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.