May 6, 2007 - May 12, 2007 Archives

Today’s New York Times has an article wherein Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney clarifies (somewhat) his position on evolution. Recall that in the last Republican debate only three candidates, none of them top-tier, raised their hands when asked if they didn’t believe in evolution. Romney wasn’t one of them. And now he says why:

“I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe,” Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. “And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”

This of course is the standard theistic evolutionist response. Boilerplate, banal, and politically safe… but also essentially pro-science. Of course there is room in the details for the devil to hide:

He was asked: Is that intelligent design?

“I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

Translation: I’m not touching ID with a ten-foot pole.

Romney goes on to say that he believes that evolution should be taught in science class, and that other “theories” belong in religion or philosophy class. Again, this is banal and politically safe, but most importantly, it’s correct.

Unfortunately it’s almost impossible for the mainstream media to print an article on evolution without something irritating me. And here it is:

Intelligent design is typically defined as the claim that examination of nature points to the work of an intelligent designer, as opposed to the utterly random, naturalistic processes that are taught as part of evolutionary theory.

Utterly random? When are people going to learn that evolution contains an extremely powerful deterministic process known as selection? I’m afraid the author got his idea about what evolution is from the IDists.

If you haven't seen Flock of Dodos yet, here's some good news: you can catch it on Showtime next week, on 17 May.


If you don't get Showtime, the DVD will be released on 28 August, and you can also catch a short from the DVD extras on YouTube, a clip I've put on my site. Be sure to see why Michael Behe isn't worried about compromising science education in the public schools.

The PNAS Early Edition webpage has just posted a series of papers from the December 2006 National Academy of Sciences Sackler Colloquium, “In the Light of Evolution: Adaptation and Complex Design,” organized by Francisco Ayala and John Avise. The series of papers, on topics ranging from color vision to beetle horns, is now available (I will post the list below the fold). Eugenie C. Scott (aka Genie) was invited to speak at this meeting about evolution education and the history of opposition to it, and the speakers wrote papers to be published in PNAS and a forthcoming NAS volume.

Genie brought me on as a coauthor on the paper she was asked to write. This became:

The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin is all atwitter about a new web article from German creationist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig [1] about how the giraffe is some kind of massive problem for evolution. Major planks [2] include the alleged lack of transitional fossils between the different fossil giraffe genera (never mind that creationists elsewhere typically accept that the differences between mammalian genera are small, and put the “created kind” or “basic type” at a higher taxonomic level), some confusion about whether one of the giraffe vertebrae is cervical or thoracic or something in between (note to creationists: read about homeotic shifts), and the allegation that there is no evidence for a feeding advantage for tall giraffes, relying on the fact that male giraffes are taller than female giraffes and a 1996 paper in American Naturalist (Simmons & Scheepers 1996, “Winning by a Neck: Sexual Selection in the Evolution of Giraffe”) that attempted to buck conventional wisdom and suggest that sexual selection was the cause of long necks in giraffes.

Sadly, the last plank is particularly bogus, since it completely ignores and displays no knowledge of a massively relevant and quite brilliant paper, published just back in January 2007 in American Naturalist, that constitutes an experimental demonstration of the relative feeding advantage of giraffe height:

John Wise, a biology professor at SMU has written an opinion on Intelligent Design

John Wise Wrote:

Quoting Johnson’s own words, “The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God.” In other words, don’t allow this to be about creationism-ID versus science. Make people think this is all about a choice they have to make between God and science. This is deceptive at best.

ending with a brilliant reminder

The foundations of Intelligent Design are in politics and religion, not science. The nature of what we have learned about our physical world does not have to conflict with our faith and understanding of the spiritual domain. Don’t let your faith become dependent on the politics of flawed pseudoscience.

The Tangled Bank

The latest edition of the Tangled Bank is live at Epigenetics News.

Paul Nelson makes a bizarre argument

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Over at Uncommon Descent Paul Nelson tries to argue that because we can detect fraud, humans (or at least their actions) aren’t natural. Peculiar as that may be, the argument he uses is well, so loopy that you may be forgiven for thinking Paul has gone off the deep end.

This was recently posted on – the blogs of Creation Science Evangelism, i.e. Kent Hovind’s ministry. It comes from Paul Abramson who is a longtime supporter and associate of Hovind. I will post it without further commentary, since it is pretty shocking by itself. We don’t know anything more about it than this. It could indicate anything from Hovind committing some sort of serious infraction of prison rules, all the way down to a Hovind fan’s histrionic misinterpretation of some routine event such as a prison transfer. It seems a little hard for me to believe that Hovind would do something worthy of solitary, so who knows.

Anyway, here it is… (from the comments section)

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