Oh, my God! or is it Todd’s God?

July 27, 2006

monkeyThe spirit of Hal Mason is being channeled through Esc. Co. School Board candidate Todd Leonard. Here are his issues per his website:

  • VoteToddLeonard.com
  • Todd Leonard on the issues . . .

    • Supports High Standards for Students, High Standards for Teachers,
      and High Standards for Schools.
    • Opposes Modern Politically Correct Education with Its Excessive Emphasis on “Self Esteem” and Supports Tried and Proven Methods
      of Instruction
    • Supports Concept of Merit Pay for Teachers
    • Supports and Encourages Charter School Concept
    • Supports Placing More Emphasis on the Humanities, to Include
      Art and Music Education.
    • Ardent Defender of Pledge of Allegiance and Supports Re-naming “Winter Break” Christmas Break.
    • Supports Incorporation of Intelligent Design Theory into Curriculum and
    • Supports Disclaimer being Placed in Biology Texts that States that
      Evolution is Theory, Not Fact.
    • Supports Fatherhood Initiatives and Faith Based Organizations that Assist in Getting Parents More Involved in the Education
      of Their Children
    • Supports Re-building Once Again Top Athletic Program, to Include Raising Private Funds for Sports Hall of Fame.
    • Supports Streamlining of Escambia County School System Bureaucracy

    10 Responses to “Oh, my God! or is it Todd’s God?”

    1. Tom Says:

      Rick, not sure if your comments concerning Mr. Leonard are meant to be taken as favorable or unfavorable. Since you highlighted the two items dealing with his stance on the teaching of Intelligent Design and the inclusion of the evolution disclaimer, I’m guessing that you have an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Leonard.

      I, on the otherhand, was delighted to see a candidate with convictions and vision. All of the issues you listed above have merit. Mr. Leonard appears to have strong convictions and one must assume that he intends to make a differnce in our school system. I can’t say the same for Mr. Bergosh. I visited Mr. Bergosh’s website and found no vision and no ideas on how to improve our schools.

      Mr. Leonard is right to work toward seeing Intelligent Design (I.D.) included in the discussion of origins. He doesn’t seem to be advocating the removal of evolutionary theory from text books. He simply wants to expand the discussion. And I think all will agree that this is a good thing. I want my children to be exposed to all legitimate theories, including I.D. and evolution.

      Mr. Leonard appears to be the only candidate with vision. I, for one, find it refreshing. Mr. Leonard says on his website, “the status quo must go.” I couldn’t agree more.

    2. Todd Leonard Says:


      Thanks for taking the time to go to our site, survey my positions, and ultimately put them before the general public. You are to be commended for this. I must confess, however, that the tone of your headline seemed to be one of derision for the two positions that you chose to highlight. I cannot speak to the late Dr. Mason’s motives but allow me say a few brief words regarding my own motives in this race. First, the two postions that you chose to highlight, while of great importance, are part of a much larger reform agenda for Escambia County Schools. To suggest that they are front and center would be misleading at best and disingenuous at worst. Secondly, with regard to the positions that you highlighted, let me say that both of these are framed within the context of true academic freedom, and not within the context of religious indoctrination, as is often the constant, hypocritical and hysterical refrain from opponents of design theory, who fear that Genesis 1-3 will be substituted for “real science.” I would simply ask this question: Who are the ones who are being narrow and dogmatic, those who support both sides being given fair and honest scrutiny, or those who, with rigid dogma, allow only one view to be examined, and very seldom seriously scrutinized at that? I think the answer is clear. Anyone favoring classical and broad thinking in the science classroom should be able to accept this reasonable position. In the end, we only have two plausible positions before us: Either the universe is the product of eternal energy and matter shaped over time by random chance or it shows purpose and design that logically leads to a Designer. This is certainly a debate worth having and one that no matter how much we may try to ignore it, will constantly be placed before us, as it concerns origins. We can either handle it maturely or we can continue with the histrionics that serve no one well, least of all our students seeking out matters related to objective truth. I will do my part to make it the former rather than the latter. Thanks again for your interest.

      Todd Leonard
      School Board District 1

    3. routzen Says:

      I think forcing your religious beliefs onto 30,000 kids in a classroom situation is wrong. I respect your right to freely worship God as you so desire. However, don’t make our schools a battleground of one religious dogma vs. another.


    4. Cliff Says:

      The Vatican’s chief astronomer, Fr. George Coyne, issued a statement on 18 November 2005 saying that “Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be. If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.” Cardinal Paul Poupard added that “the faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity.” He also warned of the permanent lesson we have learned from the Galileo case, and that “we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism.” Fiorenzo Facchini, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, called intelligent design unscientific, and wrote in the January 16-17, 2006 edition L’Osservatore Romano: “But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science….It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious.”

    5. Tom Says:


      I thought you might like to read this article written by the well known and higly respected Nancy Pearcy on Intelligent Design.


      Here is a very nice overview addressing whether or not it ought to be included in public school curriculum.


      Both were very informative. I see nothing dogmatic about this theory. Honestly, the dogmatism seems to be coming from those who espouse a secular humanistic religion.

      I think our kids should be exposed to thoughtful debate, and should be made aware of the issues of the day.


    6. Mark Says:

      Hey Todd, until you focus on getting our kids to learn to read it doesn’t matter what words they’re actually reading.

    7. Joe Says:

      OMFSM, Tom and Todd, you guys are so right. These hypocritical “scientists” cling to their wishy-washy, politically correct notion that there’s only one correct answer to things. You and I know that most any theory is as good as the next, and “God did it” is a perfectly legitimate explanation for every question posed by nature. What kind of dogmatic, narrow-minded educator would deny our children a broad variety of alternate truths from which to choose?

      To that end, I hope that, if Todd is elected, he will work to incorporate Flying Spaghetti Monster version of Intelligent Design into our children’s curriculum. I happen to be a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the fastest-growing religion in the world, but like you, my request is not in the interest of religious indoctrination, but rather academic freedom. Our faith is based on scientific facts — for example, the preferred outfit of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is full pirate regalia, and there has been a direct correlation over the last 200 years between the decline in pirates and the rise in global warming and natural disasters. As you can understand, it is vitally important that our children be exposed to this alternate theory. Furthermore, we would like to place stickers on all physics textbooks with the disclaimer that gravity is not a proven “fact,” but just another theory, like evolution.

      You can learn more about the Flying Spaghetti Monster version of Intelligent Design Theory at the official Church website, http://www.venganza.org. Thank you, and namaste.

      Your pirate brother in His Noodly Appendage,

    8. Nick of God Says:

      1981, British paleontologist Colin Patterson, in a famous lecture at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, openly stated there is NO evidence for evolution, thus sparking off the creationist branch of hard science.

    9. Cliff Says:

      Colin Patterson Revisits His Famous Question about Evolution


      Paul A. Nelson

      Authoritative,” conveying “an impression of moody rebelliousness,” and “habitually pessimistic”–thus writer Tom Bethell described the paleontologist and systematist Colin Patterson, on first meeting him in 1983.1

      Patterson, who works at the British Museum of Natural History in London, is one of the leaders of the philosophy of biological systematics known as “transformed cladistics.” The public hubbub which surrounded “transformed” or “pattern” cladistics in the 1980s has now generally subsided, although the issues lying at the heart of the controversy have not. Indeed, Patterson has revisited those issues, which were captured in large measure by a famous question he first posed nearly fifteen years ago. “Can you tell me anything about evolution,” he asked his listeners, “any one thing, that is true?”

      On November 5, 1981, Patterson gave a now infamous talk at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, to the Systematics Discussion Group which met monthly at the museum. An unknown creationist in the audience secretly taped the talk, and a transcript was soon circulating as samizdat among creationists, and shortly thereafter among the scientific community at large.

      The uncorrected transcript was plainly flawed–giving “Conbear” for “von Baer,” for instance, and omitting the names of well-known biologists–but enough of Patterson’s provocative points came through to ignite the firestorm which followed. Patterson soon came in for heavy criticism from the evolutionary community. The talk was much debated: what had he meant; was he simply tweaking noses in New York; what did he really think about evolution?

      As creationist writers trumpeted the speech, Patterson retreated, understandably annoyed by the episode and the voluminous correspondence he received in its wake.

      In August 1993, at a Systematics Association meeting in London, Patterson revisited his 1981 talk; specifically, the bearing of evolution on the practice and philosophy of systematics: ordering the relationships of organisms. In his recollections (published last year; see the notes on p.7), Patterson describes the background to the talk:

      In November 1981, after an invitation from Donn Rosen [a fish systematist at the American Museum, now deceased], I gave a talk to the Systematics Discussion Group in the American Museum of Natural History. Donn asked me to talk on ‘Evolutionism and Creationism’, and it happened that just one week before my talk Ernst Mayr published a paper on systematics in Science (Mayr 1981). Mayr pointed out the deficiencies (in his view) of cladistics and phenetics, and noted that the ‘connection with evolutionary principles is exceedingly tenuous in many recent cladistic writings.’ For Mayr, classifications should incorporate such things as ‘inferences on selection pressures, shifts of adaptive zones, evolutionary rates, and rates of evolutionary divergence.’ Fired up by Mayr’s paper, I gave a fairly radical talk in New York, comparing the effect of evolutionary theory on systematics with Gillespie’s (1979, p. 8) characterization of pre-Darwinian creationism: ‘not a research govering theory (since its power to explain was only verbal) but an antitheory, a void that had the function of knowledge but, as naturalists increasingly came to feel, conveyed none.’ Unfortunately, and unknown to me, there was a creationist in my audience with a hidden tape recorder. A transcript of my talk was produced and circulated among creationists, and the talk has since been widely, and often inaccurately, quoted in creationist literature. 2

      But despite the inaccuracies, Patterson’s central question about evolution came through unmistakably:

      But one sentence from the talk was accurately reproduced, and was perhaps quoted more than any other. The sentence was a rhetorical question; I quote it from a creationist source (Johnson 1991, p.10): ‘Can you tell me anything about evolution, any one thing that is true?’3

      The question still matters, Patterson argues, because evolution is still assumed to be the primary determinant of phylogenetic reasoning. But Patterson’s agnosticism about evolution–expressed in 1981 as, “I had been working on this stuff for twenty years, and there was not one thing I knew about it”–continues today.

      Patterson describes that agnosticism by looking at patterns in molecular data.

      At first, he notes, he thought he had found answers to his own question:

      In 1981, I knew of no sensible answer to the question, but in the ensuing decade I came to believe that there were two things I knew about evolution. First, that transitions [purines, adenine (A) and guanine (G), mutating to purines, e.g., A –> G; or pyrimidines, cytosine (C) and thymine (T), mutating to pyrimidines, e.g., T –> C] are more frequently fixed than transversions [where a purine mutates to a pyrimidine, or vice versa] and second, that at the level of DNA, the great majority of substitutions take place despite natural selection rather than because of it. 4

      However, as Patterson continues, he came to doubt whether in seeing these patterns he was grasping the process of evolution:

      …do transition bias and neutral substitution represent knowledge about evolution, or something else? Further, and more generally, why should I, a morphologist, claim to know something about molecular evolution but nothing of morphological evolution? 5

      We must distinguish between patterns to be explained, Patterson urges, and the process theories by which we explain those patterns–a distinction foundational to the “transformed cladistic” perspective on systematics and phylogeny. The molecular patterns he observed, Patterson believes, are thus only data awaiting explanation.

      “I therefore believe I was mistaken in thinking that I knew something about molecular evolution,” he writes. “Instead, I know (or have learned) something about the properties of molecular data, and those properties are amongst the things that must be explained by evolutionary theory.”

      Patterson concludes:

      …I mentioned a question (‘Can you tell me anything you know about evolution?’) that I have put to various biologists, and an answer that had been given: ‘I know that evolution generates hierarchy.’ In the framework of phylogenetic reconstruction and our current problems with it, another answer comes to mind: ‘I know that evolution generates homoplasy’ [or “convergence,” in the older jargon of systematics]. In both cases, the answer is not quite accurate. It would be truer to say, ‘I know that evolution explains hierarchy’ or ‘I know that evolution explains homoplasy.’ We must remember the distinction between the cart–the explanation–and the horse–the data. And where models are introduced in phylogenetic reconstruction, we should prefer models dictated by features of the data to models derived from explanatory theories. 6

      Among the issues raised by Patterson’s revisiting of his 1981 question, probably the most significant is how do we know which patterns are real (and therefore, actually need explaining)? “Transition bias is data,” he argues–but only if one assumes the common descent of the gene sequences in question, meaning, in most cases, macroevolution. For some design theorists, who doubt that macroevolution is possible, sequence comparisons between divergent animal phyla (for instance) will not be data showing a historical relationship from an unknown common ancestor–a relationship requiring causal explanation. Rather, those data may reflect any number of causes other than descent.

      Data–“facts” requiring explanation–emerge against a background of causal possibility. Because they are highly skeptical of the possibility of macroevolution, some design theorists would deny that the systematic hierarchy is real, in the same sense that the branching pattern of an elm tree or the Hapsburg Dynasty is real, i.e., something extending through space and time.

      Thus, they would seek a nominalist explanation for the systematic hierarchy (reflecting, perhaps, our desire to organize data in bifurcating trees), and would defend that by arguing that the transformations required by macroevolution are probabilistically inaccessible. (Other design theorists would accept the hierarchy as actual, of course, a genuine tree of life, but would argue that the tree exists only because of a designer’s intervention to make the necessary transitions between forms possible.)

      The real crunch between Patterson and design theorists, however, arises from the possibility of design. The presence of cytochrome c in, say, echinoderms, and the same protein in humans, gives evolutionists an historical linkage between the two forms, even in the absence of a theory of macroevolution, simply because high degrees of molecular similarity require a common cause.

      For most methodological naturalists, that can only be descent with modification. 7

      But suppose, as seems possible, that a designer employed the same cytochrome molecule in two distinct lineages (echinoderms and humans)? The usual naturalist response holds while this is certainly possible, any theory making such predictions is empty. Assertions about the designer’s actions are unconstrained, and would fit whatever data turn up.

      But that does not follow. A designer who is free to employ the same molecules in constructing diverse organisms is not therefore an agent who acts capriciously. Furthermore, a design theorist would locate the empirical content of his theory elsewhere, in those predictions which distinguish design from naturalistic descent. It is the whole case for design, taken broadly, that gives the theory empirical content. 8

      But the step to the possibility of design, it seems, is a far longer stride than the shorter step from certainty to agnosticism about evolution. One hopes, in any case, that Patterson will join the debate, wherever he ends up standing.
      ~ source: http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od171/colpat171.htm

    10. Cliff Says:

      Judge rules against ‘intelligent design’ in class

      17:37 20 December 2005
      NewScientist.com news service
      Kurt Kleiner

      Pennsylvania science teachers will not be forced to advocate “intelligent design” after a judge ruled that that the theory is really religion in disguise.

      Judge John Jones of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that intelligent design – which bills itself as a scientific theory and states that life shows signs of being the work of an intelligent designer – is in fact reworked creationism.

      The decision comes after 11 parents sued the Dover High School Board of Education for requiring that biology students be read a statement that cast doubt on evolution and endorsed intelligent design. Eight of the nine school board members were voted out of office in November, but the case continued in the court.

      In his decision, Jones systematically dismantled the arguments of the proponents of intelligent design. Jones said that the history of intelligent design shows that it is essentially creationism with explicit references to God and the Bible removed. As such, it is primarily a religious theory, not a scientific one, and cannot be taught in US public schools, which are prevented from promoting religion.

      Intentionally misleading
      Jones also said that language in the school board statement that evolution is only a “theory” is misleading. It confuses the scientific and colloquial meanings of “theory”. And by singling out evolution from all other scientific theories it suggests that there is some special doubt about the truth of evolution.

      The judge stated that intelligent design cannot be considered science for a number of reasons. By depending on a supernatural cause it violates the basic ground rules of science that have been in place since the 16th century.

      He also found that intelligent design relies on the “false dualism” that if evolution can be disproven, then intelligent design is proven. In any case, he found that intelligent design’s criticisms of evolution have been largely refuted.

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