Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Discovery Institute (DI) doesn't like Neil DeGrasse Tyson

OK, we all know the Discovery Institute (DI) doesn't like Neil DeGrasse Tyson. They didn't like him before his very popular re-vamping of Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' aired, and they thoroughly detested him afterwards, so much so they even wrote a book,  'The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos: Fact and Fiction in Neil deGrasse Tyson's Landmark Science Series', by . . . guess who . . . little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer.

Today klingy himself wrote a new post over on the DI's Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV) site and its sorta scary: "#Rationalia? Neil deGrasse Tyson's Authoritarian Daydream" is his latest post.  If you read it you take one one very simple idea, that the requirement for actual evidence equates to fascism.


I had to read through it twice to make sure I wasn't missing the point.  He couches it a number of different ways, but the bottom line is that any requirement for evidence equates to fascism.  As I thought about it for a few, it did make some level of sense, at least from the DI's point of view.  

Science is evidence based, no one can successfully argue against that fact, although many have tried -- especially the DI.  But no matter how you want to look at it, evidence is the determining factor when performing science.  Yes, you can scare up examples of 'extrapolation' and even 'interpretation' that didn't fit the bill, and while those can sometimes be a stumbling block, as work on any scientific subject continues, those things are eventually pushed to the side for an explanation that matches the evidence better and more reliably!  We've discussed the self-correcting activity of science any number of times.

That's why the DI is using one of their favorite tactics, equating something they do not like with something people generally don't like, the more evil the better.  How many times have they tried to claim Darwin and his theories are the cause of the Nazi's?  How often have they blamed racism and all sorts of societies ills on evolution . . ..  The list of them using this tactic is pretty long!  Now why would they be against evidence-based science to the point of trying to equate is with fascism?

For one reason, they haven't got any, evidence that is.  Seriously, where is the evidence for Intelligent Design?  Have they actually shown any?  Not yet!  Oh they have made the claim often . . . but the only ones who buy into their 'evidence' are people who already agree with their religious philosophy.  Their best is their intuition that biology must be designed because it looks like it must be designed!  So when faced with a requirement to put up or shut up, you have two options:  either you produce the evidence or you attack the requirement.  Since they have so far failed to produce any evidence, they are attacking the requirement.

In a few recent posts, we discussed their tactic of claiming the superiority of 'intuition' over scientific investigation ("New Discovery Institute Key Word: "Intuition" and Should Science Peer Review be replaced with Public Opinion? DI says yes . . . No Surprise There!), so you can see how they are trying to attack anything that smacks of a requirement of evidence.  They would much rather go with what they are calling 'intuition' and if you aren't sure, they'll tell you what to intuit . . . why 'design' of course!

I don't think they are going to get very far with this one.  The problem with explanations that 'feel good' are that they rarely meet the evidence.  Common sense and intuition are notoriously unreliable, pretty much a crap-shoot.  While you might get a nice warm feeling for a while when trusting your gut, all to often the evidence overrules you and one of the measure of success is how you deal with the results.  Yes, everyone can tell you stories about how their 'gut' did them good . . . but really think about it.  Much more rarely sre stories where their gut led them astray.  Is that because there are fewer stories, or because they don't like telling them?  Honestly consider your own gut, how reliable has it been for you?  How many times have you backed down from something because of your gut and it turned out that it would have been a good idea?  And how many times do you tell that story?  Like I said, a crap-shoot!.

Apparently when you are the DI and you get hit smacked in the face with the evidence, you deny,. prevaricate, and spin to keep your donations rolling in.  But those of us who don't rely on the belief system of strangers to keep sending us money, we have to rely on doing actual work . . . on producing results . . . unlike the DI, we get paid for results and the evidence supports that!

As I have said before, imagine how far you can get in your car while relying on intuition and wishful thinking.  If you want to get further than what's currently in your gas tank, you are going to have to stop for gas sooner or later!  Oh you can pray for divine guidance, but a gas station will get you going faster and more reliably.  When the feeling that you have plenty of gas runs smack into the gas gauge, guess who wins?

I believe that the DI will continue to dislike Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I consider it a very positive thing . . . for Professor Tyson!  If I could award a prize for annoying the toothless attack chihuahuas from the DI, He would be the first recipient!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

DI Pseudo-economist Comments on Brexit

Let's see normally Stephen C. Meyer, the Discovery Institute Director of The Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, confines himself to writing pseudo-scientific diatribes about Evolution (Signature in the Cell) and Paleontology (Darwin's Doubt and its admission of inadequacy: Debating Darwin's Doubt).

Now just days after the Brexit vote, days in which nearly every economist on the planet is basically saying they don't know what's going to happen . . . Meyer dons his pseudo-economist tweed jacket with mismatched elbow patches and has an article in the National Review.  The Discovery Institute has a press release on it, "Stephen Meyer on Brexit: Markets Have Nothing to Fear".  Just to remember, what is his background?

Meyer graduated Cum Laude in 1981 with a B.S. degree double major in Physics and Earth Science and a minor in Philosophy from Whitworth College . . . Cambridge University in the United Kingdom where he earned a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science  . . .(Wikipedia: Stephen C. Meyer)

I underlined his areas of study and funny . . . he's not an economist!  Yes, he is entitled to his opinion, but that's all it is, an opinion.  Like anyone commenting in such a way, he has a 50-50 shot at being right, but not that it matters.  I am sure the DI will find some way to spin it into a victory -- whatever the reality.  Suddenly they may well be marketing Meyer as an economist.  Maybe he is looking to expand his resume and follow in the footsteps of Dembski and Luskin and part ways with the DI!

Kennie's Ark Park about to Open, Sorry Kentucky! I feel your pain!

Yes, I haven't talked about it much, mainly because there isn't much to say.  Little kennie ham, with the help of a newly elected Republican Kentucky Governor, have once again made fools of the people of Kentucky and is opening an exhibit to showcase his narrow theological views and potentially leaving the people of Kentucky to pay for it . . . especially if his highly suspect attendance projections come in more like the reality of his other abortion, the Creation 'Museum'.  And all the time, he can discriminate against many of Kentucky's citizens as potential employees, while the taxpayers get to help pay for the privilege! ran this "Who pays for the new ark? Taxpayers help" and even the Boston Globe ran "Kentucky’s ark defies science but evokes a version of Christianity" it probably will piss little kennie off.  But then when anyone says absolutely ANYTHING he disagrees with, tends to piss him off.

I spoke too soon, he has already commented on the's article with "A Cincinnati Enquirer Ark Hit Piece".  I'm not going to quote it, you probably already know what it says, more and more defensiveness and unsupported comments about his motivations, as if the money means nothing to him.  He calls most of the press coverage and 'positive and balanced' and yet I have Google Alerts on both 'Ark Encounters' and 'Answers in Genesis' and something like 90% of the articles I have seen was more neutral and simply announcing it was coming and some of the details already known and well publicized by kennie and his Hamian publicity machine.  Although, maybe innocuous reporting is something kennie would consider positive?  Who knows!

Will I visit the Ark Park?  No!  I've already been to his other 'Monument to Scientific Ignorance', aka the Creation Pseudo-Museum, and have no intention of lining kennie's pockets with any more of my money.  If I want to go zip-lining, there are a great many other places for me to go, there are also many real museums within easy driving distance, especially the Cincinnati Museum Center, with its Children's Museum, History Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science, to name a few of the attractions there.  Indianapolis and Columbus also have some great museums, many of which I have visited at least once in the 20+ years I have lived here.  Wandering around a wooden structure based on a fairy tale that not only claims that an imaginary world-wide flood, but that humans and dinosaurs lived together -- which is contrary to every piece of paleontologist evidence -- is not for me.  I doubt I could contain my laughter with a second trip into kennie's delusions.

I am looking forward to one thing.  In 2010 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the 'Worlds Most Craptastic Tourist Attractions'.  Kennie's so-called-museum made the cut.  I am looking forward to them running a new article and am curious where the ark park will fall on the list and wonder what word they will use this time to describe these 'attractions', I really did love 'Craptastic', didn't you?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New Book Announcement . . . Not Really!

Caught this from my Google News alerts:

It looked like a new book announcement, something I don't ever look forward to from the DI, but you never know they might actually have something intelligent to say.  But as I looked at the cover, I thought it looked familiar . . . and it did.  This isn't a new book, it's not even a updated edition.  It's something they published back in 2007/2008!

Oh, they are using it to introduce a new publishing imprint:
" . . . published originally by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, now available to celebrate the launch of a new imprint of Discovery Institute Press, Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) Books."
Wait, wasn't the Foundation for Thought and Ethics the publisher of the now infamous 'Of Pandas and People', you know the one that showed the very clear evolution from Creationism to Intelligent Design that was revealed during the Dover Trial (remember 'cdesign proponentsists'?).  So they are now part of the Discovery Institute.  And to 'celebrate' the DI is offering this book at a huge discount!  I have to wonder how many copies have been gathering dust in a warehouse?

Wasn't this also the book that, once again, showed one of the common gutter-level tactics the DI and their sycophants use when releasing a new book? Ah yes, Panda's Thumb wrote about that in 2007:
"On November 19, 2007 a new book, The Design of Life, authored by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, was released. Almost immediately a stream of reviews, all giving the book 5 stars (the highest positive evaluation possible for readers’ reviews on Amazon) started appearing on the Amazon website. On December 20, 2007, Wesley Elsberry posted a brief survey of the exaggerated acclaims of the book in question posted on Amazon by a bunch of ID advocates – acclaims bearing unmistakable signs of orchestration. 
Elsberry’s survey could have been written even before this book appeared: the behavior of ID advocates follows a predictable pattern. Each time a new book by Dembski or Wells (or Behe, or any other of the Discovery Institute denizens) appears, their cohorts immediately start creating a ruckus, proclaiming the book in question the “end of Darwinism,” a great event in the history of humankind, destined to become a shining achievement in science, philosophy, sock mending, and culinary art." (Panda's Thumb: Dembski’s and Wells’s shenanigans - just a reminder)
Yes, that tactic -- release a book and have people who already agree with you jump over to Amazon to write all kinds of nice things about it.  They even write reviews BEFORE a book has been published, as we discussed here in Defensiveness 101.  As of today the ratings include 47% at one star and 43% as five stars.  When ordering the ratings by date, you do see a lot of front-end loading of five star ratings, including at least one by a then employee of the DI.  I do wonder if this re-publicizing will change that, hopefully for the better, like 99% one star.

Here is a kicker of a quote:
"When future intellectual historians list the books that toppled Darwin's theory,The Design of Life will be at the top." (Michael Behe)
Of course the announcement forgets to mention that Behe is a Senior Fellow of the DI, in other words, not very objective.  Besides, how long have Creationists been predicting the demise of Evolution?  On the one hand, if Evolution is ever 'toppled' it won't be by a Creationist pushing their religion.  It will by a scientist, or more likely a team of scientists, who make a number of breakthrough discoveries and replace one, or more, of the underlying theories supporting evolution with something with better explanatory power.  That's how science works.

On the other hand, if by some miracle Intelligent Design is found to have any scientific merit at all, this book won't even be mentioned.  It's nothing by a re-hash of already passed over arguments.  Re-publicizing it now in 2016 doesn't change it's lack of merit.  You really should read some of the one-star reviews.  Thy are pretty sharp and cut the book into confetti!  Here are some headlines:
There are plenty more to read.  If you really want to be entertained, read a few of the five-star ratings.  You can tell how many agree for no other reason than a shared philosophy.   I'm sure there will be an increase in ratings, what I am curious about is how many will be employees of the DI.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Human Nature, another thing the Discovery Institute knows little about!

In a post I read this morning, little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, one of the more prolific Discovery Institute (DI) talking heads, says something incredibly foolish. Here's his post "Intelligent Design and Human Exceptionalism" and here is the quote:

"Here's an analogy. Let's say you know two very wealthy people. One came by his wealth via a lottery, a blind process, and he sees no purpose or intention behind it. It was the luck of the draw. The other, whether he inherited his wealth or came by it through enterprise, perceives it as a gift motivated by an underlying design. His fortune is not by the luck of the draw. It was given to him on purpose.
Both individuals are exceptionally wealthy. Which is likelier to use his money to advance good causes, to share it with others, to see himself as, in some sense,deputized to put his fortune to noble uses?"
I underlined the two interesting phrases.  My comment to klingy it simple, isn't he making an awfully wild assumption here?  Does someone who wins the lottery required to see no purpose?  Is someone who inherits, or gains though enterprise, going to perceive it as a gift motivated by some underlying design?  Really?

Now I am not yet addressing the purpose of the article, I am focused on his statement.  It's an analogy klingy is using the try and force a square peg, Intelligent Design (ID), into a round hole, Human Exceptionalism.  But just look at his analogy.  His answer to his own question is, of course, the person who inherited or came through his work through enterprise is much more likely to put his fortune to noble uses.  This way he can try and create a relationship between ID, as he characterizes as inherited/enterprising, and evolution, which he characterizes as blind process.

Now here comes the human nature part of the equation that klingy ignores.  Do you agree that someone who inherits money, or comes to it through enterprise, is more likely to put that money to noble purposes?  And do you also agree that a lottery winner would be selfish and not share his money?

See what I mean?  I don't have statistics to support either answer, and I am sure that klingy doesn't either or he would have been spouting them.  He's expressing a point of view as if it's reality in order to spin things the way he wishes.  Think about it, how many spoiled, self-entitled brats have you read about who inherited their fortune?  We have names for them, 'trust fund babies/brats/bums'.  We read about them in the paper all the time.  Rich kids who flout the law because of their entitlement and wealth -- even self-made people who are horrendous examples of human beings.  As tempting as it would be to name a few names, I'm pretty sure you can think of a number of your own examples.  It is a pretty big leap to assume they are more likely to be using their fortune 'to noble uses'.

On the other hand, can you think of lottery winners who donates part, a majority, and even all of their winnings to charity?  That one is easy to Google and you see hundreds of examples.  Some people didn't need the money, others used a small part and donated the rest to avoid the issues that have been popularized by reports in the news and on TV of how 'The Lottery Ruined My Life.".  There were several examples of people donating their entire winnings away to one or more charities!  So, to me, it's an equally big leap to assume someone who won a lottery is more likely to not use that money for anything noble!

One a personal note, I am not wealthy, in the terms of money in the bank.  I have neither won the lottery nor inherited any great wealth.  While it might be interesting to win a lottery and see if it actually ruins my life, regardless, I am a donor to a number of charities.  I donate to charities that have affected myself, my family, and my friends personally.  For example charities related to heart, cancer, MS, diabetes, and Parkinson's diseases.  I also donate to some organizations like Goodwill, Vietnam Vets, Boy and Girl Scouts, Special Olympics and my local PBS/NPR station.

Do I give a sizable percentage of my income?  I'm not sure of the exact amount, but in all honesty, I doubt it.  I would be shocked if I even hit 10%, let alone anything sizable.  But then, I don't have a great deal of disposable income.  Like many people my most sizable expense each month is a mortgage and car payments and they take up a pretty big chunk.  After that its living expenses, like food, utilities, insurance, and retirement.  Followed by savings and a small emergency fund.  While you may or may not agree, I place those things well ahead of any charitable donations.  Does that make me 'noble' in some way?  I never thought of it that way . . . and I still don't.  I know that I don't feel 'deputized', I just behave in the way I was raised, and that included my charitable donations.

It's not based on the source of your money, donating is a personal decision and one I believe is more based on who you are than what you have.  Yes, a wealthy person can give more than I can, but they give not because they got it from a particular source, they give because of who they are!

As for the rest of the article, it's nothing more than another effort to make the idea of human exceptionalism into something more than it is.  It is a belief, most often based on religion (man is made in the image of one deity or another . . .).  Of course klingy tries to use such beliefs as justification for ID.  He also mis-characterizes ID as:
"On the other hand, against a backdrop of intelligent design, which is a scientific not religious argument for purpose behind nature . . ."
His misspelled 'science', when used in conjunction with ID, the correct spelling is 'pseudo-science'.  But then, this is what the DI does, they spin!  How many times have I, and many others have, pointed out examples.  This is clearly another one!  I honestly think they could spin any subject and find a way to make it sound as if it support ID.  Look at how many they have already spun.  As long as the donations come in, the spin will continue to entertain us.

Is Atheism a Religion?

Caught this from The Immoral Minority. "My new mantra."  For a change I read all the comments, some of them are hilarious!  The post introduced this:

"Atheism is not a religion, it's a personal relationship with reality." (source)
Even before going to the source I saw this as humorous, as in how many people like to try and define their religion as a 'personal relationship with  . . . pick a deity of your choice.  In the comments a couple of other analogies were mentioned that I might be using in the future:
"Atheism is a religion like "bald" is a hair color.
Atheism is being religious just like NOT playing guitar makes one a musician.
Caught a few more from the source:
Atheism is a religion, like off is a T.V. channel.
Like good health is a disease
Like abstinence is a sexual position -Bill Maher
Atheism is a religion as much as not collecting stamps is a hobby- Penn Jilette
[Like] Mute is a musical genre
Many of the comments devolved into a common argument that Atheism is some sort of religion.  All you have to do is look up the definitions of both Religion and Atheism and you can see the differences.
Religion (Merriam-Webster):
: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group 
Atheism (Merriam-Webster):
a : a disbelief in the existence of deity
b : the doctrine that there is no deity
I am sure one of the anti-atheists will point to the third definition of religion and say something like "See, I told you Atheism is a religion", but I say not so fast!

When you are having a discussion, context is probably more important than any specific definitions that might exist.  I mean look at the definition of the word 'base'.  There are 9 different categories of 'base', everything from the 'opposite of an acid', a Air Force location, to the 'four corners of a baseball diamond'.  Context is what determines what definition applies to a given conversation.  More importantly, the context should remain consistent in a conversation in order for actual communication to occur.  

I mean can you imagine a baseball announcer saying "Jones just slid into third base, and while he was safe, the pH level of the base burned his exposed skin badly!" Huh?  Changing from one definition to another in mid-stream is a tactic . . . usually of the gutter variety . . . in order to try trip people up.

Let's look at the first definition of Religion:
"the belief in a god or in a group of gods"
When you are talking Christianity, Hindi, Muslim . . . or any of the thousands of Religions that exist, or have existed, this definition certainly applies.  Does this definition apply to Atheism?  Don't change any of the words . . . look at the definition!  No it cannot!  So when discussing the two, if you are keeping the context coherent, Atheism is not a religion, according to this definition.

Now for number two:
"an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods"
While I would say this is more for 'Organized Religion' than just 'religion', let's ask the same question, does this apply to Atheism?  No, it does not.  As soon as you mention worshiping a god or gods, you cannot apply this definition to Atheism.  Atheism is not a religion, again according to this definition.

Now for number 3:
": an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group "
Yes, this definition can apply to Atheism . . . but look how vague and general it is.  This definition can apply to damn near anything!  According to this, Baseball is a religion . . .OK that might be a bad example because I know some folks who do think baseball is a religion!  But look again, the Girl Scouts are a religion, according to this definition.  Hell's Angels, a High School band, a game of Stoop-Ball (NYC reference) . . . the club some of my buddies and I formed when we were 8 years old qualifies as well, our doctrine was "No Girls Allowed!".  Got a weekly poker game?  You didn't realize that it could meet the definition of a religion as well.

You could say some of these things aren't 'very important', but that would be an opinion.  I follow the NY Mets . . . but I don't consider Baseball to be very important . . . others don't share my interest and still others place a much higher value on it.  My club when I was 8 was of critical importance at the time, after girls had cooties :-).  I know a couple of guys who take their weekly poker game incredibly seriously, to the point of threatening their marriages and jobs!  It's up to the individual as to what level of importance something is, not anyone on the outside.  That's why this definition is pretty useless.

Why useless?  Think about context -- and look at the third definition again.  How many theists would use that to define their religion?  Be honest!  Therefore you cannot use this definition to make an apples-to-apples comparison between Atheism and Religion because theist wouldn't use this definition to frame a conversation about their religion.  It's too general to be useful.  That and all the bennies they get in the way of taxes and other things might dry up if belief in a deity wasn't involved, right?  

But as you read the comments from Gryphen's post, you see this sort of bait-and-switch happening. Some of the Anonymous comments certainly show that when discussing their beliefs, they are using definition one or two . . but when trying to claim Atheism is a religion, the only definition they can use is the third . . . which does nothing for their case.  They simply change the context, whether deliberately or without realizing it.

So, in my opinion, Atheism is not a Religion in any sense of the word.  It espouses no belief, it is not organized, there are no Churches establish for the non-worship of a non-deity.  Yes, there are some groups of like-minded people who have banded together, but while you can define them as a social or cultural group, they are not a religion any more than the live audience of America's Got Talent is . . . by definition.

One thing I haven't addressed is why, in my opinion, do people try and equate the two.  That's pretty easy.  When you artificially equate two things, you can more easily argue against one or in support of the other.  It's the same tactic calling Evolution 'just a theory', changing the definition of a scientific theory to the definition of the colloquial use of the term 'theory' is an effort to degrade what a scientific theory really means.  Calling Atheism a religion is a similar tactic.  Claiming a non-belief is actually a belief artificially equates the two and makes it easier to argue.  What theists who make such argument fail to realize is how amusing it is to watching the pseudo-logic you use to justify your position.  Gotta love things like:
"I think religion can be simply defined as a "system of beliefs". Under that definition, atheism is a system of belief that consists of "I only believe what can be proven"."
Look how the theist had to come up with their own definitions in order to equate the two! How entertaining is that?  Their definition of religion is nearly as useless as the third one from above, and their definition of Atheism is nonsensical.  Seriously, if that were the definition of Atheism . . . and Atheism is the polar opposite of Religion . . . then the theist's belief in a religion would be "I only believe in what cannot be proven." and be even sillier than their professed beliefs.

For the record I do not categorize myself as a theist, an atheist, or an agnostic.  I am an Apathist.  In other words, I don't care about your religious or non-religious beliefs -- well not until you try and force them on me.  Funny, I think I discovered another difference between the Theist and the Atheist, guess which one keeps trying to force me to comply with their beliefs?  You get one guess and it's not the Atheist.

Yes, I am sure some Theist is going to claim that Atheist efforts to remove mention of a deity from government-sponsored events is forcing their Atheistic 'beliefs' on me . . . but remember, who pushing their religion into those events in the first place?  For example the American Pledge of Allegiance did not originally include the phrase 'Under God' until 1954!  How many times have theists been pushing to have their religion taught in Science class or even History class , , , yes History as in the foolish claim that The US was established as a Christian Nation . . . that History.

While I do think that some Atheists go a little overboard.  I mean Christmas is more of a secular holiday nowadays, so whining when someone says "Merry Christmas" is a bit ridiculous.  But for decades Theists have pretty well had a free hand to define so many things with regard to their religion and forced other people to comply . .  like blue laws . . . I am one that hopes common sense eventually wins out, but looking at the current crop of politicians, I doubt it.

But back to the main point.  Atheism is not a religion and anyone who makes such a claim is building a strawman in order to take pot-shots at it.  Which means, at least to me, you have no actual argument and certainly no real defense for your theist beliefs . .  so you have to create artificial arguments in order to justify your belief set.  Good luck with that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Should Science Peer Review be replaced with Public Opinion? DI says yes . . . No Surprise There!

Doug Axe has a new post over on EnV: "Public Opinion Is the Ultimate Peer Review" and as you can guess I disagree with a lot of what he says.  He is, in my opinion, taking a commencement speech way out of context.  The original speech was printed up in the New Yorker, "The Mistrust of Science" and, in my opinion is a damn good speech.  Before getting into Doug's spin, I want to look at the commencement address myself.

The speaker, Atul Gawande, is a contributor to The New Yorker for quite a while.  He's also an author, a surgeon, a professor, the executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health-systems innovation, and the chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally.  His main topic for this particular speech is dealing with the public's growing mistrust of science.  I am not terribly surprised that someone from the Discovery Institute is commenting on the speech, after all they are one of the main purveyors of scientific mistrust, are they not?  Let's see . . . evolution is ONLY a theory . . . teach the controversy . . . Darwin caused the Holocaust . . . let's re-baptize Jefferson, Wallace, even Superman as ID proponents . . .  they claim scientific status without using any scientific methodology . . . yea, definitely purveyors of scientific mistrust.

This is a great speech and one I hope the graduates take to heart.  Here is my favorite part, and I almost can't wait to get to the end so I can see if Doug responded specifically to:

"Science’s defenders have identified five hallmark moves of pseudoscientists. They argue that the scientific consensus emerges from a conspiracy to suppress dissenting views. They produce fake experts, who have views contrary to established knowledge but do not actually have a credible scientific track record. They cherry-pick the data and papers that challenge the dominant view as a means of discrediting an entire field. They deploy false analogies and other logical fallacies. And they set impossible expectations of research: when scientists produce one level of certainty, the pseudoscientists insist they achieve another."
If I didn't know better I would think I was reading a checklist of everything Doug and his Lords and Masters at the Discovery Institute (DI) do.   Remember, Doug works for the 'Biologics Institute', which is the pet 'laboratory' of the DI.  But you gotta look at this, tell me it's not the DI:
  • Conspiracies:  How many times have we heard how the DI isn't taken seriously . . . how the DI can't get published in real scientific journals, or how 'Big Science' is keeping them out of the classroom.  Too many times to count . . . all I hear is George Carlin's 'It's a conspiracy, man!'
  • Lack of a credible scientific track record:  Or do you think people like William Dembski, Casey Luskin, Paul Nelson, and even Michael Behe have actual scientific track records for ID.  Yes, even Professor Michael Behe who has done absolutely no science to support his idea of irreducible complexity -- he admitted so in court.
  • Cherry-picking:  Although I think you can also add quote-mining here.  How often has the DI taken real scientific research and tried to frame it in a different way, claiming the research, or the scientists themselves are supporting ID.  Remember the list of 44 publications the DI presented to the Ohio State School Board claiming support for ID . . . and how the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) contacted the majority of the authors (26 of 34) and found the authors were surprised to learn their work could be construed to support ID in any fashion.  Doug's discussion of this speech is another good example, he pretty well ignored this part.
  • False analogies and other logical fallacies:  The whole tautological argument of if it looks designed, it must be designed . . . of trying to equate the definition of 'theory' with the more precise definition of 'scientific theory' in order to artificially equate ID with real science.  I might so another post later to see how many logical fallacies I can attribute to the DI.
  • Impossible research expectations:  Also known as 'moving the goalposts'.  How often has the DI bunch of talking heads demanded that evolution has to provide a complete evolutionary pathway in order to be deemed worthwhile . . . and yet ID isn't required to explain anything.  One set of rules for science and no rules at all for the DI.  Remember Behe during the Dover trial, when faced with over 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications refuting his claims of irreducible complexity he said that it was not enough!
In the next paragraph Gawande says:
"But when you see several or all of these tactics deployed, you know that you’re not dealing with a scientific claim anymore. Pseudoscience is the form of science without the substance."
The DI is hitting 5 for 5!  Pseudo-science at it's . . . well  . . . best!

The rest of the speech focused on how to deal with such mistrust.  I like his approach.  As anyone who has had an argument with a creationist, presenting the holes in their arguments doesn't do much good.  All you tend to do is drive them into a philosophical corner and they start spouting Bible verses, real and imaginary ones.  His approach is a more positive one, keep asserting the real science, the good science.  When someone quotes an anti-vaxxer, talk about the diseases nearly eradicated by vaccines.  When an anti-evolutionist goes off the deep end, talk about the benefits of evolution in medicine, food production, and the environment.

Now, Doug on the other hand presents a pretty typical commentary.  He strings together some personal revisionist history, some innocuous sounding phrases and then he completely glosses over the five ways to identify pseudo-scientists.  Yes, this is all he says about it:
"Gawande gave five handy tips for writing people off as pseudoscientists, but instead of alienating people by dismissing them in this way, what if we were to view public opinion as the ultimate form of peer review?"
Yes, I can see why he would want to get past this part very quickly, after all, the only thing he could possibly do is try and spin how the DI's tactics don't meet this critieria.  That would be a very hard sell.  So he takes a different tactic and ignores it.  Poor Doug!  Ignoring it doesn't mean each and every one of those pseudo-science pointers doesn't  apply, it only means he didn't have the intestinal fortitude to address them.  I really wish he had addressed them, because it would have been hilarious!  Although apparently he didn't read the rest of the speech for comprehension.  Gawande also said:
"Having a scientific understanding of the world is fundamentally about how you judge which information to trust. It doesn’t mean poring through the evidence on every question yourself. You can’t. Knowledge has become too vast and complex for any one person, scientist or otherwise, to convincingly master more than corners of it."
Yet Doug wants to make the general public the ultimate form of peer review?  So Gawande basically says it's not possible for any one person to be experts in all fields, Doug wants to make science answer to the general public.  Yes, as long as various polls show a majority supporting various forms of Creationism over science, Doug wants that to be the determining factor.  Of course once the pendulum swings and places folks like Doug in the minority, he'll be changing his tune really quickly.

The reality seems to be that no one appears to be able to critique intelligent design . .  after all how many times has the DI whined about any criticisms by claiming the critic 'didn't understand' ID . . . he's never going to allow ID to come under any form of peer review . . . at least not when the DI isn't holding the controls.  Think again how often they claim to have published 'peer reviews' that are nothing but comments by people who already support the DI and their pet version of Creationism?  We've discussed it many times, for example in "Is it Peer-Reviewed?"

But Doug and his buddies would love it if the scientific peer review process, which is not a perfect process by any means, was replaced with one more subject to the whims of the general public.  Think of how much more mileage the DI can get out of the opinion polls.  Suddenly popular opinion equates to peer review!  How ridiculous.

Yes, the scientific peer review process isn't perfect.  But is bypassing it for the court of public opinion an improvement?  I am no rocket scientist, so now my opinion is the equal of actual rocket scientists when it comes to rocket science?  I think not!  I'm sure I can tell them a few things about computer programming, repairing radar equipment, and maybe teaching community college classes, but when it comes to rocket science, the experts need to have a greater weight.  As Gawande said about the scientific community:
"Beautifully organized, however, it is not. Seen up close, the scientific community—with its muddled peer-review process, badly written journal articles, subtly contemptuous letters to the editor, overtly contemptuous subreddit threads, and pompous pronouncements of the academy— looks like a rickety vehicle for getting to truth. Yet the hive mind swarms ever forward. It now advances knowledge in almost every realm of existence—even the humanities, where neuroscience and computerization are shaping understanding of everything from free will to how art and literature have evolved over time."
Let's see Doug discuss all the advances in scientific knowledge that have come out of the Discovery Institute?  See what I mean?  For an organization that has yet to advance any knowledge, Doug is recommending that we abandon the current peer review process for a public opinion type review.  Does he really think this would be an improvement?

In my opinion, this is nothing but an effort to artificially elevate ID.  Think about it, who is critiquing ID?  Pretty much every scientist, right?  So how to best address all that criticism?  Rather than actually do the scientific work that might support ID, they want to remove the peer review process and water down science.  I guess that's about the only way ID will gain any ground.  After all, they sure aren't doing it in Doug's lab.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Surprise . . . Surprise . . . Surprise . . . Politicos who pander for Votes . . . Wow!

One of my Google Alerts pointed me to "Lawmakers might introduce ‘anti-evolution’ legislation to appease religious constituents, researchers theorize".  I've spoken about politicians who support pseudo-science pandering for years.  Nice that someone is actually studying it . . . although was it really necessary?  

I recall a study from a long time ago about the military applications of the Frisbee.  It was given up when it was determined that a Frisbee doesn't go where you wanted it to go.  I recall another one that determined mothers prefer children's clothing that don't require ironing. . . so I think there are some things that maybe don't need to be studied to death.

As for the pandering politicians, I agree that politicians are supposed to support their constituents, but does that mean helping them over a cliff?  When a politicians sponsors a bill -- one they know will not pass -- for the express purpose of appeasing part of their constituency . . . aren't they wasting time and resources that could be put to productive use?  How many man-hours went into the 110 anti-evolution bills from 2001 - 2012?  What an absolute waste!  I mean some folks get up in arms when a state spends hours debating the State Bird, or the State Reptile.  Shouldn't folks realize how wasteful this is as well?

Some might point to Tennessee and Louisiana, the only two states to pass anti-evolution bills, as successes . . . but you do realize neither state has put those bills into much practice.  They fear, and rightly so, the legal cost once they do.  Louisianan tried to add some built-in measures to make it hard to challenge in court , , , but those haven't been tested yet either.  It cost one school system in Dover PA over a million dollars . . . what might it cost those two states?  All for a few politicos gain a few more votes . . . and become laughingstocks at the same time!  

I know it's not going to stop.  Most politicians aren't the brightest bulbs in the pack.  Why focus on actually educating their constituents when pandering is so easy.  If the majority of their voting constituents wanted to act like lemmings, I am sure a pandering politician will be more than glad to help . . . as long as they vote before jumping!  All too many politicians are so incredible short-sighted. Is there some partial-lobotomy before they get sworn into office?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Defensiveness, Thy Name is Ann!

Even just this past evening, when I was perusing various websites I came across yet another rebuttal from Ann Gauger on being called to task in a post from Dr. Vincent Torley .  Aside from the whole defensiveness of her post, this is the part that got my attention:

"Common descent cannot explain why egg-laying genes were lost earlier in one lineage than another, since it could have happened either way.  . . . 
From a design perspective, I would say the reason for the difference in apparent inactivation times is because each animal has a different design."
Like most posts from the DI, on the surface it looks fairly innocuous, but are they equivalent comments?  Look at the first one.  According to Ann there is something common descent cannot explain.  Maybe not, but I do have to question the role of common descent, is it to describe the why of an occurrence?  Or is the occurrence itself enough to establish the commonality that supports common descent?

If she claims that common descent can't explain why . . . shouldn't she be asking the same of her mythical designer?  Her comment should be explaining the reason why her mythical designer chose to use different inactivation times for different organisms, but no, she gives the generic because 'it was designed' without any support to actual make a design determination. Wouldn't that make a more apples-to-apples comparison than the way she put it?

Let's get to the root of the problem with intelligent design.  Green-screen Ann says the reason is a choice by the designer.  At that point, she stops asking questions.  The topic is done, she's satisfied.  Yet real scientists are rarely satisfied with such a limited and limiting answer.  They want to understand not just what happened . . . but how it occurred . . . and even why something happened.  Even if it looks like they might never find the answer to a specific 'why' question, they keep digging and learning, and uncover many other marvelous things about the subject at hand.  Whereas the ID proponent hits the theological wall and stops thinking about it.

I believe that if the intelligent design crowd even attempted to take it to another level and claim why their version of a deity did something, the rest of the theists might chase them out of town with torches and pitchforks.  No, they like to keep things as vague as possible while demanding biology take things to a level they will never dare go. Where is Ann asking how the 'designer' did it?  She doesn't ask, because she doesn't care.  She reached the end of her curiosity with her answer of the mythical designer.  Science is never 100% certain, to feel that level of certainty, you need religion.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I think I have a new Favorite Newspaper!

Back during the Dover Trial, I enjoyed the coverage from the York Dispatch, which was linked from a variety of sites.  That paper was certainly discussed in Lauri Lebo's book "The Devil in Dover", which I enjoyed immensely and have mentioned in a number of previous posts.  I was on Facebook and caught a post from Lauri pointing at an editorial from the York Dispatch.  It is a masterpiece.

Here a link to the article "EDITORIAL: Ban us, you big baby".  Rather than reproduce it, I will quote a couple of things, but I heartily suggest you click the link and enjoy it in its entirety.  Like most folks, I was aware of Trump's war on the media.  I hadn't realized that some media outlets would see it as a badge of honor to be so banned  . . . and I just have to quote this:
"We also believe you’re [Trump] acting like a spoiled-rotten child — the petty poster boy for why we need a strong Fourth Estate. (It’s how the grown-ups sometimes refer to journalists, dating back to … oh, never mind.)"
I mean . . . damn!  I did also love when they ranked a Trump Event as less important than a new Starbucks grand opening!  At the end, they sign off with:
"Sincerely, and with all the respect you’re due,"
Yes, with all the respect he is due . . . LOL.  I thought it was done, but they added a little editor's note:
"(Editor’s note: This opinion piece has been changed to clarify Donald Trump has the demeanor of an over-indulged 2-year-old.)"
I hope they end up on Trump's sh** list, I cannot imagine a better place to be!  Without a doubt this has been an example of the worst side of American Politics.  Not just Trump, although he is the absolute bottom, but when you look at all of the potential candidates that started back a while ago, you can clearly see what John Oliver recently called the 'Cirque De Dismay', would you trust any of them to pet sit your dog?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Can the Discovery Institute be Trusted?

You know I don't trust anything the Discovery Institute (DI) has to say. I do also believe that I have amply justified why I do not trust them, over and over again. Just in case you missed any of my other 300+ posts that mention the DI, here is another example.

In a post over on the Evolution 'news' and Views site, a site nearly completely dedicated to the views more than any real discussion of news, one of their friends posted this "Why Should Evolutionary Biology Be So Different?". The author is Grant Sewell, and he opens with this:

"In the current debate between Darwinism and intelligent design, the strongest argument made by Darwinists is this: in every other field of science, naturalism has been spectacularly successful, why should evolutionary biology be so different?"
Really? That's the best argument for evolution?  The DI is telling us what our best 'argument' is, does anyone else see a problem with that?  This is why I think the Discovery Institute has never been, is currently not, nor will ever be considered a reliable source for information on any subject.  Does anyone believe that this argument is the strongest argument made in favor of evolution over the non-scientific intelligent design?  Is it an argument?  Certainly! But the strongest?  Not by a long shot!  But if you put even a smidgen of trust in the DI, you probably get your science news from Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly, so you probably buy into this. Thankfully the majority of the world knows better.

As for this specific argument, you might also think about this.  Biology, like all natural sciences, follows the Scientific Method.  Which is explained well from Wikipedia:
" . . . a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning" (Wikipedia:  Scientific Method
So let me get this straight, the methodology that has been  . . . to use Grant's words . . . 'spectacularly successful' for every other natural science is somehow lacking when it comes to Biology?  Does he present any basis for that  claim?  Just look at the description?  It applies just as well to Biology as it does to Physics, Chemistry and a host of others.  If Biology actually used a different methodology, Grant and his pals would be screaming bloody murder, but they can't, so they make unsupported claims in religious publications and expect people to agree.

Didn't the DI miss a few arguments?  How about Biodiversity, Punctuated Equilibrium, Paleontology, Climatology, Physics . . . how about Genetics?  Once claimed to be the death knell of Darwin's theories turned out to be the strongest possible evidence in support of evolution.  I changed words there . . . did you catch it? Instead of calling genetics an argument for evolution, I called it evidence supporting evolution. There is a difference, and one I am sure the marketeers from the DI realize.

Which is another reason I distrust the DI is the way they like to spin things.  Calling something an argument implies what exactly?  A disagreement, two sides battling it out.  They want people to believe there is an actual argument going on about evolution vs creationism, as if the two sides were equivalent.  The reality is the scientific examination of the DI and their pet version of Creationism, aka Intelligent Design (ID), was settled a long time ago.  ID is defined as pseudo-science and nothing the DI has attempted -- not their marketing, their pandering to politicians, their anti-science bill authorship, or their testifying in court has changed that.  Which is why they concentrate their efforts on selling to people who already believe the same set religious beliefs.  

There isn't a scientific argument, there is only scientific evidence. Where is the evidence that negates evolution? Creationists of one stripe or another have been announcing the death of evolution pretty much since it was first postulated. Yet they have not bothered to amass any evidence contradictory to science, let alone build a case for any alternative, religious or non-religious.  The second question is where is the evidence supporting Creationism/intelligent Design?  Real evidence, not wishful thinking and conjecture.

If you read Grant's article, which apparently comes out of one of his books, you might wonder why it wasn't published by the Discovery Institute Press (DIP), the DI's internal publishing group.  You should know that there are many other publishers who have the same 'standard' of evidencial support as DIP does (which is none at all), and the publisher, Resource Publications, is one of them.  In fact here is something from their own About page:
"For the first time, scholars within the churches of Christ are producing a complete book-by-book commentary on the entire Bible. Every church library, every Christian school library, and every Christian home will benefit from this reference set."
So you see, we aren't talking about a scientific journal, we are talking about a religious publishing house.  No wonder the DI is referencing Grant's book and giving him space on EnV, it's all about religion . . . again.

I did find it interesting that Grant had to go back to 1888 to find information that he quotes, like this:
"Joseph LeConte, professor of geology and natural history at the University of California, and (later) president of the Geological Society of America, provides an insight into the way most scientists think about evolution, in his 1888 book Evolution."
Aside from Professor LeConte's primary contributions to science were in Geology, not Biology, I have to wonder why Grant couldn't find something more recent.  He goes on to make a pseudo-valid point:
"That's the way science works, if one theory fails, we look for another one; why should evolution be so different?" 
First of all, has evolutionary theory failed?  Has Darwin's contributions been found to be lacking? Has the 150+ years of scientific work supporting and expanding biological knowledge failed?  Grant is making a massive assumption.  In modern times, how many current theories have been replaced wholesale?  None that I can think of.  What happens is the current state of knowledge gets expanded and increased.  It's not like current knowledge lacks support, it's just as we learn more, we can add to it.  That's what's been happening since Darwin first published.  Even if by some miracle Evolution was disproven, that doesn't mean intelligent design would step into it's place.  Any new scientific theory would  scale the same level of evidence that ID has so far failed to address.  Grant also makes another point:
"Many people believe that intelligent design advocates just don't understand how science works, and are motivated entirely by religious beliefs."
Finally he said something I can sort of agree too .  Not completely.  I believe ID advocates do understand science and scientific methodology.  How else do they avoid it so conspicuously?  You do know Grant can't just leave it at that, he goes on a diatribe, including pictures, and makes a restatement of Hoyle's Fallacy, the tornado argument.
"The original context of Hoyle's argument was against abiogenesis, not evolution. Nevertheless, opponents of evolution occasionally use it when discussing aspects of evolutionary biology. The analogy is exceptionally poor when compared to the process of evolution, as one of the main mechanisms of evolution is natural selection which is non-random." (Rational Wiki: Hoyle's Fallacy)
After that, it's strawman time.  Look at this line:
"Anyone who claims to have a scientific explanation for how unintelligent agents like tornados might be able to turn rubble into houses and cars would be expected to produce some powerful evidence, if they want their theory to be taken seriously. "
Since science in no way claims that an unintelligent 'agent' like a tornado can turn rubble into houses, all Grant has done is built a little strawman and then uses it to justify his opposition to evolutionary theory.  I've asked this question before, but if a tornado is such a great analogy of evolution, where is the mechanism for selecting results?  Evolution has such a mechanism, it's called 'Natural Selection'.  When it comes to plant and animal breeding programs, we call it 'Artificial Selection'.  So where is the selection mechanism for a tornado?  Without it, the analogy breaks immediately.  Of course Grant's strawman doesn't go toward supporting any alternative explanation, but that tends to be a constant oversight from ID proponents.

So, in summary, Grant tries to tell us what our strongest argument is -- using a religious publication, then he uses an exceptionally poor analogy to question evolution and finally build an inexplicable strawman rationalization.  Anyone get anything worthwhile from this?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Can Anyone from the Discovery Institute be Considered Objective?

Ann Gauger, the infamous Discovery Institute (DI) Queen of the Green Screen, has a new post on the Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV) site:  "Vincent Torley Thinks I Have Egg on My Face"  She starts off on pretty shaky ground:

"Intelligent design states that there is evidence of design in the universe. I think we are in agreement on this point. In terms of biology, how the designer instantiated that design is still subject to debate, based on the strength of the evidence for each position."
Isn't this a little pat?  I mean Gauger presents Intelligent Design as if it's fait accompli.  One very large and resounding 'No!', we are not in agreement that there is evidence of design in the universe. What we are willing to agree to is that there is only the appearance of design!  Gauger makes it sound as if ID is a foregone conclusion, and maybe to her it is, but to actual working scientists and the majority of the rest of the world, it's nothing more than an attempt to inject religion into science. Biology is not debating how the designer instantiated design, Biology has already dismissed her designer as irrelevant to the study of biology.  It is not subject to scientific debate, only cultural and political debate.  ID is defined as pseudo-science, Annie seems to keep forgetting that.
The rest of her post is supposed to describe how objective she is when she's doing whatever it is she does for the DI.  But when she starts off like she did, is she really capable of objectivity?  She even has the temerity of saying:
"About the data being correct and my questioning it: All scientists are (or should be) taught in graduate school to critically evaluate conclusions."
Yet isn't her whole career at the DI predicated on failing to critically evaluate a very specific conclusion--that of an intelligent designer.  You know, the one the DI dislikes formally naming?  Privately it's the Christian God, but publicly it's the 'intelligent designer'.  So much for 'critical evaluation'.  By the way, isn't that a term the DI likes to toss around, but they don't seem to really mean it.  When they use 'critical evaluation', they mean to denigrate actual science but never seem to enjoy it when anyone actually critically evaluate ID, do they?

The last part of her rebuttal to critics sounds more like an effort to justify the whole Intelligent Design Movement:
" . . .whether it is strongly or weakly supported by the evidence, and whether we are justified in considering alternate explanations."
As usual, DI mouthpieces say things that sound so reasonable.  But when placed within the context of their goals for their religious beliefs . . . it takes on a very different meaning.  Does anyone consider Intelligent Design as an alternative explanation to evolution?  No, Gauger wasn't addressing Intelligent Design in this comment, but to me anything she says has to be examined against that whole premise.  At best ID is an alternative premise, an idea, and one based on religion.  It doesn't have any actual scientific support, so it's not an explanation.  Scientific Theories are explanations -- premises, particularly those driven by religious wishful thinking, are not explanations.

Should we consider ID?  I think we already have, certainly in its current state.  Even Judge Jones, in his Kitzmiller v. Dover et al, said:
"After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science."
ID may one day be considered more than pseudo-science, but not until its adherents get off the marketing campaigns and into the lab, and not a green screen version of a lab either!  Until they do that, they will continue to be relegated to the same bookshelf as Tarot Cards, Phrenology, and Astrology -- and justifiable so!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Is the Universe an Awful Waste of Space?

You know the Discovery Institute can pretty much take anything and turn it into a binary set, either it supports Intelligent Design (ID) or it doesn't support ID.  Case in point this little missive from one of my favorite ID sources, little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer and the DI site: Evolution 'News' and Views (EnV) 'Objection to Intelligent Design -- Universe Is Too Big, with Too Much "Wasted Space"'.

The DI has taken an old comment of Carl Sagan's and tried to turn it into a strawman critique of ID and then they demolish the strawman and claim another victory for ID.  The original quote: 
"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." (Carl Sagan: Contact)
It was from Sagan's book 'Contact' and also used in the movie of the same name. It is an interesting thing to say and something that has provoked a lot of thought.  Now, did Sagan state it as an argument against God?  Not that I recall, but I might have to re-read Contact to make sure.  But in all honesty, whether you want to adhere to the Creationist explanations or the scientific explanations, if we are the only life in the universe, it is pretty wasteful, isn't it?

Of course, waste is an opinion, a point of view, right?  Think about an 8 oz glass with 4 oz of wine.  To some the glass is half-empty, to some others it's half-full.  To an engineer, it's too much glass and to a very good friend of mine, it's not nearly enough wine.  So whether or not you consider the entire Universe wasted space is pretty much an opinion, one that I happen to agree with, but it's still an opinion. 

But before going any deeper, I would like to point something else out, something the DI likes to pretend isn't important.  Yes, my single favorite topic when discussing the DI, their religion.  The original article klingy is referencing included this quote, one he didn't use for some reason:
"It’s a strange question, isn’t it? Chances are it’s never even occurred to you. But I like it anyway, not because it’s an especially profound thing to ask, but because it leads to some really encouraging thoughts about God’s greatness, His power, His glory — which He wants to share with us all, even though He doesn’t have to. God can afford that, too."
In fact, the article mentions God 15 times in a very short article.  The source is a website called 'The Stream', which, if you haven't guessed, is a faith-based news site.  Yes, if the DI, and their pet version of Creationism is not a religious proposition, why is klingy using an article that is very specific about its intent, and it's certainly not science.  So, as usual, klingy, and the DI, use religion and religious sources of information, but any religious connotation is supposed to be ignored?

OK, off my favorite soapbox for now.  You know me, I'll probably mention it again.  What I do find interesting is that klingy seems to go out of his way to avoid using the word 'God'.  Does he think he's fooling anyone?  Seriously?

OK, back to klingy's article, which is nothing new, like this:
"this argument points to the unique fitness of the universe and of our planet for upright bipeds like ourselves. The whole thing appears set up for us, and only for us."
Ah yes, the privileged planet argument, also frequently put forth by the . . . DI.  Yes, this is nothing more than a restatement of a premise they have yet to support with anything . . . anything at all.

What I don't get is how they don't realize how self-limiting this argument is, especially when you consider how little of the Universe we have explored yet.  The instance we do discovery any form of life, especially one very different to us, this whole argument is flushed.  In my opinion this argument is nothing but an expanded God-Of-The-Gaps argument.  Think about it.  What justification do they make with this argument?  That we have yet to discovery life anywhere else, in other words . . . a gap.  But like all gap arguments, as soon as we learn something new about the subject, it's done.  To an ancient Greek, Apollo might have been the answer, but it's done.  To close-minds like kennie ham, Creationism is responsible for everything . . . aside from a cultural/political argument, it's done!  That's what will happen to the whole privileged planet argument.

I'm sure Creationists will survive, they will simply evolve new arguments, after all, isn't Intelligent Design an evolution of the Creation Science argument?  Nothing new, just a change to try and make it sound less religious.  It hasn't worked well, but it is an evolution, much as they probably hate that being pointed out.

Then klingy does something pretty common for the DI and their mouthpieces.  He tries to claim any opposition is using tactics that, in reality, the DI is using.  Look at this:
"ID critics often end up playing the role of naïve theologian: What they "seem to want is a metric with The Human Body as God Would (or Should) Have Made It at one end of the measuring stick."
Yes, some ID critics have looked at the human body and determined that if the human body was designed by a deity, that deity is a lousy designer.  But who is really telling God what he/she did or did not do?

Isn't that what Creationists do every day?  Look at the DI, or any of the Creationists groups.  They repeatedly say "An Intelligent Designer/God Did This!" and offer no actual support, just the usual conjecture and wishful thinking.  At least when ID is criticized, the rationale for the criticism is offered so you can understand it. 

Even back to the original argument, is the Universe mostly wasted space?  I don't know . . . yet.  But one day we will know more and more.  It we are the only life that exists, or that ever or will ever exist, then I will consider it a huge waste of space, regardless of what religious rationalization the DI wants to spin on it.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dembski's Design Filter Does It Again . . . Sort of

Back a while ago I posted this: "Dembski Design Filter . . . Success?". It was about how the Discovery Institute (DI) took their 'design filter' and 'used it' to come to a conclusion that archaeologists had already come to using real science. Afterwards, the DI claimed some sort of victory . . . for what I am still confused about.

So let's think about this for a minute.  Wild Bill Dembski draws a line in the sand and claims that things on one side of the line are designed and things on the other side of the line are natural.  He claims that the line represents some arbitrary level of complexity and that nothing above a certain 'level of complexity' can be the product of a natural process.  However, he forgot to finish the job before departing the DI, because other mathematicians who looked at what he wrote have pretty much said that it's junk.  While I am paraphrasing, Dembski's response was actually more childish. His response was that pretty much every other mathematician on the planet wasn't smart enough to understand.  Yea, like Wild Bill is the smartest man on the planet.  Well he might be smart, because he's left the DI, but he failed to take his 'crap' with him.

You see, one of his problems is that he has no viable evidence supporting his assumption that natural processes cannot create complexity to any varying degree.  So that makes his 'line' one that cannot be determined with any degree of accuracy.  How can you determine 'complexity' when the very idea basically an opinion.  Look up complexity in the dictionary and you will see what I mean.  It's one of the most circular definitions I have seen.  Here's one:

"the quality or state of not being simple, the quality or state of being complex, a part of something that is complicated or hard to understand" (Merriam-Webster: Complexity)
Well, the DI is doing it again, "A Design False Positive? Applying the Design Filter in Archaeology" claiming some sort of success because they have determined something that archaeologists have already determined . . . again.  Seriously, does anyone believe the design filter is (1) a tool in use by archaeologists or (2) that there is anyone capable of using a tool that is as well defined as smoke?

I also disagree with the title.  Wouldn't a 'False Positive' be the case if their tool determined that the objects under archaeologist discussion had been found to be designed, when they weren't?  That would be a false positive.  A false positive is more like a positive results for the flu when you really don't have it.  Coming to the conclusion that the objects were not designed is a negative not a positive.  And the DI came the same conclusion the archaeologists came too after doing actual scientific work, doesn't sound like a false positive, does it?

Hmmm, so let's see.  How about an analogy.  Let's also keep it pretty simple, for the benefit of the DI.  You are a mechanic and you have a nut you need to tighten.  You grab the appropriate wrench and tighten the nut.  After you are done, along comes a DI marketeer who sees the tightened nut and claims the mechanic tightened it using his tool, a tool no one has ever seen.  The DI comes around after the fact and tries to use your work to bolster their nonsensical claims.  Isn't that what they are doing when they claim things like:
"Archaeology is intelligent design in action"
Are the archaeologists using Dembski's design filter?  Do they use any part of Intelligent Design 'theory'?  Does anyone?  Is there any part of design 'theory' that is capable of being 'used'?  I bet the archaeologists would be surprised if they bothered to read the DI's press release.  Of course the reality is nothing of the sort.  What this is, is an example of using intelligence, well that plus actual measurements, instruments, and analysis . . . you know the science-y stuff the DI seems to be allergic too.  Using intelligence is not the same thing as Intelligent Design, they just keep trying to make that sort of connection in hopes they can convince some folks that ID is something other than conjecture and wishful thinking.  What Dembski's filter has to do with intelligence is a bit beyond . . . well . . . everyone.

So the DI claims another victory for a tool that only seems to come out of the toolbox after all the work is done, but . . . it's a success!  Let's use toast them for yet another meaningless and unsupportable victory!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Challenge to the Discovery Institute

I was doing some minor editing to a previous post ("Klingy thinks Medical Doctors' Opinions are Important, on non-medical topics, Is it?") and something occurred to me.  If it's true, that medical doctors support Intelligent Design (ID) more than they do Evolution, I would like klingy, or any of the other talking heads from the Discovery Institute, to explain to me just:

What parts of Intelligent Design theory are medical doctors using in their medical practice?
I'm serious.  In the original post from little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, he stated that medical doctors:
"have a special perspective on intelligent design"
He tried to 'explain' that's because they focus on 'function', so evolution is useless to them.  Of course the concept of 'function' has nothing to do with ID at all.  'Function' is like a snapshot in time.  The heart does this, the liver does this . . . we understand many of these things because of the doctors and researchers that have studied these things for years.  Where is ID 'theory' in all this?

If evolution is useless to doctors, and they have a 'special' perspective on ID, just what part of ID are they using in their medical practice? I mean if ID is supposed to be a replacement evolutionary theory, then shouldn't it address the same questions? Particularly questions evolution addressed decades ago?

Here is a link to a website from Berkeley, we've mentioned this site before, "Understanding Evolution".  It's basically a free, on-line Evolution 101 course from UC Berkeley.  If you haven't taken a look, I highly recommend it.  This specific link is for relevance of evolution in medicine.  They go into a number of cases, including infectious diseases . . . like the flu and immunizations, antibiotic resistance, HIV--SIV--FIV's evolutionary history, genetic diseases, and more.

Let's add a bit to my challenge, here should be an easy one:
How does ID explain antibiotic resistance?   
If you can't handle this one, how about picking any of the other case studies from the Berkeley site and try and explain the ID perspective on it.  Be specific, vague references and unsupported conclusions won't cut it.

One last thing from Berkeley, the closing quote from this section [underlining added by me for emphasis]:
"Understanding evolution helps us solve biological problems that impact our lives. There are excellent examples of this in the field of medicine. To stay one step ahead of pathogenic diseases, researchers must understand the evolutionary patterns of disease-causing organisms. To control hereditary diseases in people, researchers study the evolutionary histories of the disease-causing genes. In these ways, a knowledge of evolution can improve the quality of human life." (Berkeley:  Evolution Relevance)
Individual medical doctors may not need a thorough understanding of Evolution to do their job, but any that deny Evolution's relevance to modern medicine and medical treatments is either ignorant or deliberately misleading you, in either case, you might want to find a new doctor!

So there is my challenge.  I want to know what impact ID has had on modern medicine!  In all honesty, I don't expect an answer from the DI.  But in equal honesty, I think anyone whose doctor disagrees with evolution should be able to answer my challenge.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Professor Michael Behe, Famous or Infamous? You be the Judge!

A new post over on the Discovery Institute's (DI) Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV) blog announcing the 12th anniversary of Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box".  Here's the link "In Time for Michael Behe's Book Anniversary, Here's a Real Mousetrap in the Cell".  Something the folks at the DI take an inordinate amount of pride, for some reason.  If you aren't familiar with Behe, here's a nutshell biography:
"Michael J. Behe is an American biochemist, author, and intelligent design (ID) advocate. He serves as professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and as a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Behe is best known for his argument for his pseudoscientific stance on irreducible complexity (IC), which argues that some biochemical structures are too complex to be explained by known evolutionary mechanisms and are therefore probably the result of intelligent design. Behe has testified in several court cases related to intelligent design, including the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that resulted in a ruling that intelligent design was religious in nature.
Behe's claims about the irreducible complexity of essential cellular structures have been rejected by the vast majority of the scientific community,and his own biology department at Lehigh University published an official statement opposing Behe's views and intelligent design"
(Wikipedia: Michael Behe)

Just for fun. here is another nutshell bio from the Discovery Institute:
"Michael J. Behe is Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. Behe's current research involves delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures. " (Discovery Institute: Michael Behe)
Funny how the Discovery Institute fails to mention that he testified in the Dover Trial where the ruling called him out specifically stating:
"We therefore find that Professor Behe’s claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large. Additionally, even if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design." (Kitzmiller v. Dover Ruling: Page 79)
I wonder why the DI fails to mention that?  Could it be because his testimony didn't help their cause any?  While they are proud to remind everyone that Behe is a Professor at Lehigh University, they also tend to forget to mention that Lehigh has this linked from the home page of the Biology Department:
"The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.
The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."
(Lehigh Biology Department:  Statement on Evolution)
So based on this, what are the chances that Behe actually teaches Intelligent Design in his biochemistry classes?  Yea, I agree!  However, as opposed to people like Guillermo Gonzalez and Catherine Croker, he doesn't let his ID hobby get in the way of doing his job.  The schools position is pretty clear, ID is an opinion of Behe, and not certainly not science.  OK, enough about Behe, let's see what EnV says about the 12th anniversary of his book.   They want to start quoting his book, including this delight:
"It's especially delightful because it brings to life an analogy Behe made famous: the mousetrap as an example of irreducible complexity."
Yes, the famous mousetrap, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that intelligence can design stuff.  It doesn't automatically support that a mousetrap is an example of irreducible complexity because, as Kenneth R. Miller showed at a number of times, including his own testimony during the Dover Trial and a 2008 book ("Only a Theory"), a mouse trap is not irreducibly complex because even if you remove pieces and parts, they can still have other uses, they are not limited to just a mousetrap, except in the apparently limited imagination of ID proponents.  But the DI is so proud of a very limited and failed analogy.

The article goes on to repeat some of the other examples from his book.  Remember those?  Those that when faced with actual peer-reviewed research, over 50 examples, that refuted his examples, Behe said that it was not enough.  Even though he hadn't read them!

The article also quotes a 'new' claim of something called serpin antithrombin III (ATIII), being irreducibly complex and the unnamed author justifies is with this:
"But can you be sure ATIII is itself irreducibly complex? First, note that the seven authors of the PNAS paper, all from the University of Massachusetts, never explain how this protein might have evolved. Quite the contrary; their only mention of "evolution" deals with how the protein folds, not with Darwinian evolution. There's no mention of selection, phylogeny, or ancestors. Instead, they seem fascinated by the precise way this machine must be assembled and "cocked" for action. Watch for "mousetrap" again:"
Really?  They didn't go into possible evolutionary paths, so that is the number one reason why it must be irreducibly complex?  Wait just a minute?  Didn't another recent EnV post complain about tracing hypothetical evolutionary paths?  Yes, here it is:
"Biological systems not only need to exist but to function properly. It's no use tracing a hypothetical path of evolutionary descent unless every living thing along that path was fully functional in the real world."
So . . . if you do suggest how something may have evolved, you are wrong because the very limited thinking of the DI says that if it's not in its final functioning form, it can't exist in the real world.  But if you don't suggest an evolutionary path, you are supporting irreducible complexity?  What we seem to have here is another Marie Antoinette moment.  Cake anyone?

OK, I think I've just about had enough.  One last thing.  In the closing paragraph, the author says:
"That gives a modest sense of the overarching lesson here: multiple factors are working together to make ATIII work."
Yes, multiple factors are working together to make ATIII work -- as ATIII . . . but at no point does anyone from the DI show that those same multiple factors could not have another function if configured in a different way.  Where did the pieces and parts come from?  Do they offer any support for ID?  No!  All they do it put a box around ATIII and demand that the conversation is over.  Boxes like this are great for limiting the conversation . . . which seems to along well with the very limited thinking we seem to see all the time from the DI.