Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lauri Lebo v. David Klinghoffer! He didn't stand a chance.

Recently I had a post "Klinghoffer . . . Again!" concerning David's attempt to link Darwin and Hitler with his Huffington Post case of verbal diarrhea "The Dark Side of Darwin". In my response I did mention another HuffPo article castigating him by Eric Michael Johnson "Intelligent Design Creationists Abuse Science and Victims of the Holocaust".

Well Eric is not the only one who seems to enjoy 'correcting' David. Lauri Lebo also shows David David how to do research in "HuffPo Columnist Tries to Link Darwin to Hitler" and then seriously takes him down!

Lauri Lebo also wrote my favorite book on the Dover Trial "The Devil in Dover" which, in my opinion, is a must read for anyone interested in the contrived Creationism/ID v Science controversy.

We all should be extremely interested in what she says because of the potential negative impact folks like David can have on science education. You know, now that I think about it, we might also count David as having a negative impact on education in its entirety -- if his post is a representative example on how to research and support an article! I know his example would not pass muster during my graduate degree program.

I also discovered that she posts regularly on Religious Dispatches and it's been added to my RSS reading list. I recommend you keep an eye on her work as well. Always insightful, well supported, and interesting. Thanks Lauri.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

South Carolina Textbook Controversy redux?

Over in the State of Louisiana the second string in the LFF bow has been fired, it's at the textbooks for teaching science classes. It sounded vaguely familiar so I dug up a couple of old posts and reviewed them. Remember South Carolina's issue with textbooks? Looks very familiar, but a slightly different tactic. Rather than recruit a couple of Creationists to do an . . . ill-advised review, the LFF is asking for parents and the public to make their pseudo-complaints known. I guess they figures numbers will count especially since they have no substantive complaints.

The story posted on The News Star called "Proposed Textbooks to be Scrutinized" is a little scary, especially since at least one of the people planning to do the 'scrutinization' has already gotten his mind made up. Here are several quotes from the article from West Monroe resident Mickey Cleveland and my comments in italics after each one:

  • "We want evolution taught, but we want the fallacies in the theory taught as well," What fallacies is he talking about? I am not aware of any fallacies -- plus if there are any, who is the best people to identify them? Folks with the training and educational background in the subject, that's who!
  • "There have been outright lies that have been perpetuated throughout the years." Cleveland said that as technology improves, more scientists and mathematicians are questioning Darwin's theories of evolution. This is straight out of the Discovery Institute marketing material -- and I have said numerous times there is not one shred of evidence to show there are many scientists or mathematicians questioning the theory of evolution!
  • "Darwin said that if things can be proven against my theory, then my whole theory breaks down," he said. "Darwin didn't have the microelectronic microscope. We are able to see inside of atoms. The DNA is so complex that mathematicians are saying that there is no way that macro evolution occurred. Science is proving creation. The Darwin quote is correct and in fact many of the details of Darwin's work were later found to be incorrect-- but none of those details are taught. The modern theory of evolution does not rely on those details. The overall concept of Natural Selection is true and that was first put forth by Darwin and substantiated by many others. plus there are no mathematicians that have published one single solitary mathematical paper proving there is no way for evolution and speciation to have happened -- there is lots of opinion papers saying things like that, but not one mathematician has proven it!

Do any of his statements sounds familiar? Well let us not forget that this isn't the first attack on science textbooks, not even in Louisiana. As noted by Barbara Forrest in "Louisiana Creationist Textbook Addendum Rejected in Tennessee" the LFF, one of the writers of the anti-science legislation called the Louisiana Science Education Act, also publishes some 'guidelines' on how to review science textbooks. They went further and

"In September 2009, working with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), an affiliate of Focus on the Family, Charles H. Voss was instrumental in persuading the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to adopt a creationist-friendly procedure for reviewing complaints about the use of creationist supplementary materials in public schools."

Voss' Text add-ons sounds a lot like Mr. Cleveland's objections. Which should be no surprise since these add-ons have been brought up any number of times. The bottom-line question is who are the best people to review curriculum material? In my opinion it is certainly those people training in the discipline. Biologists should be reviewing and suggesting material for the biology classroom. English majors should be doing it for English, Math for Math, and so on. These are the best people for determining what is appropriate for a particular subject area, what areas of the subject should be taught at what grades, what textbooks should be used and how well do they cover the subject area, and what are the qualifications for people who are going to teach a subject. These folks are the best source of information on a particular subject area!

Please read up on Barbara Forrest's "Combating Creationism in Louisiana Public Schools" is addresses many of the common objections and it a great way to be prepared when these pseudo-objections come up. It might seem a little dated, being from 1997. But then Creationists arguments haven't changed much since William Paley in 1802 now have they?

Now some folks might be upset that I am not giving parents and the public their due in textbook selection. They are right. Yes, parents and even the public should be involved in the education process. But there reaches a level of specialized knowledge to properly evaluate textbooks that most folks are not going to have. I have reviewed many textbooks in my own specialty of Information Technology, but I would be a poor choice to evaluate biology textbooks even though I am extremely interested in the subject. My insights would probably cause more damage than harm.

I hope the Livingston Parish school district does the smart thing, but I am worried that the organization of the pseudo-complainants might overwhelm them. It will be certainly something to keep an eye on! The State, in the form of Jindal signing the bill, and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have caved into Creationist interests groups, specifically the LFF and the Discovery Institute. These people should not be driving science education, hell they shouldn't even be driving the school bus taking kids to school! But that is the first you are facing, good luck!

Monday, July 26, 2010

I have done the unprecendented, at least for me.

I dropped someone from commenting. I know, I know . .I pledged to allow dissenting views . . . but this person started going off in a direction that demonstrated extreme prejudice and discriminatory comments. So starting this afternoon if I see a post from that one particular poster, I will delete it . . . without reading it. I know someone might make a complaint about free speech . . . but there are few things I will remove from my blog and leaving them in made me feel like I was enabling that sort of behavior. So I'm sorry if I lose anyone over it!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dover redux?

Louisiana, more specifically Livingston Parish, LA, is exploring the possibility to teaching . . . wait for it . . . Creationism. I guess the allure of Intelligent Design is wearing off because they didn't even bother with hiding behind it's pseudo-lab coattails. 2theadvocate reports "School Board might OK teaching creationism". How many folks have been predicting this ever since Bobby Jindal pandered to conservative voters and signed the poorly named "Louisiana Science Education Act". I find it telling that members of the school board are making comments very similar to comments made by former members of the Dover PA school board. Here are a few quotes from the article -- italic emphasis added is mine.

Jan Benton, director of curriculum: said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed “critical thinking and creationism” in science classes.

Board Member David Tate quickly responded: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?

Fellow board member Clint Mitchell responded, “I agree … you don’t have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.”

Board President Keith Martin, while reminding the members that a decision had been made in the past not to teach creationism, suggested that now might be the time to re-examine the issue.

I guess Louisiana has completely forgotten Edwards v. Aguillard, (1987), a case heard by the US Supreme Court that ruled a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools along with evolution was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. So one question that comes to mind is the creationism they are talking about different from the creationism they wanted to teach in 1987? I don't think so!

So what is the go ahead plan? They are going to appoint a committee to look into it. Gee! What's next hiring Alan Bonsell or William Buckingham as consultants? After all their time on the Dover School Board was so . . . helpful.

The majority of the comments to the article call it 'disgraceful', I would agree, but I think their behavior is moving much more toward 'criminal'. What worries me the most is that how expensive this may get for the parish -- and it shouldn't be! The Board Members are pushing their religion, and that was already declared unconstitutional in 1987. this is completely unnecessary. I hope their committee looks at things clearly -- but since the move was accepted unanimously, I am afraid they are already seeing what they want to see rather than the realities of what they are trying to do.

A couple of other comments by Board President Martin make me think he doesn't really know what he is doing. Here is the first:

“You don’t want two different teachers teaching two different things.”

So what does he mean? Will biology teachers be forced to teach creationism? Or will the teaching of biology be shifted to someone with a more theistic-friendly background? I know, let's hire a Muslim to teach the Muslim version of Creationism! Yea, that will go over big!

One other reported comment is a real head-scratcher:

"Martin, noting that discipline of young people is constantly becoming more of a challenge for parents and teachers, agreed: “Maybe it’s time that we look at this.”"

So what is he advocating? Bringing back good old-fashioned religious discipline? How will teaching Creationism improve discipline in Louisiana public schools? What is he thinking? I sure don't know -- but if I were a student in Louisiana I would be concerned for my academic future. There are only so many slots at Falwell's lamented Liberty 'University' and the rest of you might not be eligible for other colleges. I bet we will see many Louisiana colleges offering remedial science classes to bring their student up to some acceptable standard of knowledge. Such a further waste of resources.

It might take a while, but I see a lawsuit in their future. I really don't see any good coming from this other than several board members patting themselves on the back for their attempt to bring their good-old religion into the public school -- or maybe I should say former board members if history does repeat itself.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is ID 'middle ground'?

In the little town of Dayton TN . . . . OK, without re-iterating, or worse, rewriting history, you all know about the Scopes Monkey trial. Sort of interesting article over on "Fight over evolution still simmers 85 years after Scopes trial." Aside from the typical pandering for votes when the three candidates for governor whose comments were included, one other line really caught my eye.

"some prefer the middle ground of intelligent design, which claims God designed how life evolved"
By 'middle ground' Bob Smietana, the author, is repeating a common misconception about Intelligent Design. Is it really a middle ground between science and evangelical creationism? Well if that is what Bob thinks, he really needs to do his research better! Even the Discovery Institute doesn't seem to think it is a middle ground, more of a stepping stone. Of course Judge Jones ruled that it's not middle ground, it's clearly well on the same side as Creationism. My perspective, as you may have read in many posts is ID is Creationism-lite, at best Creationisms little brother.

Now folks like Bob aren't the only one who really need to examine their characterizations. A Bruce Barry responded to the article and said some of the same things I am saying. That one makes an interesting read as well. "This Morning's Jesussean: The "Trojan Horse' of Intelligent Design Gets Inside 1100 Broadway". He does have a nice way with words
"Earth to Bob: Intelligent design is not "a middle ground" between science and faith. That is the propaganda that creationists would like feckless school boards and undereducated science teachers (not to mention gullible journalists) to believe."
"The fatal flaw in Smietana's piece in the Tennessean is use of the reporter's voice to frame intelligent design as a mainstream scientific alternative, a position that carries significant weight only among true-believer creationists. A piece of genuine journalism would accurately reflect scientific experts' views of the proper role of ID in science education (that role being nil) rather than legitimize the perspective of religious zealots (and gubernatorial candidates!) who seem to neither understand nor value science."
Now his point of view is fine, but one of his commenter's need to work on his. His post:
"I am a scientist. I think the best approach to the ID people is to ignore them. ID isn't science. They can teach it all they want in divinity school but it will never be compatible with a scientific curriculum."
My other point of this blog post is that the tactic of ignoring ID proponents is no longer a viable one. For years they were treated the same way as the fortune tellers and astrologers. I think it was the right decision. But the ID movement has evolved and we have to evolve as well. Remaining silent is no longer a viable tactic because silence seems to imply agreement, especially with folks like Bob, the author of the original article. We shouldn't knee-jerk a response to everything they say, but when they are doing things like testifying in front of school boards -- we have to be there as well. When gubernatorial candidate say foolish things, we have to be there to correct them and make sure the voters understand exactly what they are standing for -- because I still firmly believe any comment supporting ID or creationism is nothing more than pandering for voters.

One side note about Bob. It was also interesting that one of the other comments identified Bob as something other than an unbiased journalist -- so I googled him . . . anyone else think it's funny that Google is a verb? . . . well anyway, one of the many bios about him says:
"Bob Smietana is an award winning journalist and features editor for the Covenant Companion magazine, a correspondent for Religion News Service (RNS), and freelance religion writer whose stories have appeared in national and regional US newspapers (including the Washington Post, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune) and national religious magazines, such as Christianity Today, the Christian Century, Sojourners, and US Catholic."
Now the cynic in me comes out and I have to question whether the original article is a reporter not doing his homework, or something worse! I can't make up my mind at this point, but I do know I am going to watch anything written by Bob very carefully. Either way, he blew a call and his background, as a religion reporter, makes me wonder because he really should know what ID is and what ID is not -- and it certainly is not 'middle ground!'

So there you have it, we cannot remain silent on the subject because no matter how many times ID proponents lose, they evolve and we cannot afford to ignore them. We need to keep taking to battle to them in from of school board meetings, state legislatures, and even in the press -- especially when the press fails to do it's homework.

Friday, July 23, 2010

So what does the American Academy of Religion think?

Just a few words from the American Academy of Religion (AAR) on Guidelines for Teaching About Religion in K‐12 Public Schools in the United States. Here are just two paragraphs I found very interesting. The bold-face is my emphasis.

Are religion and science incompatible?

No, not categorically. Most religious traditions and worldviews can function in concert with scientific worldviews and are, indeed, complementary with them. Furthermore, there are many scientists who are people of faith and many people of faith who are devoted scientists. Within traditions, however, there are some theological beliefs that are in tension with certain scientific assertions. The most publicized example of these tensions in the US is between some Christian communities and the biological theory of evolution. Though these tensions are real for the communities involved, it is wrong to assume, for example, that all Christians experience a contradiction between their theological beliefs and evolutionary theory or, by extension, that religious and scientific worldviews are fundamentally incompatible.

Can creation science or intelligent design be taught in schools?

Yes, but not in science classes. Creation science and intelligent design represent worldviews that fall outside of the realm of science that is defined as (and limited to) a method of inquiry based on gathering observable and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. Creation science, intelligent design, and other worldviews that focus on speculation regarding the origins of life represent another important and relevant form of human inquiry that is appropriately studied in literature or social sciences courses. Such study, however, must include a diversity of worldviews representing a variety of religious and philosophical perspectives and must avoid privileging one view as more legitimate than others.
Any of this sound familiar? Well I do disagree with referring to religions a "another important and relevant form of human inquiry", mainly because I don't think religion spends much time in inquiry and more time fund-raising and tell you how to behave -- but the bottom-line here is that even the AAR agrees that it should not be taught in science class -- 'nuff said!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Transitionial forms re-visted

Over on Topix I have been listening to a creationist try and sound all scientific on transitional fossils. It’s a pretty common argument usually stemming from a misunderstanding of what a transitional fossil really is. The argument usually comes in one of two forms:
  1. There are no transitional fossils
  2. Transitional forms could not survive, so would not be possible under evolution – therefore evolution is obviously false.
  3. While there may have been fossils found that might be transitional, there isn't any evidence linking them to modern forms.

There may be more arguments against transitional fossils, but these seem to be the main themes. Other arguments tend to be more offshoots of these.

Kennie ham is an example of that. His other abortion, Answers in Genesis, tends to lean on the first argument -- although they no longer word it this way. I guess they had problems denying all of the transitional fossils so they sort of claim that it is an argument that should not be used (AiG arguments that should not be used). Now read it carefully, because it really is nothing more than a minor 'adjustment' in the 'there are no transitional fossils argument. Instead of targets transitional fossils as a whole, they are targeting the relationship between species by using the Biblical 'kind'.

Does this sound just a wee bit familiar? How about the whole micro v. macro argument. You know the one where anti-evolutionists quit arguing that evolution was impossible and now argue that speciation is impossible. Well actually they claim that speciation has not been proven. This is nothing more than another transitory face-saving gesture. Can't deny, evolve the argument into something else. Well at least they are consistent.

"We find variant transitional fossils for animals within the same kind—horse to a horse for example but that is expected in a biblical worldview."
Rather than dwelling more on kennie's delusions, let's talk about transitional fossils. What is a transitional fossil, also known as a transitional form. Oh, and biology also calls them 'intermediate' forms. I looked up ‘transitional fossil’ in Wikipedia ( and saw that they defined it as simply the remains, such as a fossil, that exhibit an evolutionary transition. In other words it displays certain characteristics from earlier ancestors and contain, usually in a more primitive form, the attributes of species that come later. Here is a pretty impressive list of some of the transitional fossils that have been found: Wikipedia also has a nice long list at

So how do some groups continue to make such a ridiculous claim? By redefining what a transitional form is. You have no idea how many times someone mentions the cat-dog, or used a nonsense phrase like ‘true transitional form’. What they are doing is changing the goal posts. They cannot argue against the evidence of the hundreds, even thousands, of transitional fossils, so they change the definition and claim that the fossils are not ‘really’ transitional mainly because they don't look like something out of the late-late show. AiG does this by inserting the word ‘kind’ and ignoring the evolutionary evidence. It goes something like this : Within the Horse kind you have horses, zebras, and donkeys. In the Cat kind you have lions and tigers. In the Bear kind you have polar, grizzly, and brown bears. Now let us not forget that kennie ham is a biblical literalist . . . and yet this concept of 'kind' for horses, bears, and cats is an invention of the 'mind' of kennie ham – thereby immediately suspect. He uses this idea to explain things like mules, hinneys, zorses, polar-brown bears, ligers and tigons. In other words, hybrid species. He completely ignores the evolutionary studies that show why these hybrids can exist and hybrids of species that are further away from their evolutionary relationship cleft point do not exist. But that’s a stock in trade, ignoring the evidence.

So argument number one is bogus, there have been transitional forms, there will continue to be transitional forms – in fact we are all transitional forms from the past and into the future. The ones we identify as 'transitional' are the ones that more clearly demonstrate the past and future. Who knows some future biologist may list homo sapien as a transitional form. There would be a hit to kennie's ego! Of course none of his ideas are supported by the evidence, only a denial of the evidence and a fanciful tale of how he sees the world. So much for the Biblical Literalist when he has to invent explanations to support his viewpoint..

Well since that denial tactic doesn't work at all, some creationists have started a more targeted argument. They have taken the idea of transitional forms and claimed that they would not be workable or survive in the real world. Now they point to the fact that the transitional forms that we have found in fossils so obviously the forms didn’t survive. Not true! Many of the forms exists for even longer than homo sapiens have been around. They were here and now they are not, but many were around for millions of years. We have yet to hit our first millennia let alone 10, or 100.

Here is the problem for creationists, the fossil record is not the only support for the transitional forms. There are the comparative studies of modern organisms that draw the parallels between species, past and present. This is easily illustrated by the adaptive radiation of the forelimb of mammals. All conform to the basic pentadactyl pattern but are modified for different usages. Or you can look at the pelvic relationship between dinosaurs and birds. Geography also plays a part in supporting the idea of transitional fossils. As we look at both ancestral forms and modern forms you have to look at the geography and where they are located! As you go back in the fossil record, geology also supports transitional forms because we are not just looking at the fossil, but the geological strata they are found in. This indicates the timeline for the changes. It’s when you take ALL the evidence into account you can see the picture that folks like kennie ham are doing their best to ignore. They challenge some of the pieces, ignore the others, and never look at the entirety of the evidence.

So the second argument is also bogus, so where is a creationist to go? Well recently another whine, represented by the third argument, that the relationship between forms is not supported, that many of the forms are not in a direct relationship with modern forms, has been popping up, the confusion between a transitional form and an ancestral form. I was tempted to write this one up, but another poster on Topix beat me to it. Here is Feklahr’s post: (

Regarding Transitional Fossils

I thought it would be wise to address some of the confusion surrounding the term "Transitional Fossil".

First, some links:

Second, a paragraph from the second link regarding transitionals:

Transitional vs ancestral

"A source of confusion is the concept that a transitional form between two different taxinomic group must be directly ancestral to one or both groups. This was exacerbated by the fact that one of the goals of evolutionary taxonomy was the attempt to identify taxa that were ancestral to other taxa. However, it is almost impossible to be sure that any form represented in the record is actually a direct ancestor of any other. In fact because evolution is a branching process that produces a complex bush pattern of related species rather than a linear process that produces a ladder like progression, and the incompleteness the fossil record, it is unlikely that any particular form represented in the fossil record is a direct ancestor of any other. Cladistics deemphasized the concept of one taxonmic group being an ancestor of another, and instead emphasizes the concept of identifying sister taxa that share a common ancestor with one another more recently than they do with other groups. There are a few exceptional cases, such as some marine plankton micro-fossils, where the fossil record is complete enough to suggest with confidence that certain fossils represent a population that was actually ancestral to another later population, but in general transitional fossils are considered to have features that illustrate the transitional anatomical features of actual common ancestors of different taxa rather than to be actual ancestors."

In closing:

What I am trying to demonstrate here is the misnomer surrounding transitional fossils. If we use the Archeopteryx example, it is listed as a transitional because it exhibits features of both dinosaurs and birds. It is not posited that it is the "middle form" in the transition of dinosaurs to the modern bird features. In other words, it is not an "ancestral" form to the modern bird, simply a species that exhibits both dinosaur like and bird like traits during a geological period between the proliferate life of dinosaurs and the proliferation of bird life.
So the bottom line on these particular arguments are more mischaracterizations of evolution. Evolution is not a straight line process and just because a fossil is identified as transitional doesn't require that it be in a direct-line relationship with a modern form. When cladistics traces something like the evolutionary line of the modern horse, they could be wrong on some of the details -- but what they are showing is the best evidence based on current knowledge that we have. A new fossil might change our understanding -- that's how science works. What we end up with is not just a different explanation to some degree, but a better explanation, a more complete explanation! Things are supported, not proven, and new knowledge can change the support. Nice job Feklahr, thanks!

So not only do transitional forms exist, but there are thousands of them. There is no 'missing link', but there are many links between different species. We are engaged in finding them and the work continues. Each new discovery tends to send the creationists scrambling for some new rationalization. It certainly is fun to watch. Just like the Discovery Institute tried about Tiktaalik in an post by that simplistic mouthpiece little casey luskin titled "Tiktaalik blown out of the water by earlier terapod fossils". See what I mean, rationalizations!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Species I

Once of the common argumentative themes from anti-evolutionists, is what constitutes a species. While it seems like a simple concept, in reality is more a very blurry line than a hard fast definition. Generally accepted a species is a population group that is easily capable of breeding within the group.

That sounds pretty cut and dried, but the reality is there is no absolution definition. It's more a rule-of-thumb. The main reason is that the idea of a species, or any of the other taxonomic ranks (genus, family . . .) is a man-made concept used for classification. Which means that there is no absolute hard-fast rule. This sounds like the waters are muddied, but the reality is that Nature doesn't have this concept built-in, so it doesn't make any mistakes. So the issue is not definitional, but our ability to classify organisms.

Here is an example I have used several times, the London Underground Mosquito. It evolved from an above ground species Culex pipiens, and is called Culex pipiens molestus to highlight that relationship. The namers used the term molestus because of its extremely aggressive behavior. Now, is it a different species? According to our classification system it certainly is. However can it breed with Culex pipiens? Genetically yes; however the difference in behavior, temperament and location, the two groups do not interbreed. So the classification makes sense.

Another example, Polar and Brown Bear. They are also listed as two different species, and yet like the mosquitoes discussed above. They are capable of interbreeding, and in fact a number of polar-brown hybrids exist and, unlike mules, they are not sterile. The dividing line is environmental. Neither bear could survive long in it's others environment so breeding between them is a rare event, but not an impossibility.

There are many other examples where the line between species is a bit blurred, but this is not a negative, as stated frequently by anti-evolutionists. I find this sort of funny because the defense frequently used is based on the biblical use of the word 'kind', which is never defined as to what it is in any sense -- but seems to be defined based on the argument-de'jure depending on whether the anti-evolutionist is arguing against species, genus, family, order . . ..

Remember it's our ability to classify rather than some hard and absolute rule of nature. One day Chihuahuas and Great Danes might be seen as separate species because of the challenge in breeding, but they are currently classified as both being breeds of the species Dog. You should also remember as well that the label of species is usually applied after a great deal of time, and after careful study. There is no one standing there with a label-maker as soon as a new species is born. But that seems to be the only standard an anti-evolutionist wishes to accept. It's nothing more than a demand for some level of absolute in a scientific explanation and a refusal to accept or understand the reality of scientific study. Species exist, but they are classifications and subject to change as we learn more and more about a specific species. No absolutes exist in nature, so no absolutes are going to exist in scientific explanations. We tend to leave absolutes to theists.

Accomodationalists [is that a word?] Unite!

Here's a little funny aimed in your direction:
Brought to you by the irreverent Jesus and Mo. Those who insist on forcing God into explanations of natural happenings -- you are simply BS'ing yourself. OK, that's a paraphrase of St. Augustine, but that's pretty much what he said.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another response to poor Rory

Here is Rory's response to my post called "In response to a comment". His response was:

"Dear Ted,

Thanks for your comments and rebuttal. We can agree to disagree.

If you read my article, you probably noted that The Wall Street Journal article I quoted said:

“Scientists ... often change their minds when they see new evidence. I was reminded of this a few months ago when I saw a survey in the journal 'Nature'. It revealed that 40% of American physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in God — and not just some metaphysical abstraction, but a deity who takes an active interest in our affairs and hears our prayers: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Jim Holt, Science Resurrects God, The Wall Street Journal, December 24, 1997, Dow Jones & Co.

This was based on a poll published in Nature by Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, "Scientists Are Still Keeping the Faith," Nature 386 (1997): 435; and Larry Witham, "Many Scientists See God's Hand in Evolution," Washington Times, April 11, 1997, p. A8. Edward J. Larson is an American historian and legal scholar. He is University Professor of history and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University, he was formerly Herman E. Talmadge Chair of Law and Richard B. Russell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia.

The Nature article can be referenced on Nature's site at Scientists are Still Keeping the Faith.

I also quoted Science, which is the most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal in the United States. Its August 1997 issue featured an article entitled Science and God: A Warming Trend? which said:

“The fact that the universe exhibits many features that foster organic life — such as precisely those physical constants that result in planets and long-lived stars — also has led some scientists to speculate that some divine influence may be present.”

Science Digest reported:

"Scientists who utterly reject Evolution may be one of our fastest-growing controversial minorities ... Many of the scientists supporting this position hold impressive credentials in science."

Larry Hatfield, “Educators Against Darwin,” Science Digest Special (Winter 1979), pp. 94-96.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, the leading nonprofit science advocacy group, says:

"The growing strength of the movement to discredit evolution and promote the teaching of intelligent design and other non science-based views of biological diversity in public science classrooms is of great concern. Please see the UCS position statement on this alarming trend."

Ref. Science, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Regarding your comment on 'quote mining', this a typical accusation by those who simply don't want valid but revealing information exposed that damages their position, but have no other rationalization to dismiss it. The definition of 'quote mining' includes distortion of intended meaning of those quoted, which does not occur in this case. It is perfectly valid to quote anyone as long as intended meaning is conveyed accurately. There is no quote mining, distortion or misinformation in the article.

I hope people will take the time to check the sources I quote, which will simply verify I quoted them accurately. It's pretty obvious from the abundance of quotes that the context and conclusion is clear, and there is no possible distortion. These kinds of false accusations come with the territory on this issue, unfortunately.

The considered testimony of many eminent scientists I quoted remains clear and consistent, and should not be lightly dismissed.

Best Regards,

Rory, you really don't want people to research your quotes, do you? Because in doing so you make a case that opposes your premise. Intelligent Design is junk science and there is no increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe in an intelligent designer of the universe and life. Well here is a little fun. I know I enjoyed it, but I am not sure you will.

1. Your quote " 40% of American physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in God" . . . so what? I don't care if 100% believed in God -- that is a long distance from supporting Creationism or Intelligent Design as scientific theories. Just ask the over 13,000 clergy members who have signed a letter supporting Evolution and the teaching of Evolution to our children. These clergy folks believe in God and still support evolution, what do they know that you do not?

Here are a couple of quotes and references for you:
From the Christian Clergy Letter (
"We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. "
From the Rabbinical Clergy Letter (
"As rabbis from various branches of Judaism, we the undersigned, urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution. Fundamentalists of various traditions, who perceive the science of evolution to be in conflict with their personal religious beliefs, are seeking to influence public school boards to authorize the teaching of creationism. We see this as a breach in the separation of church and state. Those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of creation are free to teach their perspective in their homes, religious institutions and parochial schools. To teach it in the public schools would be to assert a particular religious perspective in an environment which is supposed to be free of such indoctrination."
From the Unitarian Clergy Letter (
"While most Unitarian Universalists believe that many sacred scriptures convey timeless truths about humans and our relationship to the sacred, we stand in solidarity with our Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters who do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. We believe that religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts."
2. Your second reference actually says pretty much the same thing . . . there is some percentage of scientists who believe if God. Again, SO WHAT? At no time does this reference support some dramatic increase in the number of those scientists. It also does not support your contention of Intelligent Design -- yet you seem to think it does. Just a reminder the title of your original piece was "Intelligent Design vs. Evolution — The Miracle of Intelligent Design" So far you haven't seemed to provide any support. Don't worry, it gets worse.

3. Have you ever read the Science Digest? I have. I read it in the 60's and 70's and you know what? If you wanted the latest on Bigfoot or UFO's, that is the magazine for you. It was not a scientific journal, but more interested in the junk-science to increase circulation for decades. That's not to say all of Science Digest was junk science, but it was rarely a reference for a serious scientist. It's certainly not one used often in support of actual scientific research. Did you know it's been out of print since the late 80's? It made an effort to renovate its image, but it was too little, too late. Here is a review of the 1980 revamping -- still not something a scientist would use very often: You might also look at Pub Med and see how often Science Digest was listed? After 50 years in print it was listed 36 times in Pub Med, and only works from the last few years of it's life. Pretty pathetic for a science magazine. In contrast over 4000 for Scientific American.

4. Please learn to read for comprehension. In the link from the Union of Concerned Scientists the phrase "movement to discredit evolution". Since when does a 'movement' imply a group of scientists who now believe in God? What the article was addressing is the political and marketing campaign by groups like the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis (AiG), Access Research network (ARN), and Institute for Creation Research (ICR). These groups have been attempting to discredit evolution. Look at the membership for those groups and you will find very few scientists -- lots of philosophers and lawyers, but few scientists. If you dared to do your own homework you would have also discovered that the majority of members have a theistic issue with science, not a scientific one. The only reason it has become an issue for scientists, like the UCS, is because of the success they have had with school boards, politicians, and the popular press. What the UCS has not had to comment on was any actual scientific work . . . because there has not been any! You certainly failed to reference any in your little paper. Instead of discrediting evolution, why aren't you and your philosophical compatriots spending time supporting ID with real work? Are you unable, unwilling, or incapable of doing so?

5. As for quote mining -- One of the ways you can identify a quote-mine is when you see a quote taken out of context. Have you actually read "A Brief History of Time"? If you did then taking a quote in an attempt to convince anyone that Dr. Hawking is a supporter of ID is ludicrous! How about Richard Dawkins . . . are you serious? Even the quotes you lifted don't show any support for ID, only that the biology and chemistry work is hard . . . well luckily scientists aren't afraid of hard work. Can you say the same? You haven't even done the homework on the quotes you mined -- or did you just copy these from some creationist website and let someone else do the work for you? Try reading "The God Delusion" or "The Blind Watchmaker" instead of mis-using quotes -- you might have learned something -- like:
"Natural selection is sufficient to explain the apparent functionality and non-random complexity of the biological world, and can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, albeit as an automatic, nonintelligent, blind watchmaker."
And Francis Crick, so you ran out of living scientists you have to bring one back from the dead. I guess it's easy because it's hard for them to refute you. Well here is a quote from his 1988 work, What Mad Pursuit,
"Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved."
But this wasn't the first time Dr. Crick was so used. Just a few years ago a part-time soccer coach in California tried to get the approval to teach a 'philosophy' class called "The Philosophy of Design". The class consisted of having the students was 25 videos put out by Creationist organizations. When it was suggested that her curriculum was a little to far to the evangelical right she added several speakers -- including her husband -- an evangelical minister, and Dr. Francis Crick. Dr. Crick was to offer a counterpoint. One small problem, he had died a few years earlier. The class was canceled after the lawsuit was settled! Can't you people leave the man alone! (

Your quote of Hoyle was even more fun. You do realize that it was from a book called "Evolution from Space " -- well you should realize it since you mentioned it in your little article. But did you do more than copy to quote from some creationist website? Have you actually looked up the source material? This is one of the publications in which Sir Fred put forth the hypothesis of Panspermia -- that the building blocks of life came from outer space in for form of organic molecules in comets. So attempting to use him to support ID is nothing more than a quote-mine, as I already pointed out to you -- but you failed to take the hint. You also called him an 'evolutionist' which is a lie. He was a Mathematician and an Astronomer. What, did calling him an 'evolutionist' give his words a greater impact? Like I said, you aren't much of a researcher, are you?

6. The rest of your 'paper' is still a poor exercise of scholarship. You imply the appearance of design is the fact of design and you mis-used the quotes from other people to sell your idea. As a college paper in any class but a Creative Writing class you would receive an 'F' mainly because you failed to support your premise. In Creative Writing you might squeak by with a 'C' but only if the professor gave you extra credit for the creative use for your quotes. I would still flunk you because the original portion of your paper was pretty minimal.

Yes, we can agree to disagree. but my advice is to keep Creationism, and its latest incarnation Intelligent Design, far from the science classroom. Right now it is not a scientific premise because of the lack of any scientific support. If that changes in the future, then it can be re-evaluated -- but until the actual work is done, it does not belong in science class.

I doubt you liked reading all this , but I had fun anyway. You might look at your own motivations. Your interest in ID does not seem to stem from an interest in science, but because of your theological leanings. Look at thelast line of your little paper or the first line of your own description:
"If you have not already done so, don't wait, but reconcile yourself to Christ now."
"Rory Roybal is the author of Miracles or Magic?, and has over 10 years of experience leading in-depth church and home Bible studies."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Casey Thrice!

I really wasn't planning to post anything else about little casey for a while -- but sometimes he gets really, really stupid. OK, I can overlook that because it's so common, but when he lies . . . well I can't help another post.

So let's set the stage, Casey posted this little POS: "Free to Think: Caroline Crocker's New Book Tells Story of Discrimination Against Intelligent Design". I was planning on just reading the post and heading off to bed. But when he started it with a lie . . . I had to post one more time.

"While Chris Comer's lawsuit made a bogus case for discrimination, there are cases documenting genuine discrimination against scientists who support intelligent design (ID)."
Simple question, was Chris Comer's lawsuit about discrimination? No it was not! In 2008, Comer filed a suit that the policy she was terminated for (requiring Texas Education Agency employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism -- even though evolution is part of the curriculum) was unconstitutional, and that she was fired without due process. Her lawsuit sought a court order overturning the neutrality policy on teaching creationism and declaring that her dismissal was illegal under the Constitution and her reinstatement.

Anyone else see any sign of Comer suing for discrimination? In fact she might have done better for suing for some form of discrimination -- or maybe harassment would be a better term. But the choice was hers and she did not sue for being discriminated against. ( Here are a few references for your pleasure:,,

Now I can understand why casey has trouble identifying discrimination. After all his bosses at the Discovery Institute have been whining for a while about people like Richard Sternberg, Guillero Gonzales, Michael Egnor, and Catherine Croker and frequently claiming that they were discriminated against. They are currently holding up David Coppedge as their martyr of the Month -- as discussed in the previous post (Casey Duecy). They are constantly portrayed as martyrs for the ID cause. They were even mis-represented as such in the Stein mockumentary 'Expelled:'. So far no evidence of discrimination has been found for any of them, but it might be a reason why casey, a lawyer himself, has no actual idea of what discrimination means.

So why would little casey lie?

It's easy, he is building a strawman to convince people that his buddy Crocker was discriminated against. Not so! Croker was a part-time biology instructor hired to teach a specific subject in accordance with the established guidelines -- she flunked on a number of issues -- one of which is her violation of school policy by teaching 'problems with evolution' and 'intelligent design'. Personally I would have fired her for those violations. The school simply told her to knock it off and stick with the curriculum. A university spokesman said she was not renewed for reasons unrelated to her views on intelligent design, and that though they wholeheartedly supported academic freedom, "teachers also have a responsibility to stick to subjects they were hired to teach, and intelligent design belonged in a religion class, not biology." You can read more about it here: Oh and the italics were added by yours truly -- in case you wondered.

Her defense was academic freedom, but as anyone with half-a-brain knows academic freedom does not mean you can introduce unrelated material as if it were part of the curriculum. She was hired to teach biology, not religion . She should have been fired! Catherine Croker was not discriminated against, she was let go at the end of her contract. But in an effort to turn Croker into a more sympathetic figure, casey lied about Christine Comer's case and then lied about the reasons for Croker not being renewed.

Anyone else see why when I read anything from the DI, little casey's stuff in particular, I take it with a large bag of salt? It's not prejudice, it's experience.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Casey Duecy

Casey Luskin can be really confusing to many people, but after all he is a lawyer, so that may be part of the job description. To me he's not very confusing as long as you understand one thing -- if it is positive for ID, he supports it -- if it is anti-ID he does not, regardless of how foolish it makes him look.

I recently discussed casey's issue with double standards (Luskin's Double Standard). Personally I am against double standards, I think if your position is against certain behavior it should be against it no matter which side of the street someone is standing on. For example in a recent discussion someone was very surprised that I wasn't all up in arms about the plans for a mosque near Ground Zero. My point was that the people asking for this have as much right as ANYONE else in this country to ask it! Be it a mosque, a church, or a convenience store, they have the right to ask the question and go through the process as anyone else. To not allow them to ask because of what they are asking is a double standard! It doesn't mean I agree with placing a mosque at Ground Zero, but they have the right to ask for it and should not be harrassed or shouted down in the meetings/hearings.

I disagree with one of Fox News pundits, Bill O'Reilly -- the self-proclaimed "no spin zone". Now aside from my issues with pundits in general, O'Reilly in particular, I disagree with his whining about the behavior of the paparazzi. It's not that I agree with the tactics used by the paparazzi and other forms of ambush journalism -- but Billy himself uses the exact same tactic to ambush politicians. This is a double standard!

Now how does this apply to little casey -- again? It's simple. In a recent post about the Christine Comer case (Federal Appeals Court Rejects Chris Comer’s Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Evolution) casey made the following statement:

"The moral of this story is this: Whether the case ultimately wins or loses in
court, don’t speak out publicly on a case until you know the facts."
In this case the ruling went against Comer and casey had his little pom-poms out. Here is my view of casey and his double standard. Are casey, and his buds over at the DI, going to wait for the facts in the Coppedge case before making public statements? Answer -- it's too late they have already made them and they are continuing to make them!,,,, are just a few. There are many more by just about everyone over at the DI who can beat their heads on a keyboard.

JPL has yet to say anything publicly, more than likely on the advice of their attorneys. But without an understanding of the facts of the case the DI has flooded the Internet with support for Coppedge! All they have to work with is Coppedge and his lawyers statements. In other words . . . Casey and his buds are guilty of a double standard. Why would that be the case?

Well go back to my original statement. If it's pro-ID casey supports it, it it's anti-ID casey does not -- regardless of how foolish it makes him look. Look at the cases. Comer was fired for forwarding an email about an anti-ID speaker -- supposedly the Texas Education Agency is supposed to remain neutral on the subject of Evolution and ID. Yet Coppedge was demoted for, what he claims, is his public support of ID in his workplace. One is potentially anti-ID, the other obviously pro-ID and it reveals casey's double standard -- it also reveals the hypocritical tactics over at the DI. Does it make him look foolish? Well I think it does, but you can make your own judgement.

I would to thank the Sensuous Curmudgeon for pointing this out in his post "Discovery Institute: Comer, Coppedge, & Casey". I look forward to being able to remind little casey of his double standard. But I will wait before rubbing his nose in it until, as casey himself advises, I know the facts!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In response to a comment

In response to one of my posts,"Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!", Rory Roybal said

"Actually, an increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe in an intelligent designer of the universe and life, and this is now an established one way trend. To understand this turn of events, including perspectives of many leading scientists, see Intelligent Design vs. Evolution — The Miracle of Intelligent Design."
In a nutshell, I disagree. But my response got a little long for a comment response so I decided to make it a new post. So according to Rory "an increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe in an intelligent designer of the universe and life, and this is now an established one way trend." If this statement is true, we should see evidence of that. Now rather than first look at his link, I wanted to look at other sources and see if I can verify this.

My first thought was that the Discovery Institute, the less than honest bastion of ID would be crowing about it. Alas that is not so. Oh they make this claim, but they have not even attempted to substantiate it. In fact I have already pointed out, in the the post Rory responded to, concerning Phillip Skell and Norman Nevin, identified by Meyer they were not previously known as ID advocates, but the reality is they are both long-time advocates. So where else might we find these scientists? Any new additions to the "Dissent" petition?

You might remember that the Discovery Institute has a petition they started in 2001 that currently has over 700 names. Originally they claimed the list held over 700 Doctoral Scientists, but a closer examination shows that not only are they not all have Doctorate degrees, but many are not even scientists -- and while the title of the petition is "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" the primary reason many of the signers signed was due to a religious rather than a scientific objection.

The reason I bring up the list is because it took 8 years to break 700 signers, even ignoring the other issues with the petition (Few Biologists but many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition), it was presented as an amicus curiae brief in the Kitzmiller v. Dover court case in October 2005. The the list was used in an attempt to show this upswelling of support for Intelligent Design (Something Rory is claiming). So a check of the petition site ( and I find the site has changed a lot since I was last there. First of all the number of signers is no longer displayed. And to think they were so proud of their 700+ names. Second some names on the list show more than one position. For example:
Charles E. Hunt is both a Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Professor of Design University of California, Davis and also, Visiting Professor of Physics University of Barcelona (Spain).
It makes the list look even longer, but if Rory is correct I would expect to see a bunch of new names, but it doesn't look like they have passed 800. No, I didn't count them all, there are about 40 names per page and 18 pages . . . Rory, you can do the math. Oh and just in case you ask, the site says the list was last updated in January 2010.

Now what about scientists against teaching ID as science? After the Dover Trial and in response to the use the Discovery Institute put their little list -- a grass-roots effort petition supporting the teaching of evolution was started. (A Scientific Support For Darwinism). In four days 7,733 scientists signed up and, unlike the DI's list, over 68% work in biology or a biology related fields.

OK, let's look for other evidence.

In Ohio (2002) a list of 44 peer-reviewed articles, were presented to the State School Board. This list was supposed to show another ground swell of support for Intelligent Design. When the majority of the authors were contacted (26 of the 34 authors) most of them expressed surprise that their work could be construed as support for Intelligent Design and those articles that even mentioned it did so in the negative. (Intelligent Design Bibliography Misleading) So has the list of peer-reviewed literature changed since then?

Let's shift over the Pub Med, a repository of scientific papers used by researchers looking for both support and citations for reference material for their own scientific research. How many scientists have published papers in support of Intelligent Design? Do this test for yourself, go to PubMed and search for "Intelligent Design" then look through the abstracts of those papers and see how much support you are finding among actual scientists. While I found 127 references, the majority of them used the terms in a more colloquial sense.

There were a few that did tie into the Intelligent Design, but not in the way Rory's comment made it sound:
  • The religious essence of intelligent design. Forrest B. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2009;74:455-62. Epub 2009 Dec 22.
  • Introduction: protistan biology, horizontal gene transfer, and common descent uncover faulty logic in intelligent design. Espinosa A. J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2010 Jan 1;57(1):1-2. Epub 2009 Dec 18
  • Deconstructing design: a strategy for defending science. Miller KR. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2009;74:463-8. Epub 2009 Sep 4.
  • The relationship between evolutionary biology and religion. Reiss MJ. Evolution. 2009 Jul;63(7):1934-41. Epub 2009 Apr 13.
  • The evolution of creationists in the United States: where are they now, and where are they going? Padian K. C R Biol. 2009 Feb-Mar;332(2-3):100-9. Epub 2008 Nov 26. Review. Biol Res. 2009;42(2):223-32. Epub 2009 Aug 20.
  • Some considerations about the theory of intelligent design. Carreño JE, Hansen F, Irarrázabal M, Philippi R, Correa M, Borja F, Adriasola C, Silva F, Serani A.

There were a few more like these, but these look like a good representation. I would expect to see a great deal of work on intelligent design, but the lack of work tells a different message. Now in contrast there were over 5,000 when I searched for "Natural Selection" and over 269,000 when looking for "evolution".

What about Labs doing ID work? Remember in 2005 the Discovery Institute opened their own Lab, The Biologic Institute. The stated purpose of this 'Lab' was to find the scientific evidence supporting ID as a viable scientific theory. So far the lab has been conspicuously silent on the work supporting it's stated goal. So who else is doing ID work? If any of them are, they are not talking about it!

So Rory, where is this 'one way trend' you mentioned. I have not been able to find any evidence of it. So I went search at a few other places where I would expect to see evidence of this paradigm shift, colleges and Universities that teach Biology.
  • Butler University -- Their curriculum in Biology makes no mention of ID, but it does mention . . . dare I say it . . . Evolution. But Butler is not a secular school, how about the largest Baptist University in the US?
  • The biology department at Baylor has this posted on their website:
"Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biology, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. Because it is fundamental to the understanding of modern biology, the faculty in the Biology Department at Baylor University, Waco, TX, teach evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science's statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously." (
  • Lehigh University, the home college of Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Behe and one of the few actual biology-related scientists associated with the DI. Well here is their posted comment:
"The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific." (

  • Let move closer to home, UD, better known as the University of Dayton. For those of you not familiar with UD:
    "The University of Dayton ranks as a top-tier national, doctoral-level university and one of the 10 best Catholic universities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report."
    No, no fancy statements like Lehigh and Baylor, but a complete lack of any mention on UD's biology department website of Intelligent Design.
OK, Rory, now I will take a look at your link . . . and I am quite disappointed. I am not trying to be insulting, but you really haven't done much in the way of research, like maybe for a Master's program, have you? Your self-authored paper says 40% of American physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in God -- so what? Belief in God in no way implies support for ID. Plus it doesn't show any significant change in recent years. In fact if we could go back and have a similar poll done say in 1920, I bet the number would have been considerable higher. But that is my opinion.

Let's see where do you go from there . . ever hear of Quote-Mining? It's a common, but reprehensible, Creationist tactic and that's what your list of quotes looks like. Very un-impressive. You make a lot of self-serving statements, but you provide no actual support for the comment made in my blog. Sorry, Rory -- you need to do better than this. Your paper is a collection of common creationist ideas, but just writing them down again doesn't mean they are true.

Bottom line . . . no support I have been able to find agrees that scientists are changing their mind on Creationism/Intelligent Design. It's not science, it should not be taught as science, and it should not be part of the conversation until proponents engage in more than unsupported wishful thinking and unsupported comments -- like yours.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Matzke v. Luskin -- No contest!

Nick Matzke has a very nice take down of Casey Luskin on Panda's Thumb. Luskin will probably miss the point -- but that is not unexpected. Luskin whiffed when he missed the point of the original article, plus I don't think any criticism will be well received -- but then it never is. Personally I'm not sure Casey writes his own stuff, but then who would let him ghostwrite for them? I mean this is a man who called a bicycle irreducibly complex. (Carl Zimmer:Oh No! I’ve Seen the Impossible! My Eyes!)

Well, as I read it I thought of something else and then his closing really tied into a few other things I have posted. It also occurred to me because I've been re-reading some of the Dover Trial transcripts recently and this point stuck in. Well here is Nick's closing paragraph that kind of jelled the thought for me:
"Everything I’ve said above is made even worse by the fact that the issue at trial was not “is there some marginal chance that ID might have the tiniest smidgen of credibility, if you squint just right, if you ignore everything inconvenient, and if the wind is blowing the right direction and the moon is in the correct phase.” Rather, the issue was “is this ID stuff on the level of what is typically expected to be taught in public school biology classrooms and textbooks?”"
I think Luskin, Meyer, and the others confuse 'possible' with 'probable' and seem to think that getting someone to admit that something is possible is the same thing as accepting it as an explanation, even the best explanation. Is Intelligent Design a possibility? Yes, an emphatic yes! So are ghosts, time-traveling aliens, and skiing through a revolving door. Coming up with some 'perspective' all things are possible! But the ONLY way to increase the probability that they are a viable explanation of something is to offer evidence. That is the step that trips up the most ardent Intelligent Design proponent. I have mentioned before my wife believes in ghosts and while I admit the possibility of the existence of ghosts, I am not hunting up random heat sources to prove the existence of ghosts and I certainly don't jump to ghosts as any explanation of a noise or moving curtain. The possibility is not the same thing as acceptance of an idea as an answer to a question.

I recently re-read a post of Richard Dawkins who was describing his experience viewing the Ben Stein abortion, towards the end of his post he discusses the interview that was 'used' in "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed". The editing made it look like Dawkins accepts ID as a viable idea/theory. (Is Richard Dawkins a Raelian? and Richard Dawkins Misrepresents position of ID proponents on the identity of the Designer) But when looked at in a more honest perspective, like the question that he was actually asked and how he answered it, you realize that he was laying out an extreme possibility . . . not the acceptance of the idea as a useful or viable explanation. Even listening to that part of the mockumentary, I never thought for a second that Dawkins was explaining a viable concept, just musing possibilities. in my opinion, only someone looking to misrepresent him would take it seriously.

I found a similar theme while looking through the testimony again of the Dover trial, and I agree completely with Nick's point. The testimony of the defense experts was designed [pun intended] to raise the possibility of ID, as if the reasonable doubt that ID was possible made it OK to teach in it science class. But when nothing was presented on the viability of ID as an explanation -- that is where the plaintiffs tore them up!

It was so noted in Judge Jones decision that ID might be correct -- but it is a religious proposition, not a scientific explanation. Or to borrow Nick's words “is this ID stuff on the level of what is typically expected to be taught in public school biology classrooms and textbooks?" 5 years ago I was perfectly willing to answer is "No, not yet!", but after the last 5 years of pronouncements of the demise of evolution, the continued publishing of philosophy dressed up as science, the lack of any actual work to support their ideas, and the tactics of the DI in Texas and other states, I think the 'not yet' can be safely put aside. The answer is a resounding "No!"

Evolution's Imminent Demise?

Over on Topix a thread was started called "The Collapse of Evolution". It got me started thinking just how long has someone, usually a Creationist of one stripe or another, been predicting the imminent demise of the Theory of Evolution. Well I know it was well before I have been involved, which was just a few years ago when Ohio was on the target list of the Discovery Institute. I am not asking how long there have been anti-evolutionists. I assume they have existed since the first peep about the Theory of Evolution. I will lay odds that any idea that didn't recognize the direct involvement of one deity of another has raised the ire of someone. But more specifically how long have various pronouncements about the immediate demise been going on?

I was over on Pharyngula, PZ Myers blog and one of his posts "About that ad predicting the fall of Darwinism in 2013…" had a great link near the end. The link is to Glenn Morton's "The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism". You have to take a look, some of these are hilarious! Not all of these are specifically about Evolution, but the majority certainly are. I love the 1840 "imminent demise of the old earth viewpoint", sure real successful that one.

So I wonder what 2013 will bring? If I were a betting man I would say a new prediction about the demise of evolution! In fact I am a betting man. I bet that in 2013 the nearest we will get to the demise of evolutionary theory will be additional pronouncements added to Glenn Morton's list. Any takers? Terms and odds are up for negotiation, all bets final by the end of 2010!

On a small side note, I have not found one pronouncement of the imminent demise of Creationism. I guess pro-science has a much better understanding of human nature than anti-science have concerning nature, human or otherwise.

Mythicism == Intelligent Design

Over on Dr. James McGrath's blog, "Exploring The Matrix" he brought up an interesting point and related it to both scientific and historical investigations. I liked his point and the way he expressed it:

" . . . that mythicism is very much like intelligent design in at least one
important regard. It wishes to redefine the methods of a scholarly discipline in
order to accomplish an ideological agenda. What criteria should be used in
historical study? What should the standard of evidence be?"

While I fully expect Luskin, or someone else at the Discovery Institute pool of knee-jerk responders, to complain about his characterization of Intelligent Design, but isn't this exactly what we have been seeing? It came out clearly 5 years ago [has it been that long already?] at the Dover Trial when Behe agreed that in order for Intelligent Design to be accepted as science the very definition of science would have to be expanded to include supernatural causation. Is the reason they [ID proponents] have had so much trouble producing evidence simply because the current scientific methodology cannot be applied? It would certainly explain why anything that comes out of them is long on philosophy and short on science.

I think the problem in such a redefinition of science is not that it would make current scientists uncomfortable or threaten their livelihood -- as stated by those same less-than-honest fellows at the DI -- but that it would take a methodology that produces understandable and usable results replaced by one that doesn't seem capable of either. Seriously, after years of trying neither Meyer, Behe, nor Demski has been able to put any of their ideas within any framework in such a way that can withstand the scrutiny of anyone who doesn't already subscribe to their idea. Look at both the praises and criticisms of their work. The praises come from people who already subscribe to their ideological agenda and the criticisms come from everyone else. In my Post "Intelligent Design Sh** of get off the pot" I remember Stephen C. Meyer saying that ID was receiving support from scientists who were not ID advocates. Instead of leaving such a comment unsupported, which is the norm, he named chemist Philip Skell and geneticist Norman Nevin -- yet when we looked a tiny bit closer, which took all of 10 seconds, we discover that both Skell and Nevin are longtime ID advocates. So even when claiming external success the reality is only someone who already supports them does so.

I also liked Dr. McGrath's closing analogy:
"So (to use a sports analogy) mythicists are welcome to propose new rules that
they believe are better. But that will never be accomplished by standing on the
sidelines and criticizing those who play the game by the rules. Couches and
stadiums are full of such fans who know better than the players."

I will re-state what I think the DI, and any ID advocate, should do. They need to get out of the public view and go into the lab and do the legwork and use the methodologies according to current standards. They should open their work for scrutiny and criticism and work on developing repeatable, and usable concepts. If they cannot or even will not then they belong on the same fringes as tarot card readers, phrenologists, mystics and mythics.

His closing line "Few of them could do a better job if given an opportunity to take the field" is telling as well. How biologists are anti-evolution or pro-intelligent design (which are not the same thing no matter what Luskin seems to claim)? Damn few! Yet this is the organization bent on erasing evolution from the face of biological science? Sidelines indeed!

Thanks Dr. McGrath for another very interesting perspective!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Surprise! The definition of ID has 'evolved'

Mark Farmer, over at The Panda's Thumb has a great post "More DI Word Games". Apparently a few months back he was working on something and snagged the definition of Intelligent Design (ID) from the Discovery Institute (DI) website. Now this should not surprise anyone. If you DARE write anything about Intelligent Design the DI, through its toothless attack chihuahuas like luskin and klinghoffer, will immediately whine if they feel you are not representing ID correctly. Well if you aren't an ID supporter, they will whine no matter what you say, but getting the definition usually cuts down the whining a small amount. OK, so far, so good, Mark went and got this from their site:

"Intelligent design is a scientific theory which holds that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and are not the result of an undirected, chance-based process such as Darwinian evolution."
Now even more recently he went and looked up the definition again and guess what? It had changed to this:
"Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."
In all honesty, is anyone really surprised at this? The definition of Intelligent Design has changed. Now what I was curious about was had it changed before? So I checked out the Of Pandas and People text, the book that became so central in the Dover PA trial. You know, the trial that declared "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID [Intelligent Design] is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory." (Dover Decision) Well in that text ID was defined as:
"Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc." (Since I don't have a copy of this book, I used the Dover Transcripts for this definition).
Those of you familiar with the trial probably realize that this definition was the definition of Special Creation/Creationism prior to the re-editing of the text following the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision that ruled against the mandating the teaching of "Creation Science" alongside Evolution.

During the Dover Trial. Dr. Kenneth Miller, testifying for the plaintiffs, defined Intelligent Design as
"Intelligent design is the proposition that some aspects of living things are too complex to have been evolved and, therefore, must have been produced by an outside creative force acting outside the laws of nature."
Also during the trial Michael Behe, a senior fellow over at the Discovery Institute, called Miller's definition "a mischaracterization", saying that ID is a scientific theory, not a proposition. Of course Behe never did provide a definition of ID -- which I found interesting. Later in the trial I think he had to back off on his calling Miller's definition a mischaracterization because he had to agree that for ID to be considered science, the basic definition of science would have to change to include supernatural causation. I think Miller was dead on with his definition!

Something that I didn't realize when I suffered through the book "Signature in the Cell" by Philosopher and another senior fellow over at the Discovery Institute Stephen C. Meyer. He is using the latest definition, the one that no longer identifies ID as a scientific theory, but identifies is as a research program,. a community of scientists, and a theory (remember there is a difference between a colloquial theory and a scientific theory). I hadn't noticed the change, so I am very glad Mark Farmer pointed it out.

Well as we can see the definition since 1987 and today has certainly evolved. What I want to understand is WHY it has changed. Unlike science, which changes as new knowledge, new ideas are supported, and new work is accomplished, the basic definition of Intelligent Design has changed not due to any known work, but appears to have changed because of the criticisms of both the idea itself and the tactics of it proponents, chiefly the Discovery Institute (DI).

Think about it, one of the frequent criticisms was it being identified as a 'scientific theory' in the first place, without having done the work and rigor required of any scientific theory. So since no one was going to let that one slide, no matter how often the DI claimed it to be true, it was a sticking point -- so they dumped it. ID is no longer a Scientific Theory, but just a theory -- an idea, a concept. I think I can agree with that.

Another complaint was falsification. Remember that falsification is the scientific principle that in order for a hypothesis to become a theory, there has to be some identifiable way to determine that it could be false. Not that is has to be false, but there has to be a way of identifying if it no longer applies. For example a rabbit found in the stomach of a dinosaur would show that evolution no longer applies. Charles Darwin himself said that if any biological organism that could not have possibly formed through incremental changes over time, then his theory may be false. Of course nothing has been found that meets that description, but you can see his point. By changing from a scientific theory to just a theory, you remove the onus on falsification, or at least the requirement for falsification. Of course if they ever wish to become a scientific theory, and they do the work and rigor to support it, then they will have to address falsifiability -- but that seems to have been deferred to the future.

Notice that the phrase 'chance-based process' is also gone from the definition. While this should signify a change in the various evolutionary attacks by people like Meyer and Dembski because their main arguments are frequently against the odds of biological changes happening by chance. But Meyer didn't back off of this whine in his book, I think the removal from the definition to be more flash than substance, but we shall see.

The last noticeable change that instead of trying to attack Darwinian Evolution as a whole, they are just attacking Natural Selection. I think one of the reasons is that every time they try an attack Evolution, especially using the term Darwinian Evolution, they seem to keep forgetting how much evolutionary theory has changed since Darwin's Day. Their attacks on Evolution as a whole have failed. The topic is too well supported within the scientific community and even without. I mean when a Conservative Judge, appointed by a Republican President who publicly announced support for ID can't side with the DI -- they had to change tactics.

That's all this is -- a definitional change -- a change in tactics. The ID movement has certainly proven that it is quite malleable as it suffers defeat after defeat in the courts and in state and local school boards. Remember in Texas half of the 'special committee' to examine the science curriculum was made up of DI fellows and other ID proponents -- and they still failed! Go back further and you can see the entire Creationism movement has been changing after each set-back. Can't mandate Evolution not be taught, ask for equal time for Creationism. Can't teach Creationism in science class because it's not science -- change the name to Creation Science. Can't teach Creation Science -- change the name to Intelligent Design. Can't call Intelligent Design a Scientific Theory -- redefine it. They have to evolve and this definition seems to be the latest evolution -- an evolution of a bad idea, but still evolution.