Thursday, February 23, 2017

Can Intelligent Design be Presented as Fait Accompli? I Think Not!

Just yesterday NASA released the news that they have discovered seven exo-planets around a small red dwarf star, several of these planets are in what is often referred to as the 'habitable zone', the distance from the sun where water can exist is a liquid state.  The news is exciting, so exciting that little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer just had to weigh in.  Many of the news articles about the discovery mention the possibility of life having evolved there.  All of the ones I read speak in terms of possibilities, not probabilities, there is a difference.

It is exciting to think of the possibility of life having evolved on another planet, well it's exciting for most of us.  For the Discovery Institute, not so much.  Little davey says something I just have to take issue with in this post: 'Speculative Evolution Story of the Day: Seven Planets Found Where "Life May Have Evolved" ',  He said:

"So we "simply do not know" whether any of these planets could or does host an alien biology. Life could have, may have, evolved. But there's always time to do so in the future, or anyway "arguably" so, "700 times longer than the Universe has existed so far." Could be. Might be. However, everything else we do know indicates that life can't and won't originate and evolve without intelligent design."
I have to agree with his first line, we simply do not know if life has evolved on any of those planets.  It's the last line where klingy stretches reality.  Let me repeat it with a small underline:
"However, everything else we do know indicates that life can't and won't originate and evolve without intelligent design."
So, real scientists examining new exo-planets raise the possibility of life having evolved there is something we don't know, but klingy is claiming that we do know that for life to exist, there must be intelligent design?  Do we actually know this?

No, We do not!  No one knows this!  No one has made the case for Intelligent Design (ID), no one has produced any evidence supporting the idea, let alone defined an actual scientific theory explaining it.  So declaring it as something 'we do know' is basically the same thing as repeating something over and over again until people think it's true.  Well, it's not true!

Yes, I made it as a declarative statement, so let me explain.  Judge Jones left open the possibility that ID is true, but also said that no one has done any work to support it, so therefore ID was found to be not science, but religion and therefore cannot be taught in public school science class as science (Dover Trial Decision).  Nothing has changed in the past 11 years.  The DI has been marketing -- not performing science to support their ideas.  They publish in their own publishing house or religious imprints of other houses, they publish their own journals and try and pass them off as peer-reviewed, they present to religious organizations over and over again, and they keep whining because they haven't been able to produce anything valid.  Where is the science, where is the explanatory power of ID, where are the scientific advances made based on ID . . . they do not exist!  That's what I mean when I say it's not true.  Oh, someday it might be supported with actual facts, but for right now saying it as if it is fait accompli is garbage.

Passing off ID as a conclusion rather than a conjecture is a common tactic of theirs.  Just today another DI talking head, Paul Nelson (infamous for the Paul Nelson Day), has a post complaining about the way some Young Earth Creationists portrayed his ideas in a new film.  His post ("New Film Is Genesis History? Presents a False Dichotomy: I Dissent from My Role in It") contains the line:
"Biology required intelligent design, whatever the time scale of events in Earth or cosmic history happened to be."
See, by what standard does Biology require ID?  See what I mean?  They are pretending their conjecture is an actual conclusion.  No one, not Paul Nelson nor klingy, has made such a case.  The inconvenient fact, for them anyway, is there is no science supporting it.  But Paul presents it as if everyone should accept it just like klingy did..

One day we may very well discover life on another planet.  It may or may not be intelligent, it might only be single cell organisms, or something more complex.  In any event, folks like the DI will whine and cry about it up until the point where their whining and crying is recognized as whining and crying by their own proponents.  At that point they will shift gears and claim their 'designer' had to have done it because, according to the DI after all, "we do know indicates that life can't and won't originate and evolve without intelligent design".  Of course no one outside the DI and small cadre of ID proponents, nearly all Evangelical Christians, agree with that statement.

Think they won't change gears?  Well look at the whole 'micro vs macro' argument.  Creationists of all stripes, and I most certainly see the DI as just another bunch of Creationists, argued against evolution for decades.  As the evidence mounted to the point where they started looking pretty stupid to their own constituents, they changed their argument and created the whole 'micro-evolution' is OK, but 'macro-evolution'  is impossible.  Of course to biologists, there is no difference between the two, it's all just evolution.

In another example just how 'Creationism' morphed into 'Creation Science' and then tossed on an ill-fitting lab coat and miraculously (sarcasm included) became 'Intelligent Design'.  Talk about shifting gears, and yet they all seem to be heading in reverse, aren't they?

So there you have it.  NASA says something and immediately the DI tries to put an ID spin on it.  I'm sure other Creationists will try something similar.  The bottom line here is whether or not we discover life on another planet, Creationists and ID proponents still haven't established a case for ID other than wishful thinking and conjecture.  Before they can present it as a conclusion, they have a great deal of actual scientific work in front of them.  My issue is they can't seem to look in that direction, they prefer to keep looking backwards, back to the state of biology back in 1859 or so.

As a side note, we are rapidly approaching the 13th anniversary of Paul Nelson Day.  We have been waiting since April 7, 2004 for an explanation he promised for the very next day.  I would say 'tick - tock', but we are well past a clock.  I think the most appropriate sound effect is the tearing of a calendar sheet. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Jesus and Mo "Whatever Happened to Freedom of Religion

Timely strip from Jesus and Mo:

Remind you of anybody?  Or even a few groups!


Another City Needed to be Reminded about the Law (and the US Constitution)

When I first heard about Christianburg Va's plan to host a three-day trip to the monument to little kennie ham's ego (the Creation 'museum' and ark park) I had two immediate thoughts: When was the backlash going to happen and what little kennie was going to have to say about it.  The first happened, the second is probably being written now.  If it's not yet being written, I am sure little kennie's blood pressure is on the rise.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), who we have written about before, sent a letter to Christianburg's Park and Recreation Dept and they [the department] realized the error of their ways and cancelled the trip.  I am surprised it happened so quickly.  In my opinion what happened is that whoever was managing that trip hadn't considered the fact that it was a trip to a religious ministry, not an educational or entertainment attraction, as much as little kennie tries to market it that way..  So they changed their minds rather quickly.  So far, things are proceeding as I think they should and, dare I say it, legally.  Government organizations should not be sponsoring such trips and doing so can open you up for legal action.  Gladly it only required a reminder before correcting their error.

Now, the fun starts.  What will kennie say?  Anyone else have an opinion?  You know what I am going to say -- Little kennie is going to play the martyr card and offer this up at yet another example of his Christian Persecution Complex.  Yes, kennie, the whole world is against you because they won't do everything you demand.  Regardless of the fact a city planning such a trip violates the Constitution (Lemon Test) doesn't matter to you.  I'm sure you'll be able to use this and squeeze more money out of your Hamians.

I know that makes me sound like I don't think little kennie is in this for the glory of a God . . . but can anyone really tell the difference between some a megachurch mogel, a televangelist preaching the 'prosperity gospel', and kennie building his ego-driven edifices?  If you don't think his ego isn't involved, you might to read the Bible and see how little kennie keeps 'interpreting' it while claiming Biblical literalism and inerrancy.  The irony is looking at what kennie does and what he says, the gap between them is not-very-surprisingly wide.

Private groups can do what they like, but public organizations -- like city departments and public schools -- shouldn't be doing certain things, and this was one of them.  Yes, kennie, I know you seem to think the Constitution should be re-written to make everything you do legal, but that's not what the law says, nor is it -- in my opinion -- in keeping the spirit of the drafters of the Constitution.  You aren't being persecuted, you are being limited by the law and I know how much that rankles you.  We discussed some of this before in "How Can You Tell When your Religious Liberties are being Violated?", including this graphic:


Little kennie reminds me of one of my neighbors during the late 60's and early 70's.  He was dead set against any form of civil rights for . . well . . . people that weren't exactly like him.  One of his constant complaints were how people like him were being persecuted by women and other men not like him because of the civil rights movement.  Was he actually being persecuted?  No, civil rights was about leveling the playing field and living up to the Constitution's promise about equality.  Just because you don't like something that's going on, doesn't mean you are being persecuted!

Was Kim Davis being persecuted because she went to jail for being a Christian?  No, she went to jail for refusing to do her job, her religion was her excuse and also her get-out-of-jail card because pf pandering politicians! Was that baker in Co persecuted for being a Christian?  No, he was prosecuted, and lost, for refusing to provide certain specific business services to a gay couple.  It's not persecution, it's leveling the playing field that for decades Christians have enjoyed special rights. Losing those 'special' rights isn't persecution, no matter how painful it might feel.

You might disagree with me that Christians have had a lot of special privileges, but think it through. Blue Laws enforced a religious decree from which religion?  How about the addition of 'Under God' to the Pledge Of Allegiance, don at the urging of who? the Knights of Columbus, one of the largest fraternal Catholic organizations in the world.  You can look for, and easily find many, many examples of Christian religion being dominant in everyday American life, whether you support that religion or not.  When was the last time you saw a Muslim theologian giving a benediction at a public event?  OK, maybe the question is when was the first time?

Many of the actions to reduce that dominance and establish the equality so desired by the framers of the Constitution is frequently characterized as 'persecution'.  As I see it, Christians do not want to lose their special status and they wish to continue to be able to use their religion to discriminate against anyone who isn't part of their religion.  Case in point are the state bills being introduced specifically designed to permit religious discrimination, like Indiana's (signed by the new VP when he was the Governor).

I have said it many times, the government should not be a tool of any special interest, including religion.  That might seem a pie-in-the-sky wish, certainly considering the current government leadership, or lack therein, but that's how I feel.  You cannot write a law that has any form of discrimination at its heart.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Did ProPublica Misrepresent Intelligent Design?

Little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, one of the Discovery Institute talking heads had a bit of a whine today.  His post: "A Look Inside the Media Sausage Factory: Alternative Facts from ProPublica" continues a theme we discussed a few days back in "More 'Knee-Jerkiness' from the Discovery Institute, Emphasis on Jerkiness".  Apparently he's backing up Sarah Chaffee and her taking issue with ProPublica and one of their writers commenting on Intelligent Design (ID).

One of the reasons klingy complained about ProPublica was because it was mentioned on "Last Week on Tonight with John Oliver".  He doesn't seem to like Oliver saying that it did great investigative journalism:

" . . . donate to groups like ProPublica, a nonprofit group which does great investigative journalism."
If you aren't familiar with ProPublica, they are described as:
"ProPublica is a non-profit corporation based in New York City. It describes itself as an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. In 2010 it became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize," (Wikipedia: ProPublica)
Other than that, I was surprised that klingy bothered to reach out to ProPublica, His normal course of events is to simply whine, cry, blame, and point fingers . . . usually all from various DI websites.  While he did reach out, I'm not sure of his approach.  He emailed them with this, including links to what he thinks are the significant misrepresentations:
"Writing at Evolution News & Views, which I edit, my Discovery Institute colleague Sarah Chaffee has pointed out significant misrepresentations in your January 30 article for ProPublica. Do you plan to correct them?"
Rather than ask for their sources, he goes immediately on the offensive and in one line basically questions their journalistic integrity.  Now when you question the integrity of the DI, they tend to get up on their hind legs and ad-hominen the hell out of you.  ProPublica is much more reasonable, an editor from ProPublica responded:
"I have reviewed both Annie's article and the critique by your colleague. In my judgment, Annie's article is factually accurate, and therefore we do not plan to publish a correction." 
She had more to say, you can read it at klingy post, if you want.  She stated her reasoning and supported it well.  Please note the term 'factually accurate'.  So in other words, ProPulica's description of ID as just another form of Creationism and the DI's goal of teaching ID in school is factually accurate.  Don't ya just love facts?  The DI and klingy obviously don't.

Klingy went on a much longer diatribe, and she responded to that as well.  Her bottom line was no corrections are necessary because the author did her homework and Sarah, and klingy, failed to make their case of 'misrepresentation', klingy took exception and said:
"So there you have it: a source of "investigative journalism" called out on multiple instances of misinformation in a single article refuses to correct the record, brushing aside objections as no more than a difference in "opinion." But I thought the highly regarded news source is supposed to be a source of fact, not opinion? 
Placing 'investigative journalism' in quotes they way he did was a subtle jab, but one that falls way off the mark.  In the eyes of the DI, ProPublica's crime was simply compounded because they refuse toe a DI-defined line, a line that no one outside of DI and ID circles toes.  The DI doesn't like Judge Jones because he stuck with the actual law, not the DI's version of it.  They also don't like Wikipedia because they won't let the DI define ID as science.  They don't like . . . well you get the idea.  They don't like anyone who disagrees with them.  Maybe one day they will notice me and I get added to that august list (Bucket List item for me :-))!  He continued with:
I'll drop this now, because the parade of fake news about ID and the evolution debate never ends."
Don't you love how he drags in 'fake news' again and tries to associate ProPublica with being a fake news site, like InfoWars (Wikipeda: Fake News Sites).  I do have to notice that while klingy is trying to paint ProPublica as a fake news site, he had nothing to say about John Oliver's characterization of InfoWars as an fake news site.  The reason this surprises me is that in the past InfoWars had nice things to say about ID.  I would expect some sort of defense, unless klingy is afraid to get in bed with a site that thinks Sandy Hook was phony government propaganda and the child victims were all actors.

In any event, the main question here is did ProPublica misrepresent ID?  You know my answer, it's that they did not!  The DI needs to do something more than just whine and claim to have been misrepresented without being able to show how and why.

I did want to make one small point that I do plan on expanding in the future, klingy ends with:
"If you suspect axe-grinding, yeah, it's probably there."
Isn't this exactly what most people think when they read anything from the DI?  Little klingy showed the axe he was grinding, his anti-science and pro-religion axe.  Funny how they [the DI] always seems to use the precise tactic they accuse other people of using. ProPublica isn't grinding any axes, they are reporting facts -- like investigative journalist are supposed to do.  You can disagree with them, but that doesn't mean the fact are false.

ProPublica has proven itself over and over again to be focused on the public interest.  While we already said they were the first online reporting website to win a Pulitzer back in 2010.  They also won one for investigative reporting in 2011, and a third Pulitzer for explanatory reporting in 2016.  Their list of awards goes on for 7 webpages.

Can the DI claim the same motivation, public interest, as ProPublica?  I'm sure they will eventually try and make such a claim, but then their claims of 'critical thinking' has nothing to do with actual critical thinking and their claims of 'academic freedom' has nothing to do with actual academic freedom, so if they ever claim to be doing whatever they do for 'public interest', I thnk we would find that it has nothing to do with actual public interest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Paucity of Design 'Theory'

Paucity is not a word I use often, I had to double-check the spelling to make sure I had it right.  For those of you who also don't often use, or even see 'Paucity', here is the definition:

"the presence of something only in small or insufficient quantities or amounts" (Google: Paucity)
The reason I bring this up is a post from the Discovery Institute's Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV) website.  It's by a Howard Glicksman, and according to Howard, he saw Doug Axe's 'Design Intuition' in action.

For those of you not terribly familiar with Axe and his 'Design Intuition', Axe is one of the directors over at the Biologic Institute, which is the DI's in-house Lab tasked to prove the scientific validity of Intelligent Design.  I can see why you might not be too familiar with Doug or his lab, since they have been extremely quiet on the subject after firing one of their original directors for mentioning the purpose of the lab in public.  Doug's 'Design Institution' has been one of the latest tactics from the DI, trying to sell people on the idea that their intuition on any subject is as valuable as scientific investigation.

Since empirical studies have shown that intuition is basically a 50-50 crapshoot of being correct on concept and nothing on details.  Think about it, you intuitively 'know' something is correct.  You have no actual support, no validation, no understanding of why it is correct, you just 'feel' it's correct.  So now what?  Do you think engineers who build building and bridges do so with intuition?  Do you think intuition keeps airplanes in the sky or your car moving on the road?  Show me where 'intuition', which is fancy way of saying 'an opinion', does anything in the real world? 

I have found intuition to be less than reliable, as you might guess.  Personally, I have had two primary careers, one involving electronic equipment and the other writing computer programs.  I have repaired hundreds of electronic components and written easily hundreds of thousands of lines of computer code and I cannot tell you how often intuition has failed me.  When faced with a problem, frequently under a time crunch, you try and rely on your intuition to make that quick fix.  What I have experienced is that no matter time-crunch or not, intuition doesn't work very well, not even 50-50.

What actually works is not my intuition, but by stepping back and thinking about the problem, tracing through the code logic to determine what the problem is and then forming a fix.  In other words following a methodology, what we usually call a problem-solving methodology.  It takes longer than an intuitive "Oh I know what's wrong, change this", but the percentage of success is considerably higher than waiting for that intuitive lightening to strike.  I've had a number of problem where I would still be scratching my head because I received no intuitive idea at all.  I had to go through the methodology to fix my problem.

So, according to Doug, I should be right more often than I am wrong when my intuition tells me a particular fix would work.  In fact, according to Doug, my intuition should not just be right more often, but the overwhelming majority of the time my intuition should win out.  It doesn't!  Does that make me a bad electronics technician or computer programmer?  Well, my employers haven't thought so.  Even today I make my living writing code, and I don't often try and rely on my 'feelings' about a potential fix.

OK, why am I torturing you like this, well Howard's post, "A Son Realizes the Irrepressible Truth", is sort of interesting, from a decidedly lack of detail way.  Apparently Howard is a doctor and in discussing a patient's heart issues with the patient's son, the son suddenly exclaimed "What a beautiful design!", discussing certain human body related issues.  Howard, upon hearing the magic word 'design' immediately declared it a success for Doug's idea of Design Intuition.  Really?  So now that the son seems to grasp that the human . . . wait, let me quote the things Howard claims to have told him:
" . . . anatomy of the heart  . . . the cardiovascular system,  . . . heart fails . . . how water is either inside or outside the cell . . . hydrostatic and osmotic pressure  . . . lymphatics"
So, now that the son has this amazing grasp, I guess he's ready do perform heart surgery?  If you think that's extreme, how about letting the son prescribe your medication?  Why not, he has an intuitive grasp of the biology involved, doesn't he?  You mean he's not ready to develop the next great heart medication or develop the next incredible surgical breakthrough?  Why not?  It seems obvious to me.  I do not believe Howard relies on his intuition to diagnose and treat -- after all he went to medical school, didn't he?  I bet there were no classes on 'intuition', but plenty on biology including evolution.

Here's the thing, has the patient's son supported his intuition?  No, not in the least.  What he offered was 'an opinion'.  In fact it's the same opinion offered for Intelligent Design proponents over and over again.  To paraphrase: 'I see what looks like design to me, so therefore it must have been designed.'  Yet has any of the DI talking heads, or any other ID proponent offered anything other than opinion?  No, which is why they are trying to elevate such exclamations of 'design' to the level of scientific investigation, because they seem to have nothing else.  Now you can see the tie in to 'paucity'.

Sorry, Howard.  You didn't get a medical degree based on your intuition, and while ID proponent MD's like to claim evolution has nothing to do with the practice of medicine, if you were honest you might recognize where many of the medicines and treatments came from and the role evolution, common ancestry, comparative anatomy played in the development of what you learned in medical school.  Intuition, no, I prefer a doctor who relies on much more than their feelings.  I have to know, do you go to a doctor who practices what you are trying to preach here?

Here's a hint, you drive into the small town with only two barbershops.  You need a haircut and you check out the first shop, the barber has unkempt hair, looking like it was chopped rather than cut.  The second shop has a barber with a perfect haircut.  Which do you go to?  I know, logic problems aren't your forte, but take a stab . . . if you need a hint think about it from this angle, since the town only has two barbers, who do you think did the other barber's hair?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

More 'Knee-Jerkiness' from the Discovery Institute, Emphasis on Jerkiness

Any number of times I have mentioned the 'knee-jerk' reaction of the Discovery Institute (DI) when anyone does one of two things.
  • First, if you say something nice about Intelligent Design (ID), the DI falls all over itself to say nice things about you.  It doesn't seem to matter if what you say is pretty well meaningless, even if the bias of the author is well known -- case-in-point the recent posts (here and here) based on a new book by Tom Bethell.  
  • The other knee-jerk reaction is it you say anything that can be construed as negative about ID, they immediately jump on their keyboards and denounce you, usually claiming you didn't explain ID correctly and that you aren't fairly representing the official position of the DI.  case-in-point today's post: "In the Public Interest? ProPublica Misrepresents Intelligent Design and Discovery Institute Policy"
Here they hit both things -- but where??  Annie Waldman, the author of the article that offended Sarah so much pretty well hit the nail right on the head.  She [Annie] said:
  • ID is an outgrowth of Creationism.  Well isn't it?  It was proven in court, it was all over the DI guiding document, the only audience that the DI ever seems to talk to are religious ones.  Annie stated is clear as a bell, Sarah just wants to keep the religious aspects of the DI amd ID hidden in the dark, just like all the talking heads.
  • The DI advocates teaching ID under the guise of "critical thinking."  Isn't that also true?  The whole 'critical thinking' tactic is one of the many campaigns the DI has launched all . . . let me repeat that . . . ALL for their stated purpose of:
    "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." (Wikipedia: Wedge Strategy Document)
Annie's opening line:
"Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick as secretary of education, has funded groups that champion “intelligent design,” a sophisticated outgrowth of creationism. Science educators worry that she could use her bully pulpit to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools."
To me, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable concern, but then, when is the DI interested in being reasonable?  Here we have someone who has supported groups pushing ID, including the Thomas More Law Center -- who, if you recall, defended the Dover School Board.  When DeVos' husband ran for Governor of Michigan, he publicly promoted ID for the classroom.  Plus, when you factor in her her support of privatizing public schools, I think we all have a right to be concerned.  How much you want to bet then when Betsy starts talking sending public school kids to private schools, she isn't talking anything but good old-fashioned Christian schools like the ones she and her kids went to?

Here's another article which also raises the same concern: "Dover ID case plaintiff worries about DeVos"  One of the plaintiffs in the Dover Case sees the same potential problem, DeVos using her new position to push her personal and religious agenda, even though the decision in the Dover Trial should have been the end of it.  Devos got involved with Michigan education, I don't know when, but I have read things haven't been moving in the right direction, for example:
"In 2003, Michigan ranked 28th in fourth-grade reading. In 2015, the state was ranked 41st." (Detroit Free Press)

So, this concern, so easily dismissed by Sarah, is a valid concern.  We now have a Secretary of Education with no background in education and with a very personal agenda concerning education, into which she has pumped a great deal of money and her impact in Michigan at best has been either negligible or horrible, but certainly nothing to build any confidence in her capabilities.  Sarah isn't concerned because she obviously shares that same agenda, but the rest of us should be very concerned.

As for Annie Waldman mis-representing the DI and their position on teaching ID in public schools, I have to refer back to this post from just under a year ago: "Does Anyone Actually Believe the Discovery Institute when They say They are not Advocating Teaching Intelligent Design?"  In case you don't feel like reading the whole thing, and it is a fairly long post, here are a few highlights:
  • The DI's Wedge Strategy Document outlining a 'teacher training strategy' aimed to gain acceptance from college and university presidents and faculty.
  • The DI was involved heavily in Dover Pa:
    • Why did Seth Cooper, a DI attorney, have several calls with William Buckingham (Chairman of the Dover School Board Curriculum Committee) discussing the legality of teaching ID?  (Trial Transcripts)
    • Why did the DI send Buckingham DVDs, videotapes, and books? (Trial Transcripts)
    • Why did two lawyers from the DI make a legal presentation to the School Board in executive session? (Trial Transcripts)
    • Why was the DI one of only two outside organizations consulted by the School Board  (The Thomas More Law Center was the other)?
  • DI's IDEA clubs, whose own website described as:
    "The Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting intelligent design theory and fostering good - spirited discussion and a better understanding over intelligent design theory and the creation - evolution issue among students,educators, churches, and anyone else interested.
    Our primary focus is to help students form "IDEA Clubs" on university and high school campuses to expand the dialogue over intelligent design" (http://www.ideacenter.org/)
  • In Texas, if the DI is not advocating Intelligent Design, why were they 'advising' the Creationist head of the Texas State School Board on public school curricula and textbooks.
  • The DI's own Stephen C. Meyer proposed to the Ohio Board of Education the Institute's Critical Analysis of Evolution that prominently featured intelligent design. It also included a model lesson plan!
  • The DI's website featured: Key Resources for Parents and School Board Members  -- They have a ton of material here . . . and all geared to parents and school board members.  
Look at the recurring theme, school boards, individual school board members, teachers, students, school campuses, lesson plans . . . sure, the DI has no interest in teaching ID in the classroom!  If you believe that, I have a bridge over in Brooklyn for sale!  Any takers?

Actions always speak louder than 'official' positions, don't they?  The bottom line should be pretty simple for anyone to see.  Regardless of what they say 'officially', the Discovery Institute is interested in, has set a goal to, and is pursuing tactics to, replace actual science with their version of Creationism.

Their 'official' party-line is nothing but a tactic, and our experience has shown us that there is no tactic too low or too reprehensible for them to grasp and use because, like little kennie ham at Answers in Genesis, they are simply doing God's will, right?  Actually this specific tactic is probably because after all of their defeats in court and in places like Texas Kansas, and Ohio (even after an initial brush with success), they know an official push for ID would fail.  They, the DI, keep trying to disassociate ID from Creationism and also to officially disassociate themselves with their own ongoing efforts to insert their religion into the classroom.  Dover hurt them much more than they will ever admit and another major court failure might do what must be unthinkable for them . . . a loss of donations! 

So while the 'official' position might be not teaching ID in public schools, that is the end goal they are after, make no mistake.  So when people like Annie Waldman speak up and shines the light on their motivations and tactics, they have to quickly cover everything back up and act like they are not trying to push us back into the dark . . . the Dark Ages that is!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Discovery Institute is So Predictable

Just a few hours ago I posted "Evolution, It's All The Fault of the Media!", which was my comments about a little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer post concerning Tom Bethell's new book.  I predicted there would be more coming on the subject and lo-and-behold, klingy has another one already:
"The Curious Romance of Darwinism and Creationism -- And Why Intelligent Design Must Be Silenced". He starts off with a common Discovery Institute complaint, typically poorly supported:

"One of the many smart observations in Tom Bethell's new book, Darwin's House of Cards, pertains to the curious relationship of Darwinism and Creationism -- and how that bears on efforts to suppress investigation of the theory of intelligent design."
I underlined the most interesting phrase, 'suppress investigation'.  What a crock, the sheer audacity of klingy and the DI amazes me, even after nearly a decade blogging about it!  If suppression were true there would be no Discovery Institute (DI), there would be no Intelligent Design (ID) idea, there would be no Biologic Institute -- you know the DI's in-house laboratory for  . . . doing what exactly?  Investigating ID!  While they have been notoriously silent on the topic, that is their stated purpose after all.

The DI likes to sell that they are the little David attacking the Science Goliath, but the reality is they are a religious ministry using any tactic to market their religion.  No tactic too low nor tactic too reprehensible, as evidenced by posts like this.  It's sort of a: We can't compete on the science, so we will claim they are being unfair and suppressing all our  . . . well whatever, it's sure not science.

What klingy, and I guess Bethell, are calling suppression, is the lack of the scientific communities immediate and overwhelming acceptance of the brilliance of the DI's philosophers, lawyers, and pseudo-historians by tossing aside 150 years of actual, verifiable, and useful science and replacing it with the DI's self-admitted religious philosophy.  A philosophy, I might add, that has accomplishing no scientific advances, no medical cures, and no results of any kind.  Just because the scientific community is unwilling to embrace it, doesn't mean it is being suppressed!  The unwillingness comes from a number of different avenues, not the least of which is the DI's own lack of evidence supporting their own idea.

When you add in the religious underpinnings of ID, well documented in their own guiding document, and the failure of ID proponents to effectively defend ID as science during the Dover Trial, is it any wonder the majority of the scientific community dismisses it?  They dismiss it much in the same way they dismiss tarot cards, numerology, and astrology.  In multiple school systems across the country, including right here in Ohio, creationists have tried for decades to have their religion inserted into the science curriculum.  Failing that, they re-packaged Creationism into 'Creation Science' and it failed as well.  The current incarnation is called 'Intelligent Design' and it's met with so little success that the DI, and their friends, have to invent excuses, like the idea of suppression!  Every scientist says basically the same thing, 'show me the evidence' . . . and yet there has not been any evidence forthcoming.

You know, for a journalist Bethell doesn't seem to do his homework very well.  According to klingy, Bethell wrote:
"But so far, no intelligent rebuttal of intelligent design has appeared." 
Really?  I guess he ignored the Dover Trial, and every time they [the DI] publish one of their philosophical books pretending to be science, real scientists have plenty to say about it.  They put people in front of green screens, self-publish philosophy books (like Bethells's -- it was published by the Discovery Institute Press) and papers, and give lots of interviews mainly made up of whining . . . and they can't understand why no one takes them seriously.  Even the DI's efforts to edit the ID entry in Wikipedia keeps getting rebutted to the point where Wikipedia suspends editing for a time.  Bethell also said:
"Intelligent design is not a deduction from a philosophy but an inference from observed facts."
However, only ID proponents defined it as such, the rest of the world defined it as:
"Intelligent design is a creationist religious argument for the existence of God, presented by its proponents as "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" but found to be pseudoscience." (Wikipedia: Intelligent Design, 7 Feb 2017)
Just for fun I tool a look at the history of the ID link in Wikipedia.  Just in this year alone, there have already been 23 edits. Someone tried to change the heading to:
"This article is about a scientific theory that abductively reasons for a creationist viewpoint. For generic arguments from "intelligent design", see Teleological argument. For the movement, see Intelligent design movement. For other uses of the phrase, see Intelligent design (disambiguation)."
The rationale used for this change was :
"(More accuracy, less venom. It is NOT(!) a form of creationism, it is purely scientific theory. It appeals to all of those with a creationist viewpoint, but it is purely scientific in standard. See: William Dembski's Design Revolution!)"
Four minutes later is was changed back to:
"This article is about a form of creationism. For generic arguments from "intelligent design", see Teleological argument. For the movement, see Intelligent design movement. For other uses of the phrase, see Intelligent design (disambiguation)."
With the rationale:
"(Reverted 1 pending edit by Cobaltblueeyes to revision 758109363 by Dave souza: the contention that it's a scientific theory has been repeatedly debunked)"

Twenty-three edits in 5 weeks, no wonder Wikipedia slows things down.  But the effort is pretty consistent.  Little klingy's final quote from Bethell talks about how one group of university professors reacted to an on-campus institute whose sole purpose was ID research.
"Polanyi Institute to debate these issues, with Darwinians and ID opponents included on the board. But the Institute was shut down after vehement protests from Baylor's biology faculty"
So the question isn't whether or not this 'institute' should have been shut down, the question is who establishes science curriculum.  According to the school, the 'institute', funding by a grant from the DI, was downgraded for passing off their ID material as if it was the position of the school itself -- which it was not.  If I recall, the teachers in Dover PA refused to read the statement approved by the school board because ID is not science!  I posted this back in 2008:
"There has to be some leveling set of standards, or else nothing we teach will actually prepare our students for the future. Science should be taught in science class, and what determines science? Science has a huge community of people working in scientific fields. They have developed, over time, a methodology for what is science and what is not. Is it unanimous, no, but what developed by a committee ever is? But the vast majority of members of that community agree that Creationism/Intelligent Design does not belong in Science class. "(Who determines School Curriculum Standards?)
So, in my opinion, teachers at every level should put up a fight when politicians, and that what school boards and university trustees are, want to change an entire discipline into a pseudo-discipline.  In every public school in the nation teachers should rise up when politicians threaten their disciplines.  History teachers know Darwin did not cause Hitler and the Holocaust.  Math teachers know that pi does not equal 3, and science teachers know ID is not science.  Who decides what math is included in Mathematics courses?  Who decides what rules of grammar are used in English courses?  The determining factor of whether or not something should be included in a science course are not those arm-chair creationists at the DI, but the scientific community using the scientific methodology so easily dismissed by those same creationists.

Little klingy finishes with one last outlandish statement:
"ID, unlike creationism, challenges Darwinian evolution on its own turf. That is not acceptable. Creationism for the Darwinist is a welcome foil. On the other hand, ID, which practices science where Darwinism is ultimately an exercise in philosophy, must be silenced."
Since when?  Where has ID challenged actual science on it's own turf?  Where is the science supporting ID, where is the evidence that stands up to objective scrutiny?  Where are the actual peer-reviewed papers?  I am not talking about the DI's version of pseudo-peer-review, but actual peer-review.  Where is anything that would give ID scientific legitimacy?  

There isn't anything, and that is why ID doesn't belong in science class.  The scientific community has been asking for years and the silence has been so deafening  It's only in religious circles that ID gets any acceptance at all, and then only in Evangelical religious circles.  Even most non-secular schools have rejected ID and the DI's marketing campaigns, like "Teach the Controversy" and "Evolution is Just a Theory".  Just today the Christian News Wire put out this press release:
"Richard Weikart, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, will present at Athanatos Christian Ministry's apologetics academy"
Sure and how many times does the DI claim not to be a ministry?  Anyone, outside of their own apologetics, actually believe that bit of fiction?  Over the years they have presented talks and many religious gatherings!

It's not because ID proponents are being suppressed, it's because they add nothing to the amazing picture that science paints of the world.  If the DI succeeds in destroying science their own Wedge Strategy document makes it clear that science is only the first step.  They will target every other area of learning until the only perspective is a specific religious one, their religious one.  The incredible mosaic painted by science will become a blank canvas filled with one color and serve absolutely no purpose.  At best the DI, and ID, is a footnote as the latest effort to make science a casualty, not of a failure -- because science most certainly hasn't failed, but a casualty of a philosophy that offers nothing but philosophy.  Decking it out in an ill-fitting lab coat doesn't make it science.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Evolution, It's All The Fault of the Media!

The Discovery Institute's (DI) little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer is positively gushing over this:  "Tom Bethell's Rebuke to Fellow Journalists: A Skeptical Look at Evolution Is Not Beyond Your Powers", I have to wonder why.  I see all the nice things he claims and all the nice things he says others say about Tom Bethell, which tells me a few things.  This guy in not a 'fellow' at the DI, but if they had a 'Friends of the DI', Bethell would certainly be listed there.  Little klingy says:

"I admit he's a longtime friendly acquaintance and a contributor to Evolution News, so I'm not unbiased. But others who, like me, have followed him for years agree in savoring his work."
For a change, klingy admits to being biased, which is very unusual.  The normal course of actions is for the DI talking head to hide any previous relationship of bias, like what Stepehn C. Meyer did when he said:
"My recent book on the subject received enthusiastic endorsements from many scientists not previously known as advocates of ID, such as chemist Philip Skell, a National Academy of Sciences member, and Norman Nevin, one of Britain's top geneticists."
When in reality both Nevin and Skell were already ID proponents, just not DI fellows (Intelligent Design Sh** or Get Off the Pot).  Or like when a new DI talking head was announced, Heather Zeigler, was announced with:
"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."
Bragging about her education, but forgetting to mention her more complete background and why she was perfect for the DI (So there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design? Part II):
"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. "
That's why it's so funny for klingy to be open about his bias, usually they try and hide those minor details that make it look like they are stacking the deck . . . oh wait, it doesn't make it look like they are stacking it, they are stacking it and think the rest of us aren't smart enough to realize it.

So, my guess is Bethell has said some nice things about Intelligent Design (ID) in the past, at least that is my suspicion.  His name rings a small bell, but I am not sure from where.  Time to do a little Googling and see what I can find.  As for the reason for my suspicion, it's simple -- klingy is gushing and "savoring", that's more than a little disturbing.  The last time he gushed like this was following a visit to a strip club. (Strip Clubs and David Klinghoffer)

Wow, that took all of 8 seconds and one click after searching for Bethell.  According to Wikipedia:
"Bethell is a member of the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis which denies that HIV causes AIDS. In the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science (2005), he promotes skepticism of the existence of man-made global warming, AIDS denialism, and skepticism of evolution (which Bethell denies is "real science"), promoting intelligent design instead." (Wikipedia: Tom Bethell)
No wonder klingy loves him!  He is already a drinker of the kool-aid and has been for quite a while.  OK, now we have a better context for anything Tom Bethell has to say, and a good understanding as to why he's in the very good graces of the DI.  let's look at what he says and what klingy says about his book.  Little klingy sorta summarizes the whole thing with:
"Lo and behold, it's not beyond the intellectual reach of a reporter to get to the bottom of the controversy and to estimate the plausibility of Darwin's theory."
I guess this makes sense since the DI has been on a kick lately about how anyone's intuition is as good, or better than scientific investigation.  So having a reporter, especially one already in bed with the DI estimate the plausibility of the Theory of Evolution . . . which I should remind klingy that 'Darwin's Theory' is 150+ years old and has been augmented and detailed by hundreds, even thousands of scientists to the point that most would be unrecognizable to Darwin.  But that being said, you can see how and why klingy would rely more on a reporter than on actual scientists doing real science and studying biology instead of journalism.  He further says about Bethell:
"Not a religious apologist or a cheerleader for any competing view, but rather an old-fashioned skeptic"
 Really?  Read the stuff on Bethell from Wikipedia again.  Does this sound like an old-fashioned skeptic?  AIDS/HIV denier, climate change denier, evolution denier . . . this is not a skeptic, but an old-fashioned denier.  How can you tell the difference?

We discussed this a little just recently, basically a skeptic is someone who questions, but as the questions are answered, the skepticism is reduced.  A denier is someone who refuses to face the evidence, or when faced with it -- they denies it.  Deniers seem to feel their opinion outweighs everything else. We discussed this a bit last year when . . . oh look, guess who . . . klingy was whining that the NY Times was going to change terminology and call climate-change skeptics 'climate-change deniers'.  (Skeptics vs Deniers, is there a difference?).  We also discussed it a bit more recently in a very nice post: Skepticism vs. Scholarship (From James F. McGrath).  The bottom line seems to be that, to the DI, if you agree with Intelligent Design, then you are a 'skeptic' of evolution.  However, if you believe in evolution, you are denying Intelligent Design.  That reminds me of an old lesson in terms "I am firm, you are stubborn, and they are bull-headed" using different terms to mean the same thing, but expressed differently depending on your target.  The DI seems to think something along these lines:  "I disagree with you makes me a skeptic.  You disagree with me makes you a denier."  The difference, the part the DI can't seem to remember, is the actual evidence.

Obviously, as an ID proponent, anything Bethell denies makes him a DI version of a skeptic, but to the rest of the world, he's a denier -- he just happens to be one that writes well, at least klingy thinks so. Although in my opinion that's probably more of a Halo Effect.  Well, reading though klingy's comments, and his purported quotes from Bethell, he says:
"He concludes that while confidence in the pillars of Darwinism -- common descent and innovation through natural selection -- hit their high-water mark at the centenary celebration of the Origin of Species in 1959, the evidence has steadily and increasingly gone against the theory. The whole edifice rested on a 19th century faith in Progress, propped up by a dogmatic commitment to materialism. As the former falters, the structure is in danger of collapse."
Ah yes, yet another prediction in the imminent demise of the Theory of Evolution, which has also been called "The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism".  Little klingy also called it 'Darwinism' here which immediately reveals his prejudice.  I would call this less a conclusion and more an opinion.  While klingy mentions all this 'evidence', why is it that he, and the rest of the DI, never managed to produce it?  

So what this is, is nothing more than a restatement of a few of the DI's latest tactics. 
  • First characterize someone as being reasonable and even unbiased, when in reality he's a firm believer.  
  • Then toss out the idea that you don't have to be a scientist to raise unsupported questions about Evolution -- so simple even even a journalist can do it, or should we call such journalists 'pseudo-journalists'?  
  • Finally come to the 'conclusion' that edifice of evolution is about the collapse, something people have been predicting since Darwin first published.

And klingy calls us naive about understanding and accepting evolution?  He also put the blame on the media:
"The naivety is heartbreaking, foisted on us by the credulous, pampered media. "
Little klingy forget to mention the clear majority of the educational system which teaches actual science rather than pseudo-science.  He also forgets the the something like 99% of scientists in biology and biology-related fields who understand accept evolution.  Yes, he forgot the mention all of the avenues in which we reach this level of 'naivety'.  Does he also forget to mention how often he, and the rest of the DI, complain about the media if they don't say nice things about ID?  So . . . bottom line . . . since the media rarely says anything nice about ID, therefore it's the media's fault that evolution is taught at all.

What I expect to see is a rash of articles complaining about the media.  It's currently in vogue right now.  Since, according to the DI, the media won't give ID equal billing with real science, let's join the Trumpist-style circus and attack the media.  Too bad they can't seem to put the same energy in supporting their pseudo-scientific ideas as they so attacking anyone who disagrees while fawning over those few that agree with them.