Sunday, August 21, 2011

Texas Governor truly is a politician!

Rick Perry (poor Texas' current Governor and Presidential hopeful) just lied to a child. In a recent campaign stumping in New Hampshire he told a child that in Texas they teach both Evolution and Creationism in public schools. (Gov. Perry: "In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution") He lied!

First of all there is no mention of Creationism in the Texas School Standards and there hasn't been for decades. I can see some of his confusion, I mean he's appointed three very conservative Christians as the head of the State Board of Education (two were refused confirmation and the third hasn't stood for confirmation . . . yet) and they have done pretty much all they can do and still Texas refuses to go back to the 19th century. I guess he assumed that as the Governor his commands instantly become fact.

Second, if Texas was teaching Creationism in public schools, the Governor of Texas, a Presidential aspirant, would be in violation of the Constitution of the United States. Hmmm, this is the man who wants to . . . let me copy this straight from the oath of office:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."(http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html)
Really? This guy just lied to a kid and claimed that Texas was violating the Constitution. Is this who we want as the President?

On a related note, the present Democratic Governor of Kentucky has been promoting kennie ham's latest brainstorm, the Ark Encounter ministry, to the tune of millions in tax and property incentives. Guess what? The Republican candidate for Governor is against the park and all the breaks it's getting.(The world is upside down in Kentucky) What is this world coming to? And guess what? little kennie isn't happy. Awww!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Letter to the Editor

When the mild brouhaha over Creationism in the classroom reared its head in Springboro, Ohio I dashed off a letter to the Editor of the Dayton Daily News. It took a couple of weeks, but it finally made it. Oh it's edited to be sure, but they simply removed text rather than changed the points I was trying to make. So if you are interested here it is the published version:
Ohio may very well be heading down a path it has already been before and one we certainly do not need to travel again. In the early part of this decade you might remember former State School Board member Debra Owens Fink and her efforts to get Creationism, and later Intelligent Design, adopted as science curricula. Since that time an expensive lawsuit was brought against the School Board of Dover PA when they attempted to weaken science education and open the door for religious alternatives.

Creationism and Intelligent Design are religious alternatives not scientific theories. Teaching them as if they are science does a disservice to our teachers and, more importantly, our students.

This is not a debate about science; this is a cultural and political debate. It should not be a topic for any school board until proponents offer actual viable and repeatable science supporting their philosophy. During the Dover Trial it was stated that in order for Creationism/Intelligent Design to be accepted as science the very definition of science would have to be expanded to the point of making Astrology science as well. Is this what we want and need in our educational system here in Ohio?

I think the school board members should not be supporting their own religious views, but focus on the education of all our children. They should be the first line of defense when others try and introduce pseudo-scientific ideas into the curricula.
What I liked the most was not just getting a letter published, but that the three accompanying letters all spoke out against teaching Creationism/Intelligent Design as if it were science -- including two from Springboro. That was the best part. Hopefully the folks in Springboro will continue to make their voices heard and the members of the School Board that voiced this little potential disaster will realize that there is no room in a modern science classroom for such nonsense.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Surprise, Surprise

My responses to the ID 'Quiz' made it posted. This is a first. Every other submittal to Uncommon Descent got lost in the ether somewhere. But the 'quiz' promoter doesn't like my responses, oh well.

He did respond to my first comment, about this is not being a quiz. Here is his response:

"[vjtorley responds: This is a rather pedantic quibble. OK, maybe I should have said "questionnaire" rather than "quiz". And no, I am not planning on using this survey for marketing. I simply wanted to get people's opinions.]"
Aw, he thinks it's a pedantic quibble. So what? I take it any form of Master's level research skills are not in your background. If you ever tried to defend your thesis and called your 'survey' a 'quiz', you probably wouldn't not have made it past the first page. It's called rigor in your methodology. Maybe it is a quibble-- but try and do a better job next time.

Here is the rest of his response. It's pretty funny."

[vjtorley responds:

Well, I have posted your response, T.H., although I have to say that its sneering, arrogant, know-it-all tone only confirms my belief that you're blustering.

T.H., you state on your Website that Information Technology and computer programming are your areas of expertise, and that you teach at a college. Fine. I'd like you to have a look at the Website of Dr. Don Johnson, who has Ph.D.s in both informational and natural sciences, who taught 20 years in universities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, and Europe, and who once believed anyone not accepting the "proven" evolutionary scenario was of the same mentality as someone believing in a flat Earth. Now he's an ID supporter. Please tell me why I should believe you instead of Dr. Johnson. It seems that he has a lot more academic experience than you do. By the way, have you read his book, "Programming of Life"?

You talked about "real Science, Biology, Evolution, Astronomy, Cosmology, Geology, Paleontology, Physics, Chemistry." Funny. There are real scientists in all those fields who support Intelligent Design. How do you explain that?

You say ID proponents should get out in the lab more often. Have you ever heard of a guy named Douglas Axe, and the work he's doing with proteins? And there are dozens more people doing good scientific work like Dr. Axe. Have a look here, to see just a few names: http://biologicinstitute.org/people/ . You're saying all these people are deluded, and you're not?

By the way, your own post contains one spelling mistake and one major grammatical error. I won't even bother mentioning the other minor ones.

"Evidenciary" is a mis-spelling. The correct spelling is "evidentiary". And "dissociate" is preferable to "disassociate".

Finally, we say "bereft of", not "bereft from".

I dislike pedantry myself, but I won't tolerate being lectured by you in that tone, thank you very much. Goodbye.]

Hmm, you dislike my tone? Oh well, interesting how you ask my opinion and then criticize what you assume to be my tone. Sounds like you are revealing your own prejudices.

No, I am not familiar with Dr. Don Johnson or his website, I have no idea what his thinking is when it comes to Intelligent Design. I am also not asking you to believe me. You were asking for my opinion, I didn't realize I was supposed to temper it for your sensibilities.

I am familiar with the Discovery Institute owned-and-operated Biologic Institute. I am also quite familiar with the lack of scientific work that has come out of that Institute. Oh they have published a few things, but how much their actual peer-reviewed scientific publications have supported ID? However they are as guilty as the rest of the DI who publish ID marketing materials in the popular press rather than scientific or academic press, present their 'work' in front of supporters at religious gatherings, and have an annoying tendency of failing to support their popular press writings with any sort of scientific methodology or even visibility.

The Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at SMU, Dr. Mark A. Chancey has this to say about ID:
  • Intelligent Design originated within certain religious circle.
  • [ID] has credibility only within those same circles-mostly theologically conservative Christian groups that find aspects of evolutionary theory threatening.
  • Few ID advocates hold full-time professorial positions in pertinent fields at mainstream colleges and universities.
  • Many ID proponents with academic positions work at religious institutions devoted to promoting particular theological views.
  • ID proponents have published very few articles in peer-reviewed journals.
  • They have created their own in-house journals that they describe as "peer-reviewed." . . . universities do not consider a self-serving house organ as truly peer-reviewed; such venues are regarded as fake journals.
  • IDers sometimes publish books-but most of these are with religious, not academic, presses.
  • ID research is not rigorous, substantial or convincing enough to be published in genuine academic venues.
  • Unable to publish their work in legitimate academic venues, they nonetheless present it as cutting-edge science.
  • Unable to gain acceptance in the scientific community, they nonetheless claim to be gaining momentum
  • They deny or obscure the fact that ID is grounded in a particular religious worldview and yet regard it as a tool to promote socially and theologically conservative Christian positions.
His closing comment is something many have been asking, for years now:
"Many religious groups-Christian and other-do not regard evolutionary theory as a threat. For many people of faith, science and religion go hand in hand. When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day."
You obviously are a drinker of the particular kool-aid and you can call my comments blustering or not -- but I did notice you did not address the meat of any of my comments. Why is that? You point me to Biologics and yet you fail to recognize their own lack of ID research. You toss Don Johnson under the bus, yet you never explain why ID cannot be explained without eventually resorting to religion and belief. You certainly never addressed the lack of visibility and methodology in the popular press publications that claim to be cutting edge science?

Obviously you are less interested in opinions that do not already support your position, because you also failed to note why Uncommon Descent is your choice of venue.

No, instead of addressing it, you correct a spelling and grammar error.

BTW, 'evidenciary' is a term frequently used in legal circles and is an accepted alternate spelling for evidentiary -- neither of which is frequently found in spell-checkers. Also 'Bereft' is frequently used with 'of', but that is not its only use, simply a very common one. Thanks for nothing. Bye!

An Intelligent Design Quiz . . . not really

Over on Uncommon Descent, a poster added this: "A short quiz on Intelligent Design for both advocates and opponents of ID" I have a number of issues which I will address while answering, but one jumps to mind immediately -- this is not a quiz. A quiz is designed to test your knowledge of a subject. This is a survey. It's asking your opinion. I am sure the poster will take the results and turn it into some sort of marketing message in support of ID. After all posting it on Uncommon Descent already shows their prejudice. Well here goes:

1. On a scale of 0 (diehard disbeliever) to 10 (firm believer), how would you rate your level of belief in Intelligent Design? (Minimal Definition of Intelligent Design: The idea that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by an undirected process.)
  • I dislike that definition, diehard supporters have stated time and time again that the designer is the Christian God, so wording it this way perpetuates the constant marketing efforts to disassociate ID from its religious underpinnings. But I will be happy to answer: 0
  • Second answer: 'What, no negative numbers allowed?'
2. What do you regard as the best argument for Intelligent Design?
  • There aren't any. All arguments for ID are unsupported philosophy, wishful thinking, and/or conjecture. There is no evidence, no one seems to be working on providing any evidence. Your own little 'quiz' is another example of marketing instead of substance.
3. What do you regard as the best argument against Intelligent Design?
  • Anything that has some actual evidence, like real Science, Biology, Evolution, Astronomy, Cosmology, Geology, Paleontology, Physics, Chemistry, to name a few.
  • The next best argument against ID are the ID publications and public presentations themselves. Self-published (Discovery Institute Press), religious imprint of publishers, like HarperOne, and publications in the popular press offer the argument that you already know you have no substance. The constant appearance of ID proponents giving presentations at religious locations, religious schools, and sponsored by ministries also add to the picture that not only is ID religious, but you are trying to hide it and doing a poor job.
  • Another argument against ID is the unwillingness of ID to follow even the most basic scientific methodology. You declare it a scientific theory and demand space at the science lectern. This unwillingness also shows the paucity of your own position more clearly than anything I say.
4. I’d like you to think about the arguments for Intelligent Design. Obviously they’re not perfect. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?
  • Stop marketing and go to the Lab. If you want ID to be taken seriously as anything more than conjecture and wishful thinking, YOU need to provide the evidenciary support for it. Don't whine that other folks aren't agreeing with your philosophies, get off your ass and do the actual scientific work, follow scientific methodologies. It is the ONLY way you will belong anywhere other than the Fiction section of the library, right next to the Tarot Cards, Astrology, and Feng Shui books.
5. Now I’d like you to think about the arguments against Intelligent Design. Obviously they could be improved. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?
  • These arguments against ID do not do any work specific toward ID to make them more effective. These argument continue exploring the world around us and we learn more and more on a daily basis. Learning more about the world shows us how bereft ID is from anything resembling support. It must be galling to be a sideshow instead of a mainstream effort of scientific research.
6. (a) If you’re an ID advocate or supporter, what do you think is the least bad of the various alternatives that have been proposed to Intelligent Design, as explanations for the specified complexity found in living things and in the laws of the cosmos? (e.g. The multiverse [restricted or unrestricted?]; Platonism; the laws of the cosmos hold necessarily, and they necessarily favor life; pure chance; time is an illusion, so CSI doesn’t increase over time.)
  • None, it's all garbage. ( I know, I shouldn't have answered this one, but it's irresistible!)
(b) If you’re an ID opponent or skeptic, can you name some explanations for life and the cosmos that you would regard as even more irrational than Intelligent Design? (e.g. Everything popped into existence out of absolutely nothing; the future created the past; every logically possible world exists out there somewhere; I am the only being in the cosmos and the external world is an illusion requiring no explanation; only minds are real, so the physical universe is an illusion requiring no explanation.)
  • No, ID is irrational, along with other pseudo-scientific explanations. It's not possible to compare these different explanation on any scale of irrationality.
See what I mean, a survey, not a quiz. I do plan on posting my responses, it will be interesting to see if it even makes it on the site.

Friday, August 12, 2011

So much for Inerrancy

One of the constant themes I hear from anti-science folks is the inerrancy of the Bible. Not only is it the 'Word of God' but the word has been unchanged since . . . well some say 6,000 years, others are more honest and claim the beginning of the Universe, you know Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists.

When you dare to question this inerrancy one of the things mentioned in its defense is the Hebrew tradition of copying the Torah. Here, Wikipedia said it better:

"They are written using a painstakingly careful methodology by highly qualified scribes. This has resulted in modern copies of the text that are unchanged from millennia-old copies. It is believed that every word, or marking, has divine meaning, and that not one part may be inadvertently changed lest it lead to error. The fidelity of the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, and the Torah in particular, is considered paramount, down to the last letter: translations or transcriptions are frowned upon for formal service use, and transcribing is done with painstaking care. An error of a single letter, ornamentation, or symbol of the 304,805 stylized letters which make up the Hebrew Torah text renders a Torah scroll unfit for use, hence a special skill is required and a scroll takes considerable time to write and check."
I have heard of this tradition many times. However . . . the Associated Press (AP) today "In Jerusalem, scholars trace Bible's evolution" explains that the Hebrew tradition isn't nearly as precise as folks would like to believe. Over the past 53 years a group has been studying the Hebrew Bible, also know as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, and they've discovered that is has changed and we aren't talking about just a word or two. A couple of the more interesting changes show that the Book of Jeremiah is longer today and a 'prophecy' was added after the events actually happened.

Interesting article! I have said it many times since joining this political and cultural debate. The Bible may be a good book, it may even be a great book, but it certainly is not the only book! It's been written, re-written, translated, re-translated by men over the centuries. What is considered canon was decided in the First Council of Nicea (325), and has been changed in the many Ecumenical Councils since then, like the Council of Trent (1546) (Development of the Christian biblical canon). The most popular English version of the Bible was re-written in part by the direction of King James (Authorized King James Version).

Biblical inerrancy is a fun myth, but it's only a myth! Sorry to burst anyone's bubble -- but then having discussed this with a number of folks, I doubt I am going to make any believers change their mind, but with any luck a couple my just engage the brain a little bit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And just where is the Discovery Institute?

My less than favorite place, the Discovery Institute is well known for rushing to the rescue when Creationists/Intelligent Design proponents when their livelihood is threatened by their association with the DI and its ideas. I mean David Coppedge, Gulliermo Gonzalaez, Richard Von Sternberg, Catherine Coker are all examples. Even when the evidence doesn't support them, the DI re-invents the past in order to paint their friends and fellows in the most positive light and as the victims of various forms of discrimination, particularly religious (even though we all know there is nothing religious (wink, wink) about ID).

Now according to a new Christian Post article "Jobs in Jeopardy for Christian Scholars Who Believe in Evolution" the DI should be rushing to the aid of:


  • Professor John Schneider who taught theology at Christian Reformed School Calvin College for 25 years until he was forced to resign after writing a paper that questioned the historical Adam.

  • Daniel Harlow, a religion professor at Calvin College, was investigated by the school after writing a paper with the same premise as Schneider's, proposing that there is no historical Adam.

  • Karl Giberson was a professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College until he was dismissed due to his support of evolution. Giberson co-authored the book Language of Science and Faith
So where is the Discovery Institute? Why aren't they defending and writing opinion pieces about right to free speech and discrimination? Why aren't they spinning up stories and painting these professors are victims of intolerance? I know the answer is pretty self-evident, but I just felt the question needed to be asked.

Ken Ham believes in Evolution!

Ken Ham believes in Evolution! Yes, I just had to repeat that. It seems kennie may not agree, but it makes perfect sense, as you shall see.

The Sensuous Curmudgeon pointed this out in his post: "AIG and the Pillars of the Earth" He linked over to little kennie here. You really don't need to read kennie's site, SC will help you get the point without having to run up kennie's numbers and make him think people are reading his posts share his narrow belief set.

So if you haven't jumped ahead or read one of the links you are probably wondering how I could possibly make such a crazy statement like 'Kennie Ham believes in Evolution.' Aside from liking to say that over and over again, I really do have a point.

Kennie is annoyingly on record as being a Biblical Literalist. Now I have frequently stated that he is no such thing. Finally he admits it. I mean how else can you take comments like:

"The supposed contradiction quickly disappears when we examine the context of each passage and recognize it as figurative language.
"Please note the use of the term 'figurative'. Now I know my English might not be perfect, being from Brooklyn NY and all. But how can one be a Biblical Literalist and then 'explain' the Bible as being composed of figurative language? Kennie said it himself:
" . . .we interpret Scripture . . ."
and
"God uses this figurative language to create a mental picture . . ."
and
"All of these are obviously not literal statements but rather figures of speech that give a more interesting look at the concept being expressed."
Kennie ended his little 'explanation' with this example:
"So, God hangs the earth on nothing, but it’s not just dangling in space. He has firmly fixed an orbit for our planet and upholds it securely in its proper place in our solar system."
So, if I understand what little kennie is saying is that without any understanding of the Solar System, gravity, orbital mechanics, the many writers and translators of the Bible hit upon a way to explain how God did something and today kennie and his folks 'interpret' it so that God's word really means something completely different from how it was understood hundreds of years ago. Do I have that right?

Oh I know kennie is rationalizing by claiming that he and his pet creation 'scientists' are just interpreting things within the context of what the author meant. If that was so I would like you to look at this Bible quote:
"Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis Chapter 2)
or even this one:
"Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2 (New International Version)
Two slightly different wordings, but the idea seems the same. Now remember the folks who wrote the Bible had no idea of biology, or genes or DNA. Could this be 'interpreted' within context to be an example of Abiogenesis, even Evolution? I mean there is no time limit mentioned here, no methodology, nothing that offered any hints. So any assumptions about it happening instantaneously are up to the interpretation of the reader? Right?

So based on this, I feel that claiming 'kennie believes in evolution' is a perfectly reasonable comment to make. I mean kennie is simply trying to apply a modern day context to ancient words. So where is the limit? Ay, there is the rub, as Shakespeare would say. Here is the problem, kennie has set an artificial limit on his 'interpreting'. Seriously? What is the actual limit when you try and interpret the Bible into modern concepts and ideas? Kennie slips in a term that most folks would not be familiar with 'hermeneutics', which is the philosophical study, theory and practice of interpretation.

I think he was being a bit sneaky here. Hermeneutics focuses on trying to apply context to language when making a translation. Kennie not only wants to translate the language, but change it to mean what kennie wants it to mean. I mean really . . . orbit? The author of these two quotes:
  • For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them. (1 Samuel 2:8)
  • He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. (Job 26:7)
Do you really think the original authors' context actually included Gravity and Orbital Mechanics? That's kennie deciding what the context means and trying to convince us that they are the same thing. I, obviously disagree. By little kennie's own words then everything in the Bible that even remotely hints anywhere in a very large ballpark of a modern science, including evolution, can be a perfectly acceptable 'interpretation' of the words from the Bible!

Now I am sure kennie will disagree with me. After all, his livelihood is based on gathering supporters and accepting their not-inconsiderable donations, and let us not forget trying to convince taxpayers to help him out with his little homage to HIS interpretation on Noah, the Great Flood and the inclusion of dinosaurs, including such help as:
  • A property tax agreement meaning the new Ark Park will pay only 25 percent of the local taxes due.
  • And the nearly $200,000 from Grant County's economic development arm gave as an enticement.
  • Along with 100 acres of reduced-price land.
  • Plus the $40 million worth of sales tax rebates from the state of Kentucky.
  • And a possible $11 million in improvements to the nearby interstate highway, financed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

All that is from a little article from Fox 19: Noah's Ark project gets property tax break. Just wanted to remind anyone from Kentucky who reads this how expensive kennie's new ministry is going to be. And yes, it is a ministry. Remember this:

"All job applicants need to supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG statement of faith."

Yes, there is no way kennie is going to stop placing his imprint on what he claims is God's inerrant word. He will continue to twist the meaning as long as there are believers to 'contribute'. Hmmm in that context, would the word 'fleeced' be as appropriate. Maybe someone should ask kennie how it might be 'interpreted'?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bleak in Ohio, maybe not!

Looks like Springboro's wade into the Creationist waters was a very tentative toe-dip. I can picture Mrs. Kohls dipping her toe in and retreating quickly. In another report in the Dayton Daily News "Official: Vouchers could be creationism option" which explained she has changed her approach. Now instead of trying to teach Creationism, she is interested in using vouchers -- paid for by State funds -- so families can send kids to parochial schools. See what I mean by a retreat?

What I think happened is the number of comments to the paper, the Springboro School District, and probably Mrs. Kohls herself and other Board members must not have supported her intentions. Like a good politician, she changed her mind.

Now, about her new position, I disagree. I don't think the State of Ohio should be spending tax money to send kids to private schools of any type, except if each and every existing school was packed to the gills and there was no other alternative. My thinking is simple. If we want a public school system, we have to pay for it. If some families wish to opt out, then they currently get to pay for it themselves. If that's wrong, then let's change the way public schools are funded. But using my tax money, tax money I expect to be used to support my family, to send someone else's kids to a non-public school is wrong and in my mind -- a betrayal! It's as if my city tax money gets sent to another city for their use, or my State taxes goes sent to another State. It's not right!

If we need to different way to fund schools, let's explore it. If public schools aren't good enough, let's fix them. But using the money that supports public school to send kids elsewhere is just plain wrong! Currently vouchers are being used only in school distracts that are rated very poor -- certainly not the rating for Springboro. So in order to use vouchers in this way would also be against the current rules.

So while the news is good, it's not perfect. We shall see what the future brings! Mrs. Kohls is still on the Board, so this could erupt at any moment. I bet she was a bit taken back by the swift reaction. To anyone else who responded, to those who wrote the paper, the board, or even individual board members, all I can say is 'Nice work!' We shouldn't need another lawsuit, especially not one that has been fought before!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Right on schedule -- Ohio

Nine years ago a small cabal in the Ohio State Board of Education tried to insert Creationism/ID into the school curriculum standards. Without going into all the details -- it failed and at least two cabal members were replaced by more reasonable people. Things quieted down -- but, and you knew there had to be a 'but', they say those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

We've seen it in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and New Mexico -- to name a few states. Creationists are nothing if not predictable. A failure means a re-grouping, a few new faces, and another attempt.

Enter Kelly Kohls and Scott Anderson newly elected members of the School Board in financial-strapped Springboro OH. Apparently they would like bringing Creationism back into the classroom. Kohls recently said:

“Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country,” . . . “It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country.”

“My input on creationism has everything with me being a parent and not a member of the Tea Party,” . . . “We are motivated people who want to change the course of this country. Eliminating God from our public lives I think is a mistake and is why we have gone in the direction of spending beyond our means.”
And her partner in trying to repeat history:
Said he is not necessarily trumpeting the teaching of creationism, but “if it came up, I would support it. I’m a Christian. I believe God created us. I’d like to see God back in school.”
Is this what Springboro and Ohio have to look forward to? I certainly hope not. I wish Kohls and Anderson would work on the real problems facing the district and not try and drag the district into a Dover-style lawsuit. Can they really afford such activity?

But then this seems to be a pattern here. Kohls is also the local leader of the Tea-Party crowd. Hmmm, so get elected claiming to want to fix the money issues facing various enterprises and then once elected use your position to push your personal religious point of view onto social issues? Sounds pretty familiar (Texas Gov Perry?)

In another article (Springboro Students Could Learn Creationism In School) Kohls does say she will be presenting her idea at school board meetings and looking for community input. OK Springboro, here is your chance to tell Mrs. Kohls that this fight has been waged in Ohio not long ago. It's not worth the time, energy, or money to try and wage it again.

It's also been waged in many other states since and with one exception, Louisiana, it keeps hitting dead ends. Even in Louisiana no one has tested the now 3-year old law and tried to actually teach Creationism/ID. So far the only effort seems to have been trying to control what materials get used in the classroom (Louisiana Politics over Science) and that hasn't gone well for anti-science advocates.

I'm sure we haven't heard the last of Kohls and Anderson, but I'm hoping Springboro gets a little proactive and heads this off before they follow Dover PA's example. My guess is one or the other will start discussing Intelligent Design soon and maybe even call the DI for their guidance and support -- Just like Dover PA, Tejon CA, Livingston LA, and the Texas State Board of Ed did and you see just how supportive and helpful the DI really is -- especially when it looks like defeat in detail and they steal away in the night.

Added note: The news story from the Dayton Daily News was picked up by PZ Myers on his Pharyngula blog "Why we shouldn't take the Tea Party seriously". He also noticed that Mrs. Kohls and her husband recently filed for bankruptcy. Interesting little tidbit. Here is a Tea Party member who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, whose own finances are having issues, and yet her first splash in the news are to bring Creationism back into the classroom.

Lookee what I found: Help wanted at the DI

The Discovery Institute is advertising a job opening at Conservative Jobs.com (where else?). Here is the link in case you really want to see it: ConservativeJobs.com. A few things had me laughing. First of all I wondered if this is a replacement for Casey, Anika, or one of the other various mouthpieces. It sure would be funny if Casey was leaving. I mean has he ever had a real job before he became a pseudo-science front man? The Wikipedia entry for the CSC only lists him as 'staff'. Hmmm, never noticed that it only lists 2 staff members, Casey and Robert Crowther. Shouldn't the staff be larger? No matter, I guess that's why the job ad.

Well anyway, very prominently on the screen are the categories of:

  • Required Skills
  • Desirable Skills
  • Required Certifications
And guess what the DI had listed here:
  • Required Skills: None
  • Desirable Skills: None
  • Required Certifications: None
So to become a Discovery Institute editor, writer, and media relations specialist for the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) requires no skills and no certifications. It does require a Bachelor's and 2 years of experience -- but experience at doing what?

I have to say that the ad does have a list of qualifications involving what you would expect, but seeing those areas listed as 'None' cracked me up. I mean you would not expect the real quals listed in the small print.

The other part I had to laugh about is that the job is to 'promote the work of Discovery Institute scientists and scholars' -- so where is the job ad for scientists and scholars? They certainly cannot be talking about their current crop of fellows and senior fellows. The whole world has been waiting for science and scholarly works from them and so far they have disappointed because their idea of science and scholarship seems to only mean philosophical marketing materials and the casting of unsupported aspersions on Darwin and biologists as a whole. Oh let us not forget the re-writing of history like Stephen C. Meyers take on the Sternberg Peer Review controversy. Well it looks re-written to me if you compare the description from Wikipedia and the one in Meyer's latest anti-epic, "Signature in the Cell"

Well back to the ad. The final part that I had to laugh about was 'a commitment to the program and principles of Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture'. So the required section should have included drinking the kool-aid first before you can be hired. No real surprise there. Another interesting part is looking for someone who is knowledgeable of intelligent design and evolution. Do they really want someone who actually knows anything about evolution?

It does raise one last interesting question. Suppose I got this job and then after starting the job refused to commit to the program and principles of the DI and its CSC. Would that be grounds for firing me? And if so, could I then sue for discrimination? The thought that comes to mind are the cases of Nathanial Abraham, David Coppedge, Guillermo Gonzalez, and even the DI's own defense of Richard Sternberg during his self-inflicted peer-review controversy. Wouldn't they support my lawsuit? Something tells me no, but it would sure be fun to find out. Guess I'll keep my day job!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Are Perry's opinions really so newsworthy?

As I've mentioned a time or two, I have Google News alerts set up on a number of things. I find it very convenient, especially on some items that tends to have news posted only on rare occasions. For example the David Coppedge lawsuit. Months can go by without a single item of news. It would be so easy to miss it, so I have an alert set up. What an alert means is that you can get a link to stories about the topic in your mailbox. The downside of the alerts is many of the articles might have the keywords you are interested in, but be on entirely different subjects. The other problem is sometimes the same story is reported from a number of links, so you might get many hits on the same subject.

The Associated Press ran a short article on Texas Gov Rick Perry in which he supports a Federal Marriage Amendment -- in other words a Constitutional amendment mandating marriage is between a man and a woman only. "Perry backs a constitutional limit on gay marriage" Funny how this was also the article where he said social issues should be decided state by state. Isn't this a social issue?

OK, he also made a few evolutionary comments:

  • "There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn't happen by accident and a creator put this in place," Perry said.
  • "Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I'm not going to tell you that I've got the answers to that," Perry said.
  • "I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there's enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory."
Hmmm, OK, my first point is does any of this come as a surprise? Perry has clearly been well ensconced with the conservative right. It's the constituency who has elected him 3 times to the governorship of Texas. He's the one who has appointed three extremely conservative School Board heads, two of whom failed to get confirmed by the legislature. He's also the one who allowed Chris Comer to be fired for doing her job! So anyone who read this little article should have just shrugged their shoulders and gone on to another section of the paper. In fact you really didn't need to read past the headline.

My second point is interesting, maybe only to me, but early in the article says:
"But Perry told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that a presidential campaign would concentrate on jobs, not evolution or gay marriage."
However when you look at his jobs comments and his anti-evolution comments, where did he spend more time? It wasn't on the jobs! Maybe because he was playing to the audience in South Carolina or maybe because he knows who his core audience is, he can't lay off the social issues. One of my concerns is that he focuses so much on the social issues might be because he has nothing on any other issues! Now that's scary.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Evolution Predicts, Nature publishes and Uncommon Descent Spins

In 1861 the first Archeopteryx was discovered. The feathers and other avian features combined with very specific dinosaur features put Archeopteryx right smack in the middle between modern birds and dinosaurs. In the years since it's position has remained between the two and a great deal of additional evidence linking dinos and birds has been discovered.

Recently Nature magazine published an article about some new discoveries including a fossil called Xiaotingia zhengi which shows that it is very closely related to Archeopteryx. In all honesty didn't evolution predict that there would be numerous steps connecting birds and dinosaurs? It also predicted that Archeopteryx exact position is still unknown, that it might be a directly in the hierarchy or possibly a side branch that eventually went extinct. Well Xiaotingia zhengi appears to have pushed Archeopteryx closer to the dinosaurs, including velociraptor, the 'star' of Jurassic Park. In fact the abstract from Nature says

"Despite only tentative statistical support, this result challenges the centrality of Archaeopteryx in the transition to birds. If this new phylogenetic hypothesis can be confirmed by further investigation, current assumptions regarding the avialan ancestral condition will need to be re-evaluated."
As I read this I saw a perfect example of science in action. We explain based on current knowledge. New discoveries mean new knowledge and an adjustment to current explanations. This is one of the strengths of science!

But, as we know, the folks at Uncommon Descent aren't very scientific, because they are claiming that the whole Bird to Dinosaur idea is a bad idea and needs to wait until there is further research. "David Tyler on rewriting the textbooks on Archaeopteryx – that dinobird, no longer First Bird, downgraded to dinosaur" is the post, you can link to Tyler's article from there if you wish. It includes this as part of his summary:
"Creataceous fossil record shows many features that we do not properly understand, and the most appropriate response is to withhold judgment and await further discoveries and analysis. This applies to the whole of the Birds Are Dinosaurs (BAD) thesis . . ."
So in other words until we have absolutely perfect understanding and 100% perfect data we should just sit on all discoveries. That's crap!

What drives new discoveries? The work of the past. The work we are doing right now will be the impetus to some future archaeologist and paleontologist to take the next step. Tyler is trying to make the scientific process a disadvantage. In reality wherever Archeopteryx ends up in the hierarchy, or if we can someday confirm it as an evolutionary dead-end is immaterial. Yes, as we learn new things we will be adding to textbooks and changing what is in the current texts. I'm pretty sure the medical text of today are quite a bit different than the ones from 1861, why is this suddenly a bad thing?

What we know today will be different than what we know in the future . . . but that in no way invalidates what we know right now! Archeopteryx was positioned based on what we knew. We also know that the evidence that supported that was not static, but subject to new discoveries -- and we readily published that -- so what! We went to the moon with a less than perfect understanding of Gravity, we build cars with a less than perfect knowledge of thermodynamics, we create new medicines and new medical techniques with a less than perfect knowledge of biology. We can only use what we know right now. If we do what Tyler wants we should have never left the cave!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist

Dr. James McGrath ("Exploring our Matrix") also linked to "Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist" and a particular post I just have to share: "A few cartoons to brighten your day" My personal favorite was:

It illustrates a question I have asked a number of times. If an ID proponent is so worked up about teaching ID in the classroom, why are they also not pushing just as hard for Alchemy, Phrenology, Magic, Astrology, Feng Shui, Numerology, or Tarot Cards? I mean each of these have just as much scientific evidence as Intelligent Design! Didn't Michael Behe make that point during the Dover Trial? That in order for Intelligent Design to be accepted as science the very definition of science would have to be expanded to a point where astrology and the like would also be considered science. I am paraphrasing here because I really don't feel like wading through the transcript. I'm sure if I got it wrong someone will tell me. And unlike Creationists and ID proponents, when they correct me, I will thanks them and learn from it. Defensiveness works well when you are driving, but not very good for an education!

ID Body Art

Body art is an interesting subject in today's society. Many of the people I know and work with have some type of body art. Usually it's rather artistic and reflects the tastes of the person. One of my daughters has a couple, one of my best friends also is subtly adorned. I do enjoy many of the pieces of body art that I have seen -- not all, but many. After all, it's art and art is a matter of taste.

One thought I sometimes have is 'what will that tattoo look like in 10, 20, or 30 years'. The tattoo on the small of the back looks incredible at 21, but what will it look like after a couple of kids or maybe that barbed wire around the arm looks good on a muscular 20=something arm -- but at 40 after a shoulder surgery or two and more focus on 12 oz curls to free weights? Well like I said it's one of the occasional thoughts I have when I see some body art.

Dr. James McGrath brings to mind a new thought. He has a very interesting blog called "Exploring our Matrix", I've posted about it before, it is a great blog to follow. Well this article "Intelligent Design Can Leave You Scarred For Life" eventually links to William Dembski's web site (I refuse to call it a blog because they 'mediate' comments and dissenting ones, like mine, tend to disappear without ever seeing the light of day). Here is the picture:Supposedly this is a representation of Irreducible Complexity. Dr. McGrath had this to say:

"Many of us know that movements like intelligent design, and even more so young-earth creationism, can leave their adherents scarred for life if they eventually discover the extent to which they have been lied to and misled by proponents of these ideologies."
Certainly should make one think!. This is a bit more excessive than getting your girlfriends name on your chest just before she breaks up with you. Of even the saga of Kat Von D, a popular tattoo artist and canvas herself who just recently aired an episode of her TV show "LA Ink" where she had a childhood picture of Jesse James tattooed on what looks like the last clear area on her body-- at least the skin visible on TV. The episode aired shortly after the news announcing their break up. How does something like that make you feel?

But the receiver of this piece of artwork is going to be doubly surprised. The first will be when the Discovery Institute and their ID proponents abandon Intelligent Design. The reason this will happen depends on ID's success or failure. If it does succeed, it was only seen as a temporary answer to open the door for Creationism anyway(Check out the Wedge Strategy). So it never was going to be a real answer, just a foot-in-the-door alternative.

Now if it fails, which it has certainly done to-date, history says they will abandon it and latch onto the next possible philosophy that they can use to pander to politicians, lie to school boards, and collect money from folks like this tattooed adherent. Sooner or later ID will be left in the dust by the side of the road, like Creationism and Creation Science has faded from their marketing efforts.

The second surprise is less certain, but certainly possible. The receiver of this little bit of fantasy art might actually learn why intelligent design has been failing so miserably. I mean there is only so much marketing can do without any viable science behind it. One day he will look at his own arm and realize that it is just a little fantasy art that never did make any sense. He may never get there, but there is always hope.

I have to also give props to the blog "I Think, I Believe". Dr. McGrath linked through that site. I think I have a new one to add to my list! Thanks Arni, and thanks to Dr. McGrath for pointing out your site.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So there is nothing religious about ID? Part VI

We've had the conversation several times, 5 to be exact (here, here, here, here and here). We've talking about their penchant for talking to only religious audiences like their seminars at SMU, how the DI forgot to mention the previous job (Probe Ministries) of a recent hire, how they lack presence in both peer reviewed journals and secular university positions . . . to mention a few things. So where does that leave us?

Casey Luskin . . . I mean Anika Smith -- I do keep getting those two confused. Do they have the same person writing for them and just signing their names?

Well anyway, Anika wrote a little missive trying to take Reuters to task for them for insinuating that Intelligent Design is Creationism. Well if you really want to see it, here is her post "Reuters Gets It Wrong: Intelligent Design Isn't Creationism". Anika was working on selling the old line that ID is not Creationism. Now why in the world would we think something like that?

Here is the much more interesting Reuters article: "Texas education board sticks to teaching of evolution". Now this article is a brief report on the DI's utter failure in Texas and how the State School Board is sticking with Evolution, but does the DI choose to mention that? No, of course not. Does the DI seek to remind everyone how the Board went in exactly 180 degrees from the poorly named 'study' the DI did on the supplemental materials? Oh no, that's just another thing the DI would love people to forget about. no, they take exception to Reuters characterization of ID. Did they mention how supporters of science testified during the hearing? Oh heavens no!

What a surprise, I think Anika got it wrong. My reading of the Reuters article says they did not do what the DI claims they did. Here is the quote mentioned by Anika:

"Intelligent design and creationism are theories that life on earth was created essentially the way it is described in the Bible's Book of Genesis - not by evolution, but by a 'creative intelligence' generally considered to be the Christian God."
In addition, earlier in the article Reuters opened with the line:
"Conservatives had complained the materials up for approval did not adequately address "alternatives to evolution" such as creationism or intelligent design as a theory of how life began."
Now in each case Intelligent Design and Creationism were identified as 'alternatives to evolution' and 'theories', respectively -- please note the plurals 'alternatives and theories. Now my read on using the English that I spent years learning and using -- at no time did Reuters actually say they were one in the same. What do you think?

Now the article did say
"The Texas board, which includes evangelical Christians, had been seen as the best opportunity for supporters of Biblical-based theories of creation to get their point of view represented in public school curriculum."
But those Evangelical Christians weren't pushing for Intelligent Design or they might have objected when the ONLY supplemental materials publisher (International Databases, LLC) approved by the DI was rejected. Not only did they not raise an issue, they joined the vote! They did save their energy for objecting to evolution and common descent issues in another publisher. So in other words as written even this line doesn't make it sound ID and Creationism are the same thing.

No Anika was trying to make believe ID is science and thereby cannot possibly be Creationism. So why would the ID make the connection?
So it's not Reuters problem even if Anika has to make a stretch to even come up with this ridiculous accusation. The connection seems to be more a problem for the DI itself. It's own strategy document, DI Senior Fellow William Dembski, and Vice-President Stephen C. Meyer, Center for Science and Culture at the DI all seem to make the connection much more apparent than Reuters. Maybe Anika should take her complaint inside the DI before going after Reuters.

I think Reuters did the right thing by refusing to print a correction. I do not believe that Reuters has much to fear about credibility issues. I mean how much credibility does the DI have? Well outside specific religious organizations that is.