Saturday, March 27, 2010

Amazon Discussion Boards

You may or may not know that Books on come with a place where you can review books and also comment on other reviews. Recently I have been engaged on several reviews of Stephen C. Meyers "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design". Needless to say I think the book is nothing but a re-statement of old arguments using more obfuscation and tons of words and prose to really say nothing new. The topic I have been involved with recently is "This book should be listed under religion". Of course not everyone agrees. Just yesterday I posted this comment there:

"Most of you know what I think of Meyer's book. I made no bones about my expectations and how disappointed I was when he lived up to them. Rather than re-hash the discussion over information. How about head over to Chapter 7,"Of Clues to Causes". This is chapter basically says that ID is a possible explanation, I will even go as far as agree that his wording of ID being a possible scientific explanation is a perfectly valid opinion to make. My issue is it's too general to be useful. Time-traveling aliens are also a possible scientific explanation, so what? How many other 'possible' explanations are there for just about anything. Do we have to accept all of them?

I think the real issue here is expectation and usefulness. Can we 'expect' divine intervention? Is there utility is using divine intervention as an explanation?

Let me see if I can explain my point better. In science when you form an explanation and you support it. It becomes accepted because it is repeatable and useful. We can take the explanation and use it to . . . well anything! We build things based on engineering, which is an applied application of science. Can we build things based on the expectation of divine intervention? I don't believe so.

Supernatural causation has always been a poor explanation -- and not without reason. It's not repeatable nor particularly useful -- in any hard engineering area. You aren't going to build a building and 'hope' that a supernatural causation will keep it standing. It stands as long as it was built on sounding engineering. It may collapse during an earthquake because the damage exceeds the engineering standards built into the building. Is this starting to make more sense?

From a philosophical view point considering ID as a possible scientific explanation for anything makes perfect sense. But as a realistic, acceptable, and useful explanation it doesn't add up.

Meyer's doesn't make the case for usefulness in any form. He wants people to equate the 'philosophical' with the 'scientific', to accept that 'possible' is the same as 'probable' and yet doesn't manage to support his argument outside the philosophical. Yes he uses a lot of words to make this claim, but he's not dazzling anyone with his 'brilliance'."
Just today I can across a commentary on the book by Dr. Francisco Ayala, University Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Among other things he is also an ordained Catholic priest and has been critical of Intelligent Design ( I was intrigued by a couple of things he said:
"The keystone argument of Signature of the Cell is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms. I agree. And so does every evolutionary scientist, I presume. Why, then, spend chapter after chapter and hundreds of pages of elegant prose to argue the point? It is as if in a book about New York, the author would tell us that New York is not in Europe, and then dedicate most of the book to advancing evidence that, indeed, truly, New York is not in Europe."

The rest of his article discusses a few of the problems with some of the implications of ID as an explanation.
"Christians and other people of faith should be troubled about Signature of the Cell for several reasons. One is that Meyer avoids consideration of the negative implications of ID as an explanation of the origin of genetic information, which is his main subject."

While I didn't cover his objections, I do like the idea that rather than tear into Meyer's book with a formal review, he's doing what folks at the DI NEVER do and looking at the larger picture. Lately they seem to spend more time tearing all the evidence of evolution into as many small pieces as they can -- and then posting arguments against the pieces themselves. They can seem to see the inter-related and interlocking evidence that builds a picture much more complete than any single piece of evidence.

BTW Dr. Ayala is also the most recent winner of the annual Templeton Prize ( Interesting that the Templeton Foundation was also one of the original funding sources for the Discovery Institute and also the sponsors of a meeting last year at the Vatican on Science and Religion . . . to which the Discovery Institute was not invited.

I saw the announcement of the Templeton prize on PZ Myers blog and one of his commenters said
"Ohhhhhh, Ayala has been "mean" to Stephen Meyer over "Signature." Send in the attack gerbil, Disco Tute!" (link here)
and lo and behold David Klinghoffer responded. Typically lame Klinghoffer sticking to the DI's party line. Nothing interesting or even original in anything he says. My guess is Toothless Casey will respond next. probably suck up to Klinghoffer and tell him how smart he is.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Being glad for science

I know I certainly am. One of the things I am extremely grateful for is the science and study of the human eye. You remember the human eye. Charles Darwin used it as a possible example of falsifiability of the theory of Natural Selection. Of course in Darwin's day the eye wasn't much more understood than a blob of protoplasm. OK, I know I am understating the state of knowledge in the mid 1800's, but not by that much. Compared to today it might as well have been understood to so little a degree.

Of course some anti-evolutionists like to point to the human eye and claim it is an example of something science will never truly understand. How wrong they are. Things have certainly changed in a pretty short time. Advanced in our knowledge of the eye, light amplification, physics . . to name a few . . . have done some incredible work at restoring and improving peoples vision.

But thanks to science and even the understanding of how the eye developed and works -- next month I get the have my eyes fixed. Apparently I have cataracts and it's getting worse. So they are going to cut a tiny slit in my cornea, remove the lens, and replace it with a new one. Not only are they going to replace it, but they are designing a lens to fix my astigmatism. So I am getting an upgrade :-) Come a few weeks later, I might only need reading glasses rather than bifocals.

It was sort of funny. Just a few months ago I had my regular eye exam and the Doc told me I was developing cataracts. She seemed surprised because there was no sign at my previous appointment. I guess normally cataracts is something you see come on very slowly. So here we a few months later and I noticed my eyesight getting worse, but I really wasn't thinking about the cataracts. It was more like my glasses just seemed out of kilter.

No, when my Doc took the measurements and compared them to 4 months previously she did everything but say 'Holy Crap!' Apparently it's progressing pretty fast. So I switched from my vision doc to an eye doc (optometrist to an ophthalmologist) and am set up for surgery on both eyes a couple of week apart in April.

Now that I realize what the problem is I sort of want it taken care of quickly. I mean I have noticed it impacting my reading. Street signs are tough to read. I told my wife it was interfering with my girl watching, and her response back to me was "yea, and the guy with long hair you were looking at didn't seem to happy either." Just goes to show trying to a line in with my wife doesn't even work. I have changed the resolution on all my computer screens to 1024 by 768, which is really annoying. I was running 1440 by 900 on a pair of 19 inch wide-screens at home and the same on two 20 inches at the office. Its frustrating because I've lost a lot of screen real estate.

Well while I am not looking forward to the surgery . . . I mean laying there while someone with sharp things approaches your eyes, I am looking forward to 'seeing' the results. And on that I thank science, the scientists who developed these techniques, and the doctors who have learned them and perform them regularly. According to one source over 2 million of this specific surgery will be performed in the US just this year. Sure beats cataracts surgery from the 6th century BC:

" . . .describes an operation called "couching", in which a curved needle was used to push the lens into the rear of the eye and out of the field of vision. The eye would later be soaked with warm clarified butter and then bandaged. (

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Intelligent Design - Ohio -- Just for Laughs

Someone sent me a URL for the Intelligent Design Network of Ohio and for a second I was worried that it was rearing it's ugly head once again. Then I took a perusal and realized that the last entry was the middle of last year so I figured it wasn't anything new. I was right. Take a look for yourself. Nothing but warmed-over pseudo-science and the normal whines and misrepresentations. For example 'Truth' and 'Objectivity' are spelled correctly, but the person who maintains the site has no clue about the meaning of the words.

Let's dive back to some stuff i posted a couple of years ago, when i was focused on the definitions of words like 'Theory', 'Belief', 'Hypothesis' . . . and a few others. So let's look at the words being misrepresented on this ID site.

Here is the definition of 'Objectivity' -- expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations ( So whoever posted on this idiotic site thinks that opening up science to religion is objective? Really, Sherlock? Did you miss the part of the definition of 'personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations?' Obviously. If you want to be objective, then try and study ANY scientific subject without the use of your religion colored glasses. If religion is so objective, why are there WARS over them? Why are there hundreds, if not thousands, of religions? Why do the majority of Christians have no issue with the Theory of Evolution? Do questions like this occur to the ID'iots running this site? Of course not, that would be an attempt at objectivity, and they prove they do not understand the word.

And now before defining the other word they don't have a clue about, here is something from their site that just cracked me up:

Have you noticed there is no observable, experimental, falsifiable evidence for:
life from non-life
Darwin's "tree of life"
descent with modification?
(If not, look it up for yourself; there is none!)
BTW, this if from the link about 'Truth'! Simply stated this is a LIE. Plain talk -- there is evidence, there are many experiments, and mountains of evidence! True, we do not know every detail, but we know an incredible amount. So the purveyors of this stupid site attempt some supposed level of truth start out with a lie to support themselves. I think that's enough for now. If you need the definition of Truth, check out I know the ID site's authors won't. I mean what in the world interest do they have with anything that deals in facts and reality when they can convince themselves that a Lie is the Truth. Pretty pathetic sales job there, no wonder you rarely post anything.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Old Enemies new Battles

The Creationist crowd seems to be trying to take on other subjects. According to the NY Times "Darwin Foes add Warming to Targets". I don't think many of the supporters of anti-evolution marketing really have a clue about Climate Change, if they did they might simply ask themselves about the Northwest Passage, you know the link from the Atlantic to the Pacific by way of Northern Canada?

Well anyway, I think evolution foes are simply trying to smokescreen their issue by trying to tie in anything that smacks of controversy, sort of a 'halo effect' logical fallacy. I mean if science might be wrong about one thing, Evolution must be wrong too. right? I am not getting into whether or not Climate Change is a reality. I believe it is and I believe the evidence is incontrovertible, but the bottom line here is so what? I mean so what if we someday prove that Climate Change isn't happening or that it isn't being effected by human activities. Does that have anything to do with the validity of Evolution? No, not at all!

As for the Northwest Passage, you might take a look at this article. People have been looking for it for centuries and Climate Change has opened it up. Sure makes you think!

Texas finally acts, or I should say Texans!

"McLeroy, Miller upset in SBOE elections" McLeroy, the poster child for how not to lead a State School Board, is gone. the people of Texas have spoken and like their compatriots in Kansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania they are voted out the more public examples of school board foolishness.You should remember Don, the dentist turned science-denier who tried to lead Texas School children down a very embarrassing path. So last year he did not receive the support of the State Legislature when they refused to confirm him as the School Board President and he certainly received a message in the Tuesday Primary when he got booted out of office. While some of what he did will take a while to recover from, his main objectives were never achieved. Cynthia Dunbar , who many feared would try and take the school board back to McLaLaland also lost. Things are looking good in the Great State of Texas.