August 7, 2005 - August 13, 2005 Archives

I was interested in the breaking news in Kansas this Thursday (August 11, 2005) that John Calvert, purported legal counsel for the Intelligent Design Minority of the Kansas science standards writing committee, is not actually licensed to practice law in Kansas, and never has been. This was revealed Tuesday at a press conference held by my friends Pedro Irigonegaray, the lawyer (legally licensed) representing mainstream science at the science hearings, and Steve Case, chair of the writing committee. See this story in the Lawrence Journal World.

As Irigonegaray points out in the Lawrence Journal World article, “there are criminal statutes that sanction against false impersonation,” and my understanding is that these statutes apply to any occupation which require a license to practice in the Kansas. Later in the week, Case filed complaints about Calvert’s behavior with the appropriate bodies in both Kansas and Missouri (where Calvert is licensed), and these bodies will make the ultimate determination as to whether Calvert is guilty of ethical or legal misbehavior. See this story in the Lawrence Journal World.

And now this morning, Red State Rabble (Pat Hayes) reports that Calvert says he has done nothing wrong by practicing without a license. RSR writes,

Red State Rabble has obtained a transcript of the KANU segment [Thursday, August 11, the Morning Edition of NPR News on KANU Radio in Lawrence, Kansas] in which Calvert makes an astonishing assertion. Here’s the transcript:

”Pedro Irigonegaray (counsel for the mainstream science at the state science hearings): Not only is the practice of law without a license a violation of ethical guidelines, it is also a crime.

Peter Hancock, for NPR: Calvert admits he’s not licensed in Kansas but says he did nothing wrong by accepting clients in this state and acting as their attorney.

John Calvert: Just because I don’t hold a Kansas bar license does not mean that I can’t come into Kansas and practice law.”

Oh, really?

I should probably leave it up to Sanchez to defend himself, but I’ll say this: it is true that “Evolution is no more or less ‘naturalistic’ than any of these other sciences.” But what Sanchez was saying, correctly, is that evolution demonstrates that there is no need for a divine spark to set in motion, or to maintain, the processes that gave rise to life, and/or consciousness. To say that science does not “conflict[] with the theistic theological view that God creates the universe at every moment of its existence” is beside the point. The point is that, as Sanchez quoted, there is no need for such a hypothesis.

The National Catholic Reporter discusses Follow up news: Schönborn and evolution

Vatican Correspondent John L. Allen concludes:

Allen Wrote:

In that light, observers say, Schönborn’s view does not seem to court a new Galileo affair, putting the church at odds with scientific discoveries. He’s making a philosophical point, not a scientific one. In the end, he’s warning that Christianity cannot accept a universe without God, and it’s fairly difficult to argue with that.

Hat tip to Frank Schmidt

I just read Tim Sandefeur’s post saying that “Julian Sanchez has it exactly right” when Sanchez agrees with Jacob Weisberg’s religion-is-stupid rant, “Evolution vs. Religion: Quit pretending they’re compatible,” up at Slate. Tim didn’t post any arguments in support, and disabled comments – he may have suspected that flack would be coming his way on PT, where many of us do make a point of it to note that there is no necessary conflict between evolution and religious faith. So, I will make a few comments on my own, and then let posters discuss it over the weekend.



Purpose and Measuring God

| | Comments (37)

I have been delinquent in contributing to the Panda’s Thumb, but in my defense, I was busy finishing up a book (Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Confessions of a Liberal Charismatic). It was responses to this book, combined with comments by President Bush and by Cardinal Schönborn, that has led me to get busy and write something about this.

The odd thing is that in my book I spend perhaps four pages out of 128 discussing evolution and intelligent design, with only a passing reference to my objections to the latter, and yet repeatedly people have commented to me that they liked my book but don’t agree with me about evolution. I have taken an unorthodox view of many different things, and spent many pages doing so, but none of those have elicited the kind of response that four pages discussing evolution and intelligent design have.

The combined debate suggests to me that we are dealing with a combination of lack of information, and of gut-level reactions that go well beyond the actual issues presented. But what are those issues?

The second entry in what is starting to look like a long series of posts on the Kansas BoE’s attempt to uneducate their students comes from the same page in the standards as the item I discussed yeaterday:

c. Patterns of diversification and extinction of organisms are documented in the fossil record. Evidence also indicates that simple, bacteria-like life may have existed billions of years ago. However, in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution. [italics denotes material added by the BoE in this revision]

Read more (at The Questionable Authority)

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism has officially hit the bigtime. See “Spaghetti Monster Stringing Us Along,” in the Hartford Courant. This national press attention obviously proves that there is a scientific controversy over His Noodly Appendage, which should be taught in public school science classrooms in Kansas and elsewhere. Really, the views of Pastafarians are just as legitimate as anyone else’s views on origins, so they deserve promotion at state expense also. Or are you against free speech and academic freedom?

Doug McNeil ([Enable javascript to see this email address.]), a computer field engineer from Baltimore, has in mind a statewide organization, called Maryland Citizens for Science, to promote good science education and to oppose the creationist threat in his state. In no particular order, its basic functions would be:

  • To monitor creationist activity in Maryland. Marylanders can’t know everything that happens in every classroom and every school board meeting unless people tell them. They need a well-known local organization that concerned parents and teachers know they can contact when they need help. It would be an information clearinghouse, similar to what the NCSE does on the national level.
  • To serve as an informed resource for the press. The group’s chair, who would be the main spokesperson, is particularly important here – more on this later.
  • To review and evaluate the current state of science education in Maryland (e.g. textbooks and state curriculum standards) and to promote improvements if needed, which they probably are.
  • To assist in coordinating lawsuits challenging any attempt to include pseudoscience in the curriculum, if this should become necessary.

Maryland Citizens for Science would be a group run by Marylanders for Marylanders.

What they need now is several people who are well informed about creation/evolution to help set this organization up. (Right now they don’t have the time to train people who want to learn about this issue, but they will later.) Political organizing experience would be a definite plus – Doug can coordinate the organizing, but he can’t do all the work myself. They also need a distinguished and articulate scientist who knows a lot about creation/evolution to chair the group. Political experience would not be necessary for this position. They need a good website designer. This will be one of our main means of communication with the public (press reports being the other). They need an attorney familiar with nonprofit law to set things up legally if we want to raise money from outside sources. Setting up such groups doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take some. So let Doug know what you think about this idea, and of course he’s especially interested in hearing from anyone who would like to volunteer to work on this.

Maryland Citizens for Science can be contacted at [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Kansas Board of Education has given preliminary approval to a set of science standards that have a strong anti-evolution bias. This bias becomes apparent literally before page one of the standards, and is apparent in any number of ways. Previously, I blogged on a change in language early in the document that singles out evolution, making it appear to be more dubious than other theories listed. Today, I am going to begin to examine some of the actual standards and benchmarks most affected by the KBOE’s efforts to “improve” the way evolution is taught in their state. This will be the first in a series of posts looking at the specifics, since there are way, way too many objectionable areas to cover in a single post.

I’m going to start with an addition that demonstrates true chutzpah. (For those of you not familiar with the Yiddish term, it is difficult to translate directly, but can best be described as the quality displayed by a man who craps on his neighbor’s doorstep, then knocks and asks to borrow some toilet paper.) Kansas’ contribution to the art of chutzpah is found on page 78 of the standards, which are available as a pdf file on the Kansas Department of Education website:

Read more (at The Questionable Authority).

Jacob Weisberg, editor of the online magazine Slate, has posted this piece on the subject of evolution and religion. In it he argues that evolution and religion are fundamentally incompatible. He gets off to quite a good start:

The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones. Intelligent design, which asserts that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation, may be---as Bob Wright argues---creationism in camouflage. Or it may be---as William Saletan argues---a step in the creationist cave-in to evolution. But whatever it represents, intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.

See the original for links.

Today’s Nature has an interesting letter suggesting a way to introduce genetics to children–even kids as young as 5, they suggest. Harness pop culture–specifically Harry Potter–in order to introduce basic concepts in genetics.

The Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and the plaintiffs’ opposition are in. The opposition is so good that I don’t have much to add. Let me just clarify some things first for those who aren’t fluent in legalspeak.

Coyne on ID in The New Republic

| | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

Jerry Coyne has a nice, long, thorough analysis of ID in The New Republic. Not much new for the initiated, but a very good primer for newbies to the issue, touching everything from science (or lack thereof) to the religious roots of ID. (I am not sure, but it may require free registration to read) Did I say it’s long? It’s long.

Fisking Dembski


Yes, proponents of intelligent design understand the eye…but only as one example, not as the basis of a general principle. ‘Oh, yes, we know all about the eye,’ they say (we paraphrase). ‘We’re not going to ask what use half an eye is. That’s simple-minded nonsense.’ So instead, they ask what use half a bacterial flagellum is, and thereby repeat the identical error in a different context. -Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Oh man. The Discovery Institute Media Complaints Division really isn’t just going to like what just got broadcast on ABC’s Nightline. Nightline essentially did an exposé on (1) how ID has no scientific support, but (2) has gained national attention through clever marketing. Nightline, unlike most other media which tends to rely on the “dueling quotes” model in a “controversy,” did the obvious thing for once. They contacted their partner U.S. News and World Report, got the list of the top ten biology departments in the country, and got the chair of each department to give their opinion on ID. This seems to have informed the rest of Nightline’s analysis. Good for them.

Behe and bugs: Genesis of a Creationist canard?

| | Comments (53) | TrackBacks (2)

Well, the Discovery Institute-sponsored translation of Sermonti’s un-informed and dis-informing book, which I reviewed a few weeks ago here on PT, is out. There isn’t much more to say about the translation that I haven’t said already, but an endorsement by Mike Behe on the back cover does stick out, and I think it’s worth discussing here. Behe says:

With charming prose, Sermonti describes biology which contradicts Darwinian expectations: leaf insects appearing in the fossil record before leaves, insects before plants, and biological forms that reflect abstract mathematical expressions. He shows that there are more things in life than are dreamt of in Darwinian philosophy.

I am sure several readers will wonder what the heck this insect stuff is about. So did I, and looked into it. In short, it means that neither Sermonti nor Behe know much about insect and plant evolution, and more significantly, they are not keen to put any effort learning about them. More below.

Nature gets in the act

| | Comments (2)

Nature has an editorial and a news item on Bush's Intelligent Design creationism flap. The striking thing about both of them is how incredibly optimistic they are, although they also emphasize that while the response by the scientific community has been vigorous, it has to continue to be strong and outspoken. I agree with this idea, too, although I regret to say that it would be personally impossible for me to do the political part (can you guess why?):

Many experts say that scientists should get more involved in local politics—especially on school boards, where the conflicting views of scientists and advocates of intelligent design often play out. "Scientists have to be evangelical about explaining what science is, as well as its limitations," says Krauss.

I've put the complete text of both articles on Pharyngula. They are well worth reading. They cheered me up, at least.

News Roundup

| | Comments (18)

Postdocing in NC

| | Comments (10)

I’m in my final year of graduate school and plan to graduate with a Ph.D. in Genetics after spring semester. I recently lined up a postdoc working with Jeff Thorne at NC State. In case you are wondering, postdoc is short for “post-doctoral researcher”, which means that you have a doctorate, but are still working under a more senior scientist or academic, usually a professor at a research institution.

The postdoc is still many months away. I have to complete and defend my dissertation and survive teaching undergrads between now and then. My postdoctoral research will involve either Bayesian methods of estimating evolutionary parameters or developing models of sequence evolution that take into consideration three dimensional protein structure.

Anyway, since I will be moving to Raleigh early next summer, I’d like to put some feelers out about establishing a North Carolina Citizens for Science. Anybody interested?

EvolutionBlog Returns


After taking the last five weeks off, EvolutionBlog has now returned to a regular publication schedule. Updates will be added daily, Monday-Friday, generally in the late afternoon or early evening, Eastern time. Today I have a series of posts about the reactions from various cable news channels to Bush's endorsement of ID. Enjoy!

What’s in a phrase?

| | Comments (1)

“…the present diversity of living organisms, explained by the biological theory of evolution, or descent with modification of organisms from common ancestors.”

“…the present diversity of living organisms, which the biological theory of evolution, or descent with modification of organisms from common ancestors, seeks to explain.”

The two statements above are, at least superficially, very similar to each other. The phrasing isn’t quite the same, and the second version is a bit more tentative than the first, but they say more or less the same thing. So why am I bringing this up?

The first statement is from an early version of the Kansas State Board of Education science standards; the second is from the draft that they just approved. And it’s just one example of how the KSBOE is trying to cripple the teaching of evolution in their state.

Continue reading (on The Questionable Authority)

Some big revelations in the federal court case on “intelligent design” have just come out (see many previous PT posts on Kitzmiller v. Dover, especially the summary post, “Design on Trial”). The always on-the-ball Lauri Lebo of the York Daily Record has a story out today, “Depositions refer to creationism,” that reports on the origins of the ID policy in Dover, Pennsylvania, based on new court filings.

What court filings, you ask? Well, a brief opposing the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was filed by the plaintiffs this week. In a motion for summary judgement, the defense argues that there is no dispute about the facts, and thus no need for a trial before the judge’s decision. The plaintiffs issue a response that summarizes why there is a substantive dispute in the case, and it therefore should go to trial.

As previously blogged, PT buddy Chris Mooney has a new book out. See blog attention from Thoughts From Kansas, Pharyngula, Science And Politics (Helpful tip: “Buying thrillers written by the other Chris Mooney is not going to help the cause….”), Stranger Fruit, TPM Cafe, and others.

An adaptation of his chapter “Creation Science 2.0” is now up at American Prospect Online. It is entitled “Inferior Design.” In my previous post I quoted Mooney’s setup for his chapter, which describes what happened to “two talented young political thinkers,” liberal Republicans at Harvard who made the case for reforming Republicanism in the 1966 The Party That Lost Its Head.

In “Inferior Design,” Mooney gives the punchline:

Tangled Bank #34

The Tangled Bank

Tangled Bank #34 is now online at Creek Running North. If you haven't heard of the Tangled Bank before, it's a biweekly collection of weblog articles on science—just go there and you'll find links to lots of other science fans and practitioners, all in one convenient place.

My brother was recently kind enough to give The Panda’s Thumb a bit of a plug, and I’m always happy to get publicity. Sadly, though, he sees my participation on PT as evidence of my nerd-dom - possibly because he doesn’t get as worked up about the whole thing as I do. That is a mistake.

It’s not a mistake to claim that I’m a nerd, of course. I am one. Always have been, probably always will be. I’m working on a doctorate in zoology, I have access to not one but two different labs, I can converse more intelligently about the papers in last weeks’ edition of Nature than about whatever the popular TV shows are, the only current TV show I can name is Myth Busters, I build plastic models in my spare time, and I used to play D&D a lot. If you don’t think that is the picture of a nerd, then you are probably worse-off than I am.

Being worried about creationism is different. Here’s why:

Read more (at The Questionable Authority)

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. –Douglas Adams

It’s been a little busy lately, what with entertaining Professor Steve Steve and His Hanger-On, kids on vacation, taking diagnostic exams (rant on that may follow tomorrow, after I find out just how badly I screwed outstandingly well I performed), and other such things. But life is returning to normal, and I can get back to posting semi-topical quotes for you all to nit-pic enjoy.

We’re Back

| | Comments (10)

We’re sorry for being offline for most of the day. We are trying to solve bandwidth issues.

Chris Mooney, the guy who keeps the politicians honest on science of all sorts (see his blog, which we often trackback to), has a book out. It is entitled, The Republican War on Science, and the webpage just went up: The book is not a general attack on Republicanism, but it argues that the “antiscience right wing” of the party is currently setting the agenda, to the detriment of both the party and the country. As Mooney notes, “Encouraging the electoral success of Republican moderates with good credentials on science could potentially have just as constructive an effect as backing Democrats.” (p. 255)

PT denizens will appreciate two chapters the most. Chapter 4, “‘Creation Science’ and Reagan’s ‘Dream’”, reviews Ronald Reagan’s antievolutionism as governor of California, and as president. Chapter 11, “‘Creation Science’ 2.0”, reviews the origin of the “intelligent design” movement. Chapter 11 kicks off with such a stunning opening act, I just have to quote a teaser here. Guess who these two guys are?


| | Comments (19)

Hi y’all,

We’ve made another change to the Thumb. This time it is how y’all mark up your comments. No longer can you use tags with square brackets to give style to you comments. Instead you need to use XML tags. Most of the tags will be the same as you are used to, except you will be using angled brackets instead of square brackets. Here is a short list of tags to get you going until I can put together complete documentation.

  • Links: <url href="…">…</url>
  • Quotes: <quote author="…">…</quote>
  • Bold: <b>…</b>
  • Italics: <i>…</i>
  • Stricken: <s>…</s>
  • Underlined: <u>…</u>

Please feel free to experiment in the comments in this thread, but please preview your comments before making them.

It looks like the cover of Time magazine this week is “The Evolution Wars.” Hopefully the story will be well-informed; several reporters called NCSE for interviews and data. It has become office lore at NCSE that, while summers are quieter because schools and state legislatures are usually in recess, August can be a big exception. Regular news slows down, so reporters go fishing for “odd” stories, and evolution/creationism certainly fits the bill. Adding to the chaos this time, the director, Eugenie Scott, was off the grid in the bottom of the Grand Canyon all last week, on the semiannual NCSE Grand Canyon Float Trip. This would be the reason why she is not quoted in the copious media coverage of Bush’s comments, and why I got my 1.5 minutes of fame on the Fox News Tony Snow show yesterday.

The Seattle Times has published an editorial on intelligent design titled The philosophy of intelligent design. The editorial focused on the relevant issues surrounding intelligent design namely that it is poor science [1}.

Intelligent design implies that God did it. That may be true. Certainly, millions of Americans believe so. But intelligent design is not a scientific theory because there is no set of facts that would disprove it. No matter what science says tomorrow, a believer in intelligent design could say, “Yes, that’s the way God did it.”

While ID proponents argue that ID is falsifiable, it inevitably comes down to arguments that “evolution could not explain X” arguments based on our ignorance being shown to be erroneous. Since ID fully embraces evolutionary theory, it can thus not be disproven.

Hey, has anyone else noticed that the **** is hitting the fan?

Yesterday, two Time Magazine reporters called me to confirm a quote I e-mailed them earlier in the week, about the New Mexican ID crowd’s ignoring new standards and promoting their ID crap anyway. I said “Gee, ‘crap’ sounds a little strong, can we use ‘nonsense’ instead?” The answer was no, however, because the article was already typeset, and ‘nonsense’ has twice the letters of ‘crap.’ So ‘crap’ it is, on newstands tomorrow (Monday).

The Albuquerque Journal’s Paul Logan has been grilling me re ID for a few days, plus many other sources. That’s supposed to be in tomorrow’s Albuquerque Journal.

As Nick mentioned, the History Channel is showing “Ape to Man: the Evolution of Evolution” tonight (Sunday).

Tuesday’s NightLine on ABC will be about creationism, too.

Between the Cardinal and the President, it seems the issue of creationism is evolving legs.

Cheers, Dave

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

July 31, 2005 - August 6, 2005 is the previous archive.

August 14, 2005 - August 20, 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.01