December 18, 2005 - December 24, 2005 Archives

On evolutionnews Rob Crowther quotes “a legal scholar” who is offering an interesting legal analysis of the Ohio situation.

Crowther informs us the scholar is Gonzaga University law professor David DeWolf.

Crowther hardly does DeWolf justice here. In addition to being a law professor, DeWolf was also the lead counsel for the Discovery Institute’s Amicus Curiae brief in the Kitzmiller case. In addition, DeWolf is one of the authors of “Teaching the Controversy: Darwinism, Design and the Public School Curriculum”.

Neither the Amicus Brief nor the “Teaching the controversy” fared to well in the Kitzmiller decision. In fact, the Amicus Brief may very well have been the reason why the Judge decided to rule that intelligent design is not science.

Witt-ness for the plaintiffs?

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Amazingly, Witt continues his fallacious arguments and further undermines the Discovery Institute’s official position as submitted to the Court in its Amicus Brief

What is the creature on the left? If you said, “cockroach”, give yourself a lump of coal. But if you said, “termite”, give yourself a PEZ dispenser with your favorite cartoon character. It is in fact a specimen of Mastotermes darwiniensis, a large and primitive termite that lives in Australia (they get all the cool critters). It looks like a roach because termites evolved from roaches, and this particular genus contains primitive members that still resemble their roach cousins in many respects. On the flip-side, roaches of the wood-eating genus Cryptocercus have many termite-like features, including obligate gut flora and parental care of nymphs. The termites that we’re familiar with – the little white things that eat houses – are simply the nymph stage of an otherwise roach-like insect, and Cryptocercus nymphs look an awful lot like termites themselves.

A biologist going by the name of “Mr. Darwin” has a great post up about the evolution of termites from roaches, and the various lines of morphological, molecular, and fossil evidence we have. And there is a cool picture of cute little Cryptocercus nymphs feeding from their mommy’s anal secretions. Go check it out.

Well Done Jonathan

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On Seattle based Discovery Institute’s EvolutionNews (sic) Blog, Jonathan Witt continues the confusion by not only apparantly distancing himself from the Discovery Instute’s Amicus Brief filed in the Kitzmiller case but also by showing his unfamiliarity with the actual ruling by Judge Jones:

Witt Wrote:

To get around the substantive differences between intelligent design and biblical creationism, Judge Jones had to fixate on motive (both real and imagined); he had to assume that if he can identify one motive, he has magically ruled out the possibility of another motive playing a crucial role (in this case, the desire of ID scientists to follow the evidence wherever leads, even if it means upsetting a few Darwinists); and he had to mischaracterize ID as a religion-based theory when instead it’s a theory based on scientific evidence that, like Darwinism, has larger metaphysical implications.

More Pomo commentary on ID

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Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber points to a new Steven Fuller article in the Times Higher Education Supplement (where there’s also a paper by Brighouse himself). Although Fuller’s remarks are intended to be only peripherally about Intelligent Design, they contain a number of odd statements that suggest the author’s strange views of both science and ID. (For example, according to Fuller, Newton’s life “teaches that the Bible can provide a sure path to great science.” He leaves unexamined other possible lessons that could be drawn, including the obvious ones that genius often transcends the limitations of its time, or that deistic motivations are irrelevant in the presence of empirical validation.)

Fuller makes a big deal about ID’s use of analogies in place of evidence, suggesting that this represents some kind of conceptual breakthrough:

John West as a post criticizing Judge Jones' Kitzmiller decision for being "activist." I've already explained why his arguments are baseless, and so has Pim van Meurs. But I do have a few more comments.

Chiquita Update: The show will go on, Dembski or no

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Casey Luskin has announced that (in effect) the January 3 debate on the evidence for intelligent design, which Bill Dembski previously accepted, is off. Luskin wrote

Discovery and its fellows are delighted to debate Dr. Princehouse and/or Kenneth Miller or whomever and want only to do so in a neutral forum with reasonable and MUTUAL agreements on topic, location, timing, and the other modalities associated with civilized debate. One side does not simply announce a place, and a time a few weeks’ hence, and demand that the opponent show up. Otherwise it looks like a publicity stunt.

As of this writing, however, Dembski has not notified Princehouse of his withdrawal, so we don’t know if he’ll be there or not.

Nevertheless, the show will go on. The Department of Biology at Case Western Reserve University will sponsor Ken Miller’s appearance at Strosacker Hall on January 3 at 7:00 p.m. If Dembski doesn’t appear, he doesn’t appear, but we’ll all be there and we’ll be sorry he missed the party.

Note that the event will be webcast: details to follow.

RBH

He’s dead Bill

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“ID is rapidly going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries,” Dembski wrote. “The important thing is ID’s intellectual vitality.”

Source: Link

Seems that Bill understands that ID never really was science…

Or in the words of DeForrest Kelley (Dr McCoy)

[PvM:You may have to cut and paste the link since the site does not allow direct linking.]

1. He’s Dead Jim 2. He’s Dead Jim 3. He’s Dead Jim 4. He’s Dead Jim

On the Discovery Institute’s blog, West revisits the statement by Judge Jones and reaches some poorly argued conclusions:

West Wrote:

Take the following remarkable passage from his opinion:

the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area. Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us. [p. 63] (emphasis added)

My favorite essay arguing against intelligent design isn’t one of Gould’s, or Dawkins’, or Sagan’s. Rather, it’s one that has portions I disagree with, but the eloquent prose simply can’t be beat:

“The analogy which you attempt to establish between the contrivances of human art, and the various existences of the Universe, is inadmissible. We attribute these effects to human intelligence, because we know beforehand that human intelligence is capable of producing them. Take away this knowledge, and the grounds of our reasoning will be destroyed. Our entire ignorance, therefore, of the Divine Nature leaves this analogy defective in its most essential point of comparison.

You assert that the construction of the animal machine, the fitness of certain animals to certain situations, the connexion between the organs of perception and that which is perceived; the relation between every thing which exists, and that which tends to preserve it in its existence, imply design. It is manifest that if the eye could not see, nor the stomach digest, the human frame could not preserve its present mode of existence. It is equally certain, however, that the elements of its composition, if they did not exist in one form, must exist in another; and that the combinations which they would form, must so long as they endured, derive support for their peculiar mode of being from their fitness to the circumstances of their situation.”

These come from an 1814 essay by Percy Bysse Shelley, analyzing the claims in William Paley’s Natural Theology, a text which explores arguments very similar to those used by modern-day ID advocates. So similar, in fact, that although some of the minor details have changed, Shelley’s refutation of it can be easily used today.

As this essay demonstrates, and as recently highlighted in this post, it behooves us to know our history—and none know this better than those who teach the subject. University of Iowa history professor Douglas Baynton wrote an interesting letter to the Washington Post this past Saturday, offering a unique perspective on the “controversy” regarding Intelligent Design by using 19th century geography texts to speculate about how a course using intelligent design might look.

(Continued at Aetiology)

[Note: I’d planned to post this Tuesday, but didn’t want it to get lost in all the Dover issues. I think, given the decision and the role the history of the ID movement played in that, it’s even more relevant today that this history is considered.–T]

Barbara Forrest on NPR

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Barbara Forrest, the official chronicler of the history of the ID movement and one of the stars of the Kitzmiller decision, will be talking with Ira Flatow today on NPR’s “Science Friday”.

The show is broadcast live at 2 pm EST. Listen in then or later via podcast.

(Today is also the annual Birds and Birding show on Science Friday. What a bonus!)

Update: Commenter Michael Hopkins provides the link.

Kiss me, you big ape

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2005-12-23_ID_Kong.jpg

Someone sent me this in email. Says it all, doesn’t it? If anyone has seen the original posted on a newspaper website or something, please post the link.

Some kind of trophy for the most absurd reaction to the Kitzmiller decision must go to Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission. In this article in the Washington Post, Land is quoted as saying:

“This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that’s coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito,” said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. “This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries–if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung.”

Cooper, Nelson, Saletan

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Reaction to the Dover decision keeps coming in. Former Discovery Institute Attorney Seth Cooper has posted this essay claiming that Judge Jones mischaracterized Cooper's actions on behalf of the DI in the Dover case. Golly! That sounds serious.

Meanwhile, Paul Nelson offers these thoughts on why ID folks shouldn't be mired in despair. Along the way he offers up a single sentence of the decision which, in Nelson's opinion, shows the Judge being something less than meticulous.

And over at Slate, William Saletan takes up the thankless task of trying to poke holes in Jones' masterful opinion. He accuses Jones of relying on a false dichotomy between science and religion.

Short reply: Cooper is wrong, Nelson is desperate and Saletan is being silly.

I have posted longer replies to all three over at EvolutionBlog. Cooper here. Nelson here. Saletan here.

It seems that Dembski has decided to ‘decisively’ move the goalposts of ID further out and although in earlier writings he did mention the possibility of ‘front loading’, he also considered such possibilities to be unlikely and ‘deistic’ in nature.

Now he may have clarified his position:

Dembski Wrote:

Let’s cut to the chase: Is the designer responsible for biological complexity God? Even as a very traditional Christian and an ardent proponent of ID, I would say NOT NECESSARILY. To ask who or what is the designer of a particular object is to ask for the immediate intelligent agent responsible for its design. The point is that God is able to work through derived or surrogate intelligences, which can be anything from angels to organizing principles embedded in nature.

For instance, just because I hold to both Christian theism and ID doesn’t mean that God directly designed and implemented the bacterial flagellum by specifically toggling its components. It could well have happened by a process of natural genetic engineering of the sort envisioned by James Shapiro. The design would be no less real, but God’s role in the design would be distant, not proximal.

Philosophers have long distinguished between primary and secondary causes. The problem is that under the pall of methodological naturalism, secondary causes have been identified with purely materialistic processes. But it’s perfectly legitimate for secondary causes to include teleological processes. I develop all this at length in THE DESIGN REVOLUTION.

Anything from angels to organizing principles, I clearly see the scientific value of ID here. And the logical conclusion from Dembski’s admissions about front-loading is that natural explanations would be able to explain the origin of such features as the bacterial flagellum. Thus, lacking any further evidence, science would be unable to reach a conclusion of ‘intelligent design’ as the evidence would be hidden beyond our observations. In other words, Intelligent Design has moved itself further into the realm of scientific vacuity.

Not bad for a days work though. Boy do I wish Dembski had testified at the Dover trial.

I find it fascinating that Dembski on the one hand seems to be arguing that complex specified information requires a supernatural origin while on the other hand arguing that CSI can in fact be explained by natural law alone. Whether or not a supernatural designer was responsible for the front loading is a question science cannot answer. Which is exactly why Intelligent Design makes for poor science and good apologetics. As such, I start to understand more and more why Dembski has returned to apologetics.

Given the recent scientific progress, it may not come as a surprise to see ID proponents retreat to front-loading.

Another example of “scholarship”

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With the recent resounding defeat of Intelligent Design in Dover, ID supporters may actually have to try and do some science to support their claims. On the basis of past efforts, the prospect does not look good for them. Richard von Sternberg, the Intelligent Design-friendly editor who was responsible for publishing Meyer’s woeful review paper, has recently had a paper published with anti-Darwinian James Shapiro (who has said he is not an ID supporter).

Shapiro JA, von Sternberg R. Why repetitive DNA is essential to genome function. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2005 May;80(2):227-50.

In this they try to address the bete noir of creationists, both young earth and intelligent design varieties, “Junk” DNA. The fact that the vast majority of the genome is probably parasitic junk is hard to reconcile with an intelligent designer, so a lot of effort is expended to show that all that DNA must be doing something essential. Sternberg and Shapiro try to show that one major class of non-coding DNA, highly repetitive DNA, is essential for genome function. However, all they end up demonstrating is shoddy scholarship.

Back in January I seem to remember the Thomas More Law Center declaring “A Revolution in Evolution Is Underway.” But today, according to the Associated Press, “Santorum says will break ties to law firm that represented school district on intelligent design.” Now, Santorum was on the TMLC board, and encouraged the Dover Area School Board early on – see for example his January 23, 2005, op-ed in the Allentown [PA] Morning Call, entitled “A Balanced Approach to Teaching Evolution,” (helpfully now hosted on the Discovery Institute website) wherein Santorum wrote, “The Dover Area School District has taken a step in the right direction by attempting to teach the controversy of evolution.”

But, I guess that’s what poor Thomas More gets for repeatedly citing Santorum and his attempted amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act – Santorum’s name came up 36 times in the trial transcripts, in fact.

Cover of Science magazine, Dec. 23, 2005Science has just named its top breakthrough for 2005. You get one guess after this hint: it starts with “E.” That’s right, it’s evolution, and it is based on all of the remarkable advances in evolution in 2005, such as the comparison of the human and chimpanzee genomes, which just happens to have been featured in the Kitzmiller trial. I’m still hoping Science reprints a chunk of Jones’s opinion, like they printed the McLean opinion in 1982.

Update: The full issue is now online. Holy moly, Jawless Fish Have Form of Adaptive Immunity. That’s big news if you’re into that kind of thing.

reindeer

I have a theory, which is mine, that there is an entity or intelligence (which I will not name, since that would be unscientific) which resides in the Arctic and makes midwinter use of reindeer in a complex specified task. This theory of mine guides my research, which may not be mine, but as long as it can be interpreted to support my theory of an Arctic Artificer, I can appropriate it as mine, which is just as good.

My theory predicts that there is a peak of artificer activity in late December. The hypothesis that reindeer activity generates a polar distribution force for the delivery of artifacts generated by the Arctic Artificer is consistent with a large body of evidence. It also makes testable predictions. For example:

  1. It predicts that reindeer ought to begin to spread out their levels of activity throughout the day and night in midwinter, to be better prepared to handle the complex specified task, which requires 24 hours or more of sustained activity. Reindeer activity could be monitored to test this prediction.
  2. It predicts that reindeer activity should be correlated with late December deliveries of artifacts to households around the world.
  3. It predicts that the polar distribution force is regulated, at least in part, by solar radiation. It might be possible to observe the incidence of solar radiation in the arctic, and to block the effects of reduced solar radiation with some really bright lights.

If the hypothesis is corroborated by these and other experimental tests, it might facilitate the delivery of artifacts, and/or the early detection of the appearance of the Arctic Artificer. Which would make my theory really important, and ha-ha-nanny-boo to those who deny the existence of an artifact production center somewhere near the North Pole.

I am pleased to report that there is a paper in the prestigious journal Nature which has evaluated my prediction A, and even though the authors had no idea that they were testing Arctic Artificer Theory, I can stretch this tenuous link to a tiny and irrelevant prediction which could also be interpreted to support many other alternatives as support for my grand theory, which is mine and reflects the glory of the Artificer, blessed be his unnamed name. (Oh, and if you can't guess what I'm talking about here, here's a clue.)

But seriously, there really are observations of circadian activity in arctic reindeer that suggest something interesting is going on in reindeer brains in midwinter and midsummer. It doesn't really support any claims of toyshops at the North Pole, but you knew that already.

Continue reading "A possible link between reindeer, daylight deficiency, and artifact delivery" (on Pharyngula)

University of Chicago Law Professor Albert Alschuler posted some comments on the Kitzmiller decision that are embarrassingly bad in many places. I can do no better than Brian Leiter in refuting them---his post deserves to be read in its entirety. But I do want to emphasize one point. Alschuler accuses Judge Jones of declaring that "[t]he first amendment makes intelligent design unmentionable in the classroom." As Leiter says, this is not even close to what Judge Jones said. Unfortunately, I expect this accusation to be repeated over and over again by those who profit greatly off of their image as a persecuted minority, hounded by evil atheist courts. All we can do is reiterate that it is not true.

The Court found that the government of Pennsylvania---acting through a local school board---has no authority to endorse a religious viewpoint by declaring that Intelligent Design is scientifically valid. But any individual in the Dover school district is free, today as always, to declare his personal belief in Intelligent Design, to tell other people about Intelligent Design, and to encourage people to read Of Pandas And People. What they are not free to do is to propagate ID on the government's dime and on the government's time. They are not free to spend taxpayer money on it, or put the government's seal of approval on it. But they are absolutely free to propagate it on their own time and in their own ways---indeed, it would be entirely illegal for the government to stop them from doing so.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how dangerous it is to confuse your right to do something with your power to do something with government money or with government authority. These two things are worlds apart. The Free Exercise Clause entirely protects the former. The Establishment Clause, however, severely restricts the latter---as it ought to.

The Discovery [sic] Institute has brought forth Prof. David DeWolf of Gonzaga University to evaluate the Kitzmiller case. Interestingly, DeWolf doesn't complain about Judge Jones' finding that the Dover ID policy violated the Establishment Clause. But he is bothered that Jones "went on to address the question of whether intelligent design is science." But this is not improper for a court to do.

Chiquitas Update

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Not long ago, as previously noted on the Thumb, Cal Thomas made noises in USA Today wondering whether “Darwinists” would show up for a debate on the merits of ID as a scientific enterprise.

That canard was rebutted by Patricia Princehouse of Case Western Reserve University and Ohio Citizens for Science, who said in a letter to USA Today:

The question is, will the designists show? Calls go out every day to present scientific data at scientific conferences. The designists are always busy that decade. Meanwhile, the scientific data supporting evolution continue to pour in on a daily basis and produce spinoff applications that create new medicine, more productive crops, cleaner water and better living for billions of people worldwide.

The Darwinists show up to work every day in thousands of labs around the globe. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Beckel, your guys are the ones who don’t show.

January. Cleveland. The “science” of ID. Put up or shut up.

In response, some of the expectable wingnuts came out of the woodwork, but finally Bill Dembski accepted the challenge to “put up or shut up”. While some of the formal details are not yet agreed on, Dembski has agreed to the time, date and venue:

Strosacker Hall on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, 7-9 pm January 3, with Ken Miller to represent the “Darwinist” position. We plan to webcast the event: details will follow as we have them. Miller will be there regardless of details.

We look forward to seeing Dembski’s affirmative evidence for the intelligent design conjecture. (I myself am hoping to see some validation data, reliability assessments, and calibration runs on Dembski’s design detection methodology, “specified complexity”. Anecdotes about political operatives and science fiction movies are a pretty thin empirical base for a putatively paradigm-changing methodology.)

RBH

I’ve got about 30 minutes to kill, so I might as well give some general thoughts on the IDists’ reactions to the cataclysmic Dover decision.

Panderichthys rhombolepis

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Panderichthys

Panderichthys is a widely recognized transitional form in tetrapod evolution (you know, one of those transitional fossils we're so often told don't exist). A description of a specimen with a well-preserved pelvic girdle has just been described in Nature, and it tells us some more about the history of tetrapod locomotion.

Panderichthys is an interesting animal—it definitely looks more like a fish than a salamander, but its fins are stout and bony, and other characteristics of its skeleton clearly ally it with the tetrapods. In the shift from an aquatic to a fully terrestrial life, the limbs and their supporting pectoral and pelvic girdles had to undergo major changes. In fish, the pectoral girdles are coupled to the skull, while the pelvic girdles are small and 'floating' in the musculature. To bear the animal's weight, the pectoral girdles lost their connection to the skull, and both became thicker, stronger, and more closely bound to the axial skeleton. The fins themselves had to change from a fan of slender fin-rays to more solid load-bearing digits. In Panderichthys, we see a mixture of these changes in process.

Continue reading "Panderichthys rhombolepis" (on Pharyngula)

Well, this is an interesting feeling. I am sitting in Starbucks, in downtown San Francisco, slurping a Frappucino, blogging on my laptop, across the street from the KQED studio (KQED is the San Francisco public radio station that I listen to every day), waiting to go on KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny. Could you get any more stereotypically-NPR-junkie-ish than this? I mean, apart from being in Minnesota at a Garrison Keillor event?

The show is obviously on Judge Jones’s Intelligent Decision on Intelligent Design. KQED’s audio is streamed on the web, so catch the show if you can. Apparently Casey Luskin will also be on. I imagine he has a few issues with the decision…

Whenever NPR needs a reliably ignorant voice from the Religious Right, they turn to their man at the Heritage Foundation, Joe Loconte. His most recent contribution, Intelligent Design Has a Place in the Classroom, is typical.

Contains No Original Ideas: Loconte’s main argument just echoes the testimony of Michael Behe at Dover, saying that intelligent design today is just like the Big Bang 70 years ago: originally resisted by scientists because of its religious implications, then ultimately accepted because of the evidence…

Read more at Recursivity, and leave comments there.

Last summer I travel to Fairbanks, Alaska to attend the Evolution 2005 conference at the University of Alaska. During my travels, I visited North Pole and stopped by Santa Claus’s house. Santa was there that day and eager to hear my Christmas list.

santa

I can’t say exactly what all I asked for because otherwise it won’t come true. However, the jolly old man came through for me earlier this week. Yes, Dover, there is a Santa Claus.

On my way out I feed Donner, who was looking a little warm in the surprisingly hot Alaska afternoon.

donner

I have many more pictures from my Alaska trip and will post the rest of them when I catch another break.

Since the charge of "judicial activism" is, predictably, being sounded by those who differ from Judge Jones in Kitzmiller, I thought it worthwhile to explain a little about what this term means. As I'll explain, while there are cases where judges certainly engage in what can be called "activism," it is more often the case that the charge of "judicial activism" is basically meaningless, or, worse, refers to the very concept of "judicial review" itself. Opposition to the institution of judicial review---led, in the modern day, by Robert Bork and his followers---is, in the views of many lawyers (and I'm one of them), a very, very serious threat to the American Constitution. The liberty and security of the people is in vastly more danger from legislative activism: the fact that legislatures routinely ignore their constitutional limitations, ride roughshod over the rights of the minority, do virtually anything a legislative majority demands of them, and then scream holy hell when a judge has the temerity to enforce the Constitution's limits.

Click here to read the rest at Positive Liberty.

Every cloud has a silver lining

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William Dembski, somewhat startled by the Dover ruling is looking for a positive note and seems to have found one which I can share:

This galvanizes the Christian community,” said William Dembski, a leading proponent of the theory and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think-tank that promotes intelligent design research. “People I’m talking to say we’re going to be raising a whole lot more funds now.”

Nothing would impress me more if these increased contributions could finally lead to a scientifically relevant contribution of Intelligent Design.

Although, as the Beatles said it so well with their song “[Money] can’t buy me love”, the same may very well apply to scientific relevance. In the same article, Zylstra provides us with a comment which may help us understand Dembski’s return to apologetics

Zylstra Wrote:

“The strength of intelligent design is as an apologetic - that God is the creator, but not a scientific explanation.”

The National Review weighs in on the Kitzmiller decision, going for their usual simplistic black & white dichotomizing. David Klinghoffer thinks the choice is God or Darwin. The split is between god-hating atheistic evilutionists (apparently, Judge Jones must be in that group, but I don't know anything about his religious beliefs) and good Jesus-loving Christian creationists, with no conscionable position in between.

To support his claim, he trots out a parade of the wicked: Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Steven Weinberg, Paul Mirecki, and…PZ Myers. Ooo-whee, I find myself in august company!

Continue reading "True Christians™ don't do science" (on Pharyngula)

Over at National Review Online, Prof. Lee Strang complains that "the recent Dover case shows just how far the Supreme Court's establishment-clause case law has strayed and also serves as a cautionary note to others who would include intelligent design in the public-school science classroom." He believes that the Everson case has led courts to "purge religion from the public square." This, of course, is nonsense, although very common nonsense.

This gem is too precious to be lost during the reaction to the Dover Decision.

Do you know how the Discovery Institute likes to say the Designer might not be God, but perhaps a Space Alien or Time Traveller?

Here’s a typical instance from Phillip Johnson:

“It certainly could be God, a supernatural creature, but in principle it could be space aliens of high intelligence who did the designing,” he says.

Well, look out, Phil - here comes Discovery’s Jonathan Witt, with what can only be described as a Freudian Slip.

Over at the shell-shocked Discovery [sic] Institute's blog, Casey Luskin lists ten complaints about the Kitzmiller decision. Much of it is predictable foot-stamping ("ID's not, not, not religion!") but it's worth some quick responses nevertheless.

The purpose of this thread is collecting the many remarkable/amazing/unbelievable quotes and reactions to Judge Jones’s decision yesterday in Kitzmiller v. Dover.

I’ll start with a tidbit indicating that there might even be some trouble brewing at the Discovery Institute, from nothing less than a Discovery Institute board member, Mike Vaska:

So, is it over?

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One question I received from a reporter yesterday asked, essentially, if the fight against intelligent design is over with yesterday’s decision. MSNBC has an article along a similar theme today, and those interviewed in the article say the same thing I did: it ain’t over by a long shot. (PZ has some similar sobering thoughts on the topic). While I do think the decision handed down yesterday will make it more difficult for anyone contemplating introducing ID into the classroom, as suggested in the MSNBC article, all that means is that the focus will have to shift a bit. I suspect we’ll see more of “teach the controversy” and less push to teach intelligent design–something the Discovery Institute has already moved to, anyway.

Additionally, while ID has been the major thorn in the side of pro-science groups, it’s obviously not the only bad science out there: just the best-funded. As discussed a few days ago, we still have huge challenges to deal with regarding science education in this country–and ID is but one facet of that. We still have groups that regularly spew misinformation about HIV/AIDS, vaccination, global warming, etc.–and certainly, the evolution deniers won’t be going away. Answers in Genesis is working on their “creation museum”, the Discovery Institute is still crying about the decision, and certainly ID proponents around the country are going to regroup and work on a revised strategy. This isn’t something that’s going to go away, and it’s not time to rest on our laurels.

My central passion is working on teaching good science, and getting both students and the general public interested in and educated about scientific topics–and that won’t change just because we’ve achieved a major victory against one faction of the anti-science movement. Thus, while I whole-heartedly salute and appreciate the efforts of all of those involved with this trial, the fact remains that we still have much more work to do. I hope many of you who’ve become interested in these issues during the Dover trial will stick with us as we deal with future challenges as well.

Kitzcarnival

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A one-shot blog carnival of material related to Judge Jones’ decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover lawsuit is now available at The Questionable Authority. If there are links that aren’t there that you think should be, feel free to leave them in the comments over there.

Am I psychic or what?

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Heck, we have like 10 posts on the Kitzmiller decision up today, so why not one more?

Now that Ed Brayton and Burt Humburg have told the story (direct link to Skeptic article) of how the Pandas drafts were discovered -- trust me, it was obvious if you really paid attention to the available historical sources -- I will share one other event that is leading me to suspect that I may have psychic abilities.

Burt Humburg and I wrote an article about the Dover trial that includes a lot of background information and behind-the-scenes stuff that most are probably unaware of. It will be in the next issue of Skeptic, but in light of today’s ruling, Michael Shermer, the editor of the magazine, decided to make it available on their website immediately. You can see it here.

With all the posting about the Dover decision, it is always good to remember that scientific problems are solved by scientists and aired in scientific journals, not in the legal arena. Investigators at Arizona State and Penn State Universities have placed the time of the human/chimp split between 5 and 7 million years ago - a sharper focus than that given by the previous collection of molecular and fossil studies, which have placed the divergence anywhere from 3 to 13 million years ago.

From the press release:

The scientists analyzed the largest data set yet of genes that code for proteins and also used an improved computational approach that they developed, which takes into account more of the variability -- or statistical error--in the data than any other previous study. Gene studies are needed to address this problem because the interpretation of the earliest fossils of humans at the ape/human boundary are controversial and because almost no fossils of chimpanzees have been discovered. "No study before has taken into account all of the error involved in estimating time with the molecular-clock method," said Sudhir Kumar, lead author on the report, which was published early online in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team describes its new statistical technique as a "multifactor bootstrap-resampling approach."

The abstract reads:

Molecular clocks have been used to date the divergence of humans and chimpanzees for nearly four decades. Nonetheless, this date and its confidence interval remain to be firmly established. In an effort to generate a genomic view of the human-chimpanzee divergence, we have analyzed 167 nuclear protein-coding genes and built a reliable confidence interval around the calculated time by applying a multifactor bootstrap-resampling approach. Bayesian and maximum likelihood analyses of neutral DNA substitutions show that the human-chimpanzee divergence is close to 20% of the ape-Old World monkey (OWM) divergence. Therefore, the generally accepted range of 23.8-35 millions of years ago for the ape-OWM divergence yields a range of 4.98-7.02 millions of years ago for human-chimpanzee divergence. Thus, the older time estimates for the human-chimpanzee divergence, from molecular and paleontological studies, are unlikely to be correct. For a given the ape-OWM divergence time, the 95% confidence interval of the human-chimpanzee divergence ranges from -12% to 19% of the estimated time. Computer simulations suggest that the 95% confidence intervals obtained by using a multifactor bootstrap- resampling approach contain the true value with >95% probability, whether deviations from the molecular clock are random or correlated among lineages. Analyses revealed that the use of amino acid sequence differences is not optimal for dating human-chimpanzee divergence and that the inclusion of additional genes is unlikely to narrow the confidence interval significantly. We conclude that tests of hypotheses about the timing of human-chimpanzee divergence demand more precise fossil-based calibrations.

See Sudhir Kumar, Alan Filipski, Vinod Swarna, Alan Walker, and S. Blair Hedges, "Placing confidence limits on the molecular age of the human-chimpanzee divergence" PNAS published December 19, 2005, 10.1073/pnas.0509585102/ [available online]

Caught in their own Wedge

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Judge Jones Wrote:

Plaintiffs’ science experts, Drs. Miller and Padian, clearly explained how ID proponents generally and Pandas specifically, distort and misrepresent scientific knowledge in making their anti-evolution argument.

and yet the DI continues to argue (and misrepresent)

Jonathan Witt Wrote:

Dover’s Darwinist Judge Rules Against Competing Theory of Intelligent Design

Only a small problem here: there is no competing theory of intelligent design. This is not only obvious to scientists but also to many ID proponents who have lamented about the lack of much of any scientifically relevant contribution of ID.

The Judge seemed to have grasped how desperate ID proponents are in their flawed arguments that ID is somehow scientific. While Judge Jones commented on Panda’s he may as well have been commenting on “Icons of evolution” or various other ID propaganda.

In this light the following observations by Judge Jones gain even more relevance

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

The real purpose behind the ID policy has been well established by Barbara Forrest et al. No wonder the DI has to dismiss this excellent review of the history of ID as ‘mythological’.

One taunt frequently directed at evolutionists is that we are unwilling to engage in fair and honest debate with our ID opponents. “If the evidence for evolution is as strong as you say,” runs the taunt, “then why are you so afraid to debate the other side?” This taunt became especially loud in the wake of the decision by scientists to boycott the Kansas evolution hearings a while back.

This decision shows what happens when evolution and ID are debated in a forum where facts and evidence are paramount, as opposed to flash and rhetoric. Creationists like public debates because they know that such debates are far more about theater than they are about science. The Kansas evolution hearings had nothing to do with science, and everything to do with providing cover for the foregone conclusion of an anti-science school board. Evolutionists are rightly skeptical about such venues.

I suspect that prior to this trial Judge Jones, a George W. Bush appointee, had probably spent little time immersed in the minutiae of the evolution/ID debate. Yet, after hearing a calm and sober presentation of the facts for both sides he wrote an opinion unambigously endorsing the anti-creationist arguments scientists have been making for years.

That, you see, is what happens when the facts are given a genuinely fair hearing.

Over at EvolutionBlog I have presented some further thoughts here, here, and here.

A couple of times during the trial (see here and here) I posted roundups of news articles about what had been going on with the case. I will be doing the same thing tonight, and will be including blog articles. Basically, this will be a one shot blog carnival.

I’ve only begun to skim around for material, but we’ve already got something like 10 posts on the topic here, so I’m anticipating that there will be plenty of stuff out there by this evening. I’m hoping to be able to make at least a representative sample available in a one-stop post.

Anyone wishing to submit links is more than welcome to. Please send them to [Enable javascript to see this email address.] no later than 2200H, HST (GMT -10:00) tonight. The one-shot carnival will be hosted on my personal blog and linked to from here.

I will be accepting and linking to pro-ID articles, but if you choose to submit a pro-ID link be warned that I will be commenting on the links I include, and I do not promise neutrality.

Strictly speaking, a decision by a federal district court---such as Kitzmiller---is only a decision by the lowest-level court: a trial decision. It only binds the parties to that decision. So Judge Jones' decision does not forbid a school board in Kansas or Kentucky or California from adopting the exact same ID policy that the Kitzmiller decision finds unconstitutional. However, a decision that is so thorough, and so convincing, and so clear, is likely to be extremely persuasive to other federal district judges.

Professor of Sociology Steven Fuller may not know much about the history or content of science (see his recent confusion – just like Linus Pauling’s! – about the difference between protein and DNA at Micheal Berube’s blog) but he is good at the kind of jargoneering that the Discovery Institute and its allies use to confuse the public about science. He is also not, as far as I know, aligned religiously or politically with the DI. This must have made him seem to the Thomas More Law Center as an excellent witness for the defense in the Kitzmiller trial. “See,” you can imagine the argument going, “even lefty post-modern professors think ID ought to be taught. This proves that the motive is not religious!”

Michael Behe has previously commented on his testimony in the Kitzmiller trial. He felt good about it; in fact, he thought it was exhilarating and fun.

I haven't the foggiest idea how the Judge will rule, but I think we got to show a lot of people that ID is a very serious idea.

Hmmmm…I wonder, what did the judge think of his testimony? Do you think there might be a way to, you know, find out?

Let's look in his decision for references to Behe! As it turns out, we owe a debt of gratitude to the good doctor of ID for the invaluable assistance of his testimony.

Continue reading "Thank you, Michael Behe" (on Pharyngula)

Discovery Institute goes on a jones

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The Discovery Institute has answered the Dover ruling. Predictably, they ignore the facts and findings by the Court, and stick to the politics.

According to the DI’s John West, the ruling is:

… an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate…

and Judge John E. Jones is

an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur.

The Discovery Institute has responded to the Kitzmiller decision, hurling out a thunderbolt of a press release. What else would they do?

"The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank researching the scientific theory known as intelligent design.

Their criticism has two predictable prongs: it was an activist judge, and this is censorship. Both objections have already been preempted by Judge Jones.

He was not an "activist judge", but was responding to reckless activism by "ill-informed" creationist activists. Judge Jones, by the way, was appointed by GW Bush.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

It was also not censorship. The judge goes out of his way to say that the creationists should be free to continue to study their ideas…they are just so poorly formed and without foundation that they do not meet the standards required to justify teaching it in a public school.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

The DI is going to have to go shopping for a new schtick. "Intelligent Design" has just been rubbished in the courts. Can we expect "Sudden Appearance Theory" to suddenly become fashionable?

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District is a major victory for science and a major blow to those who have tried to sneak religion into the classroom by disguising in scientific garb. But it's more than that. It is a brilliant, insightful, profound decision that reaches to the bottom of ID and finds it empty.

Dover

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I’ve just put my own first impressions of Judge Jones’ decision up over on my personal blog. Most of it’s redundant with other things that have been posted, so I won’t repeat it all here. I’m just going to copy over the bit that I don’t think has been said enough yet.

It is unclear what is going to happen next, given the outcome of the school board elections in Dover, and no matter what happens this decision is unlikely to mark the end of efforts to dilute the teaching of science in this country. But it sure is good to see that the federal courts are still willing to step in and protect our rights. Regardless of what happens next, thanks are due to a whole lot of people who put in a whole lot of time and effort on this case.

The expert witnesses for the plaintiffs, Barbara Forrest, Kenneth Miller, Kevin Padian, Robert Pennock, John Haught, Brian Alters, and Kevin Padian, worked as volunteers on this case. The lawyers from the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton put in an enormous amount of time, effort, and energy. Genie Scott, Wesley Elsberry, Nick Matzke, Susan Spath, and the rest of the staff at the National Center for Science Education worked tirelessly behind the scenes.

Thanks are particularly due to Tammy Kitzmiller, Bryan Rehm, Christie Rehm, Deborah Feinmore, Joel Lieb, Steven Stough, Beth Eveland, Cynthia Sneath, Julie Smith, Barrie Callahan, and Frederick Callahan - the plaintiffs in the case. They, and the partially overlapping group of parents who took back the school board, have demonstrated once again that a small group of committed people really can change things for the better.

Roll the Credits

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I want to take a break from our celebration of today’s ruling to hand out some much deserved credit to all of the people who worked so hard on this trial and accomplished so much. The names everyone sees in the paper are not the only people who have earned recognition for their tireless efforts. I have made a list of those people on my own blog. To see it, click here.

The judge in Dover strikes down ID. It's a solid and scathing judgment that declares teaching Intelligent Design in the schools is unconstitutional. The decision by Judge Jones is available—it's joyful reading for us on the side of science. Here are a few excerpts:

Plaintiffs accurately submit that the disclaimer mimics the one that the Fifth Circuit struck down as unconstitutional in Freiler in two key aspects. First, while encouraging students to keep an open mind and explore alternatives to evolution, it offers no scientific alternative; instead, the only alternative offered is an inherently religious one, namely, ID. 43 Freiler, 185 F.3d at 344-47 (disclaimer urging students to "exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion" referenced "Biblical version of Creation" as the only alternative theory, thus "encourag[ing] students to read and meditate upon religion in general and the "Biblical version of Creation" in particular.) Whether a student accepts the Board's invitation to explore Pandas, and reads a creationist text, or follows the Board's other suggestion and discusses "Origins of Life" with family members, that objective student can reasonably infer that the District"s favored view is a religious one, and that the District is accordingly sponsoring a form of religion. Second, by directing students to their families to learn about the "Origins of Life," the paragraph performs the exact same function as did the Freiler disclaimer: It "reminds school children that they can rightly maintain beliefs taught by their parents on the subject of the origin of life," thereby stifling the critical thinking that the class's study of evolutionary theory might otherwise prompt, to protect a religious view from what the Board considers to be a threat. Id. at 345 (because disclaimer effectively told students "that evolution as taught in the classroom need not affect what they already know," it sent a message that was "contrary to an intent to encourage critical thinking, which requires that students approach new concepts with an open mind and willingness to alter and shift existing viewpoints").

This is the best part to me…

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

Merry Kitzmas, everyone!

Win in Dover!

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The ruling should be available shortly, but I have just been informed by Robert Pennock, who testified at the Dover trial, that he has been told by the ACLU’s lead attorney that the ruling is a win for the good guys. Whether that win is big or small will depend on the wording of the decision. I’ll update as soon as we have the full text.

PT Media Advisory Panel, ready to give commentary on the news.

NCSE KvD resources

ACLU KvD resources

AU KvD resources

York Daily Record resources

York Dispatch Timeline

“Waterloo in Dover” gear. Outfit yourself for the trial. (Links to Wesley’s CafePress site. Proceeds go where Wesley thinks they will do the most good.)

2005/12/20: PLAINTIFFS PREVAIL! Judge Jones passed down a 139 page ruling which finds for the plaintiffs. Jones found the DASD policy violated both purpose and effect prongs of the Lemon test, asserts that “intelligent design” is not science, and that the policy also violates the Pennsylvania state constitution. The PDF is linked from the NCSE KvD site.

Judge John E. Jones Wrote:

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs’ rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants’ actions.

Defendants’ actions in violation of Plaintiffs’ civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT: 1. A declaratory judgment is hereby issued in favor of Plaintiffs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 such that Defendants’ ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Art. I, § 3 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 2. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, Defendants are permanently enjoined from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District. 3. Because Plaintiffs seek nominal damages, Plaintiffs shall file with the Court and serve on Defendants, their claim for damages and a verified statement of any fees and/or costs to which they claim entitlement. Defendants shall have the right to object to any such fees and costs to the extent provided in the applicable statutes and court rules.

s/John E. Jones III John E. Jones III United States District Judge

2005/11/04: (Warning: approximate quotes ahead.) At close, Pat Gillen remarked to Judge Jones, “Your honor, by my reckoning we have been here 40 days. That seems an auspicious number.” Jones replied, “So it seems, but it was not designed!” At which point the courtroom burst out in applause. Jones let that go on for about 15 seconds, then adjourned the court. And that finished off the testimonial, in-court phase of this case.

During that last day, the cross-examination of Scott Minnich continued. Stephen Harvey explored a number of issues with Minnich, such as whether the “tests” that Minnich and Behe have proposed were actually being performed by anyone (they aren’t), whether there could be multiple designers (there could be), and whether there might be an … evil … designer (yes, there could be). On that last, though, Harvey did not, at any time, hold his pinky up to the corner of his mouth.

Following lunch, the lawyers plotted out the remainder of the issues, such as the schedule for briefs (two weeks for initial, one week for revisions/responses). Judge Jones mentioned that it was his intention to provide a ruling on this case this year, meaning that the lawyers would be held to a tight schedule.

Exhibits… there were a number of exhibits entered into the record, including several things produced by Barbara Forrest that were not directly referred to in testimony. Among those items, one will find (once they go online) that in a draft of OPAP, there was an incomplete erasure of the word “creationist”, with an insertion of “design proponents” into it, meaning that students might have had the opportunity to learn the position of “cdesign proponentsists” on these matters. This verbal intermediate fossil was uncovered through the patient digging of Dr. Forrest.

Monty Python it is not

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As the verdict in the Dover Trial is about to be handed down, I would like to revisit a parody article at the Discovery Institute (DI) that was inspired, in part, by this trial. Once again, the DI shows a surprising amount of hamfistedness and cluelessness while trying to be funny. In an attempt to cast the ID movement in the role of Newton in the evolution wars, David Berlinski tries to make Newton a downtrodden genius ridiculed by the establishment. Once again, the truth is very different. Now, Berlinski's article is meant to be parody, but good (heck, even mediocre) parody is rooted in reality. This latest effort from the DI is so far removed from reality that even people with the vaguest notion of history will find it bizarre. Not bizarre funny, as a Monty Python fan I'm right alongside bizarre funny, but bizarre strange. The strangest thing is that the author, David Berlinski, has actually written on the history of science, and should know better.

Wells at ASCB

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Jonathan Wells has a hypothesis. He thinks that centrioles function as little turbines that generate a force on chromosomes that can destabilize them and lead to cancer; that's fine, I could see where that might be interesting and might be testable. Of course, he also argues that this idea is driven by intelligent design theory, and I don't see that at all. It's a mechanistic hypothesis about current processes in cells, and doesn't say a word about their history, so even if it is demonstrated to be true, there's nothing in it to contradict an evolutionary explanation for its origin.

Wells has been pushing this thing for a while. He presented it in a poster at the 2004 Biola "Intelligent Design and the Future of Science" conference, and published it in Rivista di Biologia (given the reputation of the journal and its editor, that's not a big deal). Now he has presented a poster of the "work" at the American Society for Cell Biology, and some attendees have posted photos and their evaluation. It ain't good.

They've posted a high res photo of the poster. As an old pro at reading posters on the fly, I can tell you what to do: zip over to the bottom right and read the conclusions first. That'll tell you if it's worthwhile to work your way through the whole thing.

The "results", in brief, are "I have a hypothesis. It predicts A, B, and C. If this pans out, it would be good." In other words, there are no results.

Move on, move on, nothing to bother with here. Hey, that poster by the first year grad student with his very first gels that show Obscure Protein Delta is phosphorylated sure looks fascinating…

…well, by comparison, anyway…at least the kid did some work.

Easterbrook on Dawkins

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Gregg Easterbrook is a scientific lightweight with a long, long history of goofy ideas; an apologist for religion and Intelligent Design creationism, and a shill for the Discovery Institute. He apparently has written well-regarded columns on football, but when it comes to science, his credibility is on the negative side of the number line. One of the characteristics of the incompetent, though, is that they do not recognize their own failings, so once again Easterbrook sallies forth, this time against Richard Dawkins. It's the nut against the nutcracker; the outcome is foreordained.

My personal position on Dawkins is somewhat complicated. I think he is definitely one of the best writers on our side of the argument; I think he is largely in the right on much of the science; I also think he is regrettably neglectful of development's role in evolution, which biases his thinking in ways that don't align with my biases; and I think he is dead-on target in his criticisms of religion's effect on society. I'm a bit different than many, who seem to think his description of science is exactly right and wish he'd shut up about religion: I think his science lacks some significant nuances, and want him to continue to speak out with vigor and clarity on the affliction of fundamentalism.

Easterbrook, of course, is outraged at the arrogance of the damned atheist.

Continue reading "Easterbrook on Dawkins" (on Pharyngula)

I have posted the email update from the U.S. Federal Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania over on the NCSE Kitzmiller blog. There will be one of those "hastily organized press conferences" with plaintiffs and the legal team in Harrisburg sometime tomorrow, assuming the decision comes down sometime during the day.

If anyone is feeling anxiety, don't. The fact that the judge is clearly aware of the importance of the issue, allowed us to build an extensive trial record in a long trial, let in all of the relevant evidence on the history and origins of ID, and is reportedly writing a very long opinion (which means he is addressing the evidence and not ignoring it) are all good signs.

Visiting KCFS

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Hi all. I’m on a quick trip back to the states, after having recently been in China with Dr. Steve Case visiting my relatives at the Panda Reserve. Today I was invited to a meeting of Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS) by my friend Jack Krebs, newly elected president of KCFS. Of course things are hopping in Kansas – the state standards which Jack and Steve worked on received an F from the Fordham Foundation because the state school board inserted a bunch of creationist stuff in them, the much awaited Dover decision may have bearing on the potential legal situation in Kansas, elections for the state Board of Education in August may determine whether the creationists stay in power, and so on.

Of course it wouldn’t be my place to comment on any of the day’s deliberations, but I thought I would share with you all a little bit of the flavor and ambience of a KCFS meeting.

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