Monday, September 26, 2016

John Oliver on Scandals Contrasting Clinton and Trump

Love this show!  It might not be a news program, but it is much closer to news than anything coming out of Fox News!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Texas, Don't Take This Wrong, But You Are Sounding like South Carolina

I don't know if you remember, but back a few years ago (2007 and 2008) South Carolina elected a home-schooling conservative to head their state school board and one of the first things she [Kristin Maguire] did was violate procedure to try and reject the science textbooks already selected by the school board appointed working group.    It led to more hearing and delays as she brought in a couple of Creationists to object to well pretty much the usual stuff, mainly evolution.

So why would Texas remind me of that?  The state school board set up a panel to streamline science standards.  Even before they started work, members of the school board did their best to stack the deck with evolution-deniers -- much like Maguire did in her textbook complaint.  Even with two confirmed evolution-deniers on the panel, the panel voted to remove some of the anti-evolution rhetoric put in back in 2009 by the school board when it was headed by the creationist dentist, Don McLeroy, who made Texas a laughing stock.  Even with this preliminary vote, creationists are up in arms because of it. (Discussed in the Austin American Statesman and Pandas Thumb)

How I see the parallels:

  1. Creationists do their best to stack review panels with unqualified people (Creationism ideology more important than scientific credentials)
  2. They allow process to run until they don't like the outcome
  3. Then they get all upset and start trying to trash the whole thing.
Texas, you deserve better, but until you let your voice be heard in the ballot box, you are going to continually allow your children's education to be held hostage by Creationists who are trying to make sure your children are taught their philosophy and not actual science.  I really feel for you, each and every one.  Here is something I wrote back in 2007.  It was directed toward South Carolina, but it's just as applicable to you, Texas, today:

"My question is to the people of South Carolina? Is this the direction you want to go? Ms. Maguire and friends are re-treading the direction other states have tried and failed, sometimes in embarrassing and expensive ways. Do you want your Biology teachers teaching religion to your kids? Do you want a narrow fundamentalist Christian viewpoint from determining the contents of your textbooks? Do you want to start the process of removing science from your curriculum?" (Ms. Kristin Maguire strikes)
Well, do you?  South Carolina wound up dropping Ms Maguire for reasons unrelated to conservative and anti-science positions.  You really need to re-examine the people on your school board.  Shouldn't the number one priority be the education of your children?  I would have thought so.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Is the DI Joining the AiG Ministry?

Little kennie ham has some help, apparently he's not the only group pushing how science is not secular and, of course, claiming the mantle of science of his religion. Over at the DI, Michael Engor posted "Atheism Is a Catastrophe for Science", claiming:

"Modern theoretical science arose only in the Christian milieu."
To him, I give the same answer I gave little kennie (Christianity is the Source of All Science, Well According to AiG is it.).
  • Where in the scientific work, from all the names you drop, do you see the part about the Christian Deity?
  • Why are you discriminating against every other religion on the planet? 
  • What do we gain from inserting homage to a deity in a scientific theory?
Micheal, in other words what part of the work is based on their, or your, religious beliefs?  Seriously, where does you version of a deity play in real science?  Little kennie ham claimed that his God's role was establishing the rules, but does that really matter?  How is adding homage to a deity add to our understanding?  Seriously, take any theory, explain how your God fits in and then tell me how the theory changes!

All the Christians you name, all the other Theists you like to ignore, and all the Atheists (Larry Moran over on Sandwalk has a nice list) have made multiple scientific advances and in not a single one of them do you see evidence of any deity taking a hand.  There are no boxes or clouds exclaiming "Goddidthis!"  The best you have is making unsupported claims:
"It is astonishing (and beautiful) that the very retinaculum of the universe, from the subatomic world to the cosmos, is drawn in elegant abstract mathematics. The universe screams intelligent authority. "
Why, because you cling to a belief set so strongly that you demand we acknowledge it for you?  Seriously Michael, what does adding in a deity do for our understanding?  Let's put the ball in your court, take any scientific theory, maybe Thermodynamics.  Look at modern thermodynamic theory and tell me what changes if all the scientists and engineers who work on and with this theory (or set of theories to be more accurate) would change by answering your demand for a universe screaming for your God?  Come on, Mike, put up!  I am offering you a chance here.

Another foolish quote:
"The fact is that during the 20th century atheist ideological systems that "assum[ed] that the world is a product of natural, undirected processes" governed a third of humanity. What's the scientific "track record" of atheism? Atheism had its run: it heralded a scientific dark age in any nation unfortunate enough to fall under its heel. Atheism is as much a catastrophe for science as it is a catastrophe for humanity. The only thing atheist systems produced reliably (and still produce reliably) is corpses."
So now Atheism is equated to economic systems like Communism and dictatorial governments?  You like to build strawman, just like the rest of your Discovery Institute ilk.   Hate to break the news to you, but those systems welcomed religion, after all wasn't it Marx who called 'religion is the opium of the people'.  Didn't Hitler extort and use Christianity to justify all of his actions?  If you don't think so then you are as much a student of history as you are a student of science, more's the pity.  Do your homework for a change! 

Your own link is to North Korea lists the causes of the famine as
"The famine in DPRK is the result of the cumulative effects of a fractured economic infrastructure and inadequate food production."  
It also cites natural disasters and politics as issues acerbating the problem.  They even have a national religion, Cheondoism.  While your religion is illegal, they are not nearly as atheistic as you seem to believe.

How long did Christianity have a stranglehold on  many countries?  How many wars were started, how many diseases flourished, how widespread was starvation and famine under Christian religious regimes?  You really need to read a bit deeper into history, and not just the rosy-colored history that people like kennie ham want you to think, or even the history re-writes from the DI's own 'pseudo-historian', Michael Flannery.  Care to explain the millions who died during the Thirty-Years War directly from the war and indirectly through disease and famine caused by the war.  Go ahead, try and blame that one on Atheists.

I bet you think that's all ancient history, how many people have died from AIDS in Africa due in part to the Christian religious objections to condoms?  Estimates range widely but keep climbing annually.  You own a share of 38,000,000 deaths over that one. How about the religious genocides of the Congo and Rwanda.  You own a share of those 15,000,000 people as well.  Religion is much more to blame for those atrocities than Atheism is responsible for Communism!

The bottom line here is you have a set of religious beliefs and you are trying to demand that the rest of the world somehow justify your own beliefs by inserting them where they are not needed and, in fact, do damage.  Are you forgetting how your Christianity controlled the educational system is many countries for decades, even centuries, and how hard it was to get an idea across if even it was perceived to be contrary to the teaching of the Church.  Disagree, well I would ask you to talk to Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, just to name a few. If you have an honest bone in your body, you know the list is much longer!

Not very long ago people believed things like the Sun, the Rain, even the Death of a loved one was all because God did it.  Tell me how scientifically advanced they were?  We know a great deal more about many topics, and all without needing to thrust a deity into the mix.  Must raise some serious feelings of inadequacy -- but it's OK, there's a little pill for that . . . developed by scientists and no one prays over each batch as they are created!

You really had your eyes closed on this one.  Like kennie, you seem to have a thick pair of biblical-colored glasses to view the world through.  You might try taking them off once in a while because they certainly aren't doing you any good.  Maybe I should say they are doing you as much good as they do kennie ham.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Christianity is the Source of All Science, Well According to AiG is it.

Here's something . . . well not new, but certainly consistent . . . from little kennie ham: "Is Science Secular?"  Now before getting into the article, I want to consider just the title, 'Is Science Secular?'.  Looking at all of the scientific advances, from Newton to Einstein, from the Industrial Revolution to today's most cutting edge science, can you find one iota of religion within those scientific theories?

I've asked this before -- when you look at something like Newton's work, where is the part where you say "And here is where God does his thing!"?  You might notice that there isn't one.  There is nothing that identifies where the 'magic' happens.  How I see it is that there are many Theists who have advanced many scientific theories, but when the science conflicts with religious views, they manage to rise above those views and see the world in a much clearer and sharper light.  Does anyone really think this is how Newton did his scientific work:
I don't believe it, but one of the many arguments made over the years is that many of the greatest scientists were Christians.  I would even phrase it differently, many of histories greatest minds were Theists!  I word it that way because often Christians forget that many advances were made by other-than-Christian believers, I do have to wonder if kennie will forget that little item.  OK, with my point made, I have to wonder what direction little kennie is going to take his article?  OK, here goes -- time to get muddy.
"Many people today insist that science can only be done by people who have a secular worldview—or at least by those who are willing to leave their religious views at the door as they enter the science lab."
Strawman alert!  While little kennie and his Hamians may think this, this is not what is being said. Many current scientists are Theists and believe in one religious tradition or another.  What has been said, and proven over and over again, is that if you let your viewpoint blind you to the realities of the world around you, you aren't doing much in the way of science.   This goes for religious or other viewpoints, for example political.

A perfect example is little kennie's concept of the 'same evidence but different conclusions' nonsense. Little kennie's 'creation paleontologists' do not look at the same evidence as an actual paleontologist, his start by rejecting the majority of the evidence because it conflicts with kennie's story of a 6,000 year old Earth.  How is that starting from the same evidence?  An honest answer is that it's not, but don't expect kennie to admit that.  A real scientist starts with a much cleaner plate than one of kennie's.  Imagine if one of his pet 'scientists' put out a paper even suggesting an older Earth.  How long do you think they will be employed by kennie?  Not for very long, I would think.  Or, like what happened to Wild Bill Demski, the 'scientist is question would have to retract any suggestion to the contrary, or he will get kicked out of the club.
"Strictly speaking, my project in The End of Christianity  . . . at the very end of the book, I raised some questions about Noah’s flood in light of an old earth . . . At the meeting with president, provost, dean, and senior professor, the president made it clear to me from the start that my job was on the line.  . . . My questioning the universality of Noah’s flood meant I was a heretic . . . I said just enough to keep my job, and just enough to give me room to recant, as I’m doing here." (Dembki Interview)
What kennie has done here is create a strawman to tell you one thing and then he will try and demolish the strawman and claim victory.  He tried it a few months ago when he was bragging how one of the inventors of the MRI is a creation scientist.  But back then I pointed out that at no point in kennie's bragsheet was any evidence that supported how Creationism was involved in the MRI.  His second sentence compounds his error.
"Several popular atheists and evolutionists have contended that people who reject the big bang and the evolution of living things are so backward that they cannot even be involved in developing new technologies."
No, that is not what is normally said.  What has been said over and over again is that someone's belief set is in no way part and parcel of any scientific breakthroughs.  I don't care how many prominent Theists you can name, and I figure name-dropping is next, but at no point can you point to their work and say "God did this part!"  It's not part of a single equation, it's not listed in the documentation and explanations.  If there is a conflict, the scientist has to be able to see clearly, and Biblical-colored glasses don't allow that.  How many new technologies has kennie and his cohorts actually developed using their religious beliefs?  Again, none!  OK, let's read the rest of the article before commenting further.

OK, a few more comments:
"If science is a strictly secular endeavor without any need for a biblical worldview, then why were most fields of science developed by Bible-believing Christians?"
As expected, kennie focuses on Christians, ignoring contributions from any other religion.  But it does lead me to another comment.  Is kennie forgetting that the education system, for decades and centuries, was dominated by religious groups?  Even Charles Darwin went to religious schools and even once studied to be a Parson (Wikipedia: Charles Darwin Early Life and Education).  

So, now that I think about it, would kennie classify Charles Darwin as a Christian?  Based on his early life and education, an honest person would.  If you look at the details of his religious views (Wikipedia: Charles Darwin Religious Views), you would see he was certainly a Christian in his many viewpoints -- at least a Christian as defined by his times.  What you could never call him is a Christian as little kennie ham see it.  Simply put, one of the areas Darwin and kennie would disagree on is the Bible as a history book.  The list would grow from there.

So the bottom line here is no one is saying Theists or any religious tradition cannot be scientists or perform actual scientific work.  However, that is more than just hanging a label on a door.  You have to be willing to set aside your religious viewpoint if and when it conflicts with your scientific work -- either that of set aside your scientific work and add the label 'creation', as does kennie and his stable of pet 'creation scientists'.
"The U.S. will lose out in “science” when its education system limits science in the classroom exclusively to the religion of secular humanism."
Wow another strawman!  US science classes do not teach secular humanism, science is guided by a philosophy called "Methodological naturalism", which states:
"Methodological naturalism is concerned not with claims about what exists but with methods of learning what nature is. It is the idea that all scientific endeavors, hypotheses, and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events." (Wikipedia: Methodological Naturalism)
Science is, and has been for a long time, based on the natural world, on explanations that can be repeated and explained without the involvement of any supernatural causation.  Little kennie hates that because it doesn't pay homage, or even address, his personal deity.  What kennie can't handle is that science does not address such things on purpose!  How do you replicate an occurrence when it relies on the actions of a deity?  It's not possible!  Science may not be the only world view, but it's the only one that gives us repeated results and rational and usable explanations, isn't it?  Drop something, does it fall because a deity wanted it to fall, or does it fall because of the attraction between two objects of mass as explained by the Scientific Theory of Gravity?  Learning about Gravity doesn't require paying homage to one deity or another, and even paying such homage wouldn't advance our understanding of it, would it?

Now when it comes to something like Gravity, kennie tries to tell us that the whole basis for Gravity is his version of a deity.  So, how does that add to our understanding of Gravity?  Think it through, look at current gravitational theory, where does adding in a homage to a deity add anything?  You see my point, science doesn't address it because it adds nothing to our understanding.  Injecting the actoins of a deity does nothing but give kennie a warm feeling.

Little kennie tries to take things up a level and claim this:
"Real science is observable and repeatable experimentation that only makes sense in a biblical worldview where God’s power keeps the laws of nature consistent. In other words, science proceeds from a biblical worldview."
He was close, but he should have ended his comment after the word 'experimentation'.  What has the Biblical worldview offered in the way of explanation?  Does our understanding of any scientific discipline improve when you try and insert a religious viewpoint?  No, it doesn't improve, it degrades.  For example denying geological evidence of the age of the Earth or trying to explain geographic biodiversity using log rafts after Noah's flood.  These viewpoints limit our understanding, they do not improve it.

Here's another quote from kennie:
"In the secular view, where all matter originated by chance from nothing, there is no ultimate cause or reason for anything that happens, and explanations are constantly changing, so there is no basis for science. "
Why does there have to be an 'ultimate cause'?  Seriously, I can't have any answers to any questions until I know absolutely everything 100% perfectly, including how it all started billions of years ago? So science has no basis, and yet science took us to the moon, science built that stupid ark pseudo-replica kennie is so proud of, science cures and treats diseases that would have killed people if they tried to rely on prayer . . . science has more of a basis, and one based on rationality, than any of the thousands of religions that exist or have existed in the world, including kennie's narrow version of Evangelicalism I like to call 'Hamian'.

After all his name-dropping, as expected, he goes on to the tired argument how science is supposedly some sort of religion.  Really?  What religion took us to the Moon?  What religion explains thermodynamics that lets us build engines?  What religion developed this world-wide communications system we call the Internet?  If science was just another religion worshiping a book, meeting once a week to self-flagellate ourselves with guilt, and keep our minds as closed as possible to other people and ideas, we wouldn't have left the cave!  No, I take that back, we wouldn't have gone into the cave to seek shelter, because since God created the rain, seeking shelter is obviously a form of blasphemy!

One final point from kennie:
"Christians will continue to conduct scientific inquiry and invent things, processes, and science fields as we always have."
Again I would say 'Theists' rather than just limiting it to Christians..  I would have to add and just like the past few centuries, not one of those scientific inquiries or inventions will reference any part of ham's, or anyone else's, religious dogma.  If you disagree, I offer anyone another chance to explain how Newton's specific religious beliefs are used in his work?  If you don't like that one, tell me how even little kennie ham's religious beliefs are used in actual scientific inquiries?  What box do they put God in on the diagrams?  If there a PowerPoint clip-art defining 'God'?

Between kennie and his Answers in Genesis (AiG) Ministry, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), and the Discovery Institute (DI), they have many people on staff they like to call 'scientists'.  Just how many scientific advances have been made by any of them using their religious beliefs?  I believe the answer is a resounding 'None!', not a single one!  Oh they will still make claims, but nothing validated by reality.  Just keep kneeling in front of the Bible, kennie, and maybe one day you will understand the lessons it was trying to teach instead of just worshiping the words.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ark Park Attendance Figures, really?

Little kennie ham's folks finally mentioned some numbers about ark park attendance, although they do seem to conflict with actual reports of empty parking lots and few people, so I am not sure what
numbers to believe.  Here's the article: "Riding wave of popularity, Ark Encounter exceeds attendance projections", the article claims that in the 9 weeks since it's opened, it's seen over 300,000 visitors.

I really wish I knew the source of these numbers or even something verifiable for a couple of reasons.  The main one is I don't trust little kennie ham.  This is a man who lied to get Michael Zimmerman (The Clergy Letter Project) into an ambush-style interview while later complaining when something similar happened to one of his pet creation 'scientists'. He posted a picture of the Press Day and labeled it the Public Opening Day, giving the impression of crowds that were not real.  This is also the man who promised to comply with State and Federal hiring practices and reneged on that promise.  These are some of the reasons I do not trust little kennie ham!

Ham is also the one who predicted over 2,000,000 visitors a year, who apparently has reduced his number to 1.4 million.  That's a 30% drop is anticipated attendance.  You know who gets stuck if enough gullible . . . I mean true believers . . . fail to pay the $40 per ticket price (plus $10 for parking), it's the taxpayers of Kentucky!

OK, let's look at these highly suspicious numbers, 300,000 over 9 weeks.  That averages to 33,333 per week or 4762 per day (yes, it's open on Sundays).  If he can maintain this, he'll actually exceed his reduced estimate, but well short of his original numbers.  So the real question is can he maintain these numbers?  I doubt it.

Think about it, for most of the last nine weeks it was summer and schools were out.  Now schools are in session, winter is coming, and every 'attraction' usually sees a significant drop in attendance.  I am sure, since his monument to scientific ignorance is a religious attraction, that it will see a bump come the holidays, but will it be enough to sustain his numbers?  Only time will tell.  But even kennie has to realize that many visitors since it opened were there out of curiosity, not religious fervor.  They aren't going to be repeat customers!  I mean how many folks writing blogs and articles are going to make the trip a second time? 

Am I just blowing smoke here?  Remember how the attendance at his other ministry, the Creation Pseudo-Museum, was dropping steadily for years.  Recently it's been the ark that's also caused an increase at that craptastic attraction, but the question is whether or not it's sustainable.

One thing I do wish for are some verifiable attendance figures.  I wonder if Kentucky has some sort of system for making sure kennie isn't padding things.  I know, why would kennie pad the numbers and make his ark park appear more successful than it might truly be?  LOL!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Another Computer to Intelligent Design Analogy, as Effective as All the Others

For years the Discovery Institute has been using the analogy of DNA being like a computer code as one of their varied rationalizations for Intelligent Design.  Like any analogy, it only goes so far because DNA isn't a code, but a physical molecule whose structure we analogize (is that even a word?) to make it easier for us to explain and understand.  Today, little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer took it a further step with his post: "Intelligent Design and the Computer Analogy".  I guess I should say Douglas Axe did it, and klingy is doing his usual parroting.  He starts off with this:

"Imagine if computer science allowed researchers to consider the physical components of computers but not the "ideas" that drive them, imparted by their designers. Douglas Axe, author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed, poses that instructive question in a brief video conversation."
I'm not totally sure where he is going with this, because the physical design of computers has to be taken into account, by the people who designed the computers.  In fact the programmers who develop the programs rarely have to take the computer hardware into account, or else multiple languages wouldn't work across multiple types of computers.  On the computer I am using at the moment I have programmed BASIC, Visual BASIC, Java, C, C++, SQL, JavaScript, Cold Fusion, Pascal, to name a few.

Computer programs are all about the 'ideas' because very few people write code that directly interacts with the processors themselves.  Computer programs are written in languages that are understandable by humans, but not directly understood by a computer.  What a computer understands is something called binary, which . . . when you boil it down to the basics . . . represents voltages at various points withing the computer processor.  The processor is built in such a way that voltages set a certain way at a specific connection result other voltages set a certain way at other connection points.  The folks who designed the processor set that up so this voltage at this point does this.  Our programs are high-level extensions of that, the designers tells us what it is, and we . . . the programmers . . . assign meaning as we see fit.  So this is a pretty poor analogy to biology, no real surprise there.

If that sounds like a good analogy for the Christian God, oh I'm sorry, I mean the DI's intelligent designer, it misses me completely.  Little klingy's article continues:
"Most of evolutionary biology is limited by just such a stricture: consider the physical aspect of living creatures without probing the ideas -- the purposeful, immaterial design -- that we embody in physical form. In biology, you may not weigh the evidence for design, otherwise you're damned as a creationist!"
I think, as usual, klingy and Axe are putting the cart before the horse.  Where is the evidence for design?  Seriously, I am asking.  What has the DI presented that supports evidence for design?  So far nothing but conjecture and wishful thinking.  And yet the DI wants biologists to weigh the evidence for design?  How can they?  There is nothing to weigh, is there?  Until folks like Axe, klingy, and the entire DI get off their collective asses and do the work to support ID, there isn't anything for a biologist.

You might disagree, but take a look at what the DI purports as evidence.  Religious and philosophical articles and books without a lick of scientific evidence.  They are long on talk and short on work!  What they are doing is demanding biologists do the work they are supposed to be doing.  Suppose a scientist did that, what do you think would happen?  It's called unemployment, as least as a real scientist.  The DI might have an opening, after all several high profile ID'ers have departed in recent years.

It's not that evolutionary biologists get damned for probing design, it's that people like Axe and klingy have yet to support their contention of design.  Without such support, probing it is a waste of time and resources.  College professors who are supposed to be teaching science deserve to be held accountable if they decide to teach pseudoscience in it's place!  That's not being damned for probing design, it's being damned for not carrying out their responsibilities.  If a Math teacher decided to teach Numerology or an Astronomy taught Astrology , no one would question their being held responsible.  But because ID is a form a Creationism, are we supposed to give a special license to teachers who abdicate their responsibilities?  I, and many others, say no!

His final line:
"Yet this in a nutshell is the field of evolutionary biology."
What this is, folks, is a strawman.  Little davey tries to tell us that biology is flat and boring because design isn't part of the curriculum.  I will continue to say design doesn't belong in the curriculum until you folks [the DI] do the work to actually support it.  There is a methodology to performing science, and it doesn't include treating unsupported religious philosophies as if they are science just to justify your personal religious beliefs.

"Evangelicals for Evolution!" -- I want this as a Bumper Sticker!

Interesting article on Forbes: "Evangelicals Coming Out For Darwin".  While I often think of The BioLogos Foundation as just a 'Theistic Evolution' organization, I hadn't really looked at their disagreement about Intelligent Design (ID) and the tactics of folks like the Discovery Institute (DI).  This article describes a new book (from an academic press) about evangelical scientists, teachers, pastors and theologians who have come to accept evolutionary theory, specifically addressing ID.  I might have to pick this book up in the near future.

A couple of interesting quotes from the article [I added any underlining for emphasis]:

"Dennis Venema, professor of biology at Trinity Western University, . . . who started out as a supporter of intelligent design, actively hostile to evolution, recounts how he simply grew out of ID as it failed to make sense of the science he was learning in graduate school and how poorly the books put out by ID supporters tried to argue against evolution. "
Hmm, ID failed to make sense and how poorly books by ID supporters tried to argue against evolution.  Certainly not the first time we've heard that!  One of my constant critiques of the DI and most ID supporters is that instead of supporting their own ideas, they spend considerably more time and energy, nearly all of their time and energy, trying to denigrate evolutionary theory, and doing a bad job of it.  Here's another one:
"J.B. Stump, a director at BioLogos and also one of the book’s editors, recounts being forced to leave his teaching job at a Christian college for promoting the acceptance of evolution."
Ah, and just where was the DI in their vocal defense of Academic Freedom when this happened?  Nowhere to be seen, they prefer to spend their efforts on the non-existent cases of teachers being  fired for teaching ID.  If you disagree, name one, just one!  The usual cast of ID 'victims' the DI likes to parade include Crocker, Gonzalez, Sternberg, Freshwater, and Coppedge -- none of whom were fired for their support of ID!  
  • Crocker's contract was up and she was not re-hired partly because she was failing to teach the subject she was hired to teach -- science.
  • Gonzalez was not given tenure because he failed in his responsibilities as a professor with graduate students after 7 years in the job.  Seven years and only one completed graduate student and hardly any research funding.  Very poor showing for a tenure seeking professor!  But he was not fired.
  • Sternberg was the already outgoing editor of a minor biological journal who, on his way out the door, violated the journals review procedure to publish one of his friend's ID paper, and now he works for that same friend at the DI.
  • Freshwater was fired for a number of things including failing to do his job, lying to investigators, trying to get his students to lie for him, and burning crosses into kids arms.  He tried to take his case all the way to the US Supreme Court, after failing at all the other levels.  It didn't work.
  • Coppedge was simply downsized and tried to turn it into a religious discrimination suit and failed.  Of course he looked pretty bad when all the evidence showed that he was a poor employee (there were complaints), liked to preach his religion to his co-workers (there were more complaints), and refused to keep his skills current.
So here we have an actual professor forced out of his job because of his refusal to adopt a newly defined narrow view of science and the DI never rallies to his cause.  And yet they keep trying to pass themselves off as a bastion for academic freedom.  Apparently, The DI thinks academic freedom is only the freedom to preach religion in science class.

I hope you take a look at the book referenced as well.  I am sure it's going to annoy folks like the DI and little kennie ham (AiG, Ark Park, and Creation Pseudo-museum infamy).  After all, kennie seems to have convinced himself that only he is the decider in determining whether or not someone is a Christian, but more than likely kennie will determine these 'Evangelicals' are some sort of closet Atheists!

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Ark isn't Impressive to All!

Today over on the Motherboard website is a nice article on little kennie ham's latest folly, "A Visit to 'Ark Encounter', Where Creationism and Dinosaurs Collide", by Taylor Dorrell.  Little kennie won't like it for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the most obvious reason, is because Taylor didn't bend a knee and give kennie the homage he seems to expect.  To kennie, the world is a binary set of people, those who agree completely with him and everyone else.  The simple fact that 'everyone else' is a huge majority doesn't matter much to kennie, he's convinced in his own righteousness.  Even if you are a member of one of the many similar religious groups -- if you aren't a member of kennie's, you aren't.

Taylor obviously is not.  Instead of simply re-iterating all the things kennie has said about his latest ministry, Taylor wrote honestly about his visit.  I'm not convinced honesty is a word that comes up often where kennie is concerned.  Here's a great quote:

"After experiencing both the Creation Museum and the Ark, I’ve concluded that most of the people visiting are very nice, but I see [Neil DeGrasse] Tyson’s concern with teaching children stories as fact: Ken Ham’s arguments against the Earth being billions of years old rely on the inconsistency of radiometric dating; he doesn’t believe that the light from far away stars and galaxies take billions of years to reach the Earth. When making these arguments, he’s quoting the Bible, not science or any discovery or data in the modern world, as a viable source."
As you can see Taylor sees one of my own issues, the education of our children.  I saw it when I visited kennie's other ministry, the poorly named Creation 'museum' in 2009.  It wasn't so much the adults wandering around looking like they were about to genuflect every three steps, it was listening to the adults 'explain' the exhibits to their children that was positively frightening.

The other reason little kennie might not like this article can be summed up with one little quote:
"I went on the first Sunday it was opened, expecting a large crowd. However there were very few visitors."
Yes, a first hand account on the dearth of visitors.  I know I have been waiting for some idea of how popular, or not popular, kennie's new monument to scientific ignorance is -- but so far the ark folks have been pretty quiet about it.  Other than kennie getting busted claiming the press day picture, with lots of people, was the opening day to the public, so far all unofficial reports have mentioned a lack of visitors.  I am reasonable sure kennie will find lots of people to blame, like the FFRF who sent a letter to area public schools suggesting that visiting the ark is a bad idea, or even Taylor here for not simply re-hashing a kennie ham press release.  But it seems that attendance at the ark ministry isn't coming close to little kennie's extremely generous projections.  Which could leave the taxpayers of Kentucky with a hefty bill.

So I can safely assume kennie will comment on this article, if he can find it among all the other negative articles about the ark park.  I'm sure kennie will accuse the writer of something like being an atheist of some sort, without a clue to his actual religious beliefs.  Obviously kennie isn't responsible for the falling attendance of his 'museum' and the apparent poor attendance of his phony replica . . . well what would you call it?  How can you make a replica of a non-existent ship?  A model maybe, but calling it a replica means that there had to have been an original.  In any event, kennie will find others to blame and if if gets worse, he will get to dump the bill on Kentucky and probably remind us how God told him to do it.

OK, enough of this, I am sure there will be more articles in the future, but the activity does seem to be dying down.  I used to get 5 or 6 links to articles about the ark park every day,  It's slowed to a maybe 2 a week, apparently it's falling just like it's attendance.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The DI's Michael Denton makes a Prediction -- Yes, believe it or not! Unsupported, but still a Prediction.

The Discovery Institute (DI) did something out of the ordinary, well for them it's out of the ordinary.  In this post from their Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV), "Genetic Similarities Between Fins and Limbs -- Evidence for Evolution, Maybe, but Not for Darwinism", Michael Denton said this:

"There never were any transitional forms making both dermal bone and endochondral bone. Organisms made one or the other.There never were any transitional forms with fin rays and digits. And I predict that no matter how extensively the fossil record is searched, the phenotypic gap between fins and limbs will remain even as the genetic gap continues to diminish. "
While we could get into one of the usual arguments about how there is much more to Evolution than the work of Charles Darwin, something the DI only seems to remember when it suits them.  Usually they equate all of evolutionary theory with Darwin's work as a strawman so they can try and tear away pieces.

I do have a biological question about one of Denton's statements, he said "Organisms made one or the other".  That's not true is it?  Granted I have to go back a number of years to a biology class, but aren't there examples of both in the human body?  Let's try Wikipedia:
"A dermal bone or membrane bone is a bony structure derived from intramembranous ossification forming components of the vertebrate skeleton including much of the skull, jaws, gill covers, shoulder girdle and fin spines rays (lepidotrichia), and the shell (of tortoises and turtles)." (Wikipedia: Dermal Bone
"Endochondral ossification is one of the two essential processes during fetal development of the mammalian skeletal system by which bone tissue is created. Unlike intramembranous ossification, which is the other process by which bone tissue is created, cartilage is present during endochondral ossification. Endochondral ossification is also an essential process during the rudimentary formation of long bones, the growth of the length of long bones, and the natural healing of bone fractures." (Wikipedia: Endrochondral Bone)
That's what I thought, Denton's comment is wrong.  Humans produce bones using both processes.  Plus when you read the original article Denton started with, You have someone studying a subject for 20 years and then based on one article in the NY Times, Denton makes some erroneous statements, strange conclusions, and ends with a ridiculous prediction.

Even with that, what I found most interesting was this declarative statement, Denton's prediction.  He says 'no matter how extensively the fossil record is searched', really?  Isn't he making several assumptions?  First of all, is Denton a Paleontologist?

No, he's a Biochemist with a philosophical agreement with the ID community.  In fact he wrote one of the earliest books that influenced Phillip E. Johnson in his drive to form the Discovery Institute and legitimize his religious beliefs as science. That book (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis) was reviewed by actual scientists and they said that the book distorts and misrepresents evolutionary theory and contains numerous errors.  So, we have a Biochemist making predictions about the fossil record.  Anyone else see a problem with that?

Next issue, Denton seems to think the fossil record is a complete record.  Doesn't he realize that we are making new fossil discoveries all the time?  Paleontologists are still discovering, categorizing, and studying all the time.  As new discoveries are made, the fossil record changes, usually becoming more complete and better defined.  We discussed a good example of this back a few years ago.

Finally, the last part of his 'prediction' is his assumption that as the 'genetic gap' shrinks, and by that I believe he's saying that as we learn more and more and connect the fossil lineages closer and closer, there will never be a direct connection between limbs and fins.  So . . . I have to ask this, is Denton acknowledging that Intelligent Design in nothing more than a God-of-the-Gaps argument?

OK, maybe not 'god' of the gaps, but definitely using perceived gaps to try and make an argument against current evolutionary theory, oh wait, not current evolution, but 150-year old 'Darwinism', how could I confuse the two.  Denton called this a prediction, but in reality it's his opinion.  He might be right, but then how many opinions and even predictions opposing Evolution have come true?  Anyone else remember the "The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism".  If you haven't read it, you might give it a go.  It's a nutshell view of the many 'predictions' made against evolutionary theory and how none of them have come true.

Back to his prediction.  Since the two bone formation processes (dermal and endochondral) are two different processes that produce different types of bone, would there be an expectation of a transitional form demonstrating one type to change into the other or is it more likely that one may replace the other?  I don't know what future discoveries will be (and neither does Denton), but I think what Denton's done is take two widely different things and then predict they won't intersect.  What this reminds me of is a common Creationist complaint about a dog never giving birth to a cat.  His 'prediction' seems to be highly improbable -- by design.

Friday, September 2, 2016

OK, Enough Politics and Back to Having Fun with the Discovery Institute

First off, let me remind you of something we have spoken about a number of times, the Sternberg Peer Review Controversy, where the outgoing editor of a small scientific journal published a paper by the Discovery Institute's Stephen C. Meyer that was later retracted with this comment [I added the emphasis]:
"The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. For the same reason, the journal will not publish a rebuttal to the thesis of the paper, the superiority of intelligent design (ID) over evolution as an explanation of the emergence of Cambrian body-plan diversity. The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (, which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings." (Wayback Machine link)
Why am I reminding you of this?  Well today the DI mentioned it as well, only they forgot a few things.  They actually quoted the paper as if it was never retracted:
"Stephen Meyer explains in "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington:" (To Practice Science, We Must Philosophize)
Do they mention anything about the peer review controversy?  Or how the paper was published without proper peer-review?  Or even the simple fact that it was retracted?  No, they make it sound as if this paper was published and is an accepted part of actual scientific peer-review publications.

What do you think would happen if a real scientist referenced a retracted paper after the retraction?  Exactly . . . most likely unemployment, and deservedly so!  As for what happened after Sternberg violated the peer review process and published his friend's paper?  Ever wonder where is Sternberg working now?  The Discovery Institute's internal lab, the Biologics Institute.

The rest of the article in which the DI tries to pass off Meyer's retracted paper is pretty useless and much the same typical ID nonsense.  For example:
"Intelligent design employs this method of reasoning by observing what humans produce in the present -- namely, complex (unlikely) and specified (matching a pattern) information -- or CSI. This type of information is found, among other places, in computer code and machines. When we find the same properties of complexity and specification in nature, such as in DNA code and molecular machines like the bacterial flagellum, we make an inference to the best explanation: design by intelligence"
Note that Sarah Chaffee, the author of this particular post, uses 'Complex Specified Information (CSI) as if it means something.  CSI is a concept, an unsupported idea.  Did you notice the use of parentheses to change the definition of the terms.  The DI interchanges 'complexity' with 'likelihood of occurrence', but no one else uses that way of defining complexity.  There have been many criticisms of this idea and no one, particularly at the DI has bothered to offer any support other than pushing their idea as if it was reality, just as Sarah does here.  If you are interested in more criticisms of CSI, you can check this out.

I am not going to argue the use of Philosophy in Science, but I do have to argue that while assuming the actions of a deity/designer is philosophical, it has no support in the reality of science.  For example Scientific Philosophers argue the validity of the scientific method and scientific theories, but do they insert the actions of a deity doing inexplicable things into the conversation in an obvious effort to formalize one specific set of religious beliefs?  No!  Just look at:
"For instance, philosopher Jay Richards and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez argue in The Privileged Planet that the same conditions on earth that make scientific discovery possible also make habitability possible, and this points to design. They note, "Our situation is complex, certainly, but it is also exhibits a specification, a telling pattern, in which the rare conditions for habitability and measurability correlate." In other words, they are reasoning on the basis of CSI"
Aside from Richards and Gonzalez being Senior Fellows at the DI-- something Sarah fails to mention -- like Sarah, they assume complexity and specification in an unsupported way.  You can probably see why I refer to ID as nothing more than wishful thinking and conjecture!

I think we have a handle of the pseudo-scientific methodology of the DI:
  • Create a concept with no supporting evidence at all.
  • Make up some science-y sounding stuff about it.
  • Then just treat it like it means something.
Disagree?  OK, but then how do you explain everything we have seen from the DI since they were formed 20 years ago?  Have they deviated from this little three-step process?  Intelligent Design, CSI, Irreducible Complexity, Dembski's Design Filter, and Nelson's ontogenetic depth all fit perfectly.  Concepts that sound like real science and treated seriously only by the DI and their proponents.  The rest of us seem to be able to philosophize without the need for a deity to be involved.  The DI can't seem to do much without bending a knee.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I Believe it is Time to Part Ways with the Republican Party

I have been a Republican my entire voting life.  I registered Republican when I was eligible and while I have never voted strictly down party lines, I have believed in much of what the Republican Party has stood for in previous years.  But now, does anyone know what the Republican Party stands for today?

You see my dilemma, and while I would love to blame this parting of the ways on Donald Trump, I have to say it's been a long time coming.

For example something happened recently that makes me question much of the existing crop of Republicans, and it's something that has happened before.  Let me explain -- anyone remember the Dixie Chicks?  They made a few comments about then-President Bush that got them in a hot water with their fans, radio stations, and record companies.

Let me be clear, I disagreed with what they said. But as this quote, often mis-identified as being from Voltaire, explains my position:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
John F. Kennedy said something similar:
"If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."

We are supposed to have certain individual freedoms in this country, and one of those freedoms is free speech.  While I disagreed with the Dixie Chicks comment, they have the right to say it!  They were subjected to comments that threatened their citizenship, their career, their lives, and the lives of their children!  Much of the worse invective came from self-described patriots and conservatives.  I can understand not wanting to buy or listen to their music anymore, but death threats!

Apparently when it comes to 'free speech', far too many people think it means that folks are only free to speak publicly if they say something you agree with -- if not, you get to threaten their children.  That's not free speech!  Free speech doesn't not give anyone the right to threaten!  Make no mistake, death threats are an assault!  You've heard the phrase 'assault and battery'?
"In criminal and civil law, assault is an attempt to initiate harmful or offensive contact with a person, or a threat to do so.  It is distinct from battery, which refers to the actual achievement of such contact."(Wikipedia: Assault)
The Republican Party was founded on the ideology of 'Republicanism' which, among other things, stresses the rights of the individual.  Tell me what part of individual rights means you cannot speak out your opinion without fear of death threats for you and your children?  It is not patriotic to threaten someone with whom you disagree!  I would go as far as to say it's Un-American -- but when you consider the bombast and vitriol dripping from many self-avowed Republicans in recent years it's seems to be becoming Un-American not to threaten those you disagree with!

I would love to say this is an isolated incident, but it's happening again!  I disagree with Colin Kaepernick, one of the quarterbacks on the San Francisco 49'ers.  If you haven't heard, he refused to stand for the National Anthem and has cited several reasons why he will not stand.  Like I said, I disagree with him, but he has that right!  Like the Dixie Chicks, he's getting quite a backlash, again from self-described patriots and conservatives, including that rather ridiculous figure that gives Alaska so much negative publicity:
"America - let's sack this ungrateful punk. Kaepernick - yeah, you're really "down with the oppressed" in this nation. Enjoying your $114 million contract, your previous adoring fans, sucking up a life of luxury... GOD AND COUNTRY GAVE YOU THIS OPPORTUNITY. You can't acknowledge that? Then on behalf of every Vet I'm privileged to know: GET THE HELL OUT."(Palin's Facebook)
Agree or disagree -- fine -- but demand he leave?  He's probably cost himself millions in endorsements and it might jeopardize his position as an NFL Quarterback, but he has that right!  But no, right-wing nut jobs are threatening him and ones like Palin want to kick him out.  You know when people disagreed with Palin, they simply didn't vote for her.  Imagine the hue and whine if people treated her the way she's trying to treat Kaepernick!

I didn't want to turn this into an anti-Palin piece, but anyone else remember her defending that Duck Dynasty guy, claiming his right to free speech was violated?  Hmm, where was her defense of the Dixie Chicks, or for that matter, Colin Kaepernick?
 "Sarah Palin for one said (per CNN):
"Those 'intolerants' hatin' and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us," Palin, who met the series' cast while on a book tour in Louisiana, wrote on Facebook, along with a photo of her and the cast of the A&E series." (What’s the difference between Duck Dynasty & The Dixie Chicks?)
See what I mean?  As much as I would love to put the blame on people like Palin and Trump, it goes deeper than that.  They epitomize the problem, but they are not the cause for it.  I almost had some respect for Paul Ryan, but when he kowtowed and supported Trump, it was gone!  There don't seem to be any Republicans worthy of the label 'Republican'.

What I see is a disturbing trend that is being exemplified by people all too many people who self-identify as Republicans.  For quite some time I have felt that electing a President and Congress folks has not been an exercise in selecting the best person, but all too often it has boiled down to selecting the lesser of two evils.  That was bad enough several Presidents ago, but it's gotten to the point of being a farce.

Republicans used to stand for so many things that made sense, reducing the national debt, smaller government, conservative fiscal policies, individual freedoms . . . but where has that all gone?  The best you get today is lip service from dinosaurs who are so indebted to special interests that they forget they are supposed to be representing their constituents.  Disagree?  I welcome it, unlike others.

Here's a few examples:
  • The political power of the oil and gas companies and the nearly incessant denial of climate change, contrary to all of the evidence
  • The power of the NRA to block any legislation that might stand a prayer of dealing with the issue of gun violence. You might educate yourself on the Dickey Amendment, not just the language, but the impact over the last 20 years.
  • How many Republicans are pandering for the votes of the Christian Right?  It's not because they share the same beliefs, but because voicing narrow views shared by religious conservatives is a way to get them to vote for you.  Sure, tell me Donald has actually read the Bible?  Anyone believe that?
  • The amount of money shelled out by pharmaceutical companies for ownership of more than a small block of politicians, emphasizes most recently by the cost of EpiPens!.  
  • How about which politicians helped to tobacco and lead-additive companies get away with poisoning us for decades!
Now for more recent events, look at the collection of losers that ran for the Republican Nomination for President in 2015/16, look at them!  Religious panderers, failed business people, bombastic politicians who have never had an honest job.  You wouldn't let any of them babysit your kids and people want to give someone like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, or Donald Trump the nuclear codes?

No, it's time for the modern day Republican Party to dissolve.  It's over.  The party of Jefferson and Lincoln no longer exists!  The party I have supported for so long and continued to want to support has disappeared!  It's time for a new party, one that represents and respects individual rights!