October 15, 2006 - October 21, 2006 Archives

Shocking news: Panda bites thumb

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In a shocking development news sources have revealed that a Panda cub has bitten of part of a visitor’s thumb.

The rumors are that the Panda’s actions were an act of revenge for the actions of a drunk Chinese tourist who had bitten a Panda.

The latest on the Hovind trial: Workers testify in ‘Dr. Dino’ trial. That should be “‘Dr.’ Dino”, of course.

Apparently he has sued the IRS at least 3 times. Not exactly the best way to get them on your good side…

Gogonasus andrewsae

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Here's another tetrapodomorph fish to consternate the creationists. These Devonian/Carboniferous animals just keep popping up to fill in the gaps in the evolutionary history of the tetrapod transition to the land—the last one was Tiktaalik.


This lovely beastie is more fish than frog, as you can tell—it was a marine fish, 384-380 million years old, from Australia, and it was beautifully preserved. Gogonasus is not a new species, but the extraction and analysis of a new specimen has caused its position in the evolutionary tree to be reevaluated.

Continue reading "Gogonasus andrewsae" (on Pharyngula)

Silly Billy on Silly books

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In a recent article on UcD William “Billy” Dembski writes the following:

Bill Dembski Wrote:

George Levine has a new book, Darwin Loves You. The book is silly and superficial, and would not be worth notice except that it serves as Exhibit A for the fact that Darwinism has become a religion, or at least, a “comprehensive doctrine” in the sense of Rawls (John, not Lou), and hence NOT something that a liberal democracry ought to impose on its citizens by force, as is happening now.

For a preview of Chapter 1 of this ‘silly book’ see this pdf

So why would Bill call the book silly and superficial? Various plausible hypothesis come to mind:

1. Publisher Weekly mentions that “it’s a difficult read for non philosophers”

2. The book ranks higher than most of Dembski’s books

3. Amazon ranks the book with Dembski’s works under social Darwinism

Darwin texts online

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This week’s Nature reports on the expansion of John van Wyhe’s massive online archive of Darwin writings, hosted by the University of Cambridge. I believe it now includes all of Darwin’s books and articles (yes, Virginia, Darwin wrote journal articles), except maybe the second edition of Insectivorous Plants. The first edition was published in 1875, but was revised in 1888 by Francis Darwin. So maybe that is a grey area, but I can still whine about it.

Carl Zimmer has a post up about his new article in the November 2006 issue of National Geographic. The article surveys recent research on the origin of multicellularity, segmentation, the vertebrate head, eyes, limbs, feathers, flowers, and the new kid on the block…the flagellum! And he even bases it on Pallen and Matzke 2006. Mark Pallen is interviewed – unfortunately there is nothing about the Genomic Dub Collective, but I’m sure that’s destined for ReggaeTimes.

Famed flagellum researcher Howard Berg is also interviewed. Sadly, there is nothing about the ID movement’s frequent claim that one of the spiffy design features of the flagellum is that it is “water-cooled” – a claim which they usually attribute to Berg (googling “water-cooled flagellum” brings up only ID/creationism websites). In my humble opinion, a fish has a far stronger claim to being “water-cooled”, given that the heat-retention capabilities of nanometer-scale molecular system are essentially nil (I read once that the heat energy radiates away dissipates in picoseconds at that scale). Someone should ask him about that some day.

Dr. Dino in the Dock

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The Pensacola News-Journal is once again giving everyone a front-row seat to the trial of Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, for tax fraud. See:

Evangelist’s trial begins

But rather than accepting his responsibility as an employer, Hovind hid behind terminology, Heldmeyer said.

He called his employees “volunteers,” “missionaries” or “ministers,” she said. Wages were referred to as “gifts” or “love offerings.”

Love offerings? That must look interesting on the tax forms.

Unexpected consequences

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Salvador Cordova (YEC) wrote a triumphant piece on Uncommon Descent that Allen MacNeill had declared Neo-Darwinism to be dead. Most of us are quite familiar with IDers or YECers declaring that Neo-Darwinism is dead, which to them (via the application of the logical fallacy of a false duality) means that ID must of course be right. Since ID has no positive evidence to provide or to rely on, one should not be too surprised by such desperate measures.

As expected, the announcement backfired when Allen responded

IDers and YECs who hail the “death of Darwinism” are like the poor benighted souls who hailed the death of the “horseless carriage” and the return to “normal equine transportation” in 1905 or thereabouts: they are either ignorant of the most basic principles of current evolutionary theory, or they see the onrush of the juggernaught and close their eyes to avoid witnessing the impending impact.

Dembski on Groupthink


William Dembski recently posted this amusing post on the subject of Groupthink. He provided a list of eight indicators that people are showing evidence of Groupthink, and said, “Read the following and ask yourself which side in the ID vs. Darwinism debate exhibits the groupthink syndrome:”

Since I had some free time today, I decided to take him up on his challenge. My findings are posted here. Comments can be left over at EvolutionBlog. Enjoy!

I have heard some weird reasons why we should reject Darwinian theory but this one seems to offer quite a new perspective:

Orzechowski said that the theory was a feeble idea of an aged non-believer, who had come up with it perhaps because he was a vegetarian and lacked fire inside him


The story continues:

The deputy minister is a member of a Catholic far-right political group, the League of Polish Families. The league’s head, Roman Giertych, is education minister in the conservative coalition government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Giertych’s father Maciej, who represents the league in the European Parliament, organised a discussion there last week on Darwinism. He described the theory as not supported by proof and called for it to be removed from school books.

The far-right joined the government in May when Kaczynski’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party, after months of ineffective minority government, formed a coalition including LPR and the populist Sambroon party.

Roman Giertych has not spoken out on Darwinism, but the far-right politician’s stance on other issues has stirred protest in Poland since he joined the government.

A school pupils’ association was expected to demonstrate in front of the education ministry on Saturday to call for his resignation.

Let’s hope that the school pupils will get an opportunity to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the leadership of their country.

This is a guest appearance by Gert Korthof. I have not contributed a single word to this essay and post it as a courtesy to Gert.

Despite the title of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God - A Scientist presents evidence for belief, Collins delivered a superb defense of evolution based on data from genomics and an unambiguous rejection of YEC and ID. He does not claim a supernatural origin of life. His Theistic Evolution is a more science-friendly form of religion then YEC and ID, because it reduces supernatural intervention to a minimum. However Collins still has strong disagreements with the Darwinian explanation of altruism. He needs to rethink his Moral Law argument, which is not a coherent argument and ignores animal behaviour research.

Continue reading Francis Collins on evolution and altruism on Talk Reason.

Tangled Bank #64

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The Tangled Bank

The latest Tangled Bank is online (a little bit late) at Neurophilosophy. My notice is a little bit late, too, but in one of those odd coincidences, it's because I'm in London…as is this week's host, and I met him at the natural history museum yesterday.

Better late than never, and just in case you haven't read it already, head on over.

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