifetoad



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,14:27   

Quote
Let's hear from you about a real "weakness" of evolutionary theory, a bit of actual evidence that is at odds with the theory AND that could be explainable in a high school classroom.


Without using the bullshit term "weaknesses" it would be possible to list some of the early arguments against evolution and how they were resolved. I've been re-reading Ernst Mayr's "Endless Argument," and I think a bit of science history is reasonable.

The problem, of course, is that creationism adapts to antibodies, and every argument will countered by new bullshit. I note that Mayr's book, published in 1991, shamelessly uses the terms Darwinism and evolutionist. Why not? They were not dirty words until that anti-science crowd said they were dirty.

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Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
Wesley R. Elsberry



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,16:30   

I think we've come back around to where Skeptic made his board debut.

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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: June 05 2008,16:57   

agreed and it's amazing to me how in two years nothing about this debate has changed.

  
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