January 22, 2008

Calling Dr. Moe, Dr. Larry, Dr. Gibbs

I found this rather comical document (.pdf; 6 pgs.) via Greg Laden's blog. Laden is a biologist/anthropologist at the University of Minnesota who frequently discusses the evolution/creation "controversy." The document contains a letter and memorandum addressed to the "Florida Board of Science Education" (there is no such thing as the "Florida Board of Science Education"; it's the Florida State Board of Education).

The FSBoE is currently in the process of reviewing its science standards which is, predictably, engendering all sorts of nonsense on the part of determined creationists.

The letter and memo were composed by David C. Gibbs, III, a Florida attorney with the Christian Law Association, an outfit dedicated to providing counsel to "Christians facing legal difficulties for practicing the Biblical faith." Emphasis added — I'm not sure what that means, exactly. Likely something to do with cries of persecution.

Claiming to be concerned about "scientific accuracy," Atty. Gibbs describes evolution as a "worldview" and a "belief system," and asks that the FSBoE accord his memo "considerable weight." The letter is on Atty. Gibbs's law firm's stationery, and it suggests that a number of the State science benchmarks (curriculum requirements) may violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause which, as Atty. Gibbs puts it, "does not permit the government to either promote or inhibit religion ... [or] to express hostility to religion."

Atty. Gibbs clearly has at least two religions in mind: evolution and Christianity. At least the latter really is a religion.

After a number of amusing demonstrations of the fact that he thinks the singular form of "species" is "specie" (it's also "species"), Atty. Gibbs reserves his greatest (and weirdest) consternation for the following statement from the proposed science standards: "Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence." That essentially prosaic observation really sets Atty. Gibbs off:
This unscientific conclusory statement, devoid of underlying evidence, moves Florida's science standards outside the realm of traditional science and enters, instead, into the discipline of philosophy as the construct for defining a worldview. A worldview addresses, not only the field of science, but the philosophical purview of how to identify the four components of reality.
Buh? The what?
The problem here is that Florida's science standards now force upon students only one of several possible interpretive worldview systems without providing any philosophical instruction as to how students may evaluate and distinguish between the various worldviews that inform and identify the four components of reality---god, life, matter and time.
You gotta love that, criticizing a completely bland statement of fact for being "devoid of underlying evidence" by suddenly introducing "god" as a "component of reality," an assertion utterly "devoid of underlying evidence," to coin a phrase. He then goes on to claim the standards portray evolution as a "faith-based belief system."

All of this, of course, is typically addlepated creationist blather. But what piqued my curiosity was Atty. Gibbs's description of himself as "Dr. Gibbs" at the outset of the memo.

According to Gibbs's bio here, he has a bachelor's degree from Jerry Falwell U. and a J.D. from Duke. Also, he was on Fox & Friends.

While lawyers have "Juris Doctor" degrees, they don't normally go around calling themselves "Doctor," at least when they don't also possess medical degrees or other academic doctorates. It's misleading, and a number of State bar associations discourage it, or even disallow it.

The Florida Bar, for example, permits the use of "Juris Doctor" on business cards and stationery, but retreats to a more circumspect position even where the term is used on other forms of advertising, which the Bar says must be evaluated for context on a case by case basis.

Atty. Gibbs's memo is beyond mere commercial advertising, however, and especially given the subject matter, evolutionary biology, whose notable practitioners do in fact hold the relevant Ph.D.s, Gibbs's employment of the honorific is highly suspect, not to mention potentially ironic: at one point, Atty. Gibbs criticizes the science benchmarks for being dishonest.

Unfortunately, this instance wouldn't be surprising in the least, since creationists generally have a habit of attempting to inflate their credentials. Consider Kent Hovind, one of the most ridiculous creationists of all time, who went about demanding to be addressed as "Dr. Hovind" for years based on a purported Ph.D. obtained from a "university" housed in a Colorado bungalow. Hovind himself is currently housed at a federal prison in South Carolina after being convicted of creatively interpreting the tax code.

Forgive me for being suspicious of just about everything creationists get themselves up to, but I'm really curious as to how Atty. Gibbs comes to pass himself off as "Dr. Gibbs" in this context.


Emily said...

What I can't fathom are the persistent allegations that evolution is somehow a "worldview" akin to religion, and that "forcing" kids to learn about it is forcing them to accept one religion over another. That combined with the creationists insistence that science (evolutionary theory) is somehow "unscientific." Uh...in what universe? And since when do they know anything about actual science?

illusory tenant said...

From a legal perspective (one among many, I should add), if creationists can successfully portray evolution as a religion, they can attempt to restrict its inclusion in public school science curricula as a violation of the Establishment Clause.

It's a strategy that's been failing for decades, but it appears to still have a few adherents.

PaulNoonan said...

Four components of reality? Maybe he knows this guy.


illusory tenant said...

Whoa, time cube dude. That's a blast from the past.

Anonymous said...

"change of one specie to another specie" -- maybe he's just a currency trader.

Emily said...

"change of one specie to another specie" -- maybe he's just a currency trader.

It's all connected!

...now where's my tinfoil hat?

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

Pffft, if you knew anything about Patriot University, you'd know that it's more of a split-level ranch than a bungalo.

illusory tenant said...

Busted! But bungalow sounded better.

(You're right, though.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, nice cliffhanger approach, leaving us wondering for a few lines just what the four components of reality were! I was really curious, and started to conjecture to myself a bit.

"Liberté, égalité, fraternité? Nope. Not enough of them. Hmmm."

"Special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onio...? No, dammit, too many!"

"Earth, Wind, and Fire! Arse! How did it go? Ah, right: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water! Four elements, got it, problem solved!"

"...god, life, matter and time..."

What? Bugger. He just made that up!

grumps said...

Specially specious specieists.

Say it three times raelly fast. Go on. You know you want to.

Emily said...

Hey clutch, you forgot love, which as we all know, according to the good Captain Planet anyway, is the fifth element. That should have tipped you off that it wasn't the right list.