Monday, March 27, 2017

Noticed Something New on EnV

The Discovery Institute has re-designed their 'Evolution news and Views' website.  One of the things they did was categorize their posts.  Here's the first page:

I know it's small, but the part I wanted you to see isn't the small print, but the category headings.  On this page there are three different headings "EVOLUTION", "CULTURE & ETHICS", and "INTELLIGENT DESIGN".  What I found the most interesting is confirmation of a common critique about Intelligent Design (ID) and it's proponents, the Discovery Institute (DI) in particular.  Rather than supporting their own ideas, they spend much more time tearing down existing ideas rather than offering anything viable in its place.  Just look at this page, six posts on Evolution and only one on ID.  If you think that's unusual, here are the next two pages:
Nine more on Evolution and and only one more on ID.  So just the ratio on the first three pages is 15 to 2.  For fun I went through the next several pages and it held true, on every page there were not just more posts attacking Evolution than ID, but it was 3, 4, 5, even 6 times as many.  On some pages there were absolutely no posts concerning ID, just more Evolution bashing than anything else.  Yes, I am talking about Evolution bashing.  The various talking heads, usually folks like little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer or Sara Chafee, quote-mine from some actual scientific paper and place an ID spin on it.  However, does the DI do any actual scientific work to support their opinions?  No, never.  It's just spin plain and simple.

What does this tell you?  Well, it's something that has been said often about ID.  That instead of offering a viable alternative, they spend more of their marketing muscle trying to convince people Evolution isn't the answer than trying to convince people on ID being an answer, let only the answer.  Why is that?

An example I have used over the years is a simple analogy, if you can convince people that 1 + 1 does not equal 2, then you stand a better chance of telling them the answer is 3.  You see, to me, the best action would not be trying to tear down 1+1=2, but coming up with the evidence than 1+1=3.  But for some reason the DI seems unable or unwilling to do this.  So instead of coming up with evidence that 1+1=3, they spend 87+% of their time trying to convince people that 1+1 does not equal 2, but they do so without any evidence at all.  Am I making any sense?  My problem with this approach is that even by some incredible leap of the imagination they manage to convince people that 1+1 does not equal 2, they still have a long road ahead of them to convince then it equals 3.

That's what I have seen for years, and these categories reinforce it.  It's apparent that the DI has little to offer in the way of actual science, so they spend most of their resources in trying to tear down real science.  Since they cannot hope to replace Evolution  with ID on its merits, they are more than happy to try and tear it down assuming that their pseudo-science will be the only potential replacement.  In my opinion their failure at providing an actual replacement will continue to haunt them.  They might win an occasional political battle, but when it comes to actual usable science, they will continue to founder.

The reason O see that is simple.  Look at history.  At one time Creationism formed the basis for most of our education, especially in the sciences.  Why did that point of view get replaced?  Simple, it didn't work.  Seriously, as we learned more and more about the world around us, the invocation of a Deity just didn't add anything to the equation, in fact it did more damage than good.  I bet and ancient Norse complained when his various Gods as explanations for the world for alternatives that actually fit the evidence.  I doubt he complained as loudly as some of the DI's folks.  But if you want to replace an actual scientific theory, you have to come up with something as good or better.  So far Creationism in all it's forms, including it's most recent incarnation Intelligent Design, have failed to do anything at all.

The amount of resources the DI has spent trying to tear down actual science supports the fact that ID never will amount to much of anything.  After all, no one seems to be doing much to support it.  I guess it's easier to tear at something than build up something else, especially if you want to build without a foundation.

Did you know Doctors can read God's Mind? I Didn't Either!

There is a small group of MD's who support Intelligent Design (ID), although it is hard to track them down.  Originally they called themselves  Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity (PSSI), and they were formed by the Discovery Institute (DI)!  However their website no longer works.  Here is what you get if you click on it:

It's an Internet site selling the domain.  Unless the group changed names, I'm not sure it's still active.  At its last update in Wikipedia, as of 2007 they had 264 signatories.  Yes, 264 over 15 countries -- out of how many MDs, Dentists, Osteopaths, and Veterinarians in the US alone? Over 800,000 MDs, over 60,000 Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, over 140,000 dentists, and over 50,000 Veterinarians.  So let me get this straight, this PSSI had 264 signatories over 15 countries out of a possible number, from the US alone, of well over 1,050,000 possible signers.  And the Discovery Institute thinks this is brag worthy?  The percentage is approximately 0.025%, is that even statistically significant?  Although if you want to get technical, since the US is only 1 country, I guess the percentage is actually more like 1/15th of 0.025% -- talk about statistical insignificance.

Which I do find sorta funny because in 2006 the DI had a press release claiming that '60% of U.S. Doctors Skeptical of Darwinian Evolution', and yet provided little information about the survey, like what was asked and who the audience was that was asked -- both of which are common tactics used to spin survey results in a specifically-desired direction.  So 60% of US doctors skeptical of Evolution -- but during the same time period only a minuscule amount joined this PSSI.  Don't you just love marketing statistics.

Since this organization is no longer active, why do I bring it up? Well, a post just the other day on the usual site, the DI's Evolution news and Views (EnV): "Why Understanding Intelligent Design Helps Us to Understand Physiology".  You can read it if you want, basically it's nothing more than one doctor's opinion that ID offers an easier way to understand physiology that evolution.  Here is a quote:
"The candidate I was questioning tied himself up in knots trying to remember and explain what factors shift the curve left and what factors shift it right. He had been taught that hemoglobin had evolved by randomly mutating genes and that this amazing molecule was undesigned. But if he had taken a design perspective in physiology, he would have thought, “If I were to design a molecule to do this job, what properties would it have?” He would have known that a designed molecule would have greater affinity for oxygen in a milieu where it is most advantageous for the body to extract oxygen from its surroundings, and decreased affinity in a milieu where it is most advantageous for the body to receive oxygen, despite there being no advantage to the molecule itself. From a design perspective, it would be common sense to know what would shift the curve left or right."
So the key to 'using' design is to put yourself in the driver's seat and play God.  That makes it easy to understand things . . . However . . .

When you look up Physiology on Wikipedia, one line just jumped out at me:
"Much of the foundation of knowledge in human physiology was provided by animal experimentation." (Wikipedia: Physiology)
So, much of what we know about Physiology came from animal experimentation, and why did that help us learn about human physiology?  I'll give you a hint, but I bet you won't need one . . . Evolution.  Common Descent, which is part of Evolutionary Theory, is why we were able to use animals to learn a great deal about ourselves.  To use this example, Evolution taught us the answer, the 'curve left or right'.  But this particular doc thinks it's easier to understand if you think like a designer Deity.

So what is really happening here . . . at least how I see it . . . is the subject at hand is studied, documented, and understood using Evolution and then -- after the fact -- a design proponent comes in and lays claim to everything that is learned.  It's like a mathematician who solves an incredibly complex problem and writes it across three blackboards and circles the answer at the bottom of the third crowded backboard.  Then a design proponent walks into the room and points to the circled answer and says "Look, I found the answer!"

So claiming that you can understand anything better through ID seems a bit of a non-starter.  What has ID done to solve any problem?  What research into the subject was done based on ID? What has ID done to educate and elucidate on a particular subject?  Three questions with three very similar answers:  Nothing, None, and Nada!  No problems solved using ID, no research, no education -- unless you believe that 'thinking like a Deity' is an example of education.  Did this doc learn what he knows about Physiology based on ID or did he learn it through Evolution?  The example here seems to be take what is learned through actual scientific means and then just label it as ID.

What this also shows is that no matter how well educated doctors are assumed to be, you can always find a few that would rather put their religion ahead of their knowledge and training.  There's always a few, but this also shows you how few there really are -- 1/15th of 0.025%.  If you think that number is low, and I admit it might be, let's also remember how long (16 years) the DI has been collecting signatures for their 'Dissent from Darwinism' petition, they've managed to collect a bit over 800 -- with only about 25% in a biology-related field.  Don't forget that it was determined the difficulties these signatories were agreeing too had little to do with science and much more to do with their religious beliefs.

Of course, if we want to talk numbers, don't forget that during the Dover trial (2005) a grassroots effort called 'A Scientific Support for Darwinism' over 7700 signatures were collected in four days! Plus that grassroots effort had a much higher percentage of actual scientists working in biology-related fields (25% v. 68%).

So bottom line is now ID proponents are making claims about research based on real science and trying to somehow claim ID does it better -- and yet we have yet to see an example of ID doing anything at all!  If this doctor's statement were factual, wouldn't there be tons of textbooks and research done from a design perspective?  Wouldn't that have been how he, himself, had learned all about Physiology?  But no, there aren't any textbooks, there is no research.  There are only claims just like the one this doctor makes -- unsupported by anything other than his opinion.  While he might link to think that Evolution had nothing to do with Physiology, nearly everything he learned about the subject can be traced back to Evolution and Common Descent -- he just doesn't like to admit it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

If You Don't Know It All, Then You Don't Know Anything . . . Really?

A recent post from the Discovery Institute (DI) repeats a common theme.  It goes something like this, if you don't know something to the absolute 100%, then you really don't know anything at all.  This is a common whine that Creationists like to use every now and then.  They complain that scientific knowledge might change as we learn new things and they, of course, parade that as some sort of weakness.  The reality is that is one of science's strengths, the ability to reformulate ideas and theories as we learn more and more.  As I have said before, Darwin would barely recognize the details of the current Theory of Evolution, although he would recognize how much of his ideas remain and have been expanded upon.  Newton would probably not recognize the current Theory of Gravity, but he would certainly recognize the underpinnings.

Little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer took aim at something else, 'matter' -- as in the stuff that makes up all the other stuff.  His post "Astrophysicist Adam Frank: Materialism’s Fatal Flaw Is…Matter".  You can read it for yourself, but it's mostly a cut and paste from an essay from the astrophysicist.  klingy explains his basic whine with this:

"It seems that, when we’re confronted with theories of origins that dogmatically insist on an active role for matter and material forces alone, a reasonable question before going any further is: Define matter. What is it? If Darwinists can’t answer that one, then I’m not sure by what right they command our agreement to any of the rest of their theory."
First off, 'dogmatic' is a lie.  Science has shown over and over again the evidence supporting matter and material forces play in scientific theories.  It would be dogmatic is such evidence didn't exist, but since it does, a 'dogmatic instistance' does not apply.  Can klingy say the same thing about Intelligent Design?  Care to show any actual evidence?  I didn't think so.  To continue . . .

Before going into the rest of his particular whine, I would like to remind you of something very basic.  Whether you realize it or not, we do not know all there is to know about anything, including the scientific theories explaining such things as the Atom, Gravity, Aerodynamics, Thermodynamics, Germs, Disease . . . but the real question is "So what?"  

Without a complete understanding, at least to the degree folks like klingy and the other Discoveroids seem to want, we have made pretty solid use of these theories.  We fly aircraft, went to the Moon, have cured and treated an incredible number of diseases and prevented even more with our, admittedly, less than perfect understanding of germs and biology.  We create electricity with that limited knowledge of what it is and even command light appear and disappear without fully understanding if it is a particle or a wave.  How are we able to do all this?  It's called science, something klingy and his pals really wish never came into being.  He's apparently more comfortable with a Deity than any understanding, even a partial understanding.

What's most personally annoying is that understanding science doesn't prevent you from believing in one deity or another, but it does get in the way when you try and rationalize your belief.  Think about it, science isn't making any claims against a deity, but what it is doing is showing how the many claims about what a deity did or did not do  . . . claims made by man . . . are crap.  There is very little difference between an ancient Greek citing Apollo when looking at the Sun and klingy making claims for his 'designer', is there?

So in answer to his asinine question, we do not know everything there is to know about matter.  But since when would something like that stop us from using it, exploring about it, and even codifying how it works? We know a great deal about matter, if we didn't, then building anything would be impossible. Look at Materials Science and the incredible materials they have created, everything from quark-gluon plasma to Aerographite, which, if you have never heard of them, are both the most and least dense man-made materials created so far.  I think Aerographite weighs in at 0.2 grams per cubic meter.  For a reference  - steel is 8,000 kilograms per cubic meter and a cubic centimeter of quark-gluon plasma would weigh 40 billion tons -- which is denser than a neutron star, for all you science and science fiction buffs.

Cool stuff, huh?  Not bad for not being able to define something to the satisfaction of the DI.  Now let's look at what I think little klingy is really up to, it's got a bunch of names, but I prefer to call it 'moving the goal posts'.  The DI knows that real scientists are perfectly willing to admit that we do not know everything about any subject, even evolution.  They use this as a tactic frame the conversation in such a way to try and negate the entire subject by moving the goal posts every time we learn something new.  And yet where are those goal posts set for klingy's Intelligent Design and the often mentioned, but never officially identified, intelligent designer?  Think about it.

We don't know everything about any one subject, but we do know a lot -- and we use what we know to do stuff -- like fly airplanes for example.  But when it comes to the DI's Intelligent Design, what do we know?  Not a damn thing!  We don't know, and the DI has never bothered to explain, what ID is, how it works, or even why it's a better explanation than Evolution when discussing Biology.  Now be honest, ID proponents, can you answer any of these questions?  If you can, then you are miles ahead of the ID 'think-tank' called the Discovery Institute!  Little klingy is whining because we do not know 100% of everything about matter, so therefore we cannot use 'matter' or 'material forces' in any explanations about biology.  But . . . you had to see this one coming . . . we know absolutely nothing about ID, how ID works, or even who the 'designer' is, and yet this is a better explanation?  Really?  How is that even possible?

It's possible because klingy and his buds are moving the goal posts.  When a real scientist steps up to the line of scrimmage, he lines up on his opponents goal line and the only allowable play (remember DI is setting the rules in this example) for him is fully 100 yards away, nothing else is allowable -- no first downs, no short yardage gains, not even long yardage -- it's score or nothing.  That's where klingy sets the goal posts for real biologists.  Yet when an ID proponent steps up, he is lined up already in his own end zone, the goal posts are already behind him and without even running a play, he declares 'Score!'

Am I over-exaggerating?  I don't think so.  If you think that, then please list for me all of the scientific advances and achievements that have been done using the DI's Intelligent Design?  I am not talking about their claims that using your brain is the same as ID. I'm not talking about their undefined 'Design Inference Detector'.  I am talking about a valid and verified (by someone not associated with ID and the DI) implementation of Intelligent Design.  Show me or stop helping the DI rationalize themselves as anything other than a ministry!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Can Creation Scientists do Real Science?

You might be surprised by my answer, which is 'Yes!', but with certain qualifications.  This is something I have said before, and believe it to be true.  Just because you have a particular religious tradition does not disqualify you from being a 'real' scientist.  It's not your belief set that may disqualify you, but the application of that belief set.

OK, let me clear that up a bit.  In a recent post little kennie ham whined that his pet stable of creation scientists weren't being taken seriously as scientists "Can Creation Scientists Do Real Science?"  Little kennie quoted one of his pet 'scientists, Danny Faulkner, who brought up the fact that Issac Newton was a theist.  Danny said:

"The person who literally wrote the book on physics and astronomy, and who invented calculus, was Sir Isaac Newton. And he wrote ten times more on theology and the Bible than he did on math and science. So if you are going to take that approach, you just kicked one of the greatest scientists of all time to the curb because he can’t be a scientist."
First of all, there is a subtle lie in Danny's comment.  Where is it said that someone who believes in any religious tradition cannot be a scientist?  It isn't!  That's a straw-man that folks like Danny and little kennie like to parade out regularly.  If you think it is carved in stone somewhere, tell me something . . . where is Newton's theology in his discoveries in physics and astronomy?  Even looking at calculus, where is the theology?  It isn't there, is it?  Newton is a prime example of a theist who refused to be blinded by his religious beliefs.

Like I said, this topic comes up often, just a couple of years ago little kennie also had this post, "A Renowned Creation Scientist, Inventor of MRI".  Basically he was bragging about a Creationist who does science.  I had a question for kennie then, and it's the same question as now:  "Just where in the scientific work of Raymond Damadian (he's the Creation Scientist kennie was bragging about)  do you see where God enters the process?"

I know little kennie misses my point, but hopefully you don't.  Whether you believe in one religious tradition or another doesn't matter when it comes to science.  Because at no point in actual scientific work do you use the concept of a deity.  Newton didn't, Damadian didn't either.  Whatever religious beliefs any scientist has does not become part of their scientific work.  If you disagree, show me where in the actual science does God do a part?  You cannot find what isn't there!

I know, little kennie will misdirect and say things like 'God's handiwork is present when two chemicals combine, or when gravity does this, or when fires are lit -- it's all part of God's Plan.  That's what is called a 'Rationalization', and while kennie will never admit it, the reality is that is nothing more than a rationalization.  Little kennie, and the like, want so desperately to see, to invoke, and pay homage to their deity that their rationalization is an absolute requirement.  They claim many things, but when you look at the science, you don't see the application of their religious beliefs.

When I see the handle of a 'creation scientist', I am not think about Newton, but someone much more like Answers in Genesis (AiG)'s Faulkner or the Institute for Creation Research (ICR)'s Jason Lisle. While they have the same education as others in their field, they filter everything through their religious beliefs.  Creation scientists, like them, share certain traits that people like Newton and Damadian did not.  Folks like Faulkner and Lisle start their work with their religion, filter everything through their religion, and form their results based on their religion.  That is not the hallmark of a scientist!

The first thing is how much science gets dismissed by them.  For example they start with the presumption that the Earth is 6,000 years old, so when faced with any evidence it's older, they deny, prevaricate, and rationalize.  They 'know' the age of the Earth, so nothing can interfere with that belief.  This is what allows them to say things like "it's the same evidence, just different results" when faced with radiometric dating which concludes that the Earth is not 6,000 years old.

When faced with the speed of light, creation scientists come to the conclusion that the speed of light isn't the same everywhere or throughout history.  In fact one quote from Lisle:
"creation was supernatural, therefore cannot be understood scientifically" (You Tube:  Jason Lisle)
Regardless of the fact there is no evidence to support their conclusions, they glue themselves to the rationalizations because of their religious beliefs. When pushed they fall onto things like the above quote.  That is the hallmark of a 'Creation Scientist', not the fact they have a theistic belief set, but that belief set contaminates their efforts at science.

It doesn't matter what discoveries are made, they twist and rationalize an explanation to either force it into their religious view, or they ignore it completely.  When faced with criticisms, they pull the conspiracy card out, claiming they are being discriminated against, that schools refuse to recognize their 'scientific work' in awarding degrees and research funding.  However . . .

Both Danny Faulkner and Jason Lisle are also examples that contradict such an assertion.  Here's a quote from Lisle's bio from the RationalWiki:
"Although some creationists claim that a creationist would be unable to earn an advanced degree from a secular university because of institutional prejudice against their beliefs, Lisle's academic progress was not hindered by his creationism. While members of his Master's thesis and Ph.D.dissertation committees might have been aware of his young Earth beliefs, their evaluation of his work was based on his research and not his personal beliefs." (RationalWiki: Jason Lisle)
Faulkner has degrees from Clemson and Indiana University and even taught for a while at the University of South Carolina.  That is proof that it's not personal beliefs that cause problems being a scientist, but it's the application of those beliefs that can cause you to be labeled a 'Creation Scientist' and, as a result, not be taken seriously as a scientist. 

Even working in a  place like AiG or ICR you can continue to perform actual science, but  . . . when you submit to actual scientific journals, if your work is steeped in your religious beliefs, it will more than likely be dismissed . . . as it should be.  Besides, imagine if Danny Faulkner tried to publish something that contradicted his boss' religious belief set!  Don't forget who owns AiG, little kennie ham, and don't forget you have to sign a Statement of Faith that basically tells you to suspend rational thought and buy into the belief set or go home.  I don't believe that Danny will ever make a discovery that will contradict his beliefs, he won't allow himself that much freedom of thought.   Remember what happened to Wild Bill Dembski when his bosses, at the time, thought he was contradicting the Bible?  He was an actual casualty of these cultural wars, not an imagined one.

Going back to my original question, where in all of Newton's science and mathematical work do you find preconceptions formed by his religious beliefs?  You don't!  When a scientist starts with a set of per-conditions that causes them to reject evidence, they tend to not be scientists for much longer.  To paraphrase Dembski, 'Theological Correctness' is much more highly regarded than science in such Evangelical circles like AiG and ICR.

Monday, March 13, 2017

When is a 'War' not a 'War'? Only When the DI Doesn't Want the Negative Imagery

Sarah Chaffee wrote a post "Now It’s a “War on Children” — Critics of Academic Freedom Opt for Scare Tactics" and once again was trying to whine about what others were saying about ID and the DI's 'academic freedom' bills.

Let's see, the DI's idea of academic freedom is targeting High School and earlier . . . what's so bad about calling it a 'War on Children'?  Isn't it?  Often this disagreement between science and religious apologetics is referred to as a 'culture war'.  Here are a few terms taken directly from the DI's own guiding strategy document (The Wedge Strategy): "wholesale attack", "cultural confrontation", and "direct confrontation".  The DI takes aim at school children and suddenly referring to this as a 'war' is a bad thing because the very idea of wars . . . well, here is Sarah's own words:

"Anyone with any common sense would object to the gruesome and indecent image — a war that targets children? Fine, let them disagree about the advisability of these laws. But this wording is a prime example of scare tactics, also known as the fallacy of appeal to fear."
So it's OK to target school children, but it's not OK to call it exactly what it is, a war, because of the gruesome and imagery often associated with the concept.  And yet . . . and you just had to know there would be a yet . . .

So exactly what is the DI doing when it tries to associate Charles Darwin with Adolf Hitler and claims that Darwin's theories are responsible for the Holocaust and pretty much all of today's societal ills?  You and I both understand the reasons, Hitler is Bad so if they can make people think there is a connection, it paints Darwin in a very negative light.  Same thing with the Holocaust, which little bennie stein tried to connect the two in that abortion 'Expelled' we've discussed before.  Following the premiere of that particular disgrace, even Jewish groups (Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, New Jersey Jewish News) disagreed with bennie.  The DI's own pseudo-historian, Michael Flannery and one of the regular mouthpieces, little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, are trying to make careers out of bashing Darwin by re-writing history -- when they aren't re-writing biographies to make safely dead historical figures sound like they supported Intelligent Design.

It's OK for the DI to use such analogies and associations, but if someone uses anything potentially graphic against the DI, they are guilty of misrepresenting the DI, really?

Let's call it what it is, the Discovery Institute has declared war on science.  They did so by disregarding anything resembling scientific methodology, by marketing with campaigns designed to deceive, and pushing these so-called academic freedom bills -- which have nothing to do with actual academic freedom.  Plus their primary targets are not the scientists who study biology, but school children who learn it in elementary and high schools.  They enlist parents and teachers by marketing their ideas as if they were not pseudo-science and they hide their religious motivations behind a wink-and-a-nod.  They further support politicians who know a quick way to get votes isn't to agree with conservative religious groups, but to give lip service to those groups . . . that's called pandering, something else we have discussed before.  I'm not sure which is worse, politicians who pander conservative religious positions for votes or politicians who actually agree with conservative religious positions and use their power to inflict their beliefs on their constituents . . . but that's a story for another day.  Back to the DI.

The DI doesn't like calling it a war just like they don't like officially identifying their intelligent designer.  Once you do so, you add on a heap of baggage they prefer people not trouble themselves thinking about.  What happens to medical care when the only biological training doctors get is 'God did it, so shut up and suffer!'  You think I am kidding, but you really need to look back and look at what medical care was like throughout history.  Do you really want a Doctor of Theology (DOT) playing MD?

One of the common themes from the Discovery Institute is that everyone, except for them, have a large list of misconceptions about Intelligent Design (ID).  Sarah raises that idea as well by claiming that the academic freedom bills are all about 'critical thinking', and yet when two publications don't believe them, she accuses them of misrepresenting those bills.

The DI claims that anyone who disagrees with them are mid-defining it, mis-applying it, or being misleading on the DI's goals and objectives.  Of course the DI never seems to accept any responsibility for how fluid they are with their definitions, their attempt to claim it's applicability, or their own motivations has nothing to do with that.  Well it's not just ID, it's also a tactic they use for their so-called 'academic freedom' bills.

Let's discuss academic freedom for a bit:
"Academic freedom is the conviction that the freedom of inquiry by faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.
Academic freedom is a contested issue and, therefore, has limitations in practice. In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized "1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure" of the American Association of University Professors, teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution." (Wikipedia: Academic Freedom)
Please note the line I underlined, 'avoid controversial matter unrelated to the subject'.  So if you read this and even check out the way academic freedom is handled at most US schools you learn a couple of things.  First off, Academic Freedom exists primarily at the University level.  That doesn't mean it doesn't exist at other levels, but at high school, and lower levels, there is much more control over the lessons being taught.  Most states have a school board and set curricula.  Teachers at those levels do not have the same freedom as university professors, nor need the same institutional autonomy.   

The DI's 'academic freedom' bills are aimed at High Schools, where academic freedom is not, nor should be, much of an issue.  No, I take that back.  High School students are more than likely better able to handle controversial subjects . . . at least those that are related to the curriculum.  But High Schools are almost always constrained in resources, including time and money, so all States remain a large amount of control of curriculum subjects to insure a standard of education across the State. Colleges and Universities are less constrained and also are heavily involved in research and development in addition to teaching current course information, so academic freedom -- within the curriculum area, makes more sense at that level. 

The other consideration you should realize, is that academic freedom only covers within a subject area.  As soon as you voice issues outside of the subject area, it is no longer an issue of academic freedom.  How do you make that determination?  You look at the wider community, in this case Science, and see what parts of the subject area are considered controversial.  If you look for about 30 seconds, you will see that Creationism and Intelligent Design are not controversies within a scientific subject area, but contrived cultural controversies designed to push one specific religious view.  This is why Astrology is not taught in Astronomy nor Alchemy in Chemistry.  Like any other citizen, teachers have the right to 'free speech', but like every other citizen as well, free speech comes with an acceptance of the responsibilities that go along with it.  When teachers voice ideas outside of the subject area, they are not, nor should they be, protected by academic freedom.

That being said, is the representation of the DI-sponsored 'academic freedom' actually supporting academic freedom?  I have repeated over and over again 'No!'  Creationism, which includes Intelligent Design, is not science; therefore is 'unrelated to the subject' and doesn't belong in science class.  Regardless of whether or not we are talking High School or College, science is not some arbitrary designation that gets re-defined on a whim.  Science teachers do not get to decide what is science, just like English teachers do not get to decide what is English.  These 'academic freedom' bills are just a cover to allow teachers to be protected when they bring in material that is unrelated to the subject area, and religion -- regardless of how you personally might like to label it -- is not science.  Look at what else Sarah has to say:
"Additionally, both the Digital Journal article and an Ars Technica article that it references say academic freedom legislation opens the door to non-scientific information. . . " 
So this legislation would allow teachers to bring in material  . . . immune to punishment for using outside material in instruction, as long as the teacher believes the material is scientific."
You might want to read her whole post, as much as I hate to drive up the hit counters at the DI, but I don't want to repeat her whole post.  The key is this phrase "believes the material is scientific", which Sarah never addresses.  As you can probably guess, she harps on religion and how the bills are specifically written to not allow religion.  But she never addresses the simply fact that ID is a religion, she manages to imply that it is not, but in no way defends that position.

Let me be clear.  The bills would protect teachers if they bring in 'supplemental material' regardless of the source of that material as long as the teacher believes the material to be scientific.  Anyone smell something funny here?  How many years has the DI been marketing their ideas as if they were not pseudo-science?  Plus, instead of defending ID, Sarah references little casey luskin claiming that there is a real scientific controversy over evolution . . . and yet they never seem to get around showing any evidence why ID is a better explanation than an actual scientific theory, do they?. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I May Have Spoken Too Soon . . .

Just last week I said in a post:

"Rep Butler [R-AL] is using teachers as a kind of scapegoat to justify his actions.  Let's not forget that this same politician tried a similar bill (which failed) and did manage to get a Student Religious Freedom bill passed just last year.  God forbid a politician be honest in his motivations." (An Alabama State Representative Shows His Ignorance)
Rather than hide in the shadows, this State representative (Mary Bentley, R - AR) is sponsoring a bill that states very clearly:
With the failure of so many so-called 'academic freedom' bills, you know the bills that have absolutely nothing to do with academic freedom, I guess one politician got tired of trying to sneak their religion into the classroom through the backdoor.  While I disagree with her, I have to respect her honesty!  

Normally, I would say her bill doesn't stand a prayer [pun intended], but then I didn't think America was foolish enough to elect a hamster-haired misogynistic liar for President.  But isn't Arkansas the same state where their law to make teaching of evolution illegal was overturned in the 1960's (Epperson v. Arkansas) and also their effort to teach  a 'Balanced Treatment', that is teaching Creationism (renamed Creation Science at the time) and Evolution side-by-side and on equal terms -- got dumped as well in the 1980's (McLean v. Arkansas)?  

So, again while I do applaud her honesty, I have to question why she wants her religion to be taught in the classroom as if it were science.  Does she also want Numerology in math class or Astrology in Astronomy?  If not, why not?  I also have to ask the people in Arkansas why they keep electing politicians who seem to spend more time focusing on preaching religion than dealing with other issues facing the State.  Let's see, how does Arkansas rank in a few areas?

  • Education - Arkansas ranks 43rd lowest out of the 50 states in HS graduation rate, 48th in Bachelor degrees and 49th in Advanced degrees. (Wikipedia: source)
  • Violent Crime - 9th highest rank in violent crimes (World Atlas: source)
  • Teen Pregnancy - 4th highest rate of teen pregnancy (LiveScience: source)
  • Unemployment - Actually not bad, 13th lowest (BLS: source)
Well, it looks like to me Rep Bentley needs to ask herself a few questions.  the first is simple: "Why does she insist on inflicting her religious beliefs on the rest of the State in violation of the US Constitution?" and second is "Doesn't she have any real problems to deal with?"  I guess a third question, and maybe the only one that matters might be "Why does she think teaching religion in science class is going to help any of the real problems facing Arkansas?"Does she actually believe dumbing down science will improve education?  And of course everyone knows theists never commit violent crimes (please add a sarcastic snort after that sentence).  And theists never get pregnant at a young age, seriously?  Check this out:
"With data aggregated at the state level, conservative religious beliefs strongly predict U.S. teen birth rates, in a relationship that does not appear to be the result of confounding by income or abortion rates. One possible explanation for this relationship is that teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use contraception." (BioMed Central: source)
Similar things have been reported in many sources including Live Science, the New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor.  Not only are they less likely to use contraception, but their sex education is generally lacking.

I doubt she will ever answer any of these questions, after all she is more than likely just 'pandering' for votes.  Oh, I am sure she's a church-goer and holds a set of religious beliefs, but being elected does not give her the right to force those beliefs onto other people!  But sponsoring such bills will probably have the affect of gaining her some votes.  Sorta like a certain hamster-haired politician holding up the Bible, a book I doubt he has ever opened up . . . of course that is strictly my opinion, but has anyone ever seen him actually use it for most than a speech prop?

OK, one last time, I do respect her honesty, but I certainly do not support her efforts.  Intelligent Design and Creationism are religious concepts that do not belong in science class.  No matter how you dress them up, there are standards within science and neither of those ideas meet any of them.  The nearest they come to actual science is being  defined as:
" . . . claims, beliefs, or practices presented as being plausible scientifically, but which are not justifiable by the scientific method"  (Wikipedia: pseudo-science)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

So There is Nothing Religious about Intelligent Design (Part XI)

I haven't used this heading in a  while, but sometimes it just fits too perfectly.  Over and over again we hear the Discovery Institute claim that they are not a religious organization, but a scientific one -- and how their pet idea 'Intelligent Design' isn't a religious proposition but a scientific theory.  So here is yet another example of that being nothing more than a lie: "The Envelope Please: Doug Axe and Undeniable are World Magazine 2016 Science Book of the Year.".  I caught it in a Facebook announcement from the DI:

According to the announcement, Axe's book won in the category 'Science, Math, and Worldview'.  However there was something left out of the announcement by little davely 'klingy' klinghoffer.  Just what is World Magazine?  Is it a Scientific Journal?  Does it have anything to do with science at all?  In a word, No!

Here's is what World Magazine is (My underlines for emphasis):
"World (often written in all-caps as WORLD) is a biweekly Christian news magazine, published in the United States by God's World Publications, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Asheville, North Carolina.  World's declared perspective is one of Christian evangelical Protestantism." (Wikipedia: World Magazine)
So while little klingy is busy polishing his little award, isn't it funny that he fails to provide the context one would need to understand the importance of this award.  For example, there is a world of difference between an Oscar and the Humboldt International Film Festival (the oldest student-run film festival in the world).

Announcing that you won say "Best Picture" is fine, but when you say you won Best Picture at Humboldt -- if they even offer such an award -- would raise a shrug from just about anyone you know.  However winning Best Picture at the Oscars means something totally different.  I am not trying to compare World Magazine's award with either the Oscars or Humboldt, I was just trying to give you an idea of how context helps you understand the value of an award.

So what context is the 'Science Book' award klingy is so proud of?  It might mean something if the award was from a science journal or even a scientific organization.  But we can see that it's not, it is a 'science book' award given by an organization whose perspective is not science, but Christian evangelical Protestantism.  It certainly places a different spin on it, doesn't it?

What I find the most amusing is how klingy forgets to mention it.  I'm not surprised, klingy and the DI often forget to identify certainly things, particularly any connection with religion.  It's a common theme.  Here are a few other examples:

1.  Remember the '700' list?  You know the 'Dissent from Darwinism' petition the DI likes to bring up every now and again.  In "Since the "700" keeps coming up . . ." we discussed how the DI misrepresented the credentials of those signatories, inflating their academic credentials and also forgetting to mention any connections with the Discovery Institute itself.
2.  Back a while ago, in a post "So there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design? Part II" I discussed Heather Zeigler. One of my points was that the DI described her as:
"[NOTE: Today we welcome a new contributing writer to Evolution News & Views, Heather Zeiger. Ms. Zeiger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in government and politics. She received her M.S. in chemistry, also from UTD; her research was in organic synthesis and materials.]"
and yet forgot to mention all her credentials, like [the bold were the words they used, the rest they forgot to mention.  I added the underlines for emphasis]:
"Heather Zeiger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in government and politics. She received her M.S. in chemistry, also from UTD; her research was in organic synthesis and materials. She interned at Probe Ministries prior to graduate school and now serves with Probe as a Research Associate. Her interests involve science and culture issues, including bioethics, origins, and the environment. She is currently working on a M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University. She is married to David, another former Probe intern and teacher at Trinity Christian Academy. "
In other words, the DI decided to not mention that Heather is one who already drank their kool-aid and tried to pass her off as somewhat objective.  Of course, when you look at her a little bit closer, you realize that she probably won't be particularly objective at all.  I don't think they hired her for her objectivity.
3.  A while back the DI discovered the power of polling, we discussed in "A New 'Poll' conducted by the DI says what the DI says, what a surprise!" The DI announced the results of a poll, yet they forget to tell you it was their poll and they worded the questions and twisted the results for their own purposes.  In another poll they even forget to tell you what questions were asked ("Another poll from the Discovery Institute, oh boy, oh boy!"), they only presented their spin on the results.  Their version of a poll is something like one kid asking another, "Have you stopped beating up your sister?  Yes or No."
4. In "Klinghoffer lies by Omission" we discussed a new 'Biography' of Alfred Russel Wallace written by the Michael Flannery.  In the piece, little davery klinghoffer described Flannery as:
"Michael A. Flannery is Professor and Associate Director for Historical Collections at the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and editor of Alfred Russel Wallace's Theory of Intelligent Evolution (2008)."
For some reason little davey forgot to mention that Michael Flannery is also Fellow at the Discovery Institute. Now why in the world for davey not bother mentioning that little item? He says so many nice things about Flannery, but not once does he mention that he and Flannery are buddies who share the same political masters, the DI. Why would that be?
As you can see, this is one of their common tactics, forgetting to place various announcements into a context, which makes it sound like it is much more important than it really is.  So a religious non-profit gives an award to a religious book written by one of the apologetics at the DI.  You know World Magazine didn't even need to read the book.  Remember the book announcement when it came out last year:
"Axe argues that the key to understanding our origin is the “design intuition”—the innate belief held by all humans that tasks we would need knowledge to accomplish can only be accomplished by someone who has that knowledge. For the ingenious task of inventing life, this knower can only be God." (Amazon listing)
So you see, Axe does have one thing going for him, he does admit the identity of the 'designer', something the rest of those cowards at the DI refuse to do 'officially'.  But other than that, he wrote a religious book that just won an award from a religious magazine.  And klingy thinks it's a big deal . . . but hell, there's nothing religious about it, right?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

An Alabama State Representative Shows His Ignorance

Reported on the Times Daily, and a number of other sites, "Lawmaker wants intelligent design resolution".  If you read the article I think you will agree with me, Rep. Mack Butler has been taken in by the Discovery Institute marketing material.  Here's a few quotes from the article (my comments after each one):

"“In the development of critical thinking, we need to make it welcoming at least for a student or teacher to bring up another theory . . ."
Rep Butler, what 'other' theory?  Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory; therefore, it should not be presented in science class as if it was.  Didn't you hear about Dover Pa when they tried the same thing?  Or do you want one of your school districts to be the subject of an expensive and embarrassing lawsuit?
" . . .some teachers may be unsure of the expectation concerning how they should present information when controversy occurs on such subjects"
Apparently Alabama teachers are untrained in the teaching profession, at least in Rep Butler's mind.  Teachers should already know how to deal with controversy, especially within their subject specialties.  So if someone brings up any topic that might be controversial, like human trafficking, drug use, or racism -- are teachers in Alabama ill-equipped to deal with such topics?  I seriously doubt that it's a teacher issue.  Rep Butler is using teachers as a kind of scapegoat to justify his actions.  Let's not forget that this same politician tried a similar bill (which failed) and did manage to get a Student Religious Freedom bill passed just last year.  God forbid a politician be honest in his motivations. 
" . . .respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects required to be taught"
Really, differences of opinion, that's all this is?  So on the one hand we have over 150 years of evidence and scientific achievements . . . and on the other hand . . . we have a religious concept dressed up in an ill-fitting lab coat without a single shred scientific supporting it  . . . and this pandering politician thinks it just a matter of opinion.  I think this does indicate what his opinions are worth.
"“I’ve never minded evolution being taught, but I think the door should be open to other theories as well,” Butler said. “… I think it’s a well-rounded person who knows both sides of the argument, whether they believe what I believe or what Darwin believed.”"
Belief is not important, what matters is the evidence, what works, what has support more than conjecture and wishful thinking.  That's what counts.  Darwin didn't simply 'believe' in evolution, he spent decades studying nature and developed an explanation that matched the actual evidence.  Can any proponent of an alternate 'theory' say the same?  Not even close!

Let's take another track.  Can anyone identify a doctor who uses Intelligent Design for diagnosis and treatment?  How about an engineer who uses Intelligent Design to build a bridge?  Can anyone . . . we can play this game all day if we wanted, can't we?  While the DI would like to claim anyone using their brain is an example of Intelligent Design, that's nothing more than another tactic of misdirection.  The training, the experience, the skill did not come with any help from the DI's idea of Intelligent Design!