July 31, 2005 - August 6, 2005 Archives

The History Channel, taking a break from their standard formula of 70% World War II coverage, 20% Civil War, and 10% other, has been heavily promoting a new series called “Ape to Man.” The series is going to be about “The Search for the Missing Link”, which is already a bad sign, since (1) evolution is a bush, not a linear ladder, (2) there are, if anything, many “missing links” that could be found for any group, not just one, (3) in human evolution, a great many of the “links” have been found, whether or not any individual hominid fossil is from a population ancestral to modern humans, or from a closely-related side-branch (it is usually impossible to tell, although within Homo there is such a continuum of gradual changes up to modern humans in the known fossils that, IMHO, some of those fossils probably really are directly ancestral populations to Homo sapiens).

PT recently reported that the Discovery Institute has hired the PR firm behind the 2004 “Swiftboat Veterans for ‘Truth’” ad campaign. Based on the following comparison of graphics, it looks like the Noodlers, the devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who are campaigning to get His Noodly Appendage into the Kansas Science Standards, have followed suit.

Design on Trial

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As I previously noted, I found myself in the airport last week, reading Scientific American and Discover magazine. I was allegedly on vacation and thus not working for NCSE, but with Bush’s comments all over the news this was proving difficult. This month’s Scientific American had several evolution/creationism bits, and as it turns out, so did Discover. It is Discover‘s 25th year of publication, and they have been reviewing articles from their early issues. This month they discussed the famous 1981-1982 trial McLean v Arkansas, which determined that so-called “creation-science” was unconstitutional establishment of religion in public schools. The cover in February 1982 was “Darwin on Trial”, beating Phillip Johnson to the punch by 9 years.

This reminds me: I recently realized that my writeup for RNCSE on the beginning of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in Dover, Pennsylvania, is now freely available online. The RNCSE piece, entitled “Design on Trial,” (take that, Phil!) is the most thorough summary currently out there on the development of the Dover policy, and the subsequent lawsuit, covering events up to early 2005.

Just as the storm was breaking over Bush’s “teach both sides” comments last week, I found myself in the airport. While there, I picked up the latest issues of Scientific American and Discover. SciAm evidently is still getting letters from its widely-blogged, April 1 prank, “OK, We give up: We feel so ashamed.”

In the letters section, they reprinted the fake cover they included in the print version of the April issue. Since the fake cover graphic never made it to the web, I figured it would be apropos to upload a scan of it (left) to remind everyone where the “teach both sides” logic naturally leads.

Here is one comment Scientific American got:

Well, this “news” article is hilarious in an uncountable number of ways:

Creation Scientist Challenges Intelligent Design

Saturday, Aug. 6, 2005 Posted: 9:12:30AM EST

One of the world’s leading experts in origin of life research issued a statement on Friday saying that intelligent design should not be taught in schools because it is not science.

(more below the fold)

Father Andrew Greeley who is described as:

Father Greeley Wrote:

One of the most influential Catholic thinkers and writers of our time, priest, sociologist, author and journalist Father Andrew M. Greeley has built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career that spans five decades. He is the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction and his writing has been translated into 12 languages. A Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, Father Greeley is a respected scholar whose current research focuses on the Sociology of Religion.

has written a powerful article on the Schoenborn comments.

Hat tip to Frank Schmidt

Father George Coyne is Director of the Vatican Observatory. Writing in the Aug. 6th Tablet, Britain’s Catholic Weekly, Father Coyne, a distinguished astronomer, takes Cardinal Schönborn on head-on. He writes

For those who believe modern science does say something to us about God, it provides a challenge, an enriching challenge, to traditional beliefs about God. God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity. God lets the world be what it will be in its continuous evolution. He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves. Is such thinking adequate to preserve the special character attributed by religious thought to the emergence not only of life but also of spirit, while avoiding a crude creationism? Only a protracted dialogue will tell. But we should not close off the dialogue and darken the already murky waters by fearing that God will be abandoned if we embrace the best of modern science.

The full essay is here (free registration required).

Hat Tip:Bob Park

News Roundup

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The American Institute of Biological Science has issued a statement Criticizing the President’s comments:

“Intelligent design is not a scientific theory and must not be taught in science classes,” said AIBS president Dr. Marvalee Wake, a perspective shared by President Bush’s science advisor, Dr. John Marburger III. On Tuesday, August 2, Marburger stated in an interview that “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology” and “intelligent design is not a scientific concept.”

The committee that wrote Kansas’ new science standards have voted to distance themselves from the revisions being championed by the State School Board.

Most members of the committee that wrote Kansas’ science standards asked Tuesday to have their names removed from revised standards that encourage criticism of evolution.

The committee endorsed a 14-page critique of everything the State Board of Education’s conservative majority added in June and July.

The wording critical of evolution “parallels the language of the Intelligent Design Network and Discovery Institute,” the committee wrote. “Critical analysis of evolutionary theory is a repeated theme of both organizations’ Web sites and literature. This critical analysis has no basis in science or science education.”

Most of the news this week concerning evolution has dealt with President Bush’s statements supporting adding “intelligent design” to education. Of course other things are going on in our world.

You can send us links to news stories at [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

Ah, once again, the Evil Atheist Conspiracy of Judges is censoring innocent, decent people who are just trying to make the world a better place. That’s how Christopher Levenick sees it, anyway. Levenick, who is not a lawyer or a scientist, argues that

Having found that disestablishment applies to all levels of government, the modern courts work hard at suppressing any nonmaterialistic account of human origins. For its part, the ACLU has abandoned its commitment to defending the free speech of those who teach alternative theories and now actively roots out any teacher who dissents from Darwinian orthodoxy.

Of course, this is nothing short of a lie. Modern courts do not “work” at “suppressing any nonmaterialistic account” of anything anywhere. The Free Exercise Clause, the Free Speech Clause, and many state constitutions and laws, protect any religious person’s right to say absolutely anything about a “nonmaterialistic” (i.e., supernatural) account of anything whatsoever at any time and in any appropriate place. By appropriate, of course, I mean, that so long as he is not disrupting the classroom, any religious student has a well-protected Constitutional right to defend his views as to the supernatural origins of human beings in any government classroom in this country. (And the ACLU has been a reliable defender of students who do so.) Likewise, any religious teacher has the right to express his religious views as long as they are expressed on his own time and not with my money.

Allow me to say this again so that it is perfectly clear: nobody is being suppressed at all. What is being stopped is the attempt by preachers of religion to use my tax dollars and the government classrooms that belong to all—religious and non-religious, Christian and Jewish and Hindu alike—to propagate religious doctrine in the guise of science. Mr. Levenick believes that he has the right to take away people’s money and use it to teach his religion to the children of other people. And when a court dares to stand up and say no, Levenick calls that suppression. How disappointingly common. And how embarrassing to a large portion of the American people that he would call this backwards viewpoint “serious Christian[ity].”

Note, too, that Levenick doesn’t even limit his assertion that religion is being “suppress[ed]” to the classroom context! He seems to be saying that courts are actively censoring people who simply assert their belief in creationism, anywhere and at any time. This is simply the taunting of a demagogue. Shame on the Wall Street Journal for giving space to such an irresponsible and fraudulent assertion.

Hat tip: Claremont Institute

I was reminded today of Humpty Dumpty, who tells Alice,

“When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Bell’s Response

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In the course of my recent series of posts on the 2005 Mega Creation Conference in Lynchburg, VA, I described a talk I attended given by Phillip Bell. Bell was attempting to explain to his audience why the extensive collection of hominid fossils that have been dug up over the years do not, in fact, provide anything of comfort to evolutionists. After the talk I engaged in a brief discussion with Bell about some of the points he made in his talk. I recounted our conversation in the fourth entry in my series.

Bell was not pleased by my unflattering description of him, and has posted a reply here.

I would like to respond to a few points that he made.

Recently, we noted that the Discovery Institute was bemoaning their lack of funds to support their anti-evolution activities. That claim was factually wrong. In fact, it turns out that over the past year they had enough money to hire a very high-profile public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts (CRC), to spread their message. This is the same firm that represents AT&T, the canonical American mega-corporation, among a long list of clients.

Other notable CRC clients include the “Contract for America”, Parents Television Council, Regnery Publishing (the firm that published Phillip Johnson’s book, Darwin On Trial), and the high-profile client of the 2004 USA presidential campaign, “Swift Boat Vets for Truth“.

CRC has earned its pay from the DI CRSC this year. CRC arranged the showing of the film, The Privileged Planet, at the Smithsonian Institution, and provided the New York Times with an op-ed piece by Cardinal Schoenborn, an event that now seems more and more to be a Discovery Institute publicity stunt.

Scientists base their work upon the content of reality, the facts of evolutionary biology and the productive and useful research that results from evolutionary concepts. The Discovery Institute instead appears to think large-scale media operations and public relations stunts determine the content of science. That’s what happens when you don’t have facts on your side. Hopefully, no amount of public relations expertise can substitute for that.

(Thanks to Andrea Bottaro and other PT bar crew for useful suggestions.)

I was wondering when he’d get around to this. Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman today writes a withering critique of ID, which he ties into other fake academic “controversies” that have been spawned, not within academia, but from without by the use money and politics.

Krugman begins:

I’d like to nominate Irving Kristol, the neoconservative former editor of The Public Interest, as the father of “intelligent design.” No, he didn’t play any role in developing the doctrine. But he is the father of the political strategy that lies behind the intelligent design movement - a strategy that has been used with great success by the economic right and has now been adopted by the religious right.

Here I might actually take exception. Irving Kristol and other neoconservatives probably had a lot more to do with ID than Krugman thinks. See Origin of the Specious for example. But Krugman’s point is that the ID movement is just following a political strategy that’s been successfully applied elsewhere when the science isn’t on your side: Just throw a bunch of money at some pseudo-academic think-tanks (e.g. Discovery Institute), have them spend their time producing sciency sounding stuff that won’t withstand informed scrutiny, yet fools the public, and then have them go on a media blitz promoting their ideas as the next best thing since sliced bread. And, voila!, you’ve got your own tailor-made controversy.

Now the reason why I’ve been wondering when Krugman would get around to addressing ID is that he’s no stranger to evolution. Whatever you think about him, even if you deplore his economics and politics, the fact is that he’s a self-professed “evolution groupie”. As such, he’s probably read more evolutionary biology texts than the whole ID movement put together. (I know, that’s not a very high bar.) Anyway, there are some things he’s written in the past about evolution and economics that are worth reading that I’ll link to on the flip-side…

Yesterday, Focus on the Family issued a press release stating how pleased they were that Genie Scott has clarified statements she made about an “intelligent design” proponent in the California Wild. This comes on the heels of similiar cheering by the Discovery Institute, WorldNetDaily, and Quality [sic] Science Education for All.

With this chorus of cheers, you’d expect that Scott’s clarification admitted to some serious mistakes undercutting her entire article and our campaign to protect and promote science education. So what exactly did she clarify?

(Note: This is the first post in the new “Evolution of Creationism” category. Since the “intelligent design” movement actively obfuscates its creationist origins, tracing the true origins of “intelligent design” is crucial to understanding what ID is really about, and to understanding the dire peril ID faces in the upcoming court case [u]Kitzmiller v. Dover[/u].)

Earlier today, Steve Reuland discussed an excellent Washington Post essay (“But Is It Intelligent?”) making the connection between the Intelligent Design Creationism and postmodernism. As discussed in the comments to Steve’s post, it wasn’t surprising that the Washington Post picked up on the postmodernism connection, given that it was highlighted in the Post‘s profile of Phillip Johnson back in May 2005.

But if you are looking for slam-dunk proof that ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo, look no further than Nancy Pearcey‘s interview with Phillip Johnson in the June 1990 Bible-Science Newsletter.* Speaking of his upcoming book, Darwin on Trial, Johnson told Pearcey,

“We must not forget that the controversy over Darwinism has a sociological or political dimension. Philosophers of science have developed a very relativist approach to knowledge claims. It is now regarded as a commonplace in the field that there is a “sociology of knowledge” and that an intimate relationship exists between knowledge and power [sic**]. What is presented as objective knowledge is frequently an ideology that serves the interests of some powerful group. The curious thing is that the sociology-of-knowledge approach has not yet been applied to Darwinism. That is basically what I do in my manuscript.” Phillip Johnson, p. 10 in: Nancy Pearcey (1990). “Anti-Darwinism Comes to the University: An Interview with Phillip Johnson.” Bible-Science Newsletter. 28(6), pp. 7-11. June 1990.

Game, set, match.

I just got around to reading the May issue of Optics and Photonics News, and I found there an article, “Americans Love Science, but Don’t Know Much about It,” by Tom Price (http://www.osa-opn.org). Mr. Price notes that 90 % of Americans (as opposed to 45 % of Europeans) say they are interested in science and believe that science is a good thing, likely to make life better.

That was the good news.

Santorum vs. Santorum

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Over at Sciencegate, Chris Mooney catches Rick Santorum flip-flopping on whether or not to teach ID. Though he’s said before, in no uncertain terms, that he thinks ID should be taught in schools, now he just wants to teach “the problems and holes in the theory of evolution”.

Of course what this really means is teaching ID–which consists almost entirely of arguments against evolution–more or less as it stands now. The problem, as always, is that these arguments, when they aren’t outright false or misleading, consist of exaggerating unknowns and focusing on areas where our knowledge is currently thin, all while ignoring the larger body of evidence. It is basically an exercise in trying to convince students that evolution is far more deserving of doubt than biologists would think legitimate. How this differs from simply “teaching ID” isn’t at all clear.

As an astute commenter points out, this isn’t really Santorum’s flip-flop, it’s the ID movement’s flip-flop, and Santorum is just parroting their latest talking point.

Today’s Washington Post has an excellent editorial about Bush’s recent remarks about teaching ID. In particular, it makes the point that antievolutionists, consisting mostly of people on the right side of the political spectrum, tend to advocate a kind of mushy-headed relativism when it comes to the so-called origins debate:

FOR MORE THAN 30 years, the conservative movement in America has been doing battle with the forces of relativism, the “do your own thing” philosophy that eschews objective truth and instead sees all beliefs and all personal choices as equally valid. Instead, philosophically minded American conservatives have argued that there is such a thing as objectivity and that some beliefs really are better, truer or more accurate than others. Given this history, it seems appropriate to ask: Is President Bush really a conservative?

Indeed, just how conservative is it to advocate “teaching the controversy” when scientists consistently point out that there is no controversy, calling criticism or dismissal of your ideas “viewpoint discrimination”, or complaining that it’s a violation of teachers’ “free speech” rights when requiring them to actually, you know, teach what’s in the curriculum rather than insert their own personal points of view? This is the sort of behavior that would make conservatives scoff in disbelief if the Left did it in defense of, say, afrocentrism. And yet ironically, pushing an ultra-conservative worldview is the raison d’être of the entire ID movement, as laid out in the Wedge Document. It would seem that this brave, new worldview doesn’t recognize any objective truth at all, just various points of view, each of which should be regarded as equally valid, and anyone who denounces some claims as wrong or unsubstantiated is to be accused of dogmatism and persecution.

Of course I don’t think that the purveyors of ID really think this way, it’s just a deceitful and hypocritical marketing strategy. Because after all, ID proponents may not believe in truth, but they certainly believe in Truthâ„¢.

The WaPo article continues:

But the proponents of intelligent design are not content with participating in a philosophical or religious debate. They want their theory to be accepted as science and to be taught in ninth-grade biology classes, alongside the theory of evolution. For that, there is no basis whatsoever: The nature of the “evidence” for the theory of evolution is so overwhelming, and so powerful, that it informs all of modern biology. To pretend that the existence of evolution is somehow still an open question, or that it is one of several equally valid theories, is to misunderstand the intellectual and scientific history of the past century.

This is spot on. And it will most likely elicit complaints of bias, misrepresentation, dogmatism, or accusations that the Post is ignoring the case for ID, as Bruce Chapman recently whined. In Chapman’s world, there is his viewpoint, and there is the opposing viewpoint, and the media’s only job is to present both sides. Just like a good relativist.

The National Science Teachers Association has issued a statement in response to President Bush’s comments about teaching “intelligent design”. The association is “the world’s largest organization of science educations”.

“We stand with the nation’s leading scientific organizations and scientists, including Dr. John Marburger, the president’s top science advisor, in stating that intelligent design is not science. Intelligent design has no place in the science classroom,” said Gerry Wheeler, NSTA Executive Director….

”It is simply not fair to present pseudoscience to students in the science classroom,” said NSTA President Mike Padilla. “Nonscientific viewpoints have little value in increasing students’ knowledge of the natural world.”

The American Geophysical Union has also issued a statement. The union represents “43,000 Earth and space scientists”.

“Scientific theories, like evolution, relativity and plate tectonics, are based on hypotheses that have survived extensive testing and repeated verification,” [Fred] Spilhaus [Executive Director of the American Geophysical Union] says. “The President has unfortunately confused the difference between science and belief. It is essential that students understand that a scientific theory is not a belief, hunch, or untested hypothesis.”

”Ideas that are based on faith, including ‘intelligent design,’ operate in a different sphere and should not be confused with science. Outside the sphere of their laboratories and science classrooms, scientists and students alike may believe what they choose about the origins of life, but inside that sphere, they are bound by the scientific method,” Spilhaus said.

Don’t forget to check out what the blogsphere is saying.

Anniversary Moth

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I found this beige moth today resting on the beige weather stipping separating my front door from the jam. Can anybody identify it?


Banded Tussock Moth (Halysidota tessellaris)

You can see a larger picture with more discussion at my blog.


Thanks to DougT and PvM for the identification.

I am delighted that I finally have an excuse to link to one of my favorite blogs, The Comics Curmudgeon, for his quick work with this pathetic B.C. strip.

In its latest come-on for money, the Discovery Institute makes a claim:

Our budget is a fraction of what pro-evolution groups have to spend, and the mainstream media are largely hostile and biased on this issue.

So I thought that I would have a look at the Form 990s for 2003 of the DI and the pro-science 501(3)(c) that engages the DI, the National Center for Science Education.

In 2003, the Discovery Institute reported $4,233,814.00 total revenue, $3,544,031.00 in end-of-year assets, and $2,499,077.00 total expenses. Of those expenses, $338,977.00 went to officers and directors, $627,285.00 went to other salaries and wages, and $122,809.00 went to travel. (In 2002, I noted that the DI could cut its travel budget in half and fund a research study. I’ll note that $60K is the level of funding for some NSF postdoctoral research fellowships.)

For comparison, let’s look at the figures in 2003 for the NCSE.

In 2003, the NCSE reported $659,270.00 total revenue, $540,943.00 in end-of-year assets, and $658,841.00 total expenses. Of those expenses, $122,040.00 went to officers and directors, $230,380.00 went to other salaries and wages, and $16,803.00 went to travel.

The DI is composed of more than just the CRSC , though, I’m sure someone will point out. But the claim that the CRSC is financially at a disadvantage seems bogus to me. First, to make any sense of the claim made at all, one would have to go beyond NCSE’s budget and include groups whose stated purposes are far broader than defending the teaching of evolutionary biology in science classrooms. In that case, the same argument that would be deployed to say that a fraction of the DI’s reported budget is involved in the EvC issue would also apply to any group outside of NCSE that opposes them as well. It’s tough to figure out what might be meant by the vague basket of “pro-evolution groups”, but mostly groups that have something to do with evolutionary biology simply aren’t putting much, if any, effort into combatting antievolutionist outfits like the DI CRSC. That job primarily rests with NCSE, whose budget is, as the official tax documents relate, much less than that of the DI CRSC, contrary to the original claim. Second, the DI CRSC is but one of many antievolution organizations whose malign purposes are backed by big cash flows. Look at Answers in Genesis, who reported total revenues of $9,016,228.00 in 2003. There are many antievolution groups raking it in, but only one NCSE.

In response to George W. Bush's statement that he supports teaching Intelligent Design creationism in our public schools, I wrote my own reply, and also volunteered to collect links to other people's criticisms.

It was a little bit overwhelming. My site got 12,500 visits yesterday, and I was sent over 159 179 links to weblogs (I culled out some; if the post wasn't specifically addressing Bush's ID comments, but was instead more of a generic anti-Bush complaint, I didn't include it). More were still coming in this morning, but I've had to draw the line and stop updating, unless that's all I wanted to do for the rest of the day.

These entries come from all over the political spectrum, left and right, and even includes one Intelligent Design creationism blog that disapproves of Bush's "premature" (yeah, that's right, keep waiting and waiting…) announcement. Most of them are not generally about science, but again come from all over the spectrum of people's interests: blogs about politics, humor, social concerns, feminism, economics, literature, or just plain writing about life. They all have one thing in common: they agree that George W. Bush's attempts to stuff bad theology into our children's educations is a stupid idea.

Since these are all weblogs that are mostly on the informed side of the creation-evolution debate, I'm echoing all those links here on the Thumb.

The Panda's Thumb
Doing Things with Words
Stranger Fruit
Thoughts from Kansas
From the Rachel
The World-Wide Rant
Yowling from the Fencepost
My Corner of the Universe
Unscrewing the Inscrutable
the tife and limes
Applied Theology
Dharma Bums
Chris C. Mooney
The dubious biologist
Cosmic Variance
The rude pundit
Science and Sarcasm
Leiter Reports
Newton's Binomium
tongue but no door
Leaves on the line
The Polite Liberal
Song of Myself
Betty the Crow
Kele's Atheistic and Evolutionary Journey
Dynamics of Cats
10,000 Monkeys and a Camera
Philosophy of Biology
A Man with a Ph.D.
Ramblings from the Desert
Obsidian Wings
Stephanie's Sweet Blog
Backseat driving
The blue bus is calling us…
…of Cabbages and Kings
The Huffington Post
The Drunken Lagomorph
De rerum natura
Stephen Laniel's Unspecified Bunker
false cognate
Stoopid Stuff
Cider Press Hill
Hank Fox
The Light of Reason
Andrew Sullivan
Father Dan
Power Liberal
Politburo Diktat
The Van Halen Radiation Belts
Project Morningstar
Nomadic Thoughts
Mike the Mad Biologist
A Voyage to Arcturus
Sadly, No!
Philosophy, Practice, and Politics
Frothing at the Mouth
About Atheism
Wolverine Tom
Brown Bag Blog
Jones Alley Magazine
Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal
Marginal Utility
Sandt's Observations
Balloon Juice
Crooks and Liars
Quantum Pontiff
and meanwhile, gregor mendel labored in obscurity
Whiskey Bar
The Continuing Adventures of Starman
She Flies With Her Own Wings
Broken Nails
The Sleepy Sage
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Nathan Newman
Upon Further Review…
Left I on the News
Proceed at your own risk
reality based community.net
Shakespeare's Sister
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
Mixing Memory
Language Games and Miscellaneous Arbitrary Marks
Telic Thoughts
Gay Orbit
Don Surber
Right Wing Nut House
Changing Places
Ah Clem
The Devil's Robot
Abnormal Interests
The Liberal Avenger
Living the Scientific Life
The Carpetbagger Report
Decrepit Old Fool
The Examining Room of Dr Charles
The Loom
Minnesota Politics
Three-Toed Sloth
Cinematic Rain
Evolving Thoughts
Pooflingers Anonymous
Strange Doctrines
Tiberius and Gaius Speaking...
Poor Richard's Anorak
Universal Acid
Peace Tree Farm
Desert Rat Democrat
Byzantium's Shores
Sappho's Breathing
God is for suckers!
Lance Mannion
The Boxter Babe Blog
The Quality Control Alliance
Blog, Jvstin Style
Opinions you should have
Cosmic Log
Uncertain Principles
Daily Kos
Ruminating Dude
History of Science
The Uncredible Hallq
Church of the Front Porch
Dump Michele Bachmann
10,000 Birds
I'll explain it when you are older
Immanuel Rant
Blog of the moderate left
The Cardboard Box Mansion
Science and Politics
The Binary Circumstance
The Corpus Callosum
skippy the bush kangaroo
Bad Astronomy Blog
Respectful Insolence
Solipsistic Scribbling
Dubbings and Diversions
Roger L. Simon
Right Thoughts
Bitch Ph.D.
Buridan's Ass
Big Brass Blog
Steve Gilliard's News Blog
Threading the Needle
Ancarett's Abode
Amicus Rationis
Infidels of Every Denomination
Creek Running North
Axis of Evel Knievel
The Raw Story

We’re considering making things a bit easier on ourselves here by moving to a user registration system for comments. How many of you simply can’t be bothered to register to leave comments here at PT?

We’re looking specifically at the TypeKey system.

Over on his weblog, William Dembski has a post making reference to an article on a means of “fingerprinting” textured surfaces, like paper. It is an interesting article. But look what Dembski has to say about it:

The Logic of Fingerprinting

Check out the following article in the July 28th, 2005 issue of Nature, which clearly indicates how improbability arguments can be used to eliminate randomness and infer design: “‘Fingerprinting’ documents and packaging: Unique surface imperfections serve as an easily identifiable feature in the fight against fraud.” I run through the logic here in the first two chapters of The Design Inference.

Well, it is a little troubling how to proceed from this point. Did Dembski fail to read the article? Is Dembski simply spouting something that ID cheerleaders can nod sagely about without regard to whether it happens to accord with reality? Whatever excuse might be given, the plain fact of the matter is that the procedure and principles referred to in the short PDF Dembski cites have nothing whatever to do with Dembski’s “design inference”, and cannot be forced into the framework Dembski claims.

(Continue reading… on Antievolution.org)

News Roundup

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The Columbia Missourian is doing a series on Evolution.

(7/31) Much ado about evolution

Rep. Cynthia Davis hurries along the basement corridors, looking for the hearing room where she will defend her bill calling for evolution criticism in Missouri textbooks. She peeks around the door and focuses on the back two rows, where her witnesses fidget while waiting to present their case.

Davis smiles and heads to greet them. All but one in her crowd are members of two home-schooled families who drove as long as nine hours to change public education.

It’s 8:05 a.m. on May 8, one week before the end of the legislative session. Davis completes the handshakes and settles into her seat before the House Committee for Elementary and Secondary Education. She looks straight ahead, confident, as committee members lounge around the room, exchanging pleasantries and refilling their coffees. The chairwoman of the committee, Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis, calls the meeting to order.

(7/31) How the evolution debate evolved

1987 The U.S. Supreme Court rules creation science in public schools unconstitutional in Edwards v. Aguillard, striking down the Louisiana “Creation Act” as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

1989 The Foundation for Thoughts and Ethics publishes “Of Pandas and People,” intended as a textbook supplement criticizing evolution and promoting intelligent design.

(8/1) Science teachers use care when teaching ‘e-word’

The students in Kerri Graham’s sophomore biology class habitually slump into their seats, apparently unfazed that they are at the bull’s-eye of the intelligent design movement, whose “teach the controversy” slogan intends to rile up high school classrooms just like this one. Intelligent design theorists contend that a purposeful creator is responsible for the beginning and diversification of life on the planet. But these sleepy teenagers care more about reaching driving age than the age of the Earth.

(8/2) Faith & Reason

The Discovery Institute, which, according to its Web site, operates with the “belief in God-given reason and the permanency of human nature,” consistently scoffs at accusations of a religious agenda. But the institute’s senior fellow, mathematician and philosopher William Dembski, gives credit to creation science guru Henry Morris for stirring evolution opposition and says intelligent design is much closer to creationism than to evolution.

Charles Krauthammer has this article at Time.

Creationism at the Geological Society of America

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There will be a session on creationism presented at this year’s GSA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City (October 16–19, 2005). “T103. Is it Science? Strategies for Addressing Creationism in the Classroom and the Community” has 16 presentations from a range of science professionals. There are some familiar names (Meert, Scott, Wise) but happily more unfamiliar ones. Hopefully there will be a Proceedings published.

I opened comments after some hesitation. Please restrict yourselves to comments about the conference abstracts, or your teaching experience. Off topic comments will be deleted.

Match the Kinds

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  • And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
  • Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
  • Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

(Genesis 7:1-3)

Can you find the kinds in this educational game? Noah’s Ark

(Via Red State Rabble)

Bush endorses teaching ‘intelligent design’ theory in schools

BY RON HUTCHESON Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - President Bush waded into the debate over evolution and “intelligent design” Monday, saying schools should teach both theories on the creation and complexity of life.


Bush compared the current debate to earlier disputes over “creationism,” a related view that adheres more closely to biblical explanations. As governor of Texas, Bush said students should be exposed to both creationism and evolution.

On Monday the president said he favors the same approach for intelligent design “so people can understand what the debate is about.”

Bradenton Herald

The full report on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools’ Bible course curriculum is now available from the Texas Freedom Network. The report was written by Mark Chancey, a professor of Biblical studies at Southern Methodist University. As Chancey notes, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools has quite a select group of supporters and they’ve managed to compile an entire curriculum on how to teach about the Bible without a single Biblical scholar on either their 8 member Board of Directors or their 50+ member Advisory Committee. They do, however, have Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Norris on that committee, so no doubt they’ll have great material on spinning back kicks and bad movies. The list of folks who endorse this curriculum is staggering and they include everyone from the American Center for Law and Justice to Kent Hovind’s Creation Science Evangelism, which hardly boosts their credibility.

One of the interesting things that Chancey notes is that the entire curriculum is written from a peculiarly Protestant viewpoint. One would think that a non-sectarian and informational rather than devotional class about the Bible would include, for instance, an examination of the history of the development of the Bible, the different versions of the Bible in use by Christian churches around the world, the Jewish perspective on the Biblical texts that were written in Hebrew and how they developed, and so forth. But this curriculum contains virtually none of that information:

Hello everybody. I thought I should bring you all up to date on my travels. I have just visited Hawai’i, where I did some lecturing, research and field work. Naturally, everything I encountered supported evolution and modern biology. I’m still looking for evidence of creation, but to no avail. The reason I went to Hawai’i is that Carolus Linnaeus, the founder of modern taxonomy, believed that Eden was on a large island in the middle of an ocean, and considered it might be the Pacific. Since there is no bigger island than Hawai’i in the Pacific, if you exclude all those inconvenient islands in south east Asia and the southern Pacific (Australia, where annoying philosophers come from, and New Zealand, which has - or had before feral cats arrived and possums from Australia were let loose - some of the most extraordinary fauna anywhere). I didn’t find any evidence of Linnaeus’ Eden, though. Anything that is like the fauna of the rest of the world has been introduced in the past 1500 years by humans, who aren’t too bright.

For example, they introduced mongooses (mongeese?) to the islands to eradicate the rats that were introduced, probably by the Polynesian ancestors of native Hawai’ians, as well as European sailing ships. Only problem is that the mongoose is a diurnal (daytime) hunter, and rats are active at night (nocturnal). They sure eradicated a lot of native ground nesting birds, though… which left more habitat for the rats. So it all worked out.

By Russell Durbin

Veteran politician turned science expert Bruce Chapman, founder and president of the Discovery Institute (strategic command center of the “intelligent design” creationism movement), has written an essay that showcases the propaganda techniques of the IDC movement. Herewith a line by line analysis.

First they said that only ignorant rubes doubted Darwin. One was meant to recall the mob scene in the film of “Inherit the Wind.” The image is trite, but it works. However, when Phillip Johnson, a distinguished professor of legal evidence at Berkeley, came along with Darwin on Trial, they changed their line and said that, while he is an intellectual, he is not qualified to speak because he is not a scientist.

You know you’re in for a strawman argument when it starts out with “they said”. Who are “they”? Why not let “them” speak for “them”selves? There is a larger issue here, though, in which DI propaganda is creepily reminiscent of the Soviet style: Chapman tells you what “they” say, and why “they” say it, even what “they” are going to say next. But, as in so many DI disinformation dumps, no links or references are provided to let readers judge for themselves. Only links and references to other DI propaganda pieces are supplied, thus making for a hermetically sealed world of misinformation, unconstrained by any need to compare notes with the reality-based community.

The image Chapman seems to be conjuring here is that “they” continuously change “their” line because the creationists–excuse me, Darwin skeptics–keep proving “them” wrong. (It’s not hard to imagine that the original draft of this piece included moustachio-twirling and “Curses! Foiled again!” quotes.) It may be a great tool for arming the troops with a Kevlar shield of smugness, but it lacks any connection to the real world. The tactic is trite, but it works - if the goal is cheerleading rather than edification.

In fact, there is no shortage of evidence to support the notion that “doubting Darwin” does correlate inversely with education. There is also abundant evidence that Phillip Johnson, just as his lack of any scientific training and credentials suggest, is eminently unqualified to speak on subjects scientific.

The wheels on the bus…


A question


I thought PT readers would have some helpful answers for Raffi Melkonian’s question.

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