Saturday, May 27, 2017

State Sponsored Discrimination

I don't know about you, but I dislike discrimination in general.  The laws banning many types of discrimination have mostly done a lot of good things.  Yes, I know you can find examples of some of those laws . . . or more likely the application of those laws . . . didn't help, but by and large anti-discrimination laws have positive results.

As you might know from reading this blog, I particularly dislike religious discrimination, mainly for one simply reason.  There is absolutely nothing that makes one religion any better than another, so the idea of discriminating based on a religious difference seems even more ludicrous than most forms of discrimination.   While I disagree with religious discrimination coming from private groups . . . I disagree with it even more when the State funds it.

Yes, Texas is on the verge of passing a bill (it's in front of their Governor now) that will allow religious groups that are paid by the State to place children for foster care/adoption to not only discriminate based on their religion, but are immune from prosecution when they do so.  How utterly ridiculous!  How many children are going to be denied homes?  How many parents will be denied an opportunity to foster or adopt because they are gay or hold a different religious tradition from the adoption agent?  And it will be wholly, or partially, funded by the citizens of Texas.

This is not a protection of someone's religious liberty, it is a license to discriminate and not just at the expense of children and potential parents, but at the expense of every taxpayer in Texas.  Let me remind you:

I think we need to add a new line onto this graphic:
You Religious Liberties are being violated when you are denied an opportunity to foster, or adopt, a child based on your religious beliefs.
Your Religious Liberties are NOT being violated when people who do not share your religious belief are free to foster, or adopt, children.
I have spent a lot of time in the Great State of Texas, but . . . Come on, People!  Do you really want to pay for State-Sponsored Discrimination?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Is Intelligent Design Creationism?

The Discovery Institute must be feeling more than the normal amount of heat recently on the connection between Intelligent Design (ID) and Creationism.  I recently read two posts that firmly try and separate the two -- and while each post pretty much addresses the same things, neither of them can answer something incredibly simple, why do the majority of Americans equate the two?

Yes, their posts (Latest Gallup Polling on Evolution Fails to Enlighten and  Correcting Disinformation on Academic Freedom Legislation) try and make a similar argument, things like this:

"ID is not “rebranded” creationism – the ideas are worlds apart. Teaching creationism in public schools has indeed been rejected, but ID is not creationism."
And yet:
The answers to this first set are simple, it's because they are nothing more than a religious ministry despite their protestations.  If they aren't a religious ministry, but a scientific organization like they claim, there are some different questions they might try answering:
  • Where is their scientific work?
  • Where are their scientific discoveries?
  • Where are their scientific peer review papers showing their research, methodologies, and results?
The answers to the second set are equally simple, it's because while they like to portray themselves as a scientific organization, they are not.  Therefore, there is little scientific work, there are no discoveries, there are no peer reviewed papers -- and I am talking actual peer review, not the sham 'peer review' set up by the DI to fake it.  Yes, that all might sound harsh, but when you only submit your papers to fellow Creationists and they pat you on the head and say 'nice job', that's not actual peer review.  What scientific work there is never seems to get around to mentioning Intelligent Design.

If you disagree, check out how often the papers from the DI are referenced in actual scientific papers.  I haven't been able to find any.  The only sites that seem to come close are . . . . wait for it . . . other Creationists organizations.

I know we are talking about only my opinion, after all it's my blog.  But when anyone objectively looks at the DI, they see a religious ministry.  I admit to not being objective, but that's after well over a decade of reading their publications and blog posts.  Prejudice is when you 'pre-judge' something without any actual experience . . . I can honestly say after the past decade, I have lots of experience with their marketing machine.  I keep hoping for actual science and are regularly disappointed.

As Judge Jones wrote in the 139 page Dover Decision:
  • For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child. (page 24)
  • A significant aspect of the IDM [intelligent design movement] is that despite Defendants' protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity. (page 26)
  • The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. (page 31)
  • The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. (page 43)

So, I see ID proponents as Creationists wearing ill-fitting lab coats  . . . while giving a presentations to various religious groups . . . in front of green-screens that have lab pictures on them . . . and hiding behind the screens are the rest of the Creationists.  They might as well have a sign "Pay No Attention To People Behind the Screen!"

Monday, May 15, 2017

Is This Religious Discrimination?

Case in point, a recently announced lawsuit little kennie ham and Co. filed against the Grand Canyon, claiming religious discrimination.  Answers in Genesis (AiG) has a press release about it: "Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by Christian Geologist Against Grand Canyon Park Officials".  When I first heard about the lawsuit, my initial thought was let him have some damn rocks.  I mean, it doesn't sound all that unreasonable.  However, what if everyone who visited the Grand Canyon wanted to take rocks home with them?  Why it might be twice as big as it is and the natural formations and beauty might be ruined.  So I assumed there was a vetting process for approving such requests.

So just a tiny bit of digging, and I found the following:  the evaluation criteria used in determining whether or not to approve research proposals:

  • Is the proposed research in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and federal administrative policies?
  • Will the proposed activity result in degradation of the values and purposes of the park?
  • Could the proposed research be performed outside of the park?
  • Is the proposed research important to the stated scientific resource management goals of the park?
  • Does the proposed research unreasonably disturb park resources or visitors?
  • Has the proposed research been peer-reviewed by recognized experts and recommended as scientifically valid? (copies of at least two peer-reviews must accompany the proposal)
  • Does the proposed research require additional state, federal, or local permits? Have those permits been obtained?
  • Does the proposed research require collection of specimens or artifacts? What will be the disposition of any collected specimens?
  • Does the proposed research encumber NPS resources that may be limited (e.g., government housing, equipment, or logistical support)?
Now, regardless of the opinions of Answers in Genesis, who claims 'religious discrimination' for every slight, real or perceived, my initial question is did the Park Service apply their evaluation criteria on Snellings proposal?  And, according to Exhibits (Here's a link to the 115 page pdf file), it looks like they did.  Now the AiG is claiming that they made Snelling jump through hoops others didn't have to jump through, and I really don't care about that.  I am sure the rules are different for scientists who have a history with the Park and who have been approved multiple times.  The question for me is did they apply this criteria, and it sure looks like they did.

AiG's complaint seems focused on a couple of things.  First off this criterion:
  • Has the proposed research been peer-reviewed by recognized experts and recommended as scientifically valid? (copies of at least two peer-reviews must accompany the proposal)
Snelling submitted three peer reviews, but he and AiG seem to have a problem with the idea of 'recognized' experts.  Apparently the park Service rep, Rhonda Newton, didn't recognize the people who reviewed Snelling's proposal.  So instead of dismissing his proposal out-of-hand, she asked a couple of actual recognized experts the review it.  I would call that due diligence, but I am sure little kennie and Co. see it differently because they didn't get the answer they wanted.

The original three 'peer' reviewers were not only 'not recognized' experts, but were well-known creationists, as is Snelling himself.  The recognized reviewers had a number of things to say about 'creation' scientists that were certainly not very flattering.  The also addressed the fact that Snelling hasn't done much science since getting his degree back in 1982 . . . here's a quote:
With a pedigree like that, I am not surprised the proposal got turned down.  The other reviewer pretty much said much the same thing.  The last line "would not need to be done in the Grand Canyon" addressed something earlier in the review, about how the proposal's samples could be found at a number of other sites and didn't have to be done at the Grand Canyon.  Which means the proposal also failed on this criterion:
  • Could the proposed research be performed outside of the park?
As a result, regardless of the opinion of the recognized reviewers of pseudo-scientists such as Snelling, the proposal was refused on grounds set in the evaluation criteria  Now if I had been the reviewer, I would have denied them for an additional reason.  According to the National Park Service website:
"A researcher must be an official representative of a reputable scientific or educational institution or governmental agency." (Science Research Permits).
Did Snelling qualify?  Well, it's kinda funny.  In his application there was no mention of Answers in Genesis.  Seriously, here is a shot from his proposal application:

Mailing address in Australia, international phone number for . . . Australia.  And yet the lawsuit is being brought forth from AiG in Kentucky?  And . . . buried in the Exhibits (page 86) is something different:
According to this Snelling does not live nor work in Australia, but Kentucky.  Gee, did he move suddenly?  I don't think so.  I think he was hiding his affiliation because he knew that AiG does not meet the requirement of being a "reputable scientific or educational institution or governmental agency".  AiG is a ministry, it says so on their own website:



But after being refused for failing to meet the evaluation criteria, suddenly his religious affiliation is important and becomes the basis for his lawsuit.  Does that sound a little funny to anyone else?

OK, let's sum up.  We have a proposal that seems to

  • misrepresent the principle researcher affiliation with AiG,
  • fails at least two of the evaluation requirements for a permit (lack of recognized expert peer review and samples can be obtained outside the park), 
  • and whose stated agenda can be met from other locations.  
In addition, when his affiliation is uncovered it further justified a permit denial (because he's not part of a scientific, educational, or government agency), he's suing for religious discrimination.  Funny how the lawsuit happens right after a certain hamster-haired serial misogynist and liar signed an executive order that can be (mis)used to allow religious organizations be more discriminatory. Timing is everything!

Yea, that's how I see it, Trump gave them an inch and little kennie is trying to turn it into the universe.  If this wasn't happening in Kentucky I would assume the lawsuit would die a quick death.  But this is the state who let a government employee fail to perform her job in the name of her religion and the state that recently let a judge recuse himself from adoption proceedings involving gay parents -- even though it is legal in Kentucky.  So who knows what will happen?  Luckily the Grand Canyon isn't in Kentucky or the Governor would try and pander more voters by making an executive decision of his own.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

When Does Opinion Trump Evidence?

Several researchers used the word 'perfect' in their paper "Perfect chemomechanical coupling of FoF1-ATP synthase" and you know what that means to the Discovery Institute (DI), here is the DI's last paragraph on the topic:

"If you can think of any machine in your experience that is perfect yet flexible, it probably did not come about through blind, aimless natural processes. Let’s stop allowing Darwinians to get away, unchallenged, with saying they “have evolved” to perfection." (Evolution 'news' and Views: Molecular Machines Reach Perfection)
Because the researchers have shown a transfer of energy without loss and used the word 'perfect', that should immediately discount Evolution.  Now, what evidence does the Discovery Institute offer to discount the possibility of this molecular construct having evolved?  None what-so-ever!  What they are offering is their opinion, nothing more.

You see, whenever anyone doing real science offers results of any kind, the Discovery Institute tries to take it and either casts it as support for Intelligent Design or a negative against Evolution -- or both -- but they keep missing a key point, evidence.  Where do the researchers, not the DI talking heads, but the researchers discount evolution?  They don't!  In fact, did the study include how such a system came about?  It doesn't look like it.  But the DI takes the abstract for a spin and lo-and-behold it supports an anti-evolution argument.  Imagine that?  When all you have is a nail, everything looks like a hammer!

Yes, the energy transfer in this example appears 'perfect', that is 'without loss', but nothing in the research discounts evolution.  Look at the footnotes, look at the references and tell me where evolution is discounted.  Don't look in the 'minds' of the DI talking heads because they discount evolution as their default position.  It doesn't matter what they are looking at, it discounts evolution!  Their perspective is 'We don't agree with evolution because of our religion, therefore evolution can't possibly explain anything -- and someday, God willing [pun intended] we will prove it!'

Now, new question, an odds question.  What are the odds of this specific molecular construct not having evolved?  I would say the odds are pretty low.  No, I am not going to bore you with a nonsensical calculation (that's Dembski's job), but I ask that you look at the evidence.  Has anything stayed exactly the same?  Has any current molecular construct been found to have not evolved?  Look at Behe's 'Darwin's Black Box' where he detailed his opinion on a number of biological constructs and claimed they could not have evolved . . . and yet when faced with over 50 papers describing the evolution of those constructs (during the Dover Trial), papers he had not reviewed, he said they were not enough.  The odds of this specific construct not having evolved seem pretty minuscule.

Things are always evolving, changing.  While some organisms haven't done a great deal of changing, there is still evolution in their past right through to the present.  There is absolutely nothing that says they will not evolve as time goes on, just like there is nothing that says humans will not evolve.

One common theme in Creationist circles are examples like the Alligator and how it hasn't evolved in millions of years . . . that is those Creationists who buy into the Old Earth.  The problem is they think too small.  If Alligators didn't evolve, where did Crocodiles come from?  They really need to do their homework a little better.  All they have done here is insert their opinion as if it is a conclusion, all designed [another intended pun] to cast doubt of evolution -- without a single bit of evidence supporting their doubt.  I recently read the term "Merchants of Doubt", which seems extremely applicable.

So if what the DI says is true, then these molecular constructs should stop evolving -- yet once again the evidence is stacked against them.  There isn't anything that we know of that has not evolved nor that does not have the potential to continue evolving, no matter how 'perfect' is may appear to us today.  The best the DI has is things that an evolutionary path hasn't been described . . . yet.  And they get upset when they get reminded that they are nothing but a re-statement of the old god-of-the-gaps argument.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Discovery Institute has Opened an ID Center in Brazil! Quite Possibly the Perfect Retirement Job!

The Discovery Institute has opened another Intelligent Design 'Center' in Brazil.  I wonder if it will last as long as the previous one at Baylor?  I do want to point out one thing, this 'ID Center' is at the "Mackenzie Presbyterian University", please note the 'Presbyterian' part of the title of the school. I would like to remind everyone once again that the DI keeps claiming that there is nothing religious about ID . . . and yet 'Presbyterian'?

This is a 'center', it's not a 'lab', so I am a little confused as exactly what it's supposed to be. Their last 'center' was the the Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor and it was described as "the first intelligent design think tank at a research university." It was formed in 1999, reduced to a minor program within the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning in 2000 and fully dissolved in 2003.  My point is that it was called a 'center' but turned out to be a website where Intelligent Design 'theorists' can post their 'papers' and then students can read them for some unfathomable purpose. I don't recall any actual work coming out of that center, so my expectations are pretty low for this one.

When I read this, it reminded me of when I worked with a man who was coming up on his retirement and he was looking for a new job, something that would let him continue working, but with much less stress than his current job, or even career field.  He used to say that he wanted to be a Drawbridge Operator.

The way he described it was fascinating.  According to him, there are a number of small drawbridges around Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York.  They are in out of the way places, over small waterways, with small towers to let the operator see the river.  Basically you wait until you hear a boat horn and you press a button to raise the bridge.  This happens only two or three times a day.  The rest of your day is spent relaxing in the sun, watching a little TV, reading a book.  He described it as the perfect retirement job because if the bridge fails to work, you call maintenance.  But, by law, the bridges had to have an operator physically present.  No stress, no serious physical labor, no mental anxiety and lots of time to read and maybe fish in the river.  For him it sounded perfect.  I bet 50 years ago he would have been looking for a lighthouse to move into.

This 'center' might be even better.  How about a job where you get paid to do nothing?  I'm not kidding.  In looking at the 'work' people who have similar jobs have been doing, like at the Discovery Institute in WA.  The common denominator seems to be a complete lack of results.  Here's what I see would be the list of duties:

  • Look busy.
  • Write an occasional meaningless blog post.
  • Once every few years give a lecture in front of a green screen that looks like a lab.
  • A least once a year tell people that your 'work' will be replacing real science any minute now -- the same message certain people started telling folks  over a century ago.  I wouldn't hold my breath.
  • Distribute these posts, lectures, and predictions to religious audiences around the country. 
  • If you have a degree in anything, you will be required to pen a philosophical book once every 10 or so years and the more scientific the book sounds, the better.
  • Finally, for fun, bitch and moan that no one outside your little group of theists takes you seriously!
See what I mean, the perfect retirement job! No expectations of actual results, some busy work, a rare lecture to audiences who already agree with the program, some whining, and you could probably keep 'working' on a book for years -- after all we are still waiting for Paul Nelson's 'Ontogenetic Depth' and also for Stephen C. Meyer to address the critics of his 'Darwin's Doubt' as he promised!  Since there are at least two unfulfilled promises, so why not add another! Think of all the time you can waste away spend until you decide to retire for real! If you keep your involvement to a minimum, you might never have to fully retire, but you can just act like you are.

Plus, if you 'work' remotely, you don't even have to move to Brazil.  Nothing against Brazil, I just hate moving.  I wonder what the job 'requirements' will be?  I don't expect too much, after all look at the gallery of people working at the DI itself.  How long can the list of duties and responsibilities be?  It might be a bit confusing, after all you would expect an organization claiming to do science be staffed primarily with scientists, but when you look at the DI itself you see very few scientists and lots of lawyers and philosophers.

It's not that I ever expect to even apply for the job, it's just nice knowing their are such jobs around, perfect for someone looking to slow down and not have any actual responsibilities.  You know the retail store Greeter-sort of job.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Greedy Shepherd Annoyed that the Sheared Sheep are Making Noise

The sheep that little kennie ham has been happily shearing are extremely unhappy and are taking steps to possibly become happy again -- and it's pissing kennie off.

I guess I should explain a little clearer.  The county where kennie built his pseudo-replica Noah's Ark, aka the 'ark park', has not given the economic boost that kennie claimed they would get in several of his many economic and attendance projections.  The county that gave him tax breaks and concessions so he would built the latest monument to his own ego in their fair county.  They are looking to institute a $.50 tax on the tickets to get some of the promised financial remuneration . . . and it seems they may have hurt kennie's feeling by not clearing it with him first.

"No Help From Noah: The County That Banked on a Religious Theme Park to Solve Its Money Problems" is one article about it, there have been several, all explaining the financial crisis facing Grant County, Ky.  Now it might sound like it, but I am not blaming kennie completely, the local officials who gave hefty land grants and tax incentives to kennie have a large share of the blame.  They bought into his spiel and now they are paying for it.  Remember, it's not kennie who loses if things don't go perfectly, but the taxpayers of Kentucky, particularly Grant county.  In honesty, the ark park might have been  . . . pun intended . . . the God-send they were hoping for, but they failed to take into a number of considerations, like any contingency planning if the park didn't work out as hoped.  But now they have dug themselves into a hole and are looking for a way out. Of course they can't expect any help from kennie unless they force it out of him -- which is what they are going to do.

Their solution has kennie upset, "Ark Encounter owners ‘blindsided’ by new tax that could raise ticket prices":

"The proprietors of a gigantic wooden Noah’s Ark in Williamstown are steamed about a new “safety assessment” tax that will collect 50 cents for every admission ticket sold, according to the Grant County News.
Ark Encounter spokesman Mike Zovath told the newspaper that Ark officials will now have to consider raising ticket prices, which are $40 for adults and $28 for children."
What I have trouble understanding is that at $40 to visit the pseudo-replica boat . . . kennie is complaining that the $40 doesn't give him enough to share with the people who granted him major tax breaks and concessions.  He's going to have to raise his ticket prices so he can share .0125 of each ticket with Grant County.  How much would you like to bet he's going to raise the ticket prices more than $.50?  And when he does, he's going to blame the county.

Personally I think Grant County, since they cannot go back in time and refuse to suck up to this religious fanatic, should have made the amount of the new tax a percentage, so that way no matter what kennie does as his ticket prices keep rising . . the county gets more $$.  After all, isn't this the county who kennie stiffed by implementing discriminatory hiring practices for his for-profit park -- after promising not to?  Think of all those local residents who got shut out of a job opportunity because of kennie's narrow religious beliefs?  


Has anyone checked to see how many ark park employees live outside of Grant County, even how many live outside of Kentucky?  Now that would make interesting reading, wouldn't it?

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Discovery Institute 'Trumping' Fake News -- with Fake News

The Discovery Institute (DI) is starting to use the phrase 'Fake News' to label news articles they disagree with -- no matter how true the article may be . . . sound like someone else we all know.  In "Houston Chronicle, We’ve Got a Problem: Meet Fake News Reporter Andrea Zelinski" the DI refers to an experienced and award-winning reporter, Andrea Zelinski, as a 'fake news reporter.  What was her crime, nothing more than writing a story that the DI didn't like.
They say:
"Zelinski’s articles portrayed the science standards battle as a struggle to introduce creationism or intelligent design into Texas’s science curriculum."
As odd as it sounds, there are two definitions of 'fake news'.  Before very recent events 'fake news' was a term defined as the deliberate falsification of the news, the use of misinformation or the spreading of hoaxes.  Sites like Breitbart News and shows like the O'Reilly Factor were good examples of shows less interested in facts and more interested in bombast and sensationalism.  While some 'fake news' of this type was created for satire (The Onion, for example), much of it serves other purposes, such as marketing discredited ideas as if they were credible.

In recent months 'fake news' has also come to be used as a label making claims that a valid new article is untrue.  It has become a favorite term of a certain hamster-haired misogynist serial liar and his supporters. While it includes the word 'fake', people who apply that label tend to using it to claim a truthful, but damaging to them, story is false.  The reality seems have become that when something is labeled as 'fake news' is really means the opposite.

So which is it in this instance, is Zelinski a 'fake news reporter'?  To make that determination, we have to decide if calling the whole tactic of using re-worded science standards primarily a way of introducing Creationism into the science curriculum?

The wording was introduced in Texas under the auspices of none other than Don McLeroy, an avowed Creationist when he was the President of the Texas State Board of Education.  Before this time, he was very public in his religious views, particular in disavowing evolution, regardless of the scientific support. Just last week he even responded to one of my posts (And The Whining and Spinning About Texas Is On!), showing that he still hasn't learned anything about real science.

So, Don pushes for Creationism and doesn't get very far until he teams up with the Discovery Institute whose reason for living is pretty close to Don's.  Read the Wedge Strategy document if you think they are after something different than Don.  Don even invited two of them to 'help' draft the new science standards.

The Discovery Institute has been conducting a number of campaigns, all with the same goal (my underlines):
"The overarching goal of the Institute in conducting the intelligent design campaigns is religious; to replace science with "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." (Wikipedia: Wedge Strategy)
"None of the campaigns are aimed at directly influencing the scientific community . . . but rather are focused on swaying the opinions of the public and public policy makers, which, if effective, it is hoped will respond by forcing the academic institutions supporting the scientific community to accept the Discovery Institute's redefinition of science. Public high school science curricula has been the most common and visible target of the campaigns, with the Institute publishing its own model lesson plan, the Critical Analysis of Evolution." (Wikipedia:  Intelligent Design Campaigns)
So, a reporter, actually one of many reporters, in reporting the facts -- ties the changes to the science curriculum with ongoing efforts to replace science with religion . . . and the DI calls that 'fake news'.  Changing the wording that had been in place since 2009 has the opposite effect, as Zelinski put it:
"SBOE gives final OK to curb creationism language in science standards"
If the reporter really was reporting something false, the reporter, the publisher, and the owners of the newspaper would be open for a libel suit, but instead the DI simply tries to tell people that the reporter isn't reporting the truth . . . but the reality is not only is the reporter reporting the truth, but the reporter is reporting  the truth the Discovery Institute would rather like not to be reported (say that ten times real fast!).  They always hate when anyone reminds the world of their religion.  So the DI created a bit of 'fake news' of their own, by calling this report a 'fake news reporter'.

People now have to develop a new set of skills -- how to determine if a news source, particularly an online news source, is telling them anything resembling facts.  I try and use the old-fashioned method of checking the sources.  I rarely take anything a news source says at face value, I want to check multiple sources and validate the information the news source used.

For example, if I read news someone posted on Facebook, I am not only going to follow the link provided, but I am going to Google the pertinent parts of the story.  All too often links from Facebook are to fake news sites, nearly always ones that agree with the Facebook poster's personal philosophies.  What I am looking for are more objective links to sources that are more news than views.  The original poster usually posts the link without ever checking the validity of the information.

You might want to check out "News Bias . . . Yes, this is a real thing!"  We discussed the objectivity of various news sites a few months back.   Real reporters, like Andrea Zelinski, can help by doing exactly what they are doing -- their best to accurately report the news!  Just because you read something that agrees or disagrees with your opinions doesn't automatically make it true or false!  If you don't think this is am important skill to have, look at the 2016 election!  As Nancy Pelosi said recently about George W. Bush:
“I never thought I would pray for the day that you were president again.”
Back on topic, we should applaud Andrea and the Houston Chronicle for not only reporting accurately, but annoying the DI at the same time!  She might be in the running for that august honor of the DI's 'Censor of the Year!'

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Intelligent Design Summed Up in One Line

A quickie little post today from the Discovery Institute's little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer: "Stenophlebia amphitrite, a Stunningly Gorgeous Dragonfly from the Upper Jurassic":

"When you see something like that, a creature that is so transparently a work of art, how in the world do you jump to evolutionary explanations dependent exclusively on blind churning?"
What he is talking about is a fossil dragonfly, and to be honest, it is gorgeous.  Take a look:
Yes, that's terrific, but is this all you need to toss away real science and climb on one of the multitude of religions?  I don't think so.

When I read something like this, it simply shows me not only how little the talking heads from the DI know about actual evolutionary theory, but how insistent they are that everyone should also know even less than they do.  I have a few issues:
  1. The world's biologists didn't 'jump' to anything.  Questions about a deity doing this stuff have been around since the first person made such a claim.  It took decades, if not centuries, to formulate explanations that actually meets the evidence.  It wasn't a 'jump'.  Darwin didn't wake up one day and say 'Eureka, God is Dead!', as much as you like to portray him having done so.
  2. Where in evolutionary theory is 'blind churning'?  That's a strawman explanation of evolution the DI would like everyone to believe.  It goes with the 'tornado in the junkyard' and many other discredited analogies of evolutionary theory.
  3. 'Work of art'?  So, opinion is now replacing facts?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?  It is a gorgeous fossil of a creature that evolved a long time ago and whose descendants will soon be appearing in my neighborhood, but calling it 'art' in no way negates the evolution behind it.
Fossils such as this don't make people turn away from real science, I believe it supports it.  Look at all the evidence of paleontology, it's one of the areas of study that had people questioning religious explanations well before Darwin.  Look at the discoveries, read about how people were looking for answers as to when did those discoveries live, why have they disappeared, why are they so similar to many modern forms.  These are just a few of the questions that tarted with fossil discoveries and has grown into the discipline of Paleontology.

Look at the evidence linking current forms with those of the past.  Do we have a perfect line from one to another, no we do not, scientists readily admit that.  But each new find changes how we look at the past.  We are learning new things all the time, it's exciting!  Nothing we have learned has negated the overarching theory of Evolution, nothing!

The Discovery Institute would like you to join their religion.  Don't think, just appreciate the beauty but don't look any deeper.  God forbid [pun intended] you engage your brain and think about where this fossil came from, when it lived, how it might be related to current forms.  It seems to the DI that thinking will reduce your appreciation for the beauty of the fossil itself.  They can't possibly imagine someone can find something so beautiful and not fall on their knees to pay homage to one deity or another.  

Well, they are wrong . . . but what else it new!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

And The Whining and Spinning About Texas Is On!

Now that the March for Science is over, the Discovery Institute (DI) Talking Heads are turning to other things, including Texas.  As I said just a few days ago:

"I'm sure the whining will come eventually, after all the Dover Trial was over 12 years ago and they are still trying to spin it! Who knows, they might be spinning things a different way, like this guy:
Don McLeroy . . . yes, that 'John Donald McLeroy', the conservative dentist, former member and former president of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) . . . is claiming the changes are a 'victory for science'." (Not as Much Whining As Expected, Maybe a Different Tactic)
Yes, like Don, they are trying to spin it as a win for themselves in this post "Despite Reports to the Contrary, Texas Preserves Language Calling for Critical Analysis of Evolution"  While I will admit it wasn't a complete victory for Science, you really can't call it a win for them.  The amount of time and energy they spent to first get Texas to approve the wording the standards in the first place and then the complaining about what happens to their version of science education if those phrases are removed . . . makes it hard to accept that they consider any re-wording, let alone the removal of many of the key phrases that real scientists and actual science teachers objected too, any form of a victory, especially re-wording that makes it easier for science teachers to teach science without having to bring in pseudo-science just for the sake of 'analyzing and evaluating all side' of one specific theory -- but we are talking about the DI here and spin is what they do best.

The original phrasing, for all the marketing by the DI, had one purpose -- the deliberate undermining of science education.  Don't agree, well from my point of view this whole critical analysis thing reminds me somewhat of some of the things that happened in Dover PA over a decade ago.  What I am talking about was the requirement to read a statement in biology classes.  Remember the statement?
"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments." (Wikipedia: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District)
What the statement does, in a nutshell, is tell students that all of science is just a collection of guesses and that religious guesses are just as good as scientific guesses.  Look at the words, before a theory is taught, this statement makes it sound as if a theory is just that, a guess.  The first paragraph mainly says that they are going to learn evolutionary theory because the State mandates it, not because it has any validity.  It denigrates each and every scientific theory out there and then inserts Intelligent Design (ID), unsupported -- unexplained -- never tested -- never even used -- ID as an alternative, an alternative explanation that isn't even a scientific theory.  Don't believe me, you might try reading the Dover Trial Decision for yourself.  It's boring a loaded with legalese, but it gets the point across.

When the biology teachers refused to read the statement, a school administrator read the statement to students.  Seriously, what part of that statement didn't undermine the science students were going to be taught.  While it's loaded with innocuous sounding phrases, the reality is it was contrasting real science with imaginary pseudo-science to an audience ill-equipped to understand the difference.

That's what the wording did, it placed an unreasonable expectation on an audience ill-equipped to handle it. How do you 'analyze and evaluate' without the tools and knowledge needed to do so? By definition Analysis is:
"a detailed examination of anything complex in order to understand its nature or to determine its essential features : a thorough study" (Merriam-Webster: Analysis)
From the science standpoint, think of the amount of time an examination of this sort would take.  To properly 'analyze' evolution would take more time and other resources than any school system can afford.  This level of detail is beyond the scope of any high school not just because of the subject, but the requirements of performing an analysis.  What other subject matter requires an 'analysis'?  None!  Therefor the tools and skills to do such an analysis do not exist in the normal high school curriculum.

The 'all sides' was the part of the Creationist wording that was least able to be defended.  What 'sides' exist within science?  Intelligent Design (ID) is a religious concept and is not, has never been, nor is anticipated ever being science.  so basically without using the phrase 'Creationism' or Intelligent Design', the 'all sides' is an opening to bring those religious ideas into the classroom.  I know the DI will disagree and point to language that says it prohibits religious alternatives -- but when you start looking at the 'sides' what alternative sides to science are there?  ID isn't science, after all, where is the science they have been promising for decades?  Religious books and articles, presentations to religious audiences, and covert declarations as to the identity of their intelligent designer certainly haven't helped them make their case.

Of course an 'analysis' of the DI's pet 'alternative' to evolution would take considerably less time, because there is very little to analyze.  No scientific experiments to replicate, no peer-reviewed papers (real peer review, not the DI's pseudo-peer review), nothing but religious books and articles boiling down to whether or not you want to pretend a Deity created everything around us.  Such an analysis would be fairly quick and  . . . well . . . it has been done a number of times and each time to the detriment of its proponents.  Science has rejected Intelligent Design so many times that its proponents have to try tactics such as these word games because their pet 'theory' cannot stand the light of day.

This was the first whine I saw, they've already put up two more and I am sure more are on the way.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Shouldn't a Critique Actually Critique?

Here we see one of the usual tactics by those less-than-stalwart fellows at the Discovery Institute (DI).  Simply put they take the work by other people and rather than doing any actual research, they simply editorialize it to spin it in either an anti-evolution or a pro-intelligent Design way -- or both when they think they can get away with it.  This is one of the anti-evolution ones: "“Shared Error” Argument: Olfactory Receptor Genes Prove Common Descent?"

Professors' Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight co-wrote a book, Adam and the Genome, which has apparently annoyed the DI. One interesting note that instead of referring to the authors as 'professors', Cornelius Hunter (DI talking head, although not a very prolific one), says this:

"co-authored by theistic evolutionists Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight"
Venema has a PhD is Biology and is a professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. McKnight has a PhD from the University of Nottingham and is a professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL.  Obviously anti-evolutionist Hunter has little regard for them and immediately labels them as an enemy of the ID crowd.  I figure I can call Hunter that in the same way he referred to the two professors as theistic evolutionists.

You see the DI doesn't like Theistic Evolution for a few reasons:
  • Theistic Evolution more wraps a theistic explanation around evolution, where the DI wants to throw evolution out completely so they can slide in their own theistic explanation.  
  • The DI likes to disavow themselves of their theistic underpinnings and hide their religion.  Anything that smacks of religion is something they run away from as quickly as their little legs can carry them.  
  • Theistic Evolutionists tend to be quite critical of the DI and its quaint little notion of Intelligent Design.  As we know anyone critical of the DI and ID is the treated with disdain by the DI.
I believe they would prefer all theistic evolution proponents would drop their religious concepts and get under the big-tent of anti-evolutionism until such time as evolution is abolished and then they can fight out all the details with all the other various theistic groups.

Yes, I am writing about two theists who wrote a book, but I am not critiquing the book, I am critiquing how anti-evolutionist Hunter critiqued the book.  Did he offer any support for the various things he said?  No.  His main argument is a common one at the DI.  Basically, he says biology is complicated, thereby it cannot have happened through a natural process, like evolution.

There, you can read his much longer diatribe, but when you boil it down, that's what you get.  If you really want to dig deeper, look at his basic issues with the book:
  • Issue 1: "First, the olfactory system is profoundly complex." See, complex and we know how the DI deals with complexity
  • Issue 2: "The olfactory system is no exception. Its several fundamental components, if evolution is true, must have evolved several times independently." A re-statement of being complex.
  • Issue 3: " . . . the strength of this evolution argument is lack of function, but that renders it fallacious."  This is not an argument as much as an unsupported statement -- another favorite tactic.  Where is his support for this statement?  Nowhere to be found.
That's pretty much it.  His functionality whine completely ignores the genetic evidence for common descent.  But that's how the DI works, builds up an argument on one facet and completely ignore other facets.  Then they go on as if their argument is gospel without a single supporting fact -- just more opinion and wishful thinking.

Anti-evolutionist Hunter sort of quotes Elliot Sober, which makes me think this is a quote mine:
"Evolution fails to explain how even a single gene could evolve, let alone the entire olfactory system. In fact the presence of supposedly useless structures, such as pseudogenes, is hardly a plus for evolution. As Elliott Sober has pointed out, there is nothing about this story that provides a positivistic argument for evolution."
I believe Sober's quote concerned the discussion whether the gene or the genome is the evolutionary 'target'.  Sober is a noted critic of the 'gene-centered view of Evolution', so the evolution process for a single gene wouldn't be overly important to Sober.  It is funny that Hunter would quote Sober, who is a noted critic of Intelligent Design:
"This article reviews two standard criticisms of creationism/intelligent design (ID)): it is unfalsifiable, and it is refuted by the many imperfect adaptations found in nature. Problems with both criticisms are discussed. A conception of testability is described that avoids the defects in Karl Popper's falsifiability criterion. Although ID comes in multiple forms, which call for different criticisms, it emerges that ID fails to constitute a serious alternative to evolutionary theory."
(Elliot Sober, 2007, What is wrong with intelligent design?, Abstract) 
Gotta love that last piece: 'it emerges that ID fails to constitute a serious alternative to evolutionary theory'.  I bet that's one reason Hunter tries to work in a quote-mine from pro-evolution Sober, I mean if you can use some of your critic's words, you can make it sound as if he isn't really a critic.

I have to wonder how he and Behe, who agrees with common descent, get along?