Waco Tribune gets it: Science is golden

December 31, 2007

The Waco Tribune offered its editorial support to science, and evolution theory, today.

Texas education officials should be wary of efforts to insert faith-based religious beliefs into science classrooms.

* * * * *

Neither science nor evolution precludes a belief in God, but religion is not science and should not be taught in science classrooms.

Those are the opening and closing paragraphs. In between, the authors scold the Texas Education Agency for firing its science curriculum director rather than stand up for science, and cautions the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board against approving a course granting graduate degrees in creationism education.

Support for evolution and good science scoreboard so far: Over a hundred Texas biology professors, Texas Citizens for Science, Dallas Morning News, Waco Tribune . . . it’s a cinch more support will come from newspapers and scientists. I wonder whether the local chambers of commerce will catch on?

Death penalty: Cruel and unusual punishment?

December 31, 2007

A note today from the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell University’s Law Library notes that a big death penalty case is set for argument on Monday, January 7.

The issue in Baze v. Rees is whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore prohibited under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Plaintiffs Thomas Baze and Thomas K. Bowling argue that there is an impermissible chance of pain from the execution process.

Two lower courts ruled against the plaintiffs. In a rather surprise move, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari on September 25 to hear the case, which some interpret as the Court’s willingness to review the cruel and unusual argument in the light of a majority of the states now refusing to use the death penalty, while others think it means the more conservative Roberts Court is willing to quash death penalty appeals with a ruling that injection is not cruel and unusual.

This highlights the 8th Amendment. Discussion of this topic may help students cement their knowledge of the amendment and Bill of Rights. News on this case generally highlights court procedures, procedures, legal and constitutional principles that students in government classes need to understand.

News on the arguments in this case should go into teacher scrapbooks for later classroom exercises. Teachers may want to note that the decision will come down before the Court adjourns in June, but it may come down before the end of the school year. Teachers may want to have students review information about the case and make predictions, which predictions can be checked with the decision issues.

Below the fold I copy LII’s introduction to the case in their Oral Argument Previews, with the links to the full discussion, which you may use in your classes.

LII operates off of contributions. I usually give $10 or so when I think of it — these resources are provided free. You should be using at least $10 worth of stuff in your classrooms — look for the donation link, and feel free to use it in the support of excellent legal library materials provided free of cost to teachers and students.

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