Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Documentary vs Documentary-Style -- aka Reality vs Fiction

Let's take a break from picking on the Discovery Institute.  I know it will be a short one because they are bound and determined to post something incredibly stupid that just begs a response.  Until then . . . this morning I caught a post from CNN, no not that CNN, but the Christian News Network.  "Is Genesis History? New Film Affirms Truthfulness of Biblical Record".  Here's the opening paragraph:
"A soon-to-be-released documentary-style film, featuring footage from around the U.S. and interviews with over a dozen scholars and scientists, will provide visual evidence and scientific arguments for the Bible’s accounts of Creation and the Flood."
Documentary-style?  Just what does that mean?  Is it a documentary or not?  Wikipedia defines a Documentary Film as (I added the underlines for later emphasis):
" . . . a nonfictional motion picture intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction, education, or maintaining a historical record."(Wikipedia: Documentary_Film)
So, a documentary-style film looks like a documentary, feels like a documentary, might even be as boring as many documentaries, but it's missing at least one of the key elements that make it a documentary, which is why they call it a documentary-style.  I wonder which one it is?  Let's poke around a little  Here's a quote from the end of the article:
"I want people to see this, and to realize that Genesis is the cornerstone for the history of the world."
Apparently, this is supposed to be educational, so it meets one of the primary purposes of a documentary.  It is a motion picture, so it meets that requirement to be a documentary film as well.  So what's left?

A documentary is nonfiction and some aspect of reality -- so for all of the posturing of this press release, and more than likely the film itself, it isn't based on reality, thereby qualifying it as a documentary-style rather than a true documentary.  Just to be sure, I also looked up the definition of documentary on Merriam-Webster and they said:
"a presentation (as a film or novel) expressing or dealing with factual events" (Merriam-Webster: Documentary)
So, we can see by that definition, this particular 'documentary-style' film must not be dealing with factual events.  This whole documentary vs documentary-style might seem like a nit, but for organizations who like to play word games, we have to remind them that words have meaning.  This film is not based on fact, historical or otherwise.  The Bible is not a history book, no matter how much Biblical Literalists want it to be.  OK, so we now know this film is fiction, that is not dealing with factual events.  OK, so now what?
" . . . features interviews with respected Christian scientists, including microbiologist Kevin Anderson, astronomer Danny Faulkner, geologist Andrew Snelling, and several others."
Let's see - Anderson, Faulkner, and Snelling.  Oh you know me, I have to find out who these guys are:
  • Kevin Anderson is the Director of the Van Andel Creation Research Center and the Editor-in-Chief of the Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ).  His bio, from the CreationWiki, claims he has authored over 20 papers, yet they only mention 4 of then, two for Creation Matters and 2 for CRSQ (remember, he is the editor-in-chief of CRSQ).  I guess the other 16 weren't that important.
  • Danny Faulkner is also a member of the Creation Research Society and serves as the editor of the Creation Research Society Quarterly.  There seems to be a conflict, since Anderson is listed as the editor-in-chief, yet Danny here is also the editor?  Can you have more than one?  It's published quarterly, how many editors do you need?  Danny is also a Researcher/Speaker at Answers in Genesis (AiG).
  • Andrew Snelling is also at Answers in Genesis (AiG) as their Director of Research, speaker on various topics, and serves as editor-in-chief of the online Answers Research Journal.
As you can see, the only identified speakers are from very Biblical Literalist organizations.  Even though claiming the Bible should be taken literally is, in itself, an interpretation.  This, like so many other criticisms, tend to be ignored by such literalists.  

I do love the description 'respected Christian scientists'.  Do you know who are respected Christian, or really any other theistic, scientists?  Ones whose religious beliefs do not blind them to the reality of the world around them.  Actually respected scientists as a whole are those who do not let their views on multiple matters affect their ability to view the world.  Look at the scientists who opposed leaded additives?  It's not the ones who sided with the industry who made the additives that turned out to be well-respected, it was the ones who identified the problem and fought for decades to have the problem fixed.  How many of you respect the scientists who work, or in many cases worked, for the tobacco companies?  Especially those who did the 'science' that supported the many statements form those companies telling up cigarettes aren't bad for us, they are not habit forming . . . all the while upping the chemicals that made it more addicting and harmful.

Look at AiG and it's cabal of 'creation' scientists.  Look at their published works.  The only ones who are respected outside their theist organization are those whose scientific work is not based on their theology.  Little kennie ham, AiG, identified one of them for us a while back in this post from his blog: "A Renowned Creation Scientist, Inventor of MRI".  No one has ever pointed to any part of the theories behind magnetic imaging and said "and here is where God did such-and-such." or "here is the part that is based on creationism".  The celebrated work was not based on any religious belief, but on actual science -- supportable, falsifiable, and explainable science.  The idea of a 'creation scientist' is more and more just another creationist, simply one with a degree they can wave around but never use in conjunction with their beliefs.  Think of them as just a poster child for creationism.

I guess they have several others speakers.  Hmmm, several usually means 3 or 4.  These three plus 3 or 4 more doesn't add up to the dozen mentioned in the opening paragraph.  So is counting a Creationist problem?  Oh yea, 6000 = 4,500,000,000 . . . so I guess it is.  What else is going on here:
" . . . the film’s host, Del Tackett, guides viewers through over a dozen locations and landmarks to explore the competing views of creation and evolution."
So this documentary-style film, which is apparently not based on reality is going to present creation AND evolution? So who is going to present evolution?  Have they got an actual evolutionary biologist?  Doubtful!  Apparently a creationist will do the explanation. Oh yea, this is going to be a fair representation, right?  I would guess that any actual biologist probably turned down their invite, if they got one at all.

 It reminds me of one of the books by Ann Coulter, you know the Bill O'Reilly for people who can actually read. She decided to learn about the whole Evolution vs ID issue by visiting the Discovery Institute. There, she knelt down in front of a few of their usual talking heads and swallowed the kool-aid without a single discerning thought. Now a reasonable person might have taken a little bit of time to get the scientific view from . . . oh, I don't know . . . actual working biologists, but not Coulter, she prefers her science of the pseudo-science variety.

So there is going to be a one-sided view portrayed as showing both sides to support an allegorical story and it's being labeled as history.  OK, I think I understand now.  Somehow I don't think this will change any minds, but simply reinforce the beliefs of people who already think Genesis is a literal reading of history.

I won't see it in theaters, but if it follows the normal path, it will eventually end up on You Tube and I will watch it there.  My expectation, low as it might be, is that this movie will visit a number of historical and archaeological sites and then present the less than original idea that since many of the places mentioned in the Bible are true, then Genesis has to be true.  Much like the 'fact' that Baltimore MD and Washington DC exists must mean that the Super Bowl in Denver was hit by a nuclear bomb just like it says in that Tom Clancy book.  Yes, Clancy does write fiction, but didn't we already determine that this documentary-style film is not based in reality either?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Evolution is just a story . . . really?

I think we have a new tactic being tested out by the Discovery Institute (DI).  In this post: "Theory of Evolution? Call It a "Narrative" Instead" by one of the more prolific DI talking heads: little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, he would like you to think of Evolution as being just a 'Narrative'.  Is he kidding? Actually I have trouble distinguishing when klingy is trying to be funny or serious, but that's neither here nor there.  So let's briefly discuss.

What is a Narrative anyway?  Wikipedia defines is as:

"A narrative or story is any report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, and/or still or moving images."
From this point of view, I guess you can call Evolution a 'Narrative' because it certainly does tell a story of connected events.  Evolution tells the story of life on this planet, not the initial spark of how life formed, but once life existed how it changed and the many forces driving those changes until we reach the present day and we see the incredible variety of life we have today.

So how do I feel about calling Evolution a narrative?  I'm not that bothered by it that much because by the definition, you can call it that.  Just like by definition you can call a diamond 'a rock' and The Biltmore  'a house'.  But by doing so in any way do them justice?  What you cannot do is to call a diamond just a rock, or the Biltmore just a house, can you?

So what is the Discovery Institute (DI) up to?  What we have is nothing more than another word game, something the DI does instead of actual science.  By calling Evolution 'a narrative', they are trying to make it less than it really is, trying to box it into something they can throw away.  Since they have made very little headway getting people to question evolution, they keep trying to re-define it.  Not too long ago their tactic was 'it's only a theory.', today is 'it's only a story.'  In between their original attacks they tried to pass off Evolution as a philosophy called 'Darwinism', a religion, an antiquated concept, and even a violation of physics.  They keep trying to re-define it, but none of it seems to stick.  They keep failing because Evolution tells a compelling story, one loaded with evidence, predictive power, and because it works.  They consistently keep trying to denigrate evolution using such word games because when it comes to the science, they have been failing miserably.   

Just for fun, let's contrast something for a minute.  Creationism, and it's little brother Intelligent Design, also tell a story, doesn't it.  The source document is the Christian Bible . . . and if you disagree let me, let me also remind you that the DI and it's pet concept of Intelligent Design (ID) are religious propositions, not matter how often they claim otherwise.  It was determined in court and also in their own documents.  We've dealt with that issue many times, so let us simply call it what it is, a religious concept.  Since it's underpinnings are based on a specific religion and that religion also has a series of interconnected stories, you can call ID a narrative as well.

Of course, you can look back at the definition of 'narrative' and please note the two words I placed in in italics, real or imaginary.  Therein lies the difference between Evolution as a narrative and ID as a narrative.  As we have already said, Evolution cannot be called only a narrative due to an incredible amount of supporting evidence, decades of scientific study and confirmation.  Yes, it's a narrative, but it is also a real story and it's considerably more than just being a story.  It best fits all the current scientific evidence, so that makes if a pretty damn good story.

Intelligent Design can also be called a narrative, but without supporting evidence, that's about all you can call it.  No one has done any scientific work that lets you call it much else.  It's not a scientific theory, it's not a valid explanation of how life changed on this planet over millions of years, it's not even a good bedtime story because one you hit 'god-did-it', the story is over.  So while you can call Creationism/ID a narrative, you really can't call it much more than that.

Of course klingy doesn't say that. He just tries to reduce down evolution to the status of just being a story. He also does it by trying to mischaracterize evolution as only being:
"evolution by natural selection operating on random mutations"
However, in typical DI fashion, klingy forgets to mention the other multitude of evolutionary forces at work, ones that expand greatly the explanatory power of evolution.  No one in the scientific community would characterize evolution as solely being natural selection operating on random mutations.  That sort of straw-man is most often used by Creationists, including Intelligent Design proponents.  Which certainly clearly characterized klingy.

So, yes Evolution is a story!  It's also a Scientific Theory, or rather an overarching scientific theory made up of hundreds of other scientific theories, each of those theories tell a story that makes up part of the evolutionary whole.  Intelligent Design is truly just a story and one that says surprisingly little.

Does a Discovery Institute Talking Head Understand the Concept of 'Self-Respect'?

I certainly wouldn't have believed it of Cornelius Hunter!  See if you agree, check out this post by Hunter at the Discovery Institute's (DI) Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV):  "How Big Is Evolution's Closet?".  It's pretty bad, in my opinion contains more than a little pent-up hostility.

First off, what is the guy trying to say?  He claims that Evolution:

"repeatedly fails its fundamental predictions, and is unable to explain even the basic facts, well, there is bound to be doubt."
Now, how does he justify this comment?  Well, an anonymous 'friend' told him:
"that all across the country, life science professors "have told me in private they have questions about evolution . . ."
Now before getting into what I feel is a bunch of pent-up hostility, I would like to remind you of the DI's penchant for playing word games.  Look at the phrasing:
"questions about evolution"
So what?  Many actual scientists have questions about a lot of things, especially their own specialty. If they didn't, then where would new discoveries come from?  How do you think Evolution went from Darwin's very original theories to this massive set of well-supported theories that has caused one biologist to write "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" (a 1973 essay by the evolutionary biologist and Eastern Orthodox Christian Theodosius Dobzhansky.) Questioning is a scientists' job!  The difference between a scientist and a pseudo-scientist is that a real scientist looks for actual answers while a pseudo-scientist starts with their desired answer and then spends the rest of the time rationalizing.  The other difference is real scientist's questions lead to breakthroughs, while pseudo-scientists never question, they already have their answer so they never see the need to question.

Hunter tries to make the idea of 'having questions' a bad thing.  He further tries to make it sound even worse with this little bit of ridiculousness:  
" . . . keeps their identities secret"
Hunter doesn't even identify his 'friend'.  So now I have to ask, does Hunter actual know how science works?  Has he bothered to learn anything about evolution?  Apparently not, but then in addition to being a 'fellow' at the DI, he teaches at Biola University, an private Evangelical Christian Bible College, so it is understandable that he may not understand anything about Evolution, after all Evolution is actual science.  Apparently scientific methodology hasn't made much of an impression on him either.

The reason I question his understanding of scientific methodology is because you know what happens to scientists who make unsupported statements?  It's called unemployment.  So, tell me, where did Hunter support his original allegation about Evolution?  As you can see, he didn't.  Oh he gave the impression of support with his anonymous friend commenting of equally anonymous sources.  Think about the reception of a scientist who tries that?  "I discovered 'X' and my proof is  . . . well I can't tell you because someone might get in trouble!"  Oh yea, imagine that reception!

Come to think of it, isn't that similar to what Richard Sternberg for the Sternberg Peer Review Controversy? He claimed that Stephen C. Meyer's pseudo-scientific paper was peer-reviewed, but the peer reviewers remained anonymous fearing retaliation.  If these reviewers actual existed, the journal in question has serious doubts the reviewers had the credentials to be qualified to review the paper, the paper that was later rescinded because of Sternberg's actions.  Oh, and never forget that Sternberg was an unpaid volunteer editor who had already put in his resignation papers at that journal and later ended up working for Meyer at the DI.

This isn't the first time the DI has played these type of word games.  I would like to remind you of the infamous 'dissent' petition, what I usually call 'The 700'.  The wording of that petition was also carefully done, fairly innocuous phrasing designed to mislead.  You can read much more about it from the NCSE right here.  But the parallels are there, taking great care in creating words that can mean many things and then spinning it after the fact to mean what you want.  Of course since Hunter did all this citing of anonymous sources, no one can check . . . not like the NCSE did when the original petition was made public.

I also don't particularly like Hunter using the 'closet'.  Everyone knows the most common use of the closet metaphor involves gay people who haven't yet gone public with their sexual preferences.  It's even led to the terms 'out' and 'outed' from that metaphor.  Is he seriously claiming that there is a collection of closeted life science professors who have doubts about evolution.  He said 'questions', but he implied 'doubts'.  First off, I don't believe Hunter -- he is a 'fellow' at the DI and you know how 'honest and trustworthy' those less-than-stalwart fellows have been in the past.

I mean if I said that I know an NFL coach. . . who in High School loved romantic comedies, Streisand records, and . . . whatever else . . . but I can't name him because the players and fans might react negatively.  See what I mean?  Completely unsupported allegations, just supposition.  Or maybe I can further say that there are many players who know this coach likes those things too . . . but I can't name them either!  See what I mean, Hunter loves to say stuff and the fail to support it.  We've discussed him before, most recently in "So Who Has their Head in the Sand?".   How can you believe anyone who does such things?  We don't trust them, we can't trust them, but they can be entertaining.  Just in case anyone was wondering, I have no personal friends from HS who are NFL coaches . . . I was just making a silly example, so if you ask me to point fingers, I am going to laugh myself silly!

As for the 'closet', I do agree there are many folks who have not 'come out of the closet' concerning one thing or another, the usual reason is fear although it could also simply be a wish for privacy.  So what Hunter is saying is one of the standard, and unsupported, lines from the DI.  That anyone who disagrees with actual science is somehow ostracized and therefore afraid to speak out.  They, the DI, has been selling that line for years, yet have they been able to support this assertion?  No, they haven't.  Oh, they like to parade various people around and call them martyrs for the cause, but the reality is they aren't. These are people who allowed their religious beliefs to interfere with the professional responsibilities and then discovered that those beliefs weren't going to protect them when they were held accountable. We most recently discussed a bunch of those folks here.

So you can see, Cornelius Hunter is a lightweight when it comes to 'questioning' evolution.  He likes to play word games, make unsupported statement and imply things.  Yes, Hunter and the DI would love for us to believe there is a host of scientists prepared to jump out of the closet and support Creationism . . . but real scientists 'question' evolution in order to expand and add to the science; pseudo-scientists, like Hunter here, have to imagine closeted supporters.  Hunter also said:
"No evolutionist who has ever peered into a microscope can look in the mirror and maintain self-respect. "
Looks like another case of projection.  Biologists probably have no self-respect issues.  It's only liars who would have trouble seeing themselves in a mirror.  I'm sure Hunter sees himself as some sort of Creationist super-hero with a cape and a Bible picture on his chest.  But most pre-teen boys eventually grow up and stop relying on fairy tales and imaginary friends.   Hunter has a lot of growing up to do, not only does he imagine this host of closeted-Creationists ready to burst out, but now he had his 'friends' telling him about what their imaginary friends are saying.  Like most creationists, once you hear something that agrees with your personal philosophy, you refuse to listen to anything that contradicts it. Luckily, real scientists continue to listen, question, and think.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Got Accused . . . again . . . Of Not Being A Biologist

I really wish more folks would comment on here, mainly because then you can read their comments and any return comment I might have.  Today I was accused of not being a biologist, so my blog was a . . . let me quote . . . "a waste of time and energy".  They had a little more to say, but I am not totally clear on whether or not they thought my writing this blog was a waste of my time and energy, or that reading my blog was a waste of their time and energy.  In any event, here is my response.  It's a bit more long-winded than it would have been face-to-face, but the message would have been the same.

I am not, nor have I ever portrayed myself as a biologist, credentialed or otherwise.  I state quite clearly in the 'About Me' section of my blog that my areas of expertise are computers and Information Technology (IT).  I have three degrees in that area and in addition I have a background in electronics, teaching, and computers all thanks to my time in the United States Air Force.  This in no way makes me a biologist, nor did I spend last night in a Holiday Inn Express.

The biology in my background comes from school, both public and parochial.  My first biology teacher was a catholic priest.  In Jr. High and High School I had several biology teachers, including the unforgettable 'Efsavia', I mean how can anyone forget that first name!  I passed the New York State Regents Examination in Biology, which I think they now call "Life Sciences". During my military career I attended so many different schools (13 different colleges and a large assortment of military training courses) that my wife referred to me as a professional student.  During those years I took a number of Life and Earth Science courses.  So, at best you can think of me as a science and biology enthusiast, or to quote an old TV series I thoroughly enjoyed, "A talented amateur".  If you can guess the series, you are as old as I am :-).  Even with all this, none of it makes me an actual biologist.

Because of all that, if you feel my blog is a waste of my time, then I put to you that it's not only my time to spend how I wish and that you do not have the right to tell me how to spend it.  That might sound a bit adversarial, but think it thorough -- do you let others define how you spend your time?  Secondly, if you think my not being a biologist somehow disqualifies me from have anything of value to say, let me remind you of a few things:

  1. The Discovery Institute is not aiming its marketing efforts at biologists, are they?  They are aiming at pretty much everyone else.  They want people who vote, people who are active in school organizations, or just about anyone who is willing to stand up and be heard.  They want these people because these are the people who can influence the behavior of politicians and school board members.  I am one of those people, and I feel that if they can take aim at me, I can take aim at them.
  2. I get annoyed, as should you, when an organization hides their motivations and then uses tactics designed to confuse rather than illuminate.  Does it require being a biologist to identify most if their lies?  Their tactics and strategies rely far less on biology and nearly entirely on marketing.  Like an old-fashioned clock, which is right twice a day, the few times they point out something actually within the realm of science, they get taken down quickly by actual biologists (like PZ Myers and Larry Moran), so I am happy to bow to their expertise. However, when they say things like "Intelligent Design has nothing to do with religion" or they accuse scientific theories of actually being religious beliefs themselves . . . I am happy to point out the error of their ways.
  3. One of the reasons I would like people to read this blog is because I am not a biologist, but because I am simply a person with an interest in science and science education, in particular the education of our children.  Everyone should be interested in that, regardless of credentials.
  4. On my blog I was very clear why I do it:
"Why blog on this topic? Well after seeing the tactics of groups like the Discovery Institute, I couldn't stay silent on the subject. After the Discovery Institute spins their lies, after the defendants in the Dover trial LIED under oath, and after Texas fired their state science curriculum director for forwarding an email appropriate to her duties -- I couldn't sit back and just watch."  
I was even quite clear as to why I blog in general:
"Why blog? In all honesty, why not? It's fun, has been very educational, and it also has offered me insights into people and positions I may not have thought much about before. " 
Well, I hope that explains things.  Of course you are perfectly free to disagree and disregard my blog because I lack the credentials you may feel I need to have.  You might keep in mind that if, in the future, you decide to voice an opinion on a subject in which you aren't 'credentialed', remember this post.  Hopefully you won't use your own lack of credentials to avoid voicing an opinion!  Silence often implies consent and, as you can see, I refuse to consent to the distortions and lies coming out of groups like the Discovery Institute simply because I lack the credentials as a biologist.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

So Who Has their Head in the Sand?

Interesting article, but one that seems to be nothing more than a wonderful example of quote-mining. By now, you are probably more than familiar with the concept of quote-mining, that is taking a quote out-of-context in such a way to change its meaning.  There have been many instances of quote-mining, one of my personal favorites is here with Ben Stein quote-mining Charles Darwin, and doing a pretty poor job.  In any event, my opinion of quote-mining is that it is a reprehensible tactic and one usually used by the loosing side of an argument when they seem to feel they have nothing left to loose.

Here in the new post 'Irony Alert: Michael Shermer on "When Facts Fail" ' from the Discovery Institute's blog, Evolution 'news' and Views.  I had to read through it twice to get the point the author, Cornelius Hunter, was trying to make.  What it looks like to me is he is insinuating that folks like Michael Shermer are engaging in the exact behavior that he [Shermer] was writing about, that is the refusal to change ones mind when confronted with facts that contradict 'beliefs'.

So, instead of listing all the 'facts' about Intelligent Design that Michael Shermer might be refusing to consider . . . oh wait, there are no facts about ID.  So I guess Hunter had to take a different path, in fact [pun intended], the only path open to him.  So what he does is list a whole bunch of stuff, claiming these were all examples of facts failing evolution.  But are they?

One example Hunter uses is, the emphasis is Hunter's:

"Early trilobites show all the features of the trilobite group as a whole; transitional or ancestral forms showing or combining the features of trilobites with other groups (e.g. early arthropods) do not seem to exist."
Since this is from Wikipedia, let's look at it a bit more in context:
"Evidence suggests that significant diversification had already occurred before trilobites were preserved in the fossil record, easily allowing for the "sudden" appearance of diverse trilobite groups with complex derived characteristics (e.g. eyes)." (Wikipedia: Trilobite)
To get the entire explanation, you really should click on the link and read it all for yourself.  Hunter took only one line to try and make his case.  Of course it doesn't present the complete picture -- after all the more complete context doesn't support his contention -- hence quote-mining.

The bottom line, which Hunter failed to mention, is really two-fold.  The first is that the evidence supports that the majority of the evolution of trilobites precedes the time periods when bony structures formed and started leaving detailed fossils.  So, on the one hand Creationists like to claim there are no transitional fossils and on the other when there are not clear transitional forms, they claim that disproves evolution.  Really?  How . . . two-faced.

The other thing you get when you read it is that science is honest about the things we do not know.  Instead of making definitive statements you see terms like 'do not seem' and 'evidence suggests'.  That's how science works.  The things we don't know or aren't sure about are openly identified.  It identifies areas where we need more work.  Look at what we know today compared to what we knew 10, 20, 50, or 100 years ago.  Can Hunter really claim this is some sort of fact failure?  The only failure is in his imagination.

A quick Google of some of his other 'failed facts' show similar issues, Hunter simply is representing them as fact failures, however they really aren't at all.  Some of them are reasonably understood, from an evolutionary standpoint, others less so.  But at no time can you call these failures.  Only a Creationists would call something we don't understand to the nth degree a failure.  I guess having a deity you can rely on to give you all the answers means you have no failures . . . also you have no successes.  After all, how many scientific advances can identify the point where Creationism/Intelligent Design entered and added something to the whole?  Yea, I get the same answer.  There aren't any!  Planes fly not because a deity wills it, but because of our understanding of many scientific theories. 

All Hunter has proven is science doesn't know everything.  Of course the scientific community has never said that it knows all.  That's a lie put forth by anti-science organizations, like the DI.  One of the common anti-science tactics is to build a strawman argument, demolish it and claim a victory.  In this case, the strawman is that science knows all, and then you point out a few things where the science isn't complete and claim science is all screwed up.  So which side is actually being honest in this discussion?

Actually this is a common tactic.  Remember the Dover Trial and Michael Behe?  Unlike Hunter here, who is only a Fellow at the DI, Behe is a 'Senior' Fellow, I'm not sure if that means smarter or simply older. Here's a quote from the decision:
"In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough." (Wikipedia: Dover Decision)
So, I would also like to address this idea of Hunter's from a different angle.  Take any scientific theory, say Light, Gravity, Germs, or even Evolution.  Look back on a timeline and look at the changes to the theory as you go further and further back.  You will see an almost constant evolution [used in the context of 'change over time'] of the theories.  Does this sound like a community of people who reject new ideas and cling to their belief set?  Scientific advances are not made by re-hashing the old!  It would be hard to call them advances if all we are doing is running in place.  Picture the medical community of Darwin's day.  How would you like to be treated by those medical techniques?

So, Hunter . . . who has their head stuck in the sand when faced with fact that refute their belief system?  It sure doesn't sound like the scientific community is guilty here, but can you say the same? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

They Just Can't Help Themselves, the Discovery Institute that is.

I've said it before and I guess I get to keep saying it, whenever anyone says something about Evolution or Intelligent Design, the Discovery Institute (DI) will do their best to spin it and try and gain some traction for their particular religious point of view.

This time it's a review of a National Geographic TV series "Review: In Mars Miniseries, Life Is Discovered on the Red Planet...in 2037!"  Fair warning, the review does contain substantive spoilers which could ruin the impact of watching the series.  It's a good show, so you might watch it without the DI trying to spoil it for you.

That being said, the poster, a Walter Myers III (who I don't recall hearing anything about before) was less than impressed.  He seemed to have two main issues: an assumption he doesn't like, and a lack of religious obsequiousness, which he also doesn't like.

The first the assumption, the series treats Evolution as if it actually occurs -- oh the horror that must be for a creationist.  He said:

"While an ID proponent can certainly enjoy the series, as I did, it's no surprise that evolution is simply assumed."
He doesn't say whether or not he enjoyed the show, but that an ID proponent 'can' enjoy it.  I know when I word things like that, I am talking about the realm of possibility, like 'Opera can be enjoyable', what I leave unsaid is 'not for me.'  When I am talking about something I enjoy, I would never use the word 'can' but express it in a more positive sense, like 'Opera is enjoyable'.  He might have said simply 'I enjoyed it!', and he didn't have to add the 'ID proponent' disclaimer, after all he's writing on the DI's blog, so he is an ID proponent.  I will have to check out his ID chops, but not just yet.

But what annoys him is the matter-of-fact way they treat Evolution.  In reality, don't most folks treat it that way?  Life has evolved, there is much too much evidence even but the most hard-core creationists to deny.  So much so that creationists had to create [pun intended] an artificial line between what they call micro-evolution and macro-evolution!  Since the program wasn't about evolution, the matter-of-fact treatment of the subject makes perfect sense to me.  I can see how an ID proponent would want to drag the script into a philosophical argument about evolution -- I mean an organization who argues about a Canadian Quilter over a quilt (Canadian Quilters Attack Intelligent Design) wants to drag everything into a philosophical argument about evolution.  Of course it has to be a philosophical argument since the DI hasn't been able to formulate a scientific one.

So I can see what he wants, too bad the series was based on a hypothetical Mars colony and not a pseudo-scientific replacement for a real scientific theory.  Since it isn't about creationism, I found their treatment of Evolution to be perfectly reasonable.  What I find funny is suppose the storyline did add something about the possibility of an 'intelligent designer' (code for the Christian God), the DI would have been crying from the rooftops about their success in being taken seriously . . . by a fictional TV series.

The other issue is a bit more subtle, the lack of religion.  Myers quotes the movie "Prometheus" with this:
'One of the archaeologists quips to the other, "There is nothing special about the creation of life. Anybody can do it. All you need is a dash of DNA and half a brain. Right?" '
Myers then ends with a further quote from Prometheus and a final note of his own:
' . . . the other archaeologist, Commander Shaw, playfully caressing the cross on her necklace, has a fitting rejoinder. "Well, if they made us," she asks, "then who made them?" Touché, Commander Shaw.'
Myers just had to bring in religion into the conversation, didn't he?  If you missed it, please note the "playful caressing of the cross on her neck", how obvious can you get?  So the ID proponent wants to insure any discussion involving evolution, even one in a fictional program, eventually gets connected to religion.  Gee, how . . . unoriginal.  I think Myers had to stretch a ton to inject religion into the discussion.  Since the Mars Miniseries didn't pay appropriate homage to one deity or another, Myers dragged in an Alien movie to do it for us.  Does anyone actually buy that to DI is a scientific organization, or that it ever was?  Anyone?

OK, two last things from me before I go wander off and annoy some other folks for the day. Myers takes a TV series by National Geographic that took a serious look at today's technology and extrapolated it into the future and created a fairly realistic idea of what a colony on Mars might be like.  True, they didn't make a documentary, but turned it into a dramatic series and typical artistic license.  To make his point, Myers then dragged in a Ridley Scott movie, which is a prequel to his Alien franchise (which apparently gets more evident in the next installment titled Alien: Covenant).  Talk about reaching!  What's no quoting Ace Ventura?

OK, my last thing, I said I was going to look up Walter Myers III.  I guess I haven't heard about him because he only has one other post on the DI's Evolution 'news' and Views site and it lists him as a new 'contributor', which I think is the first step to becoming a 'fellow' at the DI.  His background is architecture and studied philosophy at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology.  As yes, once more with feeling . . . there is nothing religious about the DI or ID . . . yea, sure!  I'm positive we'll be hearing more from Myers in the future.  If you Google him you will find he is certainly prolific in various places, almost always of a very conservative slant.  He seems to try and moderate some of the more virulent strain of Conservatism, but his slightly more moderate tone doesn't ring very true.  For example:
"The problem, in my view, with the LGBT movement is not that they have a particular view they are advocating for, but the manner in which they pursue it. . . 
 . . .I know the rejoinder from someone in the LGBT community will be that Christians are filled with hate and discriminate against gays. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Christians are called to love and accept all human beings, and simply see the gay lifestyle as being one of many different sinful lifestyles." (Walter Myers III: The LGBT Movement and the Pursuit of Ends)
He denigrate the LGBT community because part of that community is behaving in a way he doesn't like -- yet, at the same time, he ignores the portion of the Christian community who demonstrate hatred and discrimination toward gays . . . Marie Antoinette anyone?

I could just as easy say "The problem, in my view, with the Christian community is not that they have a particular view they are advocating for, but the manner in which they pursue it . . ."  Then I can point to examples of gay bashing, sexual re-orientation 'clinics', gay marriage protests, even business people and government appointees who want to exclude gay folks from receiving their services.

I guess if he needs a job, maybe little casey luskin's position is still open.  Ann Gauger was trying to fill it, but hasn't had nearly the output of little casey -- I guess casey's old office didn't have a green-screen.  Maybe Myers can fill in the empty space and provide a bit more entertainment.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Do You Blame the Scientific Community From Giving You Ammunition?

Ridiculous post over on the Discovery Institute's (DI) usual haunt, 'Whatever You Do, Don't Say "Irreducible Complexity"'.  Apparently there is an article in a real scientific journal that warned against using the word 'complex' because of it's association with 'biocomplexity' and 'irreducible complexity'.  Can you blame them?

Just yesterday I posted how the DI is willing to grasp any use of intelligence and claiming it as a victory for their pet religious concept of Intelligent Design. (More Misdirection from the Discovery Institute).  In that post I said:

"What we have also learned, yet again, is that whenever anyone uses their brain (intelligence) and discovers anything that can be interpreted, or even mis-interpreted, as 'design' then the DI is going to try and claim yet another victory for their pet concept ID.  They, the DI, still cannot tell the difference between their Intelligent Design 'theory' and use of intelligence in scientific discoveries."
Since the DI is so quick to make such claims, is it any wonder an article's author might want to avoid some specific terms that would supply the DI with more opportunities?  How many other words do we avoid using because of a specific connotation?  I'm sure you can think of a few, I know I certainly came up with a dozen without much effort.

Of course the DI tries to spin that this as some sort of prejudice . . . and they are right, although not in the way they intended.  Should actual science be prejudiced against pseudo-science?  Most certainly!  The DI doesn't see themselves as pseudo-scientists, but admitting it might have a negative funding impact on the DI.  I mean it's hard to push religion if the donations dry-up.

I do wish to point out one other . ..  lie . . . I know, sugar-coating things isn't my style.  Here's a quote from the DI post:
"Oh, and isn't BIO-Complexity the title of a peer-reviewed science journal open to examining ideas supportive of intelligent design?"
Two problems here.  The first is simple, the paper they found so offensive suggested avoiding the term 'biocomplexity'.  According to Wikipedia:
" . . . some researchers have begun to use the term biocomplexity in a narrower sense to denote the complex behavioral, biological, social, chemical, and physical interactions of living organisms with their environment. This relatively new subfield of biocomplexity encompasses other domains such as biodiversity and ecology." 
Which means the original paper might not have been addressing the DI's journal at all.  The second problem is that even if they were addressing Bio-Complexity, is it really a peer-reviewed science journal?  Not in the least.  It's been identified as the latest Intelligent Design journal. Origins & Design from Access Research Network (ARN) and Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design  from Wild Bill Dembski were two previous attempts.  I said this about Bio-Complexity a while back:
"The National. Center for Science Education had a lot to say about Bio-Complexity shortly after it was announced.  Here is my favorite comment:
"Unable to convince the scientific establishment of the merits of their views, creationists have long been engaged in the project of constructing a counterestablishment, which mimics — or perhaps the mot juste is “apes” — not only peer-reviewed journals but also professional societies, textbook publishers, media organizations, natural history museums, and graduate programs at accredited universities."
So you see, even if the original offending paper was addressing the DI's in-house journal, calling it a peer-reviewed science journal is at best humorous, at worse just another lie.   Real science peer review is not the same thing as having a few people who already agree with you read your papers and pat you on the head.

Personally, I think avoiding certain terms are a waste of time, not because they might cause an association with something the DI might say.  It's because since when does the DI need actual words to try and form an association.  Look at my own post link at the start of this post.  The DI took something unrelated and drew an imaginary line to Intelligent Design.  After all, wasn't it the DI who handed to Ohio State School Board a list of 44 peer-reviewed publications that they said showed support for Intelligent Design?  A list that was fraudulently represented by them! (http://ncse.com/creationism/general/analysis-discovery-institutes-bibliography).

Yea, the DI 'don't need no stinkin' words!

Friday, January 20, 2017

More Misdirection from the Discovery Institute

In my last post (Skepticism vs. Scholarship (From James F. McGrath)) I said:

"As new scientific discoveries are made, you can bet that shortly thereafter they will try and put an ID [Intelligent Design] spin on it, regardless of the fact the discovery doesn't support it."
This new post over on the Discovery Institute's (DI) Evolution and 'news' and Views (EnV) blog bears that out. "University of Alabama "Space Archaeologist" Seeks Evidence of Intelligent Design".  As you read their post, I want you to identify where Intelligent Design . . . not intelligence or design . . .  but something from the Discovery Institute, being being used in Sarah Parcak's work.  If you can't see it, don't worry, it's only in the very limited imagination of the DI.

In a nutshell, the associate professor of anthropology (University of Alabama at Birmingham) pioneered the use of satellite imagery to discover ruins, tombs, and more.  She's highly recognized, well regarded, and apparently quite successful.  What she is identifying signs of human habitation in ways that would have been impossible before today's modern satellites.  So what does this have to do with the DI?  Nothing, but since when does nothing stop the DI?

What the good professor is looking for are patterns, patterns that when combined with her other research, indicate the probability of being a former location of a town or village.  We recognize patterns all the time, but does there being a pattern automatically mean an intelligent source?  Here is a quote from Professor Parcak from the Smithsonian article::
"Any discovery in remote sensing rests on hundreds of hours of deep, deep study. Before looking at satellite imagery of a cemetery or a pyramid field, you have to already understand why something should be there."
I am surprised the DI used this particular quote, because I believe it defeats their own argument.  Parcak isn't just looking for patterns, she, and I would guess her team, spend hundreds of hours studying a location before looking at the imagery itself.  Her own words, "you have to understand why something should be there."  I this as a parallel to actual scientific work, you look, you study, you learn and what that does is frame any discoveries.  You don't just look at something and declare you are done!  But isn't that the modus operandi of the DI?

Parcak is looking for patterns, the DI insists on calling it 'design', they do that so they can tie into their pet idea of 'Intelligent Design'.  Does Parcak call it design?  Certainly no sign in the Smithsonian article.  The DI wants to call it 'design' so they can compare what she is doing to what they should be doing in examining DNA.  Of course they aren't exactly doing what she is doing.  They are making lots of declarative statements, but never seem to follow up with any supporting evidence.  The reason I am surprised they want to draw such a parallel is because I believe they are missing two points of Parcak's work.

One is illustrated in the quote above.  Where are the hours of deep study of DNA that would lead you to understand why design should be there?  There isn't any.  The DI looks just deep enough to recognize what they claim in the 'appearance' of design, and then they declare victory and demand to be taken seriously.

The second thing they are missing is based on another quote, this one near the  end of the Smithsonian article:
"Parcak often confirms discoveries made at her desk by visiting previously unseen sites and coring the earth or otherwise scouting for artifacts, a process called “ground truthing.”
Where is the 'ground truthing of the DI's arguments?  Where is the supporting evidence?  You will notice that Parcak doesn't just leave things at the level of the imagery, her discoveries are confirmed in the field.  The DI doesn't seem to think that's a required step, they even missed this quote from the article.

Let's imagine that Parcak made an announcement of a discovery and failed to follow-up with what she calls 'ground truthing'. Would she have been written up in the Smithsonian? Would she have been called "The Indiana Jones of low Earth orbit"?  Would she even be an associate professor?  She most certainly wouldn't have made over 3,000 discoveries with a hit rate of close to 100%!  What's the DI's hit rate on actual scientific discoveries again?  That's right: 0%?

As we have learned over and over again, the appearance of design does not mean it was actually designed.  The DI hasn't made the case that apparent design must have been designed and since they claim that only intelligence can design things, any 'design' must be the hallmark of an 'Intelligent Designer' (code word for the Christian God).  Yet their arguments fail on a number of points, particularly on a lack of evidence.  Conjecture and wishful thinking are not evidence.

What we have also learned, yet again, is that whenever anyone uses their brain (intelligence) and discovers anything that can be interpreted, or even mis-interpreted, as 'design' then the DI is going to try and claim yet another victory for their pet concept ID.  They, the DI, still cannot tell the difference between their Intelligent Design 'theory' and use of intelligence in scientific discoveries.  They keep confusing the two in order to confuse everyone else.  If they really want to make this claim, they should be able to tell us just what part of 'Intelligent Design Theory' is this particular professor using?


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Skepticism vs. Scholarship (From James F. McGrath)

Very interesting post from The Religious Prof, aka Professor James F. McGrath.  It discusses the difference between Scholarship and Skepticism:
There is an unfortunate tendency in many circles to suppose that critical scholarship consists of pronouncing negative judgments on early Christians’ own self-understanding of their origins. I would suggest that this is a misunderstanding of what it means to be a critical historian. The critical historian is one who formulates a question, attends to the data relevant to answering that question, weighs possible answers, and then affirms that answer which handles the relevant data best. Sometimes that will much resemble early Christians’ self-understanding of their own origins; sometimes it will be remarkably at variance therewith. The skeptic supposes programmatically that the best answer will be at variance with traditional narratives. That is bias, the bias known as skepticism, which takes as its sinister twin the bias known as credulity: the programmatic supposition that the best answer will be fully congruent with traditional narratives. Both arbitrarily close off possible answers before the investigation even begins. As such, the spirit of critical thought is programmatically opposed to both. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2017/01/skepticism-vs-scholarship.html)
I underlined what I think are the takeaways, at least for me.  It reminded me of an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show.  Eric Braeden, who had played one of my favorite characters from an even older show "The Rat Patrol",  played a critic who had joined the staff at Mary's television studio.  He was a critic who was critical of absolutely everything, nothing was good in any form and he never said a positive thing about anything.  As with this TV character, I've often found critics focusing on the negative, looking for the perceived problems with no regard for anything positive.

When it comes to being critical of science, the above quote really hit home.  How many critics of current science are not 'critics' at all, but skeptics or out-and-out deniers?  They enter into any area with the automatic assumption that science, and scientists, are already wrong and come into the conversation with a different 'answer', even ones that do not align with any of the evidence.

Look at the Discovery Institute (DI), my favorite target.  How much evidence have they offered supporting their pet religious concept Intelligent Design (ID)?  Absolutely none, and yet they are intensely skeptical of any science that doesn't have a religious imprint.  As new scientific discoveries are made, you can bet that shortly thereafter they will try and put an ID spin on it, regardless of the fact the discovery doesn't support it.

Look at little kennie ham and his Answers in Genesis (AiG) ministry, another favorite.  How skeptical is ham and Co. of real science, and yet again offers nothing but belief in his version of the Bible in return.  Both the DI and AiG cloak their skepticism/denial as if they are being critical, but since they already have their 'answer', they aren't!

If you doubt that, look at the tactic commonly referred to as their "Academic freedom campaign", a campaign that has nothing to do with academic freedom and everything to do with protecting any teacher who teaches Creationism/ID in science class, cloaking their religion under the guise of academic freedom.

They have even started another petition the poorly named "Academic Freedom Petition".  Right on the first page they highlight four 'martyrs' for the cause, yet they have to lie about them to sell their story.  Here's what the DI says on their petition site:
  • In Washington state, high school teacher Roger DeHart was driven from his public school because he wanted students to learn about both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution discussed in science journals.
  • In Minnesota, Rodney LeVake was dismissed from teaching high school biology after expressing doubts about the scientific evidence for Darwin’s theory.
  • In Texas, biology teacher Allison Jackson was ordered to stop presenting students with information critical of key aspects of modern Darwinian theory.
  • In Mississippi, chemistry professor Dr. Nancy Bryson lost her job at a state university after she gave a lecture criticizing Darwin’s theory to a group of honors students.

Yet the truth is Roger DeHart was always an old fashioned Creationist and latched onto ID late in his public school teaching career.  he wasn't 'driven away', but was re-assigned teaching duties that didn't involve teaching his religion -- eventually he resigned and started teaching at a Christian school. 

Rodney LeVake wasn't dismissed either.  After it was made clear that LeVake was refusing the teach the prescribed curriculum in 10th grade biology, he was also re-assigned to 9th grade general science which did not include any evolutionary theory.  He sued the school district and lost as every turn.

I can't find much about Allison Jackson, other that the DI's own comment about her being ordered to stop teaching her religion.  I would have to say she was probably doing exactly what the others were doing and got caught.  There is an Allison Jackson who is now associated with:
"The Society for Classical Learning (SCL) has existed since the mid-1990s to facilitate and encourage thinking and discussion among professionals associated with Christ-centered education in the liberal arts tradition."
My further guess would be that the DI wants to present her as another martyr for the cause, but the reality is she got caught between her professional responsibilities and her religious beliefs and made the choice to abandon her responsibilities.  What did I say just a few posts back (Religious Beliefs vs. Personal and Professional Responsibilities) about what to do when you are caught in such a predicament?  Either accept your responsibilities or get out of the situation.  It looks like Allison got out, but not until she was disciplined for failing in her duties.

As for Dr. Bryson, exactly how and why she left her teaching position at the Mississippi University for Women is unclear, there are conflicting reports, including hearings and a change of heart by the administration after announcing her contract wouldn't be renewed.  But even she admitted that her views on Evolution were based on religion and not science.  Here is a very small part of Dr. Bryson's testimony during the Kansas Hearings from 2005.  Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka lawyer is asking the questions, Dr. Bryson is answering:
Q. Now, that opinion that you have about intelligent design, that's not based on science, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. That's based upon your theistic views?
A. Correct.
Q. And you would agree with me that religion has no place in science?
A. Yes.
Q. And you would agree with me that in a science curriculum religion should not be included, correct?
A. Correct. 
So you see, this isn't critical thinking, or really any scholarship involved, just pure and simple dishonesty.  I would have respected any of the 4 who decided to resign their positions BEFORE abdicating their responsibilities.  But if they had, the DI wouldn't be declaring their martyr-hood.
Does anyone every see any signs of scholarship from the DI?  What we get is skepticism and denial-ism and a bunch of creative writing purposefully designed [pun-intended] to disguise their religious beliefs.

The original quote, at the top of this post, discusses biases.  The DI consistently accuses the scientific community of being biased against their pet ideas.  Yet, who is actually being biased?  Look at their four martyrs, can anyone explain how they are the victim of bias, or are their students and the schools  that hired them the victims of their bias in favor of their religious beliefs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: Righting America at the Creation Museum

First off, I haven't read this book (yet).  While I do read a lot, I can't read everything I would like to, there is only so much time in the day.  In this case I ran across this review and thought it was very interesting.  "Book review: ‘Righting America at the Creation Museum’ "  I wasn't going to read it, thinking it was yet another puff piece about little kennie ham's monument to his own ego.  Plus it was written by two University of Dayton professors.  While I do live in the Dayton area, UD is one of the premiere Catholic Universities in the country.  Those of you who have been reading my blog are familiar with my issues over various organized religions.  Secondly it was in the "Mennonite World Review", self-described as "An independent ministry of Christian journalism serving Mennonites and the global Anabaptist Movement"  You can see my skepticism, but I also recognized it as a knee-jerk reaction and I try not give way to knee-jerk reactions.  Which means I have read a great many things that end up quickly dismissed.

So I started reading the review, still expecting to see a puff piece, wow . . . I was surprised.  This book . . . well let me quote the review:

"Susan L. Trollinger and Wil­liam Vance Trollinger Jr. [the authors] describe the Creation Museum as an arsenal for the Christian Right’s culture wars. It’s an apt analogy, but perhaps a better comparison would be a propaganda campaign."
That sort of opening certainly got my attention.  No puff piece would have used the term 'propaganda campaign'!  The review got better:
"They describe exhibits that don’t adhere to stated principles, opportunistic applications of Scripture and dubiously employed uses of theology, history and science — all in a facility that douses visitors with a flood of information in a fast-paced environment that obscures the shortcomings."
I likened the 'museum' as a carnival ride.  An Opportunistic applications of Scripture . . . I would have worded that slightly different, and have in the past.  The Creation 'Museum' and its sister exhibit, the 'replica' of Noah's Ark. are  based on kennie ham's personal interpretation of the first 11 chapters of the Christian Bible, or as I like to say: "The Bible according to kennie ham".  For example:
"The museum’s biblical foundation is problematic. It asserts not only that all Scripture must be read literally but also that it’s commonsensical and doesn’t need interpretation — which is itself an interpretation. Righting America points out that the museum doesn’t address the striking differences between the two creation stories in Genesis and the two sets of instructions to Noah, who first was told to take two of each kind of animal but later seven pairs of each clean animal and one pair of each that was unclean."
See what I mean, little kennie cherry picks the hell [pun intended] of the Bible and then assumes he's the only arbitrator truthfulness.

There are more critiques, some even more damning than what I have posted here.  I encourage you to go read it all for yourself.  If I quote any more, I would simple have to quote the entire article, but that's against the rules to reproduce it in its entirety.  So go and enjoy this reminder that little kennie doesn't represent all of Christianity, as much as he seems to think he does.  He only represents a small minority, a very small minority.  In my opinion most Christians probably think he's nuts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What Happens When You Keep Repeating The Same Lie Over And Over Again?

I don't know about you, but as the saying goes, no matter how much mayonnaise you use, you cannot turn chicken sh** into chicken salad.  Little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, one of the Discovery Institute (DI) talking heads, seems to think if you repeat the same lie enough times, it magically turns into truth.  I disagree, as you can plainly see.

He's been bleating about the David Coppedge trial for a few weeks now, only this time he's tried to enlist Martin Luther King.  (On Martin Luther King Day, Consider This About Intelligent Design) At least this time he hasn't tried to turn Dr. King into an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent.  I am sure that's on the agenda eventually, after all Dr. King meets the only apparent criteria -- he's deceased.  What klingy is doing is bad enough, he's trying to claim that Evolution is a civil rights issue rather than a scientific issue.  In a word, No, it's not.

First off, where were Coppedge's civil rights violated?  He was hired by people who were well aware of his religious beliefs.  He was employed there for years without any adverse actions based on his beliefs, he was even given an additional administrative responsibility based on his seniority --regardless of his beliefs.  What changed wasn't CalTech/JPL policy, but Coppedge's behavior.

Coppedge seems to believe that his beliefs would permit him to harass other employees multiple times.  That his beliefs would protect his position and his job regardless of any complaints or reports of poor performance, and that his employers would take no action even though he allowed his skill set to lag behind the needs of the job.  And  . . . here is the best part . . . when he discovered that none of that was true, he sued for religious viewpoint discrimination.  So, other than in his mind -- in the minds of his lawyers -- and in the DI's public relations department, where in all this were his civil rights being violated?

He was not let go because of his religious beliefs!  He was not let go, as klingy would have you believe, for sharing his religious beliefs in a non-intimidating manner.  He was let go primarily because of his lack of needed skills!  So, one more time, klingy, where was his civil rights violated?

I will tell you whose civil rights were violated, the people whom Coppedge harassed over Creationism/Intelligent Design, CA Prop 8 (Gay Marriage) and the Holiday Party.  Also the managers who tried to counsel an obviously belligerent employee.  And if they had kept Coppedge and fired a more qualified employee, that employee's rights would have been violated for real instead of this imaginary violation against Coppedge.  But no, according to klingy:
"Coppedge's right to dissent from Darwinian orthodoxy was crushed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the judge in the case accepted NASA's slickly constructed defense, rubber-stamped it, denying him the justice of what should have been total vindication."
According to the trial transcripts and the decision rendered by the judge, Coppedge was not 'crushed' by Darwinian orthodoxy, but by his own unprofessional and harassing behavior and his lack of skills. He was given the precise justice he deserved.  Coppedge, and the DI, are trying to use his religious beliefs as a shield to protect him from his own folly!  Coppedge continues to enjoy the right to dissent from evolution. He ran, and I believe still runs, a creationist blog -- which he was running while he was employed by CalTech/JPL. As you can see by klingy's recent posts, Coppedge is free to grant interviews and make speeches. He has the same freedom of expression of every US citizen, including those less-than-stalwart fellows at the Discovery Institute.

What he does not have is the freedom to harass his co-workers. He does not have the right keep a job amidst validated customer and co-worker complaints. He does not have the right to retain a job when his skill set failed to match the requirements of the job.  You cannot expect an employer to retain an employee like Coppedge?

In the post, klingy mentions "Cecil Phillips".  Cecil's issue was a few years back and didn't impact his employment, just his membership in a private organization.  Little klingy says this:
"For every Cecil Phillips, for every David Coppedge, there are countless other people who share their scientific doubts about Darwin, their openness to seeing evidence of design in nature, but who keep their views to themselves in a strategy of self-defense. They are teachers, professors, students, and other thoughtful open-minded citizens, who can't exercise their right to advocate a particular scientific view. They reasonably fear censorship and bullying."
First of all, like Coppedge, Cecil did not lose any of his civil rights.  What Cecil lost was membership to a private organization after advocating the opposite of the goals of the organization. Tell me, klingy, just how many senior fellows over there at the DI's Center for Science and Culture are proponents of evolution and not Intelligent Design?  Gee, I wonder why that is?  Why is that different for the Americans for the Separate of Church and State?  Why should they be forced to retain a member who opposed their goals?  Especially a private organization?  Cecil didn't just advocate a dissent from evolutionary theory, he pushed for a religious-based alternative, your version of ID.  Gee, he was surprised when they not only told him he wasn't welcome, but they refunded his fee!

What I do find interesting, in both cases, klingy can't seem to stick to the facts of the case.  Klingy says Coppedge was fired for sharing his ID videos. . . he also says Phillips was kicked out for raising doubts about Darwin and Evolution.  Yet the fact show Coppedge did a great deal more than just share his videos and did so in a harassing manner.  Phillips didn't just doubt Darwin, he pushed for DI, a religious alternative to science.  Gee, having trouble with the truth much, kilngy?

As for the rest of the folks klingy mentioned, they can certainly exercise their right to advocate a particular viewpoint, although I cannot call ID a scientific viewpoint with a straight face.  What these 'countless' (yea, sure!) teachers, professors, and students cannot do is offer ID as a valid and viable answer to biological questions in a public school setting.  After all, it's a religious viewpoint, as determined by Federal Court about 11 years ago, and re-affirmed every time the DI rushes to the defense of people like Coppedge and Phillips claiming some sort of religious viewpoint discrimination.  Sure, ID's not religious, yet you rush to the aid of such religious arguments all the time.  Plus you never seem to get the facts straight, it always boils down the religion with you.  Check out those other 'heroes' of the DI Movement (Sternberg, Crocker, Gonzalez, Abrahams, and Davis), in each instance the facts of the case differ greatly from the DI's portrayal.

Bottom line is that according to the court transcript and the final decision, the employment decision to terminate Coppedge was not based on his religious beliefs at all.  Every time klingy posts about Coppedge he's simply lying, as we have pointed out before, and here, and here.  He, and the rest of the DI, just seems to think that if you repeat the same lie often enough, some people will accept it as true.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Map-making in a Modern World

I came across an analogy that I simply love, let me quote part it first:

"Earlier maps might still be useful, if you realize their limitations and use them appropriately — but newer maps, even though the differences are slight, are better at describing 'what is there'." (Quoted from a comment from When Science Stands Up To Creationism)
Yes, this is part of an analogy, but more on that later.  I just want to explore this quote for a moment because I love Maps!  When I was a child I had a globe in my bedroom, which I kept even after my little brother drew on it.  Of course the lines on that globe, excluding my brother's colorful additions, wouldn't match up too well with a current globe.  Countries have changed from my childhood, some renamed, others have new borders, and some have ceased to exist entirely.  I always wanted one of those large globes that you could open up and have stuff hidden inside!

Maps hold a similar fascination for me.  I used to do a great deal of traveling and I always kept a Rand-McNally Road Atlas in the car.  It got me from place to place across America and parts of Canada.  I enjoyed the route planning and even used it to track my progress.  My wife enjoyed them as well because she would find the most obscure attractions, like the World's Smallest Cathedral (in Missouri).  What I did find was that as good as the maps were, they would quickly become outdated because  . . .  as with my beloved globe . . . things change.

Even in this modern day of Google Maps, things change.  It's something we have to be aware of and plan to adjust to those changes.  I have been driving along and coming to a dead-end that used to be a through road, but the road ended in a 'T' intersection and there was a building where the road used to go through.  Imagine the reaction if I stood there complaining about my map's inaccuracy because some town had built a building where there used to be a road!  Here in the Dayton Ohio area the roads are subject to name changes as you drive along.  It was confusing at first, but it makes sense as you consider how communities grew and eventually connected and merged.  We have certainly kept map-makers busy over the years.

The person who made the above comment was using it as an analogy to science.  Barbara King, the author of the article I lifted the quote from, continued the quote with this:
"Science is the process of learning what is where in the world of knowledge; and we are constantly developing better tools to make better measurements. We are constantly re-drawing the stuff that we suspect might be out there, slowly getting closer and closer to getting the stuff beyond the boundaries of knowledge successfully mapped out, and firmly within the boundaries of what we know. This means there will be a new frontier, and new questions, and maybe some corrections along the way."
Hopefully you can see the connection now.  Barbara King's original article about not failing our children on teaching Evolution brought out some typical vitriol, pretty much as expected.  But at least some of the comments were positive, like the analogy between science and map-making.  The parallels are there for anyone who wishes to see.  Science isn't an end, but a journey.

I've often used the analogy of a snapshot, as in a scientific theory is like a snapshot in time.  It represents what we know right now.  It is subject to change as we learn more and more, which is why the snapshot analogy worked well for me.  Maps might actually be better, because when you take a new snapshot, you are replacing the original.  Maps are updated with new information than replaced. 

Of course Creationists, and I do lump the Discovery Institute in with that group, treat the update-ability of science as a negative.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard something along the lines of 'but science changes!' as an attempted hit.  Of course they will never admit to it actually being a whiff.  Science improving the maps are a positive not a negative.  To a Creationists any map was written a long time ago and updating them is some form of sacrilege.

Imagine trying to navigate using a map from 2000 years ago!  That's pretty much what kennie ham and the DI are demanding.  Forget anything we have learned in the past couple of thousand years, if anyone stands up and says it conflicts with their perception of how things ought to be,m the rest of us are supposed to ignore it.  Hasn't worked too well for them, has it?  While they keep dragging their feet and kicking and screaming, the 21st century is here and as much as they don't wish to be part of it, they are.

I prefer a modern and up-to-date map when I do my traveling and apparently most people feel that way -- more and more, since kennie, and others, are whining about declining attendance at their various houses of worship.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Balancing the Scales . . . Artificially!

If you bothered to read "You Already Support Goliath with Your Tax Dollars; Won't You Consider Balancing the Scales?" you know what it is . . . even if you don't bother to read it, you can tell just from the title.  The Discovery Institute (DI) is begging for money, something they do regularly.  This time asking anyone who reads it to 'balance the scales'.

Let's talk about that for a minute.  Actually we already have in previous posts.  Let's place this in perspective.  There are Federal and State tax dollars being used for a variety of actions dealing with discrimination.  So let us balance the scales and donate money to groups like the Ku Klux Klan, after all, it would be balancing the scales, right?

I know, you think I am equating the DI to the KKK, but if you read what I actually wrote, I am not equating those two organizations.  What I am saying is that 'balancing the scales' is a pretty foolish idea unless the two opposing positions are equivalent in some fashion.  Does anyone believe anti-discrimination efforts by government organizations and the efforts to discriminate by the KKK are equal?  No, they are not, therefore there can be no balancing of the scales by any means.

It's the same thing for the DI.  Is their pet religious proposition, currently called 'Intelligent Design (ID)', the equal of Evolutionary Theory?  Not in any way shape of form!  I have asked many times for them to present the scientific advances that can be traced back to their pet concept.  There aren't any!  Yet evolution has led to advances in medicine, ecology, and environmental sciences -- just to name a few.  Evolutionary theory is a real, actual scientific theory, not pseudo-scientific religious babble.  Without such equivalency there can be no balancing of the scales.

The DI is just using this  . . . balancing . . . as another marketing concept to raise funds.  I guess their other sources might be drying up a bit, especially considering their lack of progress in advancing their religious agenda.  Think about what they are actually saying:  "Feel sorry for us because no public schools are taking us seriously, so no tax money supports our efforts."  But shouldn't you ask yourself why no public schools teach Intelligent Design (ID)?  The DI spins all sorts of excuses, but take it down to it's most fundamental, what has ID accomplished?  Nothing!

Depending on which posts from the DI you read, ID is either as old as Ancient Greece or too new to have had much of an impact on modern science.  So they are either asking you to donate to something that has been totally ineffective for centuries or just totally ineffective for decades, your choice.  To me it would be the same thing as donating money to a Numerologist since Math teachers in public school are supported by tax dollars.  It makes just as much sense.

There is another reason tax dollars don't support it, and one we have explored numerous times, it's called the US Constitution.  Should our tax dollars be used to promote a religion?  You need to remember that's all ID is -- a religious viewpoint.  It says so in their own guiding document:

" . . .reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."
In other words they want to replace science with a religion without worrying about minor details like whether or not it actually does anything.  There is the rub, science works without having to invoke any of the thousands of deities mankind has created for themselves over the centuries.  And that just pisses people who insist on forcing their religion onto everyone else off!  Cars run, aircraft fly, medicines work . . . because of the scientific work that supports then, not because you prayed to one particular deity or another!

The rest of the post is nothing outside of the usual.  Someone said something negative about ID and the DI just has to respond.  I think that sort of knee-jerk reaction is built into their DNA.  Remember the quilt, here is part of something I wrote up about a year ago:
"The DI are masters at Public Relations and Marketing.  Anyone who says something negative about the DI or Intelligent Design is automatically a target.  Do you remember little gem from 2006: "Canadian Quilters Attack Intelligent Design" from Evolution 'News' and Views and "“ID is a Myth” Quilt Wins National Contest" from Uncommon Descent.  Yes, a quilter . . . a single quilter did a quilt that made fun of Intelligent Design . . . and she is suddenly part of a cabal of Canadian Quilters who are attacking ID.  See my point?  They can't even allow someone to make a little fun of their pet version of Creationism without trying to gain some PR mileage out of it.  A humorous quilt is suddenly an attack!"
In this case it was a biology professor who had the audacity to review the actual court documents instead of . . . here let me quote davey 'klingy' klinghoffer's post:
"Herron's "research" appeared to consist of downloading a court document from the website of the Darwin-lobbying National Center for Science Education. If he had consulted any of our copious analysis here, by Casey Luskin and others, from the months around the Coppedge trial, that was not reflected in his post."
Yes, according to klingy, Mark Herron (Senior Research Scientist in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech) downloaded the court documents instead of reading the DI's spin on the Coppedge case, something klingy has been spinning on a lot lately.  How dare Herron go to the source!  What Herron did in his own blog post (Lies of omission and straight-up lies) was highlight many of the things klingy has been omitting from his recent spinning of Coppedge.  I wrote a bit about it here, but let me quote Herron a little, I added the underlining for emphasis:
"So Klinghoffer’s version of events is, at the very least, grossly oversimplified, failing to mention either the negative performance review or the history of customer complaints. Furthermore, Coppedge’s claim that the 2009 performance review “…was the first indication of me being at fault for communications problems” contradicts his own notes, which indicate complaints going back to 2004. 
The biggest problem for this bit of revisionist history, though, is that the annual performance reviews were not considered in the layoff process."
"Klinghoffer’s omission of relevant information goes well beyond spin and into dishonesty. His articles at Evolution News and Views never mention that everyone knew layoffs were coming or that another system administrator was laid off at the same time. It doesn’t sound quite so sinister when you know that Coppedge was part of the 40% of system administrators laid off due to budget cuts, does it? Klinghoffer also fails to mention the history of complaints from “[e]very office..Even [his] own team members,” or that Coppedge was ranked fifth out of five in skills relevant to the extended Cassini mission. His claim that Coppedge was “fired” entirely for lending out DVDs doesn’t even match Coppedge’s version of events. 
Coppedge might just be deluded, but Klinghoffer is lying to promote his “Anti-Intelligent Design Persecution” narrative."
The other whine, and the one that leads to the plea for funds, is that Georgia Tech is a public university, therefore Herron's work may be funded by tax dollars . . . so since tax dollars do fund real science, klingy wants to 'balance the scales' by asking for donations to fund pseudo-science.  Of course Herron may be funded by other sources, that's how real science funding works, not that I would expect klingy to understand that.

If you are a supporter of ID, then go ahead and support it.  But don't do it because of this artificial idea of balancing the scales.  The only way the scales can be balanced is if ID proponents get off their marketing asses and get into a lab and perform real science.  They have to offer scientifically valid data, not conjecture and wishful thinking.  ID is currently getting all the tax support it deserves, None at all.  Until ID proponents manage to find actual supporting evidence through scientific methodology that can be validated and verified, then their religious proposition remains religious.

The only thing I plan on doing is adding Mark Herron's blog "Fierce Roller" to the list of blogs I read regularly.  You can find a link over on the right if you wish to join me.