Yang Yang posted Entry 2 on March 24, 2004 09:27 AM.
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The Panda’s Thumb is the collaborative effort of a large group of people from all over the world. The contributions of a diverse range of individuals will hopefully add up to a valuable resource for our readers.


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This is a list of the contributors to The Panda’s Thumb, with some brief biographical information about each one:

Andrea Bottaro is an immunologist and molecular biologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.  []

Matthew Brauer is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, where he is studying the evolutionary responses of metabolic networks in eukaryotes. He holds a B.A. in biochemistry from U.C.-Berkeley, an M.S. in statistics and a PhD in biological sciences from the University of Texas at Austin. He wrote a chapter in Robert Pennock’s book Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics.  []

Ed Brayton is the co-founder of Michigan Citizens for Science. He is the group’s resident non-academic, being a businessman and concerned citizen with a longstanding interest in this issue.  []

Reed Cartwright holds a PhD in genetics at the University of Georgia, a B.S. in genetics, and an A.B. in Latin from UGA as well. He has written extensively on evolution and Intelligent Design and is active with Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education.  []

Mike Dunford has been a contributor to talk.origins for so long that he  almost doesn’t feel like the new kid on the block any more. Currently, Mike is an Nth year senior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he is (finally) completing his B.S. in Zoology. Following completion of his undergraduate work, he plans to continue to study evolution in island environments (especially ones with good beaches). Current interests include speciation processes in sympatric populations, and the evolution of introduced species. In the past, he has worked as a paleontological lab technician. Other interests include the history of geology, especially in 19th century England.

Wesley R. Elsberry is a biologist with an eclectic academic and work history. He holds a B.S. in Zoology (U. Fl.), an M.S.C.S.  (Computer Science, U. Tx. at Arlington), and a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences (Tx. A&M U.). He has worked in biological, medical, and veterinary research; software design and development for military contractors; and photojournalism and studio photography.  His research interests include the physiology and bioenergetics of dolphin biosonar sound production, the hearing of marine mammals, bioacoustics, animal behavior, and emergent computation (artificial neural systems, evolutionary computation). He became interested in the evolution/creation controversy in 1986 after attending a young-earth creationist lecture at the University of Florida.  Since then, Wesley has become more involved in the issue, finally “turning pro” late in 2003 by becoming the Information Project Director for the National Center for Science Education. His views as expressed at The Panda’s Thumb are his own and are not necessarily shared by NCSE, its employees, or its supporters.  []

Jim Foley is a software engineer from Canberra, Australia, who has been fascinated by creationism since encountering it at university. His main interest is the intersection of human evolution and creationism, and he is the author of the Fossil Hominids website which explores these subjects. He is married with four children and enjoys reading, squash, and tae kwon do.

Alan Gishlick — [Bio pending.]

Paul R. Gross is University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus, at the University of Virginia. His baccalaureate and doctoral degrees are from the University of Pennsylvania. He holds honorary degrees from Brown University and the Medical College of Ohio. He is a developmental and molecular biologist who has taught at Brown, Rochester, MIT, and the University of Virginia. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he served from 1978 to 1988 as President and Director of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, and was Vice President and Provost of the University of Virginia, where he helped to found and served as Director of the Molecular Biology Institute. He is co-author with Norman Levitt of Higher Superstition (Johns Hopkins, 1994, 98) and with Barbara Forrest of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford, 2004).

Richard Hoppe is an Affiliated Scholar in Biology at Kenyon College, and CEO of Intellitrade, Inc., which uses evolutionary algorithms to model market systems.  His Ph.D. in experimental psychology is from the University of Minnesota.  []

Burt Humburg is a graduate of and lab assistant at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. In the summer of 2005, he will begin a residency in internal medicine at Penn State University — Hershey Medical Center. He is a former board member with Kansas Citizens for Science.

Arthur Hunt — [Bio pending.]

Gary S. Hurd received a doctorate in Social Science from the University of California, Irvine in 1976. He subsequently served on the faculties of the California College of Medicine (UCIMC), the Medical College of Georgia (Psychiatry), and held numerous adjunct appointments. Since 1985, he has returned to archaeology, the principle focus of his early research. He has received several honors for teaching and research and has over one hundred publications, including abstracts and technical reports, ranging from topics in psychiatry, mathematics and chemistry to frass, fish digestion, prehistoric ceremonialism and forensic taphonomy. Hurd became actively involved in the creationist anti-science debate while the Curator of Anthropology, and Director of Education for the Orange County Museum of Natural History.  []

Matt Inlay is currently a post-doc at UCSD, where he received his Ph.D. in Biology in 2003.  His research focused on the regulation of V(D)J recombination by enhancers and enhancer elements.  []

Jack Krebs is the vice-president of Kansas Citizens for Science. After receiving his undergraduate degree in anthropology, with an emphasis on religion and belief systems, he began a long career in secondary public education that has included being a math teacher, technology director and curriculum director. Jack has had extensive experience with curriculum standards in a wide range of areas.  He also has long-standing interests in science, philosophy, and religion.  []

John Lynch is an evolutionary biologist in Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University, where he also is affiliated with the Institute of Human Origins, the Center for Biology & Society, and the Center for the Study of Law, Science & Technology. He holds a PhD in biology from University College in Dublin, Ireland, and continues to do biological research into morphological evolution in mammals, most recently into temporal bone variation in great apes and fossil hominds.  []

Nicholas Matzke is a Public Information Project Specialist with the National Center for Science Education. He holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Valparaiso University, and an M.A. in geography from U.C.-Santa Barbara. His views as expressed at The Panda’s Thumb are his own and are not necessarily shared by NCSE, its employees, or its supporters.

Pim van Meurs — [Bio pending.]

Ian Musgrave is a biomedical researcher and University lecturer from Australia. His current area of research is into a protein so obscure that only four other people actually belive it exists. He is also researching Alzheimer’s disease, for reasons he can’t currently remember. In a career that has spanned 25 years, Ian has counted kangaroo poo in western Queensland, dug up beet root in the Darling Downs, lost an entire herd of cattle in an experimental tropical grass paddock, and measured the hight of sand dunes on Frazer Island. It is generally felt that he can do the least harm studying obscure proteins away from normal people. When not researching obscure proteins or obsessively tracking down long out-of-date publications on peppered moths, Ian is an amateur astronomer, bushwalker and aficionado of folk music, often combining all 3 three activities at folk music camps in the bush.  []

PZ Myers is an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota-Morris. He holds a B.S. in zoology from the University of Washington and a PhD in biology from the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon. He has previously taught at the University of Utah and at Temple University.  []

Henry Neufeld — [Bio pending.]

Mark Perakh is a professor of physics (emeritus) and perhaps by far the oldest (agewise) contributor to this blog. He got his two doctoral degrees (one in technical/engineering physics and the other in electrochemistry) in the former USSR. He has taught physics and related disciplines for more than half a century in four countries, and lives in the US since 1978. He has authored about 300 scientific papers, four books, and scores of articles on political and sociological topics published in several languages, no to mention a novel and short stories published both in Russian and English. He was awarded prizes for his scientific work, including those from the Academy of Sciences in the USSR, DAAD (the German authority on R&D) and the Royal Society of London. He became interested in debunking first the Bible code fallacy, then the publications of religious writers purportedly proving the compatibility of the Bible with science, and finally the ID concepts, after his retirement. So far he has published several articles and a book Unintelligent Design (Prometheus Books, 2004) in this vein. His lifelong hobby has been mountain climbing (Pamir, Alai, Tien-Shan, Caucasus), plus collecting Russian (and occasionally non-Russian) oral jokes, and writing a little of poetry in Russian.

Steve Reuland is a PhD student in biochemistry and molecular biology at the Medical University of South Carolina.  He holds a B.S. in Biology from the College of Charleston.

Jason Rosenhouse received his PhD in mathematics from Dartmouth College in 2000.  He spent three years as a post-doc at Kansas State University and is currently an assistant professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  He has written essays on Evolution/ID for several journals including BioScience, Evolution, and The Mathematical Intelligencer.

Timothy Sandefur is an attorney in Placerville, California, specializing in constitutional law. He is a contributing editor for Liberty magazine, and blogs regularly at Freespace. He holds a JD from Chapman University School of law and a BA in Political Economy from Hillsdale College. He is a fellow in the College of Public Interest Law at the Pacific Legal Foundation, and was a 2002 Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. In law school, he wrote a student note on the Establishment Clause implications of the accreditation of the Institute for Creation Research’s graduate school. (Dinosaur TRACS: The Approaching Conflict between Establishment Clause Jurisprudence and College Accreditation Procedures, 7 Nexus J. Op. 79 (2002)). His views as expressed on Panda’s Thumb are solely his own and do not in any way represent those of the Pacific Legal Foundation, its employees, clients, or supporters.

Jeffrey Shallit received his AB in Mathematics from Princeton University in 1979 and his Ph. D. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1983.  Since then he has taught at the University of Chicago and Dartmouth College. He is currently Professor of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.  He has a long interest in pseudoscience and pseudomathematics and has written about the intelligent design movement in Reports of the NCSE and the forthcoming book, Why Intelligent Design Fails(Edis and Young, eds.)

Tara C. Smith is an assistant professor of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa.  She holds a B.S. in Biology from Yale University.  A “temporary” stint as a technician led to a Ph.D. in microbial pathogenesis and virulence factor regulation in Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.  She completed post-doctoral training in molecular epidemiology at the University  of Michigan.  Her current research centers on investigation of hypervariable proteins in the group B streptococcus, S. agalactiae. Other interests include microbial ecology, emerging diseases, zoonoses, and infectious causes of chronic disease.  In addition to publishing in scientific journals, she has written books on the topics of group A strep and Ebola.  She lives in rural Iowa with her husband and 2 young children.  []

Dave Thomas is a physicist and mathematician, employed at a small high-tech testing firm in Albuquerque, NM. He received bachelor degrees in mathematics and in physics, and a master of science in mathematics, from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where he was awarded the Brown Medal. Dave is president of the science group New Mexicans for Science and Reason, and also is a Fellow of CSICOP (Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), the publishers of Skeptical Inquirer. He has published several articles in Skeptical Inquirer on the Roswell and Aztec UFO Incidents, as well as on the Bible Code. Dave has also published in Scientific American (Dec. 1980 cover article), and has several patents. He received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of Darwin Award in 2000. Dave is married, and has two sons. He enjoys playing bluegrass, and and performs juggling and magic shows for elementary schools and other groups.

John Wilkins is a philosophy of science PhD graduate who has contributed various FAQs to the TalkOrigins Archive and numerous puns to the talk.origins newsgroup. His primary interests are the evolution of culture and in particular of science, and in philosophical issues surrounding taxonomy, but he has an Opinion on everything. He has two children and a wife, all of whom know more than he does.  []

Matt Young was a physicist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and now teaches physics and engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.  He is coeditor, with Taner Edis, of Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (Rutgers, 2004) and author of No Sense of Obligation: Science and Religion in an Impersonal Universe (1stBooks Library, 2001), and two other books.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #28

Posted by Frank Schmidt on March 24, 2004 8:08 AM (e)

As a biochemist who is involved in the debate from time to time, I am getting increasingly frustrated by the phrase “specified complexity.” Is this a term used in the information theory community, population biology, etc.? Its definition via Dembski seems more than a little squishy. Perhaps on a level with irreeducible complexity. Thanks.

Comment #30

Posted by Jack Krebs on March 24, 2004 8:18 AM (e)

Correct - specified complexity is used by few, if any, outside of Dembski’s circle of influence, and yes, “squishy” is a good description of the concept. I believe a short essay on this would be a good project for the Panda’s Thumb. Thanks for bringing this up.

Comment #32

Posted by Steve Reuland on March 24, 2004 9:52 AM (e)

Frank, the definitive decontruction of “Specified Complexity” is here:


It’s long, but worth the read. The short answer is that Dembski defines SC to mean “no natural processes could have done it”. Which of course means that when he claims that living things contain SC, and that this is therefore evidence of design, he’s just engaging in circular reasoning. The question is, how does non-biologist Dembski know that the properties of living things could not come about naturally? It turns out that he has no real reason other than an appeal to Irreducible Complexity, which makes his own SC criterion entirely superfluous. It could be discarded altogether, and the issue would remain unchanged.

The long answer would require one to go through all the cases where Dembski has been highly inconsistent and ambiguous in his use of SC. In some cases, he implies (or states explicitly) that SC is an independently measurable quantity, which depends only on the current properties of the object in question. In other cases, he uses it as a measure of improbability, which depends entirely on the causal history of the object rather than its present properties. And at other times, he uses it to mean both, which is again an exercise in circular reasoning. For Dembski to define SC as something with property X which is wildly improbable because it contains property X is to beg the question.

More on Dembski’s use of “information” can be found here:


Hope that helps.

Comment #35

Posted by loren on March 24, 2004 11:13 AM (e)

Good to see some familiar names from the old talk.origins days. I expect this will be a great blog. Do good work.

Comment #39

Posted by Frank Schmidt on March 24, 2004 12:03 PM (e)

Thanks. It seemed to me from the beginning that the word “specified” derives from the verb “to specify,” and therefore must require a specifier. Thus, specification cannot be an intrinsic property of a system; either the maker or the observer must do the specifying. Is that all there is to the argument? If so, the death of so many trees for such little purpose must weigh heavily on Dembski’s conscience.

Comment #43

Posted by Steve Reuland on March 24, 2004 12:54 PM (e)

Actually, origin of life researcher Leslie Orgel first used the term “specified complexity” as a sort of qualitative way of differentiating what makes living things different from non-living things. Living things are not just “specified” (i.e., conforming to a pattern) like a crystal, and they’re not just complex like the shape of a cloud, they’re both. I think that’s a reasonably useful way to understand what makes living things unique on a conceptual level. But Dembski uses the term in ways that differ significantly from Orgel, thus causing much confusion.

I don’t think Orgel ever tried to put specified complexity into quantitative terms, which is what Dembski is basing his arguments on. It’s most amusing to see Dembski try to quantify “specificity”, which ends up being an elaborate way of saying that something is “specified” if and when Dembski says it is. That leaves the whole business of trying to identify specified complexity as some sort of property of living things rather subjective, and not terribly useful for exacting empirical analysis. I don’t think that’s a problem for Orgel, who didn’t use the term to mean a measurable quantity, but it is for Dembski.

But of course the real problem is when Dembski claims, without justification, that having “specified complexity” means that something has a less than 1 in 10^150 chance of occuring. And it’s made even worse because he also defines specified complexity this way, which makes one wonder just what he really means by the term.

Comment #45

Posted by Frank Schmidt on March 24, 2004 1:07 PM (e)

Steve, do you have the reference to Orgel’s original formulation? It appears that this is another case of creationists using a specific term in the popular rather than the precise meaning. Thanks.

Comment #47

Posted by Steve Reuland on March 24, 2004 2:30 PM (e)

Leslie Orgel, The Origins of Life, Chapman & Hall, 1973. Paul Davies also uses the term (borrowed from Orgel) in The Fifth Miracle, The Penguin Press, 1998. Dembski cites both of these.

I have to warn you that I haven’t read the originals. What I posted above is my understanding of the issue as it’s been described by those who have looked into it in detail, particularly Richard Wein. He has a good explication of the subject here. Some more discussion can be found in the Talkdesign FAQ, as well as Wein’s critique of NFL that I listed in my first post.

Comment #54

Posted by Mark Perakh on March 24, 2004 4:54 PM (e)

Dembski’s other term for specified complexiry is Complex Specified Information. An excellent dissection of that plainly fallacious concept is given in an article by Elsberry and Shallit on Talk Reason website ( http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.… ).

Comment #68

Posted by Alex Merz on March 24, 2004 7:11 PM (e)

Wonderful! Glad to see you all here. I’ll add you to my blogroll once my blog is up & running in a more meaningful way…

Comment #242

Posted by Jason South on March 26, 2004 1:21 PM (e)

It’s about time scientists started blogging! My online avatar was starting to get lonely. Are any of the authors conducting field studies?…’cause you know, both Darwin and Wallace were field biologists.

But seriously, the birth of this site is an event to be heralded. Keep up the good work!

Comment #279

Posted by John Wilkins on March 26, 2004 11:36 PM (e)

I shall be posting a blog soon on Orgel’s conception of CSI. IMO it shows some of the motivation of Dembski in so totally inverting Orgel’s concept…

Comment #4086

Posted by asfaltina on June 22, 2004 5:04 PM (e)


Comment #4269

Posted by asfaltina on June 26, 2004 3:58 PM (e)


Comment #4270

Posted by asfaltina on June 26, 2004 3:58 PM (e)


Comment #4277

Posted by Bob Maurus on June 26, 2004 7:45 PM (e)

So who or what is asfaltina, and what, if anything, is the point of his/her “cryptic” posts? Is there some weighty import here that’s passing me by like a ship in a fog? After an initial, and perhaps cogent or possibly illuminating, coded comment he/she has settled into a tiresomely repetitious, and mysterious, circular argument.

Asfaltina, give us an insight or two. You might very well be onto something here, but you really must phrase your argument in a more accesible vernacular.

Comment #7579

Posted by Crystal Hodgson on September 11, 2004 12:51 AM (e)

Mr. Sandefur, thank you for your insightful criticism of the article. I’m glad that it sparked conversation. I apologize for the “flaws” that you pointed out (other scholars have emailed echoing your comments). However, because I agree with many, if not all off your arguments in this piece, I must attribute the flaws to inadequate writing on my part, rather than mental confusion. For example, in response to your aside: (That Hodgson is confusing the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses is revealed also by her discussion of the Lemon test, which is applicable only in Establishment cases, and not in Free Exercise cases.); I certainly understand that Lemon is applied in Establishment cases, not Free Exercise. The article published in Nexus is a shorter version of one in which I “attempted” to argue that teaching evolution is both a Free Exercise and Establishment Clause violation. Therefore, my discussion of Lemon was more relevant in the longer piece. Further, my statements such as “America was founded by deeply religious persons of the Christian faith” and that a “clear Establishment Clause violation occurs by teaching evolution,” are certainly debatable (and the later may be a complete loser for argument sake), but I wrote in this style in an attempt to write persuasively, which in the process may have undermined my overall credibility. And for the record, I footnoted Allegheny v. ACLU & Lynch v. Donnely when I asserted that the SCt had forbidden religious displays in public buildings. As I said, I agree with your piece and especially like your conclusion. I came to a similar conclusion in my own mind after spending a year researching and writing this piece. Also, for others that have commented on my piece: I admit I am without credibility on the science aspects, but didn’t think I needed to understand much more than the basics to partake in this academic legal exercise. So those of you worried can sleep better tonight, I am not “anti-evolution” nor will I dedicate any of my academic/legal career to advancing those views. I simply thought this an interest academic challenge given Smith and current Free Exercise jurisprudence. I knew that it was a losing battle when I examined Brown v. Hot, Sexy, and Safer Products, Inc. I gave it my best shot to distinguish evolution from the facts in it, but to no avail. Anyways, thanks for all the comments everyone, and Timothy for your review.