Friday, May 29, 2009

Ah yes, an expected reaction from the DI

OK, some news from Texas has been getting better. Dentist and avowed Creationist Don McElroy is no longer the head of the School Board. This is a good thing, and while we should be concerned about his replacement -- as of yet unnamed. I blogged about who that might be here. It seems those less than stalwart fellows over at the DI have a comment to make.

"Texas Evolution Lobby Making Power Grabs to Promote Their Censorship Agenda" is an article from their 'news' site that implies some organized effort to . . . well you can read it for yourself.

In my opinion this is nothing by a radical projection by an organization who will stoop to no tactic, no matter how despicable, and then claim their opposition is doing it instead. It's not an example of the pot calling the kettle black. This is the pot claiming the kettle is black for no other reason than they have to spin it that way or they will look even more ridiculous than they already do.

Look at their own actions! Read back on a few of my blog entries. Let's see what they have been up to. It's not one action but a consistent and organized effort involving tactics of lies and misrepresentation in order to advanced their strictly religious agenda. As stated in another post how about the support the Discovery Institute gave to the misguided school board in Dover PA? How about the lies and misrepresentations the Discovery Institute told the Ohio State School Board? How about the "Teach the Controversy", "Academic Freedom" and "Strengths and Weaknesses" tactics used by the Discovery Institute? How about Tejon California, Guillermo Gonzales, Richard Sternberg, and how about the 700 mis-represented signatures on the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwin" document? (look here, here and here). Let's look at the DI's Casey Luskin (here and here). How many times have they claimed not to be motivated by religion and yet here they are revealing themselves.

Over and over again they have attacked any critic using tactics that should insure a long time in whatever location of eternal damnation and punishment ascribed to their religious beliefs. And they don't care? No! Why not? Because apparently lying for Jesus is OK! Just ask Kennie Ham.

What is happening in Texas is a reaction, a reaction to the foolishness Don McLeroy dragged the State through. He stated many times in public that he was not motivated by his religious beliefs, yet his actions proved that he cannot separate himself from those beliefs. Either he is unwilling or unable to do the job he was elected and appointed to do. The Great State of Texas has the right to be concerned as to where a school board under his 'leadership' would take education. They have the right to be concerned and they have the right to take action.

But according to the Discovery Institute removing an obvious road block to a quality education is apparently not allowed. The people of Texas, through their legislature, does not have to right to make a change after it has been mislead, lied to, and even embarrassed by the actions of Don McLeroy. There is no effort to take control, but to return some level of sanity to the process, and I think that is what pisses the Discovery Institute off the worst. Their own involvement in Texas hasn't gone unnoticed. Members of every school board in the country should be looking very carefully before asking for the type of assistance Texas received from the Discovery Institute!

Texas, go forth and do the things you need to do to clean up this mess, a mess that was helped along by the ones who are now criticizing you. Watch who your Governor will be putting into that leadership position, watch them like a hawk! Also keep an eye on Don. He's still on the Board, something I hope you will deal with in the next set of elections. You need to be represented by people who have the education of your kids as their sole motivation! You should have the expectation of it, and you have the right, responsibility, and thankfully, the ability to do so!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Expelled Exposed

I know, I know, I thought I was done with any comments about the Ben Stein mockumentary, but a link was brought to my attention that I just had to pass on. It's the NCSE "Expelled Exposed Playlist". It lists 4 videos about how Expelled is not a documentary at all, but anti-science propaganda aimed at creating the appearance of controversy where there is none.


I will try and stop more posts about Expelled, but sometimes I just can't help myself :-)

Faith and Evolution?

I think the Discovery Institute has finally come out from under their 'not a religion' banner. Why else would the Discovery institute's Science and Culture group, the marketeers for Intelligent Design, put out a website called "Faith and Evolution". If ID has nothing to do with theology, why do they need this particular site?

According to an opinion piece in the New Scientist this site is a direct response to Francis Collins new site "The BioLogos Foundation". Amanda Gefter titled her article "Christians Battle each other over Evolution". So what we have two sites, what is the difference? The difference may be subtle, but it comes down to the DI protecting one of their main strategies, and one I have felt has been a deliberate lie for years. Basically the DI gets both financial and marketing support from people who believe that you either believe in God or you support Evolution. This false dichotomy has been one of their basic strategies. Francis Collins believes otherwise, as his website states:

"We believe that faith and science both lead to truth about God and creation."
According to Jonathon Wells, Senior Fellow over at the DI's Science and Culture group:
"Collins’s defense of Darwinian theory turns out to be largely an argument from ignorance that must retreat as we learn more about the genome—in effect, a Darwin of the gaps."
I really do love this, Wells accusing someone else of an argument from ignorance! My irony-meter just screamed it's last breath. As Ms. Gefter put it:
" . . . can one be a Christian and accept evolution? The answer, as far as the Discovery Institute is concerned, is a resounding: No."
"I think it's interesting that the Discovery Institute – which has long argued that intelligent design qualifies as science – seems to have given up the game and acknowledged that their concerns are religious after all. "

"The Discovery Institute has now made it crystal clear that they have no interest in reconciling science and religion – instead, they want their brand of religion to replace science. "
There you have it, the gloves are off and why, you might ask? I think it's pretty simple. Francis Collins' target audience are not atheists or agnostics, but Christians, the same market as the Discovery Institute. Funny how non-'non-religious' the Discovery Institute really is when they stand to lose their core supporters!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What did I tell ya? South Carolina tries a new tactic.

The NCSE is reporting that new anti-evolution legislation was introduced in the State Senate.

"Senate Bill 873, introduced in the South Carolina Senate on May 21, 2009 and referred to the Senate Committee on Education, would, if enacted, require the state board of education to "examine all curriculum in use in this State that purports to teach students about the origins of mankind to determine whether the curriculum maintains neutrality toward religion." The bill further provides, "Related to non-religion, the examination must include a review as to whether the curriculum contains a sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus preferring those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs."
This is a new tactic, one the bill's sponsor hadn't tried before. Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6),
  • 2003, he sought to establish a committee to "determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools." The Greenville News (May 1, 2003), reported that Fair "said his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools."
  • 2005, he introduced a bill modeled on the so-called Santorum language often misrepresented as contained in the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The bill failed, but Fair won himself a description as "the dominant voice advocating for S.C. schools to teach more than Charles Darwin's theories of evolution," according to The State (June 17, 2005).
  • 2008, he introduced a version of the "academic freedom" anti-evolution bill, which died in committee.
This new tactic is worrisome because nowhere in the bill does it define what is meant by neutrality or hostility. How many times has someone claimed that Science, in general, and Evolution, in particular, is hostile to religion, or promote atheism, or is anti-God. Remember the plaintiffs in the Dover case and how many of them were turned upon by members of their own churches as being atheists and anti-religion.

The NCSE is certainly correct in categorizing this bill as anti-evolution. It's target is the teaching of evolution. I can certainly see the head of the SC State School Board backing this bill, Ms. Maguire is an avowed Creationist. I can also see Senator Fair renewing a push to introduce Intelligent Design, since it doesn't mention God, it must meet the requirements of neutrality, right? Especially when what constitute neutrality is conspicuously missing from the bill.

This could get pretty ugly pretty quickly. Let's hope it does like the last attempt and dies in committee. I like South Carolina! I remember childhood trips to Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia and learning about some of the indigenous plants, animals, and insects by a Park intern named Debbie. Mrtyle Beach and Charleston are great places to visit, as is Greenville. The State doesn't deserve the treatment it's getting from it's elected officials. How much time has to be wasted on the campaign designed to bring religion into Science class.

And to anyone who thinks Intelligent Design is not religious, read this interview from William Dembski, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute where he states:
"I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.The focus of my writings is not to try to understand the Christian doctrine of creation; it’s to try to develop intelligent design as a scientific program."
I do like how he squeezed in "try to develop intelligent design as a scientific program". I know I would take that to mean that currently it is NOT a scientific program. So it should not be allowed in South Carolina classrooms for two reasons, first it is not scientific, and second, it is certainly not neutral toward God. Quick someone tell the Senator.

One last little thought. Snuck into the small print is " This section does not prevent classes being taught pursuant to Section 59-29-230." Guess what that section addresses:

SECTION 59-29-230. Old and New Testament era courses.

(A)(1) A school district board of trustees may authorize, to be taught in the district's high schools, an elective course concerning the history and literature of the Old Testament era and an elective course concerning the history and literature of the New Testament era.

(2) Each course offered must be taught in an objective manner with no attempt to influence the students as to either the truth or falsity of the materials presented.

(3) Students must be awarded the same number of Carnegie units that are awarded to other classes of similar duration.

(4) A particular version of the Old or New Testament to be used in either course may be recommended by the board of trustees; provided, that the teacher of the course and students enrolled in the course may use any version of the Old and New Testaments.

(B) The board of trustees of a district that offers a course pursuant to this section must:

(1) maintain supervision and control of the course;

(2) hire any new teachers that it determines are required to teach the course in the same manner all other teachers are hired;

(3) assure that all teachers teaching the course are certified by the State; and

(4) make no inquiry into the religious beliefs, or the lack of religious beliefs, held by a teacher when determining which teacher shall teach the class.

(C) The State Board of Education shall develop and adopt academic standards and appropriate instructional materials that must be used by high schools offering a course pursuant to this section. These academic standards and instructional materials must ensure that the courses do not disparage or encourage a commitment to a set of religious beliefs.

(D) The academic standards and appropriate instructional materials developed and adopted by the board must:

(1) be designed to help students gain a greater appreciation of the Old Testament and the New Testament as great works of literature, art, and music; assist students in gaining greater insight into the many historical events recorded in the Old Testament and the New Testament; and provide students with a greater awareness of the many social customs that the Old Testament and the New Testament have significantly influenced; and

(2) provide that the Old Testament is the primary text for the course exploring the history and literature of the Old Testament era and that the New Testament is the primary text for the course exploring the history and literature of the New Testament era.

(E) The academic standards developed and adopted may provide that students may be assigned period-appropriate secular historical and literary works to supplement the primary text.

Gee no Double Standard here!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Latest from Texas: McLeroy out? Dunbar in?

The Huston Chronicle is reporting "McLeroy opposed as board of ed leader". This should be a positive note for Texas school children and the teaching of science in the Great State of Texas. However the same article is predicting who Gov. Perry would put in his place

"There is speculation in the Capitol and within the Texas Education Agency that Gov. Rick Perry might elevate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, to lead the board. Like McLeroy, Dunbar also holds strong Christian beliefs and recently authored a book that advocates more religion in the public square."
While ousting McLeroy from the leadership position would be a good thing. Elevating Dunbar would not. She's posted essays accusing President Obama of siding with Terrorists and being a Marxist. (Texas Freedom Network "More Extremism from Cynthia Dunbar")

Ms. Dunbar also wrote a book "One Nation Under God". I haven't read it, but I peeked at it over at Amazon. Apparently the back cover reads
"We Must Not Stand Silent...while the foundational truths that made this nation great are being eroded. America is in danger from elements within and outside her borders that undermine the principles, beliefs and core truths upon which she was founded. Political pundits, liberals and social interest groups are trying to skew our constitutional ground rules. We need a compass to guide us back to the path of destiny and greatness. America needs people who know the truth, speak the truth and stand for the truth. Unfortunately, many of us are simply not aware of the clear constitutional and biblical principles that initiated and governed the course of this union. So we sit quietly and idly by as our liberties and freedoms are removed one by one.

It's time to be armed with the information that will help us stand and speak out with conviction. This book was written to help you do just that!

-How do we defend our American heritage against secular-humanistic viewpoints? -How do we reclaim our identity, grow in prosperity and lead as a nation? -How do we reposition America back toward its core beliefs and destiny?"

What I also find interesting are some of the comments by people who have read it:
  • Poorly written fanatical tirade
  • Terribly Dull, Dully Terrible
  • Making Texas a laughingstock
  • One Nation, under delusions
  • A thoughtful pedagogical view into the mind of a religious nutcase
To be fair, there were 9 reviews and two of them were positive:
  • This Book is a Beacon of Light
  • This is an excellant read [sic]
Is this the person Texas needs to lead the School Board? Or will they simply experience another McLeroy?

Arguments XXVII -- The Law of Biogenesis

One of the frequent posters on Topix has been using the "Law of Biogenesis" as an explanation of why Evolution is false. Of course you might have guessed, I couldn't disagree with him/her more.
The Law of Biogenesis simply stated is 'Life comes from Life' Back a while ago there was a belief that complex life appeared from nothing. A pile of clothes on the floor could birth a mouse. Maggots on meat would become flies. This belief was known as 'Spontaneous generation'. It held that life arising from non-life was an everyday and common occurrence. This idea was popularized by Aristotle and pretty much lasted for over 2 thousand years.

Louis Pasteur, and others, formulated and experimented an alternative to spontaneous generation in which life is required to spawn the examples of life. Flies laid eggs, which became maggots and eventually new flies. Mold was caused by microorganisms. Fermentation was also caused by microorganisms. Eventually Spontaneous Generation was disproven and replaced by the Germ Theory and other scientific theories that offered much more comprehensive and predictable explanations. They also led to many changes in practices which helped prevent spoilage and disease. Pasteur's work along these lines is frequently summed up as "Omne vivum ex ovo, Latin for all life [is] from eggs".

In modern terms it is usually expressed as 'complex life arises from complex life' or 'modern organisms do not spontaneously arise in nature from non-life'. In other words flies, mice, and even mold requires other life to be present, eggs, spores, or even parents. They do not spring up from nothing.

This 'Law of Biogenesis' does not, and never has addressed, how life started on this planet. The law of Biogenesis is fully compatible with the Theory of Evolution, since it is reproducible life that evolves and changes. So as an argument that evolution never took place, it's a pretty weak one.

Now the argument that Abiogenesis never took place is equally as weak. Pasteur was not addressing how life on Earth started, but how life gave the appearance of coming from nowhere in everyday activities. There are a number of hypotheses addressing how life may have started on Earth, all fall under the heading of 'Abiogenesis', life from non-life. Abiogenesis is not a re-telling of the myth of 'spontaneous generation' but the study how why the evidence shows that at one time there was no life on Earth and now there is a rich diversity of life. Evolution explains the diversity, but it does not address how it started. While we have developed molecules that evolve and even compete, we are still a long way from determining just how life started.

One final note. The poster who is currently using this line of argument, clearly keeps mischaracterizing it and just ignores any correction. He/she clearly objects to evolution on religious grounds -- based on other posts -- and is looking for any reasoning that can support that position. What I find really amusing is that even if, by some miracle, he/she managed to disprove evolution . . . that still would not advance his particularly narrow religious view of how life started and continues. Plus the very fact they are looking for support tells me a lot about their confidence in their belief system.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Darwinius masillae

OK, a new fossil for a species that disappeared a very long time ago has been found . . . and it's caused a media circus. Part of the problem is the media is doing their typical job at sensationalizing things, and Creationists are eating it up.

What is Darwinius masillae? It is the most complete fossil found of a lemur-like primate dating back about 47 million years. It is a phenomenal find! It even contains the fossilized remains of it's last meal. I thought it was very appropriate to include Darwin in it's phylogenetic name.

What Darwinius masillae is not:

  • It is not THE missing link -- There is no such thing as a single link that will tie primate and humans. The changes were much more gradual. There are actually thousands of links, some missing and some not.
  • It is not in the direct primate to human family tree . . . more of an aunt than a great . . . great grandma
  • It is not the absolute proof of Evolution or Creationism. It is one more link in the chain that supports evolution.
The problem I am having is how many media stories have claimed this is the missing link, this is the one that will put a stake though the evangelicals heart, this is IT! And all that hyperbole is shadowing an immense achievement and actually doing more damage than good -- at least in the circles the non-scientist. PZ says Creationists are freaking out . . . John Rosenau is using it to discuss secrecy in science . . . John Lynch also discusses the media circus at Darwinius masillae gets out of control.

Like I said, it's a incredible find, but once the media dies down we are going to be listening to Creationists claim things like "I thought it was the missing link and now you are saying it's not!" I just wish the media would be more responsible . . . ROFL, did I really just say that? Please don't tell me what a pipe dream that is, I do know. But I an not without hope. Just ask my wife, she gave me a keychain with the word "Hope" on it so I would always have hope!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Macro - Micro Evolution

PZ Myers, over at Pharyngula had an interesting post and buried within is a nice synopsis of the whole Macro-evolution vs Micro-evolution artificial dichotomy so popular with certain folks, and you know who you are! I have stated repeatedly that historically microevolution was the study on evolution on micro-organisms and that Creationists made up this dividing line based on whether or not that can self-justify ignoring evidence. PZ puts it in a historical timeline that I find fascinating. While it wasn't called 'Macro' at the time, it was actually well supported decades before the evidence supporting what Creationists now call 'microevolution'. Like I said, with eyebrow raised in appreciation, "Fascinating!"

"The whole creationist version of the micro/macro evolution distinction is complete nonsense. Scientists do make the distinction, usually reserving macroevolution for the larger scale accumulation of change over time that produces new species or lineages, but they don't argue that one is unsupported speculation.

What you have to understand is that the concept of macroevolution came first, although it wasn't called that; it was just called evolution or transformation theory, among other things ("evolution" was a term that actually became popular relatively late). Darwin himself examined biology largely on a grand scale, looking at biogeography and populations and fossils, and making an argument on the basis of what we would now call macroevolutionary phenomena for changes in form of species over geological time. He wasn't alone, either; many other authors preceded him in seeing that the evidence supported a history of evolutionary change. What made Darwin particularly persuasive, though, is that he coupled the evidence of changing species to a hypothetical mechanism, natural selection. He didn't have the tools or the details to work out how heritable change was accomplished, however; that took the discovery of genetics and molecular biology to allow us to see how this 'microevolution' actually worked.

When creationists argue that they believe in microevolution, but that macroevolution is dubious, they've got it backwards. Large scale historical change was confirmed and thoroughly documented in the 19th century! Darwin was a bridge, who explained how small scale, natural processes could produce the known variation between species, and the triumph of 20th century biology was to confirm and expand upon our understanding of how those changes occurred. Neither macro nor micro evolution are speculative. Neither one is lacking in evidence."

Not much more needs to be said!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Arguments XXVI -- Universal Fine Tuning

Once frequent theme is anti-evolutionist propaganda is how fine-tuned the world/universe is for us to exist. The book and video "The Privileged Planet" makes the case by citing examples like: Earth's gravity is just right, the position of Earth form the Sun is just right, and many other examples of so-called fine tuning. According to Gulliermo Gonzalez [author and former ISU tenure track professor] our earth is uniquely designed for its inhabitants to do scientific exploration, and that the universe is similarly designed for us to do that scientific exploration. They point to a number of phenomena that have aided our scientific enterprise, such as the transparency of the earth's atmosphere, the fact that we have a moon that is just far enough from the earth to produce spectacular solar eclipses, and so on.

OK, you should get my point, things are set-up so 'perfectly' that the hand of God, or an Intelligent Designer, must have been involved or it would never have happened. Of course you might have the opinion that I disagree with this, and you are right. Here's why.

First of all, let's discuss 'tuning' with a simple example. You flip on your radio and get static. What you can then do it change the frequency of your receiver . . . i.e. 'tune' . . . your radio until you can get a specific station in clearly. That is a pretty simple example, and one most folks have dealt with many times in their lifetimes.

Now something different could have occurred. Rather than tune your receiver, the transmitting agency could change their transmission frequency until they hit the one your receiver was tuned for, and in that way end up with the exact same result, clear reception from the transmitter to you.

So my point is pretty simple, you can tune one or the other and get the same result. Gonzalez tunes the transmitter when he makes his claims that the universe is so perfectly tuned just for us. Scientists say the receiver gets tuned. So how does a receiver get tuned? m Look at it this way. Evolution has identified many changes in us, the receivers. We are very different than just 40,000 years ago, more different 1,000,000 years ago, and still even more different 10,000,000 years ago. Our environment, through Natural Selection, tuned us. We changed in accordance to the environment. So we appear well-adjusted to the environment, like we have been made for it, or it had been made for us.

So which is it, was the Universe/Earth made for us, or have we adjusted so well that it simply appears like it and actually we were the ones being tuned?

Now comes to the point of evidence. Fossil, genetics, studies of comparative anatomy shows that we have adjusted in many different ways over the course of time. We are still adjusting, since evolution is a process not some end-point in time. There is considerable evidence supporting this. What evidence supports Gonzalez' contention that the Universe and our planet was made for us? None at all. He basically says look at how well-adjusted everything is, it must have been placed here for us.

Dig a hole, fill it with water and water takes the shape of the hole, right? Does that mean the hole was designed to hold that shape of water? No it means water is malleable enough to take the shape of whatever vessel you put it in. That is what life is, malleable. If the environment was different, we would be different. Homo Sapiens might not even be here! Someday in the far future we might not be here. I hate to break the news, but the evidence shows that there were periods in Earth's distant past where our form of life could not have survived. They might come to pass again. Hopefully we are malleable enough to adjust, as a species. If not then we will go the way of many other species and become extinct.

The world isn't fine-tuned, we just are malleable enough to make it appear so. I wish Gonzalez would take a look under the hood instead of just accepting things at face value. With him the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, but shaped the only way water must look in a glass. If you pour it into another vessel with a different shape, he can't seem to make the leap.

Strange Bedfellows: Michael Behe and Adnan Oktar?

While reading up a little on Adnan Oktar, the Turkish 'writer' who goes by the pen name Harun Yahya. Remember him, of the infamous "Atlas of Creation'? You have to remember the Atlas of Creation, whose first edition had numerous mistakes, including using a fishing lure image as a caddis fly?

Well while doing a little reading for another post, I can across a reference another Blog, Darwinian Conservatism, which made a couple of interesting notes about Michael Behe. The bottom line question raised is Michael Behe on the DI's naughty list.

Apparently Michael Behe was interviewed for the little bennie stein mockumentary "Expelled:" and his interview was left on the cutting room floor. I find that hard to believe. Since 1996 and "Darwin's Black Box" came out, Behe has been one of the most widely seen 'faces of ID' around country. He testified at the Dover hearing and even wrote a follow-up book to 'DBB'.

I know his testimony is what really seemed to put the Judge over the top in his ruling that ID is Creationism, it might be these points, raised by Larry Arnhart of Darwinian Conservatism (Why Was Michael Behe Expelled by Ben Stein?) that might explain any perceived schism between the Discovery Institute and their previously fair-haired [figuratively speaking] boy:
  • Was Behe expelled from Stein's movie for saying that "it's hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans" (Edge of Evolution, p. 72)?
  • Was he expelled for suggesting that the evolution of orders, families, genera, and species could be explained in a Darwinian manner through random mutation and natural selection (pp. 217-20)?
  • Was he expelled for saying that "treating the Bible as some sort of science textbook" would be "silly" (p. 166), and that in science there should be "no relying on holy books or prophetic dreams" (p. 233)?
  • Was he expelled for saying that "the purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible with the idea that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the intended playing out of natural laws" (p. 232), which would support theistic evolution?
  • Was he expelled for saying that "an intelligent designer deliberately made malaria" to kill millions of innocent children, and therefore we should consider the possibility that "the designer isn't all that beneficent or omnipotent" (pp. 237, 239)?
It certainly makes you think that he is no longer the wunderkind of the DI, but any public display of disfavor would only hurt the DI more than a private disagreement. I mean what other senior fellow over there is a working, tenured, biologist? None that I am aware of.

What is really surprising is how hard the DI pushed his Edge of Evolution book. Hey, they even funded it. And now, apparently, it's hard to find a reference to it on the DI's own website. DBB is on the list of 'Essential Reading', but not Edge. It certainly makes me think!

Well enough on Behe, just something to keep an eye on. Now the thing on Adnan Oktar and what I find sorta strange is a post by Denyse O'Leary over on Wild Bill Demsbki's Uncommon Descent Blog. She interviewed Oktar and called one of his books "the most succinct and comprehensive of the critiques of overblown claims for Darwinian evolution that I have ever read."

I guess she didn't read enough because Oktar is a vehement critic not only of Darwinism but also of intelligent design theory. He calls intelligent design theory, particularly as developed by the DI, as a product of "a Masonic conspiracy for promoting atheism and Deism."

So either Denyse didn't read much in preparation for her interview, or the ID folks are really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Actually I think there is an easier explanation. Denyse assumes that anyone who is a Darwin Doubter must be an ID supporter and I bet her rose colored glasses never saw any criticism of ID in her prep for the interview.

Monday Morning funny

Non-Sequitur is a comic strip I read every day, well that and I also read Dilbert and xkcd. These three seem to hit me where I live. Dilbert for corporate office humor, xkcd tickles my geek side tremendously, and Non-Sequitur for political and social commentary.

Once in a while each of them have touched on the Evolution - Creationism political debate, and today's Non-Sequitur is one of those. Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Melanie Phillips is still wrong

Recently I blogged about Melanie Phillips and, in my opinion, either misguided or distortion of the relationship between Creationism and Intelligent Design. Apparently she was also taken to task over at Little Green Footballs, a much wider read Blog than my own efforts. I haven't read the LGF's post, but I am guessing we are in agreement because Ms. Phillips responded to LGF and she is still wrong. I am more leaning away from the misguided because of her vigorous defense of her position that ID is science. I still disagree, but she seems to belief what she is writing, more's the pity.

In her reply to LGF, "The secular inquisition", Ms. Phillips now seems to be a weak version of little Bennie Stein, claiming some sort of persecution of ID proponents. While hue and cries of conspiracy theories sell papers, they don't seem to hold up to any sort of examination. I don't see Melanie defending the science behind Astrology? Why not, it has THE SAME scientific validity as Intelligent Design, just ask Michael Behe.

1. She still argues that Intelligent Design is not the same thing as Creationism. I disagree. Oh she makes her case that it's not a form of Young-Earth-Creationism, but it is still a form of Creationism because it holds that a supernatural, or metaphysical Intelligence is required for life to be it as it is today. Just because Intelligent Design doesn't call the 'Designer' God doesn't mean they are not a form of Creationism. She defines Creationism as the whole 6-day Genesis thing. She reminds me of Francis Beckwith, the "I'm not a Creationist" Creationist.

2. Then she says "an attempt to shut down that argument by distorting and misrepresenting ID and defaming and intimidating its proponents". This is where she flirts with the whole conspiracy theorist concept. However once again she is wrong. All ID proponents have to do is get off their butt and do the scientific leg work required to support their assertion, and there are two of them . . . first the actual presence of Design, and that it would have only occurred through the actions of an Intelligent Designer. But no, even after opening up their own laboratory for the express purpose of doing this work, they are still at the marketing stages and whining about the big bullies of science.

Gee someone postulates an idea and it is met with resistance. Melanie, you do realize that probably describes every scientific theory in existence. The difference is that the REAL scientists didn't sit around and whine about the bullies who were picking on them. They are the ones who pressed ahead regardless of the resistance and eventually succeeded. The problem here is no one seems interested in actually doing the work, they just want to claim success without it. Melanie, you are supporting these efforts and you should be ashamed of yourself. If you think ID is science, then you should be telling them to get off the marketing hype and do the leg work! But no, you are joining in the 'big bullies won't let me play' line.

3. Next she parrots, without using the words, the while micro-macro tactic when she says. "But ID proponents say over and over again they are not Creationists and accept many aspects of evolution, in particular that organisms develop and change over time." When I learned Biology Micro-Evolution meant experimenting and studying evolution on micro-organisms. In fact in a 2007 interview Dr. Stephen Kay said "Yes, I think that micro and macro evolution is used as a dodge. Evolutionary biologists use micro evolution - the study for example of how microbes can change in successive generations, to learn about detailed specific mechanisms that may contribute to the larger picture of how organisms evolve under natural conditions." Dr. Kay is the dean of UCSD's Division of Biological Sciences.

Today it has taken on a new definition, and one I completely disagree with. The term 'micro-evolution' now is being used by folks like Melanie, for those parts of evolutionary theory that Creationists and ID proponents cannot deny. They reserve 'macro-evolution' for those parts they still think they can get away with and deny. In other words, micro, or within a species, is OK, but macro, from one species to another is not. However to real biologists there is no difference. Creationists and ID proponents offer no alternative process as to why evolution cannot evolve into other species -- some of the more rabid anti-evolutionists postulate some secret dividing line that prevents it -- by magic I guess. They simply make the claim and fail to support it. In the mean time they raise a smokescreen about supporting 'parts' of evolution. They deny the existence of transitional fossil forms, they deny the implications of experiments like Richard Lenski's, and they deny the evidence of the Italian Wall Lizards, to name a few. Sorry Melanie denial of evidence is not the hallmark of a real scientist. Science has not had anything to deny in the way of evidence for ID, no one has presented any -- something Behe also admitted.

4. Then she starts getting into the areas where I used to think she is sadly mis-informed, or now I am starting to suspect a more deliberate mis-information campaign. She characterizes Evolution as "random, blind-chance" process. How about a resounding "No!" There are parts of evolutionary theory that involve randomness, like Random Mutation, but there is nothing of blind chance involved, not when you have a process called Natural Selection. But characterizing it this way, a common Creationist/ID proponent ploy, makes it easy to deny. You won't find a biologist referring to evolution in such a way.

5. She also claims, another common Creationist canard, that science thinks that it "can account for everything". She's close, but she claims that it "flies in the face of reason and evidence". OK now she really needs to explain how a philosophy, Materialism, which is only concerned with things that can be proven and supported by evidence flies in the face of reason and evidence. I don't get it. Call is Materialism, Physicalism, Naturalism, or whatever, science is only concerned with natural explanations and does not address the supernatural.

OK, so while I disagree with what she has said so far, I really did enjoy the next part of her article:

LGF asked "Where are the peer reviewed studies? Where are the experimental proofs that can be duplicated by other scientists? Answer: nonexistent. "

Melanie replied "Well of course they are non-existent -- because ID is not in itself a scientific discovery. It is rather an inference from scientific discoveries. . . .It is an idea, a conclusion to a chain of observation and thought . . .ID is thus a paradox. The whole point is that it states that the ‘intelligent designer’ it posits as the only logical inference from scientifically verifiable complexity cannot be known through scientific means. . . .ID idea is that there is a limit to science beyond which it cannot go . . .That is where science stops and faith begins.
Now I did string together a few of her comments, you can read the article yourself and see if I missed the idea. But it seems to me she is making the argument that while ID might claim to have been born of science, a claim I still disagree with, it in itself is not scientific but based on faith.

6. Next Melanie uses a defense mechanism called Projection. She claims that pro-science is claiming that the whole ID movement is a conspiracy:
"Like all conspiracy theories, this one is characterised by irrationality, distortion and hysteria. Assuming that there was indeed dirty work at the Creationist crossroads over Of Pandas and People – so what? One sneaky attempt to get round the constitutional bar on teaching religion in public schools doesn’t prove that the whole ID movement was a Giant Creationist Conspiracy."
Melanie, here is where you need to do your homework. Rather than denigrate the Wedge Document, look at ALL the things Phil Johnson's organization, the Discovery Institute is doing and you will find it hard not to accept the whole ID movement is a concerted effort to bring Religion into the secular classroom. It's not one text book, but how about the support the Discovery Institute gave to the misguided school board in Dover PA? How about the lies and misrepresentations the Discovery Institute told the Ohio State School Board? How about the "Teach the Controversy", "Academic Freedom" and "Strengths and Weaknesses" tactics used by the Discovery Institute? How about Tejon California, Guillermo Gonzales, Richard Sternberg, and the 700 mis-represented signatures on the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwin" document? (look here, here and here)

You know when you look at all the activities the Discovery institute has been up to, it's hard not to use the term conspiracy. So how about we give them the benefit of the doubt and just call it an organized and deliberate effort to undermine the scientific teaching in our public schools and replace it with a Christian/Theistic viewpoint. Gee, so we won't use the word Conspiracy, does that make you feel batter Melanie?

7. However, I still say you need to do your homework better:
"To be sure, he and others at the Discovery Institute (which says it promotes religious pluralism rather than Creationism, and which refused to get involved in the Kitzmiller fight . . .)."
So advising the Dover School Board wasn't being involved? Michael Behe, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute testifying, wasn't involvement? Providing the 'Of Pandas and People' text wasn't involvement? Providing amicus curiae briefs for the defendants wasn't involvement? So exactly how do you characterize the Discovery Institute as not being involved? Oh, I get it, the point in which they realized they were going to get their butts kicked in court and ran away? When they started whispering that maybe the court case was a bad idea and put the onus on the defendants? How about when the defendants expectation of support from the DI never materialized? Sorry, Melanie, they were involved up to their less-than-stalwart little necks. Read Lauri Lebo's book "Devil in Dover" for some idea of their involvement. Like I said, research before making statements like that or did you do an Ann Coulter and only ask the DI if they were 'involved'? Poor journalism there!

Judge Jones was absolutely right in his judgment:
"After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community."

Fine Melanie, if you want to believe ID is not Creationism, go ahead, delude yourself. But you eventually reach a reasonable point. ID is not scientific, ID is not testable, ID requires and makes room for faith. The only conclusion I can draw is that you are not be a supporter of ID in the science classroom either. That being said, why don't you go back to punditing about immigration, just do your homework better the next time.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

PZ Myers gave a Commencement Address

Hopefully you are familiar with PZ Myers, a Biologist at a small school in Minnesota who also has a very widely read Blog called Pharyngula. If you are one of the few who read this blog, you know I've linked to many of his articles over the past couple of years. Well this past week he was in California giving the commencement address at the Keck School of Medicine at USC and it was a speech worth noting. I particularly liked his closing comment

"You are graduates of in institution that has encouraged you to think for yourself. I want you all to continue doing that. And what's more, I want you all to think very loudly, so the rest of us can hear."
So I am posting a link to it for all of you to enjoy, and to roll this philosophy in your own life. "Think for yourself and do it loud enough so the rest of us can hear!" Tonight is the meeting of the local school board. I know just the place to practice a bit of this for myself! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Debating Creationists

I have been thinking about this particular post for a while. I think trying to talk to certain people over on Topix, particularly the Evolution Debate section of Topix, sorta helped my thinking on the subject coalesce. Creationist, as in those who try and pass off their religious beliefs as science and wish their beliefs to be taught as science, come in a variety of flavors. Some you can talk to and many it really doesn't matter what you say.

  • The anti-evolutionist: This is someone not spouting a particular strain of religion, but seems to think denigrating evolution is the best way to advance Creationism/Intelligent Design. You can usually spot these people based on just how off the wall their anti-evolution statements get. You get the garden variety who say things like "Evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics" or "The odds of random events culminating in us is absurd". Discussing anything with them should stay focused on their own statements and trying to correct their own misunderstanding of science. The even more uninformed variety simply pass on known foolish comments, like "Darwin recanted on his deathbed" or "Evolution is like expecting a tornado through a junkyard to build a 747". These folks are harder to talk to because they really have no understanding at all and are usually just repeating things other people have said.
  • The pro-religionist: This person really doesn't care about the details of evolution, as evidenced by their complete lack of understanding of the subject. They also make many nonsensical comments about it, but they really have no interest in debating evolution. What they seem to expect is everyone to just roll over at brilliance of their religious commentary -- regardless of which variety of religion they seem to spout. These people are impossible to debate because the only voice they seem to listen to are the voices inside their heads.
  • The pseudo-scientist: Here is a fun type to discuss things with. They usually claim to not be supporting any particular religion and they also frequently claim to have in their hearts a genuine interest in improving science education. Unfortunately their references are usually from discredited sources like Answers in Genesis (AIG), The Atlas of Creation, the Discovery Institute, or the Institute of Creation Research (ICR). It's these very sources that will keep these folks from any actual understanding. What you will more than likely find is that they are a form of religionist, especially when cornered in their comments. After a while the fun is gone because they simply start repeating themselves. On Topix they usually head over to another thread and start their rhetoric all over again. They are not interested in any actual debate, the fun part is watching how they handle the simple dismantling of all their comments.
  • The Abusive Anti-Evolutionist/Religionist: This type is less fun to debate, because there is no debate. They state their position and then dump all over any one who disagrees with them. They never support any position and seem to be willing to say anything as long as it is a personal attack on the person who tried to engage them. The mild ones use terms like moron -- the more belligerent ones use phrases that would start an fistfight face to face. They also try and use the relative anonymity of the Internet as a weapon. If you are on a moderated forum, make sure you report these users. You might never get rid of them, but if they try and carry out their threats, they will learn that there really is no anonymity on the Internet.
  • The Earnest: Here is the king of all debaters, and also the rarest. This is a person who actually enters Topix, or similar site, with an interest in learning. While they may make frequent mis-characterizations of science, they listen to the comments in return and usually ask good questions. These are the folks that make places like Topix worthwhile! I know I have learned more about Geology from a poster named FossilBob and Microbiology form a poster named katydid than I ever got in school. The difference is Bob and Katey are actually working in the field and offer a perspective many teachers never achieve.
I have a few suggestions, at least things that have helped me:
  • What you do not really want to do is get into a religious debate. It's sort of like a chicken-egg argument, you really can't win, nor make much headway. Oh you can debate religious topics, like when someone misquotes or misrepresents the Bible, but if you get into a Urinary Olympics on the pros and cons of any particular strain of religion, you can't really reach any form of consensus, the debate will simply continue.
  • Concentrate your comments on their own words. Don't let them get away with word games, like changing definitions in mid thought (Theory vs Scientific Theory . . .) and above all don't let them get away without supporting their comments. Make them show you why they think their comment is correct. Once you have the source, you will find most arguments have little to stand on. I love it when a Creationist uses an argument that even Creationist sources say is bogus, like the Lady Hope story.
  • You should also expect them to challenge your own comments, that why using sources and links to valid source material is helpful. Oh they usually won't actually go read it, but having it there helps those who are interested in learning something.
  • You also should not allow them to digress into other scientific disciplines. I mean it's easy to mis-characterize Biology with examples form Astrophysics. It's a trap, don't fall for it. Try and keep them on topic. If nothing else others will see how vacuous their arguments are when they can't even address the concept they are arguing against. Frequently I have seen Chemistry (Abiogenesis), Geology/Physics (Radiological dating and Thermodynamics), and Astrophysics (Big Bang). Little do they realize how much support there is across multiple scientific disciplines for evolution. But if they bring up something outside of Evolution, drop a quick comment on them and try and bring them back to the topic at hand. It probably won't work, but it's fun trying.
One last thought is that if you wander these forums, have some fun with it. You can learn a lot, not just about science, but about people and personal interaction. The downside is that it's not face to face and sarcasm usually passes right by, but it's always entertaining!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Social Studies next on the firing line?

OK, repeatedly supporters of science and pointed to the Wedge Strategy document which pretty unequivocally states that Evolution is only the first, the 'wedge' to being a more theistic viewpoint to education. Over and over again Creationists (those pushing their religion as science) have been claiming that the Wedge strategy is some sort of non-sequitor. And so enters Texas, once again.

Fresh from a partial victory in the science area comes the review of the Social Studies curriculum. The State School Board, still under the 'leadership' of Don "Damn the science" McElroy, is trying to do it again. Check out the letter from the Texas Freedom Network "Ed Board Extremists Target Social Studies". Apparently Donnie is trying to stack the deck by appointing another 'expert' panel. Guess who is included? David Barton, fundamentalist of the group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality. Gee and I thought stacking the deck with Discovery Institute cronies for the science curriculum was bad. TFN’s Kathy Miller: “It’s absurd to suggest that Texas universities don’t have accomplished scholars in the field who are more qualified than ideologues who share a narrow political agenda."

So while my personal guess would have been Geology or Astronomy with the cross-hairs, since one of the many whines against evolution start with the age of the Earth and Universe, I would have never guess the softer sciences, like Social Studies. But then since any gains made by folks like Barton and Marshall are usually political rather than scientific, I guess this should have been a predictable target.

Texas, I know you folks are looking at lots of ways to water down McElroy, but you can't just stop there. The State Board of Education should not be allowed to use their power in an effort to promote on very narrow religious viewpoint of any curriculum area. Evolution was yesterday, Social Studies today, what is tomorrow? Geology? English? Let's see, what is the Biblical alternative to English? Are we going to go back to require Latin in school? How about Aramaic? Or we can use the Bible's original language, Greek. I bet lots of fundamentalist Creationists weren't aware of that one.

Just what is a Creationist anyway?

There is an ongoing multi-sided debate where one of the fellows over at the Discovery Institute claims that he is not a creationist or ID supporter. The opposing view taken by several science supporters says that (1) he is both; (2) he redefines what Creationist is in order to escape being one, (3) he only tries to confuse the issue.

Any of this sound familiar? well if you want to read the debate over whether or not Francis Beckwithe is a Creationist/ID supporter here are a few links:
Francis Beckwith Letter to the Editor (Panda's Thumb)
Forrest Respondes to Beckwith (Pandas Thumb)
Francis Beckwith’s letter to the editor (Timothy Sandefur)

OK, in my opinion, particularly based on the list of writings that Dr. Forrest showed, that Francis Beckwith is a Creationist and an ID Proponent and a pretty typical member of the Discovery Institute who uses lawyering word games to confuse issues rather than clarify them. But what do you expect of an organization with members like Phillip E. Johnson and Casey Luskin? Obfuscation must be in the job description over there.

But the main point of my post here isn't an indictment of Beckwith, that's just the fun part. What I really wanted to clarify was my own standing when I use the terms "Creationist" and "ID Proponent".

I generally subscribe to Webster's when defining terms, so here is their definition:

Creationism: "a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis."
I would further define a Creationist as one who subscribes to the doctrine of Creationism. OK, so far so good. But what I have learned is there there are many flavors of Creationism. You can see a hint of it in the Webster's definition where is says "usually in the way described in Genesis". The normal usage of the term "Creationist" is a reference to a Young-Earth-Creationist (YEC) who ascribe to the literal interpretation of Genesis. There are also Old-Earth-Creationist, non-Christian Creationists, and even Neo-Creationists. So listening to, or reading about, Francis Beckwith using one narrow definition in order to try and escape the label is pretty typical behavior. I mean all of Intelligent Design is an effort to escape the Creationism label, since they feel they won't be taken seriously as scientists. Of course they lost, no one takes them seriously once they climb into the pulpit and start preaching, even if they aren't mentioning God officially.

That said, I think when you use the term Creationist, it might help to define the terms a little more clearly, something I will aspire to do in future posts. But I would like to set the record straight here:
When I use the term Creationist, I am not looking at everyone who believes in God, I am talking about people who are attempting to use their religious beliefs as scientific theories and impose those beliefs on other people, particularly in the school science classroom. In other words people like Beckwith, Dembski, Johnson, Behe, Minnick, McElroy, Marshall . . . and the others who refuse to realize that their religious beliefs are not, nor should they be, a basis for science, nor should they be taught as such.
I do not care what flavor of Creationist you choose to call yourself, I don't even care if you refuse to consider yourself a Creationist at all. If you are using your religious beliefs to influence what is being taught as science at any level within the education community, you are a Creationist. Be you Don McLeroy, Francis Beckwith, or Michael Behe, you are a Creationist. And you are the people I oppose -- whatever your personal label.

Now we can get into all the legal word games about Ken Miller being a Creationist, since he believes in God. Hell, you can argue that I am a form of Creationist as well. But neither Ken Miller nor I am trying to push a religious belief into the classroom as science! Therein lies the difference. I am not trying to dictate anyone's belief system, I am just trying to keep it out of science class!

Maybe we need another word to describe folks like Beckwith, but that would simply confuse the issue even more. I am sure no matter what phrase we come up with, lawyering yahoos will come up with some loophole to explain why they aren't it. I used the term 'anti-evolutionist' before and got a response claiming that creationists are not against evolution (yea, right!), but only accept micro-evolution. See why I don't think we need to develop more terminology? I prefer use actions rather than labels; however convenient labels are. When you publish in support of ID, when you make public statements supporting ID, and when you publish letters to the editor playing lawyers word games with definitions, you are labeling yourself a Creationist.

So Francis, in my humble opinion, you are a Creationist in the worst possible use of the term. You are a supporter of Intelligent Design (Neo-Creationism), indicted by your own published work, you are a fellow over at the intellectually-dishonest Discovery Institute, and you play lawyering word games designed to deceive rather than illuminate. There, is that clear enough for you? You can disagree, but your own actions have made it pretty clear.

Things quiet down in Florida (again)

Well I think we can remove Florida from the list of States trying to damage science education, at least for now. You might remember that last year Florida approved new standards that require public schools to teach that the scientific theory of evolution is the foundation of all biology. This was not without a lot of politicking and acrimonious exchanges. Well State Representative Stephen Wise announced plans to introduce a bill require teachers who teach evolution to also discuss the idea of intelligent design. Apparently Representative Wise wasn't very and the bill he introduced was much watered down and said "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" -- in other words an even watered down version of the discredited 'strengths and weaknesses' argument.

Good news Florida, the other members of the legislature allowed this one to die off in committee. Which is political speech for "We know we can't get it passed, so let's not look like complete idiots". While I wish it had been defeated in detail, at least the State is safe until Representative Wise, or someone else like him, decides to try again. I am confident the message next time will have evolved into the Discovery Institute's 'Creationism Flavor-of-the-Month' -- whatever they believe can get passed, but at least you can rest a bit before girding up the loins and doing battle with the 18th century again. Maybe someone, like the voters, should be talking to Representative Wise about what he is supposed to be doing, other than wasting time and money on these Crusades.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tautologically speaking -- Yes, Dembski again :-)

Apparently William Demsbki, one of those less than stalwart fellows over at the Discovery Institute has put out another paper. "LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information: William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II" It's sort of an interesting read, but I still keep going back to my issues with everything Dembski has claimed in the past, none of it has meant anything. He is consistant in that regard.

Basically I have said in the past that in my opinion Dembski draws a line in sand and says that on one side are all the uncomplicated things that might have formed through natural processes, on the other side are complex things that could have only formed through an intelligence guided process. One of my many issues is that the dividing line is something so fluid that only Wild Bill Dembski seems to have this intuitive grasp of it that he is incapable of explaining it to anyone else. The line cannot be defined in any supportable fashion, it's apparently different for each organism, and even each part of each organism.

I'm not going to subject you too the whole paper, but I would love to point out just a few things about it:

  1. The "Law of Conservation of Information" is not a real construct. It appears to be an amalgamation of the mathematics of informational theory with the philosophy of information. These are two distinct concepts and merging them in this unsupported and unexplainable fashion just muddies the water rather than provide clarification. Better way to explain is simple, Information can be defined as data or meaning, Dembski seems to muddy them together without context. For example anyone who had done a college level paper knows that you collect information (data) and then assign meaning (the paper) and you use the data to support your meaning. Apparently Wild Bill skipped that class in college.
  2. His second section on "Biology's Information problem" is classic Dembski, repeating his old work and adding nothing new. He still draws the same unsupported conclusions and even repeats a lot of what he says in the first section. Dr. Mark Chu-Carroll, Computer Scientist, has a great line in his very detailed critique, " . . .Dembski's entire argument: by definition information requires intelligence; therefore if living things contain information, it must have been created by intelligence." [now you can see where I got my title, this is nothing but a tautology! Dembski is right because Dembski says he is right! Yea . . .Right!]
  3. The most fun was just the title of the last section: Conclusion: “A Plan for Experimental Verification”. This should be fun! He has an undefinable concept, documented in an unsupported paper, and now he thinks he can experiment with it. Actually after all this time of reading his 'work', I bet he will pull a Behe and allow others the 'privilege' of doing the experiments themselves.
    Actually after reading this the only conclusion I can find is that if you determine there is ANYTHING resembling information, Dembski will simply declare victory whether it has anything to do with his paper or not.
If sort of reminds of of the Creation Science Experiment I blogged about a long time ago:
"Tack or nail the feather to the stick with the shorter barbs pointing down. Ensure that the feather can swivel around on the nail/tack. Push the stick into the clay base. Use the hair dryer to blow air toward the feather from different angles. . . . "
and after all that, the documentation ends with:
"For a great Science project research and discuss the extreme complexity of the feather's structure, various types of fliers (birds, insects, mammals, reptiles); the DNA code barrier; and the mathematical impossibility of these different kinds of flying motions "evolving" by random chance."
See what I mean, the 'experiment' was a simple example of how a bird feather reacts in the wind, that's it. It's something I remember doing in 1st grade. And they leave it up to the experimenter to do the rest and call it a 'Creation Science experiment'. Where is the Creation part of the outlines experiment?

Pretty typical nonsense, I will say that Wild Bill has met my expectations again.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Texas has done something interesting

Potentially worrisome, but certainly interesting. One of the big concerns about Don McElroy's 'leadership' of the Texas State School Board was the attempt at implementing the Discovery Institute's phony 'strengths and weaknesses' ploy into the curriculum standards. He lost that argument, but did succeed in the 'critical analysis' of a number of key scientific theories. The major concern wasn't just for Texas, but since Texas is the second largest purchaser of textbooks, his Creationistic tendencies might have far-reaching impact. Other states might still get stuck with unsupportable ideas in their textbooks, simply because the textbook producers were pandering to Don's idiosyncrasies.

Well the next battle ground was going to be when Texas actually got around to purchasing textbooks, but it looks like the State is taking that power away from Don. Reported in a Lufkin Daily News Editorial "Texas Education Fund: House has passed legislation to transfer control of the Permanent School Fund to council of investment experts, and Senate should approve it and send it to voters."The move will take oversight of the $17.5 billion Permanent School Fund away form the School Board and give it to an 7 member committee. The fund is an investment fund that goes toward the purchase of textbooks and other instructional materials for Texas public schools. The committee would be made up of 2 appointees by the Governor, and one each by the lieutenant governor, the House speaker, the land commissioner and the comptroller. The seventh appointee would be named by the education board.

Now since the School Board revealed how disfunctional it is during the whole science curriculum hearings, I do see this as a slap down on McElroy and his supporters. But I would rather see action taken to remove McElroy for allowing his religious beliefs to override the duties of presiding over the School Board.

This certainly doesn't eliminate the possibility of shenanigans when the State starts selecting textbooks, but it does remove it the purse strings from McElroy's direct control. I do hope the people of Texas keeps an eye on this panel as well, to make sure the people appointed to oversee this very large fund are doing to job they were appointed to do!

Good Luck to the people of Texas!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Melanie Phillips is just plain wrong

Melanie Phillips, a Daily Mail Columnist recently wrote an article called "Creating an insult to intelligence" and either is poorly educated on the subject or ,giving her the benefit of the doubt, been severely misled.

I think she heard Kenneth Miller speak and raises some issues that really show a lack of understanding. Ms. Phillips heard Dr. Miller characterize Intelligent Design as "nothing more than an attempt to repackage good old-fashioned Creationism and make it more palatable." and she claims this is untrue. In her article she seems to think Judge Jones decided the way he did because of:"But the court was simply wrong, doubtless because it had heard muddled testimony from the likes of Prof Miller." That would only be said by someone who failed to research her subject, or someone with her own agenda. She seems to forget the Court also heard testimony from Michael Behe and Stephen Fuller. Here is something I would certainly characterize as muddled:

As a primary witness for the defense, Behe was asked to support the idea that intelligent design was legitimate science where he conceded that

  • "there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred"
  • The definition of 'theory' as he applied it to intelligent design was so loose that astrology would qualify as a theory by definition as well.
  • His 2004 simulation modelling of evolution paper, which had been claimed by the Discovery Institute as "Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design", under oath he revealed that it showed that the biochemical systems in question could evolve within 20,000 years, even if the parameters of the simulation were rigged to make that outcome as unlikely as possible.
Let's see . .no peer reviewed articles, change the definition of science, and mis-representing one article. Sounds like a good reason to doubt the whole "ID is not Creationism" line Ms. Phillips is bandying about.

Central to the dependents case was the textbook "Of Pandas and People" started life as a Creationist text, titled "Creation Biology Textbook Supplements" went through many revisions like "Biology and Creation " and "Biology and Origins " clearly demonstrate the theme of Creationism. However, the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court case determined that teaching creationism in public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the United States constitution, but that alternative scientific theories could be taught. So the text was re-born as "Of Pandas and People" and the drafts clearly demonstrated that the text underwent minor revisions to change the Creationism references to ones supporting intelligent Design, the latest recast of doctrine into language of more indicative of science. One typo shows this more than any other. The term "creationists" was changed to "design proponents", but in one case the beginning and end of the original word "creationists" were accidentally retained, so that "creationists" became "cdesign proponentsists".

So obviously Ms. {Phillips needs to work on her research if she still thinks the Judge was in error. The testimony and evidence clearly showed the Creationist underpinnings of Intelligent Design. In my opinion the only way to be ignorant of that is to either deliberately ignore the testimony and evidence, or to not having done your homework before rendering an opinion . . . something Ms. Phillips demonstrates much more than Judge Jones!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jerry Bergman has a book out, should we care?

Has anyone read "Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth about Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters" by Jerry Bergman?

I've seen a few news releases on it, and so far it looks pretty much like re-warmed nonsense.
His book is apparently, since I haven't read it, a long whine about how some folks -- starting with Jerry Bergman himself -- blame their own failures on prejudice and discrimination . . . yet have no actual evidence to back it up. I bet Guillermo Gonzalez, formerly of ISU, and Nathanial Abraham, formerly of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute are prominently on display. Funny how failure to meet the requirements of tenure (Gonzales) and failure to do the work you were hired to do (Abraham) probably won't be mentioned.

I wonder if Bergman will mention how each of them (Bergman, Gonzalez, and Abraham) had availed themselves of the appeal process and so far have failed. Wow, just looked up the author online, and it's funny. The article (Ohio scholar reports bias against 'Darwin doubters') says he has 9 degrees, yet the bio shows 5 -- wonder if he counts minors as a separate degree. Hmmm the bio ( also mentions how he was denied tenure because he claimed to have credentials in psychology when, in fact, he "had no psychological credentials." Gee, so it looks like, according to Jerry here, lying on your CV is synonymous with discrimination for religious reasons. I wonder if Jerry has been talking to Kennie Ham who also seems to think lying for God is OK.

I wonder if he talked to John Freshwater of Mount Vernon Ohio who not only got caught for teaching Creationism/Intelligent Design, but for burning a cross into student's arms. I will lay dollars on the line that he never discussed anything with Chris Comer who was fired for her job for doing her job. Stuff like that never seems to sink in to apologetics like Jerry.

On second thought I doubt Bergman has much new to say. If I see it around the Library I might read it . . .but I certainly won't be paying any money for it.

Just peeked at Leaf Cutter Press, the publisher. Funny how the article doesn't mention the CEO is Kevin Wirth, who is also behind the Access Research Network, one of the many anti-science organizations who claim to be impartial and objective . . yet never seem to be able to provide any viable scientific evidence for their position. Surprised Jerry didn't use the Discovery Institute Press.