8/24/2012

Dover (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District)

  • "[T]eachers would be required to read the following statement to students in the ninth-grade biology class at Dover High School:
    1. The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
    2. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
    3. Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
    4. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments."


     Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Case No. 04cv2688, was the first direct challenge brought in United States federal courts against a public school district that tried to mandate teachers to read a statement to the students about intelligent design as an alternative "explanation" to evolution. The plaintiffs claimed that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
      Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District has closely examined the implications of intelligent design for public schools. The Memorandum Opinion by Judge John E. Jones III sets out his findings in considerable detail and will have significant influence. {See kitzmiller_342.pdf for the Memorandum as originally formatted (pdf).}
     Because of the size of this memorandum, the article is split into parts determined by topics. Successive parts are listed below:
  1. Introduction (1-17)
  2. Context (17-35)
  3. Disclaimer (36-64)
  4. Whether ID Is Science (64-89)
  5. Promoting Religion (90-116)
  6. Curriculum, Conclusion (116-139)
  • [T]he better practice in this Circuit is for this Court to also evaluate the challenged conduct separately under the Lemon test.18 See Child Evangelism, 386 F.3d at 530-35; Modrovich, 385 F.3d at 406; Freethought, 334 F.3d at 261. As articulated by the Supreme Court, under the Lemon test, a government sponsored message violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment if:
         (1) it does not have a secular purpose;
         (2) its principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion; or
         (3) it creates an excessive entanglement of the government with religion.
     Lemon, 403 U.S. at 612-13. As the Lemon test is disjunctive, either an improper purpose or an improper effect renders the ID Policy invalid under the Establishment Clause.19


  • "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
    
     Originally, the First Amendment applied only to the federal government. A number of the states effectively had established churches when the First Amendment was ratified, with some remaining into the early nineteenth century.
     Subsequently, Everson v. Board of Education (1947) incorporated the Establishment Clause (i.e., made it apply against the states). However, it was not until the middle to late twentieth century that the Supreme Court began to interpret the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in such a manner as to restrict the promotion of religion by the states. In the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion."[1]

   Note: Defintion of "religion:  1) The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods."

8/15/2012

Presidential prediction (Polling and Betting)

The upcoming Presidential and legislative, and state elections are being predicted by various people and methods. This posting is a collection of links to these various sites. (See: discussion of Polling)

  • FiveThirtyEight’s mission [by Nate Silver] is to help New York Times readers cut through the clutter of this data-rich world. The blog is devoted to rigorous analysis of politics, polling, public affairs, sports, science and culture, largely through statistical means. In addition, FiveThirtyEight provides forecasts of upcoming presidential, Congressional, and gubernatorial elections through the use of its proprietary prediction models. Read more (About) »
  • Poll or set of Polls


Another way to estimate the future is to look at the results of markets. There are a number of market that allow individuals to bet (or pseudo bet) on future outcomes. The "Wisdom of the Crowds" suggests that a large number of individuals will gather a verity of information and if properly managed, isolated, motivated, on average, come up with a more accurate estimate than either they in the field would individually come up with. The following are some of these prediction markets:

Intrade, the world's leading prediction market (Political market)
IEM (Iowa Electronic Markets) is an online futures market where contract payoffs are based on real-world events such as political outcomes, companies' earnings per share (EPS), and stock price returns.

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Which presidential polls were most accurate?

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Polling
 
There are a number of sites that discuss the results of their polls, i.e. their asking people how they will vote. The results are interesting but are not "perfect" for at least the following reasons:

  1. Future -- It is hard to predict the  future: Even if the results were perfect, they represent the results as of the time of polling and the actual vote will be taken from the time the initial absentee ballot is marked till the final election day. Thus the poll results only reflect a snapshot of a distributed process in which about 50% will be actualized in the future on voting day
    .
  2. Sample Bias -- The sample is taken from the people at large. On the other hand since we have only 50% of the population voting, and there will be a different distribution of the voters than the polled population, the pollsters try to adjust by determining the "Likely Voters" and the greater tendency of various groups to vote. Since these are not objective, they can cause polls to be incorrect.
     
  3. Sample Size -- A poll asks people how they "plan" to vote. But the general sample size is often about 1,000 people, and thus has a statistical variation of about 3%,e.g. The results will be  more than 3% off 1/20 times. Thus if the results are within 3%, there is a 5% chance that the true results will be the other way.
Regardless of these  problems Polls are one tool for predicting the future of elections. Perhaps the best way a reader can use the polling results is to looks at results of a number of polls, considering the estimated errors and biases of each, and recognize that though a specific result may be imperfect, the trends and combinations may well be better.

The following are some links to various polls.

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8/02/2012

08, August sites

  •  The Lost Decade of the Middle Class Fewer, Poorer, Gloomier {Note: the middle tier is defined as those living in households with an annual incom that is 67% to 200% of the national median}  (Pew Research Center)
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  • Open Source Democracy, OSD // A Movement to Develop // A Web Site, A Cloud Computing Service // For Government Change Actions and for American Voters 
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