Burt Humburg posted Entry 3012 on March 25, 2007 04:22 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/3002

During my time in Kansas Citizens for Science, I was privileged to work with science supporters of all walks of life as I developed flyers and pamphlets on evolutionary topics or criticizing aspects of the intelligent design creationism movement. When some ID creationism speaker would come to town, KCFS would be there, passing out flyers that informed the audience what they would be hearing from the creationist and why it was wrong or disingenuous. (When Phillip Johnson came to Lawrence, it was fun to see everyone in the hall reading our brightly colored pamphlets prior to his talk. Everything he said, we already had written down in our pamphlets.)

I’m now out in Pennsylvania. While KCFS is still going strong (and about to host Monkey Girl author Edward Humes’s lecture at JCCC this Thursday), one thing I have missed from KCFS is the availability of easy-to-find pamphlets or flyers on ID creationism or evolution. I’d like to fix that.

So, I’ve updated “A Word About Intelligent Design Creationism.” Its text appears below as the extended entry as well as in PDF and RTF formats. Please feel free to adopt the text of this flyer to your own purposes, though appropriate attribution with a plug for the Thumb would be appreciated.

I’ve added a new “Category” of Flyers/Pamphlets under which we’ll hopefully amass quite a library of pro-science literature broadsides and pamphlets. Alternatively, if you have flyers that you’ve made, let us know via comments below. (We might be able to make those available here or on other archive sites as well.)

A Word About Intelligent Design Creationism
By Burt Humburg

Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC) has emerged as an attempt to integrate science and religion. But is there any scientific evidence for IDC or reason to alter science to suit it? And what are the theological implications of IDC? This flyer examines IDC and its relationship to science and religion.

Evolution, or the process of descent with modification, has been shown to elegantly explain and predict findings that relate to speciation and general biology. Evolution provides the basis for almost all biomedical research, allowing human drugs to be developed in mice and so on. Also, evolutionary concepts, when applied more broadly, have proven useful in explaining and predicting observations in geology, anthropology, and other fields unrelated to general biology directly. For this reason, scientists consider evolution to be a workhorse of a theory worthy of the title “The integrating theory of biology.”

Evolution was validated over a century ago and it continues to be validated today whenever scientists describe findings that make the most sense (or that only make sense) from an evolutionary perspective. While there are creationists that dispute the legitimacy of this evidence, this flyer will not attempt to argue against them. Contemporary anti-evolutionary arguments purport to agree with most of evolution, but suggest that it is insufficient to explain all of biological diversity. IDC advocates appeal to the actions of an unnamed agent, typically called an Intelligent Designer, to account for things they feel evolution can’t. (Almost all IDC advocates believe this mysterious designer to be the Christian God, though they continue to use vague terms in order to skirt the Constitution or leave the impression that they are not discussing religion.)

So what is IDC and “Teach the Controversy?”
IDC advocates operate under the assumption that natural processes cannot fully account for natural phenomena. They survey current science, find those areas that are poorly understood currently, and conclude (or oftentimes simply argue) that science never will be able to understand those areas. Since God can do anything, IDC advocates point to these poorly understood areas as places where God must have intervened.

This is problematic because any phenomenon could be explained by God’s involvement and no phenomenon or data could ever disprove God. For example, IDC advocates appeal to mutually exclusive manifestations of the IDC creator: that life arose because it is so improbable (e.g., CSI, described below) and that life arose because it is just so likely (e.g., “Privileged Planet,” described elsewhere). In order for scientists to use a hypothesis to explain or predict findings from the observable and testable “natural” world, the proposed hypothesis must be cohesive and predictive of a pattern. Since IDC appeals essentially to the whimsy of a designer, and especially since IDC advocates are usually at pains to avoid saying just who this designer is, it therefore becomes clear that there is no theory of IDC. Rather, IDC exists only as a criticism of evolution or the accepted processes of science in general.

Because there is no testable model proposed by IDC, it cannot be science and it is therefore inappropriate to teach IDC alongside or instead of science in public school classrooms. It is for this reason that IDC advocates have shifted their tactics from arguing in favor of teaching IDC to “Teaching the Controversy.” As Judge Jones wrote in his Kitzmiller trial opinion, IDC’s backers have sought to avoid scientific scrutiny by advocating that the controversy, but not IDC itself, should be taught in science class. The goal of the movement, as he noted, is not to encourage critical thought, but to replace evolution with IDC.

IDC is a Useless Idea
The IDC logic essentially holds that if something cannot be explained by natural (observable and testable) means, this would be evidence of an intelligent designer. Notably, all IDC advocates concede the utility of explaining things by natural means in science. Phillip Johnson makes this point clearly, since he is only interested in phenomena that have “God’s fingerprints all over them.” William Dembski explicitly states that IDC explanations are to be advanced only after natural explanations have failed.

But this gives away the game: natural explanations must be preferable to supernatural ones! Further, a poorly understood area of science that will never be understood is indistinguishable from a poorly understood area of science that someday will be understood. Since the former are the evidences of the designer that IDC backers supposedly seek, IDC’s logic will be unable to say anything with certainty regarding what the designer did in this world until the day when science has discovered as much as it can possibly discover forevermore. There are many examples of IDC advocates who have given up on the accepted processes of science too early. (Google “Behe whale” sometime.) Therefore, IDC is useless.

What About Behe’s “Irreducible Complexity?”
Irreducible Complexity (IC) is advanced as evidence for IDC in science. Advocates believe IC demonstrates certain complex and/or interdependent structures or systems that evolution – a process that uses functional or intermediate steps – could not have constructed. Unfortunately for Behe, in order to claim that IC is evidence against a gradualistic evolutionary ascent, the evolution of a complex system must be the opposite of its dismantlement. As the reader will see, it is not.

There are many systems of apparent irreducible complexity that have obvious intermediate stages. For example, when framing a house, if a single wall is raised, that wall will stand only so long as it is supported. Rather than holding it, a builder might temporarily support the wall with an anchoring beam. In this fashion, all four walls could be raised and connected to each other, making the structure self-supporting and making the supportive role of the anchoring beams redundant to the function of the joined walls. If those beams were removed, the system would become IC, since the removal of a single wall might compromise the complex and interdependent function of the whole. This is proof of principle that IC is unreliable evidence that a structure could have had no intermediate stages.

In point of fact, evolution gives rise to irreducible complexity all the time. Indeed, IC can be predicted to arise whenever a part or a function is added to a system and subsequently made necessary. Examples on the TalkOrigins website describe IC structures that arose from the addition of parts, the subtraction of parts, and the co-optation of parts into new functions. In particular, the evolutionary ascent of the C3 protein in the complement system – a system which Behe said is irreducibly complex – is reviewed.

What About Dembski’s Complex, Specified Information (CSI)?
William Dembski tries to use probability and information theory to demonstrate that random processes cannot produce the special and complex patterns of genetic code required for life as we know it. Unfortunately, he misappropriates information theory and its attendant theoretical treatments of entropy to arrive at his conclusion. Thus, Dembski recapitulates the violation of the second law of thermodynamics arguments for which young earth creationists are so well known.

He is also wrong in principle. By arguing that the specific genetic code could not have appeared, Dembski misses the point of evolution, which has always been focused on the function a gene provides: the selective pressures of evolution operate on the products of genes and gene functions, not the genetic codes giving rise to functions. Dembski’s pretense is to distract people by claiming the ascent of the “information” in those codes represents an insurmountable obstacle for evolution, even though Darwin’s theory was considered compelling even back when it was articulated without any understanding of genetics or codes at all. Moreover, probabilistic treatments of genetic code are obviously irrelevant to any model of evolution in which the transitional nature of the evolutionary process – that later states are achieved via modifications of previous states – are ignored, like Dembski’s.

But where Dembski really blunders is in the real world. His verbiage on the impossibility of spontaneous information formation becomes impotent when one sees that very thing occurring in the wild or in the lab. Cheng, in 1998, described the evolution of diverse antifreeze proteins in Antarctic fish, one of which was co-opted from a digestive enzyme called trypsinogen. Copley, in 2000, described the evolution of PCB-digesting bacteria. Since PCB is a “xenobiotic” that is not found in nature but made only by humans, this is evidence of recent evolution. Examples like these look for all the world like genetic information being created through evolution. If they are not, then Dembski needs to be doing a much better job of explaining what the “information” evolution supposedly cannot give rise to is and why his concerns are relevant to biology. They certainly appear irrelevant today.

IDC Can Sabotage Science
Science is fundamentally a system of discovery. When scientists see something they cannot explain, they formulate a hypothesis that explains what they saw and then they test that hypothesis. If it survives those tests, it could explain and predict other hypotheses, forming a theory from which to build other hypotheses. The danger of IDC is that it can substitute supernatural explanations that can never be tested and do not predict other findings in the place of natural hypotheses that can be tested and do predict other findings. (A direct intervention by God may possibly “explain” but it does not predict other interventions, nor is it testable. One cannot put God in a test tube, nor can one keep him out.)

As a fanciful example, take two scientists who travel to St. Louis, neither of whom knows much about construction and one of whom uses IDC thinking instead of science. As these two scientists gaze upon the arch, both are astonished and they both attempt to explain how the arch was constructed. As neither of our two scientists knows about the use of scaffolding to support an eventually self-supporting structure while it is being created, our scientists are left without natural explanations for how the arch came to be. The scientist who falls prey to IDC thinking might conclude that, since humans cannot create such structures as a whole and since the arch is clearly the product of design, God must have built the St. Louis arch.

Of course, this conclusion would seem silly to most readers and possibly insulting to IDC advocates, since most readers would know about scaffolding and all would know humans created the arch. But to understand the example, one must enter into the mindset of a person investigating a problem for which there is no current scientific understanding. IDC advocates have appealed to the actions of an Intelligent Designer to explain the Cambrian Explosion, the ascent of whales evolving, and the origin of life. The reader is asked to substitute any “challenge to evolution” the proponents of “Teach the Controversy” wish to advance in place of the arch. (The only difference will be, in the examples of “controversy” creationists today will advance, a scientific explanation for the phenomenon in question probably will not yet be known.)

Clearly, the scientist who suffers from IDC thinking reached an inappropriate conclusion. Easily, one danger of IDC thinking is that it can support bad explanations for phenomena with untestable “evidence.” However, incorrect hypotheses are advanced and corrected often in science, so this is not a prominent danger. The real threat is that the question of the arch’s construction has now been answered (God did it) in a way that sabotages further inquiry. Why investigate further if the question has been answered? Why investigate further if to do so might be considered to detract from God?

Obviously, explaining the creation of the arch by a one-time act of an undefined and unknown omnipotent agent (God) does not predict other natural findings and has no application to other natural problems. We might imagine our IDC-thinking scientist will remain yet ignorant of the secret of the arch’s construction since he has no reason to investigate or innovate it.

The scientist who does not fall prey to IDC thinking would attack his problem differently. He might consult literature on construction, learn about scaffolds and their use, and go on to apply scaffolding technology to other problems he might encounter in the future. If there were no previous work on scaffolding, he might attempt to construct a model of the arch and, in trying to build it, innovate scaffolding technology and advance the state of the art of construction for everyone. But if the technologies to even think of scaffolding were not yet invented – say, the ladders to build the scaffolds were not invented – and if the scientist had honestly reached the limits of his creativity in trying to explain the arch’s construction, our heroic scientist would simply say, “I don’t know how it was built.”

The difference between our two scientists is at once subtle and vital. Neither scientist knows how the arch was constructed, but one fills the void of ignorance with a hypothesis that explains everything and sabotages the process of discovery. The other scientist does not substitute an unfalsifiable explanation for his ignorance, but accepts his inability to answer the question for the time being. The fact is, good scientists must often deal with their inability to answer a question. They are not satisfied by it and should continue to innovate and discover in order to someday answer the question – but they do accept their ignorance for the time being. Poor scientists are those who must fill all voids of ignorance with whatever concepts are available, however inappropriate. IDC, as an explanation that cannot be tested by natural science, is an example of an inappropriate non-natural answer to a perfectly natural, scientific problem.

Naturalism and the Theological Implications of IDC
Science is the search for progressively better natural explanations for phenomena. In other words, a scientist is a person who uses a naturalistic methodology to look for understandings that can be used to explain other findings or predict other observations. The reason for the commitment to the natural world – a naturalistic methodology – is not because science is scornful of God but because natural explanations are the only things on which everyone can agree. (Supernatural explanations, on the other hand, are revealed, internal, and personal.)

Science pursues truth within very narrow limits. Inside those limits, it has proven extraordinarily successful, far more so than when “science” was not so constrained – a period of stagnated scientific advancement known as “The Dark Ages.” But science cannot answer all questions and many theists hold that science and religion are complementary, provided religion does not attempt to contradict the explanations that science successfully provides.

IDC is one attempt to integrate science and religion, but it is a poor one. As demonstrated above, IDC can sabotage the process of inquiry and the “evidence” supporting God’s involvement in the world is unreliable. There are also theological reasons to shun IDC. Since IDC exists where scientific understanding isn’t, IDC implies a God of the Gaps (GOTG) argument. As Miller has written in Finding Darwin’s God, GOTG arguments forge a logical link between failures in science and successes for God. The counterlogic of the GOTG proposition – that successes for science must therefore be failures for God – is therefore just as logical. Clearly, if one bases a belief in God on an inability to explain some natural phenomenon scientifically, that belief will be threatened by any pursuit of understanding of that phenomenon by science. A reverent GOTG believer would surely serve his beliefs best by refusing to further investigate the reasons for that phenomenon. GOTG therefore propagates the warfare model of science and religion.

Clearly, the progress of science is relentless and religious scientists realized long ago that the foundations of their religious beliefs were best placed in a God that did not lurk in the shadows of our scientific understanding. In avoidance of that end, many religious scientists endorse theistic evolution, which unlike IDC posits that natural law can fully explain natural phenomena and that God used natural law as his tool to work his will. Theistic evolutionists acknowledge that there is no scientific reason to believe in God but instead rely on faith to know he exists.

Realizing that science works best when committed to a naturalistic methodology, theistic evolutionists feel free to revere God in their work and recognize scientific explanations as expressions of God’s creative power. They know that science studies natural phenomena but religion studies ultimate creation and relationships with the Creator.

What Can I Do To Keep Science Education Strong?
If you are concerned about the quality of science in America and the menace that IDC is to that quality, learn evolution by visiting Panda’s Thumb [http://pandasthumb.org] and taking advantage of science instruction. But most grassroots-level IDC advocates do not understand the science enough to know how vacuous IDC is; some would not understand it even if it were presented to them. These people are instead motivated by considerations external to science, such as the fear that evolution will separate them from God or that God will punish them if they permit the teaching of evolution. But Christians have rethought their theology in the light of verified science many times before in history. It is therefore incumbent upon science advocates to engage these fearful people in an honest discussion about the real issues at hand regarding the science or theology involved.

Because religion is important to Americans and because public schools cannot be counted upon to provide theological guidance to prevent anti-evolutionary fear, talk with parents and clergy in your area and encourage them to learn more about evolution. Consider joining or forming local pro-science groups like Kansas Citizens for Science [http://kcfs.org] or consider joining national pro-science groups like the National Center for Science Education [http://natcenscied.org].

Finally, vote. Groups like the Discovery Institute (DI) know that IDC isn’t science and therefore scientists will never find creationism useful. The DI therefore bypasses the process of scientific approval, recommending laws that force IDC into schools or proposing cuts in funding for labs that ignore non-science like IDC. Get involved, stay vigilant, check your own backyard, and make sure your leaders know why IDC is poor science and can defend real, natural science when the DI and their supporters call.

Credits and Duplication Authorization
This document was prepared by Burt Humburg, currently (Spring 2007) a second-year internal medicine resident at Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA. Reproduction of this document is encouraged and PDF versions are available from the author [[Enable javascript to see this email address.]] and from his website [http://dochumburg.com].

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

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Comment #166869

Posted by waldteufel on March 25, 2007 5:42 PM (e)

I really like your repeated characterization of ID as what it really is, which is ID creationism. I think we should constantly and repeatedly label them for what they are: creationists.

Comment #166886

Posted by the pro from dover on March 25, 2007 7:01 PM (e)

Many people hate evolution because they believe it degrades the special place that humans (and consequently themselves) have in the universe and thus detracts from their unique purpose in life. There is nothing about the theory of evolution that is any more “materialistic”, “athiestic”, “humanistic”, “naturalistic” or “liberal” than any of the other well accepted centrally organizing theories of the universe in basic science. These include quantum mechanics, special relativity, atomic strucure of matter, plate techtonics, and general relativity. There is a lot more known about evolution than in 2 other such theories; quantum gravity and abiogenesis. (It is for this reason that evolution and abiogenesis are frequently deliberatly conflated in IDC). Gaps exist in all scientific theories. For example the atomic structure of matter (the central organizing theory of the basic science chemistry) is “laced with Daltonism”-to paraphrase Mr. Buckingham. No one has ever photographed or personally seen an atom of anything much less all the electrons, neutrons, and protons and their sub-sub atomic structures and massless chargeless photons carrying electic forces of chemical bonds at 186000 mps holding these so called “molecules” together. Now that’s a gap! Where is all the teach the controversy here? Why should we not be teaching the alternative “4 element theory of matter” (earth, air, fire and water) whose history and belivers are as extensive as design propensitists? It’s because it doesn’t threaten cherished religious beliefs. In the end Intelligent Design is not a scientific alternative to evolution, it is a metaphysical alternative to science itself.

Comment #166889

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 25, 2007 7:22 PM (e)

No one has ever photographed or personally seen an atom

Wrong; we’ve seen them just as “personally” as we’ve seen Saturn, or the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, or George W. Bush or Baghdad even if we’ve never met him or been there “personally”. You can see some atoms here. (I had other links, but there’s this moronic policy at PT to filter out posts with multiple links.) Let’s leave the “I’m not aware of it so it doesn’t exist” claims to the other side.

Comment #166901

Posted by Keanus on March 25, 2007 8:40 PM (e)

I second waidteufel and you, Burt. The root of all IDC lies in the conviction that evolution leaves no room for God and religion. No matter how many times a Ken Miller, a Keith Miller, or a Francis Collins is cited (all strong supporters of evolution and practicing Christians), IDC supporters remain convinced that evolution leads to atheism. It’s God or evolution—a false dichotomy if there ever was one. I truly believe that most of the DI folks, and certainly their supporters out in the hustings, believe that, no matter how much that perception departs from reality.

As to the brochure, I have to question for whom you intend it. Who is the audience? At what level do you expect them to read? And how much science background are you expecting them to have? I’m sure you know where this is leading, that your writing, while very, very good, uses unfamiliar words and complex syntax, at least for the lay audience to whom I think your piece is targetted. The average American is not a college graduate, has the attention span of a flea, and has learned most of what they know through sound bites and ten word sentences. I’ve never made the effort, other than in a number of letters-to-the-editor in our local rag, to differentiate evolution from IDC and explain the former. It’s a daunting task and IMHO a major factor in why so many Americans don’t understand evolution and therefore—in a perverse version of the GOTG—reject it.

There is also the question of distribution. When and where would it be distributed? I live in Pennsyvlania, about an hour east of Hershey along the PA Turnpike, and I read the papers and the web with regularity. Other than the Dover case, and some minor skirmishes in a few other areas over the last five years (I shot down a local school board VP on it in 2003), I’ve seen few instances in which IDC has lifted its head above ground. Oh, I know there are advocates of it about (some are my neighbors), but they usually stay below the radar. I’d be more than willing to contribute time and money, the latter within reason, to the task but I think the publisher (whoever that might be) needs to know who, when, where and how to distibute it (or them, if several different pamphlets make more sense).

Comment #166904

Posted by the pro from dover on March 25, 2007 8:42 PM (e)

I was hoping for a little more of that detail, but I’ll admit I’m wrong. Do you know what the size of the white dots are? are they 10 to-10 meters? Is it true that all individual atoms are the same size (volume-wise) regardless of the element involved? That is a pretty neat picture though!

Comment #166912

Posted by Mike Elzinga on March 25, 2007 8:59 PM (e)

It is certainly wise to be completely aware of the fallacies and misconceptions the ID/Creationists continue to deliberately foist onto the public. That in itself identifies them. I just answered such a lengthy piece of garbage printed in our local newspaper.

The individual who was advocating ID was convinced that “those who are doing the solid writing to set forth the evidence for intelligent design, follow the strictest scientific canons to set forth their case.” He also stated that “anyone who has read William Dembski or Michael Behe can get a taste of the force of their scientific reasoning.”

The Gish Gallop continues. IDiots don’t care about the answers given by scientists; they keep reusing the same refuted crap over and over. It’s political, it’s sleazy, and they love it.

I took the tack of not answering any of this person’s claims, as this is what he was fishing for. Instead, I concentrated my response on ID/Creationism history and tactics, and the multimillion dollar propaganda mill (all propaganda, no science) at the Discovery Institute, and then pointed to the trial documents at NCSE.

Their sectarian wedge agenda, their repeated distortions of scientific evidence and theory, and their evasions of scientific accountability are all sufficient reasons (among many others) to bar the ID/Creationists from the biology classroom. However, as part of a course on critical thinking, dissecting their claims and tactics would make a nice case study on the abuse of science. Their sleazy tactics should be documented and continually highlighted until the public begins to recognize them instantly.

Maybe if enough people catch on (the documented stupidity of our current administration may even help), we can begin to see more derisive laughter and less wasted time and taxpayer money.

Comment #166914

Posted by Burt Humburg on March 25, 2007 9:09 PM (e)

As to the brochure, I have to question for whom you intend it. Who is the audience? At what level do you expect them to read? And how much science background are you expecting them to have? I’m sure you know where this is leading, that your writing, while very, very good, uses unfamiliar words and complex syntax, at least for the lay audience to whom I think your piece is targetted.

It’s dense, no question about it. Most of KCFS pamphlets we created were bullet-point jobs that dealt with one or two issues per pamphlet. (“Who is Jonathan Wells and What is He Doing Here?” comes to mind.) Your points that the flyer is information-dense and possibly intimidating to readers are well taken.

I remember wanting to make a one-stop-shop pamphlet on ID. It doesn’t cover everything, but it covers a bunch. Maybe the result was a little dense for people who are titillated by Paris Hilton, but it’s generally been very well received and I’m proud of it. So I kept updating it and this is the latest.


Comment #166919

Posted by Chiefley on March 25, 2007 9:33 PM (e)

Mike Elzina wrote: “…I took the tack of not answering any of this person’s claims, as this is what he was fishing for. Instead, I concentrated my response on ID/Creationism history and tactics, and the multimillion dollar propaganda mill (all propaganda, no science) at the Discovery Institute, and then pointed to the trial documents at NCSE….”
I have come to the same conclusion about OP-ED letters and IDC/Evolution. So I am thinking more about writing about the IDC movement itself. I wonder how I might get a copy of one of your letters? It might help me in my own OPED campaign here in Ohio.

chief [@] thechief.com

Comment #166920

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 25, 2007 9:36 PM (e)

The new category is a splendid idea!

Pamphlets are hard to produce and thus criticize. This flyer contains a lot of good imagery and descriptions.

But I would personally put the description of a theory when the term was first used, or at least a pointer down to it, considering the usual misunderstanding of the term.

pro wrote:

No one has ever photographed or personally seen an atom of anything much less all the electrons, neutrons, and protons and their sub-sub atomic structures and massless chargeless photons carrying electic forces of chemical bonds at 186000 mps holding these so called “molecules” together.

I realize that you are making a point about what “observation” really consists of and what lay men thinks it is. But it isn’t quite that easy to make the distinction clear, as PG shows.

Ever since Brownian motion was found to be observation of atomic motion, there has been countless direct and indirect observations. Besides the TEM photo PG links to were are very nifty photos made by AFM’s. And individual ions have been trapped and made to blink as light houses - if that isn’t to “personally see” them I don’t know what is. I’m sure you can google such movies.

Individual electrons are observable by eye in Millikan oil drop experiments, together with other particles as traces in bubble chambers or in fluorescent detectors, or in some mono-electron devices. And while you don’t easily observe photons mediating EM forces in atoms, it is otherwise the easiest particle to see. :-)

Btw, did you know that your eye is capable of detecting individual photons (albeit at low efficiency - the cats have the better of it) when fully dark adapted? I think that is nifty, and a nice testament to evolution at its best.

Comment #166922

Posted by Henry J on March 25, 2007 10:05 PM (e)

Re “Is it true that all individual atoms are the same size (volume-wise) regardless of the element involved?”

About 2/3 of the way down Periodic Table Hydrogen Radii is a periodic chart showing relative radii of atoms. It varies with period and position within the period.


Comment #166923

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 25, 2007 10:11 PM (e)

Burt wrote:

Maybe the result was a little dense for people who are titillated by Paris Hilton, but it’s generally been very well received and I’m proud of it.

Yes, it was dense so the syntax was at times complex. I noticed that some of the sentences probably could be divided.

For example “Dembski’s pretense is to distract people by claiming the ascent of the “information” in those codes represents an insurmountable obstacle for evolution, even though Darwin’s theory was considered compelling even back when it was articulated without any understanding of genetics or codes at all.”

Could simply become “Dembski’s pretense is to distract people by claiming the ascent of the “information” in those codes represents an insurmountable obstacle for evolution. But Darwin’s theory was considered compelling before it contained the newer understanding of genes.”

pro wrote:

Do you know what the size of the white dots are? are they 10 to-10 meters?

The TEM is from a crystal, so the dots are not quite pictures of free atoms, but of electron distribution around atomic positions. Free individual atoms are on the order of 1-2 Ångström (10^-10 m as you say), but a crystal unit is larger, say 4-10 Å IIRC, and the electron distributions are smoothed out accordingly.

pro wrote:

Is it true that all individual atoms are the same size (volume-wise) regardless of the element involved?


What happens is that there isn’t a linear relationship element weight/charge - electron distribution radius, due to effects of the nucleus size and charges combined with screening by electrons. The combined result is that larger atoms has smaller radius than a simple linear theory would predict.

And as I mentioned above, the effective ‘size’ of the atom will depend on its environment as well.

This is complicated to model and is still a research area. Recently a new hypothesis behind gold’s unique ability to catalyze organic reactions was presented, based on relativistic effects among its electrons. (It is relativistic effects that explains why gold is not white as related metals.)

“According to this hypothesis, gold’s s shells, which are its lowest energy spherically symmetric electron shells, contract. This shields the electrons in outer, asymmetric p and d orbits from the nuclear charge, allowing them to expand slightly. In gold, the contraction of the outermost (6s) shell and the expansion of the next-inner (5p) shell reduces the energy difference between the two to the equivalent of a photon of blue light. This allows gold to absorb blue light and, thus, look yellow. Silver, because it exhibits a much less dramatic relativistic effect, is unable to absorb any visible light and is totally reflective.

Toste proposes that this same shielding effect allows the more tightly bound s shell to easily accept electrons from other molecules, while the partly shielded d shell can easily donate electrons to a reaction.

Thus, gold is able to participate in reactions both as a donor and as an acceptor of electrons, which makes it particularly useful in catalyzing reactions at carbon-carbon bonds, the backbone of all organic molecules.”

( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070… )

Comment #166925

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 25, 2007 10:20 PM (e)

And as Henry J’s reference points out, “size” here depends on what kind of observation you are doing as well. It is rather like the concept of “species” in biology in that regard.

Comment #166948

Posted by Mike Elzinga on March 26, 2007 12:32 AM (e)

Chiefley wrote:

“I have come to the same conclusion about OP-ED letters and IDC/Evolution. So I am thinking more about writing about the IDC movement itself.”


As I am sure you are aware, Barbara Forrest’s work and testimony at Dover are rich and well-documented sources. Since I have been following the Creationists from the 1970s, I have a lot of stuff published by the people at the Creation Research Institute (Gish, Morris, Parker, and all those characters). It helps to read their books and note how (not what) they argue. More crude than the current IDiots, but you get a feel for the original sources of all these misconceptions they keep repeating. I think Ken Miller has debated Gish (or maybe Morris), but I can’t remember where I found his description of the interaction he had with him in the hotel afterward.

It helps to brush up on Gish’s development of the Gish Gallop, and to go back over the arguments Creationists used back then. These were all carried forward into the Intelligent Design propaganda when Creationism morphed into ID (I always refer to it as ID/Creationism in any of my letters). The people at the Discovery Institute have learned to avoid the anti-intellectualism of the Creationists and now try to make their materials look more academic. This gives their followers a false sense of scientific literacy, so it becomes difficult to convince them that anyone is more knowledgeable than they. So there is no point in arguing with them. It’s what they want anyway. It makes them look smarter than they are.

The Quote Mine Project on www.talkorigins.org is a good source of some of their tactics. The National Center for Science Education also has a lot of stuff.

When you put it all together, the emerging picture is obvious (as it was at Dover). Pure political sleaze of the same genre as the swift boaters and all the stuff we have seen in recent elections.

People are surprised that understanding science has nothing to do with their arguments. The correct answers don’t matter to the ID/Creationists. They want the microphone and public exposure, and latching onto a scientist gets them what they want.

Gish could get some of his audiences whooping like chimpanzees when they perceived him skewering a scientist and roasting him over the flames of hell. He padded his resume using debates.

Always point out that the ID/Creationist motives are spelled out in their famous Wedge Document (never let them forget that we know). Don’t describe it or interpret it (it speaks for itself), but give links to it (typing “Wedge Document” into a search engine will turn up plenty), or pass it out if you are giving a talk.

It helps to have read ALL of the transcripts of the trial in Dover as well as Judge Jones’ decision. Also look at the friend-of-the-court briefs, and the other documents (don’t forget Of Pandas and People). I have, and I have read Overton’s decision in Maclean. Go over as much material as you can on the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Edwards v. Aguillard.

We have approximate information on what the Discovery Institute has spent on propaganda (about 4 million dollars) and on scientific research (approximately zero). We have the total lack of scientific accountability of all of the ID/Creationists. We have their complaints that they are being excluded by activist judges and a closed-minded scientific cabal, which completely mischaracterizes the way the judicial and scientific processes work. We know about the political abuse and death threat Judge Jones received after his decision. We have the judge’s own words in speeches he has given since the trial.

I drag up all this crap in my descriptions of the ID/Creationist’s tactics (it isn’t necessary to interpret; it all speaks for itself) and I give references and links. I never answer a challenge to debate any of their “scientific” arguments. The point is to educate the public where all this crap comes from and what their tactics are. My own experience suggests that most thoughtful people get the point, and start educating themselves. If one is reasonable and professional in reporting all this, even some fundamentalists start to listen.

Of course there are the diehards who think you are the devil, but who cares? They chose the weapons and we now have at least a 30 year record of their use to show to the public. And that is exactly what I am doing. I don’t care if they know; they can no longer hide.

Comment #166983

Posted by the pro from dover on March 26, 2007 4:43 AM (e)

I appreciate all these links and the efforts that others have put in to find them. My point is that science routinely involves itself with unobserved reality and makes testable statements about it. This is not the same ting as “THE TRUTH” behind reality and the ultimate purpose of the universe and all that lies within. Science deals with things that are too big, too small, too fast, too slow, too near, too far, too hot, too cold, too old, too young to be directly experienced in our day to day lives. The nature of the scientific metod is guaranteed to leave “gaps” everywhere since all possible data that could exist cannot be found and much of it is lost forever. A gap is not a weakness in a theory, it is a realm of new and potential exciting discovery.

science deals with things tat are too bigg

Comment #167018

Posted by Michael on March 26, 2007 9:19 AM (e)

Science may be too big for the average person, and it may also deal with all those “too this, and too that’s” that you mentioned, but one thing science doesn’t do is make statements where there is not at least some evidence for the hypothesis or theory under consideration.

You don’t “play” science by ignoring facts you don’t like, nor do you get to claim that the evidence supports your position better, without doing the research and publishing peer-reviewed papers. You don’t legislate science and you don’t vote on it in public elections! The only vote that counts IS peer review by other scientists simply because, as you pointed out, science is too big! It is beyond the ability of laymen like myself to apply some yardstick of “common-sense” because at the levels of education required to comprehend of some fields of science an “un-common sense” is required!

And no, I’m not trying to apply mystical thinking to science and make it sound like some mystery religion or Freemason style secret society. The only barriers to entry in science are that you are willing to dedicate yourself to the time required to learn what people before you have puzzled out, and, to leave your preconceptions at the door.

Nobody ever learned anything by saying “If it disagrees with what I already believe, then it can’t be true!”

Comment #167031

Posted by NJ on March 26, 2007 10:10 AM (e)

Torbjörn Larsson wrote:

And as Henry J’s reference points out, “size” here depends on what kind of observation you are doing as well. It is rather like the concept of “species” in biology in that regard.

And in this case, most of the estimations of atomic or ionic radius are simply to provide predictors of bond lengths.

Comment #167044

Posted by Randy on March 26, 2007 11:43 AM (e)

Pursuant to a discussion in another thread, I’d like to see the word “hoax” appear as often as it can appropriately be fit into the text. While I’m willing to accept that many ID hoax believers are sincere, what they believe is clearly a hoax; that is, “deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage.” Although one must be careful to distinguish between the believers and the perpetrators, calling ID a hoax, and pointing out why it is a hoax, might help some of the duped.
My two cents.

Comment #167048

Posted by Mike Elzinga on March 26, 2007 12:22 PM (e)


I think directly labeling ID/Creationism as a hoax (or fraud, or any of the other terms that come to mind) is generally unnecessary. People draw the right conclusions when the tactics are presented objectively and supported with evidence.

You will note in the trial documents from Dover that these kinds of emotive terms are not used, and for good reason. They are taken as evidence of prejudice and lack of objectivity and can be used to bar testimony. The same is true in science.

As aggravating as the ID/Creationist tactics are (This is their purpose, they want you to lose your cool. Gish often openly reveled in this kind of tactic.), it is better when discussing this with the public to remain professional and never bluff. We, as do the ID/Creationists, know what we really think of them, but that makes no difference.

Comment #167134

Posted by Craig Connally on March 26, 2007 7:37 PM (e)

Sorry, Bob, but this pamphlet really fails to wail. The only people who will wade through it are those who already accept evolution (as I do, but even I couldn’t chew through every word). It is far too wordy and too detailed. Plus, as a broadside, it is lamely written. Here are some suggestions:

1. Consider your audience–and the time they might spend wading through ANY pamphlet, especially one on a topic with which they may have reservations or suspicions.

2. Get better at writing marketing material–or turn the job over to someone who is already skilled. Here are some pointers: tell ‘em what your gonna tell ‘em (in one simple sentence or sub-head, like “Intelligent Design Creationism is NOT science.”); tell ‘em what you think is most important (see next sentence); end by telling ‘em what you told ‘em (“We’ve seen that…” “It should be clear that…” in one sentence). In any persuasive writing, start out by thinking about what your 3 most important points will be (maybe five at most). Then for each main point, note 3 really persuasive arguments, each only a sentence or two long.

3. Try out your efforts on a test audience. Ask a few skeptics to read your stuff, see if they actually do, then give them a test for retention. If they aren’t getting it … rewrite!

Good luck.

Comment #167199

Posted by Burt Humburg on March 27, 2007 5:02 AM (e)


1) Who is Bob? An in-page “find” reveals no instance other than yours.
2) KCFS has made several pamphlets, many of which cover only one or few issues, and I hope to be posting these (with their permission, yet to be secured) in the coming days. Given your reaction to my first submission, I think you’ll find these preferable.
3) The flyer was always intended to be a one-stop shop for what is ID and why it’s wrong. CSI and IC are pretty complex ideas and I think (self assessment from a physician known by his peers to enjoy the details, so consider the source) it covers a lot of ground in a front-and-back presentation. It’s the difference between an article in People and a detailed article on Panda’s Thumb: the text size alone kind of serves to hint that the article will be detailed. (Imagine Judge Jones reading something before he started the Kitzmiller trial; this is that kind of a flyer.)
4) I appreciate your advice about marketing language and the advice is well-received and already practiced in other things I’ve written. Again, this is not that kind of pamphlet.
5) I already did submit this to skeptics; a mixed group at a religiously-affiliated school reviewed at least an earlier draft of the text and saved me from a bunch of stupid errors. (This is v2.3. You should have seen v1.0!) I’m not going to say they vetted the text, for which I alone take responsibility, but any idea that I just put this out there without some kind of feedback is inaccurate.

Thanks for your well-wishes. Sounds like you’re looking for a v3.0 someday to be more palatable to those not interested in as much detail as is present currently. Next time I take up a rewrite, I’ll definitely keep your considerations in mind. Again, be looking for more flyers to be posted which I think you’ll find more pleasing.


Comment #167471

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on March 28, 2007 7:33 PM (e)

Sorry about the delay.

most of the estimations of atomic or ionic radius are simply to provide predictors of bond lengths

Yes, in chemistry and biology it should be. I was discussing “isolated” atoms because I’m a physicist, originally of the solid state/vacuum technology persuasion. :-)

Comment #167716

Posted by Boeing Man on March 31, 2007 8:38 AM (e)

Nathan, my understanding is that Burt had to change specialities because he was,…ahem…”stressed out”.

He is unkikely to want to talk about that here.

Comment #167717

Posted by MarkP on March 31, 2007 9:20 AM (e)

Is character assasination all you guys have left? I guess defending your position factually and logically was too damned much trouble. Oh well, at least you aren’t attacking someone who has been dead over a century this time.

Comment #167726

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 31, 2007 4:39 PM (e)

Boeing Man:

He is unkikely to want to talk about that here.

I guess we’ll have to hope that was a typo.

What a schmoo.