Thursday, August 27, 2015

What if people stopped believing in Darwin?

Ann Gauger, you know the lady with the non-existent lab over at the Biologic Institute, posted something totally ridiculous:  "What If People Stopped Believing in Darwin?"

First the obvious, people do not 'believe' in Darwin, any more than they 'believe' in gravity.  What people do is accept the explanations from real scientists when it comes to explaining phenomena like Evolution and Gravity.  There is a world of difference between belief and acceptance of an explanation.  I do understand why Ann, and her cohorts at the Discovery Institute, have trouble understanding the difference, they demand faith with no supporting evidence.  But that's the obvious critique.  Let's have some fun.

First off, let us remember who Ann works for, the Biologics Institute, which is the pet apologetic 'lab' of the Discovery Institute (DI).  When you factor that in, you know she's not talking about evolution being out of the picture, but her religious alternative being the only game in town.   That being said, it certainly changes the picture, because everyone knows how open-minded and accepting theists can be, right?

One of her comments was a real corker:

"Biology students might feel free to express their opinions on origins."
Since when does having a religious explanation for anything make people feel free to express their opinions?  Annie's point is that because of Darwin students don't feel free to offer their opinion.  Of course that's not the whole truth, because I have yet to be in a classroom where student's didn't raise their opinion.  One of my students read this blog and wanted to discuss in class -- and I teach Information Technology!  What I think Ann means is that theists do not feel free to raise their non-scientific objections to evolution in science class.  If Ann had said that I would heartily agree.  Raising a religious objection to actual science IN science class is a waste of time and deserves to be shut down.  I did shut down my student by explaining that Life's Origins aren't an appropriate topic during Java Programming.  When he persisted, I invited him to comment on the blog or discuss it after class.  He chickened out and did neither.  But that's the point, Creationism is not science and other than a brief historical perspective, doesn't belong in science class.

Let me give you a for-instance.  Suppose you are a member of a church-going family who for years went to the same church as many of your neighbors, you are involved in church activities, and lived in the area and raised your family there.  Then you get more than a little annoyed when a cross gets burned in your son's arm by his science teacher and you dare to question it.  Not only that, but you learn that the 'science' teacher in question isn't teaching science, but his very evangelical view of science.  You have the audacity to complain.  What happens?

Well according to Ann, you should have been welcomed, your opinions and questioning should be encouraged, and all Christians are nothing but polite and accepting people, right?

However the reality seems a bit different, as an article about the family who dared raise questions about John Freshwater in Mt Vernon Oh:
"We've gotten phone calls, things in the mail, anonymous letters. They send scriptures and how you should raise your children, implying we're not raising our children correctly. Everywhere we go I feel like people know it's us so they don't talk to us or they will say things. Even in church." Eventually it was too much for the Dennis family. They moved 35 miles away."
This isn't an isolated instance, do you recall the Dover Trial, or shall we call it by it's usual name:  "Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al".  What happened to Tammy Kitzmiller and her family?  More examples of welcoming, openness, and acceptance?  No, she and her daughters received hate mail, accusations of being atheists, her children confronted, confrontations in restaurants and in the street.

Sure, religion does nothing but open people's minds and hearts! Maybe other religions do, but apparently not Christianity. In a review of Lauri Lebo's excellent book "Devil in Dover" from the Aetiology blog:
" . . .that even most of the biology teachers at Dover were church-going Christians, yet they were ostracized and bad-mouthed by those supporting the school board’s anti-evolution stance–rejected and slandered by Christians who seemingly had no problem attacking fellow believers."
I have to repeat this phrase:  " . . .no problem attacking fellow believers".  Sure, Ann, dismissing Darwin makes everything sunny and bright.  Really?  As you can see I find it hard to believe that if somehow Darwin disappeared overnight, so much would change for the better.  Look at all the people living under repressive religious regimes.  Are you going to tell me Christianity would be different?  Was it in the past?  Tell me when?  Show me an example!

More from Ann:
"The world would see a new flush of academic freedom."
Since when does religion encourage academic freedom?  Seriously, I am asking.  How many professors and teachers have gotten in trouble for teaching evolution?  Too many to count, like John Scopes, Pamela Hensley, Tom Oord, Gary Scott, Stacy Mendrick . . ..  The impact was directly on them teaching evolution.  They did their job and got in trouble.  People forget that the textbook John Scopes was using included evolution or that Pamela Hensley and Stacy Mendrick were well regarded teachers who were teaching the required elements of their courses.  The list is quite long, and not always at a parochial school, but public schools as well usually due to parental pressure,  So this is how religion improves academic freedom?

Now aside from the marketing campaign by the DI, how many teachers got in trouble for teaching Creationism/ID?  While the DI likes to trot out people like Caroline Coker, John Freshwater, and Guillermo Gonzales, the real story is a little different.  These people were hired to perform a job, usually to teach science.  However they made a personal decision that their religious beliefs precluded them from performing their job.  And when they get held accountable, they whined about religious discrimination and the DI trots them out as victims.  I don't see them as victims.  They took the job under false pretenses -- I see them as liars.  Of course Freshwater did more than just fail in his job, but that's another story.

Now I would like to believe that I wouldn't accept a job that conflicted with my belief set so strongly I couldn't do it.  I would be honest about it rather than say one thing and then perform another.  But that's just me and how I was raised.  I guess that level of honesty isn't needed when you are lying in the cause of your religion.  You could ask kennie ham, but he does the same sort of stuff.

Of course she had to try and drag in 'Academic Freedom', which anyone with a functioning brain knows that's not what the Discovery Institute is interested in.  It's just another tactic to try and wedge their way into the classroom.  Their idea of academic freedom means to be able to teach their religion as if it were science and to remove real science from the classroom.  Don't blame me, it's their stated goal:  to replace science with a more theistic-ally friendly version.  It's again like little kennie ham who's idea of religious freedom is to be free to believe how he wants and force others to believe as he [kennie] wants as well.  Not very open-minded and accepting.

One last thing and then I will go back to ignoring most of annie's posts.  Here final comment:
 "That's why they say scientific revolutions happen one funeral at a time." 
Really, so scientific theories get replaced when the author or supporters die off?  Apparently that hasn't worked for Darwin and the Theory of Evolution at all, has it?  It didn't work for Alfred Wegener, whose theory of Continental Drift didn't get confirmed until 20 or 30 years after his death.  I wonder if she expecting the next generation of scientists to knock Darwin to the curb and instill her organization's pet ideas?  Maybe that does explain why they [the DI, annie, wild bill and the lot], don't bother doing science and only marketing and public relations in their efforts to damage science education.

I wonder where annie expects to next breakthroughs in vaccines, medical treatments, and new technologies to come from?  Divine intervention?  Yea, like that has worked real well so far.  Let's ask Ian, Neil, Matthew, Austin, Amy, Robyn, Andrew, Harrison, Nancy, Dennis, Arrian, Zachery, Troy, Shauntay, and Rhett.  Oh, wait you can't.  They all died because some people, often their theist parents, believed prayer beats out medical care.  Not a great track record.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jesus and Mo

An oldy yet a goldy from Jesus and Mo.  If they had gone with the DI, the word 'God' would have a strikethough and instead of offering to pay, they would hit you up for a donation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Who could argue with support like this?

In a follow-up article to something I posted a little about already, David Klinghoffer, who I less than affectionately call 'klingy', posted this little gem:  "Natural History Museums Bear Witness to the Debate over Intelligent Design".  This time around klingy is 'confirming' the viability of the debate over Intelligent Design (ID), or I should say that's what it appears he's trying to do..

This has been one of the common theme's since the DI released their latest set of excuses about Stephen C. Meyer's 'Debating Darwin', which I also commented on recently (That's it? An admission of failure?).  The theme from their latest effort, "Debating Darwin’s Doubt: The Scientific Controversy That Can No Longer Be Denied" is to try and legitimize the scientific debate over ID.  Now no one I know doubts there is a debate over ID, but what there is not is a scientific debate.  There is a cultural debate over their efforts to substitute pseudo-science for real science, but there is no scientific debate because, frankly, there is no science supporting ID. 

Klingy and his buds claim to have the science, but they cannot seem to be able to communicate it to anyone else.  Dembski's 'design filter', Behe's 'irreducible complexity', Nelson's 'ontogenetic depth', none of it makes any sense when it comes to being science.  Oh it sounds scientific, but once you look past the wrinkled lab coat the words are dressed up in, you get nothing.  Not a single scientific advance is based on Creationism/ID, none!

What I find misleading is the title, it seems to be trying to convince readers that one of the more famous Natural History museums is confirming the debate.  Which is an interesting tactic.  It's similar to the one where little kennie ham tried to link his Creation 'Museum' with the local Cincinnati Zoo, which we all know failed and more than likely caused kennie many hours of anguish over lost revenue.

This time around, does klingy use quotes from the institution?  Did anyone from the Smithsonian confirm the debate?  No, if you read it, did you catch who klingy's source is?  Read carefully, he only mentions this once:

"An email correspondent points out that the different methods stem from the specific decades when the halls were respectively updated and redesigned" 
That's it.  An 'email correspondent' and klingy goes wild then this correspondent offers this opinion :
"They are in a fight, and they know it."
That's all it takes for klingy to rattle off yet another post confirming the 'scientific' controversy that only seems to exist in the minds of folks over at the Discovery Institute.  So to be clear, an unidentified email correspondent makes a comment that is never confirmed by the institution, nor even addressed by the institution, then klingy takes that as the institution's implied acceptance that they are a witness to an imaginary scientific debate over ID.  Oh yea, that clears things up.

Scientists are well aware of the cultural controversy represented by ID.  The reason isn't because ID threatens science, but because of the negative impact ID/Creationism have on science education.  It wasn't until folks like the DI started organizing, marketing, and making demands did any scientists give them much thought at all.  Now, if the DI was willing to do actual science to support their ideas things might be different.  But as long as the best confirmation of a scientific controversy are unnamed 'email correspondents' of klingy's, I don't think we are nearly to the point of treating ID much differently than we treat Astrology, Numerology, and Parapsychology.  Oh we may have to deal with them more often, because they are a well-funded and vocal set of Evangelicals, but there isn't much different amongst the pseudo-sciences.

What's next with klingy, will he be getting calls from the Psychic Network?  There's a thought.  Have you seen any of those commercials for various tele-psychics?  I know, you probably ignore them like I do.  But someone once pointed out that in the small print on the screen includes a little disclaimer.  Maybe klingy needs to add it to the bottom of all his posts.  There's an idea - "For Entertainment Purposes Only"

Monday, August 24, 2015

Historical/Observational Science

I don't often peruse the pages of Answers in Genesis (AiG) mainly because I have trouble stomaching most of it.  Seriously!  I have trouble with how wildly little kennie ham and his worshipers twist reality around to justify their narrow belief set to themselves.  It's really hard to take.  Being ignorant happens, but I have trouble with not only willful ignorance, but active participatory willful ignorance.

One of the common themes I read about often is little kennie's interpretation of 'observational' science vs 'historical' science.  Luckily we don't rely on kennie to define our scientific terms for us!  In my opinion, all he is doing is attempting to confuse people.  Actually ham's basic definitions aren't that bad, but what he does, as he always does, is insert the Bible as the authoritative source of historical information.  There, he's done, basically 'if it ain't in the Bible, it ain't', to paraphrase.

"What we can do, however, is check our historical research against a trustworthy eyewitness account. But what about for the history of the earth? Does something like that exist? You bet—and this amazing compendium of history isn’t hard to find. Just pull out your trusty Bible. . . .Starting from the Bible, given to us by the Creator of all things, we know when we’re on the right track"
So according to kennie the Bible, the book he worships, is not only a science textbook, but a history text as well.  I'm sure if I dig a little deeper we will find kennie using it as a sociology text, a mathematics text, and even a human sexuality text as well.  Well I guess he already does that last one, since homosexuality is one of the more written about subjects on AiG:  "Are there really Gay Christians", "Homosexual Behavior vs. The Bible" and "How to Deal with the Homosexual War" are just a few examples.  You don't need to click on the links, just look at the titles.  Yes, kennie ham and his followers are rampantly homophobic as are most evangelical Christians.  They do spend an inordinate amount of time writing about it, usually in pretty venomous terms:
  • The Bible not only describes homosexual behaviour as detestable, but it also calls for the punishment of those involved (Leviticus 20:13). 
  • Their unrepentant attitude caused God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24–25).
  • Just as homosexual conduct has been punished in the past, so it will also be punished by God in the future. “ … Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).

I raise this for a reason, and yes, it's on point of the topic.  Little kennie ham's issue with historical science is that when you look at things that happened in the past, you have to interpret them.  Interpretations are inherently bad because they are influenced by many things outside of the item you are looking at, therefore without eye witnesses, historical science is not particularly reliable.  In keeping with that theme, he then puts the Bible up as the ultimate eye witness, so therefore when you use the Bible to base historical science on,there are no problems.

Here's my point, let's take Leviticus 20:13 as references by kennie.  Does he bother advertising the fact that the translation that he uses, one that is common in most english versions of the Bible is not well supported by the original Hebrew text?  Yes, I know the King James version of the Bible is widely used and very popular, but when you go back to the original works that were translated (interpreted) and became the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, you find many changes and even many discrepancies.

So typical of kennie.  He berates the idea of interpretations, yet he is using them himself to justify his belief set.  If he really wanted to know more about the Bible, he might study up a bit.  Even just reading the instructions given to the committees writing the KJV was interesting:
Further, the King gave the translators instructions designed to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England.  Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in a manner that reflected the traditional usage of the church.  For example, old ecclesiastical words such as the word "church" were to be retained and not to be translated as "congregation".  The new translation would reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and traditional beliefs about ordained clergy. (King_James_Version)
Ecclesiology is a word I wasn't familiar with, so I followed the link to get a handle on it.  What I found was that ecclesiologies changes from one institution and the next, the word may also refer to a particular church or denomination’s character, self-described or otherwise – hence phrases such as Roman Catholic ecclesiology, Lutheran ecclesiology, and ecumenical ecclesiology.  So, in other words, King James made sure his version of the Bible reflected his particular belief set, and not necessarily the beliefs of the Bibles originators.  Certainly would make more people think, but not kennie, oh no, not kennie! 

What little kennie also seems to be trying to do is another rather typical creationist canard, a binary set.  He treats these two concepts as 'types of science' and seems to want to not just draw a line between the two, but build an insurmountable wall between them.  The reason seems simple, it's similar to the artificial distinction Creationists keep trying to make about evolution, the whole micro vs macro foolishness.  By convincing people that the two 'types' of science are incompatible, it gives little kennie an out when he cannot deny the evidence from science, he labels it as Observational, He simply tosses the parts of science he doesn't like over the wall and claims that it's nothing but an interpretation of events no one actually witnessed.  Pretty weak argument, but then does he have any stronger ones?

As usual, the reality is much different than whatever kennie says.  According to the NCSE:
"Philosophers of science draw a distinction between research directed towards identifying laws and research which seeks to determine how particular historical events occurred. They do not claim, however, that the line between these sorts of science can be drawn neatly, and certainly do not agree that historical claims are any less empirically verifiable than other sorts of claims. "
I do tend to try and boil things down to something more understandable, at least to me.  I see observation, or experimentation, science as the 'What' and historical science as the 'How'.  Look at it this way, scientific theories are the best possible explanation, based on the evidence, for a given occurrence.  That being said, an occurrence means something happened.  We saw something, dug something up, discovered something . . ..  The 'what' is understanding in detail what actually happened.  Very rarely is the occurrence simple or easily understood.  Even an apple falling on a head isn't as simple a just an apple falling.  Yes, I know it's a metaphor and not historical fact, but just go with it for a few.  The research, experimentation, and repetition, all go into understanding exactly what happened.  Along the way we formulate various laws to codify the happening.  We make science predictable in that way.  Therein is the observational science.

Once you get past the 'what', you want to know 'how' something occurred.  You want to identify the source, how did it develop, for example where does the force we call Gravity come from and not only how does mass affect gravity. but does it affect it at all? . . . the list of 'how' questions might seem endless, but that is the direction our curiosity takes us.  We don't just want to understand what we can see, touch, replicate, we want to know more than that.  We've taken the theory of gravity from explaining the what and how objects fall to the formation of the Earth, the solar system, and even the universe.  That's what you get from historical science and observational science as well!  They aren't two separate entities so kennie can split scientific hairs, they are two sets of methodologies, each used in building more complete explanations than either can build alone.

I think kennie's wall started crumbling well before he laid the first brick.

As for little kennie's prejudices, I would like to say one more thing about this particular subject of AiG and Homosexuality.  In the history of the United States the activity of denying rights to a group of people is doomed to failure.  Many of the arguments today being used against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) folks are the same arguments that were once used against women and minorities in previous decades.  Eventually the majority of US citizens remember how futile and foolish it is to deny any group the same rights that we tend to assume for ourselves and they are given the rights that should have never been withheld in the first place!  The downside is the time it takes and what Americans are capable of doing to each other often in the name of religion.  I would like to think that as a nation we tend to learn from our mistakes, but that doesn't always seem to be the case.  But it does seem that eventually we reach the just decision. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Intelligent Design vs intelligent design

Now I am really convinced those folks at the Discovery Institute (DI) really think their teleological argument for God, aka Intelligent Design, is the same thing as intelligent design from an architectural and engineering viewpoint.  "Methinks This Robot Has Been, Like, Weaseled into a Darwinian Tale".  The gist of this particular whine seems to be that since the robots were designed and they ended up at a pre-determined set of capabilities, that is cannot be evolution but it has to be Intelligent Design.  Of course the author uses the term 'Darwinism' to try and confuse the issue.

What the author, who is again unnamed for some strange reason, seems to forget is that no one said that the evolution exhibited by the robots in question was natural selection, but it certainly is evolution.  Humans have been evolving plants and animals for decades and centuries through breeding programs and other means designed [yes, designed] to enhance specific characteristics like heartier animals, drought and disease resistance in plant, even taste enhancements.  Many of the foods we enjoy on a daily basis are the results of years of tinkering by human beings and didn't exist just a few short decades ago -- at least not in the form they do today.  While I can hear some Creationist complaining that 'an apple is an apple', the reality is the an apple, like the Red Delicious apple which was first cultivated in the late 1800's, is not just an apple, but the product of human intervening with nature.  In fact there are over 40 different patented varieties of the Red Delicious apple, one as recent as 2004, being grown today and none of them are the product of Natural Selection.

Darwin himself used the term 'Artificial Selection' to differentiate from what was happening in nature, which he called 'Natural Selection'.  In each case the filtering was being done outside of the individual organism.  In Artificial Selection human beings making decisions and in the other it is environmental factors impacting the survival and reproductive opportunity.  In any case, it's all evolution, simply through different means.  Just to be clear, at no time is it Intelligent Design.

What the article is trying to do is support a case for something being intelligently designed must be using Intelligent Design, but nothing could be further from the truth.  As I, and many others, have stated over and over again, Intelligent Design is a movement, it's a re-telling of the old 'argument from design' used by William Paley in his famous 'Watchmaker Analogy'.  It's a political and marketing concept with some very specific goals in mind, and none of them involve actual science.  What folks like the author have to do is make their case rather than just trying to sell their ideas.  This article is an example of selling, and it's not doing a very good job.  Maybe the folks at the DI should start doing some actual science to support their idea of Intelligent Design before they start claiming all these victories, or is that too much to ask?

On the other hand intelligent design, lower-case 'i' and 'd', is something that we humans have been doing for a very long time.  It doesn't involve the invocation on a specific deity, but the application of thought, talent, and more than a little perspiration.  While some of the people who have invented many of the things we tend to take for granted today might cite 'divine inspiration', it was their intelligence, their design, their hard work that was the creative agency, not one god or another.

There is a huge difference between intelligent design and Intelligent Design and just because the same terms are used doesn't mean you can equate the two.  There is very little 'intelligent design' in 'Intelligent Design', and the DI proves it every time they post an article like this.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kenticky Lawmakers never seem to learn. Ark Park wants more help!

Article from the National Center for Science Education "Extending summer vacation for the sake of creationism?".  The title pretty much says it all.  Two lawmakers are apparently sucking up to kennie ham for some reason I will never understand.

Let's see, kennie ham starts another project, claiming it would be a for-profit tourist attraction and asked for Kentucky help to get it going, claiming pretty astronomical number of tourists will be visiting his 'Ark Park'.  Kentucky jumped in and offered several forms of help.  While I disagreed, my initial disagreement was more based on not trusting kennie ham and knowing kennie was the one who drew up the tourist figures and not an objective party fed that mistrust.

What happened next was kennie started advertising for employees at his new park, he did it through his Answers in Genesis ministry and was inflicting several requirements on applicants, like signing his statement of faith.  (Kentucky Common Sense Part II) That flew in the face of complying with the employment laws he promised he would follow, you know the ones about not discriminating based on a number of factors, including religion.  So you can see that kennie not only wanted state assistance ($$), but he wants to discriminate in hiring, of course Kentucky pulled their support -- as required by law.

Aside from the fact little kennie trying to paint himself as the victim of religious discrimination, he apparently also has a couple of pet lawmakers trying to 'help' him again.  This time by extending summer vacation so there would be more time for people to visit his ark park.  Are you kidding me?  Why be so covert, why don't they just pass a law making a visit to kennie's abortions mandatory?  Does kneeling before kennie a requirement to win elections in Kentucky?

Kentucky, isn't it time to stop?  If kennie's tourist numbers are right, he shouldn't need any help.  If his numbers are off, then he deserves to foot the bill.  In any event, the State of Kentucky needs to draw a hard line and tell kennie that he and his ministries are on their own.  If you don't think his ark park is a ministry, you might remember this from his original job application:

"Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."
It is nothing but a ministry, and it's time the State of Kentucky ends any subsidies.

Is Science Broken?

This is an honest question, not an easy question, but an honest one.  Finding an answer will take more than just asking a bunch of people and polling the results.  Gathering results like that would get you data, but would it answer the question?  There is a big difference between an answer and just having data.  You also have to pay close attention to many variables and still you may only end up with a small part of the eventual answer.  There are a lot of reasons, but the bottom line, science isn't easy to do.  It's also not always easy to explain.  Even trying to answer a question like this can show you that it's really tough.

Supposed you went to the Discovery Institute and polled people who worked there, what do you think the answer would be?  Their poster, Kirk Durston, would certainly tell you everything that he thinks is wrong with science, real and imagined, and certainly describe any negative until it's insurmountable.  Of course he doesn't offer any suggestions, his focus is to make people scared of science.

I came across an interesting article, "Science Isn’t Broken" by Christie Aschwanden.  It unflinching looks are some of the real problems within science and, more than Kirk ever did, explains how and why some of them occur.  She also goes into some of the changes that have been happening to help improve science and scientific methodology.  It's a long article and one well worth a read.  It repeats something that anyone who is objective about science realizes, that while it's not perfect, it s a self-correcting activity.

On the opposite side is an article on Evolution News and Views which grabs one of the examples Christie Aschwanden discussed and tries to turn it into some backhanded support for Intelligent Design, "Some Scientists Say Intelligent Design Isn't Science -- Until They Have to Use It Themselves."  One line really caught me:

"Many scientists claim intelligent design is not science"
That's a lie!  What almost all scientists say is that Intelligent Design is not science, they do not say that intelligent design isn't science.  Intelligent Design (ID) is a movement, a modern re-telling of the Watchmaker Analogy.  ID is not the same thing as intelligent design.  In all honesty, if we built buildings using Intelligent Design, I doubt they would hold up for very long, even if they could stay up long enough to be finished.  Think about it, let's use concrete that performs based on the wishes of a deity instead of the intelligently designed by real science formula and processes that make the many types of concrete we use in construction. 

Human beings design things all the time, some intelligently and some less-than-intelligently.  Many things work, but then I drive past a car jacked up 36 inches in the air running on 14 inch tires at 70 miles per hour on the freeway and all I can do is ask "What were they thinking?"  Architecture and Engineering run on intelligent design, but it has very little to do with Intelligent Design.

It's really funny how whoever wrote this one tried to twist around the idea of intelligence and design into an effort to support Intelligent Design.  There was no identified author, which isn't too uncommon.  I do wonder why no one takes credit for this one.  But aside from that, do they really not understand the difference between intelligent design and Intelligent Design?

Seriously?  The DI doesn't recognize the difference between something intelligently designed and their teleological argument for the existence of God?  Science works, the only thing intelligently designed about Intelligent Design is the marketing campaign.  Honestly, it should be taught in marketing classes, not so much as a success at selling their ideas, but from the point of view of how well-funded nonsense can do some actual damage to science and science education.

So back to the original question, is Science broken?  No!  It's not perfect, it has issues, but what doesn't, religion?  it's going to take people interested in improving science to fix issues as they happen.  What they will certainly do is intelligently design processes and changes to help deal with issues within science.  But just because these changes will be intelligently designed doesn't mean that they will use Intelligent Design.  What doesn't help are organizations that inflate real issues to the point they sound catastrophic so they can try and wedge their religious ideas to take the place of real science.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sorry Darwin, it isn't your Evolution anymore? Are you kidding?

"Horizontal Gene Transfer: Sorry, Darwin, It's Not Your Evolution Any More" by Denyse O'Leary, one of the Discovery Institute's mouthpieces.  She said something that supports something I have been saying for a while, that the DI really has been living in some sort of time warp and evolutionary theory hasn't advanced since Darwin's day.  Her article about horizontal gene transfer (HGT) didn't seem all too off the mark, until she, of course, had to wax philosophical in claiming that HGT in some way diminishes Darwin.  Isn't this an argument science deniers, like Denyse, have been saying for decades?

The claim in her title, that 'it's not Darwin's evolution any more' is pretty ridiculous.  I realize that the DI would like to be arguing strictly against what Darwin knew in the middle of the 19th century, but  the Theory of Evolution has undergone many changes and additions over the years.  And while Darwin might not recognize much of the modern theory, he would certainly recognize certain specific features of the theory.  His contributions are not the whole of evolutionary theory, but they will continue to be important parts of the whole and underpin many current parts of the modern theory.

How many times has something new supposedly sounded the death knell of evolutionary theory?  The ones that come immediately to mind include Genetics, Gene Flow, and Punctuated Equilibrium, but there have been many more.  Every new discovery seems to energize folks like Denyse to announce the imminent demolition of the theory of evolution, and yet it still stands.  I think the wrecking ball they keep claiming to have is made of wet tissue paper.
I remember a post by Glenn Morton a few years back called:
"The Imminent Demise of Evolution:  The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism" 
For some reason he took down his site, but it was preserved at this link.  It makes interesting reading.  On a pretty regular basis one Creationist or another has been announcing the demise of evolution to the amusement of many for a long time.  I think it was in 2004 when Wild Bill Dembski was quoted in a Kentucky newspaper saying:
  • [That] all the debate in this country over evolution won’t matter in a decade.
  • By then . . . the theory of evolution put forth by Charles Darwin 150 years ago will be dead.
  •  . . . the model of evolution accepted by the scientific community won’t be able to supply the answers.
  • I see this all disintegrating very quickly
This certainly wasn't Dembski's first try at predicting things.  He once offered a wager:

"I’ll wager a bottle of single-malt scotch, should it ever go to trial whether ID may legitimately be taught in public school science curricula, that ID will pass all constitutional hurdles."
Obviously he said that BEFORE to Dover Trial.  I wonder if he ever paid off?  Does anyone know if he did?

Denyse's little post might indicate a small shift in gears.  After decades of being laughed at for predicting the demise of a real actual scientific theory, she's now more trying to marginalize Darwin's contributions.  But she fails as humorously as the rest.  HGT doesn't diminish Darwin as much as it makes the overall theory of evolution stronger.  I don't recall anything in Darwin's work that says Natural Selection is the end-all of evolution, in fact I recall passages that offered questions that he couldn't answer, questions that opened the door for much of the future work on evolution.  For example, Darwin had no idea of genetics, which was one of those ideas Creationists tried to beat over Evolution's head, and yet ended up becoming one of the strongest supporting theories of the over-arching Theory of Evolution. 

HGT was actually first postulated in the 1950's, so I think Denyse might be a little off.  But then, since the majority of the DI seems to argue against things from the 1850's, maybe she could be considered one of the most progressive of the DI'ers?  Just a thought.  The metaphor of a tree-like structure may no longer be the best way to look at gene transfer, but then so what?  The phylogenetic tree may someday be replaced with the phylogenetic network, but then a metaphor only goes so far anyway, doesn't it? 

If history teaches us anything, and I mean real history, not the time bubble the DI wishes they lived in, that one day the Theory of Evolution will be very different than it is today.  We will continue to learn more and more and the theory will change.  But it will not invalidate what Darwin did, it might provide many details about things he didn't know about, or things that were technically beyond the capabilities of 19th century science.  But the future version of the TOE will be better and have more explanatory power than the current theory.  That's how science works.  You might notice that Denyse doesn't offer anything to HGT, but it is real scientists working on it that are making the discoveries.

On the other hand, Denyse's masters at the DI will still be trying to diminish Darwin without making any progress to offering a viable replacement, especially a replacement that meets their criteria of being theistically-friendly.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sh** or get off the Pot II

Recently I have been posting about how the DI whines when a real scientist offers a possible evolutionary explanation for various biological structures.  Frequently the response has been something like when little casey luskin he quoted Wild Bill Dembski::

"What's needed is a complete evolutionary path and not merely a possible oasis along the way. To claim otherwise is like saying we can travel by foot from Los Angeles to Tokyo because we've discovered the Hawaiian Islands. Evolutionary biology needs to do better than that. (William A. Dembski, Rebuttal to Reports by Opposing Expert Witnesses.)"
It's a common theme a demand absolute 100% proof, which is nothing more than another marketing tactic.  Science is more about small steps than trying to solve questions in one large discovery.  By demanding more than science actually delivers in a single step is an effort to make science appear weak.  Yet, what have folks like Dembski delivered at all?  That's why it's a tactic.  Science hasn't asked intelligent design 'conjecturists' for a complete solution, all they have done is ask that folks like Debmski support their own work, something they have never done. 

That same level of perfection is never required by those same conjecturists when talking about their own design ideas.  Case in point a new book announcement by little casey himself:  "New Book, Cosmological Implications of Heisenberg's Principle, Argues for Purpose and Design in Nature", by Julio Gonzalo.  Little casey starts by name-dropping his connection with the author and plug something he wrote last year.  Funny how the author's collaboration with casey isn't mentioned in the authors bio on Amazon.  Well anyway, I think this is supposed to be a review of sorts.

This 'review' is like so many others from the DI shows nothing but casey agreeing with everything the author says.  You can see why, when the author says things like:
"Modern science is therefore a monumental proof that the natural world as well as man's intellect are contingent and are due to an all-powerful and intelligent Creator. "
Little casey jumps right on and starts fawning.  But my question is where is the critical thinking that casey demands of biologists?  How can this author get away with a theme in which:

" . . . the universe requires an "intelligent Creator"
How can casey so easily buy into statements like:
"Gonzalo discusses the theism of both Planck and Einstein and concludes that the fundamental invariant truths of nature they discovered point to an intelligent creator"
If a real scientist made a comment like that and redefined other scientists work, especially taking it to areas unintended by the original scientists might seem reasonable, but when real scientists do it, they show their work, they support it.  How many years have we been waiting for design conjecturists to do that?  The issue is that when the philosophical agreement is there, casey treats anything said as gospel, not a single critical thoought.

One of my recent posts mentioned quote-mining and mis-characterizing other scientists work to place it in some context that appears to support Intelligent Design.  I think that is exactly what you are seeing here.  Gonzalo examines the theism of Planck and Einstein?  Really?  And somehow reaches the conclusion that they are pointing to an intelligent creator.  Gee, what a surprise!  Sounds much more like twisting what you are reading until you get to the point you already planned to reach anyway.

What bothers me isn't that Gonzalo isn't supporting his work, it's that little casey never asks for it.  Do you think a scientist making any public announcements would get away with that from the DI?  No way in hell!

It's well past the time when you, the DI, need to apply those critical think skills you claim to be promoting.  You need to seriously take a look at your own methods and even your motivations and really consider them.  I know you won't, but you need too.  Your impact on science has been minimal, although you do your best to damage science education.  Until you buckle down and either do the work or walk away because you cannot support your work, you will continue to be a bit of a joke and relegated to the same dusty shelf holding the Astrology and Parapsychology books.  I know the DI will continue to fawn over anyone who says things they agree with philosophically, and even if they don't, the spin-miesters at the DI will make it sound as if they do.  After all, it's what they do!

That is not what happened! Sternberg redux

Little davey klinghoffer, who I less-than-affectionately call 'klingy', is re-writing history . . . again.  In a recent post he whines about he Smithsonian's treatment of Evolution.  Nothing really new there, but this line caught my eye:

"That corollary is not stated in the museum exhibits, but the Smithsonian is the same national institution that drummed out evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg for admitting that doubts about Darwinian theory could have some merit."
Bullshit!  That is not what happened, and I think klingy knows it, but you don't sell being a victim by admitting when you have less-than-honest about the events, do you?  He even has a link to the DI's take on things, which he wrote!  Does he dare link to the Wikipedia page, the one called the "Sternberg Peer Review Controversy"?  Of course not, because that one certainly doesn't paint Sternberg as a victim, or him being 'drummed out' of the Smithsonian.

When I picture being 'drummed out', I picture a military ceremony where the offender, usually following a court-martial, is stripped of the badges of their office and summarily removed form the military post while a row of drummers perform a drum roll during the serious parts.  When I think of Sternberg's departure from the Smithsonian, I picture more a little boy running away thinking he got away with something. 

Sternberg, an unpaid research assistant and voluntary editor of the Biological Society of Washington, took it upon himself to be the sole reviewer of a paper by Stephen C. Meyer.  Not only was Sternberg not qualified to review the paper [based on his education and background], his relationship with the author meant he should have recused himself from the process.  In other words, Sternberg violated the established process in order to publish the paper in a respected peer review scientific journal paper that did not meet the standards of publication.  That's why I think of him as someone who thinks he got away with something.

Of course immediately upon publication, the Discovery Institute lauded over Meyer as having published the first Intelligent Design supportive article in a peer review journal.  And, of course, they immediately started whining and crying when the journal released this statement repudiating the article:
"The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history." 
The journal wisely didn't publish a rebuttal, since the DI would have further crowed about it, more than likely claiming "See, there is something to ID because we have a paper and a rebuttal in a peer review journal!"

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) had this to say about ID:
 "Recognizing that the "intelligent design theory" represents a challenge to the quality of science education, the Board of Directors of the AAAS unanimously adopts the following resolution:
  • Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;
  • Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;
  • Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;
  • Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;"

That's not the AAAS's complete statement, you can see the rest by clicking the link above.  What I found interesting is that they made that statement in 2002 and re-published it in 2013.  Doesn't look like much has changed in ID research, does it?
Some other interesting facts, Sternberg, who had already resigned as editor, kept working there in the same role as an unpaid research assistant for 3 years.   I will admit that some organizations move slow, but three years is an awfully long 'drumming out'.

In an interview with Barbara Bradley Hagerty, National Public Radio's religion reporter, said Sternberg himself believes intelligent design is "fatally flawed."   Hmmm, so according to klingy calling intelligent design 'fatally flawed' is the same thing as 'admitting that doubts about Darwinian theory could have some merit'?  I don't think so!

Sternberg is also signatory to the incredibly foolish petition "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism", which I usually refer to as the '700', you know the list that supposedly shows a bunch of scientists who scientifically don't like the current theory of evolution.  But in reality their dissent has little to do with actual science, but a more evangelical difference and often the affiliations were overly inflated.  I recall Sternberg was also mentioned in this post from a few years back:
"Also, in early editions of the list, Richard Sternberg was described as "Richard Sternberg, Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution" though Sternberg was never a Smithsonian staff member, but an unpaid research associate. At the time of signing the list Sternberg was the outgoing editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a minor biology journal, where he played a central role in the Sternberg peer review controversy. Later versions of the list dropped mention of Sternberg's affiliation with the Smithsonian in favor of Sternberg's alma maters, Florida International University and Binghamton University. At present Sternberg is a Staff Scientist with GenBank, the genetic database at the National Institutes of Health."

Do you know where Sternberg works now?  According to the DI website: 
"Dr. Sternberg is presently a research scientist at the Biologic Institute, supported by a research fellowship from the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute."
If you aren't aware, Biologic is the pet lab of the Discovery Institute.  So after publishing a paper by Meyer, who is one of head honchos at DI, Sternberg now works at the DI's pet lab and his funding comes from the DI.  The only thing that could make that look any shakier is if Sternberg was a relative of Meyer!

If this were a TV drama, I could easily see Meyer something like this to Sternberg:
"Yea, Richie, I know it'll put an end to your scientific career, but think of the brownie points you'll get from God!  We'll also get lots of mileage painting you up as the victim, like we did for Guillermo and Caroline.  Besides you've already quit so I'll hire you once the legal stuff blows over!"
OK, so now you know why I write a blog and not screenplays!

So what we have here is klingy's re-telling of the past, primarily to paint Sternberg as some sort of victim, a status klingy claims for all supporters of ID, regardless of the reality of their stories.  Spinning tales like this may make good press, but it does make it easy to see why the DI's publishings are usually in the Christian Fiction section of a bookstore.  To bad they do not use the same energy and zeal in performing science!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Here a Victim, There a Victim, Wouldn't you like to be a Victim too?

One of the popular, and yet deplorable, tactics in use today is 'Victimization'.  It works very simply, you paint yourself up as a victim and then do your best to reap the rewards of your victimhood.  Frequently the rewards are a more positive public opinion or a gathering a like minds to pat you on the back and commiserate your victimhood.  Why I find this deplorable is that it's often used by people who are not the victim in the least.

I'll use two cases in point, the first is the Discovery Institute.

In the case of the DI, they like to complain that they are being discriminated against by the rest of the scientific community.  First I do have to question whether or not they are actually part of the scientific community.  I have made my feelings quite clear that I place them squarely within the religious community, very near other conservative Christian Groups.  But be that as it may, do they have difficulty finding acceptance within the scientific community?  They certainly do!  However, are they the victims of discrimination?  No they are not!.

There are standards within the scientific community that the DI refuses to measure up to.  These standards revolve around the methodology used to perform scientific work.  Refusing to perform to those standards doesn't make you a victim of discrimination, it does make your whines and complaint exactly what they are, whines and complaints.  The scientific community has been resistant to any number of pseudo-scientific ideas, and justifiable so.  I don't see any Astrologers whining about discrimination, do you?  The DI claim some very specific examples like:

The story they spin doesn't seem to be well-related to the reality of what happened, as you can tell if you follow the links for each one.  Anyone see any actual discrimination?  No, what you see is people disagreeing, people failing in their responsibilities, or people trying to associate an organization with a private concern.  Claiming discrimination when you are not the victim of discrimination is a tactic and nothing more.  Actual victims of discrimination find themselves fighting to even be recognized because of the flood of phony claims of discrimination.

OK, enough about the DI for a moment.  My other example is going to annoy some folks.  Conservative Christians are using the very same method for the very same reasons.  In this country we have been engaged in a long debate over LGBT rights, currently the right of gay people to get married.  One of the interesting analogies involves people refusing service to gay couples over religious reasons.  Just today on the radio I heard that a civil servant in Kentucky was refusing the give out marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs.  I don't know if she has been fired, but she already has a lawyer and the lawyer is already crying 'Religious Discrimination'.  My question is this, is she a victim of religious discrimination if she is required to provide services to gay couples?  An analogy I have also been hearing lately goes like this:

"Should a Jewish baker be expected to bake a cake for a Nazi ceremony"

While it sounds simple enough, I think the conservative Christians are missing the point, or at least reversing the issue.  Should the gay community be compared to the Nazi's or should Conservative Christians be the Nazis in this little example?  I bet that comment pisses some folks off, but what I hope instead is it makes them think about it. 

When you look at the relationship of the Jews to the Nazi's who were the criminals and who were the actual victims?  When you ask a Jewish baker to provide a service, you are asking the victim to provide a service to their oppressor.  Is that the case of the religious public servant providing a service to a gay couple?

Look at the treatment of gays by Conservative Christians?  Look at the physical attacks, the claims of how evil and dangerous gays are, and how many time gays are accused of being child molesters.  How about 'conversion therapies' aimed at 'fixing' gay people.  Who is the actual victim and who is the oppressor here?  Do gays have a history of discriminating against Christians or is it the other way around.  And it's not history, it's current!  The discrimination goes on, especially when a public servant refuses service on the basis of her religious beliefs.  The clerk is the one doing the discriminating, gay couples are on the receiving end.

Conservative Christians like to claim there is an attack on Christianity in this country.  When their behavior is designed to refuse the same rights and privileges they take for granted to another group of US citizens, then they are right, it is an attack.  But it is one brought about by their own behavior and one they well deserve to lose.  It's not discrimination and they [Conservative Christians] aren't a victim!

In each case the real victims are the ones being painted in the negative light, yet it is the ones doing the painting who are claiming the mantle of 'Victim'.  Please give it some thought the next time you hear someone from the DI claiming that real scientists don't take them seriously, or someone who refuses to obey the law, particularly a public servant, who refuses to do their job because of their personal beliefs.  Identify who the real victim is, and it's not always the one claiming to be the victim!

Credit where Credit is due . . .

Credit where Credit is due  . . . is not the same thing as claiming credit for something, especially for something that really doesn't involve you.  The Discovery Institute seems to be trying to claim some sort of victory by crowing about how all they are doing is trying to teach critical thinking.  Anyone buy that?

A Nature article "The scientist of the future" makes the need for education improvement very clear and offers some actual ideas on it, like focusing on active learning and not just the recitation of knowledge.  What I find annoying is an article on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views website, 'Nature Agrees: Science Students Should "Actively Grapple with Questions" Not Just "Listen to Answers".'   First of all the article makes it sound like Nature is agreeing with them.  While the DI frequently uses the term 'Critical Thinking', are they really saying the same thing as Nature?  I don't think so. 

Let's talk about the DI's 'Critical Thinking' campaign. Actually it's less a campaign and more of a tag line that they use in rationalizing all their anti-science campaigns like 'Teach the Controversy', 'Strengths and Weaknesses', 'Academic Freedom', claiming 'discriminatory activities', and trying to 'discredit the Dover Trial decision', to name a few.  What anyone dealing with the DI needs to remember is their motivation is entirely religious. No matter what words they are using, everything is geared toward religion. While they keep trying to distance themselves from their religious motivations, all of that is smoke and mirrors. Their founding document, the Wedge Strategy, made it incredibly clear:

" . . .reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."
The reason I always bring this up is that when dealing with them -- either reading anything on their websites, their many press releases, their claims and counter-claims, published materials, and even just listening to them -- religion is at the heart of everything they do!  If you look at their words as encapsulated bits, they sound perfectly reasonable, but when placed within the context of their motivations, the meaning changes drastically.  Context counts, and the context of every action or word from the DI is based on their stated goal, which is certainly religious!  It's important to realize that -- because they also do their best to hide their religious motivations. 

Yes, it sounds a little strange, after all most theists are proud of what they believe in.  But you have to remember that since the Scopes Trial every time religion and science clashed in the courtroom over science education, science has won.  Think about Creationism mandates which lost in court, so they try and sell the idea of 'Creation Science', which failed due its obvious religiosity.  So the latest tactic is to try and hide the religious aspect of their ideas.  Intelligent Design is basically Creationism minus the mention of God.

But hiding their religious beliefs are nothing but a tactic, one they use to do their best in coming across as actually being interested in science, education, academic freedom, and free speech.  That's all 'critical thinking' is, a rationalization, just another tactic.  Since everyone knows 'critical thinking' is a good thing in education, they use it because it sounds like a reasonable voice in a crowd.  But are they really interested in critical thinking?

Consider that when they talk about critical thinking, they are arguing about critical thinking as it applies to evolution, not to science in general, and certainly not their own idea of Intelligent Design/Creationism.  Why is that?  Why do they only target one scientific theory?  Therein lies one clue.  They really don't care about actual critical thinking, they are just trying to get people to question the scientific theory of evolution. The assumption is that if evolution is off-target, the only thing left is Creationism.  It's like they are trying to create a vacuum so their ideas can be sucked right in.  But I have to ask, why do they never discuss critical thinking when it comes to Intelligent Design (ID)?

It's actually pretty easy to understand why they don't want anyone critically thinking about ID, because, to date, everyone who has critically thought about ID, has dismissed it -- unless they already agreed with it from a philosophical point of view.  That's an important distinction to make.  ID supporters do not tend to be people who actually think about ID.  They seem to be people who already believe and see ID as a mechanism to justify their beliefs -- so therefore they don't have to think about it.  They can market it, they can rationalize it, and they can whine and complain when it does get dismissed by people who don't already philosophically agree with it.  But what they seem to fail to do is anything that would actually support it from a scientific view.  In other words the actual work.  That's why critical thinkers about ID usually dismiss it, the component that makes an idea a scientific theory, the work, is missing.  If you already agree philosophically, you don't care.  But if you don't then you see the missing pieces and toss it in the same bucket as Astrology and the other pseudo-sciences.

New question, how many religious organizations want you to think critically about their religion? 

Can you see why I tend to classify the DI as a religious ministry rather than a think-tank of sorts.  Religious organizations rarely what you to actually think, unless your thinking agrees with what they are selling, period!  What happens when you look to hard and see things you don't like, or things you disagree with?  They boot you out!

Obviously ID supporters are not driven by a desire to improve science, but by the need to impose their religious viewpoint on science.  Go back to the wedge strategy quote I posted above:  " replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."  How much clearer do they have to spell it out?

If that were not enough, there are many other indicators of the religious underpinnings of ID and the DI:
  • ID supporters fail to formally identify the 'Intelligent Designer', but informally they often offer their opinion as it being the Christian God.  Funny how they usually offer those informal opinions when speaking with their constituents, usually conservative Christians. I see this as sort of a wink and a nod.  While they use the term 'intelligent designer', they wink and nod to their constituents so everyone understands who they really mean.  On the surface, their words say one thing, but once you factor in their religious motivations, it makes perfect sense.
  • At a conference in 1996, one of the men who started the modern Intelligent Design Movement, Phillip E. Johnson, said
"This isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science.  It's about religion and philosophy."
  • Have you ever noticed where they tend to hold their talks?  Religious schools and churches, usually at the sponsorship of various religious groups and religious themed revival meetings. 
  • How about where they tend to publish?  Not in scientific journals and presses, but publisher's religious imprints, the popular press, or they self-publish in their own in-house publisher.
  • What about what section their books tend to be placed in bookstores and libraries?  Not the science section, but the Christian Fiction section.  That's where I found "Signature in the Cell", and "Darwin's Doubt".
  • They hide the religious activities of bloggers on their site, like Heather Zeigler.
  • When an ID supporter has something negative happen to them one of their [the DI's] most common defense strategies is . . . freedom of religion.  Funny how when a non-ID supporter, like Chris Comer or John Stump, have trouble because of their support of real science, the DI never seems to say a word.
Oh, they have more and more rationalizations about all of these.  For example they claim to be rejected by scientific journals or presses, yet there seems to be scant evidence that they even try and get published there.  They prefer publishing venues where the requirement for supporting your writings is zero.  The 'reason' they talk to religious groups is because scientific groups are discriminating against them.  Their books are placed in Christian Fiction because the scientific community won't let them in.  You know, when everything you do requires a rationalization, you might reconsider some of your actions and decisions!

So while they like to try and align themselves with publications like Nature, the reality is their use of similar, or even identical, terms share very little with how Nature uses the terms.  Nature is interested in education, the DI is interested in imposing their religion onto science.  Once you look under the covers and see the religious motivations, the terms take on whole new meanings.  Context counts!

Monday, August 10, 2015

He's Back! Not Ahhhhnold, but Dr. 'Dino' himself!

Yes, it looks like Kent Hovind was released from jail and he's back at it, trying to recapture some of his limelight as a  . . .  well I'm not exactly sure how you would describe him.  In case the name doesn't ring a bell let me tell you a little about him.

'Dr.' Kent first came to my attention a few years back.  I was looking up some information on 'diploma mills' and the name 'Patriot University' came up, an uncredited correspondence school.  From a Wikipedia page about it, which is currently called 'Patriot Bible University' I read a little about their most illustrious graduate, 'Dr' Kent Hovind, AKA Dr. Dino.  As I read it, I really couldn't believe it.  Here's the part that cracked me up [I underlined the funniest bits]:

"Critics have described Hovind's dissertation as incomplete, of low academic quality, poorly written, poor in spelling, and of ungrammatical style. The lack of quality was ascribed, in part, to the fact that "the pages are not numbered; there is no title; of sixteen or so chapters in the index only the first four are finished; misspellings are rampant ("Immerged" for "emerged", "epic" for "epoch", and "tentable" for "testable" are three examples); and the single illustration was apparently cut out of a science book with scissors and fastened to the thesis with glue or tape."  Hovind's dissertation was approved by one person, Wayne Knight, who was and remains president of Patriot. "
This is the dissertation that Kent uses to defend his right to be called 'Dr'.  Now you also know why I always use quotes when calling Kent a 'Dr.'

So Kent is a very public figure as a Creationist and with a diploma from a very questionable source.  Before his legal trouble he won renowned for being one of the few Creationists even Kennie Ham and Answers in Genesis repudiated regularly.  I was originally expecting to like Dr. Dino, I mean anyone that can annoy Kennie Ham has to have some things on his side.  But as I learned more, I did not become a fan.

Now the reason his credentials got a close look was because he self-described himself as 'Dr Dino' in a website where he spouted off pretty typical creationist stuff, including a bunch of out-dated and discredited argument, which was what did in any relationship with Ham and his Answers in Genesis.  I mean they [Ham and Co.] prefer modern and up-to-date Creationist nonsense, not the old, outdated stuff Kent seemed to like.  But for some reason, when you self-identify yourself as a "Dr', the real people with actual doctorate level educational degrees tend to get annoyed.  You know, now that I think of it, I wonder if Kent signed the Discovery Institute's "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism", you know the petition where they misrepresented the qualifications of the people who signed (Since the "700" keeps coming up . . .)?  'Dr' Kent would have been a perfect fit.  To bad I don't have a copy of the original 700 who signed it.  The current list was modified after complaints about the education and affiliation inflation.  Oh well, that would have been hilarious!

Anyway, Kent found himself in legal trouble, lots of legal trouble and ran afoul of the IRS, among other government agencies.   He tried all sorts of tactics to avoid things like paying his taxes, obtaining building permits, and even tried to renounce his citizenship.  My favorite tactic of his was trying to claim that everything he owned belonged to God and therefore wasn't taxable.  Ken reminded me of an old joke:
Three ministers were talking over lunch and before long found themselves discussing how much of the weekly donations was appropriate to keep and how much to give to the Lord. The first minister says, “I just draw a line on the floor, put one foot on both sides, and throw the money into the air... whatever lands on the right side of the line is God’s and whatever lands on the left is mine.” The second minister notes that he uses a similar method, but “I use a small coffee table when I throw the money in the air and whatever lands on the table goes to the Lord and whatever lands on the floor is mine.” They both contemplate each other’s answer and finally turn to the third minister who is sitting there without saying anything. “Well, how do you do it?” asks the first to the third. “Well, I do as you both do and throw the money into the air, but I figure whatever the Lord wants, he’ll grab, and I keep whatever hits the floor.”
In any event, nothing worked and he went to jail.  Of course he didn't go quietly and his wife and son were even implicated, she also did a year in jail.  I think if Ken was born about 150 years ago, I can easily picture his with wagon going town to town preaching and selling one of those 'cure-all' tonics.

Well in any event, he's out of jail and apparently using the modern day equivalent of the traveling wagon, You Tube.  He's busy posting videos, spouting the same old silliness that got him called "an embarrassment to Young Earth Creationists."  There is the link if you need a good laugh.  Each one of his new ones runs over a half hour, so you might do one of them in small doses.  I personally was torn between laughter and vomiting at some of the more ridiculous things he said.  

I will say this, I doubt anyone from the science side will bother trying to refute his claims.  Here is someone Ken Ham can debate and it might actually do some good.  Think he'll try it?  There's a match-up "Dr. Dino vs little kennie ham", think that might sell a few tickets?  At least they would be well matched.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Kirk Pt IV: Scientism!

Kirk's back in his series on how bad science is and why we should just trust in God and forget all this thinking.  I mean where does thinking really lead you?  I guess curing disease, flying, the Internet would have all happened anyway if we had only given up on science and stayed on our knees, right?

Today's topic has the usual philosophical bent, and one he tries to broadly brush all of science in the worst possible way, "The Corrupting Influence of Scientism" is his latest and I think the most entertaining of his posts to date.

First of all what is 'Scientism', and the truth is no one really knows.  Here is a copy from Wikipedia on the many dictionary definitions of Scientism [I numbered them for easier reference]:

  1. The use of the style, assumptions, techniques, and other attributes typically displayed by scientists.
  2. Methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.
  3. An exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities.
  4. The use of scientific or pseudoscientific language.
  5. The contention that the social sciences, such as economics and sociology, are only properly sciences when they abide by the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences, and that otherwise they are not truly sciences.
  6. "A term applied (freq. in a derogatory manner) to a belief in the omnipotence of scientific knowledge and techniques; also to the view that the methods of study appropriate to physical science can replace those used in other fields such as philosophy and, esp., human behaviour and the social sciences."
  7. "1. The collection of attitudes and practices considered typical of scientists. 2. The belief that the investigative methods of the physical sciences are applicable or justifiable in all fields of inquiry.
When Kirk uses the term, he is using the 6th definition.  When he says 'Scientism' he is certainly using it in the most derogatory way possible.  This is another post that supports the DI tactic of "Teaching People to Mistrust Science".  The real question is Kirk's definition of 'Scientism' a significant problem?

Wait a minute, Kirk seems to change his definition of 'Scientism'?  In his very first post of this series of his "Should We Have Faith in Science?" he defined scientism as  . . . here, let me quote him:
"As a scientist, I am increasingly appalled and even shocked at what passes for science. It has become a mix of good science, bad science, creative story-telling, science fiction, scientism (atheism dressed up as science), citation-bias, huge media announcements followed by quiet retractions, massaging the data, exaggeration for funding purposes, and outright fraud all rolled up together. In some disciplines, the problem has become so rampant that the "good science" part is drowning in a mess of everything else."
I added the bolding and underlining so you can more easily pick out his comment.  So, in his first in the series, he defines 'scientism' as 'atheism', yet in this post, he changes to definition a bit. . . here, let me quote this definition from his current post:
"Scientism is the belief that science is the best and only trustworthy method to discover truth. Supernatural explanations are a priori ruled out. The result is atheism dressed up as science."
Oh, so now Kirk's problem of 'scientism' is not allowing supernatural explanations in science.  Things are taking a very different turn, isn't it?  Instead of addressing a belief in the omnipotence of scientific knowledge, refusing to allow supernatural explanations is the key to Kirk's complaint, no matter how he tries to dress it up.  Not sure I have things right, here's another quote from Kirk:
"Scientism lobotomizes the quest for knowledge by turning a blind eye to God and the supernatural."

So this whole discussion of 'Scientism' is nothing but a smokescreen Kirk used to hide his religious motivation, let's examine the root of his prejudice.  Don't worry, I'll return to the smokescreen later, but first a few words about why allowing supernatural explanations might be a problem.  While I could get into all sorts of things like philosophical and methodological naturalism, I want to focus on something much simpler and state categorically:  "I will support the inclusion of supernatural explanations in science when  supernatural explanations work!"  I know, if Kirk or his friends at the DI read this, they might quote-mine part of this line and use it to paint me as a theist who wants my science to include the supernatural, wouldn't that be fun!

But seriously, think about it, do supernatural explanations work?  While people like to claim the power of prayer, is it reliable?  Is it repeatable?  Is it even predictable?  Is any supernatural explanation, whether it is ghosts, parapsychology, or Creationism/Intelligent Design useful or even usable?  In a word, No!  If you cannot use it, what good is it in explaining the world around you?  Other than a warm feeling when you think the world aligns with some personal philosophy, it doesn't seem to produce any tangible results!

Look at how successful science is, and has been! Would science be as successful with the inclusion of the supernatural?  Hmmm, let's not forget how long did the supernatural did dominate our explanations of the world around us?  How successful were those explanations?  Not very!  Would expanding the definition of science to include the supernatural actually offer any realistic benefit, other than a warm feeling to people who believe in the supernatural?  That's exactly what Kirk is talking about.  Just like Michael Behe testified about during the Dover Trial.  While he [Behe] tap-danced around it in a variety of ways, in a nutshell he testified that to include Intelligent Design in science, the very definition of a scientific theory would have to be widened to the point where Astrology also being admitted.  That's pretty much what Kirk is asking for here, isn't he?  Scientism = Atheism, so let's add in religion and make science better!  But will it?  Sure doesn't have as good a track record as actual science!

I've asked this question before, but now I would to direct it to Kirk.  Kirk, do you actually put fuel in the fuel tank of your car?  Why do you do that?  You know why, and I know why, it's because of the science -- real usable, predictable, and repeatable science minus any supernatural explanations.  While you might pray when the needle gets close to 'E', it's the activity of putting more fuel in your tank that allows you to continue driving.  If you want to prove to supernatural explanations are just as reliable as natural ones, hop in your car and see how far you get on prayer!

Now, for fun, let's look at Kirk's smokescreen.  But not as defined by Kirk, but let's use definition #3:  "An exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities."  Can this be a problem?

It certainly can be!  I'm the first to admit, and I have said it time and time again, scientists are human beings and they are subject to all the perils and foibles that come with being human.  In other words, sometimes they screw up.  The over-application of any philosophy or prejudice can certainly impact any endeavor, even science.  But as I have also said time and time again, science has methodologies that help deal with the possibility to such prejudices affecting outcomes.  In fact now that I think about it, didn't I already discuss this in addressing one of Kirk's earlier posts?  Yes, here it is:
"What's interesting about Science is that is a self-correcting activity.  Think about it, science works, the explanations match the available evidence and when they can no longer do that, they get discarded.  That's the concept of being self-correcting.  When it doesn't work it gets kicked to the curb.  The road to an accepted scientific theory is littered with ideas and explanations that failed at some point.  Some of the possible reasons include Kirk's little diatribe.  When scientists are guilty of anything Kirk doesn't seem to like, their ideas end up among the discarded.  There is a level of actual scientific support required before ideas move forward, something ID proponents can't seem to reach."
So, another question for Kirk.  If we allow supernatural explanations in science, what are the methodologies to determine the success or failure of a supernatural explanation?   I didn't see anything in your post addressing this?  Did I miss something?  While you are a little entertaining, I have seen a common thread in your posts.  You like to whine, but have you offered one suggestion to improve science and scientific methodology?  Letting in the supernatural might give you a warm feeling, but will it improve science?

One last point, and one of my pet peeves, as you probably know.  Why is Kirk trying to throw religion into science and yet the DI, who are posting Kirk's mental meanderings, still insisting there is nothing religious about it?  I know, it should be glue by now, but until the DI comes clean about their motivations, I'll keep beating that dead horse!