Thursday, March 31, 2011

Topix Evolution Forum MIA?

I am hoping it some sort of technical issues, because while the rest of Topix seems to be working just fine, the Evolution forum seems to have disappeared. All I get is:

"The Topix page you requested was not found"
when I go to it or any of the over 5,500 posts I have made there. Like I said I am hoping for technical difficulties rather than political issues. I hadn't heard of any complaints over it -- well other than Creationist whinings when someone doesn't swallow their BS whole. but then you hear that in many more places than Topix. That's when it hit me, I have made over 5,500 posts on Topix and I would hazard a guess that over 99% of them are in the Evolution Forum. It's an interesting place, you might want to wander over when it comes back online! UPDATE: It came back up about 6 hours later. No reason mentioned, the posts all seem there. It was just interesting for a few.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Unspecificness of Specified Complexity

Just a couple of days ago a poster on Topix tried to use William Dembski's Explanatory Filter as something real and useful. Now if you know anything about it, you probably know my feeling. Anyway, here is my reply. But that's not the point of this post. I find the timing funny because of what I found today. Please understand that the central core of his 'explanatory filter' is the idea of 'complex specified information', or CSI. The problem I, and others, have with CSI is no one seems to be able to calculate it.

So where would one go to get the low-down on how to calculate CSI? Why I would think Dembski's own blog might have a clue. So while wandering around I came across "On The Calculation Of CSI". So what does it tell me? That absolutely no one has a clue how to calculate the value of CSI. Someone called 'MathGrrl' wrote the post, but you also have to look at the comments, about 60 of them when I caught the article. It's the biggest collection of just plain junk I have ever seen. Have you ever seen people trying to nail jello to a wall? Well this blog post is the literary equivalent.

My advice it that before you can nail jello, you have to freeze it. That's what CSI needs -- it needs to be frozen, that is to be specified [pun intended]. Dembski needs to sh** or get off the pot and provide a clear, understandable, and repeatable explanatory filter that lays out CSI is a useful and usable fashion. His work needs to be complete, well supported, and understandable. There will be critics, and those need to be dealt with, not dismissed in his usual off-handed way. Mathgrrl's post is more an embarrassment than anything. If Dembski's filter and CSI concept is more than a philosophical argument, then this post should have never happened. But it did, which tells a very different story than anything Dembski has published in his marketing pieces . . a very different and telling story.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wow, Ann Coulter is two-faced -- no surprise here

I forgot to mention in my last post. Ann Coulter, in an appearance on Sean Hannity's show last year claiming that there is a potential radiological hazard by the full body scanners. I did catch that video Ann Coulter Battles With Peter Johnson On The Use Of Body Scanners [Video]. I guess since it was posted 5 months ago it's OK that she changed her mind on radiation. So Body scanners are bad, but a potential core meltdown is OK.

I did enjoy that Ann Coulter was whining because Peter Johnson wasn't letting her get away with her usual style and kept after her to actually offer a potential solution. One of his last comments were spot on 'Ann, you have a complaint, but no solution.' [Yes, it's a paraphrase because listening to her again to get the exact wording is just not worth it.] She was so lost she expected Sean Hannity to come to her rescue.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Does Ann Coulter live on the same planet as the rest of us?

I haven't thought so for a long time and her column "A Glowing Report on Radiation" should clinch it for everyone. In it she claims:

" . . .anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer."
Ann Coulter is off her rocker. PZ Myers over on his blog Pharyngula had a few words about her and her less-than-educated opinion. Check out "Will radiation hormesis protect us from exploding nuclear reactors?" that goes into great detail. Does Ann own stock in Japanese nuclear power plants?

Anyone else remember "Erin Brockovitch"? The legal clerk who spearheaded the investigation of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) that resulted in a the largest settlement ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in US history. I recall one line from the film where PG&E where they had told residents of Hinkley Ca that the chromium that they were using was actually good for them. "PG&E had alerted the townsfolk earlier about the chromium but said that it was nothing to worry about, saying that chromium was in many multivitamins." Sounds like Ann Coulter must have had a previous job writing press releases for PG&E.

Ann, if radiation is so good for you, when are you flying over to assist in the clean-up efforts? Yea, like Ann Coulter would dirty her nails doing actual work when she can write columns and appear on O'Reilly and argue pseudo-science. Yea, Coulter and O'Reilly arguing science! I haven't had the stomach to watch the clip on Pharyngula yet. I might tomorrow. It's late here and I refuse to go to bed with their voices echoing in my ears. I'll also make sure I have an empty stomach as well.

PZ Myers said:
"Ann Coulter is blithely ignoring competent scientists' informed recommendations to promote a dangerous complacency in the face of a radiation hazard."
I think she must also own stock in a few Australian homeopathy companies as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Water cures Radiation Sickness, who knew?

OK, I rarely discuss anything other than Evolution, but I usually try and couch my terms as pro or anti science. For example supporting evolution in education is pro science and anything that comes out of the Discovery Institute is anti-science -- pretty simple. So while this isn't my normal fare, it really pissed me off.

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer himself, pointed this out and it just makes me sick. Apparently the group 'Homeopathy Plus' in Australia has sent out a note telling people they can use homeopathic 'remedies' to alleviate radiation sickness, including such things as strontium-carbonicum, phosphorus, and X-rays. Here is the link to Phil's original article "Diluting nuclear homeopathy". I refuse to post the link to this group directly. I just can't do it. They are trying to cash in on potential disaster! This isn't a 'cure' for a cold, or an acne relief -- this is a potential disaster on a scale never before seen -- and this group is using it to sell phony 'cures'. have they no shame! Homeopathy alleviating radiation sickness -- really?

Normally I really believe in 'Let the buyer beware'. I mean there have been junk like this for years. But this should be criminal! I would love to believe no one will fall for it, but I know some people will. What I have been hoping that the disaster that may loom does not occur for many reasons, this post from Phil gave me a new -- I hope it doesn't happen because of the number of people this Homeopathy crap can hurt.

Phil did make a claim that many of these folks believe in what they do. Fine, they can believe what they wish to believe. But this is not something that you can't tell from a placebo affect. This isn't something that can be dismissed if it doesn't work. This is potentially life-threatening!

In my opinion homeopathy is nothing more than modern snake-oil salesmanship and organizations pushing in the light of this potential disaster should be outlawed BEFORE they can hurt anyone. Yes, here in the US it might sound like I am considering a violation of the law to hold that opinion -- but since when are our laws a suicide pact?

Has Intelligent Design finally Evolved?

So do we have a candidate for the next little bit of fluff to replace the Intelligent Design in the vernacular? I've mentioned how 'Creationism' magically morphed into 'Creation Science' in response to getting whacked in court. After Creation Science took its tumble, 'Intelligent Design' took a turn in the woodshed and proceeded to perform just as well -- or just as poorly -- depending on your point of view. So one of the questions I am curious about is what's next? Hasn't Intelligent Design pretty well run its course?

Well -- we have a new term being bandied about by a Florida State Senator who is pushing Florida's first anti-science bill of 2011. In "More conservative Legislature considers evolution bill" Sen. Wise doesn't call out Creationism or Intelligent Design, the quote reads that we have to teach both 'evolution and nonevolution'. Nonevolution? Talk about an interesting term. So just what is the 'Theory of Nonevolution'? Who is working on this 'theory'? How does one falsify 'Nonevolution'? How does one test for it? Does the Discovery Institute know about this one? Most important is how in the world do you teach it? Seriously, how will it be presented in class, as some sort of 'nonevent' or is it just another bit of 'nonsense'.

Personally I vote for 'nonsense'. I think the Senator was just trying to look for a word that might not raise the hair on the back of the necks of the many people in Florida who accept and understand science. I think he blew it. But that's just me talking.

So the less-than-serious question is exactly what is 'Nonevolution'? All kidding aside, we know it's not a scientific theory. We also know there is no scientific theory about life that doesn't currently fall under the heading of 'Evolution'. So by extrapolation we are left with non-scientific ideas, like Creationism and Intelligent Design. Funny how it works that way. No matter what you care to call it, it always comes back to non-science, religiously-based, alternative ideas. Please remember that Sen. Wise failed in 2009 when he wrote a bill calling for a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution."

I do not believe Florida needs to deal with this law and they should let it die on the vine. I mean the current standards allow any scientific theory countering evolution to be presented. the key here being the word SCIENTIFIC. Since the current laws already allow it, this bill is a waste of time and resources. Sen. Wise can point to his sponsorship of this bill and garner his pandering points with conservative Christians in his constituency as he asks them to send money to his next campaign. My question to his constituency is simple, is Sen. Wise really representing you?

In the meantime we'll keep looking for the 'next big thing' to follow the evolution of Creationism to Creation Science and its evolution into Intelligent Design. . .. I don't think 'Nonevolution' is the right handle. But just in case should we start warning textbook publishers to be on the lookout for 'cdesnonevolutionentists'?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Professor Campbell responds to a request from a Christian Blogger and ID Proponent called 'Wintery Knight'

A Christian Blogger who goes by the pseudonym Wintery Knight had a few things to say about my favorite NZ Professor. I really don't recommend it, but here is a link to the comment "Should ID researchers be “marked down” for defending intelligent design?" if you must.

His approach was to ask her . . . well here, she tells it much better than I on her BioBlog. "creationist 'report' writing: marked down again". He asked her for copies of her work:

"I am thinking about writing a blog post comparing you to Michael Behe, and I want to be as fair as possible when I compare your research publications on experimental biology in peer-reviewed journals."
So, a couple of questions occurred to me. For example just who is Wintery Knight and what qualifications does he/she have to perform such a comparison. A second question that came to mind was just what has Michael Behe peer-reviewed published that would warrant such a comparison? What it suggested to me was Conservapedia Andy Schlafly's request from Richard Lenski (Lenski Affair documented nicely on Rational Wiki). Apparently it reminded her of the same thing.

To be honest -- I have heard of WK's blog before. I tried to post a couple of comments a while back and when they didn't appear after a couple of weeks, I dismissed it. In fact most Creationist/Christian Blogs are very careful what comments they allow through. I assumed this was just another one of those. I've commented on it before, only using a different site than WK's blog. Anyway, I decided to try again and posted this:

Did you even read her post? Where did she call you a creationist? Why bring the Big Bang into the conversation at this point.

You questioned her training, she addressed it. You asked for links to her writings in order to perform a specific analysis and she pointed out where you failed to perform this analysis, even though you said you had enough from her University site. So you were asking for information under false purposes. One lie.

She also pointed out that many of your own supposed scientific papers supporting ID not only failed to mention the subject, but were not about biology at all, but cosmology.

You failed to address ANYTHING she commented on. Then you wrap up your post with another an out-and-out lie. Her site requires the same three pieces of information to post on your site. Her site also holds comments for moderation, just like yours. Don’t try and claim that the syndicated site has a different policy than her University blog, because YOU posted the link to her own blog, not the syndication site. So don’t bother trying that lie. See, I just saved you from having to make another lie.

So you not only do not read for comprehension — which she also accurately identified — but after being criticized you make up stuff. I thought lying was against the rules? So you’re an interesting sort of Christian, aren’t you?

To my surprise, it did make it and WK did post my comment. However, for some strange reason I received this comment by email before the comment appeared on his site:
"Why should I approve your comment and try to engage you?"
So I get this one-line email and then at some subsequent time later he changes his mind and posts my comment. Not sure why, other than I think I irritated him by calling him a liar. Well for whatever reason, he then responded to my comment -- which is why I think I might have annoyed him a touch. Here it is, so you don't have to go through his site and wade through all the comments -- although a few are terrific.
You write:
Did you even read her post? Where did she call you a creationist?”

Can you tell me what the title is?

1. I asked her for better papers to make her look better. I explained exactly what I was going to do, it wasn’t false pretenses. I e-mailed her for better science papers to make her look better. Then when she refused to produce any scientific papers, I used what was on her page, quoted in full with a link back for context.

2. Why bring the Big Bang into it? Because it falsifies materialism, which is the worldview that animates the Darwinians. Don’t you see that everything you believe is at odds with good science? You have a 19th century view of science. You haven’t updated it with the latest evidence and discoveries. You really need to work on your science. Stop with all of this religious stuff. Stick with the hard science, and you will be fine.

3. Cosmology is not part of intelligent design? Arguments about habitability and fine-tuning are EVERYWHERE in intelligent design literature – and any ONE of them refutes the assumption of naturalism which is the life blood of macro-evolutionary speculating.

4. She didn’t comment on any SCIENCE. I only want to discuss the science. In her article, she doesn’t define ID by referencing ID scholars themselves, nor does she explain ID arguments by citing the ID proponents in their published academic/research work. If she wanted to refute ID, she needs to actually READ ID SOURCES. Nowhere in the article does she interact with ID. She calls them creationists! As if non-theists ID-supporters like Steve Fuller, Bradley Monton, David Berlinski, etc. are young-earth creationists.

5. Stop calling me a liar. I haven’t lied about a single thing. Not one. The problem here is that you have a religion (materialism) and it’s at odds with science. You are not capable of discussing scientific evidence objectively, but only attack people. But I want to discuss the science.

Please don’t comment any more until you show me that you actually know what ID is, and what are the arguments for it. If you comments get rejected, that will be the reason why – because you refuse to engage with what ID theorists actually argue, and what they measure in the lab.

Aw, he doesn't want me to comment until I do my homework. Well it would be nice if ID 'Theorists' were actually arguing and measuring in a lab. But since they are not I decided to reply again since he raised a bar that no one in the ID proponent camp seems interested in trying to reach. Now I really doubt this one will make it on his site, so I figure posting it here is the nearest it might see the light of day. As of this evening this is 'awaiting moderation'.

1. Yes, in my opinion you displayed false pretenses. You claimed one thing and did another and at the end you questioned her competence in her own field of expertise. So you not only falsely represented yourself, you were insulting — without cause. And you claim to be a Christian? Can’t tell by your posts.

So she didn’t share her work with you, just who are you anyway? You hide behind a pseudonym, have no identified expertise to evaluate her work and you wanted to compare her work to a pseudo-scientific idea postulated by Michael Behe. Not a good start to someone claiming to be truthful, or particularly Christian.

2. Why bring the Big Bang into it? Because, WK, you were talking to a Biologist and asking for her BIOLOGY papers to compare them to a Biochemist’s non-scientific philosophy. Have you forgotten the part of the Dover trial when Michael Behe said that he hadn’t done the experimental work to support his own ideas? Did you also miss the part where he said he wasn’t aware of ANYONE doing the work? So just what are you trying to compare her work to? The stuff he hasn’t done? Oh, so I guess he’s done a great deal of work on the Big Bang? In other words you were just padding your list of supposed science in order to make it sound good. I’m glad she didn’t offer you any more grist for your less-than-truthful mill of Christian propaganda.

3. So just what part of Intelligent Design of the Universe is an accepted part of Cosmology? Can we just say it’s just as much accepted science in Cosmology as it is accepted in Biology. That the polite way of stating ‘Nothing’. Guillermo Gonzalez, the guy who lost his position at ISU because he failed to do the job he was hired to do, is your main source for this? Pretty poor showing. Neither you, not anyone else, has made the case for your blatant lie that the Big Bang falsifying materialism. You make that statement as if it is factual — yet it is, at best, another unsupported philosophical statement.

4. She doesn’t need to refute ID, it’s already been refuted. You just didn’t bother to read her words, you already had your responses lined up as soon as you saw the title of her post. ID has been found to be Creationist at it’s core. Read the Dover decision, look at the actions of the Discovery Institute. Look at their own strategy document. Intelligent Design is not science. Even Judge Jones gave it a possible out at some time in the future, but right now today it’s not science. I agree wholeheartedly with her that if a student answered a question about science with ID, they should be marked down. Of course you still haven’t addressed that she said it might be OK for a discussion on the nature and philosophy of science, but you don’t want to acknowledge that ID is a philosophy. That would be an honest statement.

5. As for telling the truth, you mentioned three more ID proponents: Steve Fuller, Bradley Monton, David Berlinski. Steve Fuller: philosopher-sociologist; Bradely Monton: philosophy professor; and David Berlinski: Mathematician and philosopher and also a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute. What, don’t you have biologists to discuss biology with a biology professor? Apparently not! Yet you don’t like admitting ID is only a philosophy with no empirical science behind it — yet you trot out Philosophers to do battle. For shame WK, you are tarnishing the color White.

I believe you are a liar and one who continually misrepresents the truth. I don’t know if a court would agree with my opinion, but I really don’t care. You are doing nothing but playing word games — all because she wouldn’t hand over her own research and references to you to misquote, and also because she wouldn’t engage in a debate over non-science. If you wish me not to identify you as such, then stop doing it. It’s that simple.

Oh, and as for her calling you a Creationist, other than using the word in the title of her post, she never said you were one. She did say that she thought you might be an ” apologist for the Discovery Institute”, which you apparently think means the same thin as being a Creationist. Interesting that even in your own words, under the ill-fitting lab coat of ID there beats the heart of a Creationist. Thanks WK for clearing that up.

Color me less than impressed. Wintery Knight might have a reason to hide behind a pseudonym, even Andrew Schlafley (founder of Conservapedia) doesn't do that -- which, in my opinion, is one of the few positive things Andy has done. But WK seems to think that a note out of the blue from a self-avowed Christian Blogger who displays no scientific education or background is supposed to require a professor to fall all over herself and pass on her research to him. I disagree and think the Professor played it smart of didn't give him anything to feed his rumor mill. Good for you, Prof Campbell!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Call for Blood Donors -- Worldwide

A new friend of mine, Alison Campbell posted a blog entry about donating blood. While I am way to far away to help in Christchurch, it reminded me that local blood supplies are finite and need constant replenishment. Here is my comment to Alison's post. I hope you take this opportunity to consider donating blood yourself. So here is a post in support of an important public service.

I echo Alison's comments on Blood Donations! While some who read this blog might be too far away to donate for Christchurch (like me), everyone that can donate should do so on a regular basis. I have been donating for years, from whole blood, which you can donate about every 8 weeks, to platelets, which you can donate every 7 days. It's an important activity that takes just a tiny bit of your time.

I don't know about NZ, but at my local Community Blood Center I get an email or a phone call when they have used my donation and while they don't give out patient names, they usually do tell me why the patient needed blood. Everything from cancer, leukemia, car accidents, and even fire victims. One day I walked in, they practically dragged me to the Aphresis machine (for plasma and/or platelet donation) because they had an immediate for a child that had been in an auto accident just that morning and I was the right match. You have no idea how that will make you feel! So, if you read this, please donate soon, and make donating a regular part of your year.


One final thought, one day you might need blood yourself. If places like the local Community Blood Center were to close because of a lack of participation, your chances of getting the blood you need when you need it diminish. I have given gallons of whole blood and plasma and many donations of platelets. My Ohio driver's license also identifies me as an organ donor as well. Look into your local area and see what needs they have. It's not a matter of if they need blood, the need is constant throughout the year. It's a tiny part of your day that could become very meaningful to someone else! Don't wait for an emergency, donate often, not because you have to, but because it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is Common Sense Breaking out?

After all the hoopla over 'academic freedom' laws, conspiracy theories, and the Discovery Institute being the Discovery Institute (which is not a good thing) , this little item might get missed in the background. I, for one find it promising. "Libertyville High School science teacher cited creationism, officials confirm"

So here is the set-up, the older sibling of a student apparently reported that a teacher was teaching Creationism/Intelligent Design and weakening the teaching of Evolution. This was reported to school administrators. They investigated, found it to be true and took actions to stop it. Nice, simple, straight forward and exactly how things should happen. No hysterics, no talk of lawsuits, no weak-in-knees administrators trying to avoid controversy, and no public outcries from external parties.

Like I said, I find this promising. Everything that should have happened appears to have happened. Now, in my opinion, the ball is in the teacher-in-question's court. How will he handle it? If he straightens up and does the job the school system hired him for, then everything should calm down. If he tries to pull a Freshwater, then he deserves to be disciplined, possibly even fired. he has to have the ability to set his personal religious beliefs aside to be an effective science teacher -- primarily because those beliefs are not science.

Now that's the optimistic Ted. The pessimistic Ted fully expects the Discovery Institute to stick it's nose in. I can already hear some of their whines:

  • Oh the complainer is an activist
  • Oh the school administrators shouldn't fault him for teaching ID
  • Why not teach the controversy
  • What about free speech
  • What about academic freedom
But the bottom line is NONE of that matters at this point.
  • It doesn't matter who made the complaint, the school administrators investigated and took action.
  • ID is not science, so it shouldn't be taught as if it were
  • There is no scientific controversy, only a contrived political one
  • This isn't a free speech issue, saying ID is science is a lie, free speech doesn't protect lies, does it? Even if it did, does a teacher really have free speech in the classroom? Nope!
  • And you already know my feelings on academic freedom, a topic that is not part of the discipline being taught is not protected by academic freedom.
I wouldn't be surprised if the teacher has already been contacted by some lawyers looking for attention. Do you still call lawyers like that 'ambulance chasers'? I hope he doesn't succumb to their blandishments. I mean look what the Thomas More Center did for the defendants in Dover PA, or R. Kelly Hamilton for John Freshwater. Who knows, he might be out shopping for a lawyer himself. If so, I think Libertyville is looking at a long and disheartening legal wrangling.

I truly hope the teacher does was Freshwater and the former school board members of Dover PA couldn't find the intestinal fortitude to do, and that was accept the responsibility for their actions, recognize how damaging their actions were, and repair the damage. That's how an adult is suppose to act and think about what a lesson his students can learn from it. I guess that optimist peeked out again. Let's all keep an eye on it as well.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Political Pandering in Illinois

I have mentioned a few times the concept of 'pandering politicians', more specifically I think I have referred to a number of politicians, by name, as pandering to the conservative right in order to get votes. Of course none of the politicians we know would do such a thing? Sure!

Here are four folks running for a school board just north of Chicago. Each was asked about supporting Creationism and all 4 made statements supporting it. Was this pandering? You tell me -- after reading "All four Dist. 95 candidates back teaching creationism in science classes"

"All four candidates for the Lake Zurich Unit District 95 school board believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science classes. One, Chris Wallace, went so far as to say creationism is fact and evolution is just a theory."

So are they pandering or is this how they really feel? Another question you might consider is are they representing their constituency with these comments? Well to help you answer these, and maybe other questions, you need to see what happens when the local paper runs the interviews and includes quotes from these 4 office seekers? My guess is they received a certain volume of feedback and started back-peddling furiously, well three of the four start back-peddling. The fourth seems to think he may not have understood the question. Take a look at "D95 candidates back off creationism comments"

What I personally would like to see in a politician is one who is in touch with their constituents needs and desires and when asked about a subject would be able to place their personal religious beliefs off to the side to more accurately represent their constituency. I don't think this happened here. I think what happened is either they made an assumption about their constituency OR they let their own personal views color their answers. Back-peddling, while is fun to see, is fairly disheartening in a political candidate.

I mean, honestly, this is a topic that has been making headlines across the country for the past decade. Why weren't these candidates better prepared? I would have assumed they might have noticed the impact of such decisions on school boards in Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas for example. If you were running for a political office, wouldn't you have been familiar about the types of decisions that tended to cost one the office? Especially in like of how such an action, the one they originally supported, is against the US Constitution?

Along the same lines, I have to question their minimum knowledge of an important curriculum area. One of them calls Creationism a fact and Evolution only a theory. Another referred to Creationism as 'theory of creationism'. Now you don't expect school board members to be up on the latest and greatest areas of all scientific disciplines, but this stuff is elementary school science stuff. I was very disappointed in all of them.

Now, three of these pandering politicos are seeking re-election, the 4th is a newbie. But this does require another question to be considered, and one I think their constituency might have started asking them. How will this impact their ability to perform as a member of the school board if this becomes as issue, such as in Mt. Vernon Ohio' s John Freshwater, or Pamela Hensley of the North Johnston Middle School in North Carolina? Are any of these four someone that can be relied on to not only stay within the letter and intent of the law, but properly represent the interests of their constituents and their constituency's children education? That is a question for the voters Lake Zurich, and I wish them the best of luck!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

About me

One of the commenters over on Professor Campbell's blog made note of the fact that I am not a biologist and would probably not get any negative feedback on a biology blog because I am anti-ID. I responded with a comment of my own and I decided to post it here as well. So if any of you are interested in why I blog here, at other sites, like the Professor's BioBlog, and the Evolution debate on Topix, here is my reasoning:

I have never pretended to be working in any biology related field -- my bio on my own blog makes that clear. My education, as you rightly said, is in Information Technology. My education in biology is that of a pretty typical high school, college, and graduate school student. That being said I comment for several reasons.

First of all I am a target of the groups that push pseudo-science like Creationism/Intelligent Design. Not me personally, but I am the exact type of person at which the Discovery Institute, the Institute for Creation Research, and Answers in Genesis (to name a few) take aim. They aren't trying to convince scientists, if they were, they might actually do scientific work. No, they are after those of us who are not biologists and who are not scientists. We are the people who elect school boards, attend parent-teacher meetings, and rant and rave at our politicians. When my children's teacher is wrong, I have no issue letting them know that! If those groups can sell me on their ideas, I would be doing their job for them at my local and state school board and voting for various politicos! That's why they spend orders of magnitudes more money marketing and politicking than supporting actual science.

Secondly, I am not against Intelligent Design. When I first heard the idea I was intrigued, if you read back in my blog you might realize that. What I am not in favor of is teaching Intelligent Design as if it were science, because right now it is not. No one is doing the scientific leg-work. No one seems to be able to move past the appearance of design. Yet they make unsupported claims as they publish in popular and religious press -- including the Stephen Meyer diatribe (published in Harper One, the religious imprint of Harper-Collins) and never seem to offer anything actually peer-reviewed. They opened their own lab, which hasn't done it. They have started their own journal, and still haven't done anything with it. They even opened their own publishing house so they can get more of their material into bookstores without any requirement of actually supporting their ideas. Professor Campbell already mentioned the Sternberg controversy. I know ID proponents claim all sorts of conspiracies against them, but the one arena where their ideas would gain traction with biologists, and other scientists, is the one arena they seen to avoid like the plague -- the scientific lab. Until they do the work, I am against them being included in the science classroom. As I am against Astrology for Astronomy and Alchemy for Chemistry. The world isn't flat either.

Finally I am also against just about every tactic used by groups such as the Discovery Institute. You can read back in my blogs and see some of them. They lie, mis-direct, make unsupported claims, build straw-men arguments and then tear them down -- never advancing their own pet ideas past the wishful thinking stage. I mean look at what Casey Luskin tried to do with a teacher who simply said 'if a student answers a biology question with intelligent design will get down graded' (paraphrase). Why would anyone have an issue with that? But Casey is trying to use this down grade of an ID answer to support a law that Casey previously said would not bring Intelligent Design into the classroom. And that is not even close to one of the worst tactics in their quiver.

So while I am not, nor have I ever pretended to be, a biologist. That has no bearing on what I have commented on. I fully expect Professor Campbell and others to correct any errors I do make. She's a teacher, I think it comes with the job. The reason is not because I am pro-science, but because I am entitled to my opinion and I haven't tried to pass off bad information as if it were correct. I will leave you with the words of Dr. Chancey, Chair of the Religious Studies Department at SMU to place my participation in a better perspective:

"Many religious groups-Christian and other-do not regard evolutionary theory as a threat. For many people of faith, science and religion go hand in hand. When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day."

I hope it makes as much sense to you as it did when I wrote it. I'll probably re-read it tomorrow and want to make massive changes. But I think the gist is there. I know it's wordy, but if you have been reading my blog, you already know about that character flaw.

Follow-up. I did re-read this and made a couple of grammar and spelling changes. I was tempted to re-do it and tighten it up, but since the original was posted on the Prof's blog, I left it intact. Unlike most ID/Creationism sites, the Prof allows for commenting. She does moderate, but she doesn't use that moderation to eliminate anyone who disagrees with her. I've tried to post before on the Discovery Institute, and other anti-science sites, those rare times they allow comments, but they never seem to let mine though their filters (Censorship is such an ugly word and Are computers evolving or is the Discovery Institute getting bored?).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thank you Professor Campbell!

Little casey luskin is at it again, turning and twisting facts until they no longer resemble reality. in "Want a Good Grade in Allison Campbell's College Biology Course? Don't Endorse Intelligent Design" is whining against a Biology Professor who doesn't teach Intelligent Design. Luskin is claiming that she is:

" . . . boasting that if a student were to use standard ID arguments such as the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, that student would be "marked down".
Let's look at her actual comment (about 1/3 of the way down in the comments from the original article):
"And on how my students are marked - I expect them to understand how science works. If they can't demonstrate that then of course they are likely to do less well. If, for example, a student were to use examples such as the bacterial flagellum to advance an ID view then they should expect to be marked down; that particular creationist trophe has been well & truly discredited. ID is not science (no matter its protestations to the contrary) & I don't expect to see explanations from that quarter in science class - unless we're discussing the nature & philosophy of science. Whiich is something that happens in a class on evolutionary biology - students look at different models that attempt to explain life's diversity & are asked to consider the explanatory & predictive power of those models. Because at heart the 'explanations' offered by ID come down to 'goddidit' then in intellectual terms they're fairly bankrupt - they offer no intellectually satisfying explanations, nor do they open up new avenues for further explanation."
Gee, a professor who expects her students to understand the subject being taught in class. What a novel concept. Little casey also says that
"Campbell of course doesn't give any hint as to why this supposed "creationist trophe has been well & truly discredited"
and yet he ignores the next line in her comment:
"ID is not science (no matter its protestations to the contrary) & I don't expect to see explanations from that quarter in science class - unless we're discussing the nature & philosophy of science."
I think this makes it pretty solid hint (of the 2 x 4 variety) as to why "creationist trophe has been well & truly discredited", it's not science. That's pretty discredited to me. Oh I know little casey would love for Professor Campbell to start listing all the specific issues with bacterial flagellum, the current poster child for Irreducible Complexity and Intelligent Design, but all of that is immaterial. It's not science! No one has presented evidence supporting bacterial flagellum as being an example of Interlligent Design. Behe's conjecture doesn't count as evidence.

So let's break this down a little bit. Casey objects to a teacher from grading a question down if answered using information that is not applicable to the subject matter. What's the problem? If you answered


I am sure you won't be very surprised to get marked down. Why would casey be surprised, and more importantly, why would casey object? Didn't little casey earn a biology degree before he went to law school? I wonder how many times he answered a question with Creationism, Intelligent Design, Irreducible Complexity, or Specified Complexity.

However, here is the fun part.

Little casey said that one of the lies being told about the 'Academic Freedom laws (Are Academic Freedom Laws Anti-Science?) was:

"Lie #4: These Laws Bring Intelligent Design Into the Classroom. As claimed by a Santa Fe New Mexican article, the teaching of Intelligent Design — which opponents continue to insist is “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” — will be sneaked in under these “freedom” bills.
Response: Nuh-uh. Re-read that quote from the Louisiana act in my response to Lie #1. Then consider this: “The department, school district governing authorities and school administrators shall not prohibit any teacher, when a controversial scientific topic is being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, from forming students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic. A teacher who chooses to provide such information shall be protected from reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination for doing so.”

No I.D. in the curriculum = No sneaky I.D. indoctrination. But, if pro-I.D./anti-Darwin evidence comes up in class, teachers are allowed to facilitate discussion without fear of professional retaliation."

Yet in this post he says:

"Why do we need academic freedom legislation like Tennessee's HB 368? In case biology lecturer Allison Campbell decides to relocate to the United States. "

So, according to casey, the reason we need these 'academic freedom laws' is so teachers like Professor Campbell cannot grade down a student who answers a biology question with an Intelligent Design answer. Yet the laws do not bring Intelligent Design into the classroom? Huh?

Now briefly lets address "But, if pro-I.D./anti-Darwin evidence comes up in class, teachers are allowed to facilitate discussion" that little casey mentioned as part of his "Nuh Uh" response to supposed Lie #4. (By the way, casey the lawyer said 'Nuh Uh", anyone else find that funny?) OK, but back to his response. Under current academic freedom laws, wouldn't actual pro-ID or anti-evolution evidence be perfectly admissible in class? Yes, it certainly does. However, since no one at the Discovery Institute, or any of the other Creationist 'think tanks', seems willing or able to present any pro-ID or anti-evolution evidence, why do we need new laws to protect them? Just a thought.

I think casey is smoking something. In one post he claims one thing and then in a later post he make an argument that disagrees with his other post. Is there such a disease as 'Poster Alzheimer's'?

He also forgets another part of Professor Campbell actual post:
"unless we're discussing the nature & philosophy of science"
So in perfect accordance with the real academic freedom laws currently on the books, if the test was asking questions about the nature and philosophy of science, the inclusion of Intelligent Design might be a perfectly acceptable answer.

Let's always remember that if these pseudo-academic freedom laws being pushed by casey and his buddies at the Discovery Institute are enacted, Intelligent Design becomes acceptable as science -- at least in the legal sense. And teachers who present it as such are immune from being held accountable for their actions. There's an interesting lesson for our students! So all casey's whining to the contrary, he reveals himself quite clearly -- at least I think his final comment really opened the kimono:
"So if you're a student at the University of Waikato taking biology from Allison Campbell, beware: don't talk about intelligent design, and you probably also shouldn't admit if you believe in God. Unless, of course, you don't mind being "marked down." "(italics added)
Where did Professor Campbell say anything about belief in God? She didn't! But here is casey equating Intelligent Design with Belief in God. But . . .but . . .but hasn't casey frequently stated that Intelligent Design has nothing to do with God . . . it's science . . . isn't it? Apparently not according to casey luskin.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are Academic Freedom Laws Anti-Science?

Over on 'A View from the Right' is a little article about the crop of 'Academic Freedom laws that have been cropping up. "Are Academic Freedom Laws Anti-Science?" Now I fully expect a website named 'A View from the Right' to support these laws. That's not my issue. My issue is I
do not think readers of this site really understand what these laws are all about.

The question asked "Are academic freedom laws anti-science?" can only be answered if you understand the intent of these laws. Before you can answer this question, the first thing you need to understand that what the article is referring to are not laws protecting academic freedom. The laws being referred to in this article are laws sponsored by the Discovery Institute for the purpose of . . . well we'll get back to that purpose in a minute.

What you might not know is that every state, and many countries, already have academic freedom laws on the books and these laws are implemented in the rules governing education. These laws are designed to protect education. They allow teachers to bring in controversial subject matter and are be protected from reprisals from anyone trying to subvert the teaching of a particular discipline. However what this article fails to mention is that academic freedom is not carte blanc to bring anything a teacher might desire. There are very specific limits.

One of the limits is that the subject being introduced must be part of the curriculum area. For example teaching Politics in an English classroom would not be protected by an existing Academic Freedom law. It sounds like a silly example, but here is another one. How about teaching Astrology in Astronomy class? Phrenology in Psychology? Numerology in Math? Not so far fetched now, is it. Current academic freedom laws do not support this because, while there are adherents who think they should be taught, the disciplines in question have rejected such topics as pseudo-science. So while a teacher might mention Astrology in it's historical sense, but to teach it as if it was the equal of Astronomy should result in disciplinary action and would not be protected under any current academic freedom laws. Think about that, it would not be protected under the current academic freedom laws!

So let's talk about this article for a few. The author isn't identified, but it references two other articles by someone mentioned frequently on this blog, little casey luskin. He's a lawyer for the Discovery Institute who thinks he's a biologist.

So let's be clear. What you have is an article supporting these 'academic freedom' laws, laws that are sponsored by the Discovery Institute -- and the meat of this article are a couple of other articles written by another employee of the Discovery Institute. Interesting picture starts emerging. Of course there is no conflict of interest here, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want to get off my hands.

So according to casey, not exactly an unbiased source, there are several lies being told about these laws. (my comments are in italics after each):

Lie #1: These Laws Have Led to Litigation. This in and of itself is a lie. I have not heard of a single litigation case based on these so-called academic freedom laws. I also haven't heard of anyone else claiming that these laws have led to litigation

What I have heard is concerns that this type of legislation may lead to a Dover-style lawsuit. You'll notice that casey doesn't address this possibility. I believe the ONLY reason they have not yet led to litigation is because there is only one of these laws currently on the books -- the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). And no one in the State of Louisiana has actually tried to implement anything in accordance with this law. So while the one single law that managed to get passed hasn't been tested -- which means of course there hasn't been any litigation (yet!). Little casey makes it sound like these laws are enacted all over the place. I think he's trying to mislead people who are afraid of potential litigation -- very correctly afraid of potential litigation.

Lie #2: These Laws Force Teachers to Change the Curriculum. Once again, since no one has tried to put these laws into practice, of course it hasn't caused a change to curriculum.

However, and you knew there had to be a however, the Louisiana Family Forum for the Family recently tried to stop the approval of a number of Biology text books because the texts in question were evolution-friendly. If those texts were disapproved and ones more 'theistic-ally appealing' were put in place, wouldn't that cause a change in the curriculum? Guess who is another sponsor of the Louisiana Law? You guessed if, the Louisiana Family Forum! How about Evangelical parents pushing for curriculum changes who use this law to justify their actions? Oh no, teachers would never change curriculum to appease parents? How about the recent study that 60% of biology teachers cop-out of teaching evolution properly. The consensus is not that they do not support it, but that pressure from outside groups, including parents, makes it a job risk. They are risk-averse, not anti-evolution.
To address Lie #3 (These Laws Open the Door for Creationism in the Science Class), let's look at one of the sections of the LSEA which even specifically states that you can't use the law to introduce religious materials:

"D. This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

However, and this is a huge however, when the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education got around to publishing the rules about implementing this law, they sorta forgot the part about the 'shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine' part. Is this of anything important?
Lie #3 "These Laws Open the Door for Creationism in the Science Class" is in fact a lie. Without the rules about implementing this part of the law, it most certainly does open the door. Oh, you disagree? Well guess which law was referenced by the Livingston Parish School Board while they were debating whether or not to teach Creationism in science class? Yes, the LSEA!
I know Livingston hasn't taken any action yet, but it's not because this law
prevents them from doing so. They decided to wait until next year because it was
too late in the current school year to do anything. They also decided to test
the waters a bit and see if it will open their school up to litigation just like
the Dover PA school board did to that school district. The law may not have
generated litigation, but at least one school district is looking at the risk.

Lie #4: These Laws Bring Intelligent Design Into the Classroom. Let us not forget that a Federal Court and a Federal Judge has ruled that Intelligent Design is Creationism. With that in mind, casey's lie number 3 and lie #4 are identical. But let's also add into the mix that REAL academic freedom allows you to bring in any subject material that is part of the discipline under discussion. Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory and therefore it doesn't belong in the science classroom. But enacting this law would allow it to gain a degree of legitimacy that it has not been able to achieve through science.

Lie #5: These Laws Single Out Evolution. OK, he's sorta right on this one. The original attempts at laws like these, that we saw in Ohio and Kansas, did single out one scientific theory, that was Evolution, the evolved versions list several topics as examples.

One of the criticisms of the Discovery Institute supported action in Ohio, and during the Dover Trial was that by singling out the Theory of Evolution, you had trouble making the case that your efforts are for improving science education as a whole. So what's a Creationist to do? Evolve your plan to try and negate previously used arguments for shooting holes in your desires.

If casey was being honest he would admit that evolution is only the start. Already we have seen efforts to re-write social studies in Texas. The Wedge Strategy of the Discovery Institute states quite clearly that Evolution is only the start. So while the laws might not currently target evolution, the behavior of the laws promoters certainly do. I guess casey seems to forget that actions speak louder than words.

Lie #6: These Laws Lead to Stupidity, Dishonesty, and the Adulteration of Science Education. Are these laws dishonest? Simply put, yes. Like I said at the beginning, many states already have laws protecting academic freedom. We have seen that even the idea of these laws causes casey luskin himself to be dishonest. The school district of Livingston Parish is deliberately exploring the possibility of an end run around the words of the law to push their own religious agenda because the enforcement rules allow it. Testimony from the Louisiana Family Forum has proven the stupidity and dishonesty of the law.

The end result will be the destruction of science education. If you don't believe me, simply list all of the scientific advances accomplished through the application of Creationism or Intelligent Design? If you are being honest with yourself you would come to the same number I did: 0. Teaching these subjects would result in a negative impact on science education. For example note the comments made by teachers in Mt Vernon Ohio who were discussing the impact of John Freshwater's dilution of the science curriculum by teacher his religion as valid and evolution as invalid science. The teachers found themselves having to re-teach basic materials that Freshwater was supposed to have covered. And little casey doesn't seem to think it matters.

Lie #7: These Laws Just Aren’t Needed. It's not that they are not needed, it's that they should not be implemented at all. As I've shown these laws have nothing to do with academic freedom and everything to do with creating an environment where teachers can either teach pseudo-science by choice or by coercion. The title of the laws are dishonest, the intent is a barely hidden agenda of folks like Luskin and the LFF, and the result is poorly educated students.

One more 'if Luskin was honest' he would admit that everything he wrote here is either a deliberate lie or just legal word wrangling. But the odds of that happening are pretty unlikely. I think a tornado in a junkyard would build a 747 first. So to answer the original question, are these so-called 'academic freedom' laws anti-science? It is my opinion that the current crop of 'academic freedom' bills are anti-science, anti-education, and designed to open a wedge to bring in religious topics as if they were scientific theories. The fun part is I wish someone in Louisiana would also try and use the law to bring Astrology into the classroom. I believe the law on the books could be used to support it and protect the job of the teacher who tried it. I would just LOVE to hear the reaction of the Louisiana Family Forum to that!