Friday, November 27, 2015

Does anyone expect kennie ham to change?

I caught this story from the Friendly Atheist blog, there's a bunch of job postings over on the Answers in Genesis (AiG) website.  ALL of them include the need to provide:

  • Salvation testimony
  • Creation belief statement
  • Confirmation of agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith
What I find interesting is that none of these jobs are specific for the Creation 'Museum', AiG itself, or their new Ark Encounter park . . . yet they all have these three very discriminatory requirements.  Now what I find really funny is that later on the page they say
"Note: The Ark Encounter LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of our nonprofit group (Crosswater/AiG) that will be responsible for hiring staff for the Ark project. Available positions will be made public at a future time and will be posted on the Ark Encounter website."
Now when you wander over the the Ark Park website, there are no job listings . . . The Ark Park is scheduled to open in less than 8 months, and they have no job postings .. . . . yet AiG has lots of job postings.  Doesn't that seem strange to you?

I think this is nothing more than a way to try and get around the non-discriminatory hiring practices little kennie promised to comply with.  So on the one hand he promised to follow the law, yet he keeps doing his best to discriminate.  Kentucky, you deserve better than this!  Why do you put up with it? 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Google annoys Creationists :-)

Yesterday's Google Doodle apparently annoyed at least some Creationists.  The Doodle celebrated 'Lucy' and had a picture similar to a common evolution image showing the progression from early apes to modern man.  Here's an article on it, "Creationists Are Slamming the Google Doodle for Celebrating Lucy the Australopithecus"  Creationists can get pretty foul-mouthed on the Internet, can't they?

What I did find funny is just before I saw this article, I saw this on Facebook:

Each and every one of the comments about the Google Doodle, in fact just about every comment online that is anti-evolution tends to fall into this bias.  Yes, I know most Creationists will disagree, but when your objections are based on your religious beliefs, you are demonstrating a significant bias based on unsupported views.  One of my hobbies is posting about Evolution on Topix.  After several thousands posts over the past few years, I can't recall a single anti-evolution post that wasn't based on someone's religious beliefs.  They try and hide it, but when push comes to shove, it's their belief system that drives their comments, not any actual argument with the facts.

For example one poster keeps using the "Law of Biogenesis' as an anti-evolution argument.  When pressed he falls back on his religious beliefs and Sunday School teachings, but if you push even more he digs in his heels and repeats his personal mantra about the Law of Biogenesis . . . which doesn't even apply to the conversation.  Here is his latest post:
"Well, human from non-human evolution is still unobserved, no one still knows what biologically occurred to make a non-human now human, no one currently has an observation showing the origin of the genders, no ones still has an observation showing a naturalistic origin of life, still no violation to the law of biogenesis which is demanded if GOD doesn't exist, and no one has ever shown that if there is no GOD and the Universe has no meaning, then how are we able to know it has no meaning?....and still no explanation to a naturalistic origin to human consciousness....etc...etc...e tc...

Human from non-human evolution....what liberal bull shit. " (Topix conversion 'It's the Darwin crowd that lacks the facts in evolution debate')
The Topix conversation started in 2009 and has over 148,000 comments.  This particular poster has been posting the same sort of comments for years!  He will never change because he is convinced evolution violates his religious beliefs!  You almost feel sorry for him.  I don't!  It's one thing to be ignorant of science, it's another thing to be willfully ignorant!  He made his choice and I rarely offer pity for people who refuse to become educated on the subject.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dembski jumping ship?

Caught this from the Sensuous Curmudgeon, "William Dembski Is “Moving On”"!  I'm undecided if this is a good thing or not.  On the one hand, who will be declaring the imaginary success of the unexplained, and apparently inexplainable, 'Design Inference Filter' if Dembski is off doing something else.  On the other hand, maybe even Wild Bill can see the writing on the wall and realizes how futile the whole Intelligent Design facade has been.  Yes, I called is a facade, and so would you if you read what Intelligent Design is, according to the Discovery Institute's own Wedge Strategy.  I clicked over the Wild Bill's post on his new blog, "A New Day" to see what he has to say, and he's pretty brief.

He's switching from Intelligent Design to education.  OK, I'm not sure that's a good thing.  Is he going to be teaching?  If so, what exactly?  He mentions "advancing freedom through education via technology".  Talk about a nothing statement.  He's not known as a technologist, and I don't think he's known as an educator either.  Oh, he's worked for a couple of schools, but does getting in trouble with the Michael Polanyi Center controversy and Evolutionary Informatics Lab controversy at Baylor and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary flood controversy qualify him as an educator.  

Oh well, I guess we will just have to wait and see what he's up to.  He does say he still has a few ID irons on the fire, so he won't be disappearing too quickly.  But in any event, soon we won't have Wild Bill Dembski to kick around.  I can't say I'll actually miss him.  I mean recently what has he done?  It seems folks like Meyer, Luskin, and Klinghoffer have been carrying to water at the DI more than anything by Bill or even the one-time golden child, Michael Behe.  Maybe this particular ship has gone as far as it can and it's time for Creationists to come up with something else.  You know, like they did after Creationism and Creationist Science failed.  Intelligent Design has been in a decline since the Dover ruling.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Intelligent Design on Trial . . . on The View?

Recently one of the hosts/guest hosts on 'The View' made mention of Intelligent Design and she was immediately challenged by one of the others.  If you hadn't seen it,here it is.

The whole story is "Joy Behar leaves Kirk Cameron’s sister dumbstruck by asking her to defend creationism".  I do like how the article mentions her brother, is he an evangelist actor or an actor who is also an evangelist?  Now what interests me not at all is Kirk "Banana Man's Helper" Cameron's sister and her various statements.  I did have to laugh at a few, like 
"I don't believe in evolution, but intelligent design, there are many people and great scientists that are all over the world that believe in intelligent design"
Really?  Name one 'great' scientist who 'believes' in intelligent design?  The highest profile one I know of is Michael Behe, but since his belief in intelligent design has not shown up in any of his actual scientific work, I'm not sure that counts.  I also laughed aloud at:
"But I believe that the two are not mutually exclusive. And Ben Carson is a man of science, he's a doctor. I mean, he is a great and intelligent surgeon"
Well now that we know her criteria for 'great' I am not sure any scientist would like to be counted on her list. I can't imagine any scientists putting a plaque on the wall saying "I'm Great, just like Ben Carson!"

But what interests me more is the Discovery Institute's response.  As usual if you mention ID in any public forum, the DI has a knee-jerk reactionary response to it.  There were a couple of standard comments like:
" . . . it appears no one on the panel knew what intelligent design means . . ."
Which is pretty standard.  No one, outside of a secret clique at the DI seems to be able to define ID.  At least define it so when you say something the DI doesn't like, their first salvo back is nearly always  . . . they don't understand Intelligent Design.  What this does is give them an immediate whine.  I have news for you, DI, why don't you define it and explain your definition is a way understandable by people not in your clique.  Like maybe try something like, oh I don't know, maybe like scientific methodology so your explanations are more than just wishful thinking?  Then at least we could avoid this particular whine in the future.  Next, my irony meter nearly popped a gasket with:
"The View isn't a philosophy seminar, nor do the co-hosts include any scientists or science journalists." 
So wait . . . the DI is loaded with philosophers, lawyers, historians, ethicists, theologians, political scientists, astronomers,  at least one metaphysician  (what ever that is!), . . . in fact among the leadership of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (its original name), there are only two listed with advanced degrees in any biology-related fields (Denton and Behe).  So the DI with this extreme lack of biological training and experience is claiming that The View isn't the right venue for such a discussion?  Hey, Pot, Kettle called . . . do you really need to hear the message?  Hint, it's a really dark color.

Here are two other comments, one from the View in response to one of Bure's comments:
"[Joy] Behar argued that anyone who visited the Museum of Natural History or studied anthropology should be able to accept that evolution was a fact."
and the DI's response to that, from little davely 'klingy' klinghoffer:
"Joy Behar's rejoinder about the Museum of Natural History isn't really relevant. A museum can display a spectrum of fossils demonstrating that animal life has a very long history and has changed very dramatically over the course of hundreds of millions of years. That says nothing about the mechanism or agent behind that change, which is the question that the theory of intelligent design addresses." 
Wait a minute, I need to repeat this part:  "the question that the theory of intelligent design addresses".  The 'theory' of intelligent design addresses the mechanism or agent behind that change?  Really?  Oh it mentions the agent, but didn't we just read a post from Ann Gauger that says not only do we not know the mechanism, but that we don't really care?  We talked about it (In short . . . we don't know!) here it her comment, part of her non-answer to Larry Moran when he asked about the mechanism of ID and how ID worked:
"We can't really say how our own minds work to interact with the world, yet we know they do. It is our universal, repeated, personal experience that shows us that our consciousness interacts with our bodies to produce information, but exactly how it works is not known. So why should we expect to know how the agent(s) responsible for the design of life or the universe may have worked?"
So klingy say the 'theory' of ID addresses this, and Ann 'where's my lab' Gauger says we don't know and it's not something we should ever expect to know.   And here is the kicker . . . . they both reference Meyer's philosophical meanderings called 'Debating Darwin's Doubt'.

Don't you just love it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In short . . . we don't know!

Larry Moran, over on Sandwalk, asked several times for the Discovery Institute to explain Intelligent Design, preferably in such a way that makes any sense.  Rarely do they stir to make much of an effort, however recently Ann Gauger, you know the one with the make-believe lab over at the DI's pet Biologics Institute, made several long drawn-out attempts address Larry's question.

Basically Larry, to me, was asking for any pertinent details on how Intelligent Design happened or how it works.  I think he was after some explanation that would make sense all the recent posts trying to tie the use of intelligence as examples of Intelligent Design.  You know my position on that, in a nutshell the use of human intelligence IS NOT an example of Intelligent Design 'Theory' in action because there is no Intelligent Design Theory.  (Intelligent Design vs intelligent design) I think Larry is trying to get them to lay down something more like a real science theory. Did Ann Gauger succeed?  You tell me.

In the first she tries to make fun of Larry for even asking the question, "From Biochemist Larry Moran, More Gratuitous Misrepresentations".  She even implies that Larry didn't even read the book:

"If he's read the book, he should know by now what intelligent design theorists like Stephen Meyer really think."
I an pretty sure Larry read 'Darwin's Doubt', if he hadn't, it would have been quite hard for him to critique it so devastatingly.  I mean do these posts read like someone who failed to read the book?

Apparently Ann wasn't happy and had to follow-up with a post in which she tries to . . . well in a nutshell, and I am sure if she read this she would put it down to a mis-characterization, but she pretty well states that not only is there not a 'mechanism', but anyone who looks for one isn't going to find it.  Here is her post: "What's the Mechanism of Intelligent Design?"  And here a quote in which she summarizes things:
"We can't really say how our own minds work to interact with the world, yet we know they do. It is our universal, repeated, personal experience that shows us that our consciousness interacts with our bodies to produce information, but exactly how it works is not known. So why should we expect to know how the agent(s) responsible for the design of life or the universe may have worked? "

I disagree, I think we know a great deal about how our minds work, much more than 150 years ago.  But admitting that would be counter-productive to the marketing done by Ann and her pals.  Since they [the DI] claim we don't know, they can use that claim to justify as to why they cannot determine how a deity's mind works.  Oh, I'm sorry . . . agent . . . not deity :-)   It is true we do not know 100% of how the human mind works, but what Ann seems to be doing is just restated the 'God of the Gaps' argument.

In the third response she quotes Stephen C. Meyer from 'Darwin's Doubt', "More on the "Mechanism" of Intelligent Design"   I find this more ironic than anything else, here is my thinking why:
  1. Larry Moran wrote a number of devastating critiques on Darwin's Doubt (as noted above).
  2. The DI wrote a follow-up to 'Darwin's Doubt' called 'Debating Darwin's Doubt', which they claimed addressed the criticisms of the original 'book'.
  3. "Debating Darwin's Doubt' failed to address the criticisms put forth by Larry.
  4. Ann uses a long quote from Darwin's Doubt to address Larry's question.
Don't you find that ironic?  Maybe a bit of a circular argument?  If Ann is going to use Meyer to address Larry's question, wouldn't it be better to first address his critiques?  Well that would make logical sense to me . . . but apparently that's just me.

If Intelligent Design wishes to be taken seriously as science and as a scientific theory it has to offer more than conjecture and wishful thinking.  To date it has failed and Ann's rather verbose responses boil down to 'We Don't Know!'  Even more so, I think she pretty clearly states that the DI is never going to propose anything stronger than what they already have.  Oh I think they will continue to dress it up in different lab coats, but each effort will fail as dramatically as Darwin's Doubt -- or if you wish something more optimistic, I think each effort will be equally as successful as DD.  They have to keep up the effort or they might become as irrelevant a religious marketing group as they are a scientific organization.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Found a Club perfect for the Discovery Institute

I saw something really funny over at XKCD, the web comic.  This one, titled 'Linguistic Club', is pretty funny, but if you pause your mouse over the image, there is a final punchline that really hit me.  I would reproduce the image here, but since you really have to go to the site and hover over the image to get the full meaning.

Why I wanted to post about it here, well the club mentioned in the final punchline, yea, that one.  I think the Discovery Institute is a charter member! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Just what is "Higher Meaning and Value" anyway?

A philosophy professor, Gary Cutting, has proposed a re-definition of Pascal's Wager in a New York Times opinion piece called: "Pascal’s Wager 2.0".  It's a fairly long piece, although since we are talking philosophy maybe this wouldn't be considered long.  It boiled down to Gary believing that everyone in the world cannot lose by wanting some level of "higher meaning and value" in their life that apparently can only come from belief in a "beneficent power beyond the natural world".

When I first read it I had trouble separating "beneficent power beyond the natural world" from a God, and I guess I still do.  What it looks like Gary has tried to do is water down the specifics of a deity until you reach a point where the concept is pretty much ubiquitous regardless of what religion you are talking about, but I think you are still talking religion.  But I guess calling is a 'Generic God' wouldn't sound so good.  Would he/she were a white robe with black block lettering?

I originally had a question, why does Gary insist on it being 'beneficent'?  It took me a minute to realize that he's not making an assumption, as I originally thought, he's simply moving the goals posts where he wants them.  Think about it, why should anyone want a relationship with an uncaring power, so assuming beneficent is a selling point.  At first I was a little confused, but once I realized that it was part of Gary changing the concept around, it made sense . . . well at least it was understandable, making sense . . . might have been too strong an expression.

So, now that I think I have a handle on it, I have to pare things back to the purpose.  Something I was taught a long time ago, always keep your purpose in front of you.  It was originally taught me as part of various communication courses.  For example if you are writing a speech, determine the purpose of the speech and keep it in front of you while you write the rest of the speech.  It tends to help you focus on what you are after and helps avoid meanderings into areas that don't serve the purpose.  Yes, there are many other aspects, but everything should be driven by the purpose.

My experience is that you can pretty well apply the idea of 'purpose' universally.  I find myself applying it to understanding the purposes of others.  It helps me place the things they do within context.  So when I read something like this, I like to try and determine their purpose, or at least examine their stated purpose and see how things mesh with my thinking.

Gary pretty well seemed clear on his purpose.  He sees no negative issues with a belief in a "beneficent power beyond the natural world" because he thinks it means even the most hardened atheist wants to have "higher meaning and value" in their life.  That's where things started moving out of true for me, I mean what the hell does 'higher' mean?

When you use such a categorical statement, you usually have to place it within some sort of context.  The ONLY context that seems to fit is a religious one.  What exactly is higher within Gary's context?  I can't get a handle on it, other than Gary thinks it's desirable.  Do I, and yes, I am speaking personally, do I need a higher meaning?  If you think the answer is yes, please tell me why?  I believe my life has meaning and value and I believe I created it through living my life and taking the actions that I took.  But where does 'higher' come into the picture?  Is supporting a charity higher?  If so, then I qualify.  If the ONLY definition of 'higher' involves the need to invoke one deity of another, I am missing the purpose!

Did I have a deity, or even a 'beneficent power beyond the natural world' holding my hand through it?  I haven't seen any evidence of it and while many offer their opinion, they offer no evidence to support it.  For example, I have often been told meeting my wife was a act of God, but in reality it took a trip to Mississippi.  When I say things like that they sorta recoil and come back with something like "But the timing, what is she wasn't there?"  My response, "Well then I guess we wouldn't have met." usually meets with a recoil now in horror.  "But you two were destined . . ."  and my usual response is either "Bullshit!" or "Prove it!" depending on whether I want the conversation to go on.  You see, there is an awful lot of opinion on the actions of this 'beneficent power beyond the natural world', but no evidence to support it, only conjecture.  If meeting my 'destined' spouse is an act of a deity, then that deity better get off his/her/their asses because damn few marriages go any distance any more. 

Like meaning, I believe my life has value, and I hope my family believes so or I won't be eating the meatloaf tonight (family inside joke)!  I also believe my life has meaning, but when it comes to both of those, 'higher' means exactly what?  There is one of my dilemmas.

'Higher' could mean anything!  Higher than myself, as in Society?  Does my life have meaning and value in the terms of Society?  I would hope so.  I work, earn a my living, operate within the economy, save for retirement, donate to charities, vote . . ..  Do I have value to Society?  I have to say yes, since I am a member of that society, I, and my actions, are part of it.  While I question, I try not to destroy.  I operate within societal norms, at least I think I do.  I don't claim sainthood, but I figure I am pretty  . . . hmmm, I hate using the word 'normal' here, but it seems to fit.  I usually say that 'Normal' is a setting on the dryer in my house, but in this case, I guess I am pretty much 'normal..

I'm sure you can see where I am going.  I do not agree that having a higher meaning and value in my life requires the acceptance of a beneficent power, generic or specific.  So, as a result, I don't feel the need to take up Pascal's Wager or Gary's supposed upgraded version.  I doubt too many people would be impressed because those who believe, don't want a generic deity, and those who do not aren't going to consider it seriously anyway.   Those who claim to be 'spiritual' rather than religious might appreciate the 'new' wager, but I doubt it.  I think I gave it more thought that it needed, but then I am silly that way.

Gary also made another statement:

"Denial of God means that I simply close the door on the hope that there is something beyond the natural world; "
I'm not sure I agree with that. Any denial I have is more the 'I really don't care' variety.  There may or may not be something beyond the natural world, but since no one has offered any supporting evidence, other than fanciful stories, I don't let that possibility drive my life.  I further believe people shouldn't let it drive their life, but that's my personal opinion.  I actively oppose people trying to use their beliefs to drive my life!  Freedom of Religion also means Freedom From Religion!

OK, enough on this topic.  If someone has some ideas of 'higher meaning and value' that does not involve to requirement to invoke one deity of another, I would be interesting in hearing it.  But for now, I will continue to live with the meaning and value my life currently has, irrespective of the involvement of a deity, no matter what stories anyone wants to believe.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Whose to say what we can or cannot do 100 years from today?

I was watching 60 Minutes following the Denver Broncos first loss of this season.  The article on the Large Hadron Collider was very interesting and at the very end of the article one of the scientists being interviewed said:

"Whose to say what we can or cannot do 100 years from today?"
His example before his concluding comment was, and I am paraphrasing because I am working from memory,
"Do you think someone 100 years ago would say about reaching into your pocket, pulling out a device, press a few keys and be talking to someone halfway around the world!"  
In that context, his closing comment makes perfect sense.

But I do have an answer, Creationists.

Isn't that exactly what people like the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, and the Institute for Creation Research are trying to do?  Rather than allow science to do what has been pretty damn successful for decades now, they want to replace actual science with their religious beliefs.  Read Karl Giberson blog post, "Discovery Institute Still Undermining Science".  Using often discredited arguments, they keep attacking science, dressing philosophical arguments as if they are science for the express purpose of forcing the scientific community to stop doing science and validate their [the Creationists'] religious beliefs.  Look at their arguments:
  • 'Teach the controversy', when there is no scientific controversy, but an artificial one created by marketing and politicking.  
  • 'Teach the strengths and weaknesses', without having one actual weakness identified in evolutionary theory and spend time denigrating the strengths whenever possible.  
  • 'Teach both sides and let students make up their own mind', sure teach religion as if it is science and that will make a level playing field for students to figure things out for themselves?  Yea, how well is that working in any subject?  
These arguments have nothing to do with actual science other than to undermine it in the minds of all too many people.

Just a few excerpts from Gilberson's post:
"Evolution is a remarkable theory. Its complexity and breadth guarantee that there will be ongoing debates and controversies about the details and scientific journals are filled with these debates. But these debates are not about whether evolution should be abandoned and replaced with appeals to a supernatural creative power. That question was resolved in the 19th century."

"The actual scientific controversies are not the ones that the anti-evolutionists want to see in America's public schools. We do our students no favor by pretending that religiously motivated objections to well-established ideas constitute genuine scientific controversies."

The one I personally like is:
"Even if you focused on one small subfield -- say fossils from the Cambrian era -- it would take you years to get to the point where you could deal with the data directly and draw your own conclusions."
Remember Stephen C. Meyer's 'Darwin's Doubt', which concerns itself with the Cambrian Diversification, colloquially known as the 'Cambrian Explosion'.  Do you think Meyer spent the time necessary reading and studying the existing data in order to draw his own conclusions?  Let me remind you that not only is Meyer not a paleontologist, but in addressing some of his critics in the sequel "Debating Darwin's Doubt", he failed to bring in an actual paleontologist to address the many criticisms, like this one from an actual paleontologist (here is the whole critique):
"Another common tactic of creationists is credential mongering. They love to flaunt their Ph.D.'s on their book covers, giving the uninitiated the impression that they are all-purpose experts in every topic. As anyone who has earned a Ph.D. knows, the opposite is true: the doctoral degree forces you to focus on one narrow research problem for a long time, so you tend to lose your breadth of training in other sciences.  . . ."

" . . . Meyer now blunders into another field in which he has no research experience or advanced training: my own profession, paleontology. I can now report that he's just as incompetent in my field as he was in molecular biology. Almost every page of this book is riddled by errors of fact or interpretation that could only result from someone writing in a subject way over his head, abetted by the creationist tendency to pluck facts out of context and get their meaning completely backwards."
Perfect example of what Giberson was saying!  If you want people to draw their own conclusions about complex scientific subjects, they need specialized training to even begin to understand the current state of knowledge on the subject.

Yes, people are entitled to their opinions, but opinions are not necessarily equal, especially about complex subjects.  In my own field I frequently hear customers offer opinions on how long it should take computer programmers to build even something that seems simple.  The problem is without an understanding of the underlying code and architecture involved, even simple things have level of complexity non-programmers are not equipped to understand.  Yet folks like the Discovery Institute, and others, want people to be able to make up their own minds about something as complicated as Evolutionary theory?  Hopefully food for thought!

Should you understand something before you criticize it?

Caught this from Larry Moran's 'Sandwalk' and had to follow it up:  "You should know the basics of a theory before you attack it".  He warns you to turn off your irony meters before following the link to the original article.  It's from Dembski's blog, 'Uncommon Descent' and it's a dozy!

Here is the line that gets me:

"But what have I accomplished if I spout off some nonsense that Darwinism does not actually posit, refute it, and then say, “thus I have proven Darwinism wrong”?"
How many times has a Creationist of one sort or another, like a Biblical Literalist or Intelligent Design proponent, built a strawman of some part of evolutionary theory and then destroyed it, claiming victory?  Is it possible to even count the times?  Here on this blog we've discussed many of the various strawmen, like:
  • The odds argument, such as "Eureka!  I have calculated the odds of me being here, therefore Evolution isn't possible!"
  • What about a Hoyle-ism like "A tornado spinning through a junkyard and building a 747, therefore Evolution is impossible!" 
  • The "Law of Biogenesis shows that Evolution is impossible!"
  • How about the "But mutations can only be bad for you, therefore Evolution isn't possible!"
  • An oldie, but one still bandied about: "Evolution violates Thermodynamics, therefore Evolution isn't possible!"
  • My current favorite "Information cannot be increased, therefore Evolution isn't  . . .!"
When you list out the various strawmen created for the express purpose of claiming to refute Evolution, the list gets pretty long.  You certainly get the idea that these Creationists really don't know much about Evolution, yet they continue to build new ones so they can knock them down and claim a Victory for Jesus!

I have to agree, most Creationists don't know much about Evolution, and they don't want to know much more.  You combat them by giving good information and hopefully educating enough folks to minimize the damage they can do to our educational systems.  But I think there are those that may or may not know about Evolution, they simply don't care.

To me, those are the dangerous ones because the validity of Evolution means nothing to them, they are attacking it for purposes of their own.  Not because science is in error, but because they use people's religious beliefs to push some agenda of their own.  They pander to them, often to sell books and videos for financial gain, but they also do it for power.  They prey on people not because they believe Evolution is wrong, but because they know arguing against it is a way to gain power.

Look at how many politicians pander to the Christian Right, not because they agree with their positions, but because they know that right now that's how you win elections.  You stand-up a few srawmen, knock them down and when a large enough group cheers you on, you get elected!  Or in the case of the Discovery Institute, you get more funding so you can keep pushing your agenda of undermining science to push your religion onto others (Discovery Institute Still Undermining Science - Karl Giberson).

If you disagree, keep watching the elections that are coming.  How did the Republican contenders respond to questions about Evolution?  Do you really think a Republican Presidential hopeful will admit that Creationism isn't science publicly?  That would be a quick way off the podium!  Even Democratic candidates tread lightly.

Like I said, those are the folks that worry me more.  The way to combat people who really don't know much about Evolution is through education.  It's not easy, but you do see even the most hard-core Creationists abandoning some of their arguments.  Of course they do their best to build new ones, but those also can be overcome by education.  It may take a while, after all people won't let go of their beliefs easily.  But how do you fight those who don't care about the validity of actual science?   If bashing Evolution doesn't work, they would find something else to pander.   

Look at the Governor-Elect of Kentucky, Matt Blevin, and the comments he's made in support of that bigot Kim Davis who is pushing for a Christian version of Sharia Law.  Think I am overstating it?  Well what else do you call it when one group wants to enact laws in support of their religious beliefs and apply them to everyone?  Sure, it's not Islamic Sharia Law, but it's the same thing!  Is this what we want?  They may not know much about Evolution, or they may know a great deal, but that's irrelevant to them.  They pander to win, and the ends justify the means, right?  Scary!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Kirk did it! A new Definition for Intelligent Design!

Finally one of the DI's compatriots re-defined Intelligent Design in the way klingy and little casey have been trying to 'use' it.  Yes, I put the single quotes around the word 'use', simply because no one has seemed to be able to find a way to use ID and suddenly the DI starts telling use how it's being used by everyone all the time.  Needless to say I am skeptical.  If you remember one of my complaints is that the folks at the Discovery Institute, like klingy and little casey have been citing examples of human intelligence as case studies in the applicability of Intelligent Design.  (Intelligent Design vs intelligent design).

My issue has been that Intelligent Design, as defined by the DI, isn't something that can be applied.  Here is their definition:

"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. ("
While they like to call it a theory, here's no science behind it, only philosophical arguments about what a 'Designer' may or may not have done.  The word 'theory' for their definition is the colloquial definition of an 'idea', not the much more rigorous 'scientific theory'.  Seriously, their 'work' to date has been marketing, not science.  One of their senior fellows, Wild Bill Dembski has been 'working' on a design detector for years, but has yet to detect anything at all.  All he's done is be able to point to something we know is man-made and claim his 'detector' confirms it.  Of course nothing he claims can be validated in any way other than accepting his word that his detector is working and detecting!

A bunch of years ago I attended a Java conference in San Francisco.   At the conference Palm was offering their newest handheld, the Palm V, for sale at a pretty good price.  Yes, it was a while ago, but the story still applies.  There were over 20,000 people at the conference and apparently Palm sold about 14,000 handhelds.  During the conference they held a little contest involving writing a java program for the handheld.  One guy wrote a little app that allowed one Palm to find other Palms with a specified region.  It was pretty cute, it looked like a sonar screen.  You see the 'signal' sent out in a expanding arc, and if it 'detected' other palm devices, they showed on the screen as a circled dot reflecting the signal.  In reality is was a simulation that neither emitted a signal, nor was able to detect anything at all.  Which also makes it just as functional as Demsbi's detector, although cuter.

So, many of their recent posts like to claim that human intelligence is the same thing as their Intelligent Design, I have been in disagreement. The ability to think, design, and eventually build objects is a common human activity and its source is readily identifiable.  Look at their definition and maybe you can explain to me how human intelligence = ID? 

One of my favorite posters over on the Evolution 'News' and Views, Kirk Durston, re-defined it for them in 'Defining and Utilizing Intelligent Design in Science':
Intelligent Design: an effect that requires an intelligent mind to produce
Note, this is very different than DI's, but it does align with how recent posters have been trying to sell the idea that ID is being used.  So far no one at the DI bothered with this new definition, they simple forget to use upper-case 'I' and 'D' and assume people can't tell a shell game when they see one, as in i = I and d = D, so intelligent design = Intelligent Design.  I guess they couldn't fool Kirk, he redefined it for them.

However, I will plainly state my issue once again.  Even with Kirk's re-definition, the use of Human Intelligence is not an example of Intelligent Design, as defined by the DI!  It was not how they presented and attempted to defend ID in court.  It is not how it is defined in the DI's Wedge Strategy Document, nor in any of the subsequent books and articles about the subject.  Even the Wikipedia entry 'someone' keep trying to re-define (Wikipedia deserves an Award! They Annoyed the DI! Yea!) says:
"Intelligent design (ID) is the pseudoscientific view 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. ("

For a change I don't have much to say in disagreement with the rest of Kirk's post, it is an example of human intelligence in action, but it is certainly not an example of Intelligent Design.  The fact he had to re-define ID to make the connection is pretty clear evidence.  But in reality, does it really change anything?

Look at the new definition.  Like the old one, they still have to:
  • Support that a biological organism, or even part of a biological organism, could not have occurred through any natural process, not just natural selection, but any natural process.  
  • Once they do that, then they have to support 'other than natural' processes.  Remember the alternative to 'natural' is not 'intelligence', but 'supernatural'.  So step two for them is identify the other-than-natural process. 
  • If they get through the first two, then they have to support that ONLY an intelligence could have produced it through that 'other-than-natural' process.
  • Then, and only then, they have to provide support for the identity of the intelligence.   This is the step they like to ignore, but since they haven't gotten through the first three, they can keep putting this one off, claiming that it doesn't matter.
  • And finally they have to support that their identified intelligent agent is the one that produced the element under discussion using the as-of-yet unidentified other-than-natural process.  
To date, have they even succeeded in the first part? Looks like they still have their 'work' cut out for them.  Oh, and just in case you were wondering, none of those steps can be accomplished through marketing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Are things getting bleaker in Kentucky?

Listening to the radio this morning I learned that the Governor-Elect of Kentucky is a Tea-partying Conservative Matt Blevin.  What that will eventually mean, I have no idea.  He's already on record supporting that discriminatory Kim Davis and proclaimed a number of issues dear to Conservative hearts.  The Courier-Journal reported that groups like The the Family Foundation of Kentucky is thrilled.  Martin Cothran, their senior policy advisor is quoted as saying:

“It’s going to be a big change in policy in this state, I think … to have the governor’s office in the hands of somebody who really wants to make some conservative change is heartening.”
“We’ve elected a governor who has expressed strong support for religious freedom, who is also in favor of charter schools. So we are hopeful some of the policy statements he made during the campaign are realized.”
However since the Legislature is controlled by Democrats, strategist Danny Briscoe predicts:
“Every bill that comes up, every critical issue that comes up, Republicans will say ‘how is it going to affect our chances in November,’ and the Democrats will say the same thing, which I think means we probably won’t get a lot done,” 
I wonder how long it will be before kennie ham posts about it and how it will impact his Ark Park?  Are things bleaker for the people of Kentucky?  I hope not, I really do!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Does Judge Jones Misunderstand his Critics?

Caught an article on the Discovery Institute's usual site and it made me think.  Before reading the article, I wanted to just think about the title:  "Ten Years After the Dover Case, Judge Jones Misunderstands His Critics".  Does he really misunderstand his critics?  I don't think so.

Before reading it, I thought back over the past 10 years to the Dover Trial.  I recall the reaction to Judge Jones being the one to hear the case.  In Lauri Lebo's still excellent book "The Devil In Dover", she quoted one of the contributors over on Wild Bill Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent, describing Judge Jones:
"Judge John E. Jones on the other hand is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks. He was state attorney for D.A.R.E, an Assistant Scout Master with extensively involved with local and national Boy Scouts of America, political buddy of Governor Tom Ridge (who in turn is deep in George W. Bush’s circle of power), and finally was appointed by GW hisself. Senator Rick Santorum is a Pennsylvanian in the same circles (author of the “Santorum Language” that encourages schools to teach the controversy) and last but far from least, George W. Bush hisself drove a stake in the ground saying teach the controversy. Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies. Of course the ACLU will appeal. This won’t be over until it gets to the Supreme Court. But now we own that too. "
 These seemed to be a common theme, a conservative judge, appointed by a Republican President couldn't possibly rule against Intelligent Design (ID).  Of course, as history has shown us, not only did Judge Jones rule against ID, but his ruling pretty well demolished any hope the DI had of ID being taken seriously as anything other than Creationism.  And their reaction was pretty typical, they vilified Jones.  Not only that, he was directly threatened from multiple quarters to the point he needed protection from Federal Marshals. 

John West, President of the Discovery Institute immediately called him an Activist Judge, something Judge Jones even mentioned in his ruling.  Let's talk about that for a moment.  According to most sources, Judicial activism refers to judicial rulings suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law.   Just in case any Creationists are reading, that bears repeating:  "personal or political considerations". 

If the Judge had allowed his Conservative roots to influence his ruling, as expected by many, wouldn't that have been an example of Judicial Activism?   It seems pretty clear to me that too many folks were expecting him to do just that!  So instead of him actually being an Activist Judge, they accuse him of being one simply because he gave a ruling they didn't like, and in a typically knee-jerk reaction call him an Activist Judge.  As I said, Judge Jones expected this and even addressed it in his conclusion:
"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."
But Westie and his cronies went beyond that, they did what they usually do and wrote a book.  Yes, a Court Ruling explained that Intelligent Design is not science, so instead of going into the lab and proving the judge wrong, they wrote Traipsing into Evolution, a book-length critique of the decision.  Why am I not surprised?  When in doubt, write a book!  Don't do anything that might be mistaken for science, write a book!  Don't address the shortcomings of ID, write a book attacking the Judge who helped open the kimono and show those shortcomings to the world! It's nothing more than another example of marketing rather than taking any actual action.  What else could they have done?  You might notice that no one appealed the ruling.  You might also notice that no other school system has tried to emulate that the Creationists on the Dover Board tried to do.  You would think that the DI would want this case tried again in front of a different judge and if it was truly the act of an Activist Judge, the second ruling could very well correct it.  But for some reason no one is clamoring for a new trial.  The DI simply keeps trying to place the Judge on trial!

Judge Jones has many times addressed his critics.  Just recently he was interviewed as part of a series of articles in the York Daily Register on the Dover Decision:  "Dover intelligent design 10 years later: Q&A with U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III"  

Of course little casey luskin just couldn't resist whining in yet another attempt to try Judge Jones.  You remember casey?  He was the Discovery Institute lawyer whose participation in the trial was offering press releases for a couple of days and then he just disappeared. (Devil in Dover pages 120-121).  I don't know how offering press releases makes him qualified to comment on anything Jones says, but then qualifications aren't something the DI seems to pay much attention to . . . unless they are inflating them (Since the "700" keeps coming up . . .).

So, the first error little casey makes is assuming the DI is the target of Judge Jones comments.  If he actually read for comprehension, he would see that Judge Jones had a number of folks critical of his ruling, and he specifically said 
"What happened was that the punditry, who disagreed with my case, you know, came out and in a sort of firestorm, this sort of Bill O'Reillys and Ann Coulters of the world, and they were very strident and I think misleading in their criticism."
So little casey thinks the DI is on the same level as political punditry, or is it he can't stand the DI being shunted to the side in favor of O'Reilly-ers and Coulter-ites?  Actually that makes more sense than claiming to be an organization dedicated to actual science.  After all, what is a pundit?  Someone marketing their opinion, most often to people who already agree with them.  Sounds like a good definition of the DI, doesn't it?

Little casey's primary point is he think the Judge overstepped.  That as soon as he determined that the Dover School Board's in purpose was religious, he not looked at anything else.  Of course that would have made the DI happier than the actual result.  Dembski even predicted that the results of the trial had about a 70% change of being: 
"The Dover policy is overturned but the scientific status of ID is left unchallenged." (Life After Dover)
Which is exactly what might have happened if the Judge stopped doing his job.  Think about what that would have done for the DI and their pet Creationism/ID.  It would have kept the door open for people just like the Dover School Board's Buckingham and Bonsell to push for the inclusion of religion in science class.  You might not remember Buckingham and Bonsell, but if you read the Dover Decision you will find things like:
  •   . . . the Dover School Board members' testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath
  • It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy
The judge was talking about the school board members who voted for ID, which included William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, whose testimony did raise cries of perjury!

So, to little casey's mind, once you achieve the minimalist possible objective, you should always stop there.  I don't know about you, but I wasn't raised that way, and apparently neither was Judge Jones.  I am pretty sure little casey, and the rest of the bunch at the DI, wish the Judge had done just that is because the actual ruling was the one Dembski gave a less than 10% change of happening. 

What I find funny is how Dembski said it really wouldn't be that damaging if it did happen.  Even today, 10 years later, the DI is still trying to spin Dover as pretty much very limited impact on them.  How true is that?  Well since in the last decade where has ID gone?  How many public schools teach it in their science curriculum?  How many presentations to scientific conferences have happened?  How many peer-reviewed papers on ID have been published in reputable scientific journals?  I did specifically use the words science and scientific so anyone can differentiate between DI revival meetings and self-published journals as compared to real scientific conferences and scientific journals.  I believe the answer to all three is 0.  I also specified 'public schools' because the curriculum requirements for non-public schools is very different, however even the majority of non-public schools teach Evolution (Baylor, University of Dayton two nationally ranked Christian universities are good examples).  So in reality, ID hasn't done much but continued marketing.  They certainly have been quiet on the science front . . . and no I do not, nor does the scientific community, consider self-published, popular press, or religious imprint articles and books to be scientific.

So what we have is a Judge doing his job and not just looking at their motivations, but examining the entirety of what was happening in Dover using the precedents previously established in cases like
Of course the Judge didn't stop where casey and his little friends would have liked nor where they where they expected him to stop.  Judge Jones made a complete ruling and one that has caused the DI to spend considerable time and energy distancing themselves from, and also attacking Judge Jones pretty regularly.  Judge Jones specifically said:
"The conclusion was probably the toughest part of the opinion, because I felt that I, frankly, given the length of the opinion at 139 pages, that a lot of people would only ever read the conclusion. So I labored over that. Because I wanted to make that as powerful and as clear as I possibly could."
And he most certainly did make a powerful ruling.  One that has had a lasting impact on the modern Intelligent Design Movement, no matter how much casey and pals try and spin things.  Does the Judge misunderstand his critics?  No, I don't think so.  I think his critics misunderstand not just Judge Jones but the law.

If you are interested, there are other articles from the York Daily Register about the 10 year anniversary.  I hope you find them as interesting as I have.  It does stand to reason these articles are much more interesting than anything put out by the DI, especially by their press release mouthpiece luskin.