November 6, 2005 - November 12, 2005 Archives

Dembski Finds the Transcript

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William Dembski finally managed to find the transcript of Shallit’s testimony. Since I’ve been correct on predicting his behavior all the way along so far, I’ve taken another stab at it at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Update: Holy cow, I missed this the first time. Yesterday I asked the rhetorical question, would Dembski continue to embarrass himself in this situation regarding Shallit’s testimony? Well, we have our answer. Not only is he continuing to embarrass himself, he’s digging the hole even deeper. He’s now compounding his dishonesty with an attempt to erase the past. He has now deleted all three of his previous posts where he made the false claim that Shallit had been pulled from testifying by the ACLU because his deposition was an “embarrassment” and a “liability” to their case, even after one of those posts got almost 100 comments in reply to it. There’s no word so far on whether he will change his name to Winston Smith.

This really is dishonest behavior, there’s no two ways about it. Clearly, Dembski’s world is one in which he thinks he can rewrite history and no one will notice. I’m dying to hear how his toadies will defend this behavior. It’s not defensible on its own, so they can only attempt to distract attention away from it with a tu quoque argument or pointing fingers at others. So let’s hear what they have to say. Salvador? O’Brien? DonaldM? Let’s hear you defend this dishonest and Orwellian behavior. And tell us again how it’s evolution that undermines ethics and morality while you’re at it.

Update #2: Oh, here’s Dembski’s latest on the subject, in a comment responding to being asked what happened to the previous posts on the subject:

The previous postings were a bit of street theater. I now have what I needed. As for responding to Shallit and his criticisms, I have been and continue to do so through a series of technical articles under the rubric “The Mathematical Foundations of Intelligent Design” — you can find these articles at The most important of these is titled “Searching Large Spaces.” Shallit has indicated to me that he does not intend to engage that body of work:….

A bit of street theater? Okay, let me see if I understand this. Dembski engaged in a bit of “street theater” - meaning “told a lie” - to get a copy of the transcript that he could have gotten two months ago because it’s been publicly available all along? And now instead of admitting to the lie, he’s just erasing the evidence of it? Okay, let’s call a spade a spade here. Dembski is a lying scumbag with no regard for the truth whatsoever. Period. Just when you think he’s hit rock bottom, Dembski begins to tunnel.

An editorial in today’s Washington Post discusses the school board election in Dover, Pennsylvania. The editorial makes a number of excellent points about the nature of the Intelligent Design controversy. They point out that getting thrown out of office is one of the risks you take when you play politics, and that the Intelligent Design movement relies entirely on politics to get their material into schools. They also point out that while the Discovery Institute claims to lack religious motivation, many of the people pushing Intelligent Design at the local level are clearly religiously motivated.

Those are all very good points, and it is definitely nice to see a newspaper like the Washington Post take an editorial position that favors teaching real science. Unfortunately, this editorial also makes a fundamental mistake when it discusses an issue related to the history of Intelligent Design, and this mistake leads to a conclusion that ends up just a bit wide of the mark.

Read More (at The Questionable Authority):

Dembski Proves Me Right Yet Again


William Dembski has finally replied - kind of - to my proof that he has been spreading false claims about why Jeff Shallit didn’t testify at the Dover trial. In that post, he continues to prove me right that he is simply not capable of admitting he was wrong even when shown to be wrong beyond any rational doubt. A full reply to his continued obfuscation can be found at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments should be left there.

Update: Dembski has posted another non-reply reply, still unwilling to admit he’s wrong. I’ve posted a full response here.

An Experimental Test of ID? Really?

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In his recent testimony in Kitzmiller v. DASB (archived here, among other places), Michael Behe described what he called an “experiment” that could potentially falsify ID. Reading from his Reply to My Critics article, Behe testified that

In fact, intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box, I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process.

To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure, for mobility, say, grow it for 10,000 generations, and see if a flagellum, or any equally complex system, was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

Let’s consider that suggestion for a moment. Is it possible that Behe is right and ID is experimentally testable?

More below the fold.


Apparently Pastafarians don’t have any rules about idolatry, because over on ebay, a a Handmade Flying Spaghetti Monster Plush Doll has received 36 bids and is currently selling for $242.50. I don’t even know who is running the auction, but evidently all proceeds (which will be matched by the dollmaker’s employer) will be donated to NCSE, which by the way is something you should consider doing anyway if you support our mission.

If the Dover situation was a joke, this would be the punchline. Pat Robertson says that by voting out the pro-ID school board, the people of Dover have lost their protection from God:

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.”

Gee Pat, does that mean you won’t be there to try and pray away a hurricane like you pretended to do in Virginia? What a despicable cretin. Maybe you could call for the assassination of the new Dover school board president. But remember….ID is not religious at all, it has nothing to do with Christianity or the religious right’s agenda, nothing whatsoevr. It’s just pure science from the word go. *eyeroll*

Here’s a story to tell from what has been a busy two days in Kansas. I intend to add more from Kansas as time allows, but this was a very interesting experience that I’d like to share.

The most common question that I’ve been asked by reporters is what are the practical consequences of the Kansas state Board’s adoption of these standards. Part of my answer has been that the most significant immediate consequence is that in districts all over Kansas, all it will take is one Board member, parent, student or teacher to bring creationists claims to the classroom, pointing to the state standards as a rationale and justification for having those claims discussed. This opens up a Pandora’s box through which anyone with creationist leanings can expect some amount of equal classroom time.

This morning I got an unusual opportunity to make this point. Radio station WBUR, an NPR station in Boston with national listenship, invited me on their show “Hear & Now” to respond to comments made by a high school biology teacher in Topeka, Kansas. This teacher, Donnie Palmer, favors the new standards, and is an example of exactly the danger I have been referring to

Instead of being live, WBUR interviews people offline and then edits the discussion more or less immediately for their show. Therefore, I was able to listen to Mr. Palmer’s interview first, and then comment on them in my part of the show. I was very impressed with all the people involved in this short project, especially the woman Robin who interviewed me.

You can listen to the show (it’s about 15 minutes long) by going here.

I invite and encourage you to listen, and then comment here.

New CSICOP Column

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If you've grown weary of following all of the post-election fallout, feel free to have a look at my new column for CSICOP's Creation and Intelligent Design Watch site. I put to rest once and for all the idea that Stephen Jay Gould would have objected to NCSE's “Steves” list. Enjoy!

With ID getting lots of press these days, and with an on-going court case trying to establish if ID is any different than creationism of yore, people can sometimes get confused about what exactly ID is. This can’t possibly be due to the ID advocates’ own equivocation and ambiguity, it must somehow be our fault, because otherwise they wouldn’t keep blaming us. So in order to help them out, I thought I would create a handy-dandy table comparing the attributes of ID, young-Earth creationism, and old-Earth creationism. That way, no one need get them confused ever again.

I have been trying all morning to find an answer to the question of whether last night’s elections, by changing the school board and, perhaps, the policy of that board, will make the Kitzmiller case moot or not. The answer does not appear to be as simple as one might think at first. After consulting with several prominent legal scholars, I have posted my understanding of this issue in all its various aspects at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Any legal types who have anything to add, or corrections to make of my understanding of it, please comment there.

The York Dispatch is reporting that eight out of the eight incumbent school board members in Dover have lost their bids for re-election to pro-evolution candidates. Wes already gave the preliminary results in an earlier Panda’s Thumb post. What I’d like to do is talk about the implications a bit.

Continue reading (at The Questionable Authority)

Just days after the close of testimony in the Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board case, the people got a chance to put in their two cents via school board elections, choosing between the


with their “intelligent design policy”, or the


of the Dover CARES campaign. The results, courtesy of the York Dispatch:

 ----- Dover -----
B Reinking 	Dem. 	2754
H Mc Ilvaine, Jr. Dem. 	2677
B Rehm 	        Dem. 	2625
T Emig 	        Dem. 	2716
A Bonsell 	Rep. 	2469
J Cashman 	Rep. 	2526
S Leber 	Rep. 	2584
E Rowand 	Rep. 	2547

2-Year Term
L Gurreri 	Dem. 	2623
P Dapp 	        Dem. 	2670
J Mc Ilvaine 	Dem. 	2658
E Riddle 	Rep. 	2545
R Short 	Rep. 	2544
S Harkins 	Rep. 	2466

2-Year Unexp
P Herman 	Dem. 	2542
D Napierskie 	Rep. 	2516

6 Out of 6 precincts

The Democratic slate contains the challengers to the current board members.

It should be noted that the incoming board members from the Dover CARES campaign have a platform plank saying that “intelligent design” will be taught in Dover public schools. However, the venue of such instruction will not be the science classrooms, where it was out-of-place, but rather an elective course on comparative religion, where it fits perfectly.

Goodbye, Kansas

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It's a sad day for American science. We've lost Kansas.

Risking the kind of nationwide ridicule it faced six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public-school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The 6-4 vote was a victory for "intelligent design" advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools, in violation of the constitutional ban on state establishment of religion.

All six of those who voted for the new standards were Republicans. Two Republicans and two Democrats voted no.

For the next few years, a lot of schoolkids are going to get taught slippery twaddle—instead of learning what scientists actually say about biology, they're going to get the phony pseudoscience of ideologues and dishonest hucksters. And that means the next generation of Kansans are going to be a little less well informed, even more prone to believing the prattlings of liars, and the cycle will keep on going, keep on getting worse.

This, for instance, is baloney.

The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

The proponents of these changes don't have any idea what the fossil and molecular evidence says, and they are misrepresenting it. There is no credible evidence against common descent and chemical evolution; those concepts are being strengthened, year by year. What does this school board think to gain by teaching students lies?

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Rewriting the definition of science seems a rather presumptuous thing for a school board to do, I think, especially when their new definition is something contrary to what working scientists and major scientific organizations say is science. As for removing the limitation to natural phenomena, what do they propose to add? Ghosts, intuition, divine revelation, telepathic communications from Venusians? It's simply insane.

The clowns of Kansas don't think so, of course.

"This is a great day for education. This is one of the best things that we can do," said board chairman Steve Abrams. Another board member who voted in favor of the standards, John Bacon, said the move "gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today."

John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said changes probably would come to classrooms gradually, with some teachers feeling freer to discuss criticisms of evolution. "These changes are not targeted at changing the hearts and minds of the Darwin fundamentalists," Calvert said.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports challenges to Darwinian evolutionary theory, praised the Kansas effort. "Students will learn more about evolution, not less as some Darwinists have falsely claimed," institute spokesman Casey Luskin said in a written statement.

Casey Luskin is a toady for the DI, so what does he know? There is a straightforward body of evidence for evolution to which students should be introduced—evidence that high school curricula barely touch on as it is. Adding a collection of false and confusing claims about what scientists say is only going to diminish the legitimate science that can be taught. And teaching absurdities, such as that science deals with the supernatural, represents a load of garbage that instructors at the college level are going to have to scoop out of the brains of these poor students. At least, that is, out of the diminishing number of students who will pursue genuine science, rather than the dead-end vapor of Intelligent Design creationism.

Goodbye, Kansas. I don't expect to see many of your sons and daughters at my university in coming years, unless the teachers of your state refuse to support the outrageous crapola their school board has foisted on them. I hope the rest of the country moves on, refusing to join you in your stagnant backwater of 18th century hokum.

Since I got a useful list of the pro and con members of the board in the comments, I thought it would be a good idea to bring it up top and spread the word.

Here are the Kansas good guys. When they come up for re-election, vote for them.

Pro-evolution, the heirs of the Enlightenment:
Janet Waugh
Sue Gamble
Carol Rupe
Bill Wagnon

Here are the Kansas bad guys. Vote against them whenever you can.

Pro-intelligent-design, the wretched sucktards of Ignorance:
Kathy Martin
Kenneth Willard
John W. Bacon
Iris Van Meter
Connie Morris
Steve Abrams

Jonathan Wells just reposted an article over at ID: The Future that he wrote about a year ago. The article is a fictional account looking at the history of the ID movement from now until 2025. Here’s what Wells thinks will lead (or will have lead - I never can keep track of the right tense in these future history pieces) to the downfall of Darwinism:

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

You might be interested to read about a very rare transitional fossil between creationism and “intelligent design” that was recently discovered by Barbara Forrest during her exploration of some exhibits filed in Kitzmiller v. Dover, namely drafts of the original “intelligent design” book Of Pandas and People.

The amazing beast, “cdesign proponentsists” was discovered directly above strata containing the well-known and ubiquitous species “creationists”. Previous research by Forrest had dated the layer the missing link was found in to the latter half of 1987.



I've been reading a strange book by Stuart Pivar, LifeCode: The Theory of Biological Self Organization (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), which purports to advance a new idea in structuralism and self-organization, in competition with Darwinian principles. I am thoroughly unconvinced, and am unimpressed with the unscientific and fabulously concocted imagery of the book.

Continue reading "Lifecode" (on Pharyngula)

Sad but true

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Well, I have finally returned from six weeks in Harrisburg at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. I spent Saturday traveling and sleeping, and I spent Sunday cleaning my apartment out from under piles of articles, creationist journals, and other assorted Kitzmiller-related flotsam.

I think it’s clear that the case has gone extremely well thus far, and that the plaintiffs achieved everything they wanted to achieve while putting on their case. But it was an awful lot of work. In a wrapup story, “What’s made Dover unique?“, Lauri Lebo reports,

On a warm Indian summer day, Matzke stopped along a central Pennsylvania hiking trail and examined the leaves of an American chestnut tree for signs of blight. […] Today, botanists say they are close to bringing back the American chestnut, by crossing it with the Chinese chestnut, which carries the blight-resistant gene.

Matzke lives in California, but he has spent the past six weeks in Harrisburg, working on the case for the plaintiffs. This was the first time he had been able to spend time outside.

Sad but true…

It has now been 5 days since I posted absolute, undeniable proof that Dembski’s claims concerning why Jeff Shallit didn’t testify at the Dover trial were false. That proof was in the form of a motion filed by the defense and Judge Jones’ ruling on that motion, which proves incontrovertibly that Dembski’s claim that Shallit was pulled from testifying because his deposition was an “embarrassment” to the ACLU is false. In point of fact, it was the defense who went to great lengths to keep Shallit from testifying. I finished that post with the following statement:

So we have now conclusively demonstrated that Dembski’s assertion that Jeff Shallit was kept off the witness stand because his deposition was “an embarrassment” to our side is false. The only question that remains is whether the odds of Dembski admitting he was wrong are above or below his “universal probability boundary” of 1 in 10^150.

In the 5 days since that was posted, Dembski has written 18 separate posts on his blog, the same blog where he made his false claim in the first place. At least one of those posts refers directly to something written about him on the Panda’s Thumb, so it’s unlikely that he just didn’t see it. Indeed, he often refers to things written on PT, so we know that he reads it regularly. As of now, there is still no admission that he was wrong. Is this the behavior of an intellectually honest person or is it the behavior of someone out to smear another scholar and then pretend, even in the face of undeniable proof that his smear was unfounded, that he was never contradicted? I leave that to objective readers to decide on their own.

P.S. While we’re at it, I’ll make predictions on how he’ll respond to this post. He will either A) ignore it; B) make a tu quoque argument pointing the finger at someone on the evolution side for the same thing, whether justified or not; or C) he’ll insult me. No one offered to take a bet on his first response even with odds of 1 in 10^150 on their side. I doubt anyone will here either.

You can’t “Just kill them all”?

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Battling unsuccessfully against a case of post-Dover syndrome, I wandered over to see Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble.

Scrolling down through his excellent commentaries, I came upon “William Dembski, fascist?”

Strong language I thought. But reading on, I found it was totally appropriate.

And, do read Dembski’s braying pack of sycophants on their urge to kill immigrants and particularly Muslims. There are many familiar cyper-names there; Dave Scott, jboze, DonaldM, and neurode.

Dave Scott offered a “plan” that is familiar to any student of history, no matter how superficial, “However, since we can’t just kill them all (we can kill the worst offenders though) …” He also added this little charming assessment, “Islam is a disease that has no place in the civilized world.” But in Dave Scott’s twisted mind, if such bigoted hate was expressed by anyone about Christ, or America, they would be an evil sort who should be killed.

Professional Christian apologist William Dembski’s notorious penchant for deleting any post he finds offensive has shown him to be a supporter of hate.

One minor point; the Darwin=fascism is clearly belied by these IDiots slavering over the chance to kill.

There’s been some interesting discussion over on SciAm Observations about the evolution of infectious diseases, and notably, influenza. It all started with editor John Rennie’s post, discussing an article on H5N1 written by Wendy Orent, here:

Part I

Wendy Orent and evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald both replied in Part II and Part III, respectively:

Part II

Part III

Both discussed Rennie’s mention of a critique of Orent’s article on the public health blog, Effect Measure. The pseudomynous Revere from that blog then replied in Part IV:

Part IV

(Continued at Aetiology…)

The Times Online reports the following last month. (I encourage those interested to read the full article.) (Also, I originally posted that this article was from today’s Times Online, but actually it was from October 5.)

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.

The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.

Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.

But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”.

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