Monday, December 13, 2010

Did religious beliefs impact a hiring selection?

Here is an interesting case and I haven't made up my mind yet -- probably because of a lack of information. The early stories have me concerned. OK, let me know what you think about this: The Kentucky Courier-Journal is reporting "Job candidate sues UK [University of Kentucky], claiming religion cost him the post". I know the DI will have to stick their know-little-noses in soon, but I wanted to get an idea before they start polluting the Internet.

I actually caught this off the NCSE website at "Creationism at issue in employment dispute?"Please note the question mark. I am not sure of the issues in this yet, but it bears thinking.

Well if you haven't read up on it, here is a summary: In 2007 Martin Gaskell was a candidate to be the founding director of a new observatory at the University of Kentucky. The Courier-Journal is reporting that he was the leading candidate -- but that is something I am not sure can be substantiated. Again according to the suit Prof Gaskell claims that because he gave presentations in which he said that

"he believes the theory [of evolution] has major flaws. And he recommended students read ... critics [of evolution] in the intelligent-design movement."
was the reason he was not selected for the position. So he sued for
"because of his religious beliefs and his expression of these beliefs" in violation of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991."
Since ID has been identified by a Federal Court as Creationism in a lab-coat, so it certainly can be argued that one of the factors in his not being selected might have been his support of ID. But how critical a factor was this?

There may very well have been other factors that lead to him not being selected -- UK hasn't said much yet other than his beliefs were a factor -- heck nearly anything can cause you to be non-selected, it's not like he was fired from a position.

Now one of the questions is should they have been a factor? There is my dilemma. It's easy to see why Guillermo Gonzales, Nathanial Abraham, and John Freshwater have all experiences career setbacks -- and while they all claim religious discrimination, so far the evidence hasn't backed them up. Is this one more case in point where someone's religious beliefs may have impacted, but not have been the cause of being not-selected. It will be a case worth keeping track of, that's for sure. It's easy to claim discrimination, as we have seen.

Oh, in case you hadn't realized it, but Prof Gaskell is not a biologist, but an Astronomer. So you might think that shouldn't make a difference. But you should also remember that he is still a scientist, and in the position he claims to have been a leading candidate he would be in a leadership and supervisory position over others. The work of the observatory would also be looked at for publicity and even as a source of recruitment for the University. Do you want someone who questions a field outside his own and directs students to look at non-scientific material running such a facility? There is the question that faced the selection committee and we know how they answered it, they went elsewhere. So was their decisions the correct one?

I don't know -- yet, but I do agree that his beliefs SHOULD have been a factor of his selection. Not for him having them, but for how those beliefs could impact his ability to do his job. That's the question that really needs to be answered. I am sure Guillermo Gonzalez wasn't even on the consideration list and I am sure no one would question that decision. Well like I said, a case worth watching. I am interesting in ALL of the evaluation criteria and see how other candidate measured up.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Things looking bleak for the Discovery Institute -- We can all hope!

In all honesty 'The Huffington Post' is not something I read regularly. While they frequently do have great articles by folks like Michael Zimmerman, they also tend to offer platforms to folks who support such pseudo-science as the anti-vaccine movement, climate change deniers, and Creationism. Today they had a pretty good article by John Farrell: "Intelligent Design: Losing the Catholics". The article does a good job of discussing the . . . well to borrow a quote from the article:

"the vapidity of intelligent design."
It also has a quote from another article that asked and answers "What has the intelligent design movement achieved?"
"What has the intelligent design movement achieved? As science, nothing. The goal of science is to increase our understanding of the natural world, and there is not a single phenomenon that we understand better today or are likely to understand better in the future through the efforts of ID theorists."
I am not sure i would call any of the fellows at the DI 'Theorists', but I don't agree with some of the authors terminology. The author does mention something I have to disagree with:
"The irony about the intelligent design debate today, is that the intelligent design proponents, like the Darwinists, presuppose an opposition between chance and design. They necessitate an opposition between chance and design."
Science does not presuppose such opposition. It does say that the evidence supports chance over design. Science also states that no one, including all of the design proponents, have offered one shred of evidence supporting design. Science is not opposed to design, but has said time and time again that proponents of design need to show the evidence. 'Why is it design?' 'How did it become designed?' 'What methodology indicates design?' These questions, among others, have been sidestepped by design proponents. As such, any opposition to their ideas is based on their LACK of evidence, not on the concept of design. I also wish the author would not use the term 'Darwinist', for reasons I have spelled out many times. There is no scientific discipline or ideology called 'Darwinism'.

The final quote from the article is a nice one:
"So, all is not well in Seattle. For Christians who support solid science education, that's something to celebrate. The more the vapid arguments of the Discovery Institute are exposed, the smaller and smaller their audience will become."
The 'Big Tent' approach envisioned by Phillip E. Johnson, ID's daddy rabbit, is showing signs of significant wear and tear. The problem comes not only from the outside, but from within from their own inability to support their own ideas. Many Christians who were initially positive about Intelligent Design are realizing now that is was an emotional appeal rather than an intellectual one that attracted them. As we all know an emotional appeal tends to fade over time, especially when it is the only appeal anyone is making. All the marketing in the world can only prop up a bad idea for a short while.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Klinghoffer, Klinghoffer, Klinghoffer are you ever right?

OK, I am sure that you have heard the news. NASA scientists have discovered a lifeform that can be coaxed into substituting arsenic for phosphorus. The news had blown it all way out of proportion, claiming things like "Alien Microbes" and "Life from another planet?" But the reality is less exciting than the news reports. PZ Myers has a nice piece on it "It's not an arsenic-based life form". So what does this have to do with the DI's resident excuse? Well Klinghoffer just had to comment on it. And how does he comment on it? In the least honest way possible.

He starts, as he usually does, in the title: "About That Arsenic-Gobbling Microbe...Bad News for Darwinists?" What I am still not sure of is how is this a problem for . . . to use his favorite pejorative . . . Darwinists? I assume he means Biologists. Well he sort of explains

"The bacterium evidently uses arsenic for purposes that all other known organisms would use phosphorus, including incorporating it in DNA. A reporter for Nature News cites UC Santa Barbara geomicrobiologist David Valentine as observing that the discovery may mean "you can potentially cross phosphorus off the list of elements required for life."
First of all, it's not that it uses arsenic for purposes that all other known organisms would use phosphorus -- it is more that is can be coaxing into using it. I think that's a huge difference. Look at the caveat he sneaks in "all other known organisms". So what in biology or evolutionary theory says that there can be no other organisms based on other than the elements we are familiar with? Absolutely none! Yes, we know a great deal about the life forms around us. we've only been studying them for a very long time. We've also been studying organisms we call extremophile (an organism that thrives in and may even require physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth.) So back to the original question, why is this a problem?

In reality it is not! Look at it from this direction. Creationists, like Klinghoffer, like to look from the top and and claim that man has some special relationship with God and that we are at the pinnacle of some imagined ladder of awesomeness. Now biologists look more from a bottom-up approach and we are the result of our environment. So according to Creationists this discovery makes no difference. the 'designer' could do anything it wanted to do. Yet according to biologists if the environment had been different, we might have evolved very differently.

So in other words . . . it is no surprise in biology about this discovery. So where does Klinghoffer go next? SETI. Yea, I thought the same thing.
"Yet we still have no indication from SETI or anything else that intelligent or complex life exists anywhere but here. Which makes the existence of life on earth look just a bit more special than it did before, right?"
Does it really? So instead of making an actual case -- or at least building a decent strawman -- Klinghoffer falls on the tired old argument that because we haven't found life out there . . . we are so special. So just how many planets have we visited? None. How much exploring have we done? Not very much. Yes, we are listening to small portions of the sky at a time. The annual budget for SETI is pretty minuscule.

So back to Davey. The SETI argument makes absolutely no sense, so where does he turn? To Guillermo Gonzalez. You remember Guillermo? He was the Astronomer who lost his bid for tenure at Iowa State University for FAILING to do his job. Now he is teaching at a little Christian school in Grove City, Pa, and I guess he still finds time to dabble in Intelligent Design. But he doesn't say anything. Yet Davey thinks that his words offered . . . to use yet another pejorative . . . materialists dodging a bullet.

So where is this imaginary bullet? The discovery is nothing terribly special. Klinghoffer offers no reason . . . well no ACTUAL reason . . . why this is supposed to be a bad thing for biology. Here is the part that just kills me. We open our eyes a little bit future and make a discovery of something potentially wondrous, yet Klinghoffer seems to want us to be afraid of it.

I think he's afraid of it because it really is nothing more than one more successful prediction based on evolutionary sciences. The same sciences that threaten the narrow worldview of people like Klinghoffer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

DI's next cruel trick -- re-baptizing Alfred Russel Wallace

The Discovery Institute (DI) is starting to remind me of the Mormon Church, at least in one of their gutter tactics. I recall reading how the Mormons have this nasty little habit of baptizing already dead folks into the church, such as Anne Frank and Adolf Hitler, all on behalf of surviving relatives. If you are interested in knowing more about this disgusting practice, you can check out "Baptism for the Dead" over on Wikipedia.

So what does this have to do with the Discovery Institute. Well they are trying to not steal a soul, but they are trying to steal a man's lifework. Michael Flannery, a compatriot of little casey luskin and the rest of those less-than-honest folks at the DI, wrote a disgusting little post called "The Centennial of Alfred Russel Wallace's The World of Life: The Co-Discoverer of Natural Selection Proposes Intelligent Evolution!". In it he claims:

"Forgotten in the glare of Darwin's preeminence is that Wallace went on to craft his own theory, a theory imbued with intelligent design. First announced in April of 1869, Wallace would go on to develop a theory of directed, detectably designed, and purposeful common descent best described as intelligent evolution."
In my opinion Wallace might have been overlooked at one time, but not currently. There have been numerous books and articles on his contributions to Evolution and Natural Selection. Did you know Wallace was the most cited Naturalist in Darwin's "Descent of Man". While they were often in disagreement over the details, Wallace remained a supporter of Darwin and Natural Selection for the rest of his life. He published "Darwinism" as a response to critics of Natural Selection. Here are a couple of quotes I ran across:
"But whether there be a God and whatever be His nature; whether we have an immortal soul or not, or whatever may be our state after death, I can have no fear of having to suffer for the study of nature and the search for truth, or believe that those will be better off in a future state who have lived in the belief of doctrines inculcated from childhood, and which are to them rather a matter of blind faith than intelligent conviction". 1861 Letter from Wallace to Thomas Sims
"I thus learnt my first great lesson in the inquiry into these obscure fields of knowledge, never to accept the disbelief of great men or their accusations of imposture or of imbecility, as of any weight when opposed to the repeated observation of facts by other men, admittedly sane and honest. The whole history of science shows us that whenever the educated and scientific men of any age have denied the facts of other investigators on a priori grounds of absurdity or impossibility, the deniers have always been wrong." Notes on the Growth of Opinion as to Obscure Psychical Phenomena During the Last Fifty Years
Does this sound like someone who would support the modern Creationism-in-hiding Intelligent Design? Wallace could be categorized as a Creationist, but not a Creationist in the same sense as the bunch over at the DI. He had a side that supported various forms of spirituality, some might have even embarrass a modern scientist and theologian -- but he is more like many current Christians where evolution is not an issue. In my opinion, based on the evidence of his work, Wallace is much more likely to have signed the counter-petition "A Scientific Support for Darwinism" than he would the DI's extremely misleading "Dissent from Darwinism". Wallace supported evolution and Natural Selection right up until he died at age 90.

But with Wallace safely dead, just like those poor souls that the Mormon Church is trying to appropriate, the DI is releasing posts that make it sound as if he would support their misinformation campaign. Luckily his work survives and anyone can do only a few minutes to research Alfred Russel Wallace will realize this. The Alfred Russel Wallace page at Western Kentucky University was an interesting place to spend some quality time. Just a couple of years back Olivia Judson, the Dr. J of Biology, wrote an interesting opinion piece on Wallace's place in history, You might like it as well: "Wallace Should Hang" These two sites are infinitely more interesting than the DI's poorly named 'evolution news' site.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Keep running into Dembski-isms

You know as little respect as most of the ID proponents deserve, I keep running across comments about Dembski's unequivocal surrender.

Over at JREF forums, one commenter, AdMan, put it pretty succinctly:

"Here is one of the key proponents for Intelligent Design, dismissing a point that he earlier had argued was supported by scientific findings simply because he's told that the bible is absolutely trustworthy and he must not question it. And he gives in without an argument. Does ID have any legitimacy left?" [I added the italics for emphasis]
Over on Daylight Atheism it is also said quite plainly:
"But just as fascinating, I think, was Dembski's craven response. When threatened with losing his job, he immediately recanted, despite everything he had said before about how his views were founded on the evidence. He immediately surrendered those views and, in his own words, "bowed to the text" - prostrating himself before the Bible and confessing that he believes it, not because that's what the evidence says, but because that's what's written and he knows he's not permitted to doubt or think independently. Regardless of what the facts say, he knows his beliefs must be subordinated to the cold demands of dogma. Is this not a total abdication of intellectual honesty? " [Again, I added the italics for emphasis]
One of the commenters over on Daylight Atheist had a great comment, one I had to repost:
"With apologies to Monty Python.

Brave Sir Dembski ran away.
Bravely ran away away.
("I did!")
When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Dembski turned about
("I did!")
And gallantly he chickened out.

Bravely taking ("I certainly did!") to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat.
("all truth!")
Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Dembski!
("I did!")"

How in the world can Dembski face any students in the light of such behavior? I do pity any students he has, they deserve better. On the other hand, this isn't all that surprising. Look at the coalition put together by those less-than-stellar folks at the Discovery Institute. There is no interest in actual science, only dogmatic clinging to shreds of various ideologies. Look at a few of the tactics and attacks against evolutionary theory -- completely toothless because of their refusal to step away from philosophy and marketing and engage in science.
  • Teach the non-existent controversy
  • Academic freedom that has nothing to do with actual academic freedom
  • Darwin caused Hitler -- in spite of Hitler's avowed Christianity in his own writings and speeches
  • The math -- that no one has the ability to calculate -- doesn't support evolution
All of it pretty much . . . well as the saying goes no matter how much mayo you use, you can't turn chicken sh** into chicken salad. They certainly seem to use a great deal of mayo. They dress up their ideas in ill-fitting lab coats, pay for it with other people's money, publish in the popular and christian press, whine about impossible decades-long and multi-national conspiracies of millions of scientists, and then lie and misrepresent their ideas to school boards at the state and local level. So Dembski sweating over a paying job is not much more than a ripple in a pond loaded with reprehensible tactics and strategies.

It's not that terribly surprising because of the original Wedge Strategy Document:
  • "To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies"
  • "To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God"
Intelligent Design is a shill, it's a cover, it's a thin veneer over Creationism and it really doesn't matter in the long run as long as Creationism can find its way back into the secular classroom -- not matter how! Dembski, Meyer, Johnson, Sternberg, and the rest of them will say anything, stoop to any tactic, any device, any potential selling point not because their ideas are correct, but because they believe in them in spite of the evidence that does not support them and the ends they seek justifies the means.

As one of Dembski's students said of his professor's desires
" . . . theology as the "queen of the sciences" . . . "
And that is the real crime.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Settlement reached in Freshwater case!

The second to last part of the Freshwater saga is at an end. John Freshwater is not allowed to brand students! Now if only the judge presiding over the last issue, his administrative hearing on being fired, would issue his ruling we can all start to forget John Freshwater!

If you want a refresher, The Panda's Thumb's Richard Hoppe provided an amazing amount of coverage! Bottom line is John Freshwater was fired for a number of things including assault on students by burning crosses in their arms, lying to investigators, and failing to follow school board policies-- to name a few. Several suits followed, a lot of apparently foolish activity by Freshwater and his attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, and we are nearing the end of the road. Maybe Mt Vernon, OH can also set this behind them -- providing Freshwater is not returning to the classroom.

Here is my issue. John Freshwater might not be burning crosses in any arms, which is a good thing, but is it enough? Does this man who would even think to do such a thing belong in the classroom? He has received a lot of positive attention from many Creationists who keep trying to cast this in a 'religious freedom' light. But the reality is not about religious or even academic freedom. John Freshwater is supposed to be teaching science. Instead of that he assaulted his charges, taught Creationist/intelligent Design against school policy, and then lied about it to investigators. What kind of lesson will this be telling our students if he is allowed to return to the classroom? Plus, since he has settled the other lawsuits most certainly not in his favor, what kind of message will this send to Freshwater if he is allowed back int he classroom? Sure, he might not be burning crosses, but teachers in Mt. Vernon High School will still have to be re-teaching the material supposedly covered by John Freshwater because he wasn't held responsible to failing to teach it.

That is my $.02. He had his chance and he allowed his religious convictions to get in the way of him doing his job. Would you fire a butcher who refused to cut meat for religious reasons? Would you fire an employee who refused to follow the direction of a female supervisor for religious reasons? Would you fire a Pharmacist who refused to give out Birth Control pills for religious reasons? I certainly hope so. And that is why John Freshwater deserves to lose his job. It's not that he couldn't do it, but that he refused to do it and nothing I have read on this hearing has given me any hope that he would suddenly start doing it.

I wonder if the Discovery Institute will have anything to say. So far he's about the only Intelligent Design proponent they haven't offered support. I might have to go back and double check that, but I cannot recall anything supporting Freshwater from luskin, Klinghoffer, or that bunch. If I am wrong, please pass me a link. It might be worth a follow-up post once the final hearing decision is done. Word is that might come down by the end of the year!

Monday, November 29, 2010

DI's version of Larry, Moe, and Curly!

Been a busy couple of weeks so I am a bit behind on my blog. So here is a trio of posts concerning three of my favorite Discovery Institute/Intelligent Design stooges Behe, Dembski, and the lightweight luskin.

So what has Michael Behe been up to? He's been touring Great Britain at the invite of the new Centre for Intelligent Design (CID) in Glasgow, Scotland. I posted a little about it "So there is nothing religious about ID? Part III", "That didn't take long UK Intelligent Design meet US Intelligent Design" and "It is about time we got even!" Well He had a little opinion piece published in the Guardian called "Finding Design in Nature" and it's filled with it's usual tripe. He says:

"My contention is that 'the purposeful arrangement of parts' to achieve a specific purpose is the criterion that enables us to recognise design. I argued that the conclusion of design in the bacterial flagellum and in many other biological systems is no different from discerning it for a mousetrap or a Ford Mondeo"

Here is my issue with his definition of Intelligent Design and it's with the word 'purposeful and purpose'. Exactly what does a 'purposeful arrangement of parts to achieve a purpose' say about itself? That it serves a purpose. That's it! So what exactly does that say about the origin of a cell, or any biological component? Absolutely nothing. What he is trying to do is muddy the waters and make people think that because something has a purpose it could not have possibly come about except through being arranged for that purpose. But he offers no support for having a purpose requires a intended purposeful arrangement. If you disagree then please let me know what support he provided that shows the pieces and parts were arranged IN ORDER to achieve that specific purpose. That's what he says -- but that isn't what he supports or provides evidence. I don't see it, I see his argument as conjecture with a side-order of wishful thinking. The other comment of his I find funny is:

"So what makes Intelligent Design fundamentally different from Darwinism? The Darwinian view which dominates biology holds that the design we all see in life is merely illusory and that life is essentially a blind and purposeless phenomenon. Intelligent Design claims that the design is real and demonstrable; we are left to draw our own conclusions about the implications."
The part that cracks me up is a frequent Creationist strawman. Evolution does not say 'blind and purposeless', what evolution says is that there are parts that are undirected, like Random Mutation. But when it comes to Natural Selection, there is a great deal of 'driven by environment' in the selection of the traits that offer survival and reproductive advantages. Behe only wants you to think about Evolution being blind and purposeless because if he admitted the truth, it would undercut his less-than-well-supported arguments.

But Behe isn't the only target of this little post. Recently William "Wild Bill" Dembski had a change of heart, or he lost his mind, and switched from being an OEC to a YEC, that is his frequently voiced support for an Old Earth has changed camps to join the Young Earthers. I posted about it in "Wild Bill and his sidekick Glenn Beck-erhead". Well what I apparently missed was the reason for his latest disregard for scientific evidence. Apparently those "open-minded" YEC's he works with over at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary can't possible have someone on staff that isn't toeing the ideological line. So Dembski finding himself possibly unemployed yet again (Remember when Baylor sent him home?) he quickly quickly disregarded years of OEC support to keep his job. Panda's Thumb has a lovely post about it "But it’s all about the science …". They highlighted a Dembski quote that I just have to repeat here:

“In a brief section [of his book] on Genesis 4-11, I weigh in on the Flood, raising questions about its universality, without adequate study or reflection on my part,” Dembski wrote. “Before I write on this topic again, I have much exegetical, historical, and theological work to do.”

This, in my opinion, is Dembski being Dembski and trying to skate around years of Old Earth support and trying to make it sound like his changing camps is no big deal. For a change he isn't trying to claim expertise he doesn't have. But his stating that there is 'Exegetical, Historical, and Theological' work that he needs to do is a bit foolish to me. Along with Panda's Thumb, I have to ask why isn't he going to do quite a bit of Geological work as well? But then the answer hit me. Dembski has absolutely no interest in heading down the path of science. It would again put him at odds with his employers. Someone who identifies himself as one of Dembski's students said this:

"As a student at SWBTS currently, and knowing Dr. Dembski through his writings and as my professor . . . his views are extremely conservative. Indeed, he repeatedly stated that he wanted to see theology as the "queen of the sciences" again, guiding all of our disciplines.

I think if we were honest, most of us would admit that we don't have the scientific background to really understand half of what he says. . . . If this is about "new earth" vs "old earth" being accepted Baptist orthodoxy, we are going to see many of our respected Christian scientists, mathematicians, etc. abandon our fellowship if we cannot allow for an old earth."

Division in the ranks, I hope the student covered himself or he might find himself on one side of a Dembski-ish inquisition.

Now last and, as usual, least little casey luskin. Luskin again attempts to put on a lab coat and posts on the DI news site (They call it a blog, but they do not allow any comments, so it's a news site). "Does Intelligent Design Help Science Generate New Knowledge"and here is a summary of the great work he thinks is inspired by intelligent Design:

  • ID has inspired scientists to do research which has detected high levels of complex and specified information in biology in the form of fine-tuning of protein sequences.
  • ID has inspired scientists to seek and find instances of fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics to allow for life, leading to a variety of fine-tuning arguments including the Galactic Habitable Zone.
  • ID has inspired scientists to understand intelligence as a scientifically studyable cause of biological complexity, and to understand the types of information it generates.
  • D has inspired both experimental and theoretical research into how limitations on the ability of Darwinian evolution to evolve traits that require multiple mutations to function.
  • ID has inspired theoretical research into the information-generative powers of Darwinian searches, leading to the finding that the search abilities of Darwinian processes are limited, which has practical implications for the viability of using genetic algorithms to solve problems.
OK, that's enough. If you want to get bored you can go look at the rest of them. They are equal part obfuscation and pretty wordy pseudoscience. First of all I would like to comment on who are all these 'scientists' he claims are being inspired? Douglas D. Axe, Guillermo Gonzalez, Stephen C. Meyer, Michael Behe, William A. Dembski, Richard v. Sternberg . . .. Anyone else see a trend? These people don't need inspiration from Intelligent Design, these are fellow members of the Discovery Institute that are busy trying to market ID. Now if ID was actually an inspiration, casey, how about a list of real scientists who are inspired -- but who are not already fervent believers in ID? That would be an interesting list -- but of course it would be an empty one. The best you have been able to do is a list of 700 people, some of which are scientists, few are biologists, that think questioning Darwin's work is a good idea. the list doesn't support, nor was it inspired by ID -- even though your buds at the DI tried to make it sound that way during the Dover trial.

Of course little casey has to start off with a huge assumption
"It's important to realize that when dealing with historical sciences like neo-Darwinian evolution or intelligent design . . ."
Um, since when is 'Intelligent Design' science? Plus just what the hell is a 'historical science'? He never goes into that. he just makes his statement without any actual support and assumes it to be factual.

Do any of his comments address HOW Intelligent Design inspired all this? Or any of the open questions about Intelligent Design, like the identity of the Designer, that mythical designer that could clear this mystery up in a second -- if only there was support for the existence of the 'officially' unidentified designer.

Well of course anything casey writes needs to be subjected to the 'giggle test', that means if you can get through it without giggling, someone else wrote it for casey.

More soon because I certainly would like to comment on the counter suit by the California ScienCenter over the broken contract to show an ID film. Apparently they were 'helped' by the Discovery Institute and even little casey might get deposed. And I need to catch up and see if there is anything new on the David Coppedge case. It downed on me that I haven't heard a thing lately. After Coppedge filed his suit the DI's various mouthpieces had a flurry of posts supporting him . . . and then it tapered off to nothing! I wonder if they actually know something or they are simply being shy of supporting yet another loser.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Louisiana Politics over Science

The lovely State of Louisiana is under yet another attack on its education system, this time about its choice for Biology Textbooks. Please note that as part of a regular process a State appointed review committee has already finished and recommended several Earth Science and Biology texts. The decision by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was delayed because of comments made about the presence of Evolution in the texts.

You might remember that something similar has happened in Texas and also South Carolina. In fact it really does parallel South Carolina (Ms. Kristin Maguire strikes) when the newly elected president of the state school board brought in two shills to make negative comments about the biology textbooks up for approval and dragged out the process for months while she held public hearings. In that case common sense and science won. In this case a panel called the 'Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council', which even the Advocate refers to as a 'little known' panel, gets to weigh in with a recommendation. Where was this panel on all the other textbooks already approved?

The contention, voiced by members of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) -- drafters of the poorly named ‘Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA)’ -- is that there is too much Evolution in the textbooks presented for approval. Oh isn't that just too bad! A science textbook that presents a scientific theory is just too much for the LFF. But then when your own website says:

"It is our mission to persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking."
I can see why any mention of evolution makes them uncomfortable.

A couple of other responders to the issue complained about a noticeable lack of Intelligent Design! Well I certainly hope so, or Louisiana would be facing a Dover-style smack-down. Sorta like 1987 with Edwards v. Aguillard and also in 2002 when the BESE voted against the LFF's proposal to insert evolutionary disclaimers in textbooks.

Well not everyone in Louisiana is in favor of changing the textbook recommended by the original committee. The Advocate also published an opinion piece in favor of science over politics. I loved this:
"But it is the duty of the committee members not to be politicians — a couple of the members are state legislators — or representatives of public opinion. The committee members have a duty to reject intrusion of pseudo-science, such as creationism or its offshoot “intelligent design,” into science classrooms."
The comments with that article were almost all in favor of science, except for one who did the standard Creationist misrepresentation of what is a scientific theory.

Just a note, apparently the State Legislators in question are also the two who introduced the aforementioned LSEA to each of the Legislative houses. I think the cards are stacked against a quality education in Louisiana. I am not the only one concerned. One of my favorite reporters, Lauri Lebo over on Religious Dispatches, "Louisiana Citizens Horrified that there’s Evolution in Science Books" asked
"Anybody want to place a bet on what the panel will recommend?"

There may actually be some good news. Just today The Advocate reported
"A state advisory panel voted 8-4 Friday afternoon to endorse a series of high school science textbooks that have come under fire for how they describe evolution."
As expected 2 of the “no” votes were cast by Senate Education Committee Chairman Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, and House Education Committee Vice-Chairman Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe. Nevers and Hoffman were the chief sponsors of the LSEA in the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives back in 2008.

We still need to keep an eye on this since this is only a recommendation and the actual final approval is slated for next month by the BESE. I am sure other LFF proponents will be campaigning, but hopefully with the original recommendations made by the committee who reviewed new textbooks being upheld by the Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council will have sufficient weight. I wonder how long it will take the Discovery Institute to spin up a response -- or maybe they are still gun shy of Louisiana ever since Livingston Parish elected to go the Creationism route and avoid the bad idea known as Intelligent Design.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do Teachers Have Free Speech?

I guess the underlying question is does anyone really have 'Free Speech'? Before answering, I want to tell you a story of sorts.

When I was in the USAF, we had what we called 'Free Speech with limitations'. It sounds weird, but think about it. According to the precepts of free speech I should be able to tell my commander to 'pound sand'. The reality is that sure I could do so, but I had to be willing to face the consequences -- which could have included jail time, discharge, fines . . .. So in reality I did not have free speech as a member of the US Military. And it made perfect sense to me -- and still does. While the idea of free speech is fine, you always have to be willing to accept the consequences. Even in the civilian world, you aren't allowed to walk into a theater and yell 'Fire!'. Oh you can do it, but there better be a fire or the consequences of the ensuing panic will fall heavily on your shoulders.

So let's take this argument back to teachers. Do teachers have free speech? Well outside of the classroom they have the same free speech we all share. But I am talking inside the classroom? Do they?

According to John Freshwater, the Mt Vernon Teacher who is central to a long running trial in which he was fired for a variety of things, including teaching Creationism in violation of the district standards. One of his points was that the district’s restrictions on his classroom behavior violated his free speech rights. So at a time when his trial(s) are winding down, the question remains, does a teacher in the performance of their duties have free speech?

Well as reported on one of my favorite blogs, Panda's Thumb, the answer is No! According to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals:

"The appellate panel in Cincinnati upheld a lower court’s ruling for the Tipp
City [Ohio] Exempted Village School District, writing that the right to free
speech “does not extend to the in-class speech of teachers in primary and
secondary schools made ‘pursuant to’ their official duties.”"
This ruling and the 'free speech with limitations' makes perfect sense to me. Teachers in primary and secondary schools face an audience who has not learned the detail about any subject to understand enough to actually filter out inappropriate materials. As a result, the impressionable nature of students at that level mean the teachers should not be given free reign to teach anything they want.

This is why there are standards, and why teachers should be held to them -- regardless of any other beliefs or opinions. Noted in the ruling itself
"Supreme Court's 2006 ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which states that when
government employees speak "pursuant to their official duties," they are "not
speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes."

Again, this makes perfect sense to me. Outside of the classroom a teacher has the same freedom of speech as any other citizen of the US. But inside that classroom, in pursuant to their official duties, a teacher does not and should not! And if they try and assert that they do, they should be willing to accept the consequences of their actions. In Mr. Freshman's case, getting fired.

There was a little aside at the end of the ruling:
"The 6th Circuit also ruled that the "academic freedom" concept does not protect
curricular speech at the high-school level, because the notion was conceived and
applied in universities to protect teachers who are also researchers or
This one makes me a little concerned. I've discussed 'Academic Freedom' many times in here and I believe that High School teachers should have the same rights as college professors to introduce controversial material -- as long as such material is within the curriculum guidelines set by the school boards. The way this is worded seems to remove that arrow from high school teachers quiver and can be misused to avoid presenting materials simply based on the fact they are controversial. Climate change and Creationism comes to mind. Yes, they are controversial subjects, but Climate Change should be part of every Earth Science class today. Unlike Creationism, which while socially and politically controversial, is not a scientific subject and should not be protected by academic freedom policies at any level. This little addition to the ruling might need a little more thought. Any ideas?

Monday, November 8, 2010

So what exactly is 'Junk' DNA?

Here is something I mentioned in the last post, "DI's knee-jerk anti-ID whine" and it's one of those terminology word games the less-than-honest fellows at the Discovery Institute like to use. They seem to think that scientists decades ago wrote off 'Junk DNA' as junk. It sounds good, because like their mistreatment of the words 'theory', 'belief', and 'academic freedom', all they tend to do is try and confuse folks. Now why in the world would the DI not care if people understood the truth? Because having folks know the truth is not something that will help the DI's marketing and fund raising schemes.

So what is 'Junk DNA'? Back about 40 years ago a real scientist, geneticist and evolutionary biologist Susumu Ohno, coined the term to identify portions of a genome sequence for which no discernible function had been identified. Please note it wasn't to claim that a function would never be identified, nor was it that there was no function, but that at the time "no discernible function had been identified."

Today 'Junk DNA' is considered an obsolete term because many advances over the last 40 years has identified functions for what used to fall under that label. Who still uses the term? Popular press certainly does, and so does the various Creationists who are looking to discredit real science -- and doing a pretty lousy job! I mean using a 40-year old out-of-date term is a pretty poor job of discrediting something, right?

So now let's look briefly at more of the facts, something the DI tends not to do. If actual biologists had considered large portions of a genome to be junk -- as in worthless -- who was it that made these advances in identifying functions for previously unidentified parts of a genome? Was it those hard-working Intelligent Design scientists? Anyone ever seen a hard-working ID 'Scientist'? The very few ID proponents who are actual scientists are too busy marketing to be doing any actual work.

So what is the ID proponent supposed to do? Well if you are a typical ID proponent, like those 'fellows' at the DI, you sit back on your well-funded ass and claim that each discovery by real scientists could 'hypothetically' be used as a prediction to support Intelligent Design. Of course putting the word 'hypothetically' in front of their prediction means they don't actually have to make a prediction and they can't be blamed if it doesn't come true.

In the mean time scientists -- using evolutionary theory, science, and scientific methodologies -- keep expanding our knowledge of the genome and finding many purposes for what was not identified 40 years ago. I think this identifies a cornerstone of trouble for the DI. I mean while they are busy marketing and failing to provide support for their pet ideas, science keeps pushing the boundaries of our knowledge forward and they get further and further behind the proverbial eight-ball.

Such a nice thought -- casey and friends running away from a giant eight-ball as they head toward the only shelter, labeled 'Science'. The sad thing is that unlike the DI, there won't be a lock on the door. All are welcome, providing you shed your religious-based preconceptions and are willing to work using an actual methodology. Personally I think the 8-ball would get them!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

DI's knee-jerk anti-ID whine

One of the more common posts over on the Discovery Institute 'website' are those whining about other people not 'explaining' Intelligent Design correctly. It happened yet again with "Correcting Kirk Fithzhugh's Misunderstandings About Intelligent Design".

Why is it that when anyone writes something critical of intelligent design they are pretty much guaranteed to received such a whine. What's interesting is that rarely does the DI responder address the issues raised by the writer, but spend an inordinate amount of time whining about their definition. Now if casey was fair, he would have stopped this particular line:

"It's important to note that Dr. Fitzhugh should have every right hold, publish, and discuss his views that dissent from ID in the public square and within the scientific community."
In all honesty, if he really is free to do this, casey should just slink away. But of course that never happens. The DI has to respond, because they really have nothing else. So here is my point. For years now actual scientists have been asking for the DI to . . . well let me quote Dr. Chancey, Chair of the Religious Studies Department at SMU again:
"They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day."
If the Discovery Institute would only support their ideas with actual work, this whole definitional issue would disappear. But no! Since ID proponents keep moving the goal posts, and since they also have both their official definitions -- and personal definitions (as evidenced when Behe identified the designer, unofficially -- and he is not the only one to do so) it is no wonder that people rarely agree with the definition of the moment as published by the DI-mouthpiece-on-call who respond to the many articles critical of ID.

What is casey's specific whine, he is still playing the 'official' line that ID doesn't address the supernatural. Since when? Certainly not when Behe had to expand the definition of science to include supernatural causation in order to include ID. Not when Johnson wrote the Wedge strategy document. Not during presentations where multiple ID proponents identified the Christian God as the intelligent designer. So little casey's whine is just that, an incessant noise conveying no actual information.

Now the rest of his little post, where his quotes one of his personal heros, Steven C. Meyer. Well early in his post he asks a question
"Would they [criticisms of ID] cut against his own Darwinian viewpoint, if they were applied fairly?"
But then he doesn't bother to assess current science, scientific methodology, not even scientific philosophy. So once again he starts a point that should summarize one of his issues with what was said critiquing ID, and then he heads off in a completely different direction and nit-picks one other comment on the testability of ID. Fine, if that's what he wants to play, let's look at the other part of his whine.
"His criterion for testability is that "When causal conditions of type x occur, effects of type y will occur." ID easily meets this standard. When intelligent agents act, high levels of CSI are generated. "
Does it really? Has the existence of intelligent agents been supported by any evidence? Has CSI (Complex and Specified Information) been supported by any evidence? The answer to both questions is a resounding 'No they have not'. So let me get this straight, casey claims that ID meets the testability criterion by invoking a non-existent agent who uses a 'level' of a non-existent concept. Gee, what could possibly be wrong with that?

Well casey finishes this particular bit of nastiness with a change to a different tactic, co-opting evidence.
"Predictions of Design (Hypothesis):

(1) Natural structures will be found that contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (i.e., complex and specified information).
(2) Forms containing large amounts of novel information will appear in the fossil record suddenly and without similar precursors.
(3) Convergence will occur routinely. That is, genes and other functional parts will be re-used in different and unrelated organisms.
(4) Much so-called "junk DNA" will turn out to perform valuable functions."

OK, (1) without his little parenthetical addition is something discovered and well explained with evolutionary theory. Of course he had to add the '(i.e., complex and specified information)' as if this is a actual scientific concept rather than ID proponent wishful thinking.

(2) is a lie. Forms have appeared in the fossil record and most were preceded by similar precursors. In fact as we discover more fossils, many of those that didn't appear to have a precursor do now. This is just a typical 'God-of-the-gaps' argument that doesn't stand the test of time well. I know someone reading this will think about the 'Cambrian Explosion', however while a 'explosion' that lasted 50-70 million years might not be extremely explosive, many of the forms that the DI likes to claim 'appeared' have clear precursors from the Ediacaran Period.

(3) More already understood part of evolutionary theory.

(4) Scientists rarely called parts of a genome to which we didn't have an identified purpose 'junk', as in useless or unused. Scientists have been adding functionality to many parts of various genomes not previously identified. Tell me one example of an ID 'scientist' actually filling one of these perceived gaps? I don't know of one and I don't plan on holding my breath.

See what I mean, casey is trying to co-opt known science for supporting ID -- and yet offers nothing in addition. How do any of these hypothetical predictions actually support ID? What in the world makes him think that just because he thinks they will be successful predictions, they would in fact support ID?

casey also tried to change tactics as well. Remember He accused Kirk Fithzhugh of setting a standard that could not be applied to evolutionary theory -- and yet tried to grab existing evidence for evolution and claiming they would also support ID -- without explaining how or why they would do so. More fertilizer from casey and his buds. Color me unimpressed!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

New planet -- 'Dawinian' Astronomy?

Anyone who reads this blog knows my opinion of casey luskin, the lawyer who seems never to get his facts straight. Well I refrain from commenting on him most weeks, but in my opinion, he reached a new low -- something I really didn't think possible.

So what did casey do now? Oh nothing much, he just opened his mouth. He noticed that there had been a few articles reporting on the discovery of at least one extra-solar planet that may be able to support life. I assume someone pointed them out to him because I doubt he actually reads scientific articles all by himself.

His problem starts with the very title of his article, which is what caught my eye. "Darwinian Assumptions Leave "No Doubt" About Extraterrestrial Life". OK, since you already know my feeling of the use of the words 'Darwinism' and 'Darwinist', you can also add the word 'Darwinian'. Let's be clear, while someone else might actually be commenting on something Darwin said or did, when casey, and his ilk, use these words, they are using them as invective. You can almost see him spitting it out as he says it.

OK, so after reading his post, I went looking for the comments by a biologist that raised his toothless ire -- and guess what -- I couldn't find them. He was whining about a comment made by Astronomer Steven Vogt, and referring to him as an 'evolutionary scientist'. For the record, Dr. Vogt is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California. So the question is just where did little casey make the evolutionary connection?

In all honesty, I think casey's buddy Guillermo Gonzalez, author of "The Priviledged Planet", might have written an article about having another planet perfectly placed for life and tried to align Professor Vogt with his camp of pseudo-scientists. But no, luskin makes a connection here that is completely unsupported by the two articles luskin linked to himself.

So just what did the Professor say? During a press conference he offered a personal opinion:
"Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent,"
So why does casey make it sound like the professor was making a scientific pronouncement? One of the many things I find amusing is that casey is the freaking lawyer and prone to play word games. Here the professor is offering a personal opinion and casey take exception! So I guess a scientist isn't allowed to offer personal opinions . . .Ummmm so all those popular press books and articles written by Dembski, Behe, Johnson, and Meyer -- which offer NOTHING but personal opinion -- I guess by casey's current standards, they should have never been published at all! But then we know the history of casey, the Discovery Institute, and double standards!

Just in case maybe casey knows something I don't, I went and found the professor's website and looked up his academic background:
A.B., Physics, U.C. Berkeley, 1972
A.B., Astronomy, U.C. Berkeley, 1972
M.S., Astronomy, U. of Texas at Austin, 1976
Ph.D., Astronomy, U. of Texas at Austin, 1978
Not a biology degree in the bunch. So what am I left to think? Before casey's article, I would have assumed that when anyone from the Discovery Institute uses the term 'evolutionary scientist' they meant a biologist who acknowledged evolutionary theory. Now that seems to be too narrow an interpretation. Since Professor Vogt is an Astronomer, who as far as I know hasn't addressed the issue of evolution, I can only assume that now an 'evolutionary scientist' is a scientist of any discipline who has not drank the Intelligent Design kool-aid and became a fellow over at the DI.

I also think the one making an assumption isn't Vogt, but casey, and its an assumption that I doubt he realized he was making. He assumed that Professor Vogt is not an Intelligent Design proponent. But then I realized that casey and I have found our first item of agreement. The odds of a scientist of any discipline being an Intelligent Design proponent are so low, that making this assumption is pretty much a given. I mean the Discovery Institute has a tiny handful of folks, most of which are not biologists but lawyers and philosophers. When you compare their numbers to the vast list of actual scientists, they do get lost in the crowd. So casey does say something that ends up making some level of sense, but I am pretty sure he does this by accident.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wild Bill and his sidekick Glenn Beck-erhead

PZ Myers on Pharyngula, Lauri Lebo on Religion Dispatches, and Jack Krebs on Panda's Thumb are among the posts reporting something that should surprise very few. William Dembski is a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). Gee! Who'd have thunk it!

It is funny that the man who several times has predicted the demise of Evolution within 10 years has undergone his own transformation within that same time limit. Yes, in 2000 he wrote an essay saying he was NOT, emphatically not, a YEC because the evidence of an old Earth was so strong, and now, just 10 years later, he announces that. . . as Jeff Foxworthy would put it "He are one!" My question is how is this going to help his credibility the next time he announces the decennial demise of Evolutionary Theory? (Head Smack!) Of course, since he has absolutely no credibility there is no impact.

I guess a second question is how will this sit with his Discovery Institute's lords and masters? I mean they tend to bend over backwards to appease the members of their 'big tent' approach and avoid internal conflicts until they can rid the world of evolution. Billy switching camps might create some internal conflict -- we can always hope. Will Billy's next fluff piece still support Michael Behe who, as far as I know, is not only not a YEC but a supporter of Common Descent? This might be fun.

On a side note, PZ's link also has connection to a Glenn Beck-erhead radio interview where he, once again, reveals to the world his colossal ignorance of anything scientific. There's another surprise. That Glenn is also a died-in-the-blood Creationist, as if his earlier rants weren't already pretty indicative. What does surprise me is how he expressed it. The script might as well have been written by kennie ham. Becker-head says that he's never seen a half-monkey/half-man and asks why haven't other species evolved into humans, and several other inanities that do nothing but show how little he knows.

Now I know all Glenn is doing is pandering to his core audience -- who will continue to make him wealthy by buying his junk and attending his shows. But even he has to realize just how stupid it makes him look. With any luck he might lose a few supporters and then he and Wild Bill can commiserate over a beer.

Thanks to Jack, Lauri, and PZ for highlighting all the fun and games. Now to get some popcorn and watch for fallout. Who will be first? Will Dembski try and weasel his way out of it? Will a mouthpiece for the DI tell us how Dembski's change is no big deal? Will kennie ham ever come out of the closet? Will Glenn Beck-erhead continue to spout about nothing at all? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Labels, labels, and more labels

Just recently there seems to be a spate of blog posts about labeling, particularly those who oppose religion dressed up in a lab coat. Accomodationalists, confrontationalists, diplomats, firebrands . . . the list seems to be endless. What I was wondering about is where did I fall?

Here, you go. Check out these articles:

So there I was, or was I . . . hey, hey I mean in the terms of the subject I write about. Don't get sidetracked :-)

Am I trying to be diplomatic and accommodating, or do I lean more toward confrontation. In all honestly, I don't know. You might be able to tell me more than I can see it for myself. In trying to figure this minor puzzle I read back through many of my posts and the one subject I really don't discuss all that often is religion. Mostly I seem to let people believe what they wish.

So rather than apply an existing, or even a new label, here is where I think I fit in.
I am for science and against religion abuse.
Because when I see the tactics and comments of people and groups like little kennie ham, the whole crowd at the Discovery Institute, dembski's uncommon descent commentary (it's not a blog), ICR, ARN, and the like what I see is a group using religion for their own gain. I don't care what they claim, they are abusing the idea of a religion!

These people have a set of beliefs . . . so what. I really don't care what they want to believe in. That's a personal decision and it should remain so. No one in the world is ever going to be able to prove one religion's position in regard to another. It's never going to happen! However what they want is for me to believe the same thing -- and they are willing to lie to me, spend other peoples' money in order to convince me, and suborn politicians and school board members for their own belief system. That is an abuse!

When you abuse it, I am going to point that out to you and anyone who wants to read this blog. When you lie, misrepresent, or try and 're-interpret' science in the name of your religious beliefs, I, and many others, are going to point it out. When you BS some pandering politician, I plan on being there to help shed light on your behavior. You may see it as confrontational, especially ID'iots like luskin and ham, others may think I should be more accommodating. Maybe I should, but my issue is science and science education and the protection of such. If I discuss religion it will more than likely be in identifying yet another abuse in the name of someone else's religious belief!

As long as religion stays out of science class, that works for me. it might be a bit more focused than some, but to each their own. I might change my mind as I get to know more and more incredibly close-minded theists -- but right now they tend to be entertaining.

ACSI v. Stearns finale

I just realized, as I read this release, that I haven't commented on this issue before. I feel remiss in my self-assigned duties and responsibilities as a blogger in not having done so. So today I briefly pick up a baton, even though the race appears over. But you know me, I can't resist making glue.

The NCSE has announced

"Creationist lawsuit flops: UC's admission standards upheld. The Supreme Court declined to review Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns, affirming the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling that the University of California did not violate the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian high schools whose coursework was deemed inadequate preparation for college." (italics added)

For those of you unfamiliar the case, it boiled down to a public universities in California upholding their academic standards and refusing to accept pseudo-science as an acceptable alternative to science in applying for admission and granting credit. More specifically the Association of Christian Schools International was suing because the California University Admission system wouldn't allow high school biology courses that use creationist textbooks as credit for college preparatory biology courses. A federal court and the 9th Circuit Court agreed on appeal that the texts were "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." The plaintiffs star witness, a familiar name -- Michael Behe, didn't seem to be able to sway anyone. There's a shock. So Michael is now 0 for 2?

This one went all the way up to the Supreme Court and they refused to hear it. In legalese-speak that means there is no issue and the lower court was correct. Yea!

I am sure many colleges have been facing this issue. I know it was also a complaint in Mt Vernon, Ohio, from high school biology teachers who found themselves having to re-teach basic biology to students of John Freshman, a teacher currently suing for being fired for doing several things, including teaching Creationism/ID, causing bodily harm burning crosses into students arms, and also lying to investigators. The latest chapter in that saga might actually be coming to a close. You can follow it, and read the entire history, over on Panda's Thumb.

Simply put, if Creationist schools want to be on par with public schools, they have to at least teach the minimum standards in all curriculum areas. Why is this so hard to understand? If they refuse, it's not a violation of civil or constitutional rights, it's not about free speech or freedom of religion, and it's certainly not some sort of 'viewpoint discrimination'. It's about the science!

Imagine what would have happened if the case was overturned? Suddenly any piece of pseudo-science junk because the legal equivalent of the appropriate college textbook? How insane would that be. I can see it now, "What do you mean I am unqualified, I read "The Psychic Handbook" and I am as qualified as anyone who took a Psychology class!"

Nice to know that the Supreme Court didn't bother wasting its time. I only wish the Creationist schools had been trying to teach Intelligent Design. That might have been a stake through the heart of the Discovery Institute at the same time harpooning Creationism. Oh well, maybe for Christmas.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Intelligent Design Tolerance

Over on the Discovery Institute (DI) mis-information page casey luskin has taken up a common theme - 'Viewpoint Discrimination'. You can read it, but it really doesn't say much more than his normal rant. My question is does ID deserve tolerance?

SMU recently hosted a screening of 'Darwin's Dilemma', the same film luskin is whining about. I don't really care about the film, but something that happened at the end of the meeting at SMU:

"At the end of the presentation Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute thanked the “SMU administration” for hosting the event. That is just another lie. The SMU Administration had nothing to do with the seminar."(
This is the SAME tactic they used at the end of the original meeting at SMU in 1992.

Let me be clear, what SMU supports is Free Speech. At no point did the administration or faculty sponsor either of these events. They simply allow campus organizations, like the campus ministry, to use facilities as an exercise in free speech. I respect them for it. But what I do not respect is the DI trying to even imply that the administration had some hand in supporting the event.

The DI, and by connection their pet idea of Creationism/ID doesn't not suffer from 'viewpoint discrimination' nor does it deserve any sort of 'tolerance'. Remember the "How to respond to requests to debate Creationists" post and Professor Nicholas Gotelli's response to a request to 'sponsor' a debate on the campus of University of Vermont, his hilarious response!

This is not a discrimination issue of any kind. It's the DI trying to use their typical disreputable tactics to push their religious agenda. When the Cincinnati Zoo discontinued their business relationship with kennie ham's folly, the Creation 'Museum', it didn't stop the 'Museum' from selling tickets, it did prevent kennie from claiming a relationship with a scientific organization. That is the same tactic the DI tried with SMU at the end of each of the meetings there.

When an organization resorts to such tactics, anyone has to be careful in any sort of involvement -- it's not discrimination, but common sense. As Dr. Chancey, Chair of the Religious Studies Department at SMU recently said:
"Many religious groups-Christian and other-do not regard evolutionary theory as a threat. For many people of faith, science and religion go hand in hand. When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day."
One of the things we have been asking for is such transparency -- but that's apparently not on the DI's agenda.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How old is Intelligent Design?

I guess I am a little confused. You see -- I have been pretty busy this past week and hadn't seen the Discovery Institute's (DI) spin on Dr. Mark A. Chancey comments in Intelligent Design (ID) until just now. I originally wrote about Dr. Chancey's comments in "So there is nothing religious about ID? Part IV". Like I said, I didn't think they would like it -- and they didn't -- especially coming from the chair of the Department of Religious Studies at SMU.

So what's a group of apparent pathological liars to do? Change the goal posts, of course. Dr. Chancey made mention that ID had its beginnings at SMU at yet another meeting sponsored by a religious group that just happened to take place at SMU. At that meeting, like this one, they [the DI] tried to insinuate some sort of acceptance and sponsorship by the SMU administration -- which of course is just another lie.

The DI, in the guise of yet another mouthpiece, Michael Flannery -- I guess little casey must be on vacation -- takes exception to that, claiming a much longer lineage for Intelligent Design. What I find interesting is that rather than complain about anything Dr. Chancey said about ID, he took exception to something that was originally stated by Phillip E. Johnson in 1999:

"The movement we now call the wedge made its public debut at a conference of scientists and philosophers held at Southern Methodist University in March 1992, following the publication of my book "Darwin on Trial". The conference brought together key wedge and intelligent design figures, particularly Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, and myself." The Wedge Breaking the Modernist Monopoly on Science Phillip E. Johnson. Touchstone. July/August, 1999.
Gee so who was/is lying? Phillip E. Johnson or Michael Flannery? Flannery is looking more and more like a casey luskin clone -- and Mike, that's not a compliment.

So if ID has such a long lineage, why did William Dembski claim that it is in it's infancy in 2006?
"Dembski and other ID proponents say intelligent design is in its "infancy" and not yet ready to be taught alongside evolution in the science classroom. "ID Supporters Say Theory in 'Infancy' "
So was Dembski lying as well? Here is how I see it. It's another Marie Antoinette thing. When anyone says something bad about ID, the DI has a pretty typical knee-jerk reaction and claims that ID has been around for . . . well some length that makes them feel good. However when anyone questions the lack of science in ID they respond by how ID is still really, really young and no one should expect it to be scientific yet. See what I mean? They want their cake and . . . well you get my meaning.

Bottom line is that can you trust anything the DI says? I have yet to see them represent anything honestly. I have been following them since they LIED to the Ohio State School Board in 2002 (Intelligent Design Bibliography Misleading). They are consistent, but like my comparison of flannery to luskin, it's not a compliment.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Damned by their own words

I have said a number of times that the best way for people to understand the paucity of the Creationist pseudo-science, be it Creationism or Intelligent Design, is not to try and silence Creationists, but to let them talk. They do much more damage to their own position than damn near anything I could possibly say.

Apparently Michael Zimmerman agrees with me. His latest post on the Huffington Post "Creationists Destroy Creationism with Their Own Words" is just poetry. The one that got me was the copy from the Centre for intelligent Design (CID), the low-rent British version of the Discovery Institute, who actually posted:

"In one sense, research work that supports ID is not the central issue. ID is
essentially an interpretation of the data that already exists. There is not much
point in gathering more information if you already have enough on which to base
your hypothesis."
Are they kidding? Here is my problem. A scientific theory is not just an idea. It is an explanation based on a great deal of information and study including experimentation, observation, and huge mounds of evidence. Unbelieveable amounts of time, energy, and manpower goes into each one. The CID is suggesting that a little re-interpretation of the existing data could arrive at an equally compelling explanation. I disagree! If the data resulted in more than one compelling explanation then the explanation would never reach the level of a Scientific Theory. The reason a hypothesis becomes a theory is because it is the most compelling, by an incredibly wide margin, explanation of the available evidence.

Do you see what I am trying to say? If there was an alternative scientific explanation then Evolution would not be the theory that it is today. It couldn't get there because an equally compelling explanation could not be dismissed. Based on my understanding of scientific methodology, the CID is wrong. If they want ID to be taken seriously as a scientific theory, they are going to have to do a great deal more than 're-interpret'.

And so I guess they are! What I find amusing is thinking back to the Dover trial and reading the transcripts of the cross-examination of Michael Behe and the basic definition of science and how in order for ID to be accepted as science the very definition of science would have to be changed. that change would open science to things like Astrology! In a second quote from the CID website, this one from a video of the Director (Please see my discussion of him in "So there is nothing religious about ID Part III") who said
" . . . criticise the "strident strain of science" that says the only acceptable
explanations are those depending on "physical and materialistic processes"
So let me get this straight, ID is science because we already have all the data we need, we just need to re-interpret it a little . . . yet at the same time we need to make a wholesale change in the very definition of science? Anyone else see Marie Antoinette in the room?

Two staff members of AnswersInGenesis make is pretty clear, as Michael quoted as well,
"The biblical creationist takes the Bible as the ultimate standard . . ."
I guess all doubt on the scientific viability and even the need to re-interpret based on existing data is gone. Everything is based on the ultimate standard! So I guess we need to crank up the presses, because the only text book needed is the Christian Bible. It's not only a book about God, it's a history book -- just history ended about 2000 years ago. It's also an Astronomy text, but then again any study of Astronomy was done well before the invention of a telescope, let alone a radio telescope. Any medical advances in the past 2000 years need to be tossed aside because the Bible is the ultimate medical authority as well! Now I think even Marie would be choking on her cake.

Michael's point, and one I agree with is that we are not trying to silence Creationists. We love listening to them and pointing out the many hilarious, erroneous, and sometimes completely idiotic things they say. My only point, and one that I think Michael agrees -- he can certainly correct me if I am putting words in his mouth -- is that we don't want to silence anyone, but we do want them to speak the truth and the truth is Intelligent Design is not science and keeping it out of the public school science classroom is not an issue of free speech, or even an effort to silence them -- it's an exercise in honesty and truth!

PS -- when you go to Michael's post, check out the comments as well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

So there is nothing religious about ID? Part IV

Recently the Discovery Institute held a little gathering at SMU. I and many others have already posted about it (here, here, and here). We've also heard from some SMU faculty who detailed a number of exceptions with how loose and fast the DI seems to play with science ("Big problems with Intelligent Design").

Well now we have heard from the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at SMU, Dr. Mark A. Chancey, with an opinion piece in SMU Daily "Religious studies professor examines Intelligent Design academically" probably had Casey Luskin all excited as he read the title -- but he would have been cringing after reading the text. The Chair doesn't address the scientific concerns, but he does explain why SMU is more than a little bit sensitive when it comes to ID. Of course this isn't the DI's first visit and each one seems to leave a typically slimy trail. He recognizes that ID isn't gaining much traction in the scientific community and gives a pretty good breakdown as to why:

  • Intelligent Design originated within certain religious circles
  • [ID] has credibility only within those same circles-mostly theologically conservative Christian groups that find aspects of evolutionary theory threatening
  • Few ID advocates hold full-time professorial positions in pertinent fields at mainstream colleges and universities
  • Many ID proponents with academic positions work at religious institutions devoted to promoting particular theological views
  • ID proponents have published very few articles in peer-reviewed journals
  • They have created their own in-house journals that they describe as "peer-reviewed." . . . universities do not consider a self-serving house organ as truly peer-reviewed; such venues are regarded as fake journals
  • IDers sometimes publish books-but most of these are with religious, not academic, presses
  • ID research is not rigorous, substantial or convincing enough to be published in genuine academic venues
  • Unable to publish their work in legitimate academic venues, they nonetheless present it as cutting-edge science
  • Unable to gain acceptance in the scientific community, they nonetheless claim to be gaining momentum
  • They deny or obscure the fact that ID is grounded in a particular religious worldview and yet regard it as a tool to promote socially and theologically conservative Christian positions.
His closing comment is something many have been asking, for years now:
"Many religious groups-Christian and other-do not regard evolutionary theory as a threat. For many people of faith, science and religion go hand in hand. When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day."
How many times have the motives and tactics of the Discovery Institute been uncovered. Their lies and deceit cannot stand up to the light of day and here is one Chair of the Department of Religion who is not fooled!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

So there is nothing religious about ID? Part III

I was bored and went and peeked at the website for the new Centre for Intelligent Design (CID) that just stood up in Glascow. Funny, the site lists three people, including the director, Alastair Noble, who was quoted in the Guardian Article. But unlike the Discovery Institute, the CID doesn't like a bio for anyone involved. So on a lark I tossed Alastair Noble into Google to see what floated to the surface.

It identified an Alastair Noble as a sculptor living in NY. I figure that isn't the same one. but then I ran across this:

"Alastair has been a high school chemistry teacher, adviser, schools inspector and educational administrator. He has also worked on educational programmes within the BBC, the CBI and the Health Service. He currently works as the Field Officer of The Headteachers’ Association of Scotland and an Educational Consultant with CARE in Scotland – a Christian charity which works across a range of public policy issues. He is married to Ruth, has two grown up children, is a lay preacher, an elder at Cartsbridge Evangelical Church, Busby, and lives in Eaglesham." (Mission Scotland)
Ah, not only religion, but Evangelical as well. But is this the same Alastair Noble? Well according to Adam Wilcox it certainly is. Adam also hit whois about site and it is registered to Peter Loose-
"who, (by some amazing coincidence), is a trustee of ‘Christian Unions’ which “exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in the student world.” "
OK, the other two names from the CID site were Norman Nevin and David Galloway. Norman was a familiar name and it took me a moment to remember where I had heard it. In my post "Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!", Nevin was one of the 'scientists' who was identified by Stephen C. Meyer who 'enthusiastically endorsed his recent book, and not having been previously known as an ID proponent. Meyer lied. I posted that Nevin is a supporter of "Truth in Science" a United Kingdom-based organization which promotes the "Teach the Controversy" campaign. It uses this strategy to try to get intelligent design taught alongside evolution in school science lessons. Here is another link that talks about Nevin defending 'Truth in Science".

Dr. David Galloway doesn't seem to want to hide anything. on his own website is this gem:
"You will find a discussion on the origin of biological life together with some reasons why the Darwinian model utterly fails to cope with the specified variety and complexity evident in the available data. Also take time to marvel at the amazing machinery behind the replication of DNA and the mechanisms used to manufacture proteins. There are some cool flash files which neatly demonstrate the biochemistry. Also - check out the Reason4Faith Microsite!"
His site also specifies his membership in Lennox Evangelical Church, Dumbarton.

So to sum up, we have yet another group of Evangelicals who open a Centre for intelligent Design whose motivation is strictly religious. Oh yes, and ID has nothing to do with religion! Sorry Scotland you deserve much better than this US export!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

More on the pretty dull '4 Nails in Darwin's Coffin'

A couple of others have a few words on the '4 Nails' presentation I posted about the other day ("4 nails in the coffin containing the remains of the Discovery Institute credibility") It's rare that the DI would step in it so easily, but when they do, it's nice to know there will be folks to point it out to them.

My favorite reporter, author, and blogger -- Lauri Lebo -- had a few choice words in her post on Religious Dispatches. In "4 (More) Nails in Discovery Institute’s Coffin". She points out that their presentation is also fairly typical of the tactics they have been using for years:

" . . . one of Discovery Institute’s featured tactics is to pretend that Darwin’s theory exists in a vacuum and that the scientific world has learned nothing in the past 150 years "
As we all know that their tactic to demolish Darwin will automatically elevate Intelligent Design (ID) to the only workable theory (please note the extremely heavy sarcasm in that last statement). A point that has been made by many that the tactic of attacking Darwin does little to effect modern evolutionary theory, and their toothless attacks on the theory of evolution has done even less to push their pet idea of ID. The real problem is they have yet to bother actually supporting their idea and elevate it to the level of a hypothesis let alone a scientific theory. This really does keep their evolution attacks impotent.

Ms. Lebo also linked to the SMU professors response ("Big Problems With Intelligent Design") and end her post with
"Still, after looking over all this, I do have one question. If the DI folk argue that evolution can’t account for the living diversity of the 60 million year time span of the Cambrian explosion, what exactly are they arguing? Are they saying that the omnipotent designer intentionally created all those various extinct life forms just to kill them off later?"
I think the nearest thing I have seen as an answer to her question is that the DI folks really don't care to offer an actual alternative explanation -- all they care about is closing the door on evolution -- which does follow the strategies laid out in their wedge document, as espoused in the goals set in that document:
  • "To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies"
  • "To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God"
In addition to Ms. Lebo's post, another poster was at the presentation and offers this YouTube video:
I hope you watch it, it was interesting to actually hear part of the presentation and also to hear the poster's comments. Plus there are a few other related videos that are just plain hilarious like the 30 part series "Why do people laugh at creationists."