April 10, 2005 - April 16, 2005 Archives

Greetings to all Panda’s Thumbers!

Recently I had an opportunity to visit the town of Princeton, in lovely central New Jersey[1]. Princeton is called by some the “Berkeley of the East Coast,” and for good reason! There’s a university there, for one thing. And, like Berkeley, Princeton is at one end of the Axis-of-Intelligent-Design. I knew that this was one place that I definitely wanted to see!!! And along the way, I took pictures, so that you could see it too.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights of Princeton: ID capital of the upper Eastern seaboard[2].

My first stop was 112 Mercer St., home of the somewhat well-known physicist Albert Einstein, who worked nearby at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Einstein’s house had a fence so beautiful that I had to get a picture with it.

Dembski comments on his career

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Dembski presented a series of lectures at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003.

Arguing that declaring support for ID in science ends one’s career (one very sharp fellow working in ID is waiting until he gets tenure), Dembski makes the following remark:

Dembski Wrote:

In my case my cards have been on the table, my career is ruined so (laughter) it doesn’t matter at this point but eh I say just what I want in this regard but it’s a real problem.


It's an impressive piece of detective work to take a fragment of a fossil and learn something about the behavior of dinosaurs. This is a fossil that consists of only the pelvic region of an oviraptor, which also happens to have a pair of large eggs nestled inside it. This poor female was pregnant at the time of her death, and was just about ready to lay these eggs.

It doesn't sound like much, but here's what we learn from it:

  • -Oviraptors had two functional oviducts, like modern crocodiles. They laid their eggs in pairs.
  • -These are large eggs, and the animal didn't have a lot of room in there—so it only laid a few at a time. It wasn't like modern sea turtles, dumping a load of eggs in a nest all at once.
  • -Oviraptor nests have been found, and they contain many eggs. This had to have been done by repeated visits and multiple egg-laying sessions, suggesting a fair amount of parental investment in the nest.
  • -The pointed end of the egg is pointed caudally. In oviraptor nests, the eggs are all in circular rings, with the pointed end outward. From this we can infer that the mother oviraptor stood in the center of the nest when laying the eggs.

Isn't it cool where a little evidence and logic will take you?

(See a larger image on Pharyngula)

This morning four Kansas organizations, including Kansas Citizens for Science, announced the formation of a coalition in support of the state science standards committee’s work and opposing the kangaroo court hearings in May. The coalition released a position paper which states in part:

We urge all Kansans to join us in adopting the following positions:

1. We request that the State Board of Education adopt the final draft of the standards offered later this spring by the writing committee, without revisions.

2. We request that the State Board of Education cancel all special opportunities for the Intelligent Design minority to present their views. We especially urge the Board to cancel the so-called “science hearings” scheduled in May. The minority proposals were considered and rejected by a two-thirds majority of the science standards writing committee. The BOE should accept that and give the minority group no further special privileges.

See the KCFS News Forum to read both today’s News Release and the Position Paper.

Cryptic Ichthus

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Bill Dembski complains of the injustice of being referred to, with his Discovery Institute colleagues, as an “Intelligent Design Creationist.” It’s possible, he writes, to believe in Intelligent Design and to not be a creationist, therefore the term “Intelligent Design Creationist” cannot be accurate. This criticism makes the logically dubious claim that since some ID advocates are not creationists then “Intelligent Design Creationists” don’t exist. However, as long as there is a brand of creationism that is identifiable as being of the “Intelligent Design” flavor, then there is such a thing as “Intelligent Design Creationism.” (It is this flavor of creationism, as creationism, that Rob Pennock and Barbara Forrest address in their criticisms.) The “Intelligent Design” strain of creationism deserves special notice because it is particularly insidious. Unlike its predecessor “Scientific Creationism,” IDC has attempted to present a false public face devoid of any commitment to theological particulars.

The emergence of “Intelligent Design Creationism” from “Scientific Creationism” is not a haphazard conjecture. The connections are very well researched, and many of the players and their tactics are exactly the same. As the current advocates of ID, including Bill “any view of the sciences that leaves Christ out of the picture must be seen as fundamentally deficient” Dembski make clear (when they are speaking to an audience of like-minded believers), Intelligent Design is the bridge between science and theology (see, for example, Dembski, W., 1999, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.).

Who is Matt Collins?

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Everyone remembers the widely-blogged Scientific American April Fool’s editorial, “OK, We give up: We feel so ashamed.” The editorial claimed that Scientific American had given up on reporting on real science and agreed to let intelligent design and other forms of ideological pseudoscience into its pages.

Apparently, the article acquired a mutation early in its trip around the blogosphere, the addition of someone named “Matt Collins” as author. Like an old-fashioned chain-letter (ironically enough, Scientific American did a story on the evolution of chain-letters a few years back), the Matt Collins attribution was dutifully copied, and soon people were sending hate mail and fan mail to the magazine addressed to Matt Collins, and Matt Collins was even listed as author when the article was reprinted in The Guardian. However, SciAm editor John Rennie says that no such person works at the magazine. The identity of Matt Collins is a mystery to him – he suggests it somehow got added while being scanned and blogged.

I have a hypothesis.

Quammen gets award

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Scientific American‘s John Rennie has definitely discovered the joy – perhaps “grim pleasure” would be a better word – of blogging about evolution and the silliness of creationists. Today, he announced that the American Society of Magazine Editors just gave science journalist David Quammen and National Geographic‘s editor, William L. Allen, the 2005 National Magazine Award in Essays for the November 2004 National Geographic article that asked and answered the question, “Was Darwin Wrong?

Thanks for 500,000 visits

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Sometime this morning the Panda’s Thumb received its 500,000 visit, according to our site meter.

I just would like to offer my thanks to our many visitors. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments people offer. Both the breadth and depth of my perspective have grown by being a part of (often just as a lurker) the converstaions here.

Everyone should have a round of your favorite Panda’s Thumb digital beverage on me. :-)

What if you held a debate and nobody but your supporters came?

It’s quite likely that you’d be able to boast about the poor reception your opponent got from the audience.

This seems to have been what happened at a debate held last week on the Princeton campus between Lee Silver, a Princeton molecular biologist, and Bill Dembski, a seminary professor. The debate, titled “Intelligent Design: Is It Science?” was sponsored by the “Intercollegiate Studies Institute” (a conservative think tank in Wilmington, Delaware). Notably absent was any publicity that might have resulted in the attendance of scientists, or even of unscreened Princeton students.

The Wichita Eagle had an excellent editorial today in support of the boycott of the Kansas state BOE’s upcoming kangaroo court meant to showcase Intelligent Design. (See here for a list of the Intelligent Design illuminati being invited at tax-payer expense)

Here is the editorial in its entirety – it’s short, powerful, and to the point. ‘Nuff said, as they say.

You might consider sending author Randy Scholfield, writing for the Eagle editorial board, a note of appreciation, or writing a letter to the editor in support of the Eagle’s opinion. See here for contact information.

Zimmer vs. Wieland

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Compare these two: Carl Wieland of Answers in Genesis vs. Carl Zimmer. It's no contest. Zimmer refers to the scientific literature and accurately describes recent advances in AIDS research, while the creationist evades the key points, makes up false assertions about the data, references out-of-date creationist misinterpretations, and flings out non sequiturs wildly.

This is typical.

Funniest comment in Wieland's article: the suggestion that Zimmer should have "checked this website [AiG] first". Yeah, and maybe he should have also visited the circus and consulted a few dancing monkeys, too.

FYI: Intelligent Design on NPR

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Join the studio audience of National Public Radio’s award-winning public affairs debate show, Justice Talking. Host Margot Adler leads the nation’s top advocates in informative, entertaining debate on today’s headline issues, with questions from the audience. Tuesday, April 19 7:30 – 9 pm National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street, Philadelphia

Francis Collins on ID.

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Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, was interviewed on Tucker Carlson’s Unfiltered. Here’s what he had to say about ID:

Carlson: What do you think of this statement read to the Dover, Pennsylvania public school children that the theory is just a theory and explaining briefly intelligent design? Is that that be read to kids?

Collins: It sounds as if it’s a good idea to suggest anybody listening to a discussion about science to keep your mind open and to be sure that facts are actually backed up by data. But, of course, that statement is full of a lot more than scientific facts and data and concerns about them. It is a statement that reflects a battle that’s going on right now. And in my view, an unnecessary battle. So let me explain why I say that. As somebody who has watched our own D.N.A. sequence emerge, our own instruction book over the course of the last few years, all three billion letters of our code, and watched how it compares with that of other species, the evidence that comes out of that kind of analysis is overwhelmingly in favor of a single origin of life from which various forms were then derived by a process which seems entirely consistent with Darwin’s view of natural selection. By saying that, some people listening to my words will immediately conclude that I must therefore be opposed to any role for god in the process that’s not true. But I’m not an advocate of intelligent design, either.

Carlson: Why?

Collins proceeds to lay the smack-down.

The whole interview is interesting, as Collins is a theistic evolutionist with strong Christian convictions, yet is perfectly comfortable with science. There are thousands of scientists like him, which pretty much puts the lie to the frequent cre/ID refrain that one can’t accept both evolution and believe in God at the same time.

(Hat-tip to “ex-preacher” on IIDB.)

Reverence for the long dead and the not-so-long dead

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Since PZ is apparently too shy to suggest this himself, I will do so on the chance that there’s a smidge of non-overlapping readership between here and Pharyngula. Those who have not yet done so, go to Pharyngula and read this essay. It’s also on The American Street. It’s a keeper.


A new report in Science has come out firmly in favour of the Homo floresiensis not being a “pathological microcephalic”. Read more [URL =http://evolvethought.blogspot.com/2005/04/hobbit-n…]here[/URL].

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