August 2004 Archives

Icons of ID: No preCambrian ancestors

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In my research related to Meyer’s paper I ran across the following:

From Jay Richards [1] we read in The Washington Post, August 21, 1999 an article on Darwinism and Design

Consider the hypothesis of universal common descent. Numerous molecular comparisons now suggest that bacteria, fungi, protozoa, plants and animals–while they share interesting commonalities–are not descended from a single organism. Fossil evidence reveals that the major groups of animals appeared relatively suddenly in the ‘Cambrian explosion,’ with no record of common ancestors.

After PBS aired the very successful series ‘Evolution’, Meyer, as directory of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, wrote the following somewhat puzzling letter to the editor

Meyer is objecting to the claim by PBS that there exists a Universal Genetic Code.

Secondly, and more importantly, the existence of these variant codes is not consistent with a key prediction derived from Darwin’s theory of universal common ancestry. To see why, imagine typing on a keyboard in which the assignment between the keys and the letters that appear on your screen have been secretly changed. When you hit a specific letter such as an “n,” a different letter such as “t” appears. Or, imagine that every time you hit, say, an “o,” a period and a double space appears on your screen. Now envision submitting such a paper to a professor (without any information about the special new code that your computer used). Will your paper make sense? Will you get a good grade? I doubt it.

What is this fascination of Meyer to use linguistic strawmen arguments [1] when trying to discuss evolutionary concepts? But as others have shown, the genetic code shows, not surprisingly, support for (neo)Darwinian theory. The variants are found as small twigs within the evolutionary tree of life. In fact, since Darwin argued for one or more common ancestors, I find Meyer’s claim not only incorrect but also exhibiting what is more commonly known as ‘a strawman’ argument.

Funky Winkerbean takes on ID

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Here.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out over time. (I don’t know how long that archive will last. If it slides out of view I’ll look for a deeper archive.)

(URL courtesy of Roland98 on II)

RBH

Panda’s Thumb recently had an item about the strange case of the ISCID’s list of papers supporting Intelligent Design. Strange, because the ISCID won’t publicly release the details of the papers (i.e. “we have lots of evidence, but we can’t tell you what it is”). Could it be that, like another such list once touted by the Discovery Institute, they don’t actually provide much evidence for intelligent design? Nah, surely not.

Anyway, I’ve just found another paper which should be added to the ISCID list - not least because it gives ID a pedigree of hundreds of years. It was published in 1710 in the world’s first scientific journal, The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. I found out about this paper in Bryan Sykes’ book “Adam’s Curse” which is about the Y-chromosome responsible for gender determination in mammals - having a Y-chromosome makes you a male. The paper is:

An argument for Divine Providence, taken from the constant Regularity observed in the Births of both sexes. By Dr. John Arbuthnott, Physician in Ordinary to Her Majesty [Queen Anne], and Fellow of the College of Physicians and the Royal Society.

Common Design Errors

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Biblical creationism offers two explanations for what we see in nature: “God did it” and “the Fall did it.” Such theology often argues that God created nature perfectly and corruption entered into the world after the Fall. Such things like blind cave fish are explained as post-Fall degeneration. Such theology often argues that any similarities observed between “unrelated” organisms are due to common design. This is often invoked to explain similarities between humans and other creatures, because biblical creationism holds that humans are not related to any other species. However, these explanations are unable to account for common design flaws, which are features that are clearly biological flaws but are shared between organisms that are supposed to be unrelated. Unary pseudogenes are an excellent example of this problem for biblical creationism.

Humans, chimps, gorillas, and other primates lack the ability to synthesize ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and must eat a diet that includes it to survive. Other animals are able to synthesize ascorbic acid because they have a complete metabolic pathway. However, humans et al. are missing a key enzyme, L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidase, which is involved in the synthesis of ascorbic acid. However, we do have the non-functioning remains of this gene still in our DNA, as do other primates which have been studied: chimps, gorillas, orangutans, and macaques. In all five species the gene is broken in the same way (deletion of same exons) and is found in the same place in the genome.

Biology explains this shared flaw by proposing that in an ancestor of all five species, a deletion occurred in the L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidase, rendering it non functional. This deletion was then passed to its descendents, producing the pattern that we see today. Biblical creationism is unable to explain it because either God would have to have made a flawed creation or humans would have to be related to other species. Neither are options that biblical creationism allows.

I have proposed this problem many times to biblical creationists who insist that humans do not share a common ancestor with any other species. None of them have yet to account for this interesting fact of nature.

References

  • Nishikimi M et al. (1994) “Cloning and chromosomal mapping of the human nonfunctional gene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, the enzyme for L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis missing in man.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 269: 13685-13688
  • Ohta Y and Nishikimi M (1999) “Random nucleotide substitutions in primate nonfunctional gene for L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidiase, the missing enzyme in L-ascorbind acid biosynthesis.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1472: 408-411

Meyer v Gilbert

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Meyer [1] quotes a paper by Scott Gilbert (in fact this paper seems to be quite often quoted by ID-creationists).

Scott F. Gilbert, John M. Opitz, and Rudolf A. Raff, “Resynthesizing Evolutionary and Developmental Biology,” Developmental Biology 173 (1996): 357-372.

and presents their argument as follows

Gilbert et al. (1996) attempted to develop a new theory of evolutionary mechanisms to supplement classical neoDarwinism, which, they argued, could not adequately explain macroevolution.

But did they claim that classical NeoDarwinism could not adequately explain macroevolution?

The NCSE presented an analysis of the Analysis of the Discovery Institute’s “Bibliography of Supplementary Resources for Ohio Science Instruction”

Scott F. Gilbert (coauthor of [25] and [27]) wrote:

“My research on turtles and my research into evolutionary developmental biology is fully within Darwinian parameters. My gripe has been that neo-Darwinism has supposed that population genetics was the only genetics needed to explain Darwinian evolution. I claim that developmental genetics is also needed. So my research has been to include developmental genetics into the Darwinian mix.” And Douglas L. Erwin (author of [24]) told NCSE, “While the article considers the relationship between micro - and macro- evolution, the Discovery Institute is inaccurate in saying that I am challenging the standard view of evolution. The treatment of macroevolution in that paper is an extension, but by no means a challenge. Further, although more work may be needed to fully understand macroevolutionary events, there is no evidence that requires, or even suggests, a role for so-called ‘intelligent design’.”

Intelligent Design isn’t intelligent, but YEC is scary

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Most of the entries, and comments here at Panda’s Thumb are about the Intelligent Design strain of creationism. I actually spend more time trying to respond to creationists of the young Earther sort on different websites scattered in the cyberaether. Just as the Discovery Institute is the principle abscess of IDC, the Answers in Genesis Ministries, along with the Institute for Creation Research, and Dr.Dino are the main vectors of YECism.

I recently took a fresh look at four articles I have written about various falsehoods originating, or promoted by AiG personnel.

Meyer: Cambrian Explosion and CSI?

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As other PT contributors have already shown, there are many problems with Meyer’s peer reviewed contribution. I intend to share my research findings here on PT over the coming days as I have researched close to half a dozen claims and references so far.


Meyer when discussing [1] the Cambrian period states the following

One way to estimate the amount of new CSI [2] that appeared with the Cambrian animals is to count the number of new cell types that emerged with them (Valentine 1995:91–93).

[3]

The full reference reads: Valentine, I. W. 1995. Late Precambrian bilaterians: grades and clades. Pp. 87–107 in W M. Fitch and FJ. Ayala, eds., Tempo and mode in evolution: genetics and paleontology 50 years after Simpson. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C..

The paper also appeared in PNAS as: Valentine, J.W. 1994. Late Precambrian bilaterians: grades and clades. Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A. July 19; 91 (15): 6751-6757.

Notice my surprise when I thus read

I guess that means he has no shame

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The Sarkar Lab at U Texas Austin is maintaining a Hall of Shame, a list of faculty who "must believe that creationism in one of its guises provides a better explanation of biotic change than contemporary evolutionary theory". The list so far is short, and includes the name of the person nominating the faculty member. Bill Dembski is one of the three (the others are RC Koons and J Budziszewski), and the bizarre thing is that he nominated himself.

We can therefore take it on good authority that Dembski is a creationist; I wonder if he'll take exception to the nomination, though?

(via The Loom)

Ediacaran fossils from Newfoundland

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image

I told you I liked fossils, and here are some more that put yesterday's Junggarsuchus to shame in both age and weirdness. Everyone has heard of the Cambrian 'explosion', but there are also collections of pre-Cambrian fossil animals that have always been rather enigmatic—they just don't seem to correspond well to the morphology of Cambrian, or modern, forms.

Some new specimens from the pre-Cambrian have been described in a paper titled, "Modular construction of early Ediacaran complex life forms." They have been collected from 560 million year old rocks in Newfoundland, Canada. The focus of the paper is on patterns of organization: as the title says, these organisms appear to be modular in form, but it isn't the segmental modularity we see today. Instead, these pre-Cambrian animals were built on a fractal branching plan, repeated iterations of a structure called the "rangeomorph frondlet". The result was a creature that looked feathery or fern-like, and when described, it's hard to avoid using terms we usually associate with plants, like "stalk" and "leaf-like". But don't be confused, these are not plants, nor are they anything like modern animals, such as sea-pens, which have also adopted this kind of morphology.

Continue reading "Ediacaran fossils from Newfoundland" (on Pharyngula

Now that the DVD for ‘Privileged Planet’ has been announced, it is time to remind the readers of why I believe that the Privileged Planet makes for a very poor scientific argument. Although I do believe that the argument serves well as an apologetic and rhetorical tool, which may help explain why it is given such a ‘privileged’ position at the DDD-V conference or creationist websites.

So why do I believe that the Privileged Planet approach is wrong? To quote Xia-Li Meng at the 2004 ENAR Spring Meeting in Pittsburgh PA on statistics:

“If you have not seen all the data, how can you estimate how much you haven’t seen? But, as statisticians, we can do anything!”

It has been a while since the last EvoMath. In this installment I am going to begin to discuss classical selection theory. Selection occurs when certain alleles are likely to transmit more copies of themselves to the next generation than other alleles at the same locus. The simplest way to think of this is in terms of the viabilitity of individuals. If an individual dies before it can reproduce, then it is not able to transmit its genes. If such a death was influenced by the genes it carried then selection can occur. Classical selection theory assumes that there exists viability selection and that it is constant, i.e. independent of allele or genotype frequencies. There is also theory behind frequency-dependent selection, but it beyond the scope of this article.

Read the rest at De Rerum Natura

EvolutionBlog Returns!

After a slightly longer hiatus than I originally intended, EvolutionBlog is now back to regular posting! I update the blog Sundays through Thursdays, usually in the evenings. The idea is that if you stop by Monday-Friday you won't miss naything (perish the thought).

I just completed my analysis of Cornelius Hunter's essay from Uncommon Dissent.

Part one is available here.

Part two is available here.

Part three is available here.

Next up: Tipler!

Super Earth!

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‘Super-Earth’ spotted in distant sky

European astronomers announced they had found a “super-Earth” orbiting a star some 50 light years away, a finding that could significantly boost the hunt for worlds beyond our Solar System.

The planet was spotted orbiting a Sun-like star, mu Arae, which is located in a southern constellation called the Altar and which is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, they said. […]

With few exceptions, the extrasolar planets spotted so far have approximated the size of Jupiter, the giant of the Solar System.

But this latest find is far smaller, with a mass of only 14 times that of the Earth, which puts it in the same ballpark as Uranus for size.

The big difference, though, is that Uranus is an uninhabitable hell, a gassy planet on the far frigid fringes of the Solar System, whereas the new planet appears to be a rocky planet, as the Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury are, and orbits in a much balmier region.

It has a gassy atmosphere, amounting to about a tenth of its mass, although what this consists of is so far unknown.

The object qualifies “as a ‘super-Earth,” the ESO said.

Much about this enigmatic world remains to be uncovered, least of all whether it may be habitable.

However, there is the tantalising question as to whether it lies within the “Goldilocks Zone” – a distance from its star that is not too hot, not too cold, just right.

In this zone, a planet would be close enough to the star to have liquid water – yet not so close that its oceans would boil away – and not so far that its oceans would freeze. That is one of the prime conditions for creating and sustaining life, according to a leading theoretical model. […]

I suppose if this turns out to be a habitable planet, that would put a serious kink in the “Privileged Planet” arguments. Though in my opinion those arguments suffer from serious logical flaws and don’t really require emprical disconfirmation, but it’s always cool to know that Super Earth is out there. Maybe this will finally cause the real estate bubble to burst.

Tangled Bank #10

The Tangled Bank

We have the tenth Tangled Bank online…stop on by Wolverine Tom's place and see what's up.

If you'd like to be represented in the 11th edition in two weeks, send your links to John McKay of Archy. And we're always looking for new people to host the biweekly affair, so if you're interested in that, send a line to pzmyers@pharyngula.org.

Review of Meyer, Stephen C. 2004. The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2):213-239.

by Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry

[The views and statements expressed here are our own and not necessarily those of NCSE or its supporters.]

“Intelligent design” (ID) advocate Stephen C. Meyer has produced a “review article” that folds the various lines of “intelligent design” antievolutionary argumentation into one lump. The article is published in the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. We congratulate ID on finally getting an article in a peer-reviewed biology journal, a mere fifteen years after the publication of the 1989 ID textbook Of Pandas and People, a textbook aimed at inserting ID into public schools. It is gratifying to see the ID movement finally attempt to make their case to the only scientifically relevant group, professional biologists. This is therefore the beginning (not the end) of the review process for ID. Perhaps one day the scientific community will be convinced that ID is worthwhile. Only through this route – convincing the scientific community, a route already taken by plate tectonics, endosymbiosis, and other revolutionary scientific ideas – can ID earn a legitimate place in textbooks.

Unfortunately, the ID movement will likely ignore the above considerations about how scientific review actually works, and instead trumpet the paper from coast to coast as proving the scientific legitimacy of ID. Therefore, we would like to do our part in the review process by providing a preliminary evaluation of the claims made in Meyer’s paper. Given the scientific stakes, we may assume that Meyer, Program Director of the Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture, the major organization promoting ID, has put forward the best case that ID has to offer. Discouragingly, it appears that ID’s best case is not very good. We cannot review every problem with Meyer’s article in this initial post, but we would like to highlight some of the most serious mistakes. These include errors in facts and reasoning. Even more seriously, Meyer’s paper omits discussion or even citation of vast amounts of directly relevant work available in the scientific literature.

Summary of the paper

Meyer’s paper predictably follows the same pattern that has characterized “intelligent design” since its inception: deny the sufficiency of evolutionary processes to account for life’s history and diversity, then assert that an “intelligent designer” provides a better explanation. Although ID is discussed in the concluding section of the paper, there is no positive account of “intelligent design” presented, just as in all previous work on “intelligent design”. Just as a detective doesn’t have a case against someone without motive, means, and opportunity, ID doesn’t stand a scientific chance without some kind of model of what happened, how, and why. Only a reasonably detailed model could provide explanatory hypotheses that can be empirically tested. “An unknown intelligent designer did something, somewhere, somehow, for no apparent reason” is not a model.

Meyer’s paper, therefore, is almost entirely based on negative argument. He focuses upon the Cambrian explosion as an event he thinks that evolutionary biology is unable to account for. Meyer asserts that the Cambrian explosion represented an actual sudden origin of higher taxa; that these taxa (such as phyla) are “real” and not an artifact of human retrospective classification; and that morphological disparity coincides with phyletic categories. Meyer then argues that the origin of these phyla would require dramatic increases in biological “information,” namely new proteins and new genes (and some vaguer forms of “information” at higher levels of biological organization). He argues that genes/proteins are highly “complex” and “specified,” and that therefore the evolutionary origin of new genes is so improbable as to be effectively impossible. Meyer briefly considers and rejects several theories proposed within evolutionary biology that deal with macroevolutionary phenomena. Having rejected these, Meyer argues that ID is a better alternative explanation for the emergence of new taxa in the Cambrian explosion, based solely upon an analogy between “designs” in biology and the designs of human designers observed in everyday experience.

The mistakes and omissions in Meyer’s work are many and varied, and often layered on top of each other. Not every aspect of Meyer’s work can be addressed in this initial review, so we have chosen several of Meyer’s major claims to assess. Among these, we will take up the Cambrian explosion and its relation to paleontology and systematics. We will examine Meyer’s negative arguments concerning evolutionary theories and the origin of biological “information” in the form of genes.

An expanded critique of this paper is in preparation.

EvoMath

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I’m working on a new installment of evomath. This one is going to be some simple examples of classical selection theory. I am probably going to post it on my blog because it is using features of a new version of Kwickcode that I haven’t setup on PT. I think I am going to wait until PT makes the switch to MT 3.1 before I install version 2 of my plugins here.

Now to encourage me to keep on track with my series, I want readers to make requests. Is there any particular part of evolutionary theory that you would like me to cover? Is there something you didn’t quite get from your days as an undergraduate that you want to see again? Etc.

The Bathroom Wall

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With any tavern, one can expect that certain things that get said are out-of-place. But there is one place where almost any saying or scribble can find a home: the bathroom wall. This is where random thoughts and oddments that don’t follow the other entries at the Panda’s Thumb wind up. As with most bathroom walls, expect to sort through a lot of oyster guts before you locate any pearls of wisdom.

The previous wall got a little cluttered, so we’ve splashed a coat of paint on it.

The Loom has been quiet for most of the summer, but Carl Zimmer is back with a lucid summary of recent data on human genome evolution—and it may be a little disquieting to those who think monogamy is natural and traditional and the only properly human way to propagate.

The Trivers-Willard hypothesis

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From EurekAlert:

One of the most debated hypotheses in evolutionary biology received new support today, thanks to a study by a scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno. Elissa Cameron, a mammal ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, has helped to disprove critics of a scientific theory developed in 1973.

At that time, ecologist Bob Trivers and mathematician Dan Willard said that large healthy mammals produce more male offspring when living in good conditions, such as areas where there is an ample food supply. Conversely, female mammals living in less desirable conditions would tend to have female offspring. …

She conducted an analysis of 1,000 studies that examined the Trivers-Willard hypothesis and sex ratios in mammals. Her study found that female mammals that were in better body condition during the early stages of conception were more likely have male offspring. Body fat and diet can affect levels of glucose circulating in a mammal’s body, and Cameron suggests that the levels of glucose around the time of conception could be influencing the sex of the animal’s offspring.

“A high-fat diet can result in higher levels of glucose, thereby supporting the hypothesis that glucose may be contributing to the sex of the mammal’s offspring,” Cameron said.

The paper is Elissa Z. Cameron, “Facultative adjustment of mammalian sex ratios in support of the Trivers-Willard hypothesis: evidence for a mechanism” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Ser. B. 271, 1723 - 1728 ( DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2773).

Abstract:

Evolutionary theory predicts that mothers of different condition should adjust the birth sex ratio of their offspring in relation to future reproductive benefits. Published studies addressing variation in mammalian sex ratios have produced surprisingly contradictory results. Explaining the source of such variation has been a challenge for sex-ratio theory, not least because no mechanism for sex-ratio adjustment is known. I conducted a meta-analysis of previous mammalian sex-ratio studies to determine if there are any overall patterns in sex-ratio variation. The contradictory nature of previous results was confirmed. However, studies that investigated indices of condition around conception show almost unanimous support for the prediction that mothers in good condition bias their litters towards sons. Recent research on the role of glucose in reproductive functioning have shown that excess glucose favours the development of male blastocysts, providing a potential mechanism for sex-ratio variation in relation to maternal condition around conception. Furthermore, many of the conflicting results from studies on sex-ratio adjustment would be explained if glucose levels in utero during early cell division contributed to the determination of offspring sex ratios.

Better bug killing through Science

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I spent part of my weekend reading a very nice, detailed paper by Soderlund and Knipple (thanks for the recommendation, Nick!) on the distribution and mechanisms of mutations that confer pesticide resistance on insects. The main message is that we have been using potent pyrethroid poisons that have a common mechanism, targeting the highly conserved sodium channel of the nervous system, and that similar mutations that reduce the affinity of the channel for the pyrethroid are popping up in many insect species.

Continue reading "Better bug killing through Science" (on Pharyngula)

Looking for more Tangled Bank entries….

The Tangled Bank

It's Tangled Bank time again. I've sent a link to some science blogging to Tom of Wolverine Tom…have you?

Gary Hurd takes on the claims by Dembski that the ‘explanatory filter’ is how in archaeology or criminology ‘intelligent design’ is detected to show that these claims are incorrect.

Anyone familiar with the lastest crime shows on TV, especially about crime scene investigations, knows that criminology works with concepts like means, motives and opportunity. None of these factors plays any role in an ‘explanatory filter’. Hurd makes a compelling case that the methods used by archaeologist and criminologists does not mimick the ‘explanatory filter’ . In fact, he shows why the ‘explanatory filter’ would be largely useless.

It is understandable that ID wants to avoid dealing with means or motives at all cost, hence the (erroneous) suggestion that design can be reliably inferred without any knowledge or assumptions about the designer.

Walter Bradley at DDD1

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In the thread “DDDV: Presenting Opposing Views” FL wrote in a comment, partially in response to a comment I made about the DDD conferences (Design, Darwin and Democracy, sponsored by the Intelligent Design network) being “publicity shows”:

I was at DDD1. … However, I was most impressed by the way Dr. Bradley, the origin-of-life guy, handled his question and answer period.

By the time it was over, I actually wound up feeling embarrassed for the pro-evolution guys (apparently from Kansas University?) who were trying to challenge him.  He was totally prepared for them, and simply mopped up the floor seven ways to Sunday.  That was something to watch.

I was also at DDD1, and in fact have a tape of, and just watched, Walter Bradley’s presentation. On the one hand, I’d say that Bradley’s talk was probably the fairest and most scientifically detailed and accurate of any ID speech I’ve heard at the DDD conferences. His main topic was the problems with the origin of life, and particularly the biochemical requirements for the origin of proteins, DNA, and RNA. He focussed on the Miller-Urey experiments and what he considered the misrepresentation in textbooks of that experiment.

On the other hand, I think FL’s memory of the question and answer period is faulty (this is not to blame him, of course - I wouldn’t have even remembered the Q&A if I hadn’t just watched the tape.)

New Group Hopes To Break Monopoly On Gravity Theory

A Georgia group calling itself Teachers for Equal Time has asked that stickers be placed in all new physics textbooks which note that mutual attraction and relativity are not the only theories available to explain gravity and should not be taken as fact.

Teachers for Equal Time hopes that the addition of the warning stickers will pave the way for the teaching of its alternative theory, Intelligent Grappling, the theory that certain intelligent and conscious agents “push” things together.

Dr Elf M. Sternberg, the originator of the theory of Intelligent Grappling, or “IG” as some call it, and president of Teachers for Equal Time, announced the group’s plans to seek legislation requiring the stickers at a Cobb County school board meeting.

“Mutual attraction has had a monopoly on the truth for too long,” said Dr. Sternberg, “it is time we let children see all of the theories.”

IG FAQ

New Contributor: Alan Gishlick

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Please welcome a new face at the bar of the Panda’s Thumb, Dr. Alan Gishlick. Gish, as we call him with equal parts irony and affection, is a vertebrate paleontologist and is currently the Post Doctoral Scholar of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, CA. His research interests include functional transitions in evolution - particularly in the origin of avian flight, the reconstruction of soft anatomy in fossils, systematics, the teaching of the history of life, and the interface of science, art, and religion.

In the unlikely event that he imbibes a bit too much Burgess Ale (since two pints likely represents about 20% of his total body weight) and says unsavory things, please bear in mind that the views he expresses here are his own and are not necessarily shared by the NCSE, its employees, or its supporters. If you get Gish confused with Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research, just remember that our Gish is the one who does not look like a cro magnon.

DDD V: Presenting Opposing Views ?

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As far as I can tell Rebecca Keller’s position on the teachings of evolution and intelligent design seems quite reasonable. As someone who testified in front of the committee responsible for educational standards in New Mexico, she contributed by having unnecessarily ideologic language removed from the standards. As a Christian and a scientist I fully support the position that science should remain free of religious or anti-religious overtones. This posting was meant to share my surprise about the use of an intelligent design proponent as ‘opposing views’. Within the context of the issue, Keller’s position may indeed qualify as ‘an opposing view’.

I have been a fan of Lamoureux ever since I read the book “Darwinism defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins”. See also Lamoureux’s online paper The Phillip Johnson Phenomenon: Are Evangelicals Inheriting The Wind? to understand his objections to Johnson.

As others before me have observed, Johnson is no match for the onslaught of arguments presented by Denis Lamoureux. When Lamoureux raises some very relevant issues, Johnson can be observed ignoring most of them to focus on some very narrow issues of little consequence. Instead of “Darwinism defeated?” the title should have been “Phillip Johnson defeated: By his own rhetoric”.

Lamoureux made some insightful comments at DDD2.

3. Do not include ID Theory in public schools as a legitimate scientific theory on origins. It is much too early for that. No one would submit their children to medical research without it having gone through the proper clinical trials. So too, the science being taught to our children.

4. Include the origins debate and the views of the ID Movement in the public school science curriculum as an extra-scientific topic. Not doing so only submits to the agenda driven propaganda of secular humanism, which effectively is a religion in itself.

Note from author: As with most of my reviews this is a work in progress, I will update the posting with additional chapter reviews as I finish reading them.

Debating Design : From Darwin to DNA by William Dembski (Editor), Michael Ruse (Editor)

Introduction to the book by Ruse and Dembski

My review at Amazon review: “Not much of a debate”

While the title suggests that there would be a balance in arguments the anti-Darwinian arguments totally lose out against an overwhelming team of experts. Ruse, Ayala, Sober, Pennock and Miller methodically address the flaws in the scientific and philosophical arguments presented by the ID proponents. The ID proponents such as Dembski, Behe and Meyer mostly seem to be repeating old arguments while ignoring the main criticisms against their ideas.

Despite this, the book presents some interesting contributions. As a scientist and Christian I was particularly pleased with the contributions of Haught, Polkinghorne, Ward and others in part III “Theistic evolution” showing how evolution and divine Providence need not be at odds.

Show me the evidence

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In the past, I have argued that ID “peer-review” is worthless, and that adherence to ID has retarded any scientific output by such supporters as Wells and Behe. In chapter 41 of his The Design Revolution (IVP, 2004), William Dembski sets out to answer the question: If intelligent design is a scientific research program, why don’t design theorists publish or have their work cited in the peer-reviewed literature?

Over at Stranger Fruit I examine Dembski’s response and it’s reliance on the ISCID bibliography.

I am as reluctant to review a book I have never read as to judge a book by its cover. Thus, this essay is not a review of a book but rather a review of its cover.

The book is From Darwin to Hitler, Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany (Palgrave MacMillan, 2004), by Richard Weikart, a Fellow with the Center for Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute. The Institute issued a press release taking credit for the book, so we may assume that they had a hand in the work (“New Book by Discovery Institute Fellow Shows Influence of Darwinian Principles on Hitler’s Nazi Regime,” Discovery Institute News, August 13, 2004, http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]iscoMainPage).

According to the press release,

Weikart explains the revolutionary impact Darwinism had on ethics and morality. He demonstrates that many leading Darwinian biologists and social thinkers in Germany believed that Darwinism overturned traditional Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics, especially those pertaining to the sacredness of human life. Many of these thinkers supported moral relativism, yet simultaneously exalted evolutionary “fitness” (especially in terms of intelligence and health) as the highest arbiter of morality. Weikart concludes that Darwinism played a key role not only in the rise of eugenics, but also in euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis.

In case you doubt that the Institute (if not Weikart) is blaming “Darwinism” for Hitler, Phillip Johnson, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, says on the book jacket,

A curious association

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The Discovery Institute is touting their new book that they purport "shows [the] influence of Darwinian principles on Hitler's Nazi regime" (I think you'll be hearing more about this book here soon). I'm wondering about something, though. If they so deplore Hitler's racism, why have they been using a publisher whose main claim to fame is the publication of right-wing anti-Clinton diatribes, and whose heir the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a "prime mover and shaker in white nationalism publishing" and supporter of "white-supremacist luminaries"?

The reason for writing this essay is the appearance of a paper by William Dembski wherein he introduces a measure of information he has dubbed “variational information” (the initial version of that paper has disappeared from the web but is available from those who received Dembski’s initial mailing, including me; modified version is at http://www.iscid.org/boards/ubb-get[…]-000086.html). Dembski emailed the initial version of that paper to a number of both his critics and supporters (I was one of the critics who received that email).

In a remark accompanying the text of the paper, Dembski, among other things, wrote that he would appreciate critical comments, in particular because he would not like to “reinvent the wheel.”

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income. –Plato

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society. –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Kent Hovind, the creationist and tax resister, has made only a few cameo appearances on PT, but he was recently the subject of an article in Intelligence Report (Camille Jackson, “When Giants Roamed: A Florida Theme Park Sells Creationism - with an Antigovernment Twist,” Summer, 2004, p. 49), a publication of the Southern Poverty Leadership Center. The New York Times describes Hovind as the operator of a creationist theme park but, unfortunately, in a fairly credulous article, glosses over some of Mr. Hovind’s other activities (Abby Goodnough, “Darwin-Free Fun for Creationists,” May 1, 2004).

I intend to review a book by Young and Edis (editors) called “Why intelligent design fails”.

In thirteen chapters contributors Gert Korthof, David Ussery, Alan Gishlick, Ian Musgrave, Niall Shanks, Istvan Karsai, Gary Hurd, Jeffrey Shallit, Wesley Elsberry, Mark Perakh, Victor Stenger and of course Taner Edis and Matt Young show how the foundations of ID are without much scientific support. As experts in their various fields, these scientists take on various aspects of Intelligent Design claims and methodically take them apart.

This book is the lastest in a line of excellent books in which authors have addressed various aspects of the Intelligent Design movement and have shown how Intelligent Design has failed to live up to its scientific claims.

  • Unintelligent Design by Mark Perakh
  • God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory by Niall Shanks
  • Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Carroll Forrest
  • Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe by Victor J. Stenger
  • Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? by Michael Ruse

Recommendation:

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Unintelligent Design Network

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UDN, Inc. and GNIJS of Ohio are united in our cause to open up Ohio state science curriculum to fair, even-handed and objective discussion of all sides of the issue of the origins of life.

Although we believe the Ohio Board of Education has improved its track record with the recent debate between proponents of teaching evolution and those in favor of intelligent design, we are aghast that the State failed to notify our group of the debate, invite one or two of our speakers, or show the slightest recognition of our position on the issue at all.

Read more at Unintelligent Design Network, Inc.

whale earLet's take a break from Dembski and talk about something more interesting: whale evolution. John Lynch has already mentioned this paper on how the evolution of whale hearing unfolds in fossil record, but it's fun stuff and I thought I'd discuss some of the data in a little more detail. In particular, I'm going to take a look at one figure of the structure of the ear to see how the changes occurred.

Continue reading "Evolution of the whale ear" (on Pharyngula)

A quick explanation of Wasserstein Metric

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Note that Dembski has uploaded a revised manuscript which now correctly attributes the measure to Renyi and thanks the many critics for their contributions

I am not a mathematician but let me give it a try and others can amend and revise my comments.

The Kantorovich/Wasserstein distance metric is also known under such names as the Dudley, Fortet Mourier, Mallows and is defined as follows.

where refers to the expectation of the random variable x and means that the minimum is sought on all random variables X which take a distribution F and random variables Y which take a distribution G.

where is the set of all joint distributions of random variables X and Y whose marginal distributions are F and G.

In his reply to the critical comments by Cosma Shalizi, William Dembski asserts that his “dear critics” to whom he has emailed his new paper on Variational Information are not qualified to judge his mathematical breakthroughs. He lists six such “dear critics” - Shallit, Levitt, Wein, Stenger, Schneider, and myself. A question is, if we all are not qualified to appreciate the great achivements of the Isaac Newton of information theory, why did he send his article to us and explicitly requested our opinions? I can’t speak for the rest of the “dear critics” but there is little doubt that at least the three mathematicians on that list are versed better than I in the material of Dembski’s article. I indeed do not claim to be an expert in the subject matter of Dembski’s new paper, nevertheless I had no problem with understanding his paper. There is little doubt that the mathematicians like Shallit, Levitt and Wein must have even less problems with that. As promised in a comment to another thread, I have now posted an essay to TalkReason, which, although is not directly about Dembski’s new paper, contains some material which may shed light on the question of who, Dembski or his critics, is better qualified to judge the merits of his newest mathematical opus - see www.talkreason.org/articles/complexity.pdf .

In light of William Dembski's recent technical paper (the first of seven!), and the protracted discussion that is taking place in the comments section of this recent post from PZ Myers, this may be a good time to review his various mathematical arguments in favor of ID.

Dembski’s consistent inconsistencies

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Note: Dembski has submitted a posting to ARN called Condeding too much which mostly misses the point. More later.. In fact my conclusion was premature, it was just a revision of the same old with a new ‘topic’. What was first title “the benefits of reinventing the wheel” is now titled “conceding too much” and much of the text has been revised.

Note: The title borrows from a posting by Mark Perakh on Talkreason.org. Who says that Intelligent Design is not predictable

William Dembski’s strategy of ‘using critics’ has been well documented in his own writings.

Critics and enemies are useful. The point is to use them effectively. In our case, this is remarkably easy to do. The reason is that our critics are so assured of themselves and of the rightness of their cause. As a result, they rush into print their latest pronouncements against intelligent design when more careful thought, or perhaps even silence, is called for. The Internet, especially now with its blogs (web logs), provides our critics with numerous opportunities for intemperate, indiscreet, and ill-conceived attacks on intelligent design. These can be turned to advantage, and I’ve done so on numerous occasions. I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but one thing I sometimes do is post on the web a chapter or section from a forthcoming book, let the critics descend, and then revise it so that what appears in book form preempts the critics’ objections. An additional advantage with this approach is that I can cite the website on which the objections appear, which typically gives me the last word in the exchange. And even if the critics choose to revise the objections on their website, books are far more permanent and influential than webpages.

Scientifically speaking such behavior seems ‘odd’ as it suggests that it may be more important to appear right rather than being right. From an apologetic standpoint I can understand such a position but from a scientific standpoint I wonder about the effectiveness of such an approach in providing for a solid scientific foundation for ID.

Recently Bill sent an email to various well-known critics…

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 567, byte 567 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Barry Lynn interviewed Barbara Forrest on May 10, 2004. This is how Barry Lynn introduces the issues:

Not a single scientific article has been published in any recognized scientific scientific journal supporting the idea of “creation science” or its newest variant “intelligent design”. How’s that for a culture shock? Nevertheless, in spite of that absence of scientific information a prototype college class has actually been created to teach so called intelligent design and dismiss evolution. A seminar on the topic of intelligent design has actually been taught to members of Congress here in Washington and to their staff. And new religious groups are springing up all over the country spending milllions of dollars a year to promote pseudo-science or religion and diss the idea of evolution. We have got a problem and it’s called the ignorance of future generations. Our guest today has written a truely very very useful book for people who have a serious interest in looking at science, looking at issues of religion and where the two maybe shouldn’t be meeting. The book is called “creationism’s trojan horse”. It is written by my guest Barbara Forrest

Listen to the full interview here

Anti-evolutionists often make political inroads by relying on America’s sense of fair play in addition to our scientific illiteracy. The average American responds favorably to the loaded suggestion that all ideas are equally valid and asks, “why shouldn’t science class treat all ideas equally?” Our challenge as supporters of science education is to teach the average American that science is not a “fair” process, but one that is based on merit, and that not all ideas are equally valid. Realizing that many Americans are familiar with another merit based school program, sports, I have developed the following analogy.

Science doesn’t treat all ideas equally for the same reason why football doesn’t treat all players equally. You don’t give your inexperienced freshman quarterback the same amount of playing time that you give the three-year starter who has taken you to two championships. Playing time and class-room time are both based on merit. Not all players and not all ideas have the same merit. Some ideas, like evolution, are equivalent to a three-year starting quarterback with two championship rings and whose father won the Heisman Trophy and three Super Bowls. Other ideas, like “intelligent” design creationism, are equivalent to an out-of-shape eight-grader who thinks football is played on an Xbox.

Advocates of “intelligent” design creationism have an idea, one that is not developed scientifically. It is like the weak freshman who wants to be a quarterback but who needs to work hard to compete for a spot on the team and the starting position. Unfortunately, this quarterback does not think that he needs to practice. He does not think that he needs to work at becoming a quarterback. He thinks that he is already good enough be the quarterback. Why shouldn’t he get as much playing time as the other quarterbacks? The fact that the coach doesn’t think that he belongs on the team doesn’t inspire him to work hard and earn playing time. To the contrary, it inspires his parents to bypass the obviously indoctrinated coach, and go over his head to the principal or school board.

A quarterback controversy is good for the team, after all. If all quarterbacks are not given the same amount of playing time then fans will not be able to decide who to cheer for. Clearly random parents who have never played football have a better understanding of the game than a coach who has been indoctrinated into it. As outsiders they are clearly capable of besting the insiders when it comes to coaching decisions. It is so obvious; isn’t it?

However, knowledgeable sports fans will understand why it is necessary to stick with an established quarterback, rewarding hard work and merit over egotism and self-importance. Knowledgeable parents, educators, and politicians should similarly understand why it is necessary to stick with established scientific ideas in classrooms.

Kennewick Kontinued

Overlawyered.com reports that the Kennewick Man litigation appears not to be quite finished.

Tangled Bank #9

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The Tangled Bank

Tangled Bank #9 is online, with a dozen links to diverse musings on various fascinating aspects of science and the natural world.

Cosma Shalizi has a sharp dissection of Dembski's peculiar abuses of information theory. Things don't look happy for poor Bill.

Dembski's paper seriously mis-represents the nature and use of information theory in a wide range of fields. What he puts forward as a new construction is in fact a particular case of a far more general idea, which was published in forty-four years ago. That construction is extremely well-known and widely used in a number of fields in which Dembski purports to be an expert, namely information theory, hypothesis testing and the measurement of complexity. The manuscript contains exactly no new mathematics. Such is the work of a man described on one of his book jackets as "the Isaac Newton of information theory". His home page says this is the first in a seven-part series on the "mathematical foundations of intelligent design"; I can't wait. Or rather, I can.

It’s Tangled Bank time again!

The Tangled Bank

During and after the Democratic National Convention, weblogs got a lot of attention as an up-and-coming medium for sharing news and information…but you may have noticed that all the attention was on the political uses of the blog. We all know, though, that there is much more to weblogging than the political rants from the left and the right—and one of the things many of us are also interested in is science. We have set up the Tangled Bank as a showcase for the scientific wavelength of the spectrum of viewpoints on the web, and are trying hard to give more prominence to the promulgation of science in this medium.

So don't be shy! You can help acknowledge the value of weblogging for disseminating all kinds of information other than political opinion by adding your voice to ours. We're looking for more entries for this week's Tangled Bank, so if you've written anything even remotely related to science, send it in to me so we can spread the word and direct more people to your writing. We want to know about you! You don't need to be a professional scientist, you don't need to write dry prose with statistics and eleven-syllable words, it is enough that you are enthusiastic about reason and logic and evidence and the wonders of the natural world around you.

Submitting an article has benefits directly to you, as well. Sending a link to us means your site will be linked in turn by a number of other science-oriented weblogs; several participants have reported to me that they've gotten their highest levels of traffic yet from their Tangled Bank entries. We aren't just raising science's profile on the web, we can help people notice your weblog as well.

I'm also looking for new people to volunteer to act as a host. Again, you don't need to be a scientist to do this. Do you think science is important? Do you want to help spread the word about science on the web? Then you have all the qualifications you need. Send me a message volunteering a little bit of your time and a little space on your weblog, and you too can be a Friend of Science. (Oh, and the hosts get even more traffic directed to their site than the link submitters—everybody wins in this game!)

Take a look at previous editions of the Tangled Bank. If you've written anything like them, send a link to pzmyers@pharyngula.org, and we'll put your work in the next edition. If you think promoting science is a good idea, also mention that you'd like to volunteer to help out, and I'll put you on the list of future hosts.

Funny, Funny, …

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Here are a couple of interesting things from CSE and AIG.

Dr. Dino blasts Sarfati as a compromiser.

Dr. Sarfati’s book Refuting Compromise is awesome about the obvious compromise of Hugh Ross but he does not realize his own compromise in this area. It is my prayer that they will study the subject more thoroughly and repent of this grievous error. Their position clearly raises doubts about God’s Word, which is precisely what Satan did in the Garden of Eden when he said, “Yeah hath God said?” Our position at CSE is that God has preserved His Word for the English-speaking people in the King James Version.

And from the AiG email newsletter from 8/7/04:

Is evolution really sun worship?

Part of the evolutionist’s religion is that energy from the sun–acting on a primeval soup millions of years ago–caused the first life-forms to emerge. Thus, they believe that the sun really gave birth to living things. They are really giving glory to the sun’s energy for life.

Down through the ages, culture after culture has worshipped the sun. If you recall, the Israelites were warned not to worship the sun like the pagan nations around them.

Over on Imago Dei, PT has come in for some criticism because we didn’t excoriate Francis Crick for having suggested “directed paspermia” as a possible scenario for the origin of life on earth.

At least our friends at The Panda’s Thumb, who show so much disdain for intelligent design theorists, would provide a tough critique of Crick’s intelligent design theory. Remember that science is supposedly about evaluating the data, not making ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with your view. Here are their comments regarding Crick, with very little mention (and no critique of) his ID theory.

If you are a Christian and propose an ID theory with supporting evidence, you are lambasted as a simple-minded, non-scientific science killer. If you are a Nobel prize winner and you propose an ID theory with no evidence, you are applauded by your “bold speculation”. Who still believes that this is a level playing field?

It’s a criticism that is based on a straight-forward argument from analogy. So, just how good is that analogy?

Francis Crick labeled his “directed panspermia” conjectures as just that: speculation. ID advocates try to assert that their conjectures are established science.

Francis Crick never held a congressional briefing, nor lobbied a state legislature, nor inveigled a school board, to insist that “directed panspermia” be taught to K12 students as science. ID advocates are using a socio-political full-court press to skip over all the tedious work of convincing the scientific community that they have a clue.

Hmmm. That analogy doesn’t look like such a good fit, does it?

Beyond that, we have the false assertion: “If you are a Christian and propose an ID theory with supporting evidence, you are lambasted as a simple-minded, non-scientific science killer.” It’s false because this has never happened. First, there is a difference between a scientific theory and a wild-assed guess. Second, it isn’t a “theory” just to assert that a problem exists in someone else’s theory. Third, “supporting evidence” assumes that one has proposed a positive theory of one’s own and (here’s the tough part) performed some empirical tests upon it that actually might have told you the theory could be wrong. Oh, yes, the tests need to not actually tell you that the theory was wrong. ID advocates don’t have a “positive research program”. Just ask ID advocates Rob Koons, Bruce Gordon, or Paul Nelson what they have said on this point. (They are hopeful that such is just around the corner, and some have been saying that since 1997.) The twin stars of ID argumentation, irreducible complexity and specified complexity, both are based upon asserting problems for someone else’s theory. So the conditions of the assertion have not been met, and there is no evidence of any such “lambasting” as was said.

There certainly has been lambasting of misguided people who try to push non-science into the science classrooms, and that is just how it should be.

There does exist a level playing field. The scientific community communicates via the peer-reviewed literature, establishing an iterative process of inter-subjective criticism and review that finds what works in scientific ideas. This playing field, though, has been shunned by ID advocates.

William Dembski Wrote:

“I’ve just gotten kind of blase about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print,” he says. “And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well. I get a royalty. And the material gets read more.”

Les Lane sent me a link to a weird, funny, and distressing story: Motorcyclists to show support for Creation Museum. It's from Answers in Genesis, which tells you a lot right there...

Anyway, it's several motorcyclists showing their support with a rally for the brand new creation 'science' museum that Answers in Genesis is building in Kentucky. I guess if you can't get scientific support, you can always find a few bikers. Maybe some of them are named Steve.

Here's a discouraging bit of news from the end of the article, though:

The $25-million museum project has passed the halfway mark for donations (an $800,000 museum donation was recently received from a long-time AiG supporter), and exhibit design continues in earnest.  The AiG staff of 85 plans to move into the administrative side of the complex in a few weeks; the museum has a faith promise opening timeframe of spring 2007.
That is truly depressing, that ignorance can accumulate that much money and throw it away on propaganda. I wonder what kind of good work the NCSE could do with 25 million dollars?

apankura

Euthycarcinoids are an obscure group of arthropods that I confess I'd never heard of until I saw this article by Vaccari et al.. They are interesting because 1) their phylogenetic relationships have been ambiguous, which can be a sign that they may represent something transitional (or, as an alternative, something degenerate), 2) there is trace fossil evidence that suggests that this group may have been one of the early leaders in the transition to terrestrial life, and 3) the authors have just found the oldest fossils of members of this group, pushing back the record of their existence to the late Cambrian. Since I can't really say that I know much about these guys, I'll let the abstract speak for itself and show you a picture of the new euthycarcinoid species, Apankura machu.



Continue reading "Another Cambrian critter: a euthycarcinoid (on Pharyngula)

More on NAGPRA

Some wise words

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Bird brains of the Jurassic

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archaeopteryx endocast

You gotta love modern technology. Using computed tomography, investigators have done high resolution imaging of the fossilized cranium of Archaeopteryx lithographica, plucking out a virtual reconstruction of the creature's brain. This allows them to do some detailed comparative gross neuroanatomy, looking to see whether there are signs here of the transition from terrestrial crawler to aerial flyer.





Continue reading "Bird brains of the Jurassic" (on Pharyngula)

I realized that in previous posts, I've used a lot of legal jargon and terminology with which our readers may not be familiar. Law is a very different thing than science, with its own language and ways of thinking; so I thought it might be helpful to post a "Guide for the Legally Perplexed."

Nancy Pearcey on ID

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In John Lynch’s post on Uncommon Dissent at his weblog here (referenced in his short post here at the Panda’s Thumb), he offers this remarkable quote from DI Fellow Nancy Pearcey,

By uncovering evidence that natural phenomena are best accounted for by Intelligence, Mind, and Purpose, the theory of Intelligent Design reconnects religion to the realm of public knowledge. It takes Christianity out of the sphere of noncognitive value and restores it to the realm of objective fact, so that it can once more take a place at the table of public discourse. Only when we are willing to restore Christianity to the status of genuine knowledge will we be able to effectively engage the “cognitive war” that is at the root of today’s culture war.

Right here we see the heart of the ID movement - one which jumps right over several critical non sequiturs. Let me dissect this statement a bit.

Privileged Planet: Amazon Review

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The following review of Privileged Planet was also submitted to Amazon

Gonzalez et al appeal to Dembski’s _Design Inference_ to show how the correlation of habitability and measurability shows evidence of ‘purpose’ in the universe. Various people such as Wein, or various authors on Talkreasons.org, have already shown what is wrong with the _Design Inference_ argument. I will limit my comments to the claims by Gonzalez et al to show that their appeal to the _Design Inference_ is inappropriate. In addition I will show that their use of correlation to support ‘purpoe’ suffers from poorly defined and thus poorly quantifiable terms, that it is based on a single observation of what they call a ‘constrained optimum’ (the earth), that it is biased towards earth-like planets, and that it is based on cherry picking of examples that support the thesis. In other words, from a scientific perspective their claims are meaningless. Which of course does not mean that their book does not make for a useful apologetic tool (hence my two stars). For people who need their faith to be supported by some impressive sounding but scientifically poorly supported claims, this book serves its purpose. If one is hoping that this book will present a scientific argument for _Intelligent Design_ then one will be quite disappointed.

Over at stranger fruit, I provide a summary of Dembski’s Uncommon Dissent which expands on Jason’s post of July 13th (while linking to his subsequent writings) and offers some thoughts on Michael Denton as ID supporter. Enjoy!

The authors of Privileged Planet have posted the following response at Discovery’s Center for the renewal of science and culture Was Starlight Deflection Important for the Acceptance of General Relativity? A Response to Critics

I find it interesting as to what critics the authors are referring? Because in the first paragraph they mention a single criticism posted to various places. Surely the authors do understand the difference between a single datapoint counted many times and multiple independent data pojnts? Or perhaps not as I intend to show.

For earlier reviews of Privileged Planet see:

The balance of power has shifted again in Kansas, as Jack Krebs reported earlier here that it might. Kathy Martin, a conservative advocate of teaching creationism in science classes, defeated Bruce Wyatt, a moderate proponent of teaching science in science classes, shifting the board from a 5-5 split to a simple 6-4 conservative majority. Expect revisions to the state science standards in 2005 to “de-emphasize” evolution again. Whether the board will go so far as to insert “creationism” brazenly by name remains to be seen.

See these news reports:

http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestat[…]/9313423.htm

http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/ne[…]/9315092.htm

New Contributor: Jim Foley

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Please raise your glasses in a toast to welcome the Panda's Thumb's newest patron, Jim Foley. For those who have observed or participated in the evolution/creationism debate online for any period of time, Jim needs no introduction. He is the author of the Fossil Hominids website in the TalkOrigins Archive, an incredibly thorough examination of the evidence for human evolution and equally thorough debunking of the creationist claims on the subject. Jim is a software engineer by training and, like any good Aussie, we expect him to more than hold his own at the PT drinking games. Welcome to the group, Jim.

Stark raving mad…

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Well, it looks like Ed Brayton beat me to this one, but since I penned most of this post by the time I saw his, I figure I’ll go ahead and share it anyway.

After Jason’s excoriation of Sisson, I thought we’d hit rock-bottom in terms of ignorant dilettantes. If only it were so. Rodney Stark, professor of sociology at Baylor (home to another favorite of ours), proves that there really is no rock-bottom when it comes to anti-evolutionist diatribes. His just published bit in The American Enterprise is titled Fact, Fable, and Darwin. And man is it a doozy.

The National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve now has a published paper appearing in the estimable journal, “The Annals of Improbable Research” (AIR).

http://www.improbable.com/airchives[…]eve-10-4.pdf

(Photo: Dr. Steve Carr, Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Eugenie Scott, Nick Matzke, Glenn Branch, and some 430 odd Steves comprise the author list as Project Steve T-shirt order information is bent, folded, stapled, and otherwise mutilated to obtain such findings as “island dwarfism in Steves” and the infamous “mid-continental Steve deficit”.

I play an unacknowledged role in the paper as the model in the “experimental Steveometry apparatus”.

Check it out…

I got back from the Society for Developmental Biology meetings in Calgary last week, and I've put together some summaries of various sessions I attended on Pharyngula. There are digests of the talks on Development and Human Health, Education, Hox genes, Patterning, and Stem Cells, and for the Panda's Thumb crowd, there may be particular interest in the Evo-devo session and my meeting with Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute.

Uncommon Dissent II

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In my previous discussions of William Dembski's anthology Uncommon Dissent I addressed Dembski's intruduction and the contribution from Robert Koons. I argued both contained numerous errors and misrepresentations, and neither provided anything worth considering seriously.

Those were very bad essays, but they provided nothing to raise the heartbeat of an experienced ID consumer like myself. They contained the normal level of preening, arrogance, and stupidity that I have come to expect from the ID's. It seemed a pity. I mean, not only are the ID's not producing anything new in the way of scientific arguments, but now it seems they have run out of underhanded rhetorical tricks as well.

Then I read the contribution by Edward Sisson. After about three pages I was longing for the wit and erudition of Koons and Dembski.

Over at EvolutionBlog I have posted four (!!) replies to various aspects of Sisson's essay.

Part one is available here.
Part two is available here.
Part three is available here.
Part four is available here.

I feel like these four posts barely scratch the surface of all that is wrong with Sisson's essay. Enjoy!

Remember Dembski’s hypothetical example of receiving a message consisting of prime numbers (adapted from the movie: Contact)?

In order to infer design, Dembski has to eliminate regularity and chance. While chance can be eliminated in a relatively straightforward manner, regularity may not be that simple to eliminate.

The emergence of prime numbers as the result of evolutionary strategy by Campos et al

We investigate by means of a simple theoretical model the emergence of prime numbers as life cycles, as those seen for some species of cicadas. The cicadas, more precisely, the Magicicadas spend most of their lives below the ground and then emerge and die in a short period of time. The Magicicadas display an uncommon behavior: their emergence is synchronized and these periods are usually prime numbers. In the current work, we develop a spatially extended model at which preys and predators coexist and can change their evolutionary dynamics through the occurrence of mutations. We verified that prime numbers as life cycles emerge as a result of the evolution of the population. Our results seem to be a first step in order to prove that the development of such strategy is selectively advantageous, especially for those organisms that are highly vulnerable to attacks of predators.

prime_sm.jpg

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