PvM posted Entry 2646 on October 17, 2006 09:23 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2640

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.

And this hilarious response

Allen MacNeill wrote:

On the contrary, I thought Wiker and Dembski’s book was crystal clear: that the philosophical implications of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection are the source of most if not all of modern society’s ills, from the rise of Naziism to the tendency for men to leave the toilet seat up.

This is, of course, news to those of us who actually do evolutionary biology for a living, who have loving families and friends, and who participate in social and religious communities in which most of us do not commit genocide and (unless we forget to do so because we are sleep-walking) we leave the toilet seat down…

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Comment #140059

Posted by PvM on October 18, 2006 11:18 AM (e)

Ok, another hilarious response, this time by Benz

Benz wrote:

Let me clarify what I think is real implication: Darwin’s (unscientific) part of his theory, which through intellectual-exchange down the ages picked up by Darwin, snuck in total randomness in matter and an exclusion of any interacting God in nature. These might not be the “true” implications of his theory–as you suggest because it’s “news to you”–but they are the ones Darwin intended and people picked up one.

There are so many problems with this single paragraph that I have a hard time deciding where to start:
Darwin snuck in total randomness…
an an exclusion of any interacting God in nature…
These might not be the ‘true’ implications of his theory but Darwin still intended them…

Sigh… No wonder that ID in some circles still seems to have some credibility…. Where do these people get their information anyway?

Darwin ‘snuck in’ variation, and did not use the term ‘random’ or ‘randomness’ to describe such variation.

Exclusion of any interacting God in nature

Darwin wrote:

“What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates…In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.”

and

“It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came, and how it arose. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgment of the many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to me that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect; but man can do his duty.”

Comment #140064

Posted by Henry J on October 18, 2006 12:08 PM (e)

Re “Where do these people get their information anyway?”

Maybe from each other, in a sort of positive feedback loop?

Comment #140065

Posted by mplavcan on October 18, 2006 12:16 PM (e)

Where do they get their information? Easy! Next time you go to the bathroom….

Comment #140067

Posted by Glen Davidson on October 18, 2006 12:30 PM (e)

I was amazed that they would try to use MacNeill in their quote mine, since he famously does visit, and comment on, UD. Is Cordova really so befuddled that he doesn’t know how badly he takes these things out of context, that he does it right in front of the author?

I’m guessing that he has never caught onto the nuances in biological writing, having had quite a different education, and he always reacted against, instead of learning, evolutionary theory.

About this:

Benz wrote:

Let me clarify what I think is real implication: Darwin’s (unscientific) part of his theory, which through intellectual-exchange down the ages picked up by Darwin, snuck in total randomness in matter and an exclusion of any interacting God in nature. These might not be the “true” implications of his theory–as you suggest because it’s “news to you”–but they are the ones Darwin intended and people picked up one.

I wanted to add to Pim’s comments above, that Darwin wrote of the “little known laws of variation” (emphasis added), and occasionally he also wrote as if natural selection itself is a “law”:

The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered.

[bolding added]

http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/cd_relig.htm

continued below:

Comment #140068

Posted by Glen Davidson on October 18, 2006 12:31 PM (e)

Leaving aside the randomness of Benz’s English, we might note that Darwin actually was trying to show how nature is not random, or the mere whim of a god or gods (which is why his theory does have some appeal to those whose God is a god of order). ID, unfortunately, does not explain things according to order, “laws”, or regularity. Dembski specifically means to exclude “regularity” as well as “accident” to get to what he imagines is the default of those two, “design”. There is something more than a little bizarre and counter-intuitive about concluding “design” due to a lack of regularity, but so it goes in ID.

No, it’s Dembski who denies the regularity that we are concerned about using, and having taught in schools. What he does to appeal to the ignorance of the many is to treat evolution as if it were a random search through possibilities, and he limits these possibilities much more than is warranted, as well.

But again, the greatest problem with ID is that it recognizes no regularities (aside from the physical parameters), even denying that “good design” (or rational design) is the mark of the designer whose abilities far exceed our own at the present time. By contrast, when we identify “designers”, such as humans or animals, we are interested in the regularities—the rationality and the psychologies behind them—that appear in the causes and effects of their respective designs. Crucially, evolution explains both good and bad “designs”, and more importantly, it explains how both arise causally.

Unfortunately, Dembski’s depictions of evolution as “random” are what are noticed by many naive folk, while his denial of regularity in origins is welcomed by the same folk (it’s all gussied up with jargon they don’t understand, but it’s all true so long as it disproves “godless” evolution). The false claim of the randomness of evolution is held against the latter, while the true lack of regularity in ID is held to be a virtue (in short, this owes much to the fact that these people don’t understand the regularity of evolution (for various reasons), and want order to be dictated by God). It is the inversion of reality, and even of their own proclaimed values, as they reject order and proclaim the superior science of whimsy.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #140069

Posted by sparc on October 18, 2006 12:35 PM (e)

PvM:

Where do these people get their information anyway?

According to a Small Group Communication web site these are the negative consequences of groupthink:

Some negative outcomes of groupthink include:

* Examining few alternatives
* Not being critical of each other’s ideas
* Not examining early alternatives
* Not seeking expert opinion
* Being highly selective in gathering information
* Not having contingency plans

Comment #140070

Posted by Pope Benedict XVI on October 18, 2006 12:40 PM (e)

Misrepresenting a scientist’s dissent from some aspect of evolutionary theory as being more than it is, happens quite frequently over at Uncommonly Dense. Here’s Denyse, kind of arguing that Larry Moran isn’t really a Darwinist, or something. I’m not quite sure what the hell she’s saying, actually.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/archives/1719#more-1719

Comment #140072

Posted by QrazyQat on October 18, 2006 12:51 PM (e)

Maybe from each other, in a sort of positive feedback loop?

It’s the lesser known but not rare enough negative feedback loop.

Comment #140074

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on October 18, 2006 1:47 PM (e)

Sometimes it seems ID takes the Brylcreem approach to quotations, just “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya!” A short quote taken out of context much to the chagrin of the original author. This gives ID that greasy appearance in its attempts to repopularize an old fad.

BHT, Butylated hydroxytoluene, an ingredient in Brylcreem is also found in embalming fluid and seems to be ideal agent for ID. It helps preserve those tired worn out arguments for recycling.

The resurgence of pomades and hair creams since the late 1990’s correlates well with the output of material from the proponents of ID beginning in 1996 with Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” and then Dembski’s “The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities” in 1998. Could it be that one of the unintended consequences of ID is the resurgence of pomande usage world wide?

Bruce Thompson
Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #140092

Posted by Henry J on October 18, 2006 2:59 PM (e)

Re “It’s the lesser known but not rare enough negative feedback loop.”

That doesn’t sound right. Negative feedback is where two or more things successively reduce, suppress and/or diminish each other. Positive feedback is where they successively increase, strengthen, or encourage each other.

Comment #140100

Posted by KevinD on October 18, 2006 3:14 PM (e)

This may be somewhat off topic but MacNeil’s statements actually irritated me more than those of the other posters on UD. As entertaining as it might be to make sport of the responses to MacNeil I believe that his rhetoric is equally open to criticism. Here is the key statement from his response that allowed the IDers to use his work in the first place.

“What is “dead” is the core doctrine of the “modern evolutionary synthesis” that based all of evolution on gradualistic changes in allele frequencies in populations over time as the result of differential reproductive success.”

He then goes on to cite a number of developments in evolutionary biology since the synthesis that have putatively led to its downfall including the development of kin selection and neutral theory, endosymbiosis, punctuated equilbria, constraints on evolution, and evo-devo. Some of these developments are direct developments from the modern synthesis and others are orthogonal to it rather than in opposition.

How is Hamilton’s work or Kimura’s in any way a challenge to this ‘core doctrine’? Both are explicitly based on the population genetic framework created by Fisher, Haldane, and Wright. They rely on allele changes due to differential reproductive success (drift is based on differential reproductive success, just like selection - it just isn’t linked to a phenotype).

Endosymbiosis theory and the explosion of work in evo-devo have both enormously enhanced our understanding of evolution. I fail to see how either of these is an assault on the modern synthesis. No matter where they are and no matter what they do genes still have variants (i.e. alleles) and drift, selection, etc. will still cause or prevent changes in allele frequencies.

The enthusiastic endorsements of stasis and constraints as alternatives to the modern synthesis (as in PE and the Spandrels paper) seem to indicate a complete lack of understanding of selection as a stabilizing force. Note - I’m not acccusing Lewontin of not understanding basic evolutionary theory - I think that the Spandrels paper was a good antidote to pan-adaptationism but hardy a refutation of the modern synthesis as MacNeil claims.

I think there is widespread confusion between the population level processes driving or restraining evolutionary phenotypic change and the organismal/cellular/molecular mechanisms that facilitate the observed phenotype. Very little was known about those mechanisms at the time of the synthesis. We know a lot more now. I have yet to see a convincing argument that the fundamental processes of evolutionary change have been cast into doubt by the discovery of any of these mechanisms.

My complaint is this - people who make important advancements in evolutionary biology seem to be given to hyperbole - claiming that phenomenon X has revolutionized evolutionary biology and overthrown the modern synthesis. Aside from providing ammunition to anti-evolutionists I think it confuses well-intentioned, curious bystanders.

Comment #140121

Posted by Glen Davidson on October 18, 2006 3:56 PM (e)

Right, Kevin. I think of the ‘modern synthesis’ as being dead like Homo erectus is dead. It’s true in one sense, but it’s rather partial to simply say that H. erectus is dead without noting that H. sapiens evolved from H. erectus—and in an important sense is H. erectus in modified form.

Unless the architects of the modern synthesis declared that their work would be untouchable and unquestioned dogma—which I believe is only an ID/creo delusion—the evolution of the modern synthesis into today’s theory might be considered as the triumph of the synthesis. The modifications have been substantial, but the progress is characterized more by gradualism than by saltations.

But saying that the modern synthesis is dead gets rather more attention than does delineating the successes of the theory in allowing for evolutionary modifications.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #140124

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on October 18, 2006 4:02 PM (e)

KevinD wrote:

My complaint is this - people who make important advancements in evolutionary biology seem to be given to hyperbole -

Thank you for noticing. Evo-devo, stabilizing selection, speciation, all are subject to the spread, or not, of mutations [by no means restricted to point mutations] in populations. Population genetics has not gone away.

Comment #140133

Posted by Chip Poirot on October 18, 2006 4:11 PM (e)

Too bad Kuhn isn’t dead. This idea of science proceeding by revolutions is responsible for a lot of mischief.

Comment #140139

Posted by Fisher's Ghost on October 18, 2006 4:19 PM (e)

Who is Allen MacNeill anyway to criticize the work of me and my (admittedly sometimes confused) colleagues like Professor Wright? Up here in heaven I have access to Web of Science, but I cannot seem to locate the man’s work.

Comment #140160

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on October 18, 2006 4:55 PM (e)

“That doesn’t sound right.”

I think it was meant as a joke.

“Negative feedback is where two or more things successively reduce, suppress and/or diminish each other. Positive feedback is where they successively increase, strengthen, or encourage each other.”

In systems theory or applications such as electronics feedback is when the output of a system (a “thing”) adds to the input, with or without inversion and/or amplification. If it subtracts it is negative, if it adds it is positive.

Comment #140172

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 18, 2006 5:26 PM (e)

I was amazed that they would try to use MacNeill in their quote mine, since he famously does visit, and comment on, UD. Is Cordova really so befuddled that he doesn’t know how badly he takes these things out of context, that he does it right in front of the author?

I wonder just how polite and upstanding Allen thinks Sal is now?

Comment #140173

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 18, 2006 5:30 PM (e)

As entertaining as it might be to make sport of the responses to MacNeil I believe that his rhetoric is equally open to criticism

completely agree. Allen has said a great many odd things over the last year or so.

hard to figure what his game is, exactly. Pim has speculated, but I don’t agree, that his method, whatever it really is, will have positive results in the long term.

does Allen have tenure at Cornell yet?

Just curious.

Comment #140175

Posted by Kuhn's Zombie on October 18, 2006 5:39 PM (e)

Chip Poirot wrote:

Too bad Kuhn isn’t dead.

You can say that again! You have no idea how much of a bother this is.

Braaaaaaaaiiiiinnnnssss…

Comment #140199

Posted by David B. Benson on October 18, 2006 6:17 PM (e)

Sir TJ — Almost surely yes.

Comment #140211

Posted by Dhogaza on October 18, 2006 6:48 PM (e)

It might help to realize that Allen’s speaking very narrowly when he speaks of the “modern synthesis” as being dead:

Motoo Kimura and Tomiko Ohto dealt the “modern synthesis” its coup de grace: the neutral theory of genetic evolution, which pointed out that the mathematical models upon which the “modern synthesis” was founded were fundamentally and fatally flawed.

Elsewhere he defends Darwin heartily, etc etc.

Comment #140217

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 18, 2006 6:56 PM (e)

Waterloo !!!!! Waterloo !!!!!! Waterloo !!!!!!

(snicker) (giggle)

Comment #140218

Posted by Steviepinhead on October 18, 2006 6:57 PM (e)

I’m not quite so sure as David that MacNeill is tenured. As best I can tell, he’s only got an M.A.:

I found the following at http://www.clt.cornell.edu/campus/learn/lscstaff.html.

Allen MacNeill earned a BS in biology from Cornell in 1974 and an MA in science education from Cornell in 1977, and has taught the support course for introductory biology at Cornell University since 1976. As a senior lecturer for the Learning Strategies Center, Allen works with students taking both majors and non-majors introductory biology. In addition, he organizes and carries out in-service training for teaching assistants in biology and related fields. Allen also teaches evolution for the Cornell Summer Session, and has taught the introductory evolution course for non-majors at Cornell. He has served as a Faculty Fellow at Ecology House and as an honorary member and faculty advisor for the Cornell chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society. He has served on numerous advisory committees and editorial boards at Cornell and in the Ithaca community.

“Senior lecturer” doesn’t have the ring of a tenured position to me. On the other hand, he’s certainly been teaching biology at Cornell for a long time, so David may still be right.

Whatever the answer may be, neither our critiques of–nor agreements with–MacNeill’s take on the Evo-Creo discursion should probably turn on that particular credential.

Comment #140219

Posted by Coin on October 18, 2006 7:01 PM (e)

Dhogaza wrote:

It might help to realize that Allen’s speaking very narrowly when he speaks of the “modern synthesis” as being dead

Hm. So what is it we’ve got now, then? A postmodern synthesis?

Comment #140228

Posted by David B. Benson on October 18, 2006 7:26 PM (e)

In Britain, a senior lecturer is ‘tenured’, being equivalent, approximately, to associate professor. Don’t know what it means at Cornell, tho’…

Comment #140238

Posted by Steviepinhead on October 18, 2006 7:46 PM (e)

I’m no expert at parsing acadamese (acadamesian?), but I would hazard that, generally speaking (snaps to attention), “lecturers” in our institutions of higher learning are not included among tenured faculty.

But I’ll agree with David that that generality doesn’t tell us much about the employment structure at Cornell.

Comment #140239

Posted by Steviepinhead on October 18, 2006 7:47 PM (e)

Shoulda said, “American acadamese…”

Comment #140243

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 18, 2006 8:55 PM (e)

the only reason i was thinking about it was that a lot of what Allen is doing might be considered a “tenure stunt” (i.e., actions intended to attract attention to promote tenure), but if he’s been teaching at Cornell since 76, that seems extremely unlikely.

It was just idle curiosity, really. I have some concerns about some of the odd remarks and the work Allen thinks typical of evo psych, but that’s totally OT for this thread.

the remark about what Allen now thinks of Salvador is not though, and I am actually kinda curious to see if Salvador’s latest missive affects Allen’s impression of him.

Comment #140245

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 18, 2006 9:21 PM (e)

I’m sure he’ll just sit Sal down and discuss the matter with him, politely and in a civil manner. Whereupon Sal will slap himself on the forehead, realize he was wrong, and apologize profusely.

(snicker) (giggle)

Comment #140252

Posted by Allen MacNeill on October 18, 2006 11:14 PM (e)

Sharp-eyed pandas have guessed correctly: I do not have a tenure-track appointment at Cornell. On the contrary, I have been a full-time lecturer (now senior lecturer) at Cornell for thirty years. In that position, I have taught introductory biology (for both majors and non-majors) and introductory evolution (for non-majors). As long as I keep doing a good job at those two tasks (you can check out how some of my students rate me at Rate-Your-Professor.com, and I have twice been nominated for the Clark Award for outstanding teaching at Cornell), my position will continue to be renewed every five years, as it has for the past thirty.

As a senior lecturer, I am not required to do research nor publish the results thereof. However, like many of my colleagues at Cornell who are lecturers and senior lecturers, I have done so anyway, on my own time and my own dime. My most recent publications are described at my website (http://evolutionlist.blogspot.com/). I am also writing an introductory evolution textbook under contract with a major academic publisher and a lecture series on evolutionary psychology for The Teaching Company.

And yes, I do not have a PhD. When other people were getting theirs, I was already teaching full time at Cornell and raising my family (which continues to grow, as my wife and I have yet another Goonie on the way). Personally, I take consolation in the fact that Darwin didn’t either; his only academic degree was a bachelor’s degree in divinity from Cambridge University. He was therefore just “Charles” to his friends and “Mr. Darwin” to his supporters and detractors alike. If it was okay for him, it’s okay for me.

Comment #140255

Posted by Allen MacNeill on October 18, 2006 11:27 PM (e)

And as to my opinion of Salvadore, I believe that we have “agreed to disagree.” However, the fact that he and I have diametrically opposed ideas about evolution, science, and (perhaps) life in general does not lessen my respect for him as a person. We all do what we need to do to stay sane and live with ourselves, without necessarily attacking or denigrating other people. I have always tried to attack people’s ideas, rather than themselves, knowing that I too am a fallible and easily offended person. Maybe it’s my background as a Quaker, but I don’t take pleasure in attacking people.

At the same time, I believe that as an academic, I have an absolute responsibility to defend my ideas with all of the evidence and rhetorical tools I can muster, and to attack ideas and positions that I feel are misguided, wrong, and especially pernicious. I have never in my interactons with Salvadore perceived that he was taking the positions he has taken for personal gain or invideous political reasons. I believe that he takes the positions that he does because his overriding commitment is to his religious beliefs, which constrain his ability to judge evidence or change his mind vis-a-vis evolution. I, on the other hand, have changed my mind about how I understand the workings of nature on numerous occasions, whenever the evidence has demanded it. And, since I do not in any find any contradiction between my personal “religious” beliefs (being a long-time Zen Buddhist and member of the Ithaca Monthly Meeting of Friends) and my scientific beliefs, I have not had to alter either one to accomodate the other. NOr do I think that this situation is likely to change, given what we understand about the nature of nature.

Comment #140261

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 19, 2006 1:08 AM (e)

Allen, it’s not his, nor Dembski’s (nor Dave Scott for that matter), positions which tend to grate so.

It’s their constant quote mining and dishonesty in representing their positions, as rightly pointed out in this very thread (for about the hundreth time, give or take a few).

The implication in your response as to the motivations for such behavior do not address whether or not the behaviors themselves affect your judgement of them as debators.

[quote]I believe that he takes the positions that he does because his overriding commitment is to his religious beliefs, which constrain his ability to judge evidence or change his mind vis-a-vis evolution. [/quote]

if you’re going to say their behavior is intractable and to be expected, why do you even bother to debate them to begin with?

Comment #140293

Posted by Allen MacNeill on October 19, 2006 7:55 AM (e)

In comment #140261, Sir Toejam asked:

“if you’re going to say their behavior is intractable and to be expected, why do you even bother to debate them to begin with?”

It has been my experience as a teacher that, for every person who asks a question, there are about 10 people who have the same question in mind, but don’t have the courage (or can’t formulate the question well enough) to ask it. I believe this ratio is multiplied by an order of magnitude on the web. For every person who posts or comments, there are probably something like a hundred lurkers.

It is the lurkers whose minds are still open that I am primarily attempting to reach when I debate folks like Salvador Cordova or William Dembski. I have no illusions that either of those gentlemen will change their minds, as they appear to be committed to their particular viewpoints on the basis of religious orthodoxy, rather than scientific evidence. But in debating them, it often happens that their intransigence becomes obvious, and this makes a good lesson for the lurkers. In particular, I have found that acting always with as much “gentlemanliness” as possible tends to infuriate people like Dembski, who then display their lack of objectivity and intense hatred of anyone who disagrees with them in ways that can change the minds of the uncommitted.

If it seems like the foregoing is a description of a certain kind of good-natured trollishness, so be it…

Comment #140295

Posted by k.e. on October 19, 2006 8:01 AM (e)

STJ said:

if you’re[MacNeill] going to say their behavior is intractable and to be expected, why do you even bother to debate them to begin with?

Well, possibly the same reason we do, an indignant response to an attack on established truths by lying liars intent on promoting a vicious sectarian polarity of weak minded religious conservative masses determined to hold on to their intellectually challenged world views regardless of the rules of evidence and law.

The nice thing to see is MacNeill using the same techniques of postmodernist equanimity
Sal and his cohorts cynically use to outflank their opposition, thereby showing them to be ….well cynical at best and hideously corrupt at worst.

Comment #140301

Posted by ben on October 19, 2006 8:33 AM (e)

determined to hold on to their intellectually challenged world views regardless of the rules of evidence and law

Which by itself is fine; I firmly believe in their right to be stupid. The real problem is that they are also determined to impose their intellectually challenged world views on everyone else.

Comment #140304

Posted by k.e. on October 19, 2006 8:39 AM (e)

(Snicker)
Oh ….well said Dr. MacNeill, I see my comment is superfluous since you posted while I was (de?) composing.

Yes the gentlemanly art of polite discourse and mental jujitsu which you seem quite adept at needs no excuse

…..But in debating them, it often happens that their intransigence becomes obvious, and this makes a good lesson for the lurkers. In particular, I have found that acting always with as much “gentlemanliness” as possible tends to infuriate people like Dembski, who then display their lack of objectivity and intense hatred of anyone who disagrees with them in ways that can change the minds of the uncommitted.

Dembski and his seven dwarfs regularly undo themselves whenever someone polite and respectable shows up, then the facade drops.

The bind they are in of course is that to maintain their own respectability they MUST make it look like you are acting in bad faith so they can censor you’re comments from their little fascist utopia…(er that by the way is a 100% guarantee anyway)…long live the emperor of ID …..all bow.

Comment #140305

Posted by midget_in_pirate_regalia on October 19, 2006 8:45 AM (e)

“That doesn’t sound right. Negative feedback is where two or more things successively reduce, suppress and/or diminish each other. Positive feedback is where they successively increase, strengthen, or encourage each other.”

How ‘bout “positively ignorant feedback loop”?

Comment #140313

Posted by fusilier on October 19, 2006 9:16 AM (e)

In biology, negative feedback loops are far more common than positive feedback loops. In my area of physiology, we tell students that negative feedback loops maintain homeostatic values - such as blood glucose levels, carbon dioxide levels, and so forth.

Positive feedback loops break homeostasis, since they increase the stimulus.

fusilier
James 2:24

Comment #140323

Posted by bj on October 19, 2006 9:34 AM (e)

I have lurked at UD and PT for some time. I recently sent an email to Allen MacNeill thanking him for posting to UD as I have learned much from him. It’s hard to know on the internet just who to trust in their opinions. But you can get a sense of a person and their knowledge and trustworthiness by the manner of their presentation. I am one of those “in the crowd” who listens as various worldviews compete. I would urge all contributors at PT to consider his example and try to emulate it as it has worked for me. You many be able to accomplish only limited goals with the Christian theists that you encounter. You may not convert them to your worldview. But you could convert some to descent with modication(evolution)by your arguments and manner. You have to remember, your not after the folks you are opposing. You are seeking to convince those that you will never see or hear from in a forum. That’s your goal. I have to say that the manner of some contributors on both UD and PT really turns my mind off toward their views. I have to ask, “are you serving yourself or trying to lead others to the truth?”

Now back to lurking

Comment #140343

Posted by PvM on October 19, 2006 12:02 PM (e)

bj wrote:

I have lurked at UD and PT for some time. I recently sent an email to Allen MacNeill thanking him for posting to UD as I have learned much from him. It’s hard to know on the internet just who to trust in their opinions. But you can get a sense of a person and their knowledge and trustworthiness by the manner of their presentation. I am one of those “in the crowd” who listens as various worldviews compete. I would urge all contributors at PT to consider his example and try to emulate it as it has worked for me. You many be able to accomplish only limited goals with the Christian theists that you encounter. You may not convert them to your worldview. But you could convert some to descent with modication(evolution)by your arguments and manner. You have to remember, your not after the folks you are opposing. You are seeking to convince those that you will never see or hear from in a forum. That’s your goal. I have to say that the manner of some contributors on both UD and PT really turns my mind off toward their views. I have to ask, “are you serving yourself or trying to lead others to the truth?”

Hear hear. I also am quite impressed by Allen. And bj’s questions are quite on the mark.

Comment #140384

Posted by Steviepinhead on October 19, 2006 3:51 PM (e)

Well, I’m also “impressed” by, and have nothing but respect for, Prof. MacNeill’s longterm commitment to bio-evo education and his willingness to put his acquired erudition to good use in the service of science and science education.

But, like Sir TJ, and unlike Pim and Dr. MacNeill, I’m not convinced that we must always evince unswerving “respect” for the persons of the CreatIDists as we attack their psuedoscientific–and often outright fraudulent–claims.

I’m more a proponent of the “every dog gets one bite” theory (unless obviously hydrophobic at first glimpse): I’m willing to assume that a new (or “new,” since on the Internet it’s not always easy to tell…) commentator is genuinely ingenuous, baffled, curious, open-minded, etc.

Once arrant trollishness has been established, however, I see no reason to inflict unwarranted wear’n’tear on the kid gloves.

And to politely “pretend” that such beyond-stale comptrollers as Our Pal Sal and Slick Willy Dembski are anything but shuck’n’jive artistes is itself, in my view, a form of intellectual fraud. Or self-deception.

But we’ve had that discussion at length elsewhere.

Comment #140385

Posted by Flint on October 19, 2006 4:04 PM (e)

Here’s some proposed boilerplate, that should work in 95% or so of the most common circumstances:

“Sir, I respectfully suggest that your statements, while undoubtedly sincere and well-meant, are unfortunately at variance with thoroughly documented observation, with the rules of rational inference, and with several of your own prior statements. I’m sure a few moments’ reflection will be sufficient for you to recognize and correct these minor complaints, so that our discussion can continue fruitfully.”

Comment #140386

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 19, 2006 4:14 PM (e)

the reason i asked Allen when he would and would not debate IDers or creationists, is that I tend to agree with the position the NAS took on the Kansas Kangaroo Kourt “hearings”.

when you already know the stage is set, debate only gives legitimacy where there is none.

Allen may think it valuable to debate the dishonest point by point, where I think it equally valuable simply to point out where they are being dishonest to begin with.

debate a quote miner? why? simply point out where and how they intend to mislead via the quotemine itself.

this too is quite effective, and I can show dozens of examples of where pointing out the lies and deceits of places like AIG has convinced “lurkers” as well.

bottom line, I worry about legitimizing the positions of those who crave legitimacy to begin with.

Comment #140394

Posted by David B. Benson on October 19, 2006 5:04 PM (e)

Allen — It is the quality of thought and writing that matters. Academic degrees are just, well, degrees.

Comment #140401

Posted by GuyeFaux on October 19, 2006 5:22 PM (e)

In light of the fact that you’ve been blatantly quote-mined, why take this positions:

However, the fact that he and I have diametrically opposed ideas about evolution, science, and (perhaps) life in general does not lessen my respect for him as a person. We all do what we need to do to stay sane and live with ourselves, without necessarily attacking or denigrating other people. [emphasis mine]

Agreeing to disagree is certainly the possible outcome of good-faith debate. Quote mining, on the other hand, seems to me more personal. That’s when your good name as a scientist/lecturer is being used in a cause you diametrically oppose. It’s slanderous; I don’t see how you can shrug it off.

Comment #140405

Posted by Steviepinhead on October 19, 2006 5:29 PM (e)

David B. Benson:

Academic degrees are just, well, degrees.

In other words, despite the apparent division of acacemia into “kinds” (lectureres, tenure-track, tenured, emeritus, etc.), the difference is just one of degrees?

There is no macro-evolutionary barrier between lecturer-idea and doctoral-idea?

Comment #140406

Posted by David B. Benson on October 19, 2006 5:35 PM (e)

Stevie — You got it! There is no Intelligent Design bringing forth academic titles…

Comment #140418

Posted by Doc Bill on October 19, 2006 6:53 PM (e)

Where’s Diogenes when we need him to find an honest ID’er?

I am not as nurturing if that’s the right word as MacNeill when it comes to the dishonesty of ID proponents.

Sal Cordova was being deliberately dishonest when he tried to suggest that MacNeill declared that neo-Darwinism was dead. Deliberately. Dishonest.

I give Sal no passing grade for that. No curve. No partial credit. Sal’s grade: F

MacNeill showed Sal to be a fool, but so what? Sal will be back with more dishonesty real soon now.

The challenge I throw out is to name an ID proponent who is not dishonest. Dembski? Behe? Wells? Meyer? Witt? Gonzalez? Chapman?

While there are thousands of real scientists working on real projects in biology, chemistry and medicine and making real progress, producing real results and real products, name one ID scientist working on one ID project that explains one thing about biology.

Simple. There aren’t any. None.

Sorry, but I don’t give these charlatans any more credence than I do the Nigerian Treasury Minister who needs my help to cash a $25 million check.

Comment #140436

Posted by Glen Davidson on October 19, 2006 7:44 PM (e)

Once again we seem to be on the dreary discussion of what one approach works.

Why? Are Dembski and Cordova going to treat most of us like they do Allen MacNeill? Anyone who thinks that hasn’t paid sufficient attention to the practices going on over at UD. Dembski wouldn’t have just threatened to ban (for instance) Sir TJ, Steviepinhead, Doc Bill, or myself for writing what MacNeill did in his posts, he would have just banned us.

Our posts probably wouldn’t even have appeared in the first place, let alone been tolerated after they appeared. Mere truth doesn’t garner respect from the great majority of IDers, rather truth is sometimes tolerated when the person has a certain amount of power in the debate, as MacNeill does.

I think that Dr. MacNeill has hit upon a good strategy for his own role. He runs a polite opposition which (on the face of it) turns a blind eye to any number of intellectual sins. And because of that and his position, he is able to engage IDists where most of us would only be censored (something we know from experience).

However, the full stark and ugly truth about ID and its main proponents is not told by Dr. MacNeill. I don’t fault him for it, I just say that if all anti-IDers copied his style many important truths would not be written or said. I don’t, therefore, mind that MacNeill wrote the following, but its necessary politeness (necessary to his role) glosses over the high degree of intellectual dishonesty exhibited by Cordova at UD and elsewhere:

However, the fact that he and I have diametrically opposed ideas about evolution, science, and (perhaps) life in general does not lessen my respect for him as a person. We all do what we need to do to stay sane and live with ourselves, without necessarily attacking or denigrating other people.

Yes, I respect any number of IDists/creationists as people who are wrong, but decent people. If their position on origins were all that separated Cordova and us, I would say that we should be much more polite and respectful to him. Here’s my response (which I posted on AtBC this morning) to the really dishonest treatment of our side in which Cordova typically engages. A link to the full article is included:

Quote [Cordova on UD]

“But I really don’t think he’s getting that much flak. I would bet the NCSE would have been thrilled at the reconciliation of Christianity and Darwinism which Collins offered this evening. I would not be surprised if the evolutionary community has been giving their whole-hearted blessings to such overtly Christian messages as long as Darwin’s theory is treated as fact. No kidding, I really think the AAAS, NCSE, and the evolutionary community are so desperate to fight ID they’d hire Christian pastors and Evangelists to spread the news that “Darwin loves you (and has a wonderful plan for your life)!”. Lest any one doubt my claim, see: NCSE faith project director. They would gladly concede a little ground to Christianity if it will keep Darwinism intact. I mean, look at the NCSE website and how much they try to promote themselves as Christ-friendly Darwinists of late. Eugenie gets her anti-ID book endorsed by a pastor. Remember, it was Eugenie who said that in the game of selling evolution, “One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists”. “

http://www.uncommondescent.com/archives/1722

See how it is? Darwinists are such intolerant bigots that they tolerate Collins’s overtly Xian message. My God they’re devious bastards!

If you think we have trouble convincing these people, this is a classic example of why it is. It isn’t Dawkins or some other red herring, it’s that if you are intolerant (as some are) you are labeled as intolerant, and if you are completely tolerant toward Collins, Xianity, and theism in general, well that’s just because you’re an intolerant bigot who’s trying to masquerade as something else.

Salvador and his ilk are completely self-referenced and can’t understand how we welcome Collins’s message in biology primarily because he deals competently and unprejudicially with the evidence (not so in cosmological ID). Cordova thinks, however, that Collins must be on their side because he’s Xian and makes no bones about it, and any acceptance of Collins on our side has to fit with his twisted beliefs about evolutionary atheists.

continued below:

Comment #140437

Posted by Glen Davidson on October 19, 2006 7:45 PM (e)

How can we as a whole gild such tendentious dishonesty about our side? The fact is that much of Cordova’s and the rest of the ID bigshots’ “message” is simply that we are too intolerant and close-minded even to consider ID, hence their side is relieved of all intellectual responsibilities to study and understand evolution (or iow, we are so biased that this legitimates their biases). There is no dialog possible between those who rely on lies about why evolution exists in the first place, and those of us who honestly follow the evidence.

MacNeill is in a special position (one that he has forged) where he must display a tolerance for IDist BS that would be unreasonable for the rest of us to adopt. That is to say, he is the good cop, who does not state just what happened or what the motives and intentions of the suspect. Well and good.

Could he be so effective without the bad cops, those of us who call out the quote-mining and prejudicial fictions written by Cordova? I doubt it. And since most of us have never been accorded the respect and deference that MacNeill receives, we are the ones who ought to be saying what MacNeill cannot say as the one who keeps a dialog going with IDists.

There cannot be, nor should there be, a single approach to dealing with IDists. MacNeill plays a role which I trust can be effective in the venue he has chosen. We, on the other hand, make the statements that can and should be written by those who have been summarily, and without cause, disrespected and censored by the ID bigots. MacNeill ought not be faulted for soft-pedaling the truth about Cordova, yet hardly should we be faulted for telling it like it is.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #140449

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on October 19, 2006 8:06 PM (e)

“In biology, negative feedback loops are far more common than positive feedback loops.”

I believe that is true in most fields - negative feedback is more useful and easier to control. (Though not always stable, it depends on the system Nyquist plot.) But positive feedback may have its uses. In electronics you can use Schmitt triggers, positive feedback devices that are threshold sensitive.

Feedforward is also an option, though I believe there are stability problems here too. Isn’t many nerve signal paths in brains such? In electronics one may use it to adjust a simplified amplifier stage frequency characteristics depending on a time delayed signal. It enables higher and more efficient power output in mobile phone stations, IIRC.

Comment #140454

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on October 19, 2006 8:26 PM (e)

I forgot to say that schmitt triggers are so useful and ubiqious little devices for signal conditioning and simple sensing, they nearly break the observation of negative feedback as most common. (I used to love them when I did constructions, they always solved some conditioning problem. What a nerd one can become!) Negative feedback is most common on larger parts of systems though.

Comment #140455

Posted by Doc Bill on October 19, 2006 8:36 PM (e)

Well put, Glen, and I’m behind you %1000, as Nixon said.

I guess I’m not as tolerant of the mendacity I see, and I wish MacNeill well in his approach. However, Allen is a missionary amongst cannibals, I fear and his fate is of his own making.

As for me, I won’t give an inch.

I’m ready for the Discovery Institute to cross the border into Texas. Bring it on. Slack will not be cut here.

Comment #140458

Posted by jeffw on October 19, 2006 8:46 PM (e)

Feedforward is also an option, though I believe there are stability problems here too. Isn’t many nerve signal paths in brains such?

Nerves can can do both: excitatory and inhibitory. The brain is also a recurrent network, with indirect positive and negative feedback loops of arbitrary complexity.

Comment #140681

Posted by KevinD on October 20, 2006 10:31 AM (e)

I’d like to add my appreciation of MacNeil’s willingness to wade into murky waters. This is a difficult issue and one that goes well beyond creationism. Knowing what to do when one’s opponent does not hold to the rules of civilized debate is a difficult one. I will add an anecdote that for me has been very compelling.

My nephew (my wife’s nephew really) is a young man with a high school education living in east Texas. He is quite intelligent but not at all academically inclined. A couple of years ago he told my wife and I that he came across a creation/evolution debate on TV and got ‘real interested’ in the question. However he was completely turned off by the personal attacks that both sides used. He is exactly the kind of person that pro-science people need to reach. If you are really interested in defeating anti-evolutionist forces then you should ask yourself - ‘what is the best strategy for getting the uncommitted (or weakly committed) to think’?’

Comment #140691

Posted by Flint on October 20, 2006 11:21 AM (e)

If you are really interested in defeating anti-evolutionist forces then you should ask yourself - ‘what is the best strategy for getting the uncommitted (or weakly committed) to think’?’

The canonical description of selection just isn’t that hard to grasp. Those whose particular characteristics give them a slight survival edge, selectively enjoy a bit more breeding success. A bit more breeding success causes whatever give that edge to spread through the breeding population. This is simple to understand. So we have:

1) Organisms vary among themselves in countless ways
2) Some variations contribute to higher survival rates
3) Higher survival rates mean higher breeding success rates
4) There are always more individuals than the environment can accommodate; there MUST be winners and losers.

Darwin’s wedge image (not the ID’s wedge) is fairly intuitive. Drive a wedge in here, another is displaced over there. This endless game of musical chairs combines with normal variation to drive evolution.

I’m fairly certain even grade school children can understand that when there isn’t enough to go around, the biggest kid tends to glom the most of it. Competition for limited prizes is no mystery to them.

So what’s important here has little to do with relative decorum exercised in an essentially religious/political debate. What’s important is sheer exposure to the idea. What’s important is that evolution, even as baldly presented as above, is simply not mentioned or explained in many or most US secondary schools, to ensure the tranquility of the administration.

Creationism thrives on this ignorance, and is well-organized (and funded) to preserve and spread this ignorance. Sal Cordova is both a criminal and a victim; he was trained because what he was exposed to during the appropriate years was carefully orchestrated to produce what he has become. It’s this exposure where the real battle lies. MacNeill’s efforts aren’t visible where what matters is happening.

Comment #140695

Posted by PvM on October 20, 2006 11:37 AM (e)

I see the main problem to be not the concept of selection but rather the often abused and confused concept of random variation.

Even on UcD some can still be heard making the assertion that Darwinism offers no room for religion as it insists on randomness. It seems that few may appreciate how the term random is being used in the context of evolution, how randomness and evolvability relate and how Darwin used these terms.
Nevertheless, it should be easy to point out that random should not be confused with no purpose, as the latter one is a religious position.

Comment #140702

Posted by jeffw on October 20, 2006 12:01 PM (e)

Even on UcD some can still be heard making the assertion that Darwinism offers no room for religion as it insists on randomness.

I wonder why they don’t complain about quantum mechanics then, since it basically says that all of reality is based on probability distributions of random events?

Comment #140707

Posted by Michael Suttkus, II on October 20, 2006 12:11 PM (e)

Because as much as they don’t understand EVILution, they really don’t understand quantum mechanics. They don’t even understand it enough to understand it’s a threat to them. Ditto neurology, which has very little good to say about the traditional concept of the soul, but you’ll never hear creationists gripe about it either.

Comment #140726

Posted by minimalist on October 20, 2006 1:54 PM (e)

Yeah, the beauty of evolution is that its most basic principles are very easy to grasp at an early level, as Flint said. Of course we know the evidence runs a lot deeper than that, but it requires slightly more technical knowledge to understand.

Creationists, however – either from not being exposed any further, or from an unwillingness to learn – think that the state of evolution research is still at the level where they last learned about it (4th grade “Life Sciences” class, apparently). It’s easy to feel like an expert in a field which can be easily understood, even if the creationists still manage to get the details completely wrong.

I suppose it’s why they can state so confidently that “there are no transitional fossils” (because they didn’t bother to learn about any), or fill in the gaps in their knowledge with curious strawman versions of “what evolutionists believe”.

Clearly the answer lies in obscurantism. We should teach all the technical aspects of evolution as soon as possible so the creationists will throw up their hands and look for an ‘easier’ science to parasitize.

Comment #140728

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on October 20, 2006 1:57 PM (e)

“I see the main problem to be not the concept of selection but rather the often abused and confused concept of random variation.

Even on UcD some can still be heard making the assertion that Darwinism offers no room for religion as it insists on randomness.”

Yes, but that description doesn’t follow, it is the strawman. Selection means that the process isn’t fully random. (“Shit happens, but shit is good for you.”) If some randomness is a problem, they should have trouble with physics as well. (“Fundamentally everything is built on shit happening.”)

Not forgetting selection besides easily observable variation is fundamental when teaching. Fundies will never accept science anyway. If it isn’t randomness, it will be back to that it isn’t created.

“Nevertheless, it should be easy to point out that random should not be confused with no purpose, as the latter one is a religious position.”

Right, if not confused with purpose. No purpose is the supportable scientific position AFAIK. For example, John Wilkins discuss adapted systems ( http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/teleology.html ). It is another thing is that it is convenient to ascribe intelligent agents purposes. Aside from that ‘purpose’ is the religious position. What is the purpose of evolution?

Comment #140743

Posted by Flint on October 20, 2006 2:24 PM (e)

minimalist:

Permit me to disagree, at least somewhat:

Creationists, however – either from not being exposed any further, or from an unwillingness to learn – think that the state of evolution research is still at the level where they last learned about it (4th grade “Life Sciences” class, apparently).

Nope. For most of them, the only exposure they had was what their parents told them, and what was then reinforced in Sunday school. The public schools DO NOT TOUCH this material. Not even in “life science” classes. And they weren’t exposed even to the basics of competition for resources. They were exposed to tales of Jeezus and fulminations against Satan’s invidious claim that we all came from pond scum and our grandparents were monkeys.

I suppose it’s why they can state so confidently that “there are no transitional fossils” (because they didn’t bother to learn about any)

Nope. They can be confident because according to doctrine, transitional fossils CANNOT exist. The could have “learned” about every fossil ever claimed to be transitional, and found that by golly, NONE of them are transitional since God didn’t do things that way. Many creationists are fully informed about all the transitionals; the problem is most emphatically NOT one of ignorance.

or fill in the gaps in their knowledge with curious strawman versions of “what evolutionists believe”.

This is only done post facto, to defend hardwired knowledge from causing discomfort. Most creationists don’t bother trying to debate devout evolutionists, recognizing that evolutionism’s victims aren’t going to be converted until the fact base can be changed. So they just avoid the issue and teach Little Johnny the Jeezus version, UNTIL Johnny’s biology teacher starts blaspheming by presenting facts and such. THEN they rise up and march against school administrators with torches and pitchforks.

Those creationists who actively engage in these debates display an impressively broad and deep knowledge of the theory of evolution; enough to trot out the appropriate misrepresentation or mined quote or other falsehood even to the most arcane or recent findings of evo-devo or molecular analysis. By that time, it’s become clear that the gaps lie in their sanity, and not in their knowledge.

Comment #140753

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on October 20, 2006 3:18 PM (e)

“Fundies will never accept science anyway.”

Correction - most fundies. But are they real fundies then? :-) :-) :-)

Comment #140766

Posted by MarkP on October 20, 2006 3:59 PM (e)

This comment by Allen MacNeill deserves emphasis:

It is the lurkers whose minds are still open that I am primarily attempting to reach when I debate folks like Salvador Cordova or William Dembski. I have no illusions that either of those gentlemen will change their minds, as they appear to be committed to their particular viewpoints on the basis of religious orthodoxy, rather than scientific evidence. But in debating them, it often happens that their intransigence becomes obvious, and this makes a good lesson for the lurkers. In particular, I have found that acting always with as much “gentlemanliness” as possible tends to infuriate people like Dembski, who then display their lack of objectivity and intense hatred of anyone who disagrees with them in ways that can change the minds of the uncommitted.

This is crucial. In most any debate involving religion, views are held very emotionally, and it is almost impossible to persuade the person with whom one debates. I spent many frustrating years discovering this. However, once I realized that my target audience was, well, my audience, I had (and continue to have) a much increased success rate.

We have to remember that the scientific debate is a slam dunk for the evolution side. Anyone who approached it that way would already have seen the light. To persuade Joe Average churchgoer, one needs a different approach. Complicated scientific jargon is not very persuasive to him. Nastiness only makes us look as bad as the creationists. The subtleties of the differences that lead to the nastiness are lost on Joe Average.

But stay a gentleman while your opponent gets nasty, and Joe starts to listen. Ask your opponent some hardhitting general questions that he dodges, and you look more reasonable to Joe. I once asked a coworker during a lunch debate over the existence of God if it were possible that he was wrong, and his stammering evasive nonanswer basically deconverted half the group witnessing it. Of course he remained faithful, but so what? He helped me get the 6 people watching us considering positions they wouldn’t have before.

Know your audience. Aim at your audience. They are the key. The Cordova’s and Dembski’s of the world are never going to see the light. They are tools, in every sense of the word.

Comment #140801

Posted by Mike Z on October 20, 2006 6:23 PM (e)

For what it’s worth…
It seems obvious to me that there is no single best approach to countering the anti-science crowd. Lurkers, of course, are not a homogeneous group, and while some may be swayed by Allen, others may be swayed by Lenny, or Pim, or PZ, or…
Despite the occasional fights between these science defenders, they are all trying to achieve the same basic ends and are all steadfastly opposed to the ID proponents. Since this is a complicated scientific / political / cultural issue, a combined approach works way better than any single approach.
Keep it up!

Comment #140803

Posted by MarkP on October 20, 2006 6:31 PM (e)

I agree Mike. Our audience is not homogeneous, and neither are we. I lack the biological training of many here, so I can’t begin to attack the IDers on the scientific nitty gritty in the way a PZ or Matzke can. But as an actuary, the minute they start talking probabilities, I’ll nail their ass. I suspect the good cop/bad cop routine that Suttkus and Lenny apparently pull off is pretty convincing too.

That’s the beauty of the IDers: they are wrong in so many different ways, we can all choose which part of the cat to skin.

Comment #140810

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 20, 2006 7:24 PM (e)

I suspect the good cop/bad cop routine that Suttkus and Lenny apparently pull off is pretty convincing too.

We’ve had years of practice at it. ;)

But I do feel the need to say two things:

(1) attempting to change an IDer’s mind is a waste of time. In 20-plus years of creationist-fighting, I can count on the fingers of one hand the sum total of all the creationist/IDers I’ve seen give it up (and in every such case, it was religious arguments against fundamentalism that changed their mind, not scientific arguments against creationism). The payoff simply isn’t worth the effort.

(2) all of the people who are popping in now, looking for ways to beat the IDers, are too late. ID is already dead. It was shot in the knees in Kansas, shot in the head at Dover, and its coffin lid was nailed on in Ohio.

But wait around for 10 or 15 years, and you’ll be able to get in on the ground floor of their newest religious/political campaign against evolution, whatever they decide to call it. :)

Comment #140967

Posted by MarkP on October 21, 2006 8:49 AM (e)

Lenny, I think you are being too pessimistic and too optimistic at the same time:

1) The key word in your comment is “seen”. The ones you persuade are the ones you never see. Don’t shortchange yourself.

2) Beware of declaring ID dead. ID/creationism reminds me of the monsters in B-movies. Now is not the time to stop shooting, stand over its body, and peer into its face merely because it has stopped moving. It’s liable to leap up and grab you by the throat. Empty your clip into it. Smash out it’s brains (if you can find any). They are relentless, they will not stop, and they are recruiting new members all the time.

Comment #140968

Posted by MarkP on October 21, 2006 8:49 AM (e)

Lenny, I think you are being too pessimistic and too optimistic at the same time:

1) The key word in your comment is “seen”. The ones you persuade are the ones you never see. Don’t shortchange yourself.

2) Beware of declaring ID dead. ID/creationism reminds me of the monsters in B-movies. Now is not the time to stop shooting, stand over its body, and peer into its face merely because it has stopped moving. It’s liable to leap up and grab you by the throat. Empty your clip into it. Smash out it’s brains (if you can find any). They are relentless, they will not stop, and they are recruiting new members all the time.

Comment #140980

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 21, 2006 9:23 AM (e)

2) Beware of declaring ID dead. ID/creationism reminds me of the monsters in B-movies. Now is not the time to stop shooting, stand over its body, and peer into its face merely because it has stopped moving. It’s liable to leap up and grab you by the throat. Empty your clip into it. Smash out it’s brains (if you can find any). They are relentless, they will not stop, and they are recruiting new members all the time.

Oh, the fundies will *never* go away. Ever. They are like cancer – eternal.

But ID, in its current incarnation, is dead. Dead, dead, dead. Even the IDers know it.

As I noted before, though, all you have to do is stick around for 10-15 years, and you’ll see the latest religious/political movement against evolution appear, whatever they decide to call it.

Comment #140981

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 21, 2006 9:29 AM (e)

1) The key word in your comment is “seen”. The ones you persuade are the ones you never see. Don’t shortchange yourself.

Perhaps. But then, it’s never been any sort of priority with me to convert any fundies. Creationism/ID is not a scientific movement. It’s not even a religious movement. It’s a POLITICAL movement, and no political movement in history has ever been beaten by converting all its members to another viewpoint. Like any other political movement, the ID/creationists are beaten by out-organizing them – by cutting off their funding, by driving a wedge between them and their political support, by weakening their organizations. As for changing their minds, I have no interest in it. The First Amendment hasn’t (yet) been repealed, and they have the same right as anyone else to hold whatever religious opinions they like, no matter how stupid they might be. If they want to preach ID/creationism in church, where it belongs, they can do so every Sunday from now till Jesus comes back, and I will have no gripe with them at all. But if they try to use political power to force their religious opinions into public schools, then I will fight them with every weapon that is available to me.

Comment #141001

Posted by jeffw on October 21, 2006 10:31 AM (e)

But ID, in its current incarnation, is dead. Dead, dead, dead. Even the IDers know it.

Yes, ID really doesn’t have anywhere to go. They have zero support from scientific community, only marginal support from the true fundies, and of course, no real science of their own. Creationism (of the AIG sort) on the other hand, has the kind of grass-roots support that gives it staying power. It doesn’t need the scientific community. All it needs is an uneducated public to keep the faith, and donations that keep coming in. I’m not even sure that creationism is all that political (like ID). It’s more important to the church as a device for keeping the faithful in the fold.

Comment #141005

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 21, 2006 10:52 AM (e)

I’m not even sure that creationism is all that political (like ID).

Political is all creation “science” ever WAS. It’s very birth was in response to court rulings that were lost by the fundies. It’s very lifeblood was trying to pass “balanced treatment” and “equal time” laws. (And, unlike the ID fools, the creation “scientists” actually succeeded in doing it.)

ID is just a continuation of the very same political program, and is itself just a political and legal response to court rulings that went against the fundies. And the next incarnation of anti-evolution, whatever they call it, will also be a continuation of the very same political program, and will also itself be a political and legal response to court rulings that the fundies have lost.

They are all the same. There is no difference between them whatever. The political program hasn’t changed a bit. Just the packaging.

It’s more important to the church as a device for keeping the faithful in the fold.

Nonsense. Most churches think creationism is a load of crap.

As for the fundies, they don’t need creationism to keep their faithful in the fold, and that’s not creationism’s purpose. Creationism’s purpose – it’s ONLY purpose – is to find a legal way for fundies to use the power of the state to get everyone *else’s* kids into the fold.

Comment #141012

Posted by jeffw on October 21, 2006 11:17 AM (e)

Nonsense. Most churches think creationism is a load of crap.

I’m not so sure about that. As a pianist, I would occasionally play at various church services for several different denominations. Almost all of them would have creationist literature laying around. Baptist, Methodist, Mennonite, Seventh Day adventist, etc (I can’t comment on Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, tho). It seemed like they were trying hard to convince their own people. I’m not sure whether all their members bought into that stuff, but the literature was there.

Comment #141064

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 21, 2006 4:31 PM (e)

I’m not so sure about that.

I am quite sure.

And you can double-check it, the same way I did. Go to the phone book, look under “churches”, call them all, and ask.

Let us know what you find.

Comment #141072

Posted by jeffw on October 21, 2006 5:28 PM (e)

I am quite sure.

You shouldn’t be. Pretty simple math, actually. The latest statistics are that something like 50% of all americans believe in a literal creation at ~6000 years ago. If you are saying that most christians are not creationists, that must mean that more than 50% of the rest of the population (atheists and agnostics) would have to be creationists, in order to make up the 50%. Not bloody likely. The creationist 50% is concentrated in christian churchs (which should actually be quite obvious).

Comment #141074

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 21, 2006 5:53 PM (e)

The latest statistics are that something like 50% of all americans believe in a literal creation at ~6000 years ago.

Actually, no. About 50% think goddidit. The percentage of YEC is quite a bit lower. And the 50% figure itself varies widely according to how the question is phrased. I expect most of them are simply theistic evolutionists who know nothing about the topic but who just assume the same thing that the fundie and atheist extremists do – that “evolution” equals “atheism”.

And we were not talking about the number of Americans — we were talking about the number of churches. Most churches in the US reject creationism (and biblical literalism). Indeed, most of the plaintiffs in the Arkansas and Louisiana cases were, uh, church representatives, who argued (successfully) that teaching creationism in schools gives government support to a particular religious view (fundamentalist literalism) that their churches did not share.

Once again, I ask you to duplicate my own experiment. Find contact information for as many churches in the US as you can. Ask them their position on evolution. Tell us what you find.

You will find that well over half of them think creationists (and fundamentalists in general) are nuts.

Don’t equate “fundamentalism” with “Christianity”. The two are not the same. Most churches think the fundies are just as nutty as you do. And indeed, worldwide, fundamentalism is just a tiny minority of Christians.

Comment #141079

Posted by jeffw on October 21, 2006 6:24 PM (e)

Actually, no. About 50% think goddidit. The percentage of YEC is quite a bit lower.

The YEC numbers do vary a bit depending on how questions are asked, but are still high. I’ve seen numbers from 40 to 48%. In 2005:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation-evolution_controversy
“A poll conducted in July 2005 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and reported in the New York Times on August 31, 2005, “found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that ‘living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”

Indeed, most of the plaintiffs in the Arkansas and Louisiana cases were, uh, church representatives, who argued (successfully) that teaching creationism in schools gives government support to a particular religious view (fundamentalist literalism) that their churches did not share.

That’s fine. But if true, then the “official” position of most churchs must be odds with their constituency, just based on the math alone (and confirmed by my own experiences). If 42% of americans are YEC’s, then a much higher percentage of christians must be YEC’s. Granted, there could be large variations between different christian sects, but that 42% must be made up somehow.

And indeed, worldwide, fundamentalism is just a tiny minority of Christians.

True, the problem is mostly in the usa.

Comment #141099

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 21, 2006 9:27 PM (e)

If 42% of americans are YEC’s, then a much higher percentage of christians must be YEC’s.

No argument from me. I doubt most people even KNOW their church’s “official position”. On anything at all.

But that sort of shoots a hole in the conclusion that …

It’s more important to the church as a device for keeping the faithful in the fold.

… which is how this conversation got started.

As I noted before, most churches think creationism is a crock of cow crap. Creationism has next to nothing to do with keeping anyone in the fold. It is a political method to force others INTO the fold. Whether they like it or not.

Comment #141102

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 21, 2006 9:29 PM (e)

True, the problem is mostly in the usa.

Alas, I did see a poll earlier this year giving similar numbers for the UK.

But then, under Tony Blair, there seems to be little difference between the US and the UK. It’s sort of been adopted as a 51st state.

Comment #141112

Posted by jeffw on October 21, 2006 10:24 PM (e)

As I noted before, most churches think creationism is a crock of cow crap.

I’m more than a little skeptical. Show me a link on the web where Baptist, Methodist, or Seventh Day Adventist leadership condemns YEC.

Creationism has next to nothing to do with keeping anyone in the fold. It is a political method to force others INTO the fold.

That doesn’t make sense. I’ve never seen YEC creationism used as a conversion tool. Accept Christ because… the world is 6k years old? And there was a great big flood? Ignore all the science stuff you learned?

No, it’s is much more logical to use it as an apologetic device, to ease doubts and answer troubling questions, when church members see science shows that talk about evolution, millions of years, big bang, etc.

Comment #141143

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 22, 2006 1:20 AM (e)

I’m more than a little skeptical.

Then ask them.

You have a phone book? You have a phone?

That’s the beauty of science — you don’t NEED to take my word for it. (shrug)

Show me a link on the web where Baptist, Methodist, or Seventh Day Adventist leadership condemns YEC.

The Seventh Day Adventists (a very small fundie denomination) are indeed YEC’s – in fact their members FOUNDED creationism, back in the 20’s. So you got one right.

As for the Baptists and Methodists, you seem to be unaware that there are a number of different branches within them. You also seem unaware that the plaintiffs in the Arkansas case (who argued against creation “science”) included representatives from the United Methodist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic and African Methodist Episcopal churches, the Arkansas head of the Presbyterian Church, and individual clergy from the United Methodist, Southern Baptist and Presbyterian churches.

You might also want to check out the Clergy Project, which has so far gathered over 10,000 signatures of religious representatives in the US opposing ID/creationism and endorsing evolution:

http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/clergy_project.htm

The idea that most churches in the US support ID/creationism, is simply wrong. As I said, most churches in the US think the fundies are nuts.

Comment #141144

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 22, 2006 1:22 AM (e)

By the way, lest anyone get their anti-theist panties all in a bunch, I should perhaps point out (again) that I am not a Christian, and I do not assert, or accept, the existence of any god, gods, goddesses, or any other supernatural entity whatsoever.

Comment #141157

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 22, 2006 2:43 AM (e)

I’m more than a little skeptical. Show me a link on the web where Baptist, Methodist, or Seventh Day Adventist leadership condemns YEC.

Lutherans OK?

http://www.thelutheran.org/blog/comments.cfm?blog_id=152

Discussion on intelligent design and creationism can take place, not in the science classroom but in humanities and social science classrooms, says Roger Willer, associate director for studies, ELCA Church in Society.

Peters says neither intelligent design nor scientific creationism have fertile research programs that can match Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian models of evolution. “The Darwinian models have led to progressive research and new knowledge,” he says. “They also have proven themselves fertile for predicting what we would find in the fossil record, and for predicting random variation in genes that have led indirectly to research on new medicines. The Lutheran understanding of God’s creation leads us to commit ourselves to the best science…. Nothing less than hard-earned empirical truths about the natural world will measure up.”

seems a pretty clear rejection of YEC and ID to me.

Comment #141192

Posted by windy on October 22, 2006 6:09 AM (e)

I’ll comment here since I am not registered over at UC.

Allen MacNeill wrote at UC:

Furthermore, I think the paleontological and genetic/developmental evidence is sufficiently robust at the present time to assert that macroevolution cannot be simply reduced to microevolutionary processes working over longer periods of time. There appear to be macroevolutionary mechanisms that operate somewhat differently that those traditionally placed under the heading of microevolution. One of the most important of these macroevolutionary mechanisms is the process known as “adaptive radiation”, in which a population of organisms of relatively restricted phenotype rapidly diverge into many phenotypically distinct forms in a relatively brief period of time (i.e. under a million years).

An example of this phenomenon is the fantastic diversification of the cichlid fishes of Lake Victoria, which apparently diversified into hundreds of distinct “species” in less than 13,000 years. As I will explain in my forthcoming textbook, I believe that adaptive radiation is based on the exact opposite process as natural selection: that is, rapid diversification of phenotypic forms occurs most rapidly when selection is relaxed, rather than intensified.

Perhaps I have missed something but I have rather the opposite impression from the current state of the art. A while ago the “accepted wisdom” was that most speciation would be due to reproductive isolation arising by accidental drift during geographical separation. Now “ecological speciation” is making a comeback and people are actively debating the role of natural selection in speciation and whether sympatric speciation (driven by selection) might actually be quite common.

Of the cichlids specifically, what about sexual selection? And attributing the diversification solely to relaxation of selection does not jive with accounts such as this:

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=154331

Directional selection has shaped the oral jaws of Lake Malawi cichlid fishes

East African cichlid fishes represent one of the most striking examples of rapid and convergent evolutionary radiation among vertebrates. Models of ecological speciation would suggest that functional divergence in feeding morphology has contributed to the origin and maintenance of cichlid species diversity. However, definitive evidence for the action of natural selection has been missing. Here we use quantitative genetics to identify regions of the cichlid genome responsible for functionally important shape differences in the oral jaw apparatus. The consistent direction of effects for individual quantitative trait loci suggest that cichlid jaws and teeth evolved in response to strong, divergent selection. Moreover, several chromosomal regions contain a disproportionate number of quantitative trait loci, indicating a prominent role for pleiotropy or genetic linkage in the divergence of this character complex. Of particular interest are genomic intervals with concerted effects on both the length and height of the lower jaw. Coordinated changes in this area of the oral jaw apparatus are predicted to have direct consequences for the speed and strength of jaw movement. Taken together, our results imply that the rapid and replicative nature of cichlid trophic evolution is the result of directional selection on chromosomal packages that encode functionally linked aspects of the craniofacial skeleton.

Comment #141229

Posted by jeffw on October 22, 2006 9:56 AM (e)

Lutherans OK?

http://www.thelutheran.org/blog/comments.cfm?blo…

As I said, Lutheran I couldn’t comment on. I suspected that the offical position of both Lutheran and Episcolpalian were not YEC. Some of these churches are a little more progressive.

Comment #141231

Posted by jeffw on October 22, 2006 10:07 AM (e)

Then ask them.

You have a phone book? You have a phone?

I shouldn’t have to. If they were series about disavowing YEC, they’d have their position stated on web in no unequivocal terms, like the Lutherans for example.

You might also want to check out the Clergy Project, which has so far gathered over 10,000 signatures of religious representatives in the US opposing ID/creationism and endorsing evolution:

http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/clergy_projec…

The idea that most churches in the US support ID/creationism, is simply wrong. As I said, most churches in the US think the fundies are nuts.

Is the Clergy project the official position of all these baptist and methodist groups, or is it only representative of the of those who signed it? Even though these 10,000 are obviously not YEC, they are only a small fraction of american church goers who number in the tens of millions. It doesn’t take a genius to see that, as I’ve demonstated, most of them are YEC.

Comment #141262

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 22, 2006 3:53 PM (e)

I shouldn’t have to.

(sigh) Then think whatever you want.

Some things just ain’t worth arguing over. Particularly when anyone with a phone can check for themselves and see what’s what. (shrug)

Comment #141267

Posted by jeffw on October 22, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

Particularly when anyone with a phone can check for themselves and see what’s what.

In this day and age, it’s a lot easier and less time consuming to look things up on the net. And there’s where I found a pretty good breakdown. Not sure how reliable it is, but you’re at least somewhat vindicated:

http://www.cesame-nm.org/Viewpoint/contributions/bible/position.html

A lot of variation, but overall 101 million not professing inerrancy vs 41 professing inerrancy, so the “official” position of most churches is as you claim. Still, the number of churches professing innerrancy is significant. And of course, that’s just the leadership. When you say “most churches think creationism is crap”, it sounds as if you are speaking for their membership as well. Obviously, they’re not in sync, and creationism is quite healthy and alive, with over 100 million believers in the USA. Unlike ID, it’s far from dead. It’s a long-term grass roots thing, and will keep coming back like bad dream. If the courts shift just a little further to the right, it will become a nightmare.

Comment #141370

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 24, 2006 2:42 AM (e)

Of the cichlids specifically, what about sexual selection? And attributing the diversification solely to relaxation of selection does not jive with accounts such as this:

correct.

I haven’t seen the whole of what Allen’s thinking is here, but the quoted bit seems quite at odds with just about everybody who actually does work on those Cichlids.

I should know, I spent three years in one of the labs at Berkeley that was in fact trying to test various aspects of Malawi and Tanganyika cichlids.

I think he’s barking up the wrong tree, literally.

guess he doesn’t buy the standard niche diversification theory.

well, he’s got his work cut out for him, that’s for sure.

Comment #141424

Posted by windy on October 24, 2006 12:24 PM (e)

I haven’t seen the whole of what Allen’s thinking is here, but the quoted bit seems quite at odds with just about everybody who actually does work on those Cichlids.

I should know, I spent three years in one of the labs at Berkeley that was in fact trying to test various aspects of Malawi and Tanganyika cichlids.

I think he’s barking up the wrong tree, literally.

Thanks man, I thought there was something fishy about his claim :)

I’d be happy to consider the possibility of macroevolutionary processes that can’t be explained by microevolution. (Besides the obvious ones, like mass extinctions) But many of the suggestions for such processes seem a bit vague.

Comment #141441

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 24, 2006 2:56 PM (e)

But many of the suggestions for such processes seem a bit vague.

I do hope Allen proceeds to get serious feedback before he decides to write a book or something.

there are some excellent evolutionary biologists at Cornell I do hope he will consult with, like Harry Greene, for example.

Comment #141442

Posted by Henry J on October 24, 2006 3:03 PM (e)

Re “macroevolutionary processes”

Would diversification of separate lineages be considered a “process”, or would it just be considered as several instances of repeated microevolution?

Henry

Comment #141468

Posted by windy on October 24, 2006 6:41 PM (e)

Would diversification of separate lineages be considered a “process”, or would it just be considered as several instances of repeated microevolution?

Depends, see for example:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/macroevolution.html#microevolution