October 10, 2004 - October 16, 2004 Archives

Good for Derbyshire

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I'm very far from being an admirer of John Derbyshire, and I'm sure that there are other things in this article which will bother people, but conservatives tend to be so willing to accommodate the creationists that I was really pleasantly surprised that Derbyshire would say

Human beings must have their consolations in this cold world, and wishful thinking is by no means only found on the political left, as Creationism and the "Intelligent Design" flapdoodle illustrate. Science ought to be trusted. Careful, peer-reviewed science--even human science!--ought to be read with respect, and with calm objectivity, and with the yearning to understand this strange universe, shot through as it is with mystery and wonder.

It's refreshing to see that not all of the National Review crowd are under the ID illusion.

Del Ratzsch

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Del Ratzsch presented a lecture “Could ‘Intelligent Design’ be Legitimate Science?” Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Benton Auditorium in the Scheman Building (Iowa State Center) as part of the Areopagus Lecture Series ISU (corrected from an earlier reference to God at Work at ISU) While Del Ratzsch argues that ID may hold promises, he also remarks that so far ID has failed to make much of a case. Not surprising since ID lacks any scientifically relevant hypotheses.

The Iowa State Daily reported under the headline Intelligent design theory merits regard, speaker says

Ratzsch’s speech was based on the question, “Could Intelligent Design be Legitimate Science?” His conclusion was that intelligent design deserves attention in the scientific community as it competes with naturalistic evolution as a possible explanation for why things are the way they are.

He stipulated that he didn’t mean he espoused the claims of intelligent design theorists.

”I don’t think the design case has yet been convincingly made,” Ratzsch said. “I think that design advocates have raised some intriguing issues. Intelligent design theory merits regard Iowa State Daily

While researching the hot topic of ALU repeats for my posting on evolvability, I ran across the following paper

Alu elements and hominid phylogenetics by Abdel-Halim Salem, David A. Ray, Jinchuan Xing, Pauline A. Callinan, Jeremy S. Myers, Dale J. Hedges, Randall K. Garber, David J. Witherspoon, Lynn B. Jorde, and Mark A. Batzer published in PNAS October 28, 2003 vol. 100 no. 22 12787-12791

Let me add a disclaimer that I am a novice when it comes to evolutionary biology. While I am familiar with the term such as ALU repeats, SINE and retroposons, I am not by any means an expert. Nevertheless, I like to share my research and learning with the readers of Panda’s Thumb, in the hope that 1) people like me who are similarly interested in learning more about “what is hot” in evolutionary theory can learn about some of the details 2) others, more capable than me, can add their comments, suggestions and objections.

War of Reviews

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In this essay I will discuss some of the devices intelligent design (ID) advocates and purveyors of other brands of creationism employ in what they refer to as the “cultural war” which they intend to “win” at any cost regardless of whose side the truth is on.

The term “cultural war” was, for example, used by one of the most prolific advocates of “intelligent design,” theologian William Dembski in his lecture at the Fellowship Baptist Church in Waco, TX, on March 7, 2004. 1 The intention to win that war regardless of whose side the truth is on, was, for example, clearly stated by Dembski in his post. 2

I will refer here mainly to the reviews posted to the Amazon.com website which serve as one of the devices creationists often employ to achieve their goals, in particular to denigrate the books critical of the ID literary production.

One example illustrating my thesis is how the ID advocates have reviewed my book, Unintelligent Design, as well as the anthology Why Intelligent Design Fails (edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis), the book Creationism’s Trojan Horse by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross, and the book God, the Devil and Darwin by Niall Shanks.

Mei long, the sleeping dragon

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mei long

Those new fossils just keep pouring out of China. Here's a new troodontid dinosaur with the lovely name of Mei long, which was discovered intact as if caught abruptly in the instant of its death. Troodontids are long-necked bipedal dinosaurs that look rather ostrich-like. This one is a juvenile that died suddenly in its sleep, and is presumably in its normal resting posture.

Continue reading "Mei long, the sleeping dragon" (on Pharyngula)

The DI Strikes Back

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True to their word, the DI staff has begun their rebuttal to Gishlick et al.’s PT critique of Meyer’s 2004 paper in PBSW. The DI reply is entitled “Neo-Darwinism’s Unsolved Problem of the Origin of Morphological Novelty.” For a history and (almost) comprehensive links, see The “Meyer 2004” Medley.

Rather than responding in this initial post, let me recommend a strategy for those of us that might wish to make a few counterpoints to the DI (after you’ve finished repairing your irony meters). Folks may follow these recommendations or not as this is something of an experiment.

If you are itching to comment on a particular point on the DI page, then give your comment a title (using bold tags: [bold]text[/bold] with “b” instead of “bold”) indicating what it is about. Then continue with your comment on that topic. If you comment on another topic, give it another title.

If you comment on the DI piece elsewhere (e.g., another PT post or an online forum), please add a link or carbon copy the text into the comments on this page.

The idea behind this is that rather than just have the usual disorganized commenting free-for-all, the comments page will be semi-organized so that people can find various topics and see which ones have been addressed, and which not. If a fair number of people do this, we will end up with a point-by-point critique (that might end up as e.g. a talkorigins FAQ) much faster than one person can write something. I’ll post an example in the comments to start it off.

Like I said, this is an experiment, but hey, this is the blogosphere, right?

by Ian F. Musgrave, Steve Reuland, and Reed A. Cartwright

“There’s precious little real biology in this project,” Mr. Behe said. For example, he said, the results might be more persuasive if the simulations had operated on genetic sequences rather than fictitious computer programs.

Michael J. Behe was commenting in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Kiernan 2003) on a paper reporting that digital organisms could evolve irreducibly complex systems without intervention (Lenski et al. 2003). Ironically, Behe has just coauthored a theoretical paper with David W. Snoke on the evolution of complex molecular adaptations that has “precious little real biology” in it. William Dembski has already stated that Behe and Snoke’s research “may well be the nail in the coffin [and] the crumbling of the Berlin wall of Darwinian evolution” (Dembski 2004). Despite the common claim made by “intelligent design” activists that evolution is in trouble, they have so far been unsuccessful in presenting their arguments to the scientific community. Is this the long-awaited peer-reviewed publication which will finally do it?

School Board May Censor Books, Hand Out Bibles

Young supports a recent board recommendation that calls for “removing anything (from reading lists) that provides a neutral or positive view of immorality or foul language.”

But some in the southern Maryland county are upset, fearing that some board members are attempting to impose personal religious and moral beliefs on the public schools.

They point to the book list and a proposal that recommends distributing Bibles in schools, removing science books “biased towards evolution” and teaching sexual education classes focused exclusively on abstinence.

”They’re basically trying to skew the curriculum, to teach their own conservative Christian values,” said Meg MacDonald, a representative from the Charles County Education Association.

A Voyage to Lawrence, Kansas

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Jay Manifold of A Voyage to Arcturus has a series of posts summarizing The Panda's Thumb's own Jack Krebs' recent talk on the Kansas science standards. It's thorough; consider it a kind of independent review.

Here's the list of articles on the talk:

(Good news: I think Jack passed the review.)

Over at EvolutionBlog I have just posted a series of entries dealing with the recent bru ha ha over Robert Wright's interview with Daniel Dennett.

I wrote those entries before reading Timothy Sandefur's marvelous post on the same subject here. I came to many of the same conclusions as Timothy. He also made a number of points I wish I had thought of! Hopefully he will have the same reaction to my thoughts on the subject...

What is it really about?

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A high school student doing an article on evolution and Intelligent Design for her school newspaper asked me for a summary “in simple language of what the issue between intelligent design and evolution in Kansas really is.” This was a good but challenging suggestion.

In response I sent her the following:

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