Ian Musgrave posted Entry 2386 on June 18, 2006 04:26 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2381

Ann Coulter is a “provocative” American conservative columnist (more what we Australians would call a “Shock Jock”) who has written a book titled “Godless: the Church of Liberalism”. Four of her chapters (8-11) are on evolution. Now, we know Coulter is going to be provocative, and no-one expects these chapters to follow the guidelines of the Journal of Molecular Evolution, but within the limitations of a popular book by someone who is not a biologist, how does she handle evolution?

Badly; really, really badly. As PZ Myers has just posted, she basically repeats every Creationist canard ever produced (she does the no transitional fossils argument on page 216), and even some that the creationists themselves have since abandoned such as the tautology argument (page 199). What she doesn’t get wrong is badly misrepresented. Behe, Dembski and Berlinksi are thanked fulsomely for their help with the evolution section (see Acknowledgments, page 303); they should hang their heads in shame.

As usual with Creationist writing, it requires far more space to explain why Coulter is wrong than it took her to make the creationist arguments in her original manuscript. To give you a flavour of how she handles evolution in general, I’ll look at her treatment of natural selection and peppered moths.

To start with, Coulter can’t even get the colour of the moths right, stating that a light grey moth was “magically transformed” into a slightly darker grey moth (chapter 9, page 236). The moths actually went from near white/light grey to black. You can see a picture of them, here. Replacing a population with the cc alleles (the genes that make white moths white) with a population which only has the CC alleles (the genes that make dark moths dark), is not magic, but standard population genetics.

Coulter gives a brief overview of the peppered moth story, obscuring things from the outset by describing it as “legend.” It’s not clear what exactly she thinks is “legend”, the rise in the dark form of the peppered moth, or the hypothesis that natural selection was involved.

I’ll give a brief overview, to put her inadequate account into perspective. After the industrial revolution, woods near industrial cites were heavily polluted by soot. The trunks and branches were turned black by soot fallout. Even the very ground was black. Peppered moths were pale grey moths with a sprinkling of dark speckles, which made them near invisible when resting on lichen-covered trees, or trees with pale bark such as poplars or birches. The first known dark colored peppered moth was found in 1848, well after the start of the industrial revolution, in Manchester, England. By 1895, 98% of the peppered moths in that area were dark. The increases in the dark form followed in a pattern that radiated out from Manchester. Similar changes were seen in industrial Europe and America. This was what was observed, and is not in any way “legend”. The pattern of spread of the dark form is consistent with a mutation that first occurred around Manchester and then spread due to natural selection (and we know that the dark form is due to a change in a single gene). Haldane formally proposed that is was due to natural selection, and Bernard Kettlewell took to the field to test the proposal.

Hmm, make an observation, form a hypothesis and test it. Now what does that sound like? Science perhaps? You wouldn’t know it from Coulter’s account.

Typically, Coulter misrepresents the significance of the peppered moth experiments. She loudly proclaims that the moths remained just moths. This is a standard creationist statement, and may be found on a number of creationist web sites. The purpose of Kettlewell’s and others experiments was not to study speciation, it was to determine if the changes in peppered moth genotypes was due to natural selection. Her statement is bracketed by hyperbole, claiming that the changes in the peppered moth are “not the sort of metamorphosis that turns a mosquito into a German shepherd” (Chapter 9, Page 356). Now, again I know Coulter is trying to be outrageous and provocative, but that is a wildly ignorant misrepresentation of evolution (see an appropriate definition here, and the TO-FAQ’s on evolutionary biology are always a good starting point for people not familiar with biology). Again, Behe, Dembski, and Berlinski, who are Coulter’s tutors, should hang their heads in shame. Behe especially, because he actually knows this account is false. Organisms don’t metamorphose, but each successive generation will leave offspring that are slightly dissimilar to the parent generation [see note], and, slowly by our standards, their remote descendent are phenotypically distinct. It took nearly half a billion years for an Amphioxus-like invertebrate to evolve into a dog, so we don’t expect these level of changes to be seen in our experiments. But that doesn’t matter to Coulter.

Coulter, pg. 236 wrote:

Evolutionists were so excited about the peppered moth’s changing hue, they couldn’t be bothered with testing the theory. It had to be true.

Now, again this is probably supposed to be cute outrageous hyperbole, but nevertheless let’s contrast this with what really happened. While the spread of the dark peppered moths was observed late in the 19th century and early in the 20th century, researchers were unsure of the physiological basis of the change. While Tutt proposed as early as 1896 that selective visual predation by birds was responsible for the change, it was not announced as “proof” of evolution (or natural selection). Lots of work had to be done. First, the genetic basis of the change had to be established (as it was with later experiments). Second, in the 1920’s and 30’s explanations that were not based on natural selection were explored (and rejected). Third, in 1924, Haldane’s quantitative theoretical paper was published, showing that the rise of the peppered moth was consistent with natural selection. So by the end of the 1930’s the basic genetics of the peppered moth had been sorted out, a quantitative theory established and most (but not all) alternative explanations eliminated. Still, no one ever said that the peppered moth story proved either evolution or natural selection.

Then the Second World War intervened. At the end of the Second World War, scientists could start their researches again, but slowly, due to the financial constrains in post war Europe and America.

Coulter, pg. 236 wrote:

It wasn’t until the early fifties that anyone thought to test the theory.

Well, as we have seen, people actually were working on the problem in various ways well before the 1950’s. Apart from World War II, there were practical considerations that delayed anyone doing a direct experiment. The actual collecting methods had to be refined so that statistical analyses of data could be performed. Bernard Kettlewell was a pioneer in using radioactive tracers to study ecological interactions, and he came to Oxford to work with another pioneer, E.B. Ford. Ford’s experimental procedures for statistically studying population genetics in wild populations developed in the late 1940’s, with Ford conducting his own experiments in quantitative release-recapture. This kind of thing was called “ecological genetics” and was started by a small group of scientists at Oxford who saw the need to apply the recently-developed science of population genetics to populations in the wild. Such experiments, involving replications and controls (not just going out and counting bugs) were large-scale and relatively expensive, making them not practical in the early post-war years.

At about this point, Coulter starts really going off the rails. First she describes Bernard Kettlewell, who was a Nuffield Research Fellow at the Department of Genetics and Zoology at the University of Oxford, as E.B. Ford’s “assistant”. He wasn’t. He was an independent researcher in his own right. Ford didn’t send him out. He developed and executed his own experimental protocol. Coulter even has Ford placing moths on tree trunks, when Ford was never involved in the experimental work (see below). This is inexcusably sloppy, and Behe, Dembski and Berlinksi should be cringing in embarrassment right now.

Coulter’s description of the experiments, undoubtedly exaggerated for provocative effect, completely misrepresents them. Coulter makes fun of peppered moths and the desegregation of U.S. public schools at the same time, saying,

Coulter, p. 236 wrote:

“For two years black moths were bused out of the inner-city areas to the suburbs, while white moths were bused into the inner-city areas. Then both groups were monitored to see how long each survived. (Is it just me, or does this scenario sound oddly familiar?)

This clearly a deliberately tasteless joke [note2], but it is worth noting for the clueless that no dark moths were “bused” to suburban areas, nor were light moths “bused” to inner city areas. All of the experiments occurred in rural woodlands, not cities. The unpolluted woodlands were in a rural area away from industrial locations, while the polluted woodlands were rural but downwind of Manchester, and subjected to significant smog fallout. Black and white moths were both raised in the Department at Oxford, and transported to both sites from Oxford [note3].

But this is only part of the story, if you will bear with me for a moment. Kettlewell did several different experiments:

1. Direct observation and filming. Kettlewell and others observed birds eating moths directly off trunks of trees. This was done both in experiments in an aviary, as well as outdoor experiments in the polluted and unpolluted sites.

2. Camouflage rating. Kettlewell visually ranked the effectiveness of camouflage of moths on different backgrounds and compared the effectiveness of camouflage with predation rates both in an aviary and in the field.

3. Release-recapture experiments. Kettlewell marked and released both light-colored and dark moths early in the morning, and recaptured some the next night in both pheromone and light traps (using mercury-vapor lamps). In polluted woods, he and his assistants recaptured more dark moths than light-colored, whereas in unpolluted woods they recaptured more light-colored than dark coloured.

4. Geographical distribution. This is not an experiment per-se, But Kettlewell noted that the distribution of the dark moths in the country closely matched the areas of industrialization.

The release-recapture experiments are the ones that capture the most attention, but the direct observation experiments and aviary experiments also supported the results from the release-recapture experiments.

When the experiments were completed, Ford didn’t triumphantly announce the results. Instead, they were published by Kettlewell in peer-reviewed research journals, and then Kettlewell brought further attention to them via publications in Scientific American, and lecture tours. However, at no time did either Kettlewell or Ford claim that the observations “proved” evolution all by themselves, or that natural selection by visual bird predation was the only factor in the rise of the dark peppered moths (although it was considered the major factor). They did, however, note that they had experimental documentation of natural selection producing an adaptation in a wild population, and although such results are commonplace today, at the time it was one of the first instances of this kind of experimental work.

Indeed, when Kettlewell published his first, massive paper showing selective predation on poorly camouflaged moth forms in polluted woods the response was a bit ho-hum. It was his second paper, where famed ethnologist Nico Tinbergen actually filmed birds eating resting moths (and where the complementary data set, that dark moths were selectively predated in unpolluted woods was performed, along with a second replication of the study in polluted woods that addressed some criticism of the first study) that people sat up and took notice. Still, this didn’t stop people trying to replicate the data, in different localities and with experimental set-ups to address some limitations of the original studies. There have been at least 30 independent experimental replications of Kettelwell’s original experiments, and they all confirm his work.

Now Coulter goes seriously wrong, and starts flinging around baseless accusations of fraud.

Coulter, p. 236-237 wrote:

It was so logical, so intuitive, and so fake…. American lepidopterist Ted Sargent and others pointed out that peppered moths do not rest on tree trunks, but on the undersides of high branches.

Unfortunately for Coulter, Peppered moths do rest on tree trunks as well as branches (see also Howlett and Majerus, 1987). In fact, they rest all over the trees, although most prefer trunk postions underneath branches. Bernard Kettlewell, a keen naturalist, noted this explicitly himself in one of his papers, which is why in his release-recapture experiments he released the moths on trunks and branches. It’s in the original papers, which for some reason none of the creationists bother to read. (Coulter herself uses only newspaper accounts and flawed popular books such as Icons of Evolution for her sources, and did not go to the original work herself). No fakery was involved.

Coulter, p. 237 wrote:

It turned out Ford and his assistant had rigged the game by physically placing light moths on black tree trunks in the bright light of day – someplace the moths would never have been if left to their own devices.

Well, as noted above Ford never placed a single moth. Kettlewell and his assistants placed moths on trees before dawn, and let the moths take up their own positions on trunks and branches, and made sure they were all out of direct sunlight (not, “the bright light of day”). Thus, in these experiments the moths were released into areas naturally occupied by peppered moths, and thus the experimental results will be reasonably representative moths in the wild. In one experiment, Kettlewell let the moths fly to their own resting places of choice. Also, in the release-recapture experiments, Kettlewell picked up moths that had spent at least one day on trees in positions they had flown to and chosen of their own accord. No rigging involved.

Furthermore, other researchers have looked at the relationship between different resting sites. Howlett and Majerus (1987) have done a pilot experiment comparing predation of moths on exposed trunks with predation of moths in shadow at trunk-branch junctions, the major resting site found in field observations. Differential predation was still observed for moths placed at shadowed trunk-branch junctions. For example, in polluted woods, more pale moths were taken by birds than dark moths, regardless of whether they were on exposed trunks or shadowed trunk-branch junctions. So, not only was no fraud involved, but different experimental setups used by different researchers have confirmed the validity of Kettlewell’s work. Estimates of the strength of selection may vary between experiments, but the statistical support for hypothesis that moths are favored in environments where they better match the background is strong.

Coulter, p. 237 wrote:

But what about those photos? The famous photos of the peppered moths were staged, often by literally gluing dead moths to tree trunks.

Yes, because they were illustrations of differential camouflage, and nothing more. It’s a lot easier to show that dark and light forms have differential camouflage by putting them side by side on the same surface than show multiple pictures. The pictures are not meant to “prove” that moths rested on tree trunks (which they sometimes do: see Majerus’s magisterial 1998 book for unstaged pictures of moths resting on tree trunks), or that natural selection occurs (just read the captions). They do graphically show something real, that light moths are very poorly camouflaged on trees darkened by pollution, and dark moths are poorly camouflaged on unpolluted trees.

So, no fraud, and results that have been independently confirmed by other experimenters while controlling for the very factors the Ms Coulter complains about. She would have found this out if she had read a skerrick of the original research in the area, or even just Majerus’s book. Unlike Coulter’s claims, scientists did not ignore the peppered moth. They were the ones that had done independent research to confirm Kettlewell’s work, who had definitive proof there was no fraud involved. But these hard-working folks, toiling in obscurity to add a little to human knowledge, get nothing but abuse from the creationists. No one attempted to ruin Sargent’s career (Sargent by the way did not expose a fraud) but his failure to conduct any statistically rigorous predation experiments on the peppered moth [note4] did cause him to be marginalized in the debate. In science, results count.

Coulter, p. 238 wrote:

Peppered moths sleep during the day and fly by night; they do not normally alight on tree trunks.

The first point is irrelevant. While moths are sleeping, immobile on the surface of trees, hungry insectivorous birds are hopping all over the surfaces of trees seeking insects to eat. What use would cryptic colouration be to a flying moth, anyway – let alone a moth flying in the dark? The fact that creationists never stop for two seconds before they repeat other creationists’ inane ravings about the behavior of moths and birds shows that they have no scientific interest in the issue, and are simply trying to shout down uncomfortable scientific evidence with the creationist equivalent of attack ads.

Anyone who has actually sat down and watched birds hunting in the trees for even a small amount of time will realize that whether moths rest more on tree trunks or tree branches is a relatively minor issue. There is not some fantastic magical barrier that keeps birds from hunting on tree branches. Birds hunt on the trunks as well as on, and under, branches. Small forest birds like creepers are quite capable of walking around on vertical or upside-down surfaces. Here’s one example right here. And as for the moths, from listening to Coulter, one would get the impression that moths that aren’t resting on tree trunks simply disappear to a magical bird-free parallel universe during the day.

The Coulter quote just above, from her last comments on the peppered moth saga, sums up the rest of her approach to evolution; where it is not irrelevant, it is wrong. Sloppy research, outright errors, gross misrepresentations, and false accusations of fraud, Behe, Berlinski and Dembski should be thoroughly ashamed of their association with this book. But are they? Dembski at least is happy with this farrago of nonsense. Happy, with a book that falsely accuses honest scientists with fraud? So much for intellectual honesty.

Note: In the case of speciation by hybridisation, phenotypic change can be very rapid, but generally it is relatively slow.

Note2: Well, clearly to Americans, for we non-Americans, see this Wikipedia article on Bussing and Desegregation. It’s still a tasteless joke. I find it alternately amusing and irritating that Coulter and the ID types assign American political values to non-US scientists who are neither describable by, nor particularly care about, US political divisions. To describe either EB Ford or Bernard Kettlewell as “liberals” in Coulters sense is, frankly, mind-boggling. In Australia, our ruling conservative party is the Liberal Party, many of whom are proud to be small “l” liberals.

Note3: In order to have enough moths for a statisticaly rigorous analysis, Kettlewell bred massive numbers of the black and white forms of the Peppered moth in Oxford. This was a significant investiture of time and effort, yet Coulter doesn’t even attempt to understand the science, she just uses a carcature to score cheap rhetorical points.

Note4: Sargent actually did no experiments with the Peppered moth at all, but was arguing from feeding results on a completely different moth species (he didn’t do any predation work himself either).

References:

H.B.D. Kettlewell, Heredity 9 (1955): 323-342.
H.B.D. Kettlewell, Heredity 10 (1956): 287-301.
J.A. Bishop & L.M. Cook, Scientific American 232 (1975): 90-99.
R. C. Steward, Ecological Entomology 2 (1977): 231-243.
C. A. Clarke, G. S. Mani & G. Wynne, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 26 (1985): 189-199.
R. J. Howlett & M. E. N. Majerus, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 30 (1987): 31-44.
B. Grant & R.J. Howlett, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 31 (1988): 217-232.
M. E. N. Majerus, Melanism: Evolution in Action (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)

Good Web sites not otherwise referenced in the main text.
Jim Mallet’s review, with a review of Judith Hoopers book which is used as a source by Ms Coulter.
Matt Young’s crtiques of Judith Hoopers book
A good Review by Moth Expert Bruce Grant
A fine Kettle of Moths Matt Young
Wikipedia article on Peppered Moths

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #106441

Posted by neuralsmith on June 18, 2006 4:46 PM (e)

FYI, her first name is Ann, not Anne. Otherwise a great post.

Comment #106443

Posted by William E Emba on June 18, 2006 5:01 PM (e)

The referenced Wikipedia article on Peppered Moths was under attack from a creationist nutcase this past week, no doubt inspired by Coulter’s book.

Comment #106444

Posted by Inoculated Mind on June 18, 2006 5:19 PM (e)

Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond to her drivel. I could already tell that her book wouldn’t be worth reading. I guess its just a rehash of the same old crap - but you make a VERY good point that the IDers who take responsibility for her science education should hang their heads in shame. Very low, indeed.

Comment #106450

Posted by KL on June 18, 2006 5:39 PM (e)

I have been trying to check on Uncommonly Dense to see what their reaction is, but they have been down all afternoon. What could the problem be, I wonder?

Comment #106452

Posted by Registered User on June 18, 2006 6:05 PM (e)

Behe, Dembski and Berlinksi are thanked fulsomely for their help with the evolution section (see Acknowledgments, page 303); they should hang their heads in shame.

Part of the hazing required before you are admitted into the Discovery Inshilltute Club includes a careful fracturing and controlled re-healing of several vertebrae in the neck. The initiates are thus rendered incapable of hanging their heads in shame.

Of course, from time to time this process results in a substantial loss of oxygen to the brain. But it’s hardly noticeable, given the limitations of the starting material.

Comment #106460

Posted by Dr. Joe on June 18, 2006 7:23 PM (e)

We shouldn’t be too hasty and overlook Ann Coulter’s contribution to science.
Before Coulter, we used to believe that rabies was an acute and invariably lethal viral infection. Coulter has given us irrefutable evidence that there exists a chronic form that leaves the host alive though significantly impaired.

Comment #106472

Posted by Plastyr on June 18, 2006 8:22 PM (e)

Wow, Coulter demonstrates it really is possible to put lipstick on a pig.

err..something like that…

Comment #106484

Posted by speck on June 18, 2006 9:11 PM (e)

Her next two projects are rumored to be titled, “Liberalism, Why We Only Saw Bigfoot in the 70s” and “A Conservative View of Crop Circles”….

Comment #106492

Posted by Popper's Ghost on June 18, 2006 9:57 PM (e)

The referenced Wikipedia article on Peppered Moths was under attack from a creationist nutcase this past week, no doubt inspired by Coulter’s book.

After the dolt replaced the entire article with a claim that it was a “hoax” and had his changes reverted, he asked for mediation. The mediator of course noted that is was “POV” to call it a hoax, and asked that the dolt show “good faith” by writing “a brief, impartial summary” of Jerry Coyne’s review in Nature of Michael Majerus’s Melanism: Evolution
in Action
. Good faith from an anti-evolutionist – that would be one for the record books.

Comment #106494

Posted by Michael Geissler on June 18, 2006 10:17 PM (e)

Speck has it exactly right. In a society that was half way sane, this would have all the intellectual impact of a tirade from the Flat Earth Society.

Comment #106496

Posted by Popper's Ghost on June 18, 2006 10:19 PM (e)

I find it alternately amusing and irritating that Coulter and the ID types assign American political values to non-US scientists who are neither describable by, nor particularly care about, US political divisions. To describe either EB Ford or Bernard Kettlewell as “liberals” in Coulters sense is, frankly, mind-boggling.

But in fact there’s no one on the planet who is a “liberal” in Coulter’s sense. A fundamental fact of American politics is that the word “liberal” is a demonized strawman term used by Republicans and the political right much the way creationists use “Darwinist”, attributing characteristics of their own devising to those they smear with the term. And, for complex political reasons, the U.S. media tends to adopt the Republican terminology.

In Australia, our ruling conservative party is the Liberal Party, many of whom are proud to be small “l” liberals.

There is no Liberal Party in the U.S.; all American liberals are small “l” liberals, as the other kind is a fiction. However, there are no doubt significant differences among various populations (including within the U.S.) as to exactly what policies and positions are consistent with liberalism.

Comment #106497

Posted by Ian Musgrave on June 18, 2006 10:29 PM (e)

neuralsmith wrote:

In Comment #106441
FYI, her first name is Ann, not Anne. Otherwise a great post.

Sorry, I had her confused with Anne Elk, think of it as just deserts for her confusing EB Ford with HBD Kettlewell.

Comment #106505

Posted by Shalini, BBWAD on June 18, 2006 11:20 PM (e)

[Part of the hazing required before you are admitted into the Discovery Inshilltute Club includes a careful fracturing and controlled re-healing of several vertebrae in the neck. The initiates are thus rendered incapable of hanging their heads in shame.]

Finally! An explanation as to why the IDiots have no shame.

Comment #106512

Posted by Bob O'H on June 19, 2006 12:34 AM (e)

Small forest birds like creepers are quite capable of walking around on vertical or upside-down surfaces. Here’s one example right here.

Hey! How do you know that bird wasn’t just nailed onto the tree?

:-)

Bob

Comment #106531

Posted by Frank J on June 19, 2006 5:36 AM (e)

Her next two projects are rumored to be titled, “Liberalism, Why We Only Saw Bigfoot in the 70s” and “A Conservative View of Crop Circles”….

Not likely for 2 reasons. First is the “pseudoscience code of science.” When you peddle one pseudoscience, you must take care not to criticize any other, because it might clue people in to the errors of your own “reasoning.” Second, thanks to far-right commentator Michael Medved, Bigfoot might be embraced by the far-right and abandoned by the far-left.

Keep in mind, though, that these extremists reside in an authoritarian fantasy land where far-right meets far-left. “Regular” liberals and conservatives who know some science and can recognize pseudoscience accept evolution and admit that ID/creationism are scams.

Comment #106533

Posted by Frank J on June 19, 2006 5:55 AM (e)

I must do my usual…

Until today I was unaware of how much time and effort Coulter put into misrepresenting evolution. While I often remind everyone (because almost no one else does) that professional anti-evolutionists are anything but clueless, I had no problem assuming that Coulter was indeed just a clueless parroter. After all, she made the tactical error of tying anti-evolution to religion. Now I have to say that, while her arguments are certainly cruder than the typical DI spin, she must be at least somewhat aware that she is deliberately misrepresenting evolution. She must also be aware that the only serious ID attempt to state its alternative biological history concedes an old earth and common descent. IOW, whatever the problems she perceives (honestly or not) about evolution, she must know that it is no comfort at all to Biblical literalists, whether YEC or OEC.

Comment #106534

Posted by Ian H Spedding on June 19, 2006 6:41 AM (e)

I have been trying to check on Uncommonly Dense to see what their reaction is, but they have been down all afternoon. What could the problem be, I wonder?

The site is not intelligently designed?

Comment #106591

Posted by Jason on June 19, 2006 9:08 AM (e)

She needs to follow the LAW!
http://www.thebricktestament.com/the_law/index.h…

Comment #106595

Posted by stevaroni on June 19, 2006 9:40 AM (e)

It’s ironic that the anti-evolution crowd always points to things like the peppered moth and Piltdown man as “failures” of science, when in fact they are just the opposite.

Both were caught - and corrected - by the very scientific community that stands accused of shoddy fact checking.

If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that it’s much more difficult to pass off shoddy work, or outright lies, for any length of time in an environment where people insist on proper peer review.

Think cold fusion, South Korean stem cell research or the recent Chinese computer science scandals if you want some examples.

Taking human frailty and fallibility as a given, the fact that science stops once in a while and says “No, that’s wrong” shows that the system is still working pretty well.

We’d like to have absolute infallibility, but that only seems to work when powered by divine inspiration or divisive politics.

Comment #106597

Posted by Jonathan Abbey on June 19, 2006 9:50 AM (e)

It’s not clear that there was anything to correct in the case of the peppered moth environmental melanism studies.

Check the first link in the article, ‘Jim Mallet’s review..’ for more details on this.

Comment #106602

Posted by solarwnz on June 19, 2006 10:10 AM (e)

[i]She needs to follow the LAW!
http://www.thebricktestament.com/the_law/index.h……[/i]

This is the funniest thing I’ve come across in a long time! Those pictures are hilarious!

Comment #106614

Posted by Frank J on June 19, 2006 11:10 AM (e)

stevaroni wrote:

It’s ironic that the anti-evolution crowd always points to things like the peppered moth and Piltdown man as “failures” of science, when in fact they are just the opposite.

Both were caught - and corrected - by the very scientific community that stands accused of shoddy fact checking.

That is perhaps the key feature, of many, that separates science from pseudoscience. As Carl Sagan noted, pseudoscience almost never publicly admits and corrects its own fraud and error.

Coulter may have been just clueless, and dazzled by the feel-good sound bites of the DI crowd, when she wrote the book. But unless she soon admits that she was scammed, it’s a safe bet that she’s part of the scam.

Comment #106623

Posted by mark on June 19, 2006 11:47 AM (e)

This is an absolutely wonderful post, and I would choose it as the lesson for the day were I teaching high school biology in some third-world country where it was required to teach the “controversy.” This post clearly and forcefully explains what that controversy is.
I can only guess that people like Dembski, Behe, and Coulter might expect, for their efforts, a reward of 72 virgins.

Comment #106628

Posted by Glen Davidson on June 19, 2006 12:26 PM (e)

As Carl Sagan noted, pseudoscience almost never publicly admits and corrects its own fraud and error.

What’s worse is that pseudosciences like to attack science for making mistakes, “which it even admits is true.” IDists and the like simply don’t understand that mistakes are inevitable, that science gains its strength from correction rather than through eternal true/denial of contrary evidence.

Today’s creos often have trouble keeping their criticisms straight, however. They’ll claim that science holds strictly to “Darwinism” (the term is meant to suggest ideology), while pointing to mistakes, like Piltdown, that have rightly been discarded for over half a century. And in truth, I think most of them are more confused than disingenuous in this, since they think that science ought not to make any mistakes, yet they hate it for not abandoning “Darwinism”.

Many people, not just creos, think that science makes grand statements, and that any statement should fall once any flaw is found in it (creos think that “Darwinism” should be falsified when a problem appears, not worked into a better model). They really do not understand that models are often not abandoned, but are made better–and that this is a major reason why scientists search for problems in models.

It is entirely possible that schools have not been teaching scientific modeling correctly. Then again, people who would understand that Newton had to be modified would not understand that evolution has to be modified as well, at the time when a creo propagandist is pointing out that “Darwinism” had its problems (really, it has not had many, most problems were simply unfilled gaps in our knowledge) and that scientists still ‘cling to it despite its problems’. How is a person in such a position to realize that scientists continue to use the evolutionary models because they have been successfully modified to explain a huge number of phenomena, which otherwise would be meaningless facts?

Pseudoscientists don’t modify their positions because they don’t understand how to use evidence to modify and hone their beliefs. Thus they also do not understand how and why scientists modify and hone their own knowledge, and from their outside perspective the modification of evolutionary science looks all too convenient, a way to protect science’s preconceived notions.

They maintain “truth” by not modifying their claims, while we find truth (in the lesser sense) by modifying ours. The two perspectives are not readily interchangeable, and the former is closer to how we are born to be, how humans think “naturally”. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to switch people to the scientific/forensic mode of thought, so that many creos will be forever unable to modify their positions.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #106704

Posted by Frank J on June 19, 2006 6:43 PM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

IDists and the like simply don’t understand that mistakes are inevitable, that science gains its strength from correction rather than through eternal true/denial of contrary evidence.

Today’s creos often have trouble keeping their criticisms straight, however. They’ll claim that science holds strictly to “Darwinism” (the term is meant to suggest ideology), while pointing to mistakes, like Piltdown, that have rightly been discarded for over half a century. And in truth, I think most of them are more confused than disingenuous in this, since they think that science ought not to make any mistakes, yet they hate it for not abandoning “Darwinism”.

What you say is true for most of the “rank and file,” but the pros know better and scam the rest anyway. If Coulter is still more snake oil buyer than seller, she’ll make the change soon enough.

Comment #106926

Posted by Jess on June 20, 2006 2:50 PM (e)

Let’s suppose, even, that a higher percentage of the moths ended up on trunks than would have under non-experimental conditions. If minor methodological problems – of the type common in science before some of the major technological advances – are such unassailable evidence of large-scale fraud, it baffles me why the IDers haven’t yet claimed that Mendelian genetics does not exist. It’s fairly well accepted at this point that Mendel fudged some of his data – nor is it too surprising, considering that he was working alone and by hand and it’s damn hard to tell the difference between a round and a wrinkly pea in edge cases. Therefore: GENETIC INHERITANCE DOES NOT EXIST. QED.

I’m glad you kept the focus on how utterly ashamed Behe, Berlinksy, and especially Dembski should be about this parodically terrible book. A lot of people respond to critiques of Coulter by saying “oh, there’s no point in responding to her, she’s insane.” It’s important to remember that even if Coulter can plead raving lunacy, Dembski has claimed a lucid, sound-mind-and-body approval of this trash. Let’s hold him accountable.

Comment #106949

Posted by Kevin Conrad on June 20, 2006 7:05 PM (e)

Ann has been all over Fox News and other outlets promoting her book. She really only gets questioned on her slimy comments concerning the 9/11 widows. Nobody in interviews that I’ve seen even tried to challenge her ‘scientific’ knowledge. This person is so wacked out that she went on Jay Leno and said that liberals follow: “The religion of global warming and recycling”. I would love to see a debate between her and a scientist but that will never happen outside of a controlled environment. Thanks for exposing Coulter’s idiocy. It is a full-time job!

Comment #106966

Posted by Shalini, BBWAD on June 20, 2006 7:47 PM (e)

[Dembski has claimed a lucid, sound-mind-and-body approval of this trash. Let’s hold him accountable.]

What does that tell us about Dembski’s mind?

Comment #106972

Posted by Kimpatsu on June 20, 2006 8:15 PM (e)

Ian Musgrave wrote:

To start with, Coulter can’t even get the colour of the moths right, stating that a light grey moth was “magically transformed” into a slightly darker grey moth (chapter 9, page 236).

That statement sums up erroneous creationist thinking in a nutshell. Coulter and her ilk don’t understand that evolutionary changes happen to populations; they think that evolutionists are claiming that individual creatures will change before their very eyes, like a comic book superhero or Dracula turning into a bat. Their grasp on reality is that tenuous, indeed.

Comment #107085

Posted by jongurney on June 21, 2006 8:42 AM (e)

Thought you’d be interested that the ever-lovely Ms Coulter just crashed & burned on BBC. First question; “You’re trying to claim that Natural Selection isn’t supported?” - “It is the religion of liberals”. “So what is your alternative?” - “To be a restaurant critic you don’t have to be able to cook. I am attacking Darwinism as a tautology that has no evidence for it. I do not have any alternative”. (Incredulous) “You honestly believe that?” - “Obviously, that’s why I wrote it”. Cue “only in America”-style eye-rolling from presenter…

Comment #107220

Posted by fnxtr on June 21, 2006 2:46 PM (e)

jongurney:
Is there a BBC transcripts site? Dogpile was no help.

Comment #107265

Posted by Darth Robo on June 21, 2006 5:54 PM (e)

fxntr

This what you looking for? (Found with dogpile by the way :) )

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/…

Comment #107270

Posted by fnxtr on June 21, 2006 6:14 PM (e)

Ta very much. In keeping with the situation.

Comment #107272

Posted by Adam on June 21, 2006 6:27 PM (e)

Good post. BTW, why do you find the bussing joke tasteless? I find it rather amusing. In fact, it’s the only part of her book’s evolution section that I find to have any value whatsoever.

It’s too bad about Ann, really. She used to be a pretty good satirist. Some of her earlier stuff had me rolling on the floor. With this book and her last one (Treason), however, she’s turned herself into a real kook. Oh well.

Comment #107290

Posted by Darth Robo on June 21, 2006 7:24 PM (e)

No prob, fnxtr. And sorry I spelled your name wrong. :( It’s a whole five letters long, don’tcha know! ;)

Comment #108623

Posted by outcast on June 26, 2006 11:38 PM (e)

Do moths fly at night? - Answer: Do evolutionists throw excrement?

Comment #108629

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 27, 2006 12:20 AM (e)

somebody throw some excrement outcast’s way so he can be happy.

Comment #110326

Posted by Bnr on July 6, 2006 10:28 AM (e)

This simple game shows how the moth thingy happened
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/link/evolution.html…

Comment #110327

Posted by Bnr on July 6, 2006 10:28 AM (e)

This simple game shows how the moth thingy happened
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/link/evolution.html…

Comment #116038

Posted by Rob on August 1, 2006 8:27 AM (e)

It’s comforting to know that fundamentalists (I don’t want to say “Christian” fundamentalists; I myself am Episcop… Episcopea… Episca … well, Christian) have stopped letting that hindersome “reality” become a problem for them and their arguments isn’t it? It makes for some very interesting conversations … kind of like arguing with a homeless person of questionable mental stability.

Comment #125383

Posted by Shaun on September 2, 2006 8:17 AM (e)

You’re trying your best to refute her and looking ever more ridiculous. The photos were staged you’re just trying to explain why. “He” didn’t place the moths his assistants did….….….

The science is the real issue. Focus….….FOCUS….…….FOCUS.

Comment #125406

Posted by Darth Robo on September 2, 2006 11:47 AM (e)

Dude. Learn to READ. (That may require some er… FOCUS).

“You’re trying your best to refute her and looking ever more ridiculous.”

Really, Shawn?

http://popcorn.cx/wg/films/acs/images/kitchen.jp…

Comment #125747

Posted by Ian Musgrave on September 3, 2006 5:15 PM (e)

Shaun wrote:

You’re trying your best to refute her and looking ever more ridiculous. The photos were staged you’re just trying to explain why. “He” didn’t place the moths his assistants did….….….

The science is the real issue. Focus….….FOCUS….…….FOCUS.

The issue was “faking” the experiments, not photos (other scientists made representative illustrations of real events but this was not what Coulter was talking about with Ford). The issue is one of accuracy. If Coulter has Ford “faking” experiments, when he never went near Kettlewells field experiments (and Kettlewelll was not an assistant), a fundamental fact incredibly easy to check, then how can you trust the rest of her pronouncements?

The simple answer is you can’t. The issue is science, but Coulter is mainly given to invective and sarcasm, where she does tread somewhere near science, she is simply and risibly wrong.

Comment #125758

Posted by Popper's ghost on September 3, 2006 6:00 PM (e)

The photos were staged you’re just trying to explain why.

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

Explanation is a primary function of science, and of intellectual discourse generally; explanation is the key to understanding. Without explanation, all we have is the sort of doltish prejudice that you display.

Comment #126435

Posted by Imbob on September 6, 2006 11:39 AM (e)

This is REEEEEAAAAAAALY sad….….…..please don’t tell me ur reading this for fun??? Im CERTAINLY not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!