Boca Raton father, son sue school district for not teaching evolution

Dec 22, 2015

By Angela Rozier

A Boca Raton father and son have filed a lawsuit claiming the Palm Beach County school board isn’t teaching the theory of evolution.

Brandon Silver, 11, and his father, attorney Barry Silver, filed an 18-page lawsuit last month but plan to serve the board Wednesday night.

“We’ve been taught about adaptations to the environment but that’s not really a direct concept to evolution,” said Brandon Silver.

“It’s such a magnificent story and it’s being neglected. The students are being deprived of learning from it because certain religious people don’t like the story because it contradicts the Bible and we think it is terrible that children shouldn’t learn the truth about where they came from,” said Barry Silver.

Barry Silver said he filed the lawsuit last month.

“We filed this on Nov. 24, 2015, because on Nov. 24, 1859, Darwin published that incredible work about the origin of the species,” said Barry Silver.

He said he’s willing to work something out with the school district but if that doesn’t happen he plans to continue to fight for change.

“If they’re willing to sit down with us and talk about it and correct some of the things that are not proper in the school system about science we’re happy to resolve it with them. If not, we’ll go ahead and serve it and we will vigorously litigate the lawsuit,” said Barry Silver.

According to the lawsuit, “There are currently schools and textbooks which provide false, misleading, and dangerous information about certain religions and purposely omit factual information if it appears unfavorable to them and/or politically incorrect, which cause Palm Beach County public school students not to receive a high quality education required by the Florida law.”

The school superintendent said he has not seen the lawsuit.

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72 comments on “Boca Raton father, son sue school district for not teaching evolution

  • The comments under the passage on the OP-link – demonstrate why law suits are required in the lands of proudly asserted ignorance and pseudo-science parrots of Hovindian fizzicks, Comfort biology, and Hamster geology!

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  • Reflecting on the qualifications of a creationist troll:

    Pride in know-all asserted ignorance.

    Pig ignorance of scientific terminology (fact, law, theory, hypothesis, speculation).

    A potential score of 0% for understanding of cladistics and nomenclature (evolutionary trees, scientific terms such a genus, species, sub-species) when claiming no new species have ever arisen.

    A lack of interest in learning the separate features of science and scientific methodology necessary to build an understanding of complexity.

    A mindless copying of drivel and fallacious thinking posed by creationist “authority figures”!

    Feel free to add others you have spotted in the comments section.

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  • Microaggressive

    That’s an interesting mythology. Have you ever seen a horse give birth to a giraffe?

    Some of the ignorance of which you speak. this illiterate had several comments right off the bat in reply to someone speaking sense.

    Reading this trash from Microaggressive makes me lose hope for the future of children reared by such pin heads.

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  • Nope, I think you’ve just about pinned it Alan4; there might be just one more thing, which isn’t confined to creationists, but appears to be universal among religious communities, and that’s problems with sex; principal among them being hypocracy.

    Remember Ted Haggard? And the tens of thousands of catholic priests; and quite a few nuns too apparantly.

    But Jesus loves you anyway.

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  • There are some comments on the link where it is almost impossible to know if comments are from a Poe, and infant, a know-nothing simpleton, or a trolling disruptive idiot.

    Jac Miller [in reply to] CavalierTunes

    Evolution IS religion bud, the False Science doctrine requires more FAITH than the bible does…Crack the book parrot

    Evolution has been proven and should be taught in schools; leave the myths to the churches.

    Jac Miller

    Proven how? Did a bird come from a dog somewhere? Or we found our “missing link” & I somehow missed that?

    It is obvious that he missed out on most of an education!

    It is sad when a discussion on a serious subject such as the teaching of science is disrupted by persistent moronic assertions.

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  • And if a Republican wins in 2016 we will be in even worse shape.
    I read that article and had to lie down. As Doug asked, how do we affect change? No one on this site disagrees that this is lunacy, dangerous and unacceptable lunacy – but we are talking to each other. How do we affect change? We need to organize. We need to produce a revolution in the minds of men and women all across this country, and elsewhere.
    I’m sick of this shit, sick of religion. (Pardon my language.)
    I hope others will follow suit. (Pun intended, I guess.)

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  • How do we affect change?

    It won’t be quick. It can’t be through legislation. That just creates a cause. A rallying point. I suspect it will be a slow drip erosion of a sandstone boulder. There must be a steady, and sustained presence in the media quietly pointing out inconsistencies. Asking questions of religious actions. You can’t be strident. You can’t partake of actions that will give the religious the ammunition to fire back. Honourable. High integrity. Professional and rational. If I can use an American NFL football analogy. The whole game will be running the ball. And there are unlimited downs. The offensive line (Dawkins et al) just need to push hard, gaining a few yards with each play. In the end, rational secularism will score the touchdown.

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  • …a slow drip erosion…

    Nicely put. I was walking past The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Roman Catholic church on Park Avenue and 84th Street (the upper east side) on “Christmas” eve. (I put that in quotes. Not my religion or my savior. Not much of a holiday for me either and certainly not a holy day.) There was a group of demonstrators outside with signs. They were protesting the abuse of children by priests and the inaction on the part of the RCC. It turned into a shouting fest. “How can you do this on Christmas Eve?” the church-goers wanted to know.
    Although I was more on the side of the protestors I was all too aware of how ill-conceived their choice of time and place was.
    I made a similar point on another thread. Silverman’s people put up a stupid sign in N. Carolina: “You don’t have to go to church to be a good person.” Well they (the church-goers) think you do.
    We have to be smarter than that.
    I think people like Dawkins can play an enormously important role. He is a public intellectual (as well as a leading scientist and author). He and others like him (although there is no one quite like R.D.) can help spread the word.
    But this question about how to affect change is a tough one, although you made some excellent points. I am going to give it some serious thought.
    One thing terrifies me: censorship. The real critics of America, people like Chomsky (and you need not agree with him), are never seen on mainstream TV, or quoted in the Times. You won’t even see them on PBS. (Too many private donors.)
    If people like Dawkins are going to find it increasingly difficult or impossible to get air time, are censored (like Chomsky and the late Gore Vidal), and are forced to rely solely upon the internet, it’ll slow down this arduous and circuitous, long process even more.

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  • Jac Miller may indeed be a troll….. such a perfect caricature. But this may still be a useful experiment….

    What it shows is the deep understanding of those responding to him of the difference between theory and fact when applied to evolution. How advantageous it is to represent a theory as full of facts. That only a theory (unlike a fact) can make predictions (and further corroborate the facts upon which it is based). Etc. etc.

    JM’s response to the word flip (fact for theory) is entirely predictable as the apparent weakening of a position. Not impressed.

    Fact of evolution? Hmm, it seems to be stated everywhere else as “theory” of evolution….interesting how fact & theory are [used] so freely & inconsquencially, THIS is the entire problem…

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  • The only issue to fight with regard to religion is the moral issue- the quality of their moral judgements, the quality of non-religious moral judgements, and the judgement calls we make on each others’.

    There is no way you can engage on this front without getting up someone’s nose. Modulating the degree is the issue. Ya have to get up there to get noticed. The problematical folk are the unperceptive ones…

    The young don’t do mainstream media, surveys confirm.

    Chomsky is alive and well and reaching the young via many channels. I don’t think you should discount the power of Huffpost, or the young…Time (and demographics) is on our side.

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  • phil rimmer
    Dec 31, 2015 at 4:52 am

    Jac Miller may indeed be a troll….. such a perfect caricature. But this may still be a useful experiment….

    This and the similar responses on the 12 Days of Evolution thread,
    show that those with their cognitive development stuck at the know-it-all teenage, pre-formal operational stage, (despite having no idea of the difference between a genus and a species), feel empowered by cutting and pasting pseudo-science, science-denial crap, from Ham and Hovind etc. – without citations, so they can be smart-arses, deluding themselves that they are blinding others with pseudo-science on complex topics – of which they personally have no understanding whatever, but have scripted “Answers in Genesis” to quote.
    Another feature is their projection of their “religious faith-thinking-choose-what-you-want-to-believe”, on to scientists and others.
    This is because it is the only (much glorified) thought process they know, and so they assume everyone uses it.

    What it shows is the deep understanding of those responding to him of the difference between theory and fact when applied to evolution. How advantageous it is to represent a theory as full of facts. That only a theory (unlike a fact) can make predictions (and further corroborate the facts upon which it is based). Etc. etc.

    For this sort of troll, (as for Ham) no rational explanation or evidence will change their minds. Exposure of their ignorance and sources, with ridicule for the benefit of a wider audience, is the best option in dealing with such people!

    After all! A troll who does not know a species from a genus, pompously pontificating as an authority on biology and genetics, denying speciation and evolution, really is farcically incompetent and self-deluded!

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  • The excercise is indeed for the public countering of folly. Untold good for fools-in-training may be done by this, though the original hardened, professional fool remains.

    All the more reason to not mix messages to reach the unreachable, but to remain consistent with scientific speech and deliver the richer truth.

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  • Republican – 2016

    Like a lynx, ears perked up when I happened to hear Speaker Paul Ryan utter this during a tree lighting speech: … for those of us who are Christian…

    Was that a crack in the façade I just heard? True inclusiveness, or pandering for the election year. A trivial, but curious side note in that Ryan has grown a beard (seemingly a big no-no in high level u.s. politics).

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  • Chomsky is alive and well and reaching the young via many channels.

    I am encouraged by that, Phil, but the moral issue is not the only issue that we need to fight.
    Religion poisons the life blood of civilization in so far as it has been used and will be used to justify imperialism.
    There are many issues bound up with religion and they are interconnected.
    It has been and will continue to be educationally pernicious.
    It threatens our sense of individual dignity in so far as many atheists, gays, and other groups that many Christians (and many Muslims as well as Jews) despise, are looked upon as inferior, as sub-human.
    Parents poison the minds of their children . . . I don’t understand how a man of your intelligence can present the problem of religion in such simple terms. The moral issue is a large issue, no doubt. But religion is used and exploited in many ways, and there are ramifications to these nefarious uses.
    Religion breeds fanaticism which creates horror.
    It is a way to consolidate power. I need not remind you that that delicate thing called democracy can morph imperceptibly into fascism or some other form of totalitarian state. We already have a plutocratic oligarchy in the U.S. We might become theocratic as well. (Things can change very quickly and they can change slowly and imperceptibly.)
    Religion is in many cases benign and perhaps salutary. It is, at its worst, exceedingly dangerous. It, coupled with greed and lust for power, may result in the destruction of the freedoms that we still enjoy, and ultimately, in the physical destruction of us all.

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  • These are all issues that flow from moral positions- how you treat your kids, your regard for truth, how you consolidate power…

    What we need to fight is the view that the problem is a fragmented one. It is a root and branch moral one, the place where the religious think they have an ace and where I think they have a deuce. This is the smack in the face they need.

    That the religious have cares for their own salvation and expend love and care outside of the natural world impares their natural sympathies, their natural identities, their natural concerns.

    Their failures are moral failures. This is Hitchens’ “poison”.

    The religious I give a pass to are entirely those religious that see they are natural moral authors, built/evolved for the task and guided by only 3 moral facts, evidence, reason and their own feelings

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  • For those of us who are Christian, He gave us His only son. And for all Americans, whatever you believe, he gave us this great country.

    No crack that I can see. (Perhaps it’s not a facade.)

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  • Doug
    Dec 31, 2015 at 9:13 am

    For those of us who are Christian, He gave us His only son. And for all Americans, whatever you believe, he gave us this great country.

    Or more historically accurately:
    “We stole this great country and its resources, from the indigenous native populations, stole a lot of Africans from their native lands, and imposed our Xtianity servility on many of them, but if god-did-it, that absolves us from responsibility!”

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  • Hi, Phil,

    As soon as I had completed that last comment and posted it it occurred to me that while my points were all valid, your emphasis on “morality” may have been under appreciated by me.
    Perhaps the moral issue is the element behind all the other elements, the primary element that we need to address. Not sure, frankly.

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  • The only issue to fight with regard to religion is the moral issue- the quality of their moral judgements, the quality of non-religious moral judgements, and the judgement calls we make on each others

    LIKE. This is also a free kick in front of goal and so provides a chance to influence the silently listening fence sitters. They will swing the votes in the end. Regardless of the brand of religion, they are all vulnerable to researched and credible presentation of arguments about their behaviour, now, and over time. The RCC struggles to appear on any media show now without having to defend the systematic kiddy fiddling.

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  • Happy New Year Folks!

    David, it was a resolution sometime last year that I would rationalise my dissatisfactions of religion and express them at this primary level of moral failure. My concerns are that we should lead from the front rather than timidly trailing behind saying we can be moral too…honest.

    We are natural moral authors because we have to be. Morality, provided we haven’t sold out to a moral-defining ideology, is our daily task. (If we have, the damage is often less severe, at least, being free of the faith component warning us off thought.)

    Whilst I joke (terrified) about the current crop of Republicans and their disgraceful, rotted, brain-eating vacancy, I know right-wing folk are a brute fact and carry with them an anxious, conserving type of morality that is not going to go away. In better times right wing folk were better people even from my perspective. They could be more pragmatic and evidenced based. (I even have some Republican heroes. In deeply troubled times, the right wing stance may even be the more protective and effective stance, creating a defensive unity.) Religion and Right Wingery has become, though, a lethal cocktail, allowing the manipulative (often psychopath) others to feed anxiety making falsehoods into their heads, trying to generate a moral panic over communism, atheism, pro-lifers etc. These “threats” are perceived as threats to the moral life of the nation.

    For me this is the ground the “enemy” have chosen to fight on, yet we have always countered rather feebly over this fundamental issue. “We do morality, too” falls way short of what I want to say.

    Any ideology that has current ills made better outside of nature is failing nature, the one place we can be sure of. We must now call them on the this consistent natural moral under-achievement.


    More than anything I wish you to see how the moral battle is enjoined by facts rather than competing ideologies, that to grow a moral mutuality with all folk we need the bald epidemiological evidence that, say, gross inequality is corrossive of a nation’s talent and potentialities on a very wide front, that welfare nurtures capacities that are otherwise lost permanently down the generations generating future political instability, and repelling investment.

    Bernie Sanders recently did a great job explaining how he was not the ideologue he was painted as, describing the essential pragmatism of his Democratic Socialist label.

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  • My first comment of the new year:

    Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to establish a basis of morality rooted in science or evolution. Perhaps it is impossible. Religion fills the void and tells its frightened and uncertain followers that morality comes from the soul and God. Deprived of that false sense of security, religious people will be facing an existential situation, to wit, profound uncertainty and a deep fear that they are not good – or that goodness doesn’t exist.
    This fear is justified. As far as I know, there is no non-metaphysical argument in favor of the inherent goodness of humans. There is no evidence to support the argument that we are good or moral.
    The pragmatic argument that Sam Harris strenuously presented is, finally, as logical as it is weak, and won’t work.
    Moral philosophy will not make us moral. Dawkins errs here; he often says that we must get our morals from (among other things) moral philosophy. Plato is still right; you can teach ethics but you cannot teach someone to be an ethical or moral person.
    No, we mustn’t delude ourselves. The likelihood is that humans are not good and are not bad; we vary. Culture, environment, parenting, and I suppose genetic factors, are what determine our morals or lack thereof – but the latter (genetic factors) apply to only a few of us. That is my hunch. I am speculating. Moreover, an argument can be made that we are, for the most part, inherently selfish as you, David, have asserted.
    This question: what and how do we replace the morality of thou shalt with self-legislative morality (Nietzsche) within the framework of secular humanism?
    Can we as a secular people, as a secular culture (and I am envisioning a future where religion will be no more), live with the existential dread that without God and his commandments, etc., we are on our own, and may not be good, can no longer be told by our religion that we are good and can never know if we are good, in spite of what we do?
    Religion serves a powerful function in this regard. Moral goodness is not natural. What does that mean? Nature is amoral. Look at the animal kingdom. They all prey on each other. That is nature for you, and we are not separate from nature. Our brains, our faculty of reason, our superior intellect, does not make us moral. On the contrary…
    And I still maintain that religion will not be gotten rid of by merely demonstrating that non-theists do not need religion in order to be moral (if that is what was suggested; I am not clear what that point was); religion attracts its followers for other reasons as well. Fear of death is one issue out of many. And people want to feel guided, want to feel that they have something behind them.
    It is not called God the Father for no reason (Freud).
    We must, in my view, teach people to be truthful and braver than they are. The truth shall set us free.—That should be our focus. We must teach them that uncertainty is better than certainty, that self-realization through action and personal responsibility is better than telling yourself that you are good because you obeyed a rule given to you from without and established in advance, and that we, finally, are the authors of our own lives. As Oscar Wilde said – and this is a very existential concept – every action of the day makes or unmakes character. (De Profundis)
    —Dan R.

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  • P.S. This is the question. Left out the words “is the.”
    Also, I actually think that the basis of morality is compassion, and that compassion is a metaphysical element, but I did not wish to distract the reader with that idea; metaphysics is always confused with religion, and I would also need several hours and more space than is proper in this context to elaborate on that without sounding like an idiot.

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  • Dan, You need European eyes I think, at least for a day or so. Your views seem so “American”.

    Kids brought up without the expectation of an afterlife mostly don’t fear death in my experience. Kids brought up without the idea of religion sourced morals have the better morals in my experience.

    Societies flourish with the open mutuality of the non-religious. Mutuality is the essential trick of what we as a species do despite the organised selfishness of free-market capitalist winners. Its not our natures that are ugly. Any anthropological study or documentary on hunter gatherers is heart warming compared to the equivalent view of Capitol Hill and Wall Street….

    Evidence of flourishing is easily got when we choose to look for it and use the right tools. This enclosed within an evolutionary/intelligent design type process is how flourishing can be progressed, and mutually rewarding behaviours and policies reinforced.

    America is another world off on the edges of most graphs. Your trip to London can’t come a moment too soon.

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  • compassion is a metaphysical element

    Well, there’s your problem, right there.

    Read Frans de Waal “The Age of Empathy.”

    Read “The Spirit Level” by Wilkinson and Pickett.

    Scientific hypotheses when innovative are metaphysical, as Popper pointed out to Wittgenstein (who responded with a poker). Popper was right. But science is the process that will actually enlighten you if any enlightenment is possible, else you remain in the world of ill-defined might-bes (W was right here), not fit for inflicting upon others, (outside of the arcane world of philosophers) with any confidence.

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  • phil rimmer
    Dec 31, 2015 at 4:52 am

    JM’s response to the word flip (fact for theory) is entirely predictable as the apparent weakening of a position. Not impressed.

    The flip is just a semantic side-track, as it is obvious from his other comments, that he has no clear understanding of either the terms “fact” or (scientific) “theory”, so only offers rambling assertive contradictions and denials of competent explanations he does not want to understand or accept.

    That is the problem in trying to explain science to creationist trolls (as opposed to the wider audience). Their levels of basic literacy go right off the bottom of the scale!

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  • Evidence of flourishing is easily got when we choose to look for it and use the right tools.

    I see two issues (which may be two sides of the same coin) with the concept (ideal?) of flourishing:

    Measurements of flourishing are subjective; there is no objective way to measure it.
    Flourish is a relative term. One man’s flourishing is another’s floundering, or, in the other direction, excess.

    …how flourishing can be progressed.

    There again, progressed; another subjective, relative term. Do you think flourishing can be over-progressed?

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  • “Flourishing” is no ideal. It is a catch all term for anything that people deem “the good”. Different people will place different emphases on each but we can create a general basket of measures of “the good” simply enough.

    Epidemiologists Wilkinson and Pickett, for instance, do just this taking disparate measures of levels of reported happiness or contentedness, levels of educational achievement, economic performance, robustness to shocks, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, access to and quality and cost of healthcare, infant mortality rates, lifespan, measures of creativity, etc., etc.. Second order strong indicators like the GINI index of economic equality may get into the basket. Flourishing is not a metaphysical concept, at least in my view. It is pragmatic multi-aspect benchmarking, not to say a little prosaic, and itself open to evolutionary (Betterist) change in its process.

    Can these various “goods” ever be too much? Ask people. Are they happy? Are they content? Betterism (as opposed to ideology with a rigid endgame) hasn’t the faintest idea where it is going but given the measures that folk ask to be measured it can detect a change in the zeitgeist, say, a new level of maturity in folks that demand better quality/more rewarding work rather than any more monetary reward. (Already psychologists are reading this kind of change…across the board and at least in first world economies). Next we may see, a new maturation, a desire to fix third world inequity, to have a more stable world say, or maybe even the first world inequity of the USA? A concern for subsequent generations, something the religious are pants at….

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  • Open mutuality[?]

    Dear Phil, my last comment had so much missing in it. It is impossible for me to say everything that I want to say in this context. Let me just add a few remarks and questions.
    I am somewhat encouraged by your optimism re the moral future of the human species in the absence of religion. But I remain skeptical, uncertain, and concerned.
    I am not concerned about the fear of death issue. That can be easily overcome. But it seems to me that while on the one hand a long history of human atrociousness is clearly attributable to religion, it is also true that religious morality has had a prohibitive effect on a great number of individuals who, left to their own devices, would feel no compunction about harming others, and would not feel compelled or even tempted to resist the impulse to act egoistically at the expense of another’s suffering.
    Not having religion would certainly be better than having religion – but my question is this: where do our moral values come from? You and I, people like us, would not go around stealing, killing and hurting others for our own gain…but there are people out there who are not like you and me; they are almost of a different species. Watch a documentary about the Nazi holocaust (and I’m sure you have).
    What do we do when people want power and property and money and are willing to go to any lengths to get it? What do we do when racism and bigotry and scapegoating (which will continue even after the eventual destruction of religion) is used to consolidate power by charismatic leaders?
    Finally, what can we do to prevent the continuation of man’s inhumanity and brutality?
    Perhaps the establishment of a secular world view will help (and I think it will; that is one of the reasons I am a proud member of this site), but that is not a panacea. ‘
    Far from it. It seems to me that we are damned if we do and a little less damned if we don’t (have religion in the world).
    But where will our morality come from? Where do our values come from? How do we spread morality in a secular world? Isn’t that like spreading communism or democracy? Democracy should come from the people. And moral feeling, kindness, goodness of heart, should come from within.
    I ask again: what do you base your optimism about man’s inherent goodness on? I want some science to back that up.
    I think economics and politics plays a role for sure. Establishing a secular world view is the first step. Then we need to think about what the best way of organizing society is.
    Can we have a fair and equitable society based along social lines without some element of authority? Some of the great socialist thinkers and have suggested that socialism has to be dictatorial to some extent – at least at the outset. (Trentin)
    Can we have a moral world without prohibitions from without? I want very much, desperately, to think that we can, but I remain skeptical, uncertain and concerned, as I said before.
    Do we or do we not need authority? How much?
    I take it you are not a Hobbesian.

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  • For my sins, I sometimes haunt social media and have been know to tilt at religious windmills. There has been no position put by a religious person that isn’t easily disposed of. While the religious person, depending on how strong the Force is with them, may or may not be swayed, others who read the exchange, when a religious argument is shown to leak water, comment on the ease with which religion can be exposed.

    I’ve test driven morality a few times and yes, morality is a free kick in front of goal. All religious adherents are vulnerable to exposure the moment they try for the high moral ground.

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  • I ask again: what do you base your optimism about man’s inherent goodness on? I want some science to back that up.

    For a start, I take the just so stories of yesteryear and bin them. Freud is so spectacularly wrong about human nature, he is a danger. So too many philosophers when they guess at what goes on in heads. I’ve pointed you on numerous occasions at psychology, books, research and researchers, but you claim to prefer what I deem unrooted made up stuff albeit out of intelligent heads.

    If you want to know about human nature read psychology, don’t rely just on theorising upon just so stories.

    In this thread I have urged you to Frans de Waals “The Age of Empathy”. Elsewhere on the site I variously promote Steven Pinker “The Better Angels of our Nature, Simon Baron-Cohen “Zero Degrees of Empathy”. Even when learnng about the reasons for our compassion failures we can learn how and why we can do better in Prof Nicholas Epley’s “Mindwise.” (Horrid populist title, so I noted the Prof. These are all lead researchers in their field.)

    Also read those genetic accounts conceived, modeled, tested and promoted by, Hamilton, Trivers and Dawkins…”The Selfih Gene” and kin selection. Learn about the huge emotional bonding that oxytocin builds (and learn about its dark side, a religious favourite, innoculated against by reason). Learn about how many ways evolution has provided a switch for it. Only very recently we discovered a new switch, the secret of mammalian grooming, with the specialist nerves c-tactile afferent nerves. Pacifying wriggly infants for breast feeding it extends upwards into the increased socialising of monkeys and apes, into super-familial groups, pacifying, nurturing, bonding. These facts of kin selection and as if kin detection and nurturing build a fantastic substrate for culture. The (again recent) astonishing human trick of overimitation in children discovered by Dr Victoria Horner (a former colleague of Frans de Waal) shows how co-operative cultures of considerable robustness might build upon such a beneficial biogenetic substrate exploiting exactly the same selection pressures, but somewhat freed of the limits of vertical transmission. Bringing the potential for lateral transfer (mirroring horizontal gene transfer in cells) speeds up cultural evolution.

    We are lucky to have no sense of real cultural change. As neurological homeostats (we act to reset to a base state, but the base state drifits off-centre with sustained pressure without us realising) we fail to see our own progress. Our hunter gatherer problems (often of avoiding starvation) are replaced by First World Problems (often of finding the right sort of chorizo sausage). Before 1879 native American Indians were deemed sub human. Standing Bear changed our minds. Now the franchise of “human” has extended like never before. This fact of drifting centres of homeostasis is why we are not built for heaven nor any ideal. We are built for Better, the journey…

    I’ll stop now, though I want to detail how we are parasitised by the psychopaths, who, lacking all grouping sensibilities, can effortlessly exploit this tendency in the rest of us. Ideologies (particularly bolstered by faith) are their vehicle and cultural transmission via overimitation its fuel….

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  • I take it you are not a Hobbesian.

    I try not to be an anything. I put my confidence in the provable and the processes of demonstrable efficacy.

    Societal organisation is a fantastic topic, but too huge to be embarked upon here.

    I know that societies more equal flourish better.

    My earlier post today is misplaced a bit higher than this. Apologies.

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  • morality is a free kick in front of goal.

    Since turning from truth concerns to moral concerns as my main concern, I have been keen not to misidentify the sources of moral error. This is why I personally promote say the UK Quakers as moral exemplars and also as a goad to the religious. Why isn’t your religion this virtuous?

    I see attitudes to specific moral problems and arguing the harms that an ideology does in these specifics is a way to tease people to revise their ideology one tenet at a time. Being thought immoral and that maybe they might be not so morally squeaky clean in this specific is the sort of pressure I’d like to bring to bear. Equally I want to loosen the grip of their psycho-tyrant leaders. I want them to be re-assured that “A religion as lived is what its adherents believe it to be.”

    Nor do I feel atheists get a clean bill of health here….They just get a head start.

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  • The journey… to nowhere?

    No place I know….nor do you.

    But each day, mostly somewhere just a little better.

    I have not the least idea how values will change as we learn more and learn to do more; what we shall wish for ourselves and others.

    Looking back may well give us a clue to the near term. I think Steven Pinker’s Better Angels will continue for a good while. Nicholas Epley’s report of our increasingly desiring more rewarding work (rather than more material reward) will inevitably change our collective political endeavours that in turn may also spin off into better allowing third world economies to grow to the same level.

    Fully sustainable communities may free us of the majority of current international political squabbling. It would be nice if greater co-operation grew on say eco-matters and off planet exploitation, but I’m not sure if a measure of diversity of culture and values might not be valuable also. This is all new and memetic diversity allows parallel social cultural and political experiments with their various virtues and vices for all to see (and perhaps choose).

    We are certainly not built for a destination….On the strength of our current natures, we’d be bored silly in five minutes…

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  • I am quite happy to sit in traffic if everyone else is. If god is not watching those who believe they deserve more and drive down the bus lane, then CCTV is. It makes us equal.

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  • No place I know….

    …mostly somewhere just a little better.

    I have not the least idea… what we shall wish for ourselves and others.

    We are certainly not built for a destination….

    Whatever happened to “the best seat in the house”?

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  • Hi Dan,

    I actually think that the basis of morality is compassion, and that compassion is a metaphysical element…

    I think a (the?) basis of morality is an innate sense of fairness. Is that an aspect of compassion (or empathy, or vice versa)? Is fairness a metaphysical element?

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  • Whatever happened to “the best seat in the house”?

    Thats why every generation gets the best seat in the house…so far.

    My kids will have a better one, if enough of us have a little further success in our endeavours.

    Looking back, my seat now is always the best…because of doing better, generation upon generation.

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  • Compassion = Fairness?

    Read Jonathan Haidt “The Righteous Mind”.

    He might suggest compassion involves a care for both fairness and of harms towards others.

    Frans de Waal would agree that empathy, experiencing the feelings of others, quite possibly facilitated by mirror neurons (at least in the neuro-developmental stages) probably underlies these two moral attributes that compose basic compassion. He would point you to experiments where primates behave with often scrupulous fairness and show great support (often to their own detriment) for another primate treated unfairly.

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  • I am quite happy to sit in traffic if everyone else is.

    (I don’t think I’m ever happy to sit in traffic – but I get what you mean: it’s definitely easier to accept your “lot in life” when you can see that it’s everyone else’s lot, too.)

    This is (obviously) an aspect of (y)our sense of fairness. However, the true test of a fully developed (more valuable, “better”) sense of fairness is how one responds to being the one (or among the few) who has it better (whizzing down the bus lane in a BMW, flouting the rules) than his “equal(s)”. True fairness must go both ways, which requires empathy and self control, both of which humans are certainly capable but also certainly not ever-present (thus the need for “compliance monitors”, which, by the way, don’t make us equal, because we are still distinguishable as those who require control compared to those who are capable of controlling themselves).

    What would be more effective as an equalizer would be figuring out a way to eliminate the effects of the distinction, e.g. by making it just as rewarding to be controlled as it is to control oneself.

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  • Two other interesting aspects of this story:
    Barry Silver is a rabbi.
    The lawsuit also alleges the school “propagates misleading information about the role of the Islamic faith in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”

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  • Olgun
    Jan 2, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    I am quite happy to sit in traffic if everyone else is. If god is not watching those who believe they deserve more and drive down the bus lane, then CCTV is. It makes us equal.

    My daughter took a rather different approach.
    When she found she was sitting in traffic for about an hour morning and evening, she moved two hundred miles north, and now commutes for half an hour, along a scenic country road devoid of rush hour jams, to an office in a country town.

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  • Societal organisation is a fantastic topic, but too huge to be embarked upon here.


    I don’t think any topic is too large to be at least touched upon. This one has to be.

    Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature? I dislike it already; if an author cannot come up with an original title, how likely is it that he can come up with an original book?

    I’ll check it out.

    I still do not see what you base your optimism on.

    Perhaps, as Nietzsche said, we should be neither optimistic not pessimistic. I would say that I remain optimistic as far as individuals are concerned; individuals can always take a stance, live by a code; if fascism comes about we can go underground. As far as the species is concerned I see no reason as of yet to be optimistic.

    I think we as a species are pretty much doomed.

    But here’s a good—sorry, great—quote:

    “I think there is something in the human spirit that can somehow bear the notion of a fascist or right-wing totalitarianism because it offers us at least the romantic dream that we can all form into some kind of underground cadres and have an adventurous life at the end where all of us — men and women — are equal and comrades.” – Norman Mailer April 30, 1971 (Town Hall debate)

    If you want to understand the true reality of what we have created in the middle east, read this depressing piece. What a stupid country we are.

    Richard Falk is well respected.

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  • Phil, Alan Doug, Dave, et al:

    On a positive note:

    “It would be an undoubted advantage if we were to leave God out altogether and honestly admit the purely human origin of all the regulations and precepts of civilization. Along with their pretended sanctity, these commandments and laws would lose their rigidity and unchangeableness as well. People could understand that they are made, not so much to rule them as, on the contrary, to serve their interests; and they would adopt a more friendly attitude to them, and instead of aiming at their abolition, would aim only at their improvement.”
    ― Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

    Hey, Doug, I don’t have the energy right now to expound on my thesis that morality is compassion and that compassion is metaphysical. As for fairness, I would say that it may or may not spring from true sympathy or compassion – but if a person is fair and that sense of fairness comes from within, then it is a good indication that he has a good moral character. I strongly recommend Schopenhauer’s great work On the Basis of Morality.

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  • Interesting indeed. Too interesting to mention, perhaps, in Polite Company. Or Mainstream Media?

    Hopefully someone here will track any further developments, or will it all just sink without trace?

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  • Dan,

    I’m sorry you have taken against the title of Stephen Pinker’s book. I thought that using the particular quote from your country’s greatest unintentional war monger and intentional peace maker was, from one of the greatest speeches of all time, was well, aposite and poignant.

    Lincoln’s closing to his innaugural address-

    I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

    Mailer’s shrewed observation is explained in the “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt and by the elements of right wing moral values exactly as he describes. These values (subjection to authority, loyalty to others and purity of entities, institutions, ideals etc.) have their virtues in threatened times. (They suit the naturally anxious and are exploited by psychopath leaders selling fear to rally the civil troops, when there is no convenient threat imminent.)

    Maybe there is time to talk a little of societal organisation here. I didn’t want a distraction at that moment. Sometimes there are too many ideas in play to organise thought usefully.

    The failures of societies are most often brought about by the fact that a very high percentage of leaders are, (smiling) psychopaths of greater or lesser magnitude. When the whole of the upper echelons of state are psychopaths a lot of the overimitation that built cultures and the scared herding behaviour, widely seeded, can come to ripple down the chain, kept on track by ideals. Humans are astonishingly biddable, and self serving exploiting psychopaths are, in moderation, an evolutionary stable expression, like all of the rest of our neuro diverse folk, creatives and genii. Due to their parasitic nature though like a disease it may occasionally become too successful and destroy its host. We need to learn how to build-in moderation…..Educate folk to more often think for themselves…

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  • Hey Dan,

    My beef with Freud is not that he is not right in his conclusions, but his modeling of human nature to get to his conclusions.

    My daughter (when 12 or so) wanted to find out for herself about religion and asked where she should look. I directed her to look at UK Quakers for the best of Christianity and on advice from an Atheist/Buddhist friend proposed Buddhism as full of insights. She appreciated the essentially dogma free Quakers, but got bogged down with Buddhism. Over the centuries it had developed many shrewed if intuitive insights, (rather like Freud I propose). But the ideas are not ring fenced in any way by modern evidence based correctives. Freud’s hypotheses rapidly ran out of any predictive power and became barren as a goad for psychological research. This is not a problem for the scientist, but for the tourist this becomes dangerous. For a while my daughter became fixated by the idea of karma until she (with a little prompting) worked out for herself the utter immorality of a “deserved misfortune” from some unspecified previous event. Whatever its stimulus to good behaviour may be if (being a false model of the world) it makes additional spurious or harmful predictions, it is dangerous in casual hands.

    I am enjoying the book, though. I think I can handle it….

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  • Better Angels

    Hi, Phil,

    I was just kidding about the title. It’s just not the greatest title for a book.

    As for Freud, you have to be able to take what you can and leave the rest. I happen to think that he was a mighty discoverer of secrets, and absolutely fascinating…

    I love Lincoln’s second inaugural address, as did my late father. Here there can be no question whatsoever as to his opposition to slavery; it is unequivocal, and yet he also exhibits wisdom and humility, and expresses uncertainty as to “God’s will.”, whereas the religious abolitionists were too sure of themselves – a little too comfortable with their knowledge of “God’s will.” Lincoln was “religiously superior” to them. (Neibuhr)

    “[…]Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether[…]”

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  • “The Better Angels of Our Nature” covers a lot of ground and a lot of data in its 800 pages, but take a look at this thoroughgoing review to get a feel for its extent…even if you are not inclined to read it.

    As for Freud, you have to be able to take what you can and leave the rest.

    No. The problem is knowing to take what is right and leave what is wrong. Without extensive knowledge of the latest psychology you won’t have the faintest idea. Good and bad are hopelessly co-mingled. Thats what the Bhuddism annecdote was about.

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  • Right and wrong

    I am reminded of an exchange between William F. Buckley and Mailer. I am NOT comparing you, Phil, to that insufferable buffoon Buckley, but Mailer once said: “Unlike you I do not see myself as a seat of authority which knows what’s right and what’s wrong. I have been wrong too many times in my life to have any high confidence that I am always right. You [Buckley] obviously have been wrong many fewer times than me. You have a higher seat in the scheme of things – or at least you feel that you do.”

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  • I’m the non-ideologist. I am the one constantly looking for evidence rather than sophistry and opinion.

    Should I not use the evidence I seek? Take the hit, Dan. Find me a modern root and branch Freudian in the mainstream.

    Sometimes evidence happens.

    I am NOT comparing you, Phil, to that insufferable buffoon

    You just did.

    Play the ball not the man.

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  • Well you’re not like Buckley. I just like what he said and wanted to use it.
    Anyway, everyone says that Freud’s theories have been disproven. I take that as a sign that they haven’t been. The almost universal disapprobation that I encounter when I bring up his name is proof to me that he was at least partially right. Penis envy. What woman wants to hear that? How many woman aren’t going to revolt against that and do everything in their power to try to discredit Freud by deliberately simplifying and distorting that theory? Take the Oedipus Complex. Freud referred to it as a “universal law of mental life.” Okay, maybe it isn’t universal but does that mean it doesn’t play a role at all? No one wants to face that in themselves. That’s why people are always hostile to Freud…Oh he was brilliant, but no one takes anything he said seriously anymore. Haw haw. Next! (In other words, no more anxiety for me.)
    How do you disprove something that was already proven to this great and mighty scientist in the course of his work with patients? He had clinical proof.
    Everybody’s always repudiating and discrediting someone else, particular old Freud. This is all about ego and emotions.
    Freud reversed many of his own hypotheses and theories. I’ve never read a critique of Freud that didn’t disgust me and put me to sleep.
    Give me one example of a theory that was proven to be completely and utterly false.
    Maybe you’re right. And of course you should be guided by solid evidence. My assumption is that S.F. had a lot of it, was a responsible and honorable man.

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  • If there were more good analysts (like my mother) out there, who knew what they were doing, and people had enough insight and self-awareness, and could afford it, you’d see this whole fiasco called religion come to an end.
    That aside, I simply don’t know enough to say which theories are considered wrong now and why. I suspect that Freud was right about much more than people give him credit for, and that many of his detractors are full of themselves, and their own fears, and want to make money and attract patients, have an agenda. No one wants to look inwards anymore.
    The absence of the tree and branch Freudians (?) – and they don’t have to be strict Freudians – is a symptom of the times we are living in. It is midnight in the psychological order, the social order, and the moral order.
    Why is drug use and violence and depression and selfishness on the rise? Why does religion (“God the father”) still have such a hold on people?
    We are all still repressed, as repressed as we were in the Victorian Age. Perhaps more so.
    -Dan the polemicist

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  • 64
    Pinball1970 says:

    I have not read all the comments it’s a long thread, but guess Dover has already been mentioned?

    If it goes to court hopefully the case will get some decent publicly regarding the theory of evolution

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  • I don’t recognise your world, Dan. I love my world. I’m happy that it is still (on average) bettering itself.

    Remember the shifting norm of homeostasis? Our problems were once third world of actual survival. Now you and I have first world problems. The threat of death and harms are depleting slowly, if erratically. Yet we use our full range of fears still for what we see.

    Scientifically, theories are valued when they are generative of further hypotheses. These would-be theories of Freud’s have generated nothing for a very long time. They fall back into the category of to-be-proved hypotheses in consequence.

    No one wants to look inwards anymore.

    Nonesense. The real introspectors are folk like Antonio Damasio “The Feeling of What Happens.”

    No one wants to use someone else’s just-so story of their insides as a map any longer.

    Art,…novels, etc. lead us inward and allow us to parse our existence on our own terms…

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  • Last one for today to the fascinating Phil Rimmer:

    Phil, this will be brief. I love Freud but I personally think that psychoanalysis is a waste of time. You spend twenty minutes talking about why you’re late and then spend the rest of the forty-five minute hour talking about whether it was the left or the right breast that you were fed with and what that means.
    It’s a psychic bloodletting at best.
    I don’t know what my problem is. I am not really a strong believer in analysis. I lost my head this morning.
    But I love reading Freud.
    Loved what you said at the end.
    I am not always so pessimistic. I swing back and forth.
    I hope I haven’t alienated you.
    Bye, for now.

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  • Between 1890 and 1980 psychiatry and its “Responsible Adult”, psychology, were mostly a disgrace. They often did more harm than good by more or less endorsing the Catholic idea of the Ordered Man and the Ordered Family. There was a healthy way to be and behave and failures to be this way where mostly failures of nurture. When in extreme cases mental ill health was seen as an abberration of nature, “health professionals” became pretty keen to abandon care and consider eugenics or behave in a manner effectively indistinguishable.

    Beautiful (on the inside) Hans Asperger at a time when he was still serving under the Nazi regime and doing what he could to stave off the a few at least of the 300,000 Gnadentod from Action T4 was about the only psychologist/therapst to appreciate the great potential in his “mentally ill” child patients or “little professors” as he called them. He saw their novel mode of cognitions not so much as an awkward set of behaviours to be simply suppressed or discarded but much more a capacity in need of nurture…which he contrived to do. From his small band one was to become an astronomer and the other a Nodel Prize winning author.

    In the US another Vienese professor, Leo Kanner treated his Autistic patients rather differently seeking mainly to stop them being annoying in their behaviours in the hope that would somehow make things better. Mothers were accused of being the cause of the “affliction” by their unloving treatment. They who knew most how to treat their own child were forcibly separated and child institutionalised where they inevitably declined. Things got so bad in the seventies and eighties that guided by a Swedish (?) psychologist (whose name escapes me) conductive tape was put down on the floor to deliver electric shocks to children with unwanted behaviours. Equally shocking were the nonsense accounts of Autism that ended up in the early DSMs.

    British psychiatrist, Lorna Wing, helped bring some decency to the profession at last coming to similar conclusions to Asperger and resurrecting his unknown German paper and ideas, re-writing the DSM entries on Autism and introducing the idea of a spectrum, a gradation of characteristics., eliminating the nurture bollocks, accepting the cognitive skew as a given and building new happier and productive lives out of what before had been called illness and made wreckage. Then on into the informed and compassionate decency of Sacks and Baron Cohen.

    The un-evidenced, unscientific just so stories of a century of damage remain unthrilling to me.

    Read Oliver Sacks’ beautiful books one day…

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  • Thank you, Phil! I am very touched, surprised, and impressed by this gesture.
    Perhaps you’ll dig up something one of these days about how scientists are now reconsidering Kant’s theorem of the ideality of space and time!

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  • bonnie
    Dec 31, 2015 at 6:47 am

    Like a lynx, ears perked up

    Ah! The missing Lynx beloved by creationists! 🙂
    A prehistoric giraffe that died out 10,000 years ago might have been the largest ruminant that walked the Earth.

    Victorian scientists believed the creature was a giraffe with a trunk and a “missing link” between mammals.

    Digital reconstructions of the bones show that while the giraffe was gigantic, the theory that it was as big as an elephant was not true.

    The findings, published in Biology Letters, shed new light on the work of 19th Century fossil hunters.

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