May 2, 2004 - May 8, 2004 Archives

Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.

Wanda: Yes, they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it.

“A Fish Called Wanda”

In his new book, The Design Revolution, “intelligent design” advocate William A. Dembski invokes the late philosopher Sir Karl Popper as an authority on “testability” (ch. 39, pp.281-282). Perhaps Dembski has read Popper, perhaps he hasn’t. It’s certain, though, that Dembski does not understand Popper, and has a long history of not understanding Popper. Which is surprising, because Popper was an extraordinarily accessible philosopher.

Dembski bases his chapter on “Testability” in The Design Revolution (ch.39) on an essay he posted to the Internet in 2001. Between these two, Dembski switches from the term “falsifiability” to “refutability” instead. This is an odd thing for Dembski to do. It is explainable as a response to criticism that I made of his use of “falsifiability” in 2001, as I showed then that Dembski’s use of “falsifiability” differed markedly from that of Popper, who defined its usage in science and philosophy. The new version of Dembski’s argument shows a continuing misunderstanding of Popper and overlooks the fundamental flaws in Dembski’s argument.

This is a guest column written by Mark Isaak. Mark is a long time follower and participant in the origins debate and the author of the Index of Creationist Claims.

Am I Being Censored?

by Mark Isaak

Creationists sometimes complain that they are prevented from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. I have addressed the falsehood of that claim elsewhere. But what about non-creationists getting published in creationist journals? As I recall, Glenn Morton was prevented from publishing in a creationist journal after he stopped being a young-earth creationist. Here I recount my own experiment in this area.

The National Science Foundation has just released a report on the growing, or should I say shrinking, problem getting home-grown scientists at a time when other nations are doing a better job, and retaining more scientists.

Being an American organisation, of course the NSF is focussing on the problems for that nation, but it inadvertently highlights a number of problems that are more widely being felt.

Embarassingly short of IDEAs

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The IDEA Center is an organization that aims to support the diffusion of Intelligent Design (ID) notions by coordinating the activity of local chapters of (mostly) high school and undergraduate students (“IDEA clubs”) devoted to the study, discussion and promotion of ID. Their spiffy new web site provides a wealth of material and information for club members and other ID-interested parties. Their approach is very serious, scientific and professional. They prominently announce:

Our mission statement states that the IDEA Center aims to: 1. Promote, as a scientific theory, the idea that life was designed by an Intelligent Designer 2. Educate people about scientific problems with purely natural explanations for the origins and evolution of life 3. Challenge the philosophical assumptions of Darwinism, naturalism, and materialism From: The Science of IDEA

and assure:

This scientific approach [based on empirical observations of the natural world - AB] is the method that the IDEA Center takes when discussing intelligent design theory. From: Religious and scientific affiliations

In the spirit of scientific inquiry, the site provides a number of FAQs and Primers related to evolutionary biology subjects, ID arguments, etc. Today I am just going to focus on their recent and particularly bad “Featured FAQ” “Can irreducibly complexity be evolved via gene duplication and co-optation of parts?” (hereafter referred to as “IC, duplication and co-optation”, for short) which was brought to the attention of Panda’s Thumb members through the ID discussion board at ARN.

Another Tangled Bank


I would like to draw everyone's attention to a broad-based attempt to incite more general science-based weblogging, the Tangled Bank, and the latest entry in a biweekly series of science links, at The Invasive Species Weblog. Read it and follow the links, and just as importantly, submit your work to

Objective Origins: Just Say Noah!

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In a local school board election today, Darby, Montana, voters rejected candidates supporting an “objective origins” policy that borrowed from Intelligent Design Network, the Discovery Institute, and from the lousy Ohio model lesson plan. After a contentious sequence of events marked by threats of lawsuits, inappropriately closed board meetings, and the formation of an active and involved citizens group whose motto was “Objective Origins: Just say Noah!,” the vote today rejected supporters of the ID-inspired policy by a 2-1 margin. Here’s the Ravalli Republic story.

A little news about our namesake:

National Zoo officials said Sunday they do not believe there will be a pregnant panda this year at the animal park.

”It looks as though Tian Tian and Mei Xiang did not breed this year,” said assistant Curator Lisa Stevens. According to zoo officials, the pair had tried to mate several times since Friday.

”Tian Tian gets an ‘A’ for effort, but I have to say he gets an ‘F’ for technical merit,” said Stevens. “He did not make the connection we were all hoping for.”

Continue reading “No cubs, but pandas get A for effort” at CNN

We are all familiar with the spread of lies, half-truths and out of context quotes in the evolution wars. But it happens in other domains of science as well. Opponents of genetically modified foods, or stem cell research and of measured ecological research that fails to match expectations are all subject to this misrepresentation.

But it also happens when science encroaches, as opponents think, on the question of human nature. Here is a heartfelt and justifiably angry reaction by B. F. Skinner’s daughter to claims her father used her as a guinea pig.

Charles Colson's website, Breakpoint, is a good source for novel ID arguments. Their latest one involves the giant panda. The poor creature has been slowly going extinct for some time now. Their limited diet and leisurely reproductive rate, coupled with rampant habitat encroachment, do not bode well.

The connection with evolution? Well it seems that evolutionists are supposed to be stiff-upper-lip-types who don't get fazed by extinction.

GCISE has a new color pamphlet available that describes who we are. If you are in Georgia or care about Georgia, print it out and share it with other concerned citizens.

GCISE has been been leading the fight to protect science education in Georgia.

GCISE was founded in response to the placement of warning stickers on Biology textbooks in Cobb County in 2002 that state:

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

We successfully fought to have the word “evolution” returned to the state curriculum and to restore important concepts from the AAAS benchmarks such as the age of the Earth, plate tectonics, the Big-Bang Theory, and the effect of humans on the environment.

GCISE is assisting classroom teachers to present evolution and the scientific method accurately and objectively.

Nobel Nominated?

In an ARN report on the recent ID conference at Biola University (formerly known as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles), the following caught my attention.

Featured speakers included Dr. Henry Schaefer, University of Georgia and five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize, and Dr. Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemist [sic] at Lehigh University.

The description of Dr. Henry Fritz Schaefer III as a “five-time nominee for the Novel Prize” is common amongst anti-evolutionists. In fact he often leads their lists of scientists who “challenge Darwinism.” However, there is no official record of Dr. Schaefer’s nominations because the Nobel Foundation doesn’t release nominations.

According to the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation, information about the nominations is not to be disclosed, publicly or privately, for a period of fifty years. The restriction not only concerns the nominees and nominators, but also investigations and opinions in the awarding of a prize.


Update on Kansas

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As most readers of the Panda’s Thumb know, Kansas was the scene of a major creationist success in 1999 when the creationist majority of the state Board of Education worked with a local group of mostly young-earth creationists to pass state science standards that eliminated “macroevolution” as well as other parts of earth science and cosmology.

The resulting publicity made world-wide news for the next year and a half, and in the fall of 2000 voters in Kansas elected some new pro-science Board members who promptly reinstated the eliminated standards - and all was well.

Or so we thought. But in 2001, two pro-science Board members were defeated (one by a genuine stealth campaign,) and the Board reverted to a 5-5 split between the creationist conservatives and the pro-science moderates. Now the summer and fall of 2004 finds us facing both a new round of elections and a review of the science standards. Almost certainly the teaching of evolution will come under attack, and, pending the outcome of the election, possibly send Kansas back to world-wide infamy.

So here’s a report on the current state of affairs in Kansas.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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