December 4, 2005 - December 10, 2005 Archives

Bruce Chapman of the DI has a letter in the New York Times:

At home, recent articles in The Wall Street Journal and Knight Ridder papers have described intelligent-design scientists at major universities (including Iowa State, the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia). One National Public Radio story alone featured 18 intelligent-design scientists, though most “would not speak on the record for fear of losing their jobs.” There is far more support, indeed, than appears on the surface.

If there is more support than appears, how come they keep recycling the same old creationist hacks? We’ve been all over the so-called scientists at these universities who support Intelligent Design creationism.

Notice that all of the best examples the DI can dig up are matched by that tiny, minute subset of scientists in their respective states who are active bloggers. The number of scientists supporting ID is miniscule, and support is actually much, much more limp and negligible than you would expect from all the effort the Discovery Institute dedicates to fluffing them.

Chapman’s piece also mentions a “European conference on design”—Right Wing Professor makes this comment about that “conference”:

We have no way of independently verifying who or how many attended, but the conference schedule is on line, and it featured a measly five speakers - four of them old antievolution hacks of long standing - over one day. The conference registration was a little over $20 – too much to pay for rubbish, you might say, but it included coffee and lunch. The web page looks like it was put together by a computer science student on a wet Saturday morning. There was a booth where they sold the standard antievolution tracts translated into Czech, and that’s it. If this is an international conference, my group meeting is an international conference.

Man, these DI flacks sure can puff up a bit of hot air, can’t they?

From The Muscatine Journal:

Although they don’t all agree on the merits of intelligent design, most members of the Muscatine School District Board of Education believe that students should know about it, and they agree that it will likely be discussed by the Board within the next two years.

Ann Hart, vice president of the Muscatine School Board, said she would not remove evolution from the school district’s curriculum, because of its scientific basis, but that students should also know about intelligent design.

”I think somewhere along the line, intelligent design should be brought up because a lot of people believe in it; and, otherwise, kids aren’t going to understand it as well as they should,” Hart said. “I don’t think we should go in-depth with it, just let kids know what it’s about and that it’s what some people believe and then go on to evolution. I believe in evolution, for sure, but we do need to let kids know this is something that people believe.”

(Continued on Aetiology)

A week or so ago, I was interviewed by Sarah Smarsh, a writer for a Lawrence, KS-based alternative newspaper. She was looking for people who could comment on the interactions between science and religion, or more specifically how one could be a Christian and also understand evolution.

You can read the article on the web now and I think she did a pretty good job.*


*For the record, the churches I grew up in did not teach that the world was flat. True flat-earth creationists are vanishingly rare these days, creationists having found a way to overcome the flat earth beliefs that a true literalism would demand.


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On December 1, SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) researcher Seth Shostak posted this brief essay. It's purpose was to dispel the myth that the techniques proffered by ID folks for the purpose of detecting intelligently-caused signals bear any resemblance to those used by SETI. (William Dembski in particular is fond of making this comparison). Shostak made two especially important points. First:

Well, it's because the credibility of the evidence is not predicated on its complexity. If SETI were to announce that we're not alone because it had detected a signal, it would be on the basis of artificiality. An endless, sinusoidal signal -- a dead simple tone -- is not complex; it's artificial. Such a tone just doesn't seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes. In addition, and unlike other radio emissions produced by the cosmos, such a signal is devoid of the appendages and inefficiencies nature always seems to add -- for example, DNA's junk and redundancy. (Emphasis in original)

Later we come to this:

It has been suggested that we include the table of state science standards rankings sorted by Final Score (Percentage), which is now available below the fold. Please leave comments under the original post, “Report Cards are In”.

It’s near the end of the fall term, and Report Cards are in!

The Fordham Foundation report on America’s science standards, “The State of State Science Standards 2005”, has been released.

Links to state reports, along with their overall letter grades (A-F) and evolution scores (0 - 3 points possible), appear below the fold. There are some key points emerging from this report.

For one, this year’s dumbing-down of Kansas standards got the Fordham folks mad - really mad.

Note added In Proof:The early warnings have been justified. Kansas has adopted standards whose treatment of evolutionary material has been radically compromised. The effect transcends evolution, however. It now makes a mockery of the very definition of science. The grade for Kansas is accordingly reduced to F.

Additionally, the report directly contradicts the claims of the Discovery Institute’s incessant revisionists. In a report on the Dover suit on November 10th, Steve Jordahl of Family News in Focus reports

…Rob Crowther of the Discover [sic] Institute says that fight is probably coming…. He says the ACLU hopes to ride this issue to the Supreme Court. Crowther says four other states have successfully integrated the controversies surrounding evolution into their curriculum. They are Ohio, New Mexico, Minnesota and ironically Pennsylvania, where the state has adopted a much broader standard than Dover….

Is this really the case? No, No, No, and No.

As reported previously, The Discovery Institute has been fabricating stories about the states. Even the New York Times has been fooled, but at least they corrected the error.

Will Rob Crowther correct his error? I’m skeptical.

Here are the grades for each state. How did your state do?

Bring On the Chiquitas!

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In an unsurprisingly ill-informed column in USA Today, top banana Cal Thomas and second banana Bob Beckel, doing their version of Laurel and Hardy, made a proposal:

Cal: Some Christians are trying to water down what they really believe for the wrong reasons. It would be better for them to exit the government schools so they can teach their beliefs without compromise. For those who remain — like you — and want intelligent design taught alongside evolution, why not have a series of televised debates so the public could make up its own mind?

Bob: That’s a start. The scientific community has gone out of its way to depict intelligent design as a religious view. Most people have no idea that serious scientists believe there is a strong case for intelligent design. These scientists have been denied a forum, and a series of public debates would be educational and give the intelligent design researchers a chance to tell their side.

Cal: Surely C-SPAN would carry the debate if the scientists were prominent enough. Anyone opposing the debate would be rightly labeled a censor and anti-academic freedom. That should make the liberals choke. Sound like a good idea to you, Bob (except the part about choking liberals)?

Bob: I’m all for it. I just wonder if the Darwinists will show up.

Cal: Maybe we can offer them some bananas as an incentive. As they eat them, they can contemplate their heritage.

They’re answered in a letter in today’s USA Today:

Over on Michael Berube’s weblog, Steve Fuller responded to various points being made about his advocacy of “intelligent design”. One item caught my attention:

6.’And please, to cite Dembski…the man is a dilettante who relies on speaking math to those who know a little biology and biology to those who know a little math. His ideas are useless.’ Well, his ideas may be wrong, but they are not useless. In any case, the man’s not finished yet – and (unlike Newton) he’s exposing his ideas for public inspection and critique, rather than going underground for 10-20 years to work all the bugs out. (Perhaps you’d prefer that approach.) Here you’ve got to take seriously what it means for ID to be primarily a science of ‘design’: God and humans design in exactly the same way (so says the theory), so the more we learn about detecting human-led design (e.g. Dembski has come up with scientific fraud detectors used by the NIH and NSF – I can already see students of Irony 101 raising their hands), the more we get (hopefully testable) ideas about how the universe might be designed. ID basically turns biology into divine technology. This is not a million miles from Herbert Simon in ‘Sciences of the Artificial’, in which he imagines (among other things) natural selection as a watchmaker who gets interrupted a lot and periodically needs to regroup from where he left off. [emphasis added - WRE]

William A. Dembski, mathematician, theologian, and philosopher, is also a heavyweight expert when it comes to self-promotion. So why is it, Steve, that Dembski has not himself boasted of the adoption of his particular methods by the NIH and NSF for “fraud detection”?

My basic stance on this is skepticism until such time as an independently verifiable reference is provided. One does not have to look far to find ID advocates exaggerating grandly from mundane reality, so I take the claim that someone other than Dembski has figured out how to make Dembski’s methods work (when even Dembski has thus far failed at that task) with a dried-up Permian sea of salt.

(Continue reading at

Mirecki beating

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We have no new information on the beating of Paul Mirecki, the Kansas University professor who offered a controversial course mocking Intelligent Design creationism. We will post more as soon as more solid information is available.

For now, all we've got to go on are the reports from the Lawrence Journal-World and Channel 6 News.

Some of the weblogs commenting on the event so far are Red State Rabble, Thoughts from Kansas, Pharyngula, Alun, The Sixth International, Expert Opinion, and Abnormal Interests. I'm sure any new developments will be discussed there as well, and you might want to keep an eye on the first two in particular, both Kansas blogs, as likely to announce anything new. Comments on this article will be turned off here at the Panda's Thumb until we've got something more than a few second-hand reports to go on.

The evolution/creation dispute in Turkey has long been characterized by threats and physical violence, and it would be disturbing to see this sort of thing develop in the USA. I'm sure we all agree that whoever perpetrated this crime needs to be brought to justice and handled by the rule of law, and that physical violence against either side of the evolution-creation debate must be discouraged.

There has been an interesting dustup at NRO's Corner, with several of the conservatives at that site arguing pro and con about evolution. The action was precipitated by John Derbyshire, who posted a critique of the scientific views of one of the leading lights of the neocon movement, Gertrude Himmelfarb.

Himmelfarb's views on Darwinism came up. I took issue with them. A reader with some expertise took the trouble to go to his college library, read 'em up, and send me a long email about them. (And about Strauss's, which he found much better informed.) I posted an edited version of his email, making my own lack of acquaintance with Himmelfarb's work very plain, and urged curious readers to go to the source, which my reader had carefully listed.

(There are many other comments on this issue at the Corner; you'll have to scroll around the page to find them.)

I've been in contact with that anonymous reader, who gave me permission to post the unedited version of that email here. It's a solidly documented critique of some very poor arguments by Himmelfarb, arguments that are little more than rehashed creationism. The whole thing is included below the fold.

In responding to a recent New York Times article (already discussed in detail here and here), the Discovery Institute’s John West once again points to the Discovery Institute’s list of “peer-reviewed and peer-edited publications” as evidence that the Discovery Institute really does do science.

That document, like so much that the Discovery Institute puts out, does not paint an accurate picture of what is actually going on. The list has been available in one form or another for quite a while now, and individual entries on the list have been critiqued in a number of locations. I’m going to address the list as a whole here. I will briefly comment on some of the individual entries in the process, but I am not going to take the time to address all of them. For the most part, I will assume, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT ONLY, that the articles are more or less what they claim to be.

Continue reading (at The Questionable Authority):

Once again Ed beat me to the punch…

I have at various times pointed out how scientifically vacuous Intelligent Design really is. While Ed has already discussed the NY Times article, I would like to focus on two statements which show again how vacuous ID really is scientifically.

John West Wrote:

“The future of intelligent design, as far as I’m concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case,” Mr. West said. “The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science.”

Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation Wrote:

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

”They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

”From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.

Dembski on Templeton and ID Research


In the wake of yesterday’s NY Times article that included the Templeton Foundation saying that when they demanded that ID advocates produce actual research that could confirm ID and offered to fund that, they didn’t come up with any, William Dembski responded with this post on his blog. He makes the following claim:

I know for a fact that Discovery Institute tried to interest the Templeton Foundation in funding fundamental research on ID that would be publishable in places like PNAS and Journal of Molecular Biology (research that got funded without Templeton support and now has been published in these journals), and the Templeton Foundation cut off discussion before a proposal was even on the table.

Needless to say, this caused many of us to wonder what research he was referring to that allegedly supported ID and was published without Templeton’s help. In a comment on that thread asking that very question, Dembski said that he was referring to the work of Douglas Axe. They’ve been beating this drum for years and making outlandish claims about the meaning of his work that simply do not stand up to scrutiny. In particular, Dembski has continually exaggerated Axe’s work on perturbation in enzymes far beyond what it says, to the point of claiming it means the opposite of what it really means. Matt Inlay documented this distortion very well in this article from the Panda’s Thumb. Here’s Dembski’s claim about Axe’s work on perturbation:

Continue Reading at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

To hear most ID advocates tell it, ID is only rejected by “Darwinian fundamentalists” who hold fast to “atheistic materialism.” Laurie Goodstein has an article in Sunday’s New York Times that puts the lie to that claim. She shows that many organizations and academics who would be seen as likely supporters of ID have been put off by the lack of actual substance being offered:

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

”They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

”From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.

Continue Reading At Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

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