Friday, April 21, 2017

And let the Whining Begin!

As predicted, a whine over Texas "Our Day in Austin, Defending Critical Analysis of Evolution". Here's a quote that tells me the Discovery Institute misses the point completely:

"When you identify a theory, you merely regurgitate information about it. There’s a place for that, of course. But when you evaluate you critically analyze. That’s a skill essential to doing good science."
High School science classes do not merely regurgitate information, that's a level of educational objective called 'Remembering'.  Yes, there is some of that because for a student to begin any level of understanding, they have to start with knowing something about the topic.  And example would be teaching students what the Theory of Evolution actually is.  But high schools do not end there, regardless of the DI's unsupported opinion.

The next level is called 'Comprehending', which goes much deeper and reaches a point where the student is understanding the information they have learned.  Examples are tracing how the Theory of Evolution was developed, what went into it on its path from concept to scientific theory, and the supporting evidence as to why it is the predominant biological theory today.  They gain an appreciation for not just a theory, but the process by which actual science is done.  But, once again, HS science classes do not stop there.

The third level is called 'Applying' where the students take the theories they have learned and gain a deeper understanding and apply them to classroom and real world experiences.  Everything from dissecting a frog and growing bacteria to building structures.  One class even held an environmental cleanup of a local stream and then the next several years the same teacher, with new groups of students, monitored how their clean-up affected the local fish population.  A group measured the effects of various mouthwashes on germs and bacteria common in the human mouth.  Their conclusions were that a specific commercially available mouthwash that marketed itself a a germ killer -- wasn't very good at it.  Another class used both scientific theories and the engineering principles created based on those theories to build a bridge capable of many more times it's own weight with just paper and Elmer's glue.

To be honest, that's pretty much where HS science leaves off, but isn't that enough?  Each level requires time and resources and the end result are students who not only know the basics of many scientific theories, but understanding them and have actually seen them in action or put them into action.  Isn't that the type of education you want at that level?

There are three more levels, the highest type of learning objective is the one this particular DI talking head is wanting students to reach, 'Evaluating'.  But rather than the cavalier attitude the DI places on 'evaluating', I would like you to think about what it takes to properly evaluate something.  We are not talking about taking a test, but to be able to compare and contrast the merits of multiple ideas.  We aren't just using an opinion here, but the level of detailed knowledge to pass judgment on various scientific theories.  HS science classes are not equipped to take things to that level.

But the DI thinks they are, one reason is because the DI never defines what an 'evaluation' is or how you do it.  Don't believe me, check out the DI's own "Educator's Briefing Packet" and show me where Evaluation is explained?  Oh it's mentioned, but how to do it, or even what it means, is never explained.  The DI just expected teachers to do it, I guess intuitively.  They don't explain it with their curricula page either.  While they do use the word in the College Student Guide to ID, they also never explain what it is or how to accomplish it.  Please note this last one is intended for college students, not high school!

As I said, and the DI's own pseudo-educational material seems to bear out, to properly evaluate a subject requires a great deal more time and resources than remembering, understanding, and applying require.  The educational objective for 'Evaluating' isn't appropriate for high school -- so the Texas education board is acting both properly and responsibly.  I hope more states realize that as they contemplate similar changes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Tentative Success in Texas!

Tentatively, it looks like the Texas school board voted to remove language sponsored by the Discovery Institute (DI), language designed to weaken science education!  Here's the article I just read: "State ed board reins in science standards hinting at creationism".  Here's a quote:

"The 15-member board voted unanimously to change language in its standards to take the pressure off teachers to delve deep in evaluating cell biology and DNA evolution."
As I mentioned in "Give Teachers in Texas a Fighting Change to Actually Teach Science!", requiring HS students to 'evaluate' scientific theories is not within the purview of high school.  To 'Evaluate' requires a depth of knowledge you aren't going to get in HS.  The DI loves throwing that word around, knowing full well to give students the tools needed to perform such an evaluation would consume resources unavailable to any high school in the country.

Think about it, why would they want HS students to perform such evaluations without them having the depth of knowledge required?  It's the only way they can push their pet version of Creationism  past the lack of  scientific validity that has kept it out of the science curriculum.  It creates an environment where an opinion is seen as viable as a scientific theory simply because the resources required to understand the difference are not present at the HS level.

Of course, the DI will claim these changes do not promote Creationism/Intelligent Design (ID).  If that was so, then why is the DI pushing so hard?  Have they published anything that really supports science education?  They like using those words, but when you look at it you see efforts to undermine existing science and the promotion of theistic concepts.  Look at the ID campaigns, teach a non-existent controversy, examine the strengths and weaknesses without identifying any actual weaknesses, an academic freedom campaign that has nothing to do with academic freedom . . ..

You can expect them to react with multiple whines.  In fact let me pop over to their Evolution 'news' and Views site and see if they have reacted just yet. . . . No, nothing yet.  There is a post from one of their 'senior disciples, Robert Marx, about the standards.  You remember Bobbie, he was one of the ones responsible for the fiasco of the Evolutionary Informatics Lab Website at Baylor.

OK, enough.  It's good to know that Texas has started down a better path with a side benefit of irritating the DI.  Maybe the Texas board of ed can compete for the DI's 'Censor of the Year'.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Discovery Institute is Mad (again)!

A while back we commented on how the Discovery Institute (DI) doesn't get invited to the good parties.  For example, in 2009, when the Vatican hosted a 5-day conference to mark the 150th anniversary of Darwin's 'On Origin of Species', with a main topic of the compatibility of science and creation, the DI was not invited, and that made them sad.

Then just last year (2016) when the Methodists were holding their General Conference, not only was the DI not invited, but the Methodists wouldn't even let them host an Intelligent Design (ID) information table.  That must have made the DI cry because they were so upset they named the United Methodist Council (UMC) as their 'Censor of the Year'. (Which is a Badge of Honor as far as I am concerned!)

Well the "March for Science' is in the running this year -- not only did they not invite the DI, but when the DI asked to be included, they were reminded that they aren't a scientific organization and apparently it made them very, very sad.  There are several posts already on the DI's Evolution 'news' and Views site and I am sure more on in the works.  When the DI had their little tiff with the UMC I stopped counting at 20 different posts, all saying the same whine.  I'm sure there will be plenty of more posts.

Here is a post I saw on the subject: "John West: March for Science or March for Secularism?"  According to West, so of course please take this with a little skepticism, the organizers of the March for Science said:

“it is not our policy to advance specific worldviews or ideas outside of current consensuses of scientific fields.”
Now before you ask, my skepticism is two-fold.  First of all, this is coming from the DI and over the last 10 years of blogging, which include many posts about the DI, I don't immediately trust anything they say.  Secondly, and more specifically, this quote is only part of one sentence and with the tradition of quote-mining the DI holds near and dear to their hearts, I would rather see their request and the March's response in their entirety, rather than let the DI pick and choose which parts to display for me.

However, if that is an accurate quote and if that is within the context of the March's reply, I would have to say they were being exceedingly polite.  Think of what they could have said concerning the DI as a pseudo-science organization, a ministry, one whose continuing efforts damage science education . . . I mean there is a litany of reasons why any organized activity that includes science should exclude organizations such as the DI.  I wonder if Answers in Genesis (AiG), the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) or the Access Research Network (ARN) tried to wrangle invites as well.  How about the American Federation of Astrologers?  I mean if you are going to let in pseudo-science, you might as well get a diverse group.  Plain and simple, I don't trust the DI.

Something else this post does is misrepresent some of the organizations that are invited.  Here is a quote from the post:
"West notes that these include American Humanist Association, Secular Student Alliance, and the Secular Coalition for America—all of which use science to argue that God doesn’t exist. "
That is not what those organizations argue, that's another DI strawman. Here from the Secular Student Alliance:
"Sometimes people use “secular” to mean absolute neutrality toward religion, or as an umbrella label for nonreligious people. When the Secular Student Alliance uses the word “secular,” we as using it as an adjective describing a person who forms their identity independent of any assumptions about the supernatural, is willing to rethink their beliefs in light of empirical evidence, and forms their values based on concern for the present and future world."
It's not that they argue God doesn't exist, but what they are supporting is that they do not need to kneel down to a deity to have full and meaningful lives.  If you really look at those specific organizations, you would see they do little to interfere with peoples actual religious freedoms, but they do defend the rights of people not to have religion forced upon them.  What they also sometimes do, which tends to annoy theists to no end, is to provide valid and verified scientific explanations for many of the things theists attribute to one deity of another, particularly when a theist is trying to force their belief onto others.  I have never seen a member of any of these organizations claim there is no god, but I have often seen theists claim science is wrong because their own explanation includes their deity.  We discussed some of this during the Kim Davis fiasco in Kentucky.

There is a difference between actual religious persecution and what theists like to claim is religion persecution:
Of course, West and his friends can't admit that and probably don't see it that way.  Without their religion they don't seem to feel that have a life, let alone one with meaning.  The problem is they can't conceive of the idea that everyone doesn't feel that way.  So instead of honestly representing these organizations, they get more mileage out of claiming such organizations are some sort of militant organization.

If you have to ask why I would say such things about the DI, I offer one last piece of evidence . . . well, one out of this particular post.  The DI is teaming up with The Stream for a series of posts whining about not being invited.  Well, just what is 'The Stream'?  It self-identifies as (I added the underlining for emphasis):
"The national daily championing freedom, smaller government and human dignity. The Stream offers a rich and lively source for breaking news, Christian inspiration and conservative commentary while challenging the worst in the mainstream media."
They include the following basic tenets:
  • Every human being has equal value and dignity.
  • We are inherently and specifically social.
  • Marriage and the family are the fundamental social institutions.
  • We can know God and moral truth.
  • Judeo-Christian religious faith guards our freedom.
  • We’re all sinners.
  • We need a state strong enough to protect and maintain the rule of law but limited enough not to violate it.
  • We are meant to be free and responsible.
  • When we’re free, we can create wealth and value.
  • Culture comes before politics.
So basically, one ministry is teaming up with another ministry to complain about a secular activity that rejected one of the ministries because they are masquerading as a scientific organization.  Gee, how surprising!  And let me remind everyone, tongue firmly embedded in cheek, how there is nothing religious about the Discovery Institute!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Now We Know How It Happened! A United Ark!

Now we know why Unicorns and Dinosaurs no longer exist:

They were obviously the ones who either volunteered or were thrown off the United Ark! (source)

BTW, if you don't read, you are missing out.  Let's see, they are on my regular reading list, along with, Funky Winkerbean, Jesus and Mo, and Non-Sequiter.

Dodge Ball at the Discovery Institute

In a post over at the Discovery Institute's (DI) Evolution 'news' and Views site (EnV), "Bad Bugs, Good Designs — The Case of the Mosquito" looks like it's going to make a case for design.  Yet all it does it dodge the issue.  Remember making a case means much more than offering an opinion, you have to support it with evidence.

Quoting an article from Nature "Smart wing rotation and trailing-edge vortices enable high frequency mosquito flight", the DI does what it usually does and places an Intelligent Design spin on things.  What the paper describes is the intricate and interesting detail of mosquito flight characteristics, something that hadn't been studied to this level of detail before.  And what do you know, they discovered some new and interesting information.  So, how does one determine that this post on EnV is nothing more than the usual DI spin?
  • Clue Number 1, is did the DI do any original research on the subject?  No, there is no evidence of any original research.  They took someone else's work and changed the conclusions.
  • Clue Number 2, did the paper cite anything from the Discovery Institute or any similar source?  No, all citations reference actual scientific papers and articles, nothing pseudo-scientific in the bunch.
  • Clue Number 3, does the DI's post offer any support for the design 'conclusions'?  No, they simple make the statement, but offer nothing in the way of support or proof other than their opinion.  In fact, look at this quote from the post:
"Others insights drawing on religious teachings could be cited, including the reply to Job from the whirlwind. Such answers, though worth exploring, drift far beyond the limited scope of intelligent design. The job of ID is to identify design, not comment on its morality. We gladly leave such matters in the capable hands of philosophers and theologians. To the objective observer, mosquito aerodynamic systems look well designed. They may not get our love, but deserve our respect."
They claim to have other papers they could cite, but due to the religious nature of those papers, the DI decided not to use them.  Ostensibly due to the limited scope of Intelligent Design, but in my opinion this is just another effort to keep distancing themselves from their religious background.  When you read real scientific papers, articles, and even postings, you never see a religious disclaimer, do you?

Another point, take a look at the second to last line, "To the objective observer, mosquito aerodynamic systems look well designed.", I added the underlining to point something out.  I, and many others have said, that Intelligent Design is nothing other than opinion and conjecture going for it.  This line supports that idea.  Instead of actually proving intelligent design is real, all they can do it point to things that look designed and make their religious claim that 'if something looks designed, it must be designed'.  In this case they declare it to be a good design, but yet no evidence to support that it is designed at all, let alone good or bad design.

One of the things I find humorous is that when someone points to something that, if it had been designed, was a very poor design, ID proponents never seem to address those issues in the same way. (Argument from poor design) For example, this post suggests that because the mosquito's flight characteristics are so special and so well-designed; therefore that somehow proves Intelligent Design.

However, Wild Bill Dembski, once a rising star of ID, clams there there is a difference between 'intelligent design' and 'optimal design', meaning that just because something may be poorly designed doesn't rule out ID. (Dembski, William (1999). Intelligent design: the bridge between science & theology. InterVarsity Press. p. 261. ISBN 0-8308-2314-X.

Huh?  Good design proves design, but bad design also proves design?  Do you want a bit more of  Marie Antoinette's cake, don't you think?  In other words, this whole post means absolutely nothing.  Yes, mosquito flight characteristics are interesting and unique in many ways and deserves further study . . . but, as an example of Intelligent Design?  That means absolutely nothing because even if it was uninteresting and pedestrian the DI could claim it supports design anyway.  A difference that makes no difference is no difference!

What this post reminds me most of is Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box".  In it Behe discussed things like clotting factor, the immune system, and bacterial flagellum as things that are 'irreducibly complex' and therefore could not have come about through a natural process like evolution.  When faced with nearly 10 years of further research on those topics that support evolutionary origins, Without having read any of it, Behe said that research wasn't good enough. (Dover Trial Transcript, Day 12, PM, starting at 49.)

Scientists readily admit that they don't know everything about the flight characteristics of the mosquito.  This paper is an example of something the DI doesn't seem to know much about, it's called 'Research', in which real scientists explore things we don't know in order to learn more and more.

The DI wants to declare this as something really really special, therefore it has to have been designed.  But when you look at other insects, you also see special characteristics.  How about the Bumble Bee:
"Bees beat their wings about 200 times a second. Their thorax muscles do not contract on each nerve firing, but rather vibrate like a plucked rubber band. This is efficient, since it lets the system consisting of muscle and wing operate at its resonant frequency, leading to low energy consumption. Further, it is necessary, since insect motor nerves generally cannot fire 200 times per second. These types of muscles are called asynchronous muscles[ and are found in the insect wing systems in families such as Hymenoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, and Hemiptera. Bumblebees must warm up their bodies considerably to get airborne at low ambient temperatures. Bumblebees have been known to reach an internal thoracic temperature of 30 °C (86 °F) using this method." (Wikipedia: Bumble Bee)
Bumble Bees have different, yet efficient, flight characteristics than mosquitoes. If you study up a bit you find that many groups of insects have very interesting characteristics when it comes to how their wings work.  So what's a good explanation?  Were they all designed differently or did they all evolve different characteristics?  On the one hand you have opinion offering the answer of 'designed', but on the other hand you have 150+ years of evidence supporting evolution.

Look at this one line mentioning Hymenoptera (Sawflies, wasps, and bees), Diptera (Houseflies), Coleoptera (beetles), and Hemiptera (cicadias, aphids . . .). Thousands of insect species with some similar flight characteristics.  Design or Evolution, which answer makes sense and is supported by evidence?  You can't forget the evidence part because without evidence all you have is opinion.  Before answering you might want to know there has been a great deal of research -- there's that word again, research -- about the genetics of insects, including related species and sub-species of insects.  Did you know human's share about 60% or our genes with fruit flies?  Again, before answering, how much actual research have you seen on Design?  I'm not talking opinion and religious pieces, but actual scientific research?  None!  So clearly the answer to my question doesn't support design!

Rather than do their own research, the DI simply take someone else's work and put a Behe-type spin on it.  In the future, as we learn more and more about the subject, I am sure there will be someone from the DI to tell us that it's not enough.  After all, that's a lot easier than doing any real research, isn't it?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Give Teachers in Texas a Fighting Change to Actually Teach Science!

My very first blog post, just over a decade ago, concerned the Great State of Texas (is Texas stepping backwards?), it was about the questionable action of firing your science curriculum head just before a science curriculum review because she did her job.  Over the years I have posted quite a bit about Texas, things like:

Just to name a few posts.  Creationism advocates have been constantly working on turning Texas into a theocracy by any means possible.  A few years back they won a semi-victory -- they didn't win outright and get their dream of tossing Evolution completely out of the state, they did get to introduce wishy-washy terms that follow the DI's whole 'strengths and weaknesses' marketing campaign.

Well, the latest news is more positive.  The Texas School Board has a chance to remove that whole strengths and weaknesses wording from their standards.  Guess who doesn't like that idea?  The Discovery Institute (DI), of course.  Sarah Chaffee's turn to complain.  I'm sure little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer will follow-up like he usually does.  Sarah's post: "Texas Ed Board Pressured to Make It Harder for Teachers and Students to Evaluate Evolution Evidence".  I will say one thing for Sarah, when she toes the company line, she really toes that line.  Here is part of her opening:
"Amid much media and Darwin lobby pressure, the biology committee presented draft streamlined science standards in the fall. These streamlined standards removed good language from the 2009 standards that protected examination of evidence both for and against major origins issues — the fossil record and abrupt appearance, the origins of life, and the complexity of the cell."
So, according to Sarah, it's the media and Darwin lobby that apply pressure to change the science standards.  I guess the actions of the people who actually teach and work in biology doesn't matter, it's all the media's and lobbyists.  So . . . Creationists aren't being represented in the press and Creationist groups, like the Discovery Institute, aren't lobbying?  I think Sarah is doing a bit of cherry-picking here, don't you?

Here is where I think she gets a bit off track:
"The proposed change is a bad idea. Learning how to evaluate scientific explanations is a key skill needed by future scientists and citizens alike; and students are certainly capable of evaluating scientific claims under the guidance of a teacher. "
Teachers receive an education in 'Education', which includes something called Bloom's Taxonomy, which is a set of hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity.  These models are used in everything from lesson planning to building tests and setting evaluation criteria.  In the Cognitive Domain (knowledge-based) there are 6 levels, briefly stated these are:
  • Remembering:  involves recognizing or remembering facts, terms, basic concepts, or answers without necessarily understanding what they mean. An example might be to name three common varieties of apple.
  • Comprehending: involves demonstrating understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating the main ideas.  An example - compare the identifying characteristics of a Golden Delicious apple with a Granny Smith apple.
  • Applying: involves using acquired knowledge—solving problems in new situations by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules. Learners should be able to use prior knowledge to solve problems, identify connections and relationships and how they apply in new situations.  As in would apples prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency in vitamin C?
  • Analyzing: involves examining and breaking information into component parts, determining how the parts relate to one another, identifying motives or causes, and making inferences and find evidence to support generalizations. An example - list four ways of serving foods made with apples and explain which ones have the highest health benefits. Provide references to support your statements.
  • Synthesizing: involves building a structure or pattern from diverse elements; it also refers to the act of putting parts together to form a whole. An example - convert an "unhealthy" recipe for apple pie to a "healthy" recipe by replacing your choice of ingredients. Explain the health benefits of using the ingredients you chose vs. the original ones.
  • Evaluating: involves presenting and defending opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas, or quality of work based on a set of criteria. An example - which kinds of apples are best for baking a pie, and why?
As you can see High School spends most of it's time working in the first three layers of the taxonomy, which can be explained as 'Remembering, Comprehending, and Using'. Analyzing, Synthesizing, and Evaluating are much more at the upper levels of education, including graduate studies. The committee is concerned that the evaluation of scientific explanations would take too much class time and require too much detailed knowledge on the part of students -- and they are right.

Seriously, look at the level of understanding it would take to Evaluate the validity of ideas based on a set of criteria.  Sarah, and her bosses, don't really want that -- which might explained why they never seem to give us any objective criteria about ID.  Actually many scientists, real working biologists, have examined the validity of ID and dismissed it.  Maybe Sarah and the DI do want high school-ers evaluating them?

While you might not think 'Evaluating' seems too complicated, let's just look at the simply example of which kinds of apples are the best for baking.  If we ask 10 different bakers, we would probably get 10 different answers.  So how do you evaluate such a question?  Let's start with how many variety of apples are there?  My local grocery store has about 12 depending on the season.  According to Wikipedia, there are over 7500 different varieties.

Think of the process we would have to go through to answer the question.  The collection of the apples and other ingredients, the formulation of a standard recipe -- remember apple pies are more than just apples -- then we would have to bake enough pies of the apples -- but if you wanted to do it right it's not just one type of apple per pie, but most often a mix.  So how many possible combinations would we have to test?  We would then have to establish a set of criteria and find a panel to judge the pies according to that criteria.  Think of the knowledge required, skill needed, and sheer amount of time you would have to have at your disposal to perform an actual evaluation, not Sarah's 'evaluation is easy, can be done with a little guidance from a teacher', no real education level Evaluation, with the upper-case 'E'.

Now if you weren't willing to go that route, what are you left with?  The Discovery Institute's favorite methodology, intuition.  Yes, the DI is the organization of Douglas Axe who wrote 'Undeniable', a religious book explaining how intuition is as valid a scientific tool as education, experience, and experimentation.  We've written about Doug, his religious tract, and intuition a number of times, I think the most recent was here.

So let's use the same example for how high school-ers students would 'evaluate' and address the same question.  A DI staffer, maybe even Sarah herself, would get up in front of a carefully selected group of students who already buy into their apple pie concept and describe an apple pie in the loosest possible terms while watching their core student group nod their heads at every word.  No ingredients, no cooking method, no recipe, just describe the most generic apple pie with terms like round, crust, and apples and 'other stuff'.  They wouldn't even identify who baked this phantom apple pie.  Then they would say, "And those are the best apples for pie" and hurriedly walk out of the room to avoid being questioned.  Later in press releases and pontificating to religious groups, they would declare their success at answering a complex question with only their intuition.  Sound familiar?  No actual cooking, no testing, no evaluating, just words with no support at all.  And then they would start to whine and complain because no one takes them seriously!  After all, no one does.

So maybe that's part of the problem.  The DI needs to learn about Bloom's Taxonomy and realize that education isn't the idea of forming an opinion and then only listening to other carefully filtered opinions that validate it.  It's a much more complicated process, at least when you want to do it right.

Well I certainly hope that Texas does the right thing and dumps anything left over from the DI's last visit, especially the additions to their last set of science standards.  I doubt they will get rid of it all, there are simply too many Creationists on the board who think the only education is one that agrees with their narrow religious views, but hopefully the board will water down that religious influence to give science teachers a fighting change to teach actual science, as opposed to the pseudo-science variety.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cherry-Picking, the new Normal? I, for One, Hope Not!

Interesting post over on the Patheos Blog Unsystematic Theology: "A Big Problem with Intelligent Design: “Don’t Look at My Bad Side”"  It reminded me of people who prefer to cherry-pick rather than look at a complete picture.

The idea of cherry-picking is to only pick the things you like, or want, and ignore the rest.  It's a logical fallacy called 'fallacy of incomplete evidence' and, more specifically, is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.  Sound familiar?  Between the pseudo-news services of Fox and Breitbart and the hamster-haired lying misogynist we certainly see examples of cherry-picking on a daily basis.  Although since ol' hamster-hair creates his own 'facts' out of thin air, he might not be guilty of cherry-picking as often as folks like Bill O'Reilly or Ann Coulter.

The shame is that it's a fairly common practice and one I've found many Creationists employ, especially when discussing their faith.  Take a look at the Old Testament.  When you read the Bible you read a lot of serious stuff, including slavery, genocide, murder, prostitution . . . you know the things Christians like to say they are against.  The New Testament shows most things in a much rosier light, sort of like the Old Testament God created marijuana.  But do most Christians pay much attention to the darker side of their holy book?  No, they cherry-pick the stuff they like and try and ignore the rest.  Some Christian religions even argue that people shouldn't read the Bible, but only hear about it through views filtered through their various clergy.

Creationists of the Intelligent Design (ID) stripe do something identical.  They look at biology and marvel at the complexity, the beauty, and the functionality and claim that such things could not have occurred naturally.  But they ignore, or rationalize away, the simplicity, the ugliness, and the non-functional that also exists -- like I said -- cherry-picking.  They also like to ignore actual scientific evidence that doesn't support their ideas -- which is currently all scientific evidence -- while twisting science to try and make it sound supportive of Creationism.

Questions like 'why is there sin, cancer, evil, or even carnivores?' tend to rationalized away by most theists using stories involving human failure, sin, and Adam (of Adam & Eve fame, not Levine).  ID proponents simply ignore them.  They like to claim they are focused on biology, and yet their guiding document says that one of its goals is:
"To see design theory application in specific fields including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics, and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology. ethics, politics, theology, and philosophy in the humanities, to see its influence in the fine arts." (Wedge Strategy Document, page 4)
So while ID proponents like to avoid conversations that bring up the darker-side of their belief set -- because they are 'focused on biology' -- their objectives go far beyond biology.  They want to be firmly entrenched in biology before opening other conversations about things they would rather ignore, including minor details like the identity of their design and the age of the Earth.

We discussed the issue with identifying the designer just recently ("Why Won't ID Proponents Identify Their Designer?"), but forgot to mention this quote:
"ID is an intellectual movement, and the Wedge strategy stops working when we are seen as just another way of packaging the Christian evangelical message." (Philip E. Johnson, Inteview Citizen's Magazine (1999))
Johnson is considered the 'Daddy Rabbit' of the modern ID movement.  He also formulated their 'big-tent' approach.  Here is a brief explanation of that example of cherry-picking:
"Intelligent design has been described by its proponents as a 'big tent' belief, one in which all theists united by having some kind of creationist belief (but of differing opinions as regards details) can support. If successfully promoted, it would reinstate creationism in the teaching of science, after which debates regarding details could resume." (Wikipedia: Intelligent Design Movement)
So theist groups are supposed to ignore their matters of faith until such time science is pretty much trashed and then 'let the debates begin'.  I can see why many religious organizations dismiss ID, especially after the cavalier way ID proponents dismiss their beliefs, calling them 'differing opinions'.  So we have both avoiding identifying their designer and ignoring the many differences between religious beliefs in order to attack actual science.  Some serious cherry-picking there!

I almost want ID proponents, and their 'big-tent' to win, just to see the carnage that follows in the ecumenical debates.  I know, I know, it wouldn't be worth it, but oh to have a bowl of popcorn to see a cage match between Stephen C. Meyer and little kennie ham!

I do so enjoy ID proponents who claim science is too unwilling to examine alternative views -- and yet how often are theists willing to look at alternatives? Let's ask Wild Bill Dembski, once the darling of the ID Movement, who was threatened with being fired if he failed to toe the theological line.  His own comments show how truly close-minded theists can be. Here's a small quote:
" . . . this entire incident left so bad a taste in my mouth that I resolved to leave teaching, leave the academy, and get into a business for myself, in which my income would not depend on political correctness or, for that matter, theological correctness." (Dembski: Disillusion with Fundamentalism)
Since then, he's left the fold and apparently resigned his senior fellowship at the DI. Theists do some serious cherry-picking, and if you pick the 'wrong' cherries, you will more than likely get kicked out of that particular theist club organized religious group.

So, you see, cherry-picking is a fairly common tactic and can be the result of a conscious decision or even an unconscious prejudice.  What's important, is not just to recognize when you are doing it, but try and avoid it.  

You might be asking yourself if scientists are ever guilty of cherry-picking, and the answer is  -- of course.  However, you have to remember that science is also a self-correcting activity.  What one scientist publishes, other scientists attempt to replicate.  Logical fallacies, such as cherry-picking, in data or methodology can't be hidden under such scrutiny (just ask the Cold Fusion guys: Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons).  

But what mechanism does theology have to correct its cherry-picking (and other logical fallacies)?  Looking at the evidence of folks like Ham and Meyer, there is none.  Meyer writes a book, get critiqued and then writes a second book claiming to address his critics and then fails to do so.  Little kennie says anything he wants and then cites the Bible and God as his source -- oh yea, lots of self-correcting there.  The cherry-picking is more the normal course of events than an exception.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Why Won't ID Proponents Identify Their Designer?

In a recent post on the Discovery Institute's Evolution 'news' and Views site, Walter Myers III said "In Refusing to Identify a “Designer,” ID Proponents Aren’t Being Coy".  The question to me is what has driven them to not identify their designer?   Reading the original Wedge Strategy document, you see it loaded with references to Christianity and the Christian God, for example

"Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and the replace it with a science constant with Christian and theistic convictions" (Wikipedia: Wedge Strategy)
How can you write things like that, in your guiding strategy document, and then deny the identity of the designer . . . well 'officially deny' that identity.  Often ID proponents have identified their designer as the Christian God, but they rarely do it officially, one exception to that is the head of their own pet lab, Douglas Axe, whose latest religious missive included this description on Amazon:
"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: Undeniable)
I am curious where did that description came from?  It was also repeated at the HarperOne website (the religious imprint of Harper-Collins). which makes me think it's part of the press release for the book.  Pretty clear-cut who the designer is, isn't it?

A different point comes from Robert Pennock, writing about Intelligent Design:
"When lobbying for ID in the public schools, wedge members sometimes deny that ID makes any claims about the identity of the designer. It is ironic that their political strategy leads them to deny God in the public square more often than Peter did."(Stephen Meyer and the Return of the God Hypothesis)
So ID proponents refuse to official designer as a deity comes across a just another tactic.  As soon as they make the designer a deity, they get lumped in with the other religious nut jobs who keep trying to push their belief set onto everyone else . . . you know folks like little kennie ham and Mike Pence.  If Pence doesn't ring a bell, he's the hamster-haired misogynist's vice-president and his efforts to push his religious beliefs on everyone was well documented when he was Governor of Indiana.

OK, so I guess I have to see what Walt says about the subject.  believe me, my expectations are pretty low.  His sums up his argument with this:
"In not specifying a designer, ID leaves science open to pursue plausible explanations of biological complexity without getting tangled up in extraneous theological or philosophical discussions. The everyday practice of the current scientific establishment already curtails and constrains what science is able to discover. ID resists this trend, and instead seeks to democratize scientific investigation."
Really?  They offer absolutely no scientific support for ID, and Walt thinks not naming the designer is an example of opening the door for plausible explanations?  Anyone buy into that?  No, not you current ID proponent, you'll believe anything Walt says.  But anyone else who isn't a current drinker of DI kool-aid? 

Let's break this down a little bit.  Walt admits that science has limits.  The limits Walt is talking about is that science and it's framework of methodological naturalism.  Walt says:

"ID proponents would certainly not be adherents of metaphysical naturalism, but they do accept methodological naturalism as an ostensibly normative principle for doing science, while believing it unnecessarily constrains science from entertaining empirical proof of intelligent agency."
Here is where Walt is trying to build a strawman, on the one hand claiming to accept scientific methodology and yet at the same time wanting to bring in the supernatural.  Since methodological naturalism references natural causes and events -- not supernatural ones, Walt says that is what limits science from taking ID seriously . . . and yet in the same sentence he claims ID proponents would not be 'adherents to metaphysical naturalism . . . which rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.  So that means ID proponents are interested in supernatural causation . . . so why won't they identify officially their designer?  Isn't that pretty much what Walt just admitted too?

So all Walt is trying to sell to people that ID isn't religious . . . and yet, once again, everything about ID is religious, from their guiding document to their core audience.  So back to the original question, why do ID proponents hesitate to identify the designer?  So, Walt himself is the one being coy here,  his article is nothing more than another tactic to try and divorce the DI from their religion -- and another failing one at that.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Discovery Institute is Extending the Deadline for the Summer 'Seminars', How Surprising (Not)!

Like most folks, I have experienced my share of deadlines.  Much of the time they are work-related, as in accomplishing something by a deadline because of related dependencies.  Sometimes they are social, involving things like RSVP dates for a wedding.  On occasion they involve registration for something like college, or in this case the Discovery Institute's 'Summer Seminars'.

For years now the Discovery Institute (DI) has been offering their summer seminars, an opportunity to sit at the feet of those Intelligent Design (ID) luminaries like Meyer, Wells, Nelson, and maybe even Behe.  Yes, those 'luminaries' who who never seem to shed any light on ID, and you get to sit there for 9 whole days -- which still astounds me that they actually need 'days'.  I think the last time I wrote about this was in 2009, but it looks like little has changed.  Since it was such a non-event to me, I pretty well ignore it.

Now I don't know about you, but there are usually two reasons for extending a deadline, either the original notice was too short -- in other words not giving people enough time to respond.  The second reason is simply that not nearly enough people have responded to make it economically feasible, so you extend the deadline hoping for more entrants.

Of course when something like this happens to an organization like the DI, they have to spin it into sounding like it's a positive.  So they are claiming that there was such a last minute rush of entrants they just had to extend the deadline.  Really, that's what they said in this post "Deadline Extension! Fine, We’ll Give You Till April 14 to Apply for Summer Seminars on ID":

"Why? Because there was a big rush of applications at the very end of the process. That’s of course great. However, it also convinced us that in being sticklers about the deadline, which is our nature, we would likely be excluding a good number of students who heard about the program too late to apply."
Now, you know I rarely believe anything the DI says, for good reason, so I don't believe this for a minute.  First off, are they really 'sticklers?  They have an idea they want us to believe is a scientific theory, yet it has no science supporting it, even though they opened their own lab to 'prove' it.  They claim not to be a sort of ministry, yet their audience consists of theists usually of the evangelical stripe and take place at religious facilities.  They wrote this in their own strategy document said:
 " . . . we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians." (Wikipedia: Wedge Strategy)
So, 'sticklers' seems to be a bit of a stretch.

They started looking for applicants in January, at least that was the first time I noticed their announcements -- which, by the way, also include a donation request.  Plus in the past month they posted reminder after reminder (Four days, three days, two and one).  I know because I get them in my Google News Alert for 'Intelligent Design' every day.  Many days the only thing in my alert was their announcement that the deadline was looming.

So . . . why do you post reminder after reminder of an event?  Well common sense tells me that you post such things to drum up more applicants.  When you have enough, you rarely waste resources trying to drum up more.  You process what you have and you smile a lot, but you don't send out daily reminders because that tends to piss people off.

So after weekly, and then daily, reminders of the deadline, the DI suddenly extends the deadline and tries to tell us it's because of a 'big rush of applicants'? That doesn't sound terribly believable to me, how about you?  It sounds more like they had some self-identified minimum and failed to hit it, so they extended it.  I have no issue with them extended it, but their rationale comes across as a bit phony.

Since we are discussing the 'summer seminars', I did notice that they still have the same sort of attendee requirements, including:
" . . . either a letter of recommendation from a professor who knows your work and is friendly toward ID, or a phone interview with the seminar director."
So the attendees are pre-screened to insure they are already accepting of the subject.  I mean, how could you possibly have meaningful summer seminars if there is even the possibility of a dissenting voice in the house?  What you have is people who already believe being lectured by believers, and everyone can pat themselves on the back for another successful set of seminars.

If you headed out to the website, note where they mention who the previous presenters were?  
"Past seminars have included such speakers as Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, Paul Nelson, Jay Richards, Douglas Axe, Ann Gauger, Richard Sternberg, Robert Marks, Scott Minnich, and Bruce Gordon."
Not an outsider in the bunch, certainly not anyone working in biology, let alone anyone who might speak about actual evolutionary theory, as opposed to the strawman of evolution usually presented by such speakers.  And, no, I do not number people like Gauger and Axe who I believe have degrees related to biology, but 'work' at the DI's own pet lab, The Biologics Institute, so I do not consider them to be working biologists.  Even Behe who, when he isn't shilling for the DI (He's a Senior Fellow -- whatever that means at the DI), he does teach Biochemistry at a school that doesn't let him teach ID in those classes.

I am perfectly willing to admit I might be wrong about the reason for the deadline extension, but this is the DI we're talking about. If I remember correctly the deadline was also extended in 2009, 2013, and 2015.  I might have the years wrong, but this is certainly not an isolated event.  Although this might be the first time the DI was trying to tell us it was due to a last minute rush.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Little Kennie Ham is Disappointed! Yeah!

I am a Whovian, I've enjoyed the show through its constant evolution of main characters.  Just last year I got to meet David Tennant and Billie Piper at a Comic Convention in St. Louis.  Even saying that I have to admit  I haven't been too impressed with the current Doctor, but I am still a fan of the show.

Before getting into little kennie's problem, I do want to address something related and something that I think put's little kennie's issues in perspective.  The Doctor is an alien and while there has been a little romantic tension between at least one doctor and companion, there hasn't been any romantic entanglements.  In fact several of his companions have been involved with others.  The relationship between the Doctor and the companions has been nearly always familial, more brother/sisterly than romantic.  So why is that important?  Well, as reported by the Christian Post little kennie isn't a fan of the show any more because one of the main characters is gay.

So how do I know little kennie is disappointed in Doctor Who?  Take a look at his own words -- which seem very discouraging:
"While it is sad -- but not surprising from the world -- this reminds me that we need to teach our kids not to be in love with the world, because we will be disappointed at some point."
What a thing to say, especially to kids.  What this tells me is the world changes, and you have to learn to deal with the changes -- obviously kennie can't handle change.  You can't hide your head in the sand, or stuck in the pages of a book written a long time ago.  How limited his world view is, no wonder he's incapable of love in the world -- a world he claims his version of a deity created! 

I really think this is also very  hypocritical of little kennie.  Doctor Who has featured:
  • A time-traveling alien with two hearts and who knows what other physical differences.
  • Traveling in a device often exceeds kennie's idea of a 6,000 year old Earth.
  • Discusses concepts like evolution.
  • Having a child through cloning.
  • Santa Claus
  • Homosexuality and Bisexuality, anyone else remember Captain Jack Harkness?
Why this sudden change?  After all the  . . . from little kennie's point of view, . . . objectionable things Doctor Who has presented, why now?  It is just because it's a main character?  No, I think it's simpler than that.  I think he's bleating now because the idea of a main character being gay is getting press, and we know how little kennie likes attention.  That's why I see him as more than a little hypocritical.

This isn't the first time kennie has had various things to say about gay people.  Recently he was also whining about a movie that portrayed a gay character in a very matter-of-fact way.  I mean how dare Hollywood see a gay character as in any way . . . normal.  Here is what he said about that:
The directors and actor are using an aspect of their film for good by showing that those with autism are just regular people and can do amazing things, but sadly they are also using their film in a negative way—to promote sinful behavior as acceptable, which undermines the entire movie. (Power Rangers Movie: It’s OK to Be That Way)
I haven't seen Power Rangers, for me,

 it's a wait until cable movie.  But this past weekend my wife, both daughters, and my granddaughter saw it.  Not only did they enjoy it, but they made absolutely no mention of any gay characters -- which tells me two things.  That it was portrayed as being nothing special and that is exactly what pissed kennie off.  What I find funny is that he sorta dropped a couple of Bible Quotes:
"Treating everyone, regardless of differences, with dignity and respect actually stems out of a biblical worldview. Because all human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), everyone has inherent worth and value. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)."
He used those quotes when discussing how an autistic character is portrayed, but apparently if you are gay, you have no inherent worth and value!  He goes on and rationalizes it because he considers homosexuality 'sinful'.  But do all Christian sects view homosexuality that way?  Not at all!  I do recall knowing many gay Christians.  I bet that aggravates kennie even more!  Do you see why I no longer refer to kennie as a Christian, and I refer to him and his cult members as 'hamians'.  They don't worship the ideas of Christianity, he worships his interpretation of a book.  This does lead me to have to ask just how are gay characters supposed to be portrayed?

Little kennie, and his hamians, do not like gay people, that's pretty obvious.  Oh they might say things like 'gay people are fine, as long as they don't behave in a sinful way'.  To me that is just a rationalization, declaring the act sinful and expecting gay folks not to act is an excuse.  But the reality is they don't like them, they won't hire them, they don't even want them in their ministry.  But . . . gay people exist in the real world, so how should they be portrayed?  Since not everyone, nor every religion, holds homosexuality in the same way little kennie does, gay people will continue to exist, much to his displeasure.  So we have two choices, either they are never portrayed in film or television or they are portrayed as . . . something else?  I'm having a problem here figuring out how kennie would like to see them portrayed, or maybe 'expect to see them portrayed' is a better way to put it. Since a realistic portrayal of gays isn't allowed, I would hate to see what portrayal he would approve.

In my opinion they should be portrayed as . . . people . . . after all, aren't they?  Gay folks are in this world and will continue to exist, so should they be represented in our entertainment media?  How about exactly how they live in the real world, just like everyone else.  Folks like kennie not only do not want them to exist, but don't even want anyone to even know they exist.  How realistic is that?

Gay folks aren't the only targets for the little, narrow-minded, hypocritical kennie.  Check out this announcement:
"Join us for the World Religions Conference July 24-27 and please share this with friends and family members who might be interested.More than ever, Christians need to know what other religions believe and then learn how to reach the lost souls mired in them." (World Religion Conference)
Don't you just love the last line?  Not even an effort at co-existing, or recognizing the many ways people believe in one deity or another might be just as valid as his way.  No, he and his ilk call them 'lost souls'.  But it gets worse . . . kennie appears to be hosting this 'conference'.  It's not obvious at first glance, but the contact number is the same and the website is one of AiG's. .  Here look at this:
Here's the link
Is he really asking for people of other religions to come to Kentucky and sit there politely while he tells them how mistaken they are and do his utmost to save their 'lost souls'?  Let us not forget, he's also asking them to pay for the privilege.  As one of my neighbors would say 'That takes chutzpah!'  

 If you've been reading my posts you know how I feel.  If you don't like the idea of homosexuality, don't be homosexual.  If you disagree with a religion, don't become a member of that religion.  If you think abortion is wrong, then never do anything that would lead to an abortion.  But you do not have the right to tell everyone else how they are supposed to live.  Your religious beliefs, or non-beliefs, are your own.  Don't ask me to support them and certainly don't demand that they be taught in schools.  Little kennie ham and his hamians are incredibly close-minded, as evidenced by his own words!