February 5, 2006 - February 11, 2006 Archives

Those pathetic pesky details again

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Dembski has once again shown the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design.

On UncommonDescent Dembski has a posting titled Just say NO to Darwinian just-so stories

Dembski Wrote:

I guess that’s what happens when you assume that sequence similarity automatically means a common ancestry (of the gene). A more likely scenario is that both cells require a protein with the same function so they have a similar sequence by design.

Once again, an ID perspective seems much closer to reality than the Darwinian (Lamarckian?) just-so stories.

I am not going to argue whether or not the proposed hypothesis is accurate, what I am going to do is compare the science hypothesis with Dembski’s claim

Bad Philip Johnson Quote

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There is a quote that I’ve seen all over the place, and I believe even used myself over the years, from the founder of the ID movement, Philip Johnson. Here is the quote as it is usually given:

“The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to ‘the truth’ of the Bible and then ‘the question of sin’ and finally ‘introduced to Jesus.’”

The quote appears on over 400 webpages according to Google, and the source cited is the April 1999 edition of Church and State magazine. That magazine is published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and this article was written by Rob Boston. The problem is that this is not a quote from Philip Johnson, it’s a quote about Philip Johnson, and as it has gotten passed around it has often been attributed to Johnson himself. For the full text of the article, go here. Given how often we have criticized the creationists about inaccurate and out of context quotations, it is imperative that we avoid using this quotation ourselves.

Update: This is a good example, I think, of how our side handles such situations compared to the other side. I emailed Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic, last night because he had recently used the quote in an article, and I informed him that it was a paraphrase, not a quote. His immediate response was to say thank you for the correction and to call his publisher because the quote also appears in his forthcoming book and he wanted to make sure it got taken out so it wouldn’t get disseminated any further. Kudos to Shermer.

The Wisdom of Parasites

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On “the Loom”, Carl Zimmer presents a fascinating story about the Ampulex Compressa, a parasitic wasp who basically performs ‘brain surgery’ on her victim to provide for a food source for her off-spring.

Let’s explore this example of Intelligent Design

Is it specified? Yes, the wasp performs what seems to be ‘brain surgeon’ when carefully injecting a particular part of the brain with toxins.

Is it Complex? Yes, science is so far ignorance about how Ampulex manages to do these

Scientists don’t yet understand how Ampulex manages either of these feats. Part of the reason for their ignorance is the fact that scientists have much left to learn about nervous systems and metabolism. But millions of years of natural selection has allowed Ampulex to reverse engineer its host. We would do well to follow its lead, and gain the wisdom of parasites.

in fact human scientists have been unable to recreate this feat:

The Israeli researchers found that they could also drop oxygen consumption in cockroaches by injecting paralyzing drugs or by removing the neurons that the wasps disable with their sting. But they can manage only a crude imitation; the manipulated cockroaches quickly dehydrated and were dead within six days. The wasp venom somehow puts the roaches into suspended animation while keeping them in good health, even as a wasp larva is devouring it from the inside

Seem the Ampulex makes for a better showcase of intelligent design than the Bacterial Flagella, although if ID activists are to believed, the Intelligent Designer somehow created what would later evolve into the Type III secretory system used by such pest as the bubonic plague. Talking about Divine retribution…

Oh yes the original paper

Gal R, Rosenberg LA, Libersat F. Parasitoid wasp uses a venom cocktail injected into the brain to manipulate the behavior and metabolism of its cockroach prey. Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 2005 Dec;60(4):198-208. Other relevant papers can also be found at the Libersat’s site

On December 1, 2005, Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman delivered the 2005 Romanes Lecture at the University of Oxford. Her lecture was entitled “Strange Bedfellows: Science, Politics and Religion”, and addressed both evolution and intelligent design. You can read the full lecture here, but I’ll also provide some excerpts.

False Fear?

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Casey Luskin (remember him?)

“The course content expectations for science shall include using the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories and using relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories.”

(A Challenge to Evolution: Bill may stir Darwin issue, Detroit Free Press, January 28, 2006, by Chris Christoff and Lori Higgins)

Clearly this language has nothing to do with intelligent design and would simply bring scientific critique of theories taught in the classroom, and makes absolutely no mention of teaching intelligent design or any form of a “replacement theory” for those currently-taught theories that are being critiqued.

Clearly?… Perhaps Luskin forgot to read the rest of the article?

The ‘rest of the story’

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On Evolutionnews.org Casey Luskin can be observed making the following comments about a statement made by Ken Miller in a November 19, 2004 NPR program “Talk of the Nation”

Casey Luskin Wrote:

Will this role model inspire student interest in science?:

Ken Miller Wrote:

“I think the most destructive part of the disclaimer that’s on the textbooks in Georgia, is the last sentence. And it says something to the effect that students are urged to study this material carefully, critically examine it and consider it with an open mind.”

Biologist Dr. Kenneth Miller, star Darwinist expert biology witness in the Dover and Cobb County trials, on NPR, November 19, 2004

MIller’s statements and similar Darwinist policies lead to dogmatism in evolution education. This will not inspire enthusiasm for science in students. But teaching students about views which both support, and question, evolution, and then allowing them to evaluate and investigate this issue for themselves, will increase their interest in science!

Let me add some context that was omitted by Luskin to the claim by Miller.

Do the Kansas Science standards say “teach ID?”

The Discovery Institute and the Kansas state BOE say “no”.

I say “yes”.

Casey Luskin “challenges the Darwinists” - which I presume includes me, to back up our claim that the Kansas standards do say “teach ID”.

Well, here you go, Casey. Read on.

On evolutionnews.org various ID activists show a certain lack of logic. For instance, Bruce Chapman who argues that:

Chapman Wrote:

“Evolution Sunday is the height of hypocrisy,” says Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute the nation’s leading think tank researching scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution. “Why do Darwinists think it is not okay for people to criticize Darwin on religious grounds, but it is just fine to defend him on religious grounds?

”Sunday marks the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin and to celebrate 400 ministers have announced they will deliver pro-evolution sermons in conjunction with “Evolution Sunday.”

”Our view is not that pastors should speak out against evolution, but that the Darwinists are hypocrites for claiming–falsely–that opposition to Darwinism is merely faith based, and then turning around and trying to make the case that Darwinism itself is faith based,” added Chapman.

The issue is not whether or not Darwinian theory is faith based, it obviously isn’t but whether or not Darwinian theory necessarily conflicts with religious faith. A small but important distinction often overlooked by ID activists who have insisted on portraying Darwinian theory as necessarily anti-religious.

Read for instance the Mercury News which gets the issue correct

Also Sunday, ministers of more than 400 churches are scheduled to preach on the compatibility of evolution and religion.

Seems that the DI is threatened by science and religion exposing the flaws in the arguments of Intelligent Design activists. This Darwin Day Website provides links to the many events.

Here we find the original announcement, too bad the DI forgot to link to it

On 12 February 2006 hundreds of Christian churches from all portions of the country and a host of denominations will come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. For far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. More than 10,000 Christian clergy have already signed The Clergy Letter demonstrating that this is a false dichotomy. Now, on the 197th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, many of these leaders will bring this message to their congregations through sermons and/or discussion groups. Together, participating religious leaders will be making the statement that religion and science are not adversaries. And, together, they will be elevating the quality of the national debate on this topic.

If your church would like to join this national event, please send a note to [Enable javascript to see this email address.]. We welcome your participation.

To examine some of the sermons members of The Clergy Letter Project have delivered on this topic and to view some of the resources they have found useful, click here.

441 Congregations from 49 states and the District of Columbia are participating as of 9 February 2006

Rather than objecting, the DI should embrace the effort to improve people’s understanding of evolutionary theory and the claims that evolutionary theory is incompatible with religious faith. I guess, teaching the controversy is a one way street…

PT readers - if you are in New Mexico this Sunday, come on over to the Darwin Day meeting. It’s free! Details follow.

Cheers, Dave Thomas

New Mexicans for Science & Reason (NMSR), along with the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math (CESE) and the New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS), will hear Pedro Irigonegaray, Kansas attorney, on “Darwin Day 2006.”

The meeting is free, open to the public, and will be held at 2:00 PM on SUNDAY, February 12th, at the Anthropology Lecture Hall, Room 163, on the UNM Campus in Albuquerque (from I-25, east on M.L. King Jr. thru University, immediate left, north a couple blocks to the Anthro Hall on the right).

Purpose, specification and function

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Two threads combine in this posting. First my comments on the Beckwith thread where I show how Dembski and Behe use the term specification or purpose to refer to “function”, and secondly a thread on strings in which the concept of purpose arose again.

First let’s revisit Dembski’s and Behe’s position on function which shows that their use of the term specification or purpose clearly refers to function.

van Till Wrote:

However, when it comes time for Dembski to support his conviction that the bacterial flagellum is specified, the procedure becomes considerably more casual, almost facile. Speaking on the specification of biological systems in general, Dembski simply asserts that, “Biological specification always refers to function. An organism is a functional system comprising many functional subsystems. In virtue of their function, these systems embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specification criterion.”NFL, p. 148.In these four brief sentences the foundation of Dembski’s entire strategy for certifying the specification of biotic systems is laid.

Or in Behe’s terms “a purposeful arrangement of parts” where purpose and function are interchangeable.

Behe Wrote:

Q The whole positive argument for intelligent design as you ve described it, Professor Behe, is look at this system, look at these parts, they appear designed correct?

A Well, I think I filled that out a little bit more. I said that intelligent design is perceived as the purposeful arrangement of parts, yes. So when we not only see different parts, but we also see that they are ordered to perform some function, yes, that is how we perceived design.

Page 44 of Behe’s cross examination on Day 11 of the Kitzmiller trial. See also Analysis of Behe’s Testimony, Part 1: Purpose and Function at “Dispatches from the Culture Wars”

Beckwith, ID and science

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Francis Beckwith, author of various papers on the constitutionality of Intelligent Design recently visited the comments section of PT. Since Beckwith’s legal arguments are based on the premise that intelligent design is science, I will comment.

Francis Beckwith Wrote:

Dear Lenny:

First off, how’s Squiggy? Second, and more seriously, I’ve addressed your question in several of my works, including my book Law, Darwinism, and Public Education. The short answer is that there are no necessary and sufficient conditions to distinguish science from non-science on which philosophers of science agree. So, for me, the issue of what counts as “science” is not relevant. What is relevant is whether the argument offered for the point of view, ID or something like it, is reasonable or not obviously irrational and it does not rely on sacred scripture or religious authority.

Let’s for the sake of furthering the discussion point out that ID is scientifically vacuous. In other words, skip the issue of whether or not it is science, since this presents ID actvists with an opportunity to argue philosophy rather than addressing the issue at hand. That ID is religiously motivated and that ID’s designer is supernatural is self evident. So the question becomes: Can ID be reformulated in a manner which would make it non-religious and still scientifically relevant? The simple answer is no.

Does ID Get a Pass?

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On Friday, Feb. 3rd, I was able to pose a question to Greer-Heard Forum headliners Michael Ruse and William Dembski. Here’s a transcript of that segment:

WRE:Actually I’m interested in a public policy aspect of this whole thing. Last month, I got on the Web of Science database search and looked up the term “cold fusion” and it came up with 900 papers there. “Cold fusion” is the poster child for the “not-ready-for-prime-time” physics theory, something that is not ready for going into 9th grade biology, no, physics textbooks. We see the process of science in things like plate tectonics, and the endosymbiotic theory, the neutral theory, and punctuated equilibria, these are things that have earned a place in the textbooks, because the people put in the work, they convinced the scientific community that they had a point, and that’s why they’re in the textbooks. So, what I’d like to hear from both of you is, is there a justification for giving intelligent design a pass on this process?

For the answers, visit The Austringer. Comments may be left there.

As many of you know, I’m a graduate student in a zoology department. When I tell kids that, most of them think I’m studying to become a zookeeper. They also usually think that’s something pretty cool. When I explain that I’m really studying to be a scientist who studies how animals change, it usually turns out to be a letdown. For some reason, kids are usually happier thinking that I might get eaten by the lion or stepped on by an elephant.

Anyway, what I actually study is speciation mechanisms. What that means is that I’m trying to look at the DNA of closely related species in order to figure out why they wound up as different species. There are a lot of questions left to answer, and lots of scientists are working in this area.

I’m guessing that right about now at least some of you are thinking something along the lines of, “Hey, wait a minute! Haven’t you guys been telling us that Darwin figured that out way back when?”

Read More (at The Questionable Authority):

Intelligent Design and String Theory

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On the Science and theology blog, Matt Donnelly describes better than I could ever, the difference between Intelligent Design and String theory. While some ID activists have claimed that ID is as ‘scientific’ as String theory (or multiverses or …), they miss a few points. Matt Donnelly’s posting is based on an Editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “A scientific leap, but without the faith”written by Amanda Gefter.

In my own words:

1. ID is an ad hoc argument to explain something we do not understand. String theory or multiverses follow logically or mathematically from observations.

2. ID is in principle unfalsifiable, string theory and mutliverses are just hard to falsify

3. String theory and multiverses fall into a category which is best described as

But the real danger is not string theory’s lack of experiments — it is the misrepresentation of what scientific theories are all about. Sure, falsifiability is a key component of the scientific method. But there is something that matters more: the power of explanation. History reveals that the structure of a theory itself — its internal mathematical consistency, its scope, and its beauty — often determines whether it is accepted as science.

Answering Sal Cordova’s Questions

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Over at Dembski’s blogosphere home for wayward followers, Sal Cordova has been crowing lately about what he apparently thinks is a real stumper for those who oppose ID. Twice now he has smugly declared that two PT contributors, Nick Matzke and Jack Krebs, are “reluctant” to answer his conundrum and that, any way it’s answered, our side is “hosed”. So excited about this “vise strategy” that he can’t wait to get us in court to ask us, apparently thinking that he has devised some sort of Perry Mason moment. The problem for him is that his question cum argument by implication is in fact trivially easy to answer.

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

One of the main defenses of ID creationists on the Ohio State Board of Education is that in their “process”, the drafting of standards, benchmarks, and model lesson plans was vetted by several committees composed of scientists and educators. Father Michael Cochran brandished that argument during the January OBOE meeting, as did Jennifer Sheets, who was Board President during the development of standards and lesson plan. But processes can be subverted, Ms. Sheets, and this process was completely subverted. ODE packed the lesson plan writing committee with creationists and ignored its internal and external advisors and reviewers. And now we learn that ODE ignored the advice from members of its Science Content Standards Advisory Committee. And both sides on the Board claim they never heard about any of that!

In its addition of the “critical analysis” standard and benchmark the Board violated its own process. The benchmark at issue, H23 in the 10th grade life sciences standards, was inserted by the Board itself, not by the writing committee that was advised by the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee.

We know already that internal and external consultants to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) repeatedly warned that the “critical analysis” model lesson plan was a rehash of old and oft-discredited creationist canards. Now we know that ODE was also warned about the “critical analysis” standard early in the process. There was no lack of forewarning to ODE; one wonders why those warnings did not get to the Board from ODE.

Yesterday in an open letter to Governor Taft (see below), 75% (24 of 32) of the members of the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee, composed of scientists and educators, agreed that the standard is flawed.

The Ohio Board of Education accepted those standards in December 2002. The Board, however, added an indicator-benchmark singling out biological evolution from the rest of science by requiring students to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”.

Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the Board sent the message that it “believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.” This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically. We also noted that such wording created an opportunity to teach creationist misrepresentations of science to Ohio’s students. Indeed, such a lesson tied to this indicator was prepared and accepted by the Ohio Board of Education in March 2004. (Bolding added)

Moreover, at the January 2006 Board meeting, several creationist Board members argued that the model lesson plan and standard could be reviewed in future during the normal course of the “process” in ODE. However, when pressed, ODE senior management admitted that there is no such review process in place.

So there was a subverted writing process and there is no review process in place. Now only the Board can rectify its mistake. Governor Taft is to be commended for his recent stand, described here, on the undesirability of ID in Ohio public schools. Now he must follow through. His appointees were the main support for the creationist benchmark and lesson plan. They must rethink that support.

The full letter to Governor Taft is below the fold.

Evolution of a polyphenism

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hornworm_morphs_tease.jpg

Here's some very cool news: scientists have directly observed the evolution of a complex, polygenic, polyphenic trait by genetic assimilation and accommodation in the laboratory. This is important, because it is simultaneously yet another demonstration of the fact of evolution, and an exploration of mechanisms of evolution—showing that evolution is more sophisticated than changes in the coding sequences of individual genes spreading through a population, but is also a consequence of the accumulation of masked variation, synergistic interactions between different alleles and the environment, and perhaps most importantly, changes in gene regulation.

Unfortunately, it's also an example of some extremely rarefied terminology that is very precisely used in genetic and developmental labs everywhere, but probably makes most people's eyes glaze over and wonder what the fuss is all about. I'll try to give a simple introduction to those peculiar words, and explain why the evolution of a polyphenic pigment pattern in a caterpillar is a fascinating and significant result.

Continue reading "Evolution of a polyphenism" (on Pharyngula)

Some of our readers, concerned about science education in the UK, have started a forum on the issue:

Science, Just Science.

Check it out.

Another ID martyr?

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A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA New York Times - 9 hours ago George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

NY Times

In an earlier email sent by Deutsch to Flint Wild, a Nasa contractor Deutsch stated:

Deutsch Wrote:

The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.”

Last week the NY Times reported that a young political appointee, George C. Deutsch, with no science background was interfering with the scientific mission at NASA. Specifically he was trying to ensure that scientists at NASA didn’t release information that conflicted with the policies of the White House. (He was not alone in this.) This was covered on many blogs. (Pharyngula has a list.)

The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the “war room” of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word “theory” needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.”

Today the NY Times is reporting that Deutsch has resigned from his political position at NASA because Nick Anthis at Scientific Activist discovered that Deutsch was a college drop out, lying on his resume.

Through my own investigations I have just discovered that George Deutsch, the Bush political appointee at the heart of administration efforts to censor NASA scientists (most notably to prevent James Hansen from speaking out about global warming), did not actually graduate from Texas A&M University. This should come as a surprise, since the media has implied otherwise, with even The New York Times describing the 24-year-old NASA public affairs officer, as “a 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M.” Although Deutsch did attend Texas A&M University, where he majored in journalism and was scheduled to graduate in 2003, he left in 2004 without a degree, a revelation that I was tipped off to by one of his former coworkers at A&M’s student newspaper The Battalion. I later confirmed this discovery through the records department of the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students.

Deutsch’s former coworker informed me that in the summer of 2004, when Deutsch was the Opinion Editor for The Battalion, he was offered a position in George W. Bush’s presidential reelection campaign. The position was apparently too good to turn down, so Deutsch not only left his editorial post, but he also left A&M completely. Deutsch’s coworker was not aware of him returning to A&M to complete his education. I investigated this further, and through the Association of Former Students, I learned that George Deutsch never graduated from Texas A&M, and the last record of him was from June 9, 2004, when he withdrew.

I’m still wondering why a 24-year-old college dropout with no scientific experience was appointed to a position at NASA and encouraged to substitute his own opinion for NASA science.

I bet he gets a job working for the Discovery Institute.

There is a bill in the Wisconsin state legislature that would ban the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public school science classrooms there. I have a brief analysis available at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Update: I’ve also got the full text of the bill, which reads as follows:

SECTION 1. 118.018 of the statutes is created to read:

118.018 Science instruction. The school board shall ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following:

(1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes.

(2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

Can you hear me NOW?

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I have a confession: although I am convinced that, at this stage of the game, the vast majority of ID’s claims are either consciously or unconsciously fraudulent, I sometimes find it hard not to feel empathy for some of its proponents. Perhaps because of his legitimate scientific training and past accomplishments, Behe in particular strikes me as worthy of compassion, someone who is often more deceived (by his fellow ID advocates, his Creationist groupies and adulators, and his own ego) than deceiver.

Although I was not there to see him, the transcripts of his appearance at the Kitzmiller trial make for compelling, almost tragic reading, transpiring with steadfast quasi-delusional self-assurance as the testimony unfolded into a progressively more predictable humiliating fiasco. This impression was reinforced when Behe confidently stated, on the ID-the-Future weblog, that as far as he was concerned his testimony was pretty much a smashing success (the need for such an act of unequivocal public reassurance, with the verdict still unknown and in the works, is in itself puzzling to me). I can just barely imagine what reading Judge Jones’ ruling must have felt like for Behe. Very clearly, his own claims were the centerpiece of the decision, and their surgical, at times merciless dismantling was the main motivation for the final decision that ID “science” is essentially a sham.

It took Behe some time to answer Judge Jones’s verdict, but his reply is surprisingly weak, at times almost whiny. Behe directly takes on 20 statements from the central, and crucial, part of Judge Jones’s decision, supporting its conclusion that ID is not science. Most often, Behe’s answers consist of simply repeating the arguments he made at trial, as if the Judge was just hard-of-hearing instead of utterly unconvinced by them. And when Behe does try to explain himself, the outcome is often worse.

The Georgia Journal of Science has published several articles about Intelligent Design presented during a 2005 Symposium titled titled “Teaching Evolution and the Challenge of Intelligent Design”

Teaching Evolution and the Challenge of Intelligent Design: A Symposium by John V Aliff Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse: A Closer Look at Intelligent Design by Barbara Carroll Forrest Countering Public Misconceptions About the Nature of Evolutionary Science by Keith B Miller Why “Intelligent Design” is More Interesting than Old-Fashioned Creationism by Taner Edis

In his introduction, John V Aliff, quickly settles the matter

Aliff Wrote:

Intelligent Design theory is not a valid scientific theory for these reasons: 1.) Its hypothetical, intuitive and religious assumption of the intelligent design of complex systems is not testable or falsifiable using the scientific method, 2.) ID “theory” cannot develop hypotheses, and 3.) ID theory does not predict new discoveries as a true scientific theory does. More simply put, ID cannot explain natural phenomena beyond the intuitive and religious assumption that “God did it.”

Evolution Sunday

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Feb. 12, 1809 was the day on which both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born. Though we now celebrate Lincoln’s birthday on President’s Day, Feb. 12th is still referred to as Darwin Day and celebrated around the world. This Sunday, it will be celebrated in churches as well. The same folks who put together the Clergy Letter Project, a letter supporting evolution signed by over 10,000 clergy, have organized over 400 churches to celebrate Darwin Day by teaching on the subject in church this Sunday. This is a very valuable project for reaching out to people who have been taught all their lives that evolution equals atheism. For information on Evolution Sunday, go here.

I was contacted this afternoon by Scott Hechinger, a recruiter for the New York City Teaching Fellows program. New York City has a chronic shortage of math and science teachers and they developed this program to help alleviate that shortage. In the last five years, this program has helped 7500 people go through a subsidized Master’s Degree program and become math and science teachers, but they need many more. If any of you out there have a bachelor’s degree in a math or science related subject and are interested in becoming a teacher, they are taking applications for the June 2006 class right now. You can get grad school almost entirely paid for and have a job guaranteed when you finish. Not a bad deal. So if anyone is interested, click on over and contact them for more information.

Rothschild and Kitzmiller in Ohio: February 12

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Eric Rothschild, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, et al. and Tammy Kitzmiller, the lead plaintiff, will speak in Columbus, Ohio, on February 12.

Rothschild, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Pepper Hamilton LLP, will speak on “An Inside Look at the Dover Intelligent Design Case and What it Means for Ohio.” Kitzmiller will describe her experiences as lead plaintiff in the case.

In addition to Rothschild and Kitzmiller, Dr. Hillel Chiel, Professor of Biology, Neurosciences, and Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, will speak on “Religion vs Evolution: An Unnecessary Struggle for Survival”. Dr. Chiel, an orthodox Jew, studies brain-behavior relationships as they affect survival and reproductive success in biological populations.

Rothschild, Kitzmiller and Chiel will speak at Congregation Tifereth Israel, 1354 East Broad Street in Columbus, at 3:00 pm on Sunday, February 12. The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the talks.

The event is sponsored by Ohio Citizens for Science.

Judge John E. Jones III, who heard the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in Federal Court in Harrisburg, PA, found that intelligent design is no more than traditional creationism with a new name, and thus is unconstitutional to teach in public schools. Judge Jones’ decision, a model of judicial clarity, described a number of points that have direct parallels in the actions of the Ohio State Board of Education over the last three years. As I put it in the Columbus Dispatch, “The State Board of Education’s retention of the intelligent-design based model lesson plan has set a “Dover trap” for every school district in Ohio” (Letter, Jan 27, 2006).

RBH

So, I watched the SuperBowl last night (mandatory, I think, ‘cause the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger is from my tiny little hometown) and saw this FedEx commercial, which has humans living amongst T. rexes and pterodactyls. Can’t wait to see this posted on Answers in Genesis as more proof that people are increasingly being swayed to the “truth” of their message–and during the biggest television event of the year, no less! They’re probably being showered with donations to their Creation museum even as I write.

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