Monday, September 14, 2009

More on Neurotic America

Talk about running scared! Evangelicals, particularly Biblical Literalists and Intelligent Design proponents have been unsuccessfully claiming that Science is afraid to allow an opposing viewpoint. Yet who is really scared?

Remember little bennie stein's abortion "Expelled:"? Well that seemed to have no trouble being distributed -- even though it wasn't much of a documentary or had much truth in with it's very parochial message. Yet another movie, one on a small portion of the life of Charles Darwin is having trouble finding a USA distributor because Darwin is 'controversial'. What a bunch of BS. It's the conservatives who fawned over bennie stein that are afraid of opposing views.

The movie, a drama not a documentary, is called "Creation" starring Paul Bettany and his real-life wife Jennifer Connelly. These are two amazing actors! I think I really enjoyed Bettany's take on Chaucer in "Knight's Tale" and as Silas in "The DaVinci Code" he was chilling. I have loved Jennifer Connelly since her turn in "A Beautiful Mind" and Kathy in "A House of Sand and Fog". I could have lived without seeing her in "Hulk" but even actors have to work. When I heard they were teaming up for this movie I was excited. Now I learn I may have to wait for the DVD because movie distributors are running scared of the conservatives which haven't much of a clue about reality anyway.

Eugenie Scott and the staff at the NCSE got to see it and her review is here on Panda's Thumb. I liked her points about the difference between a drama and a documentary, something bennie stein should note as well, but he never will. I can see why they are running scared. Anything that tells the truth about Charles Darwin would put a wrench into their tactics of proclaiming him a racist and Nazi. Since their tactic is just that, a tactic with no truth or facts to support it. I can see why they would be afraid.

Funny how the one side that CLAIMS the other is fearful tends to be the one the most afraid. Some serious projection going on.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Intelligent design to take over all studies

While this, "Intelligent design to take over all studies" is tongue in cheek, there is a certain amount of validity to the concept. We have seen the many and varied attacks on the Theory of Evolution. But remember the attacks have branched out many times to other scientific disciplines. The study of Geology has supported Evolution in many ways, and when anti-evolutionists question it, they are in fact attacking Geology. How about how many times has radiological dating, a branch of Physics, been attack for its support of both Evolution and Geology. Astronomy and Cosmology are frequently under attack by people like Guillermo Gonzales and the 'Privileged Planet' crowd. Abiogenesis is frequently used to attack Evolution, even though it is a separate area of study under Chemistry, not Biology.

So read and enjoy, but keep in the back of your mind that we are supporting a quality science education and to allow folks at the Discovery Institute, AIG, ICR, ARN, and the Thomas More Law Center, to name a few, to succeed in replacing science with pseudo-science, how long will it be before other educational disciplines get replaced by pseudo-disciplines? It's a serious matter, but even the most serious deserve the occasional light treatment, and this article is one of them. I loved it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And Missouri gets foolish as well

Remember the whole debacle when neighbor Kansas tried to change to basic definition of science so supernatural causation could be included, opening the way for Creationism and Intelligent Design into the science classroom? You might also remember that Kansas concerned citizens restored a level of sanity and voted off the school board members who were busy pushing their personal religions agenda.

Well things aren't perfect in the "The Show-me" State next door. Apparently a cleverly designed Tee-Shirt given to Sedalia's Smith-Cotton High School band members features the old traditional Evolution of Man depiction, only this time each member of the line was holding a brass instrument. the idea was to show the "Evolution of Brass". Very clever, possibly thought provoking, but I guess too much for some parents. The Sedalia-Democrat reported "Band shirts hit wrong note with parents".

One parent really showed her . . . mettle . . . "I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Sherry Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school." Can you believe that? I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school! It's much too late for that, Sherry. Missouri currently teaches Evolution in Biology. Your over-reaction to this tee-shirt just shows how closed your own mind is.

I am disappointed that the school took any complaints seriously. Evolution is not a religious topic, haven't you learned anything! Pulling the shirts because of the school policy to remain neutral on the topic of religion DOES NOT apply here.

More free speech goes out the window! I hope some students decided to keep the shirts, and it puts in regular appearances during the school year.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What the hell is wrong with this country?

Kristin Maguire, that bastion of Conservative values in South Carolina has resigned as head of the State School Board. That should be good news, but its not. Here is why.

Did she get into trouble when she circumvented policy and tried to derail the approval of pro-evolution biology textbooks? Oh no! Did she get into trouble pushing her conservative views on her "Parents Involved in Education" website? Oh no! Did she get into trouble for trying to push the lame "Teach the Controversy" nonsense? Oh No!

She allegedly used to write perfectly legal erotic fiction and post on one or more websites under a nom-de-plume. Officially she cited 'family duties', but the news of her hobby quickly followed.

I'm sorry! Yes, she should have been fired for her actions as chair. She should not have been pushed out for exercising her rights of free expression. She's living in a state governed by Mark 'let's lie and visit my Mistress in Argentina' Sanford. He didn't have to resign, yet she had to? This is wrong!

I disagree with her conservative politics. I disagree with her actions as the Chairperson of the SC School Board. In my opinion I don't agree someone who home schools her own kids can possibly lead the State School Board effectively. If I were a resident I would have been writing the Governor, State Senators and Representatives, and also watching her like a hawk! But come on folks, she didn't do anything that deserves this!

Why Intelligent Design is not science

The Multi-city Examiner recently ran three articles -- or at least three so far -- on why Intelligent Design is not science. I thought it was interesting, so here is a brief re-cap and the links to the three articles themselves.

Article 1: Why Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory:

(1) it does not offer a natural explanation for observed facts, (2) it does not make specific predictions about facts not yet observed, (3) It does not offer a testable hypothesis, and (4) It does not leave itself open to adaptation as new information arises.
Article 2: Intelligent Design, The Anti-Concept:
It exists only as an anti-concept to evolution. ID’s two main ideas are irreducible complexity and specified complexity, neither of which makes any sense unless used as a contrast to evolutionary theory. . . . They are ultimately just arguments from ignorance. Proponents of ID are saying that certain biological features had to be supernaturally created all at once if ID proponents can not imagine how they might have evolved. If scientists routinely accepted this kind of reasoning, there would be no forward progress in science at all. As soon as they came across something they could not explain, scientists would have to take that as proof that something supernatural happened, and research would end there.
Article 3: Intelligent Design's attacks on science:
Legitimate scientific theories stand on their own merits and have seldom if ever enlisted popular movements to lobby the scientific community. Scientists, like all humans, have their biases, but legitimate theories are considered, even when most scientists question their veracity. Having failed to mold ID so that it meets the criteria for a scientific theory, however, ID proponents have made coordinated efforts to undermine science itself. Many of their as yet unsuccessful efforts have made headlines.
Why is this debate so important to me? I think Mr. McAlpin's articles summed things up pretty well:
It is important, however, that only evidence-based reasoning be used in our classrooms and laboratories. All meaningful technological and medical progress has been the result of evidence-based experiments and argument, and allowing a faith-based concept to trump the evidence in biology would effectively undermine the goal of research: answering the unanswered questions. If ID proponents were successful, whenever science came up against a question for which it had no [immediate] answer, the supernatural would be used as an explanation, and research would end. That would not be science.
I did add the word 'immediate' in there, although that wasn't really necessary. I mean today even if there is a scientific answer, there are those who want to see it tossed out for one that is more theistic-friendly. But for the most part, I see plenty of the God-Of-The-Gaps arguments where people try and shoehorn God as an explanation just because we don't have a 100% perfect answer to a question today.

Well still trying to finish my visit to the Creation "Museum" and my final critique of the Stephen C. Meyer disaster book. Wish me luck and thanks for the patience.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Project Steve Update

Just got an email from the NCSE and they mentioned an update to 'Project Steve'. I thought it was done and gone, but nice to know it's continued. If you aren't familiar with it, it started pretty much as a twist on the Discovery institute 'Dissenting from Darwin' petition. You might remember that the 'Dissenting from Darwin' petition was presented to the State of Ohio and used during the Dover Trial as evidence that there are scientists who disagree with evolution (and support Intelligent Design). I put the second part in parentheses because the petition itself doesn't support Intelligent Design, but it was how the petition was marketed after the fact in which the DI tried to use it to show support for ID.

Well after something like 8 years the DI managed to gather up 700 signatories. And while they marketed them as 700 Doctoral Scientists, we learned that not only were they all not scientists, but some did not have a doctorate, and that many originally hide their affiliation with the Discovery institute when signing it. Plus very few of them were working in Biology at all.

To contrast that list a tongue-in-cheek petition called Project Steve started. The requirement to sign the list was that you had to be a scientists named Steve, or some cognates such as Stephanie, Esteban, Istvan, Stefano, or even Tapani -- the Finnish equivalent, were accepted. This represents about 1% of the population. This list is now at 1100 signatures and of over 54% of the signatories work in the biological sciences proper; 61% work in related fields in the life sciences. (Survey in 2006).

One point to make, while it was started as a parody, the statement these scientists signed is serious.

"Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."
This was not a wishy-washy Dissent from Darwinism, which is pretty much NOT a statement against evolutionary theory nor one in support of Intelligent Design. In fact it pretty well means nothing at all. Here it is, read it for yourself:
"A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism
"We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
Pretty much a non-committal statement. Some of the signatories have asked that their name be removed because at the time, they had no idea what the Discovery institute represented, or how this list was going to be used. In response to complaints about the list, the DI changed how it was represented on their website and pretty much made it worth even less . . . but they still like to use it to make people think there is some hotbed of controversy over biological evolution. It may be a political hot-potato, it certainly is not a scientific one.

OK, for more information on Project Steve, please click here: If you really need to see the Dissenting petition, please go here: For fun you can also read the following Blog posts (here, here, here. and especially here) about the dissent list, which link to the material explaining how the list has been mis-represented over the years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Creation 'Museum' a lesson in being Defensive

Back in college we discussed ‘Defense mechanisms’ in Psych and Management classes. The reason was recognizing when people are being defensive, you stand of better chance of dealing with it, rather than just dealing with their behavior. Here are a few examples that might take you back to your college Psych classes.

  • Denial – refusing to accept an external reality because it is too threatening.
  • Distortion – a gross re-shaping of external reality.
  • Projection - attributing one's own unacknowledged unacceptable/unwanted thoughts.
  • Repression - memory lapse or lack of awareness of one's own situation and condition.
  • Regression: Temporary reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development.
  • Rationalization: Where a person convinces of a position based on faulty and false reasoning.
Any of these ring any bells?

Well if you need to see defense mechanisms in action you really need to travel to the Creation ‘Museum’, I was there just a couple of weeks ago and while I had planned this long drawn out post about . . . well everything . . . I kept looking for some common theme that would help me make sense of the place. I hit it when I realized that what I was looking at was an exercise in defensive behavior. I saw Denial, Distortions, Projection, and lots and lots of Rationalization. My wife caughht it before me, which is pretty normal. She made a comment about Ken Ham living in a world of denial. It really didn’t sink in until I started looking at the photos I took and spent more time reading the plaques that accompanied many of the ‘exhibits’ and it really hit me, the whole ‘Museum’ is a defense mechanism. It’s designed to keep the real world at bay while kennie and his pals entrench themselves even deeper into their own world. I mean take a look at this:

This is a replica of the Burning Tree Mastodon, one of the most complete mastodon's discovered right here in Ohio.

Here is the write-up from the plaque.

In case you can't read the text, especially the right side, here is a blow-up of it:

Without any support whatsoever he [kennie ham] hits you with the nebulous 'kind' that God created, hits it with a date of 'about' 6,000 years ago, and the mythical 'Genesis Flood' as if they were fact.

If you do just 30 seconds of research you will find that there is a lot of evidence that this particular mastodon lived over 11,000 years ago. Just check out this site "BURNING TREE MASTODON" from the Newark campus of Ohio State University and lists 20 scientific documents supporting their information.

What I also find funny is the AIG website ( about the Burning Tree Mastodon doesn't mention anything like what was on the plaque.

Are you getting the same feeling I'm getting. Kennie needs to deny, distort, and rationalize his position. So without any scientific support at all, he just makes it up as he goes along.

We then come to the central theme for his 'museum', the 'same facts different views' argument, as if they are equal points of view. Here is the biggest self-delusional aspect, he actually expects people to accept that when one of his pet 'Creation Scientists' says something, and a real scientists disagrees, they are equal points of view. That is not true!

Let me explain this. When a scientist says a fossil is 70 million years old, they are not just offering an opinion, they are offering so much more. It's not the fossil itself, it's the rock the fossil was found in, it's the chemical analysis of the fossil and the rock. It's the placement in the geological strata. It's the type of fossil and the region it was found in. Can you see why there were over 20 scientific documents about the Burning Tree Mastodon? It's not someone uncovering it and offering an opinion, it's a period of study from multiple scientists in more than just the Paleontology discipline. And what do you have on the side of the Creation 'Scientist'? An opinion based on a religious point of view that allows them to deny, distort, and rationalize.

Need more? How about the Dinosaurs playing next to a kid? Do you think I am kidding? It's in the main area while you wait to get in line for the 'Museum' hike. Now how is this possible? Of course we have NEVER discovered a fossil that could support this position. And how does kennie rationalize why the kid isn't 'lunch'? Well because everything, and I mean everything, was a vegetarian up until Adam messed things up.
So in reality it doesn't matter to kennie what the evidence shows, he will simply deny, distort, and rationalize it all the way he wants. Even when it disagrees with the text in the Bible. Like where did Cain's wife come from? I recall this unnamed woman being from the "Land of Nod". Does kennie mention this? Nope. Since Adam and Eve are the parents of all humans, Cain's wife was his sister. But that raises a whole 'nother issue, inbreeding. How does kennie deal with it? Let's distort and rationalize. (BTW this next photo is a cut and paste from three photos. I wanted to get all the text readable)

More in another post, but I wanted to get the defensive stuff off my chest. :-) Next up Noah's Flood and kennie's whine against the rest of the religious world! Here are links to my first two posts about the Creation 'Museum', aka ken ham's folly.

Holocaust denial == Intelligent Design

I can't wait for the hue and cry from the Discovery Institute on this one. I know, I know, I am way behind on posting and still owe the rest of the Meyer's book and the visit to the Creation 'Museum', I promise I am working on it. In the meantime, you can enjoy this as much as I did.

A blog entry by Jason Rosenhouse over on his EvolutionBlog called "The Times Hearts Richard Dawkins" on Dawkins new book "The Greatest Show on Earth". In it Dawkins equates Holocaust Denial with Intelligent Design/Creationism. His point, and one I agree with, has nothing to do with a 'moral' equivalency, but the tactics of evidence denial each has to go through in order to find acceptance.

"It is impossible to argue consistently that the Holocaust never happened except by ignoring or faking the historical evidence"
See the parallels? How many times have the deliberate ignoring of evidence been a part of the pushing of Intelligent Design/Creationism? How can anyone believe the Earth is only 6000 years old? That logs taken down by the 'global flood' transported animals to the far corners of the Earth, how evolution cannot increase information? How many other arguments are a deliberate denial of the mountain of evidence from multiple scientific disciplines that support the Theory of Evolution? The list is pretty much endless. Plus it's not just denial, but the fabrication of 'evidence' and the creation of rationalizations to support it -- remember, I just recently visited the Creation 'Museum'.

Let's remind you of a few more, just for fun. How many times has the Lady Hope urban legend been brought up? How many times has a strawman representation of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics been used to 'disprove' Evolution? How often has Abiogenesis been equated to Evolution in order to try and tear down evolutionary theory? 747's anyone? Water canopy? Hammite migration? We can go on for a long, long time.

The only way to deny the Holocaust happened is to deny the evidence. The only way to deny the scientific validity of Evolutionary Theory is to deny the evidence. There certainly are similarities, even if such a usage is a bit inflammatory.

So why did this catch my eye? Well because of people like Ham and Klinghoffer who keep trying to use evolutionary theory as an excuse for racism and Nazism. Anyone else find that interesting?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Klinghoffer has a new hero -- Charles Manson

I guess shilling for the boss wasn't enough, because according to David Klinghoffer, Charles Manson is an evolutionist! His syllogism knows no boundaries. If you can stomach it, read it for yourself at his BeliefNOT column.

Of course he tries to temper his wandering of the mind with this closing comment:

"No, obviously, as if it needs saying, I am not in any way blaming gentle Charles Darwin for murderous Charles Manson. But the present anniversary does remind us of another stitch, a bizarre one, in the fabric of Darwinism's moral legacy."
Sure, he's not 'blaming Darwin', but he calls this another 'fabric of Darwinism's moral legacy'. Sounds like he's doing more than blaming him!

Here's another one, Danny, Charles Manson and Charles Darwin share the same first name . . . more evidence! Wow, I just noticed that Daniel Klinghoffer and David Berkowitz have the same number of syllables in their names . . .coincidence? I think not!

BTW, Danny, just in case you think I was paying you a compliment, one of the common definitions of syllogism is "a subtle, specious, or crafty argument". IMHO 'specious' applies here, and so does 'vacuous', 'inane', and 'asinine'. I will leave it to you to look those words up. Trust me, they are not complimentary.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Creation 'Museum' first Impression

I know I am remiss in posting more about the trip to the Creation 'Museum', but time seems to be one of the things lacking recently. I did want to write up my initial impression. More will follow.

The grounds were nice; in fact the Nature Walk behind the 'museum' was the nicest part of the facility. The building itself is nice, modern, a semi-circular shape around an open area. Off to one side was the covering the Secular Students Alliance (SSA) was using for check in. One of the things I immediately noticed was the volume of security guards. I counted 7 in the open area alone, and one had a dog sniffing for whatever. What I found interesting was how many times (4) I got interrupted as I wandered over toward the SSA tent. Two guards and two other people stopped and offered me assistance as I got nearer and nearer. One specifically asked if we were with a group and when I said no, she got between us and the SSA covering and tried to push me toward the main entrance.

Ticket price was high, over $20, for what amounted to a walk. That I think was one surprise and disappointment. Once we got tickets we entered the line. OK, no biggie, I expected once we gained entrance into the 'museum' proper, I would be in a museum. Not so. This is unlike any museum I have ever been in, and I have been in museums across the country. This reminded me more of a trip made years ago to the Bayard Cutting Arboretum.

The Bayard Cutting (named for William Bayard Cutting) is basically an estate with very extensive landscape collection of trees and other plants. It's surprisingly small and you walk on a very well defined path and could not stray from it -- which makes sense in order to protect the grounds and plants. I don't know what the Bayard is like today; my visit was a long time ago. But I remember the clever use of the paths to both protect the plants and maximize your enjoyment of what you were seeing. Like many such places each plant/tree was appropriately labeled so you can actually learn something about the item, it's habitat and the care and feeding of it. It reminded me of a zoo for plants more than anything.

Now museums are set up very different. First of all most of them consist of space, space to stand there, space to contemplate the exhibits. Frequently there are benches of other places where you can just sit and take in the surroundings. I recall sitting in front of a painting at the Dayton Art Institute for an hour just to take it all in. (Mattia Preti's "The Roman Empress Faustina Visiting St. Catherine of Alexandria in Prison") If you expect something like that, you will be disappointed in the Creation Museum. Once you pass the ticket checker, you remain in line until you are dumped out into the gift shop. The museum is one long path, and pretty narrow. It's not designed to do anything except tell the story of Genesis according to Kennie Ham. It's not designed to educate only elucidate his very narrow viewpoint. So rather than having the time to sit back and actually examine exhibits, you constantly feel to push from the people behind you who wish to occupy the space you are in as the space in front of you opens up. It was disconcerting and not a pleasant way to see much of anything. So from this point of view, it's less a museum and more of a zoo. Which is why I took lots of pics of the text, so I could read more of it at my leisure -- especially the part about where Cain got his wife.

The other thing I have come to expect of museums is real exhibits, not just mock-ups and phony fronts. For example there is a Mastodon, the Burning Tree Mastodon, in the front area, where you first join the line. It's a replica. Later is a mock up of an 'archeologist' digging up a fossil, mock-up. In fact I don't recall a single actual piece of evidence of any historical or scientific nature. It was all mock-ups, all plaster and wood, all painted. Museums are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artifacts and specimens -- not a place where your engineers build everything! Yes, I know many museums build an appropriate set to show off many exhibit items, but at the Creation 'Museum' all you get is set, no substance, only the facade. In contrast the nearby Cincinnati Natural History Museum has many actual fossils and even a wonderful exhibit on Charles Darwin that contains many of his personal and scientific artifacts. You can see some of his original notebooks and even some of his collection. These are not show pieces but a part of history. You feel a level of awe that is completely missing as you shuffle from one set to the next in kennie's folly.

The last surprise was one I mentioned at all already, the overwhelming level of security. I haven't seen this much security since 9-11. They were everywhere. It does make me wonder if the extra security was because of the Secular Students Alliance was visiting or what. I found the SSA to be a reserved group who engaged in some quiet conversation in the exhibits. I thought their behavior was exemplary and the show of force was completely unnecessary. Normally security in museums is relatively unobtrusive and designed to protect the exhibits themselves. Here the security was intrusive and focused on the guests rather than the exhibits. But I guess when all your exhibits are a mock-up, there isn't much there that cannot be replaced.

OK, more later. Just want to keep posting. It was interesting, not very educational. A bumper sticker in the schlocky gift shop said "Come see and Believe!". Well I saw and I still do not believe the Creation 'Museum' has any right to call itself a Museum.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I'm back . . .and spent an interesting day

I know I haven't been around. This past month, especially the last two weeks have simply been hell at the office. But things are quieting down a touch, I decided to take a day off and do something strange, and at the same time get back into blogging about my favorite subject. So here goes. . .

I don't know if you heard, but PZ Meyers paid a visit to Ken Ham's folly, the Creation 'Museum'. Since it is in my neck of the woods, my wife and i dropped down to Northern Kentucky and took in the place as well. It was educational, although I am pretty sure it wasn't educational in the way little kennie intended. I do tend to write more later, so let me leave you with a couple of images:We were met with this sign as we approached the entrance. I assume this is in response to the visit from PZ Meyers' group 'The Secular Student Alliance". Oh well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I will lay odds PZ's group either laughed, rolled their eyes, or ran up to get pics. I saw a large group, including PZ heading that way, so I assume the third, but I will take odds that the first two happened as well.
I also ran into a gentlemen whose name I missed. He gave me the above button! If anyone has his name and email, i would greatly appreciate it! It is my fault I missed his name, my ears have been acting up . . . allergies causing them to be partially blocked. It's frustrating and in a large group environment like ken's folly, I have trouble hearing. I even missed some of my wife's comments -- which i will probably pay for at a later date.
One last image, please look at the hours of the Creation Museum. Anyone see anything funny? Can anyone tell me why they are open on Sundays? Oh I am sure little kennie will say something like the 'museum' is really a ministry and therefore equates to attending services. But sorry, it doesn't wash. Fine, he can call himself a 'High Priest', or whatever, and work himself on Sunday. But should that include the security, ticket folks, guides, and the cafe folks? I know, kennie can justify anything to himself, as he proved in post "Turnabout is Fair Play". But that still doesn't make it right.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

David Kinghoffer is a shill

I guess sales haven't met Discovery Institute expectations because David Klinghoffer is shilling Stephen Meyer Book "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design ". I know, I know I said I would not post about David for a while, actually what I said was that I would wait until he did "really, really stupid". I think this fully qualifies.

So David, another member of that less-than-august group over at the Discovery Institute, is shilling for his boss. In case you didn't know Meyer is the current vice-president of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, the ID group over at the DI. His background a BS in Geology and a Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science. Right there should be a clue that the book David is shilling is probably pretty weak on real science and long on philosophy. Of course it will have lots and lots of scientific-sounding words and phrases designed to make the layperson think it's actually science.

Let us also not forget that Meyer was central to the Richard Sternberg peer-review controversy, the '44 peer-reviewed' Ohio issue, and one other lie for Jesus claiming that the Santorum Amendment was part of the "No Child Left Behind Bill" and stated that Ohio was required to teach ID as part of it's science curriculum.

Sorry, guess I need to say more about Meyer here than David, but then how much do you have to say about a shill. I suggest David tell his boss that if he wants Intelligent Design to be taken seriously that he should quite writing and start actually performing the science needed to support his ideas. For some reason David, Stephen, and the rest over at the DI seem to have skipped that part of their education.

For the record I have commented on the announcement of Stephen's latest minimalist effort and I will be posting more on it as I finish wading through it. So far, I am less than impressed. The best thing I can say is poor Stephen has so far met my expectations -- but believe me, that is not a compliment.

23 July update: Just read that PZ Myers is going to take David up on his 'offer'. This should be interesting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Science and Religion Compatibility

A question that gets asked frequently is are science and religion compatible. The answer, to me, is an unequivocal 'sometimes'. I know, sounds pretty wishy-washy to me as well, but allow me a moment to explain.

When some people are asked about this issue they remind us that many scientists were/are also religious and than many theologians were/are also scientists. You know from that context, science and religion are completely compatible.

OK, so that leads to the question of when are science and religion not compatible? I think the issue there isn't so much that they are incompatible as philosophies, I think the problem is in how we use them. I'm not sure I am being clear. Let me try again. When one uses science to determine an answer to an issue one uses a methodology based on logic and reasoning. When one determines an answer based on religion one is using faith. Here is the problem, what if they are examining the same issue and the answers are different? Do we then have a conflict between science and religion? We most certainly do.

I think the question to me is 'should we?' That one I am not sure how to answer. Because of my own background I am uncomfortable assigning specific actions to God. I mean I cannot prove God helped me find a job, meet my wife, or . . . well you have your own list of things you might feel God intervened for you. But while you might have offered thanks to God, you really cannot prove that God helped you out, it's a matter of faith. So from my own worldview, there really isn't much of a conflict. I don't tend to put a lot of credence in assigning responsibility to God, and therefore I am rarely conflicted over it.

However there are other worldviews, and asking someone to change their viewpoint is tantamount to asking them to accept a new religion -- hence the conflict.

There are lots of arguments about science being nothing but another religion -- which I completely disagree with for reasons you can read about in many other posts. But the bottom line is that we are never going to eliminate conflict. The best we can hope for is to limit the arena for airing the conflict. The public school science classroom is not the appropriate arena for airing this conflict. It is not an issue of free speech, it is not an issue of academic freedom. The public school science classroom should be reserved for those things determined through logic and reason. Students should learn the methodology and history of scientific thought as well as exploring the different sciences themselves.

I can still remember testing thermodynamics by heating and bending tubes of glass, dissecting my first frog, mixing chemicals that overflowed the test tube, much to the dismay of my Chemistry teacher Mr. Kennedy. I remember my sister's test of whether or not commercial mouthwashes killed germs, to some surprising results! These can be exciting things and should not be withheld from students because some members of some religious groups wish to require their worldview as the only one!

Science does not drive people away from religion, I believe that religions are perfectly capable of driving people away themselves. I also believe that people who don't like the answers they get from science may be drawn toward a particular religious viewpoint. People who fear other viewpoints do more damage to their own than I could ever do.

Conflicts will continue, the best we can hope to is minimize the impact to education. We do that by setting standards, training our teachers, and monitoring and mentoring to insure the standards are met. We hold workshops to help teachers address controversial issues. We publicly address this issue in school board meetings, articles, letters to the editor, and even blogs. We elect officials to support a quality science education and when needed we seek redress when that education is compromised. Plus if our worldview conflicts with that, we can always elect to send our children to a non-secular school that supports only our viewpoint.

Like I said conflicts will happen, but they should not happen at the expense of the education of our kids.(image source)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kennie Ham did do something positive

Well positive for me anyway. I commented on PZ Meyers' blog Pharyngula , and linked back to an older post about Ken Ham being his typical hypocritical self and the hits and page views started climbing. Oh I know I won't get the coverage PZ Myers gets, but it was certainly a surprise to me. But I guess a lot of PZ's readers are interested with Ken Ham gets on a roll.

So that is how to increase blog page traffic! Just post a comment and link to your own blog on Pharyngula! I did yesterday and the hits on my blog more than doubled. I also set a new distance record and had a reader from Adelaide, South Australia, 10,200 miles away. OK, I promise not to abuse my new found power, I mean I have commented over on Pharyngula often, just usually not with a link.

I took a quick look back and I have posted quit a bit about little kennie, from his hypocrisy to the little debacle with the Cincinnati Zoo. I also notice something this week. The Cincinnati Museum has a special exhibit on dinosaurs. I took my granddaughter down there and she LOVED it. But I also noticed a new billboard highlighting dinosaurs from the Creation Museum. I wonder if any poor soul [pun intended] intended on hitting the Cincinnati Museum and accidentally found themselves following the billboard to the Creation Museum? It's not that far away. Here, take a look:
The directions are in the large print. At 65 miles per hour, you might not even notice the organization. Some folks might get suspicious because you have to cross a bridge into Kentucky, but then the Cincinnati Airport is in Kentucky as well.

Thanks again PZ for the boost in viewership and I guess thanks also to kennie ham for being such an all-around hypocrite.

Also noted is a fun website, The Unicorn Museum, who wished to place this billboard near the Creation Museum:
Wouldn't that just irritate the hell outa little kennie?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Casey Strikes out

More out of curiosity than anything else, I read through the rest of Casey Luskin's paper on various court cases (already blogged about it in general here Luskin's Turn). I was really curious how he commented on the Dover Court Case.

He opens with a summary that is actually a pretty good summary. But as he dove into his commentary, I think he missed a point. One of the factors that he missed completely is when the court examined what an impartial observer would take from the disclaimer the School Board wanted read. He completely ignored that part of the trial that determined that a typical student would hear the disclaimer and take it as an indictment against the Theory of Evolution.

I also think Casey missed the boat with his own disclaimer trying to absolve the Discovery Institute of their involvement. Yes, when it reached a point of Trial, the DI backpedaled with the best of them and tried to dissuade the School Board from their action. But up until that point they were involved, and advised, and provided the text book 'Of Pandas and People" that was so central to the case. Lauri Lebo made an interesting point in her book "The Devil in Dover" that during the trial the school board members seemed to be waiting for support from the DI that never materialized. The DI did the same thing with the school teacher/soccer coach in Tejon CA. After the suit was filed they claimed to have advised them to settle. But how much pushing and coaching did the teacher received before that point? We will never know because it didn't actually come to trial, but I believe the DI was one of the sources for the videos supporting ID that she was planning on showing.

Now I always thought Casey was a lawyer, well he must be out of practice because I see nothing wrong with the Court setting up their ruling as a primer for other Courts. They did it

" . . . in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us."
So apparently Casey would prefer to be able to hold this trial over and over again. Talk about a waste! You know when the outcome would be different? If those sluggards over at the DI would get off their collective butts and try and do some actual science. I mean look at it, a Federal Judge, a Conservative Federal Judge could not rule in their favor! A Judge so conservative that many people thought the trial was a slam dunk -- until it actually got underway. If they can't win in that courtroom, where could they win? So the Judge making a sweeping decision that went beyond the bounds of the immediate case is perfectly reasonable. in fact many cases are so decided in order to do exactly what Judge Jones tried to do -- set a precedent other Courts can look to for guidance. That's part of the whole judicial process!

But in reality, I bet Casey and his friends would love this to be tried in school districts across the country. Sooner or later the odds would grant them at least a temporary victory and they would just go insane! However Courts have been forever making their rulings with an eye towards the future. the case may not be binding outside of the small Pennsylvania area, but it's impact has been felt across the country. That is what Casey and his pals do not like!

Here is one of the funny things to me. If the Judge had ruled that ID was science, would Casey and his cohorts have been complaining about a lack of judicial restraint? Oh Hell No! They would have been crowing like roosters! Instead they have to attack a conservative judge and accuse him of a lack of judicial restraint and judicial activism mainly because they got their collective butts handed to them.

I love this quote of Casey's:
"The judicial over-reach and activist, policy-making intentions of the judge may cause other courts to question whether the Kitzmiller ruling represents carefully considered legal work."
Of course he never answers this question, he just tried to raise it as a doubt and then just walks away. Does he support this comment? No! Does he offer evidence that other courts are not going to consider this case? No! He simply tries to cast a shadow of doubt and then leaves you hanging. This a a common gambit to raise doubt in a readers mind where there really isn't any.

Here is another one:
"Another aspect of the Kitzmiller ruling that may cause jurists to doubt its persuasiveness is the fact that over 90% of its celebrated section on whether ID is science was copied verbatim or nearly-verbatim from the plaintiffs’ “Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law,” proposed by attorneys working with the ACLU.277 While there is no question that courts are permitted to draw upon such documents when constructing rulings and that such behavior does not constitute any kind of unethical “plagiarism,” case law suggests that large-scale judicial copying is highly disapproved of by courts,278 even when the extent of the copying does not provide grounds to overrule the lower court."
OK, this one circulated quite soon after the ruling was published. Judge Jone did copy a great deal of information form the plaintiffs findings of facts. However, there is nothing wrong in this. But look at Casey's wording: "may cause", "verbatim or nearly-verbatim", "While there is no question that courts are permitted to draw", "unethical 'plagiarism' ", and "suggests". How mealy mouthed can one lawyer get? Without coming out and saying it he, and the others at the DI, didn't like that the judge used the winners documents as a basis for the ruling. I do love the slipped in 'nearly-verbatim' line. So if you use words that are similar and mean the same thing, are you being 'nearly-verbatim'? Only a lawyer can tell you -- but be prepared for a long confusing session.

Casey also thinks, and I use that word loosely, that
"The Kitzmiller ruling was predicated upon a false definition of intelligent design."
I have to disagree. The definition before the Court was the presented by both Michael Behe and Scott Minnich. Even though the DI didn't like the caveats they had to use under cross-examination, it was pretty clear that ID involves supernatural causation, even if the official definition of the DI doesn't use those terms, they were clearly evident in the trial transcript. Here is a quote from Judge Jones' ruling with appropriate references made by the defense witnesses:
" . . . defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to “change the ground rules” of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller); 21:37-42 (Behe)). Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich))."
This article, at least specifically where Casey discusses the Dover Trial. does not represent an objective look at the trial and how a teacher, lawyer, or other policy maker should see it. It represents a very specific spin on the trial that is not represented in the ruling nor the results of the ruling. Over 3 years since the trial and Casey and his buds are still trying to spin things their way.

How about something a bit more positive!

I noticed a decided negative thread running through some of my posts. I guess when you are commenting on things said by folks like Luskin, Klinghoffer, and Dembski you certainly do tend to see the negative. So how about something positive and very interesting. I wish I were in South Florida to attend this . . .Hmm, OK South Florida in July . . . maybe not, but the event would be well worth attending. I wonder if other schools will pick up on it?

"Teacher workshop to focus on controversial science topics" is an article addressing a workshop designed to assist teachers with "such thorny topics as evolution." The workshop is sponsored by the Hillsborough County School District at the South Florida's College of Education. Speakers will cover such topics as "The Glorious History of Creationism in Florida," "Cognitive Biases and Misconceptions of Students" and "Controversial Issues Outside of Evolution." Participants will also include the National Center for Science Education, Florida Citizens for Science and the Coalition for Science Literacy.

While a large part of me wishes such seminars were unnecessary, the past couple of years blogging and commenting on the subject taught me that they are not only necessary, but should be happening in many parts of the country. Good on the Hillsborough County School District and the South Florida's College of Education!

Hypocrisy and ID

Just wanted to bring your attention to an a article in at by Ken Hoover, "Intelligent Design is Creationism." He highlights many of the same points I have on the inherent dishonesty of the Discovery Institute. I simply loved how he put it:

" . . .the deceit of those in this movement, and as I'm fond of saying, how can people trust these individuals when they've been exposed for the hucksters they are?"
He asks a valid question, how can ANYONE trust these hucksters? I can't answer it for anyone but myself and the answer is a resounding "I don't trust them." I have read way to much of their nonsense from published work to their own news releases. I have commented on Luskin, Wells, Dembski, Johnson, Nelson, Klinghoffer, and Behe in the past and probably will again in the future. I will continue to read and make my opinion known.

Of the entire crowd the only one who I think retains a modicum of respectability is Behe. I disagree with his methodology and the fact he hasn't actually done the work to support his ideas, but at least I haven't found him mis-representing the work of others. Can the rest say that? Just recently Dembski tries to turn Alfred Russel Wallace's words into support for the Intelligent Design Movement. David Klinghoffer tried to revise history and claim Thomas Jefferson was an ID advocate. The whole DI tactic of associating Darwin and Evolution with Nazism and Racism is another example of misrepresentation. These are tactics that I haven't seen Behe supporting.

Bottom line is still that Intelligent Design is not scientific, it is a religious proposition. As a result it does not belong in the science classroom. Until folks like Behe do the scientific work to support their ideas, then it remains a pseudo-science. What Behe also needs is folks like Dembski, Klinghoffer, Luskin, and the rest, to get the hell out of the way. They keep muddying up the water.

I also think Behe needs to disassociate himself with the Discovery Institute. He gets painted by the same huckstering brush every time that 'senior fellow' tag is put next to his name. I think the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) is not the place for him. I know why they want him, I mean an actual scientist with a real PhD in a scientific field, one with tenure and holds a teaching position! But I think there are fundamental disagreements on what Behe believes and the goals of the IDM.

I really don't believe Behe will ever succeed in supporting his ideas on firm science. I think he will come to that realization someday. But he has to get up and do the work first. Who knows, he might prove the case for Design, he might even prove the case for Intelligence behind it. At that point I will be petitioning my local and state school board to include ID into the curriculum. But until that day happens, the DI needs to quit their huckstering!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gov Perry doesn't step out very strongly

Last month I posted about Don McLeroy finally being ousted as the head of the Texas State School Board. I also speculated that Cynthia Dunbar might be his replacement, which in my opinion would have kept Texas mired in the McLeroyesque foolishness. Well it looks like Gov Perry made his choice and I think he seriously wimped out (Breaking News: Perry Picks Lowe to Head SBOE). He didn't appoint Dunbar, which would have been like watching two garbage trucks on ice -- you know a disaster is coming, just not sure where and when. He also didn't do the smart thing and appoint someone genuinely concerned about educating Texas school children. He appointed Gail Lowe, another republican. But according to the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) isn't much of a leader and spent most of her time in lockstep with Donnie. Not a good sign.

The TFN posted these highlights to give Texans and idea of what Perry just did to them:

  • In 2004 Ms. Lowe opposed requiring that publishers obey curriculum standards and put medically accurate information about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention in new high school health textbooks. [Let me guess this straight, she was opposed to publishers following the rules established for them to follow?]
  • In 2007 Ms. Lowe voted to throw out nearly three years of work by teacher writing teams on new language arts standards. Over the strenuous objections of teachers and curriculum specialists, Lowe instead voted for a standards document that the board’s far-right bloc patched together overnight and slipped under hotel doors the morning of the final vote. [Sounds a lot like McElroy's "We need someone to stand up to the 'experts' line.]
  • In 2003 and 2009 Ms. Lowe supported dumbing down the state’s public school science curriculum by voting to include unscientific, creationist criticisms of evolution in science textbooks and curriculum standards. [Yup, not thinking for herself, but following McElroy way to closely.]
Well I guess she will 'appreciate' having Dunbar and McLeroy there to look over her shoulder. Sorry Texas, you didn't get what you needed, and after the McLeroy malarkey, I don't think you deserved this slap in the face. Personally I think Perry was simply pandering to his hardcore right-wing supporters. he knew Dunbar was a non-starter, but had to pick a Conservative to keep up his support. So there we have it, Gail Lowe, head of the Texas State School Board. keep a sharp eye on her folks!

Luskin's turn

IMO Casey Luskin's latest is short on . . . intellectual honesty. Let's see the organization that is promoting Intelligent Design and attacking Evolution as often as they can puts out an article to 'help' lawyers and teachers understand the arguments. So to be clear, Casey himself, that less-than-a-paragon-of-honesty is going to give a fair and unbiased position paper to help lawyers and teachers? This I gotta see.

Oooooppppps, I can't! The Hamline University Law School website is not open to the public. SO I can't get to the article. Just out of curiosity, I tried a search for 'Luskin' and a search for the title of his article "Does Challenging Darwin Create Constitutional Jeopardy? A Comprehensive Survey of Case Law Regarding the Teaching of Biological Origins" and both came up with nothing. Not really sure if that means anything, but given Casey's history I would be wary of anything that I can only find on a Discovery Institute website.

Before we get started, here is the link supposedly to the Hamline University Law Review. You can back-check me on finding Casey's article. "
Does Challenging Darwin Create Constitutional Jeopardy? A Comprehensive Survey of Case Law Regarding the Teaching of Biological Origins", vol. 32(1):1-64 (Winter, 2009)

In the mean time I will bite the bullet and look at the article as posted on the Center for Science and Culture (The Discovery Institute's Intelligent Design promoters) website.

Damn, the very first line sets up Casey's spin:

"The teaching of biological origins in public schools remains a contentious scientific, cultural, and legal debate"
Cultural debate, certainly! in fact that is the heart of the whole problem, one culture trying to push its belief system on the rest of us and trying to use science to do it. Legal debate? Yes again. The actions of the DI and their supporters have once again drawn us into the legal activities, as evidenced most recently by Dover PA which I am sure will be mentioned in Casey's little missive. However scientific? No! There is no debate over the scientific aspects of the debate. Intelligent design is not science, it has never been science and if the few actual scientists over at the DI don't shut people like Luskin up and get into the lab to do real scientific work, it will never be science. In other words there is no scientific debate.

What I think Casey missed is the political debate that they are also pushing. How many states have tried to implement the DI's 'strengths and weaknesses' tactics? 8? 10? 12? Only Louisiana succumbed. The DI also made a huge play in Texas and actually had representation on the group appointed to 're-review' the science curriculum after the first set of reviewers didn't satisfy, the now ousted school board head, Don McLeroy. They played the political game with Senator Rick Santorum and his frequently mis-represented unfunded and un-implemented part of the "No-Child-Left-Behind act. So does this mean the DI is abandoning the political? No, I don't think so. I just don't think they want attention drawn to it.

How about the whole 'Darwin caused Hitler' debate? I'm not sure that falls under of the above categories? Where does one file a lie? How about the relatively new "Wallace was an ID'er?", I think that would join it. What about the whole 'Persecution complex'? So there is a psychological debate as well.

So in my opinion Casey is focusing this article and rather than being a comprehensive look, it's simply another propaganda piece.

OK, enough for the first line, let's move ahead:
"awareness of the full breadth of case law"
So now Casey is a lawyer? Oh wait, he is! I keep forgetting. I mean he seems to keep trying to pass himself off as a scientist that I forgot where he started. I will be hard pressed to think he will actually cover the 'full breadth', but it will be interesting to see his spin. And here it is:
"Moreover, few have bothered to engage in a careful review of the case law to determine if evolution actually is beyond scrutiny in public schools. "
OK, anyone else have a problem with this? He's building a straw man here. There is nothing beyond scrutiny in schools, certainly nothing that would be mentioned in case law. no one is making this argument, but Casey is going to respond to it?

Let me clear my own thinking on this. So when a school system says Intelligent Design is not science and doesn't belong in the science classroom has turned into placing evolution beyond scrutiny? No, he is mixing apples and oranges here. Let's look at the other more recent tactic, the whole 'strengths and weaknesses' argument. So when a school system says the 'strengths and weaknesses' tactic is not a valid one, this is designed to place evolution beyond scrutiny? No way!

Here is the spin. The whole 'Teach the Controversy" tactic that evolved [pun intended] into the 'strengths and weaknesses' argument had nothing to do with teaching the strengths and weaknesses of current scientific theories. The wording of those arguments were designed to force teachers to literally CREATE weaknesses so they can fulfill the rules. They were designed to open the door for ID, or other religiously motivated alternative. Go back and read up on them yourself. Don't take my word for it. Also look at Casey's other works and see how many actual weaknesses ave they uncovered? Does the word 'NONE' come to mind. They have been attacking evolution for the last 20 years and so far they have uncovered nothing that could be considered a weakness. Oh they like to point to things we don't know, but does that make it a weakness? They also like to point to things outside of evolution and claim them as weaknesses. But actual weaknesses in evolutionary theory? So far they have struck out.

Here is the other fun part of his straw man. How many laws are going to be specific enough on school curriculum to address any specific subject point, like Evolution? None! Gee so Casey sets out to prove that case law doesn't support evolution being unassailable, and lo and behold, he can't find any. The other reason he won't is because there is no subject that cannot be examined in class. But it has to be a scientifically viable and valid examination to be part of the science curriculum. The whole strengths and weaknesses was not scientifically valid or viable. it was a despicable underhanded tactic. Much like the whole 'Academic Freedom' tactic Casey uses on occasion. I have blogged before about how little academic freedom was involved in
"Academic Freedom" Day?, More on "Academic Freedom", and The American Council on Education's position on Academic Freedom to name a few.

Casey breaks his latest whine up into three areas: (1) Cases upholding the right to teach about evolution; (2) Cases rejecting the teaching of alternatives to evolution; and (3) Cases rejecting disclaimers regarding the teaching of evolution.

The first one doesn't bother me. I really don't care what Casey thinks. Yes, there have been a number of cases concerning the teaching of evolution, but the cases were not about teaching evolution, but about who gets to decide what gets tauhgt. The cases, such as Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

The cases that meet Casey's second criteria escapes me right this second because I know of no case that prevents the teaching of alternatives. I do know of cases where the teaching of teaching RELIGIOUS alternatives is prohibited.
  • Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools along with evolution was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion
  • McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982) ruled that the Arkansas "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act" (Act 590) was unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution
  • Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.(2005) ruled that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In fact most school systems encourage the examination of actual scientific alternatives. Which is why Casey and his less-than-stalwart buddies over at the Discovery Institute spend so much time (and money) trying to convince people Intelligent Design is science. If only they would spend more time (and money) on actual science and not on marketing they might get somewhere.

As for his third criteria, Cases rejecting disclaimers regarding the teaching of evolution, this one also throws me. The problem is not a disclaimer, the problem is the purpose of the disclaimer. The purpose is not the support a quality education, but to cast doubt in the teaching of certain specific theories, such as Evolution. Why does one theory need a disclaimer, such as the one central to the Dover case? Here is is as a reminder:
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.
The judge ruled that this disclaimer was nothing more than an effort to cast doubt on a well supported scientific theory, evolution, and open the door for the introduction of a religious-based alternative, Intelligent Design.

Casey casts Daniel v. Waters (1975) as one of those cases against making disclaimers. But this case would fit more into his second criteria than his third. The case ruled that a Tennessee's law regarding the teaching of "equal time" of evolution and creationism in public school science classes because it violated the Establishment clause of the US Constitution. I think he overstates the role of a 'disclaimer' in this case. The case wasn't about the disclaimer, but about the attempt force equal time with a religious alternative. The disclaimer wasn't as central to the case as it was in the Dover case.

The Selman v. Cobb County School District (2005) was more about the disclaimer, but the disclaimer wasn't the issue, it was that the disclaimer stating that
"Evolution is a theory, not a fact, concerning the origin of living things."
By employing colloquial definitions of "theory" and "fact", the sticker cast doubt on the scientific consensus regarding evolutionary theory. This was the first case that specifically address the difference between the colloquial definition of 'Theory' and 'Fact' and their within science. I blogged about that one as well (Arguments I - Theory). The problem wasn't any disclaimer, but an invalid disclaimer. There is a scientific consensus on the validity of the Theory of Evolution.

All in all this article does little to advance Intelligent Design as a science. it also just goes to show what kind of spin a lawyer can put on the results of a case. Nothing really new, just longer and more drawn out. Bottom line is any teacher, lawyer, or educator that need an understanding of the legal ramifications of introducing religious-based alternatives to current scientific theories better consult with an unbiased party before proceeding down a path advocated by any member of the Discovery Institute, especially Casey here..

Casey is just as good a lawyer as he is a biologist, public relations, and public speaker -- mores the pity. I think his best work was standing outside the Dover PA courtroom and handing out Intelligent Design literature.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dembski's 'ears' must be burning

John M. Lynch, over on 'a simple prop' tears into Wild Bill Dembski for being " . . . as good a historian as he is a mathematician and philosopher". The post is part one of two, with the second taking aim at Bill's apparent partner in crime, Michael Flannery. It's a fun read.

Bottom line they appear to be trying to re-write history, again, and put words in Alfred Russel Wallace's mouth. I still prefer Wallace's words and his take on his relationship with Charles Darwin and his own work on Natural Selection that I quoted in my post "Klinghoffer's hero, Pat Buchanan?"

Enough said, pop on over and give it a read, it's worth it, as John's posts always are.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ken Ham's Folly meets Paleontologists

Just a few days ago the NY Times had an interesting article "Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh". The University of Cincinnati hosted the North American Paleontological Convention and about 70 members made a field trip to, what I prefer to call Ken Ham's Folly, the Creation Museum. I am surprised little kennie himself wasn't there to meet them, I might break down and see what he says on his blog about it . . . if anything.

Can we simply say that they were less than overwhelmed. I think Dr. Tamiki Sato summed it up best when he likened the museum to an amusement park. “I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Disneyland,” she said. Did she enjoy Disneyland? “Not very much,” she said.

Little kennie did blog about the visit and he tried to put it in his usual terms

"Even most PhD scientists I find don’t truly understand the difference between observational (operational) science and historical (origins) science."
So now he calls what he . . . portrays . . . is something called 'Origins Science'? Well he did get one thing 'sorta' right when he said:
" . . . we have different interpretations because we have different starting points. The real battle is between the two starting points—God’s Word or autonomous human reasoning."
I do not in any way shape or form agree that little kennie is showing anything about God's Word. He is showing what he thinks God's Word have said to be, which is far different from actually describing God's Word. But he is half right, human reasoning is the basis for Science. But his whole argument for 'different assumptions' is pretty weak. One is based on his interpretation of what he thinks God's Word is, which is not an assumption. The other is based on the evidence, which is also not an assumption. Little kennie will say pretty much anything to make people doubt actual science. He's playing to people's emotion, not their intellect. No surprises here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Klinghoffer's Hero, Pat Buchanan?

I think I've said about enough about David Klinghoffer for a while. I'll keep an eye on his BeliefNet column and if he gets really, really stupid I might post again. I have been waiting for him to comment on the many comments his last "Strip Club" article received [comments his little missive requested, I might add], most seriously to his detriment, but he seems to have put any negative comments on ignore. Sounds about right.

So how about another petrified brain to discuss, Pat Buchanan. Here is a man who ran for President. Here is a man who [some] people still think has a functioning brain. In my opinion here is a man incapable of learning anything.

Case in point is a recent diatribe on the website "The US Daily", be sure it's an opinion piece called "Making a Monkey Out of Darwin". In it he quotes liberally from a book called ""The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold," by Eugene G. Windchy". I have no idea who Eugene G. Windchy is, I haven't read his book, but if Pat Buchanan's quotes are accurate then Mr. Windchy last attended a science class in about 1960 and was asleep at the wheel for most of it. I think he also missed his 'How to research a subject" class and "how to support your ideas" class. Of course since he is saying things that are anti-Darwin, Pat Buchanan just loves it.

Windchy makes many of the same tired claims that others, including a few Klinghoffer keeps making:

That Darwinism has proven “disastrous theory” is indisputable. [Only to people like Windchy, Buchanan, and Klinghoffer]

“Karl Marx loved Darwinism,” writes Windchy. “To him, survival of the fittest as the source of progress justified violence in bringing about social and political change, in other words, the revolution.” “Darwin suits my purpose,” Marx wrote. [OK, they all need a history lesson on the use of a timeline. The chronology is all wrong Check out "Marx, Stalin, and Darwin" from the Sensuous Curmudgeon]

Darwin suited Adolf Hitler’s purposes, too.Darwin, he demonstrates, stole his theory from Alfred Wallace scientific hoaxes as “Nebraska Man” – an anthropoid ape ancestor to man, whose tooth turned out to belong to a wild pig – and Piltdown Man, the missing link between monkey and man. [And who are the people who determined they were hoaxes? SCIENTISTS that who. Not some armchair Creationists like Windchy and Buchanan]
As for Buchanan's and Windchy's absurd claim that Charles Darwin stole the work Of Alfred Wallace I point you to Wallace's on words on the subject "MY RELATIONS WITH DARWIN IN REFERENCE TO THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION" By ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE" in which he says:
"My own paper is reprinted in my Essays on Natural Selection (1870), in the preface to which I wrote in reference to it as follows: "I have felt all my life, and I still feel, the most sincere satisfaction that Mr. Darwin had been at work long before me and that it was not left for me to attempt to write the Origin of Species. . . . Far abler men than myself may confess that they have not that untiring patience in accumulating and that wonderful skill in using large masses of facts of the most varied kind, that wide and accurate physiological knowledge, that acuteness in devising and skill in carrying out experiments, and that admirable style of composition, at once clear, persuasive and judicial—qualities which in their harmonious combination mark out Mr. Darwin as the man best fitted for the great work has undertaken and accomplished."

"In conclusion I would Only wish to add, that my connection with Darwin and his great work has helped to secure for my own writings on the same questions a full recognition by the press and the public; while my share in the origination and establishment of the theory of Natural Selection has usually been exaggerated. The one great result which I claim for my paper of 1858 is that it compelled Darwin to write and publish his Origin of Species without further delay. "

All in all, take a look at the article and see how lost Pat Buchanan is. But I will lay odds that soon he will be able to add to his shingle that he and David Klinghoffer are the best of friends. Gee, with friends like that . . . . you know the rest. Actually just the idea of Klinghoffer and Buchanan together is pretty hilarious for reasons you can discern yourself by doing a little reading up on pat Buchanan.

Need to give an aside to PZ Myers who also blogged about this 'opinion' piece and included the link to the Wallace material. Thanks PZ!!!

I would also like to link over to another favorite place, the NY Times blog "The Wild Side" of Dr. Olivia Judson and her post "Wallace should Hang". The Dr. J. of Biology gives Wallace more credit than he ever took for himself. She rightly identifies him as a naturalist and biologist in his own right and not simply the man whose letter got Darwin off the dime. But in any case Darwin's work was his own and the fact Wallace also made the same leaps of knowledge, although at the time he didn't realize it was about a decade after Darwin, also helped usher in the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection because it also confirmed Darwin's work.

By the way, for anyone interested Dr. Judson is back from her sabbatical and is again writing The Wild Side blog. While the guests, or ghosts, writers were excellent, I have always enjoyed her style and ability to break down complex concepts and make them not just understandable, but interesting and frequently entertaining. You can check out her return in "Operator? Can You Put Me Through to Ant Nest 251?"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strip Clubs and David Klinghoffer

I guess David is a true believer in the adage that if you repeat yourself often enough, people will believe something is fact. Here is an example. In his BeliefNet column he repeat something he wrote about 11 years ago. It is as wrong today as it was 11 years ago, but that doesn't stop David. Here, you tell me.

"Materialism . . . in a philosophical context it means a world view where only material reality counts, an outlook which denies that human existence has a spiritual component, and certainly denies the religious outlook in which existence is all spirit with material reality thrown in mainly to confuse us. Two famous examples of materialism in ideological form are Marxism and Darwinism, both of which maintain that ultimately life can be explained in terms of molecules bumping up against one another. "
The first thing he does is define Materialism. I don't have a problem with that definition. It's a re-statement, but one I think is pretty accurate, the definition of materialism in the philosophical sense of the word. However I disagree with Marxism and Darwinism [you already know of my issues with the term 'Darwinism'] are examples of materialism.

'Darwinism', or more accurately the Theory of Evolution, is part of the science of Biology. Biology, like all natural sciences use a philosophy of methodological naturalism. In other words it does not assume that nature is all there is; it merely notes that nature is the only objective standard we have. Supernaturalism is not ruled out a priori; it is left out because it has never been reliably observed.

Anyone else here see the difference that David can't seem to grasp? The whole concept of the Supernatural being deliberately left out because it cannot be tested, it is not objective, it is not predictable! This does not make Evolution an example of the philosophy of materialism. There is nothing in the Theory of Evolution that denies spirituality, nothing!

Here is where I think David makes his underlying mistake. Many people's belief system attributes specific action to a Deity. People once believed that God brought the rain, good harvests, the sun rose because of God's will, the Earth was flat, the sun revolved around the Earth, lightning was Zeus' weapon of choice or God playing Nine-Pins. What science has done is offer natural explanations for many of the phenomena that used to be attributed by God.

We have learned so much and we have use these natural science explanations to do so much. But David can't keep from putting God in a tiny box and his way of keeping God in that box is to attribute specific actions and deny a whole branch of science because it doesn't fit in David's box. He does this not by proving that the science is incorrect, but by making snippy comments, like defining Evolution as materialism and telling you how bad Materialism is . . . oh and gee since Evolution is materialism, it must be bad. He also does it by using the pejorative 'Darwinism', which while an accepted use of the word to describe Evolution from Darwin's point of view in ENGLAND, here in the US only people with an ax to grind against the Theory of Evolution use it. David isn't from England is he?

Oh and if you haven't clicked on the link to his article and missed the Strip Club reference, let's just say that David went to a club in LA and claims he went in because he didn't want to be a party-pooper (he was with a group) and while he was there he spent the entire time framing the visit in terms of why 'Darwinism' is a bad thing. Sure David, sure! And you never inhaled either?

He did this with his usual brand of less-than-subtle jabs with his other little diatribe to convince you that Evolution leads to racism. Funny has David never commented on the killing of Dr George Tiller? It would be easy to miss, after all David posts a lot but seems to say very little. He just keeps re-hashing on a tired theme.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Secular Priests?

The Discovery Institute must think we are all completely dead from the neck up. OK, everyone, how many of you think that scientists, including doctors, are nothing more than priests? Well that is what the DI claims in their post "Atheism, for Good Reason, Fears Questions". Have we in fact traded one set of robes for another? Well if you listen to the Di, that's all we have done. They are in error . . . which should surprise no one.

This is one of their run-of-the-mill tactics to bring science down to their level, since they have failed miserable at bring religion up to the level of science.

Let's see the difference between going to a priest and going to a doctor for a medical condition.

  • The priest prays, while the doctor examines you
  • The priest prays while the doctor determines not only your condition., but the cause
  • The priest prays while the doctor prescribes a course of treatment
  • The priest prays while your condition be being treated.
The priest and the doctor are not equivalent. One has theology, a shared belief system. The other has so many more tools at their disposal. No, medical science is not perfect. people still get sick and die. But how many conditions are treatable! Life can be, and in many cases prolonged! Ask my diabetic Friends how well prayer works to regulate blood sugar levels? Ask my granddaughter whose heart beat reached over 248 because medication brought it back to normal. Ask people if glasses, contacts, even laser eye surgery allows them to see clearer. Ask about hearing aids, wheelchairs, pacemakers . . . how long is this list? Incredible isn't it.

No, we have not traded one set of robes for a lab coat. What we have done is traded superstition for facts. We have traded belief in the supernatural for the evidence of modern medicine.

Dave Mauriello made the same point is his post "Experts" and experts are not comparable. I can only agree wholehearted with him!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More from Jesus and Mo

This one is too good to pass up re-posting.
If you read online comics, you need to add Jesus and Mo to your list.

5 years later

Doing my usual wandering around the web, I frequently check out PZ Myers 'Pharyngula' blog and am rarely disappointed. Today was certainly no exception. He linked to an article published 5 years ago. An interview with several Intelligent Design proponents, including Phillip E. Johnson, William Dembski, and Paul Nelson. I had seen excerpts of some of the comments before, but I hadn't read the whole article.

PZ focused his comments on one question in his blog post "Put your affairs in order, biologists. Your time is nigh!" That question was "Where is the ID movement going in the next ten years?" Of course Dembski predicted the demise of evolution. Nelson was actually a little better claiming the biggest challenge is "to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design." Well in the past 5 years we have yet to see any sign of crumbling in evolutionary theory, we also have yet to see any sign of an actual 'Theory of Biological Design." I was also struck by the fact Nelson didn't include the word 'Intelligent' in his response. I was also interested in the rest of the article and here are a few things that struck me.

Johnson immediate brought up the whole 'prejudice' line in his first comment. How A.E. Wilder-Smith and and Michael Denton were "brilliant men were noticed to some degree, but prejudice prevented their ever gaining a fair hearing." AE Wilder Smith was one of the people pushing the dinosaur and human footprints existed at Paluxy River. You know, the ones found to be doctored and carved. So it's 'prejudice' to expose a fake? Denton seems to have changed his mind. In 1998 he published his second book, Nature's Destiny, which appears to assume evolution as a given. He no longer openly associates with the Discovery Institute and they no longer lists him as a fellow. Funny, this interview was in 2004, yet Johnson makes no mention of Denton's 1998 work. But he does adhere to the party line, claiming prejudice and discrimination as the reasons why Intelligent Design can't seem to get off the dime. Interesting how it doesn't stop real scientists, but it does seem to be a major roadblock to the pseudo-scientists.

Johnson's next comment just killed me "Freud, Marx, and Darwin were all revered as major scientific heroes throughout the twentieth century. Of the three, only Darwin retains any scientific standing."

First of all, Sigmund Freud has no scientific standing? Since when? Granted some of his ideas have been superseded by recent work, but the Father of the psychoanalytic school of psychology still has a great deal of standing. Like Newton and Darwin, his work only went so far. People kept taking it expanding it in many areas and even replacing it in others.

Now Karl Marx, revered? At least that is the Marx I think Johnson was referring to. I doubt it was Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo (or the lesser known Gummo -- yes, Gummo, look it up). First of all while I recall studying up on Marx a bit, I would never put him in the same class as Freud or Darwin. In his own lifetime his was a relative unknown. I think this is the first time I have seen those three names linked in such a fashion, but it also plays to the Discovery Institute party line of linking Darwin with Hitler, eugenics, and racism. Why not communism?

Another question was "What are the implications for morality of Darwinism and intelligent design?" To which Johnson replied: "The fundamental issue is whether God is real or imaginary. An imaginary God has no moral authority. Intelligent design is bitterly resisted because it threatens to allow God to re-enter the realm of reality as the object of public knowledge."

This is a mis-characterization, to say the least. The reason Intelligent Design is contested is simply the precise reason mentioned by Nelson. There is no theory supporting it. There is no work, no evidence, no explanations that can be taught as science! Until that happens it deserves to remain lumped in with Astrology and the other wanna-be sciences. The fact ID is so tightly woven with God and Creationism is mainly because of Johnson's own words (

  • "If we understand our own times, we will know that we should affirm the reality of God by challenging the domination of materialism and naturalism in the world of the mind."
  • "Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."
  • "This isn't really, and never has been a debate about science. Its about religion and philosophy."
  • "So the question is: "How to win?" That’s when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the "wedge" strategy: "Stick with the most important thing" —the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, "Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?" and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do."
So, in other words, Johnson is still trying to remove the specter of 'God' from Intelligent Design and he has failed. Without an 'Intelligent Designer' his ideas have no place to go. Here we are 5 years after this interview and Intelligent Design still has no theory, it has no support other than some degree of popular support. Even though the Discovery Institute opened its own lab, there is still no theory. For all it's marketing, which this interview is certainly a part of, there is still nothing to teach other than as a failed philosophy. There is nothing to present to science. My expectation is there never will be because rather than just buckle down and do the science, they are spending all their time marketing.

OK, enough from me. Go see the article for yourself and enjoy. There is so much more to read there. I have only scratched the surface. Here are a few phrases that caught my eye:
  • [ID's] main importance is cultural
  • People’s intuitions will continue to lead them to see the design in biology
  • More than half of the work of the ID community is still directed to pointing out the problems with Darwinism
  • biologists even now freely employ the concept of design, saving themselves from charges of heresy by arbitrarily attributing the design to natural selection. [huh?]
  • [Dembski actually said this] Natural selection acting on randomly varying replicators is fruitful and certainly a factor in biology
There you go, please read it., laugh at the funny parts and think how much of this will change int he next 5 years.

I honestly believe ID proponents would rather cry "Prejudice" than "Eureka!"