The man who took DNA for a helix


Oliver Sacks has some nice reflections on the late Francis Crick. (Hat tip: AL Daily.)


Bill Moyers has an good piece in the same issue on the growing influence of anti-science evangelicals:

There are times when what we journalists see and intend to write about dispassionately sends a shiver down the spine, shaking us from our neutrality. This has been happening to me frequently of late as one story after another drives home the fact that the delusional is no longer marginal but has come in from the fringe to influence the seats of power.

Alas, as David Kopel has pointed out, Moyers’ argument has a few weaknesses.

Kopel’s critique - written about a column Moyers wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune does not apply to the NYROB essay. Read it and see if you don’t agree.

Interestingly, I know Francis Crick’s son pretty well. The subject of evolution never came up. He only mentioned in passing who his father was. Michael’s a programmer in Seattle and we collaborated on some multiplayer internet game development work.

Moyers is a drama queen. Best to just pat these people on the head like a child or small animal, smile, and move along.

Why is it that when evolutionists are trying to brain wash little kids who’s parents believe in 7 day creation that is all fine and dandy.

But equal time and they are pissing themselves.

If you had respected other people’s freedom you would not be in this position…


And I am not talking about flat earth deny science here. I am talking about evolution that claims its ok to not have it occur during our lifetime, that its already proven, that it can change as new facts become available, that LUCA is not their problem etc etc etc. Evolution that relies on the magic LUCA to dispel the magic God.…

And they call it science…

If you are so sure you are right then wait till they are 18. Leave the little kids alone.

So if the creationists ruin your careers take your funding or put you in jail for teaching anti-religion in school remember you made the rules.

BTW the seti link on teaching materials for 3rd graders isn’t making it past the link filter or I would post to make my point, but google you will see.


Always before, I have been content to be a lurker at this blog. Congratulations, you have moved me to come out of the shadows.

I sit here at my computer absolutely stunned that you have the audacity to complain about anyone failing to respect other people’s freedom, when in the same post you threaten to

ruin your careers take your funding or put you in jail for teaching anti-religion in school

That is Taliban language, sir, and it illustrates perfectly why “evolutionists” and, indeed, anyone sane wants to prevent someone like you from gaining even the slightest bit more power.

Now that you have revealed yourself to be a psychopath, I recommend that you crawl back into your spider hole. You are a liability to your cause and a disgrace to a savior who preached compassion and mercy above all.

All right, don’t make me come back there. I will pull this car over right here and turn around and drive home if you two don’t stop it.

Seriously. We will not accuse each other of being the “Taliban,” especially since what DonkeyKong said was only that the “rules” established by teachers of evolution would eventually result in “creationists ruin[ing] your careers,” et cetera. This charge is baseless, silly, and childish, but it’s not the same thing as cheering that result.

DonkeyKong, of course, has fallen for the assertion that schoolchildren should be taught both sense and nonsense equally, and allowed to “make up their own minds.” He says “I am not talking about flat earth deny science here,” but of course that is exactly what he is talking about. Creationism, including its intelligent design variety, has as much intellectual depth as the belief in a flat earth, so if we are required to give “equal time” any time a baseless, but politically powerful, notion comes up to attack genuine science, then we would have no grounds on which to say that the flat-earth theory should not be given equal time. Donkeykong’s other claims—that evolutionary science “claims its ok to not have it occur during our lifetime, that its already proven, that it can change as new facts become available … that relies on the magic LUCA sic to dispel the magic God” simply demonstrates his complete scientific illiteracy. Evolution “during our lifetime” has been observed in some cases, but creationists routinely respond that this is just “microevolution.” Longer-term origin of species takes a great deal more time—but then creationists like DonkeyKong complain that it ought to take place “during our lifetime.” This point has been made time and time and time again in the literature, so that DonkeyKong must be ignorant of the most basic elements of evolutionary science. As for the theory “chang[ing] as new facts become available,” that’s what all science does. His critique is therefore that science is so dogmatic—that it changes when new facts are revealed. If that’s dogmatism, I think we can live with it.

As for “respecting people’s freedom,” this is the silliest charge of all. Nobody’s freedom has been violated, except in the sense of requiring that children be educated. Anyone who wishes to deny the facts of biology, including DonkeyKong, is free to do so. The price of that choice is that everyone will see that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and so you also have the freedom to make a fool of yourself anonymously, like DonkeyKong has chosen to do. You have the freedom to refuse to believe the facts taught you in school. You even have the freedom to remove your under-18 children from school and place them in private schools or teach them at home. What you do not have the freedom to do, is to claim that they are educated when you have filled their minds with untruths, such as those taught by the creationist and ID movements. Nor is it incumbent on anyone who does understand the facts to remain silent until DonkeyKong’s children are 18. The freedom of speech means that, while DonkeyKong has the right to try to block it, other people have the right to promulgate good science, to adults and to children. But then, teaching a child lies for the first 18 years is often good insulation against sense later, which is what DonkeyKong hopes for.

What any of this has to do with Francis Crick escapes me.

Not everyone had such great admiration for Crick’s view of evolution.

“But according to Darwinian doctrine and Crick’s central dogma, DNA is not only the depository and distributor of the information but its SOLE CREATOR. I do not believe this to be true.” Pierre Grasse, page 224 (his emphasis)

John A. Davison

As for the Moyers thing, I don’t think he has fixed the basic flaws of his argument, about which more here. I am the farthest thing in the world from an evangelical or a fundamentalist, God knows, and I find much to criticize in their world-view, but Moyers’ interpretation is just off target.

Mr. Sandefur

Sorry, Dad. It won’t happen again.

And you’re right. Saying that following “the rules” established by evolutionists would eventually result in the creationists inflicting ruin and imprisonment is not the same as cheering that result. Still, let’s not kid ourselves about what would take place if DonkeyKong had his way.

What does this have to do with Francis Crick? Sadly, nothing. I made the mistake of feeding a troll and helped turn a nice little memorial into a brawl, and that’s what I’m really sorry for.

Someone’s going to have to point out more precisely what’s wrong with Moyers’s NYROB essay. Following Tim’s links, I wasn’t able to come up with much specific. And of course the fact that DaveIQ153 contemns it with his usual content-free snark makes me take it even more seriously.

But, I guess this is another discussion.

Well it’s been a decade since a was a fundamentalist Christian, but Moyers article sounds pretty much like what I experienced. Or milder. My parents used to scare the shit out of me with that guillotine Rapture movie.

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Donkey Kong, you say you know what science is and can use it. On the basis of your posts, I don’t think that you do, or can.

Prove me wrong.


let me give you a hint…

You want to be arguing at this point that evoultion has a guiding function that greatly reduces the unlikleness of reality.

You want to be able to express it in a specific form that can be falsified in theory. My example is clearly documented and far to easy for the average person to grasp to attack it as though it is silly or ignorant etc.

The problem is that I have justified placing the bar where I want it placed. You now need to show how your guiding function can reach over that vast distance.

I predict that you will fail to do that unless you can make specific defensible yet theoretically falsifable claims about how effective your guiding function is.

Unfortunately I am unaware of any evolutionist having done the ground work for you already.

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Mr. Sandefur said:

Alas, as David Kopel has pointed out, Moyers’ argument has a few weaknesses.

Kopel may be correct that Zell Miller’s use of scripture from Amos was less shaking than Moyers painted it.

But Moyers was correct in the tone and general thrust of his arguments. (I’ll reserve judgment on Miller’s speech until I see a full copy, which I’m not anxious to pursue.)

Sacks’ piece on Crick is great – it reveals Crick as full of excitement at the wonders of the universe that we unfold, and full of excitement at the wonders that are yet to unfold, and full of excitement about the search for those wonders.

I’m not sure why Moyers was brought up in this thread originally, but he is correct that there are a lot of people who don’t share Crick’s excitement. This difference in views about whether to regard the universe as something to be explored, or something to be exploited, does result in policy differences.

When I first arrived in Washington, as an intern, in 1974, those who sought exploitation without regard to future growth of natural resources were in a pitiful minority. Differences existed, but the conservation movement was rooted in old-line Republicans who practiced wise stewardship on their own lands and advocated wise stewardship policies with regard to all natural resources. James Watt’s views were regarded as quaint during his confirmation process. But by the time he left office, it was clear that there was a sharp divide with a significant minority of citizens viewing this Earth as temporary and unworthy of stewardship. I’m not talking about the differences between oil companies and the NRDC on whether to mine oil in Alaska – I mean people far to the other side of the oil companies and timber companies, who argued that all conservation is theologically incorrect, and unnecessary due to the imminent immolation of the planet.

I think Moyers has a more correct Biblical view. The question is, with the “talents” we have been given, should we spend them as quickly as possible, bury them in the ground for safekeeping, or invest them in capital growth?

Moyers is talking about those who say “spend them, quickly.” They say ‘eat the seed corn,’ expecting there not to be enough time to plant and reap another season.

Missing the context of Zell Miller’s remarks is not a refutation of Moyers’ points.

DK said:

Step one

Take a vast vat of genetic bases, G A T C

Mix it together using the same number of bases found in a typical human.

The odds that you are what comes out are the same as

Randomly picking an atom our of the universe, releasing it shuffling the universe, picking it again, shuffling again . … . … .

21.5 Million times.

I really don’t think the majority of you appreciate what you are trying to get Natural selection to do for you.

Do you really thing that sperm fertilizing an egg is like stirring a vast cauldron of loose protein strings?

Your attempt at analogy is so far from reality that one cannot know where to start.

Do you know how bees reproduce, DK? How about birds? Can you demonstrate that for us, somehow?

Where did you get the bizarre idea that a womb is a cauldron of genetic material?

“think,” not “thing”

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on March 10, 2005 2:35 PM.

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