February 2006 Archives

Better late than never…

Next edition of Tangled Bank goes live tomorrow at Aetiology. Send any last-minute contributions here!

From our friends at the NCSE, we hear how a local school district has rejected Kansas’s antievolution standards.

The Manhattan-Ogden school district (USD 383) became the first local school district in Kansas to reject the state science standards adopted by the Kansas state board of education in November 2005. At its meeting on February 15, 2006, the USD 383 board of education voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution that endorses the original writing committee’s description of science as “a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

Seems that once again the Dover ruling, although not legally binding in Kansas played its role in the decision

USD 383 superintendent Bob Shannon told the Kansas State Collegian (February 16, 2006) that it is unlikely that the adoption of the resolution will have any financial or legal ramifications for the district. Board member Beth Tatarko added that in fact accepting the state standards might be financially and legally precarious, citing the outcome of Kitzmiller v. Dover: “If we had someone in our district teaching Intelligent Design right now, those costs would come back to us.”

Life will find a way


Creationists sometimes try to argue that what we consider straightforward, well-demonstrated cytological and genetic events don't and can't occur: that you can't get chromosome rearrangements, or that variations in chromosome number and organization are obstacles to evolution, making discussions of synteny, or the rearrangement of chromosomal material in evolution, an impossibility. These are absurd conclusions, of course—we see evidence of chromosomal variation in people all the time.

For example, A friend sent along (yes, Virginia, there is a secret network of evilutionists busily sharing information with one another) a remarkable case study of a radical chromosome arrangement in a mother and daughter. When you see how these chromosomes are scrambled, you'll wonder how they ever managed to sort themselves out meiotically to produce viable offspring…but life will find a way.

Continue reading Life will find a way" (on Pharyngula)


Buttars’ crazy anti-evolution bill has been killed in Utah.

The evolution bill is no more.

The Utah House of Representatives voted 46-28 to kill SB96, which cast doubt on the teaching of evolution.

“There are a number of influential legislators who believe you evolved from an ape. I didn’t,” said Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, who sponsored the bill.

He said it was “doubtful” that he would try a similar bill in the future.

The bill would have required a teacher to say the state does not endorse evolution and that the controversial theory is not a proven fact before teaching Charles Darwin’s ideas.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

NCSE’s Take

TJ Esq in one of the comments provided me with a link to the following article New evidence that natural selection is a general driving force behind the origin of species. The article describes the work by Daniel J. Funk, Patrik Nosil, and William J. Etges titled Ecological divergence exhibits consistently positive associations with reproductive isolation across disparate taxa PNAS published February 21, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0508653103

“This helps fill a big gap that has existed in evolutionary studies,” says Daniel Funk, assistant professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University. He authored the study with Patrik Nosil from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and William J. Etges from the University of Arkansas. “We have known for some time that when species invade a new environment or ecological niche, a common result is the formation of a great diversity of new species. However, we haven’t really understood how or whether the process of adaptation generally drives this pattern of species diversification.”

When the truth hurts

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Intelligent Design activists seem to be upset with the Media for point ing out that intelligent design requires a supernatural designer, “or other guiding force”. That ID proponents have spent much effort to disguise this foundational principle has been well-documented. Thus when ID activists claim that ID

… merely proposes that there is good evidence that some features of nature–like the intricate molecular motors within cells and the finely-tuned laws of physics–are best explained as the products of an intelligent cause, not chance and necessity. Whether this intelligent cause identified through the scientific method is (or is not) “god” cannot be answered by the science alone and is therefore outside the scope of the theory of intelligent design.

the media aa well as the judge in the Dover case have found these claims without much merrit.

West, faced with an uncooperative media, decided to send of a letter to the newspaper complaining about using ‘inaccurate descriptions’ of Intelligent Design (by refusing to accept ID’s definition and instead looking at the logical consequences of ID’s claims). Worse, the editors, according to West, ‘surpressed a more accurate description’.… Not to mention the use of the pejorative ‘watering down’ when describing ID’s efforts. And yet, the judge ruled that

Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.

ID, by raising mostly irrelevant objections to evolutionary theory (see for example Icons of Evolution) is trying to water down evolutionary theory. Lest people are confused what drives ID proponents to ‘teach the controversy’, let me quote West

John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said he considered the revisions a victory for his group. The revisions in Glencoe and Holt books are tantamount to an admission by “Darwinists” that evolution theory is flawed, he said. “This vindicates us.”

Indeed, the goal seems to not be to strengthen evolutionary theory but rather to suggest that Darwinian theory is flawed. And yet, West is surprised when the media describes the efforts as ‘watering down’ evolution.

It may be helpful for the reader to be reminded of the ‘arguments’ by ID activists which lead to the inevitable conclusion that ID is all about the supernatural, although given the recent ‘successes in the courts’, it should not come as a surprise that ID activist have tried unnusccesfully to ‘divorce’ ID from its religious foundations.

And people wonder why so many are starting to realize that Intelligent Design is scientifically vacuous.

Larry Witham: ID Flack

I am currently re-reading Larry Witham’s 2003 overview of the intelligent design movement, By Design: Science and the Search for God. Those who follow the ID movement closely know Witham as a former religion reporter for the Moonie-controlled Washington Times, and as the author of several uncritical articles about ID. Another tip-off that the content would be slanted was that this volume was donated to my university by the Trinity Evangelical Missionary Church, a local group that has donated a significant fraction of the antievolutionary content of our library. So it did not come as a surprise to me in my first reading that By Design was slanted. What did come as a surprise was the level of bias and misrepresentation, even to the point of blatant self-contradiction. I’ve finally gotten around to listing some of them.

Read more at Recursivity, and leave comments there.

Judge for himself


NCSE reports that the Philadelphia Enquirer has an interview with Judge Jones. Judge Jones is the judge who presided over the Kitzmiller v Dover case and ruled strongly against Intelligent Design.

Asked about his ruling on Intelligent Design not being science the Judge reminds us of a simple fact: Both sides had insisted a ruling on this issue

The controversial part of the ruling was whether intelligent design is in fact science. Lost in the post-decision debate was that both sides, plaintiffs and defense, asked me to rule on that issue.

Over at Daily Kos, DarkSyde continues his series on Know Your Creationists. This episode is about the Discovery Institute’s Jonathan Witt, and while Witt may be a bit player, Darksyde finds plenty to hammer on. In particular, he makes an excellent point about the ID advocates’ use (or rather abuse) of the term “Darwinist”:

Exhibit B: Darwinism. Judging by frequency of usage, DR Witt, along with every other IDCists on the planet, seems enamored with that word. I asked him recently what he meant by Darwinism, and he replied in part “I use the term to refer to a person who believes that natural selection working on random variation produced all the diversity of organic life we see around us.” DR Witt is entitled to speak for himself, but I work with biologists every day as part of my ongoing battle with creationisim, and I haven’t met one yet who refers to himself as a Darwinist, or his field of research as Darwinism. At best it’s a quaint older term which is no longer used among biologists and hasn’t been for decades. At worst, it’s intentionally chosen to present evolutionary biology as a rival ideology to theism by hired guns marketing Intelligent Design Creationism to the Christian laypublic, and Darwin’s name is used specifically to nurture latent resentment, and to conjure up the ever present book-burners and witch-burners who still lurk among the lucid, among that grass roots demographic.

Worse still, DR Witt’s straightforward answer does little to reassure me of his probity: In the very same venue where I asked that question, DR Witt had used the term Darwinism to clearly refer to a school of thought in philosophy, as for example when he said “Thus, in practice the materialist/Darwinists’ fourth … “ and this is just one of many such statements threatening the consistency of his self professed definition.

As best I can tell, Darwinism as used by IDCists can mean pretty much anything the IDCist wants it to mean. They can and do use it to refer to common descent and all modes of speciation/diversification, abiogenesis, cosmology or most any field of science. But it’s by no means limited to science. It’s bandied about in contexts of abstract philosophical claptrap; metaphysical naturalism, materialism, secular humanism, all of which are often nothing more than covert references to atheism. If it served the IDCist purpose in discrediting science, Darwinism could probably mean Killers of Small Furry Animals.

That’s pretty spot on. Let me emphasize that the term “Darwinism” is only rarely, if ever used in the scientific literature. There’s a good reason for this: It has no fixed meaning. It has at times been used to describe the mere process of natural selection causing adaptations (something almost every biologist agrees with) and at other times used to describe the notion that natural selection alone is responsible for evolutionary change (something almost no biologist agrees with). Hence it is usually either redundant or it doesn’t apply. Yet ID advocates use the term almost exclusively to describe anyone and everyone who accepts mainstream evolutionary biology. I don’t know why they expect scientists to take them seriously when they lack the professional courtesy to use accurate terms when describing those with whom they disagree.

To illustrate the fact that biologists almost never use the term “Darwinist” when talking about evolution, I did some literature searches for relevant terms in PubMed. This is an experiment the kids can try at home. The results are below the fold.

Teaching the controversy works


Seems that the public and the media are getting educated about the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

A few months have passed and, as predicted, a rehashing of Intelligent Design (ID) is underway in the newspapers’ letter pages. This is a technique used by creationists to keep their religious-based ideas in the public limelight; an effort to equate untestable divinity with verifiable fact. Fortunately, there is now an almost universally accepted rational consensus that ID is not real science.

There is a rational consensus that Intelligent Design is not real science

Teach the Controversy?


The Intelligent Design movement’s clarion call for “teach the controversy” is a very clever strategy; it’s the sort of thing that strikes otherwise bright and sensible people who aren’t creationists as agreeable. It sounds like a good idea as long as you don’t ask yourself the following questions: 1) Is ID legitimate science? 2) Are the ID movement’s criticisms of evolution scientifically valid? 3) What are they trying to achieve by altering science curricula? Given that the answers to these questions are “No”, “No”, and “To advance a religious agenda”, respectively, “teach the controversy” seems upon further analysis to be lousy educational policy. But to the uninitiated, “teach the controversy” appeals to notions of fairness, and moreover, the very wording of the talking point itself implies that there is actually a controversy to teach.

A couple of recent articles explore each of these issues and shed light on why this strategy is bogus. The first one by Stanley Fish recounts the history of “teach the controversy” when it existed as a sensible means for resolving genuine controversies within academia. The ID movement didn’t actually invent this idea (it’s an odd fact that none of their ideas appear to be original) but rather “picked the pocket” of one Gerald Graff, who came up with the notion some 20 years ago concerning wholly unrelated things. The second article by Bob Camp tries to ascertain the extent to which there actually exists a controversy among biologists.

Evolution hearts medicine


This week’s Science contains the statement that Medicine needs evolution:

The citation of “Evolution in Action” as Science’s 2005 breakthrough of the year confirms that evolution is the vibrant foundation for all biology. Its contributions to understanding infectious disease and genetics are widely recognized, but its full potential for use in medicine has yet to be realized. Some insights have immediate clinical applications, but most are fundamental, as is the case in other basic sciences. Simply put, training in evolutionary thinking can help both biomedical researchers and clinicians ask useful questions that they might not otherwise pose.

The statement was written in part by Randolph Neese, an author of the book Why we get sick: the new science of Darwinian medicine. I’ve written before about working on getting doctors involved in the fight to teach good science and voice support for evolution, since medicine is a major place where the rubber hits the road as far as usefulness of the discoveries and theory of evolutionary biology. The authors also make some suggestions for reforming medical and pre-medical curriculum.

(Continued at Aetiology; see comments on the topic also at Pharyngula.)

Science: Ohio School Board Boots Out ID


TrojanPandaSmall[1].jpg In the February 24, 2006 edition of Science, Constance Holden writes about the devastating loss for Intelligent Design activists in Ohio.

SCIENCE AND RELIGION: Ohio School Board Boots Out ID by Constance Holden Science 24 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5764, p. 1083 DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5764.1083

Scientists are hailing the demise of an attempt in Ohio to sneak intelligent design (ID) into the public school science curriculum under the guise of a “critical analysis” of evolution. Last week, the Ohio Board of Education voted 11-4 to strike the words from its curriculum guidelines along with a creationist-inspired study guide. Evolution supporters called it a “stunning victory” and cited the influence of the December court ruling against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board in the first test case of injecting ID into biology classes (Science, 6 January, p. 34).

Indeed, while some have denied that the Dover decision would be a Waterloo for Intelligent Design, the Dover ruling seems to have played a significant role in the stunning reversal of the Ohio State Board of Education.

Many scientific organizations have spoken out strongly in favor of evolutionary theory and often also against the scientifically vacuous concept of Intelligent Design. The latest in the ever growing list are the entomologists.

, no meaningful or significant controversy exists within the biological sciences—entomology included—about the centrality and legitimacy of evolutionary theory

Showing that scientists believe that ‘teaching the controversy’ is nothing but a sham.


in contrast, intelligent design—with its central tenet of irreducible complexity (i.e., aspects of living systems are too complex to ascribe to biological processes and therefore must have been designed by some intelligent force)—is neither predictive nor falsifiable and therefore does not meet the standards of science. Accordingly, intelligent design has no utility in entomology and – for the same reason – has no legitimate place in science classrooms at any level of instruction.

showing that scientists consider Intelligent Design to be scientifically vacuous

Read on for the full resolution text

Hat tip NCSE

Sex pays off

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Science 17 February 2006: reports:

Sex is expensive. For example, the daughters of an asexual female can reproduce at twice the rate of the progeny descended from a sexual female, assuming a sex ratio of one male to one female. So why is sex maintained despite this apparent disadvantage? One suggestion has been that the lack of meiotic recombination in asexual lineages results in the accumulation of mutations in a sexuals. Paland and Lynch (p. 990; see the Perspective by Nielsen) studied sexual and obligate asexual lineages of Daphnia (water fleas). Through a process of selective interference, the asexual lineages developed a fourfold greater number of mildly deleterious mutations in their mitochondrial genomes compared to the sexual lineages.

Paging Mr. Chromosome


Forget prime numbers in the movie “Contact”, your own last name may be encoded in your DNA, reports Science

Paging Mr. Chromosome Your last name may be encoded in your DNA

A genetic study of British men finds a one in four chance that two strangers with the same last name share an ancestor. The relationship implies that certain surnames have a unique DNA signature–a fact that could help police narrow down suspects in some unsolved cases. But the criminally intent John Smiths of the world need not worry, because the signatures are found predominantly for rare surnames.

Now that’s a ‘Design Inference’

‘Jurassic beaver’ unearthed in China: Fossil overturns ideas about mammals’ lowly status in dinosaur era

Another evolutionary Icon ‘bites the dust’

For years, the mammals living in the era of dinosaurs have been thought of as tiny shrewlike creatures scurrying through the underbrush. Now the discovery of a furry aquatic creature with seallike teeth and a flat tail like a beaver has demolished that image.

Ji Q., Luo Z.-X., Yuan C.-X.& Tabrum A. R. . Science, 311. 1123 - 1127 (2006).

See also Jurrassic Beaver swims into view Nature News, Michael Hopkin

Who is that Bearded Man?!

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Alleged photo of Charles Darwin taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, online in the Yale University collection[Note: See update at bottom of post] Over at Stranger Fruit, John Lynch has linked to a charming photo of someone who is allegedly Darwin, further allegedly signed by Darwin. The photo accompanied an Ed Larson article published in the November/December 2005 issue of Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society, produced at Boston University. Furthermore, it is found in the online archives of the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, in the Julia Margaret Cameron collection.

However, many of us Darwin fans think that this photo is not Chuck, and that someone, somewhere, has Officially Screwed Up. Mind you, it’s not quite as bad as 2004, when Barnes and Noble was selling the Autobiography of Charles Darwin with a photo of Alfred Russel Wallace on the cover, but a screwup nonetheless.

The question remains: Who Is That Bearded Man? Your poll options are below the fold.

Best Community Nomination

Good news, we have been nominated for the Best Blog Community. Voting will open at the end of the week.

Chicken, archosaur…same difference


My daughter is learning about evolution in high school right now, and the problem isn't with the instructor, who is fine, but her peers, who complain that they don't see the connections. She mentioned specifically yesterday that the teacher had shown a cladogram of the relationships between crocodilians, birds, and mammals, and that a number of students insisted that there was no similarity between a bird and an alligator.

I may have to send this news article to school with her: investigators have found that a mutation in chickens causes them to develop teeth—and the teeth resemble those of the common ancestor of alligators and chickens, an archosaur.

Continue reading "Chicken, archosaur...same difference" (on Pharyngula)

There is good news for those who wanted a copy of Why Intelligent Design Fails, but were protective of their wallets and pocketbooks. Rutgers University Press now has the popular Matt Young and Taner Edis anthology available in paperback, at a sale price of $19.96. Yes, there is sales tax to be added, but there’s free shipping for web orders. I paid more for dinner at the AAAS conference hotel restaurant.

Be sure to check out Taner Edis’s page on WIDF, which links to reviews.

The slippery slope controversy


A little known secret is quickly growing into a worldwide scandal of unimaginable size and intensity: scientists do not know why ice is slippery. I am sure that many among you remember the textbook explanation that the pressure of the ice skate melts the ice and the skate slides on the water which then freezes. But now, the dedicated reporters of the New York Times have uncovered the scandal which is growing into what some claim to be the Waterloo for the Melting Ice Theory (MIT).

It seems that the mainstream media is catching on to the tactics by the Discovery Institute. When the Discovery Instute unveiled, several days after the NCSE Project Steve reached 700 signatures, that more than 500 ‘scientists’ had signed a statement stating that “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”, a New York Times reporter wasted no time to do some investigative reporting.

Those who are familiar with Darwin’s work would consider the statement itself rather unimpressive. Darwin himself argued that he did not think that natural selection was the only mechanism of evolution. Thus the real controversy may be that the fact that over 500 people have signed it is used by the Discovery Institute to argue that there is a ‘real controversy’ about evolutionary theory. In other words, the petition seems to serve to strengthen the attempts of the Discovery Institute to use ‘Teach the Controversy’ and ‘Critically analyze’ as backdoors for Intelligent Design to be taught. So what is the controversy about? Is it because evolution is scientifically flawed? Or are there other reasons why these scientists reject evolutionary theory. Let’s say perhaps because it conflicts with the religious faith? Could that be the case?

New York Times reporter Kenneth Chang has put this hypothesis to the test and interviewed many of the people who signed the statement and found something which most of the readers of PandasThumb may find unremarkable but which may come to a shock to those who have accepted the Discovery Institute’s claim that there is a scientific controversy.

Of the signers who are evangelical Christians, most defend their doubts on scientific grounds but also say that evolution runs against their religious beliefs.

Several said that their doubts began when they increased their involvement with Christian churches.

Some said they read the Bible literally and doubt not only evolution but also findings of geology and cosmology that show the universe and the earth to be billions of years old.

It gets better, much better.

AAAS and the Alliance for Science


Greetings and salutations! I just returned from the AAAS meeting in St. Louis, and what a trip it was! I finally got to meet Wesley Elsberry and Nick Matzke of NCSE fame, and it was great to see Eugenie again. The occasion for these festivities? The newly formed Alliance for Science ran a three hour symposium entitled Antievolutionism in America: What’s Ahead? We had one hell of a speaker line-up. Dr. Scott kicked it off with her usual eloquence, and was followed by a slew of people to talk about everything from threats to fields outside biology, particularly geology and neuroscience, to the successes of Dover C.A.R.E.S. This symposium was unique because we recognize the plight of those on the front line and gave plenty of podium time to them. For example, Gerald Wheeler from the National Science Teachers Association, a certain pastor from this little town called Dover, and Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project all got a chance to air their concerns and suggestions.

Not surprisingly the room was packed for most of the event, with standing room only in the back. The press even ate it up by publishing a story that included the Alliance for Science and a legislative initiative with which we are involved. The article did get one little piece of information wrong though: it suggests that the AAAS itself was involved in the creation of the Alliance for Science. This is not the case.

AAAS 2006


I was at the 2006 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in St. Louis from February 17th to 20th. Nick Matzke and I manned the National Center for Science Education booth in the exhibit hall, but occasionally got to play hooky and attend relevant sessions.

Overall, it seems that the major scientific societies are waking up to the fact that antievolution poses a multi-level threat to science in general, and are trying to figure out what steps to take. Part of the mix is now the umbrella organization, Alliance for Science. This organization aims to attract both individual scientists and organizations to effectively make the case for the integrity of science education in the USA. This is an effort that was officially launched during one of the sessions on antievolution held at the AAAS.

Update: I have a gallery of photographs from AAAS 2006 at this page. There’s several of people visiting the NCSE booth, then pictures from a panel discussion on the 18th, pictures from the session on the 19th referred to in Ethan’s post, the press pass bash at City Museum, and the final picture is of a future NCSE Steve and his wife.

Father George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory, presented the following speech “Science Does Not Need God, or Does It? A Catholic Scientist Looks at Evolution,” at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla., Jan. 31:

Father George Coyne Wrote:


I would essentially like to share with you two convictions in this presentation: (1) that the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, while evoking a God of power and might, a designer God, actually belittles God, makes her/him too small and paltry; (2) that our scientific understanding of the universe, untainted by religious considerations, provides for those who believe in God a marvelous opportunity to reflect upon their beliefs. Please note carefully that I distinguish, and will continue to do so in this presentation, that science and religion are totally separate human pursuits. Science is completely neutral with respect to theistic or atheistic implications which may be drawn from scientific results.

Law debate on ID in Kentucky


A law student, Colin, advises the following event at the University of Kentucky:

On Wed, Feb. 22, the UK School of Law is hosting a seminar on “Religion, the First Amendment, and the New Supreme Court” at 12:00 noon. The speaker at the event is Thomas Berg, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas, and Co-Director of the Terrance J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy. As the notice says, “Everyone is invited.” I assume that refers to the public as well. It’s in the College of Law Courtroom, and being presented by the Federalist Society.

Normally this would be a ho-hum affair, with a speaker and perhaps a few questions. The event the next week, however, is what would be of penultimate interest to readers of both the aforementioned blogs. It is entitled, “Intelligent Design: Question and Controversy in Law and Philosophy.” The speakers are Prof. Brandon Look (Philosophy, UK), and Prof. Paul Salamaca (Law - Constitutional and Federal, UK). They’ll be talking about the restrictions the First Amendment places on public schools, where Science and Religion end, and whether Intelligent Design is really Creationism re-labeled. It’s called a “discussion” where they’ll both talk about the facts, arguments, and theories of Intelligent Design. The flyer notes that “Everyone’s Welcome” and will also be in the College of Law Courtroom on Monday, Feb. 27 at 4:00 p.m. It is presented by both the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society.

I would expect only the best of discussions from either of these professors. In fact, to take one side, and not objectively study the issue, would seem to contradict the entire method that we’ve built here in Law (Socratic) and also in Science (the basic nature of science is to question everything, even those things previously thought established). As a citizen in the camps of both I have a great desire to see there be some great discussion.

In full context, Ky. has a law on the books that allows the teaching of Creationism in Public Schools, but does not mandate it. In other words, it is not “against” the law to teach Creationism. It is KRS 158.177, and an interesting read. The notation is that it has been “repealed and superseded by the 1990 Ky. Acts” but to my knowledge it’s still published and law in Ky. Recently, Ky. Gov. Ernie Fletcher (who’s in the hospital with an infection right now, so let’s hope he’s going to be okay) also advocated the teaching of it recently in his “State of the Commonwealth” speech. The seminary where William Dembski teaches (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is in Louisville, and only an hour away so an appearance, I think, would not be out of the realm of possibility though not in a speaking role. Finally, the Ky. Law Journal has previously published a note, “NOTE: When May a State Require Teaching Alternatives to the Theory of Evolution? Intelligent Design as a Test Case.” It’s at 90 Ky. L.J. 743. It was published in 2003, and to my knowledge has never been cited.

During the 2006 Annual meeting of the AAAS in St Louis, the “Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology” organized an event for St Louis teachers called: AAAS Evolution on the Front Line.

The resources include powerpoints of the presentations and videos which I understand will be added at a later time.

Reuters reports how scientists have enlisted the help of the clergy in battling creationism.

American scientists fighting back against creationism, intelligent design and other theories that seek to deny or downgrade the importance of evolution have recruited unlikely allies – the clergy.

And they have taken their battle to a new level, trying to educate high school and even elementary school teachers on how to hold their own against parents and school boards who want to mix religion with science.


Following up on comments by the maker of Flock of Dodos, PZ Myersh has taken to task the idea that we ought to dumb down our message in order to entertain [summarized by PvM here, with links]. On the Dino List, Kent Stevens posted the following analysis of why science programming is so poor in terms of the sets of audiences and advertisers, which I think needs to be widely available. He has given permission to reproduce it:

The Calculus of Science Documentaries

[Read the rest on my blog, Evolving Thoughts]

The Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has released the following updated statement on evolution (I will discuss the statement and the activities surrounding this statement in a different posting). This powerful statement of the board explains what is wrong with ‘teach the controversy’ legislation.

Evolution is one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science. It is the foundation for research in a wide array of scientific fields and, accordingly, a core element in science education. The AAAS Board of Directors is deeply concerned, therefore, about legislation and policies recently introduced in a number of states and localities that would undermine the teaching of evolution and deprive students of the education they need to be informed and productive citizens in an increasingly technological, global community. Although their language and strategy differ, all of these proposals, if passed, would weaken science education. The AAAS Board of Directors strongly opposes these attacks on the integrity of science and science education. They threaten not just the teaching of evolution, but students’ understanding of the biological, physical, and geological sciences.

AAAS Statement

Read on for more

The York Daily Record reports on the Ohio School Board of Education’s decision to drop the terminology ‘critically analyze’ from its curriculum pointing out that while ID activists were quick to argue that the Dover Kitzmiller ruling had no legal standing outside the school district it observes that:

Even so, other school boards across the country are heeding the words of U.S. Judge John E. Jones III, who wrote that, “To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.”


Once upon a time, I was one of those nerds who hung around Radio Shack and played about with LEDs and resistors and capacitors; I know how to solder and I took my first old 8-bit computer apart and put it back together again with "improvements." In grad school I was in a neuroscience department, so I know about electrodes and ground wires and FETs and amplifiers and stimulators. Here's something else I know: those generic components in this picture don't do much on their own. You can work out the electrical properties of each piece, but a radio or computer or stereo is much, much more than a catalog of components or a parts list.


Electronics geeks know the really fun stuff starts to happen when you assemble those components into circuits. That's where the significant work lies and where the actual function of the device is generated—take apart your computer, your PDA, your cell phone, your digital camera and you'll see similar elements everywhere, and the same familiar components you can find in your Mouser catalog. As miniaturization progresses, of course, more and more of that functionality is hidden away in tiny integrated circuits…but peel away the black plastic of those chips, and you again find resistors and transistors and capacitors all strung together in specific arrangements to generate specific functions.

We're discovering the same thing about genomes.

The various genome projects have basically produced for us a complete parts list—a catalog of bits in our toolbox. That list is incredibly useful, of course, and represents an essential starting point, but how a genome produces an organism is actually a product of the interactions between genes and gene products and the cytoplasm and environment, and what we need next is an understanding of the circuitry: how Gene X expression is connected to Gene Y expression and what the two together do to Gene Z. Some scientists are suggesting that an understanding of the circuitry of the genome is going to explain some significant evolutionary phenomena, such as the Cambrian explosion and the conservation of core genetic processes.

Continue reading "It's not just the genes, it's the links between them" (on Pharyngula)

Underworld: Evolution

Dr Beckinsale visits the Discovery Institute

I saw the movie Underworld: Evolution last night. Stop looking at me like that—it was research. It has the word "evolution" in the title, doesn't it? Besides, I have this idea to improve the promotion of science by having all of our spokespeople be dangerously nubile armed women with good cheekbones, full lips, and very sharp teeth. I figure the two things we've been lacking in our presentations to the public are lust and fear, and if we can just bring those into play, we'll have an unbeatable combination.

As I learned at this movie, too, if you've got gorgeous women and slimy, ravening beasts confronting each other with big guns, nothing in the story has to make any sense at all. There was no plot: instead, there are a series of set-pieces strung together in which Our Heroine is placed in someplace dark, wet, and seedy with a supply of weapons and hapless allies/fang fodder to confront a suitably snouty or batty SFX playtoy. They aren't even consistent in how these conflicts are resolved. Big bad immortal vampires get shot multiple times at point blank range with a shotgun, and shake it off with a snarl; but when Sir Derek Jacobi, following in the fine British tradition of slumming in some well-paying American trash, finds the movie so embarrassingly bad that he has to get out, the movie makers decide that the way to have his immortal character die is to poke him with something pointy, followed by a languorous death scene in which Jacobi completely turns off his ability to act. It was impressively flat, a cinematic vampire death scene that ranks right up there with Pee Wee Herman's in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, yet utterly different.

Somehow this murky, muddled mess of a movie got made, and got people (like, say, me!) to attend. There's a lesson here.

I'm going to have to get a skin-tight vinyl body suit for my next presentation.

I'll let you guess whether I'm trying to inspire lust or fear.

NCSE’s 700 club

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You too can join. If your name is Steve, Stephany, Stephan, or any other variant of Steve.

February 16, 2006, is the third anniversary of the public unveiling of NCSE’s Project Steve, so it seems like a good time to announce – with due apologies to the Reverend Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network – NCSE’s 700 Club. Yes, with the addition of Stephen A. Wells, a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University, there are now 700 scientists named Steve who have publicly agreed:

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.

Read more at Announcing the NCSE 700 Club

Dembski and the Bible Code

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Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble (which ought to be on everyone’s daily reading list) calls attention to something I didn’t know: Bill Dembski endorsed the Bible Code nonsense (also reproduced here), identifying it with his intelligent design detection methodology:

At the same time that research in the Bible Code has taken off, research in a seemingly unrelated field has taken off as well, namely, biological design. These two fields are in fact closely related. Indeed, the same highly improbable, independently given patterns that appear as the equidistant letter sequences in the Bible Code appear in biology as functionally integrated (“irreducibly complex”) biological systems, of the sort Michael Behe discussed in Darwin’s Black Box.

The relevant statistical methodology is identical for both fields. As a result, the two fields stand to profit from each other. For instance, my forthcoming book, The Design Inference, gives a thorough account of universal probability bounds, i.e., how small a p-value one needs to eliminate chance decisively. (Although the literature on universal probability bounds dates back to the French probabilist Emile Borel, it seems not to have been engaged by the Bible Code researchers.)

This convergence of the Bible Code and biological design should not seem surprising. There is a tradition within both Judaism and Christianity of speaking of two “books” where God reveals himself—the Book of Scripture, which is the Bible, and the Book of Nature, which is the world. I commend Jeffrey Satinover for his efforts to read both books.

The Bible Code nonsense has been thoroughly debunked: See here for a compendium of dissections, and see also Chaper 14 in Mark Perakh’s Unintelligent Design. Does Dembski still assert the identity, and has he profited from the lesson of the Bible Code? Not visibly. His design detection methodology has been debunked as thoroughly as the Bible Codes, yet IDists still claim that they have a methodology for detecting design. They are in the same boat: a convergence of cranks.


Flock of Dodos continues


On the Loom, Carl Zimmer provides us with an interview with Randy Olson. As you may remember, Randy is the director of the movie “Flock of Dodos”.

Randy’s comments and suggestions have generated quite some disagreement from PZ Myers on Pharyngula and John Lynch on Stranger Fruit.

Let’s first look at Randy’s suggstions as to how to improve communication, then some of the disagreements and finally I will give my $0.02 on the matter. I also hope that the readers of PandasThumb will contribute to explore these issues as they go to the heart of how the issue how to best teach and educate the layperson about evolutionary theory.

William Dembski has joined the fray at evolutionnews with the following non-sequitur:

Ecstatic because “critical analysis of X” removed from standards

Dembski Wrote:

Question: Is there any other field of inquiry — other than evolution, that is — whose advocates become ecstatic when critical analysis of its subject is suppressed?

While Dembski may not be trained in logic, the rethoric can be easily addressed by simply pointing out that people are ecstatic because yet another attempt to introduce Intelligent Design to schools has been stopped not because they object to critical thinking. History shows that the opposition was to the term “critical thinking” because it may lead to the inevitable attempt to ‘teach the controversy’ as promoted by so many ID activists. The fears were not unwarranted because soon a lesson plan emerged which used flawed, misleading or plainly wrong arguments, taken often almost verbatim from creationist resources.

Anyone familiar with science knows that science thrives on controversy and critical thinking.

The Dover Trap

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Last January in my public remarks to the Ohio Board of Education after it had narrowly voted to retain the ID creationist lesson plan, I said that “This Board has set a ‘Dover Trap’ for every local school district in Ohio”.

By “Dover Trap” I meant that the Trojan Horse “critically analyze” benchmark and the creationist model lesson plan that operationalized the benchmark tacitly sanctioned teaching intelligent design creationism (in any of its guises) in Ohio schools, and in doing so it exposed Ohio local school districts to the same risk that Dover took. Aside from the pedagogical problems of teaching the intellectual vacuity of creationism, any district that tolerated or sanctioned teaching Wellsian B.S. would in effect be betting $1 million that it was worth teaching.

Father Michael Cochran of the State Board was quoted as saying, “If they think we are wrong — take us to court.” That’s easy for Cochran to say: He wouldn’t pay for anything. But for some little district in Vinton County or Holmes County or Coshocton County, it would be a devastating blow to be so ill served by the Ohio BOE.

In a recent development, the American Family Association has offered similar legal assistance. In a press release its Center for Law & Policy has offered to defend the Ohio State Board if it reinstates the deleted material. (The Ohio ID creationist organization SEAO was a project of AFA.) One can expect that AFA’s defense will be as “free” as the Thomas More Center’s defense in Dover, and worth just as much.

Now that the offending benchmark, indicator, and lesson plan are gone from the Ohio state standards and model curriculum, there is not even the weak justification of State Board action for local Ohio districts to lean on. Any Ohio district that teaches intelligent design creationism-inspired glop now is wholly on its own.

I commend the “Dover Trap” phrase to colleagues elsewhere. Remind local superintendents that neither their state BOE nor their state legislature can protect them from the federal courts, and that they stand to take an enormous hit if they teach sectarian ID creationist pseudoscience, including the “teach the controversy” and “critical analysis of evolution” shams.

ACLU: America’s intellectual terrorists?


On UncommonDescent, DougMoran is upset with the ACLU calling it “America’s Intellectual Terrorists” for failing to “protect our children from being told that they are unplanned and have no purpose”. The irony of it all is that the term unguided was added by the ID minority in Kansas. Read on for the rest of the story.

Dougmoran Wrote:

”… public schools should not be used by people to teach their personal religious beliefs to other people’s children…”

I agree. So when is the ACLU going to protect our children from being told they are unplanned and have no purpose and must believe the religion of Dawkin’s god?

First prizes in the worldwide competition for most hypocritical religious zealots and most vile intellectual terrorists go to the ACLU.

ACLU of Ohio Demands Schools Stop Teaching Intelligent Design as Science

The irony of this all is that the term unguided was added to the text by the ID minority in Kansas… If DougMoran considers that ACLU ‘intellectual terrorists’ for supposedly not opposing teaching that evolution is unguided, I wonder what words he has reserved for those in Kansas who insisted on including this into the science curriculum.

ID’s Latest Trojan Horse Strategy

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As we’ve discussed many times, the ID movement has changed its strategy regarding the policies they are advocating to be adopted by school boards and legislatures. They know that any hint of the phrase “intelligent design” is going to be struck down by the courts, especially in light of the Dover ruling. In fact, they knew this before the Dover ruling ever came down. The big switch really began in Ohio in 2002 in an attempt to make the target too small for our side to attack successfully. Thus, you now have them advocating policies that would not teach ID explicitly.

In one place they may advocate that schools “teach the controversy” over evolution; in another they may advocate that schools teach “the arguments for and against evolution” or “the scientific evidence for and against evolution”; in a third, they may want schools to encourage “critical analysis” or “critical evaluation” of evolution; in a fourth, they may be pushing the idea of teaching “all scientific views about evolution.” All of these phrases mean essentially the same thing - they want the basic arguments that they make against evolution (which is the form that all of their arguments take) taught as valid, they just don’t want them labelled “intelligent design” so as to avoid the scrutiny of the courts.

Another key aspect of their rhetorical strategy is to pretend that their opponents are engaging in crazy conspiracy theories or, to use Casey Luskin’s amusing phrase, suffering from “false fear syndrome”, and seeing the ID boogeyman where it doesn’t exist. They have to say this, of course, whether it’s true or not; to say anything else would give up the game. Thus, we get statements like this from the sponsor of the bill in the Michigan legislature that invokes two of the four variations of the new strategy (“critical analysis” and “arguments for and against”):

Continue Reading at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

Ken Ham, AiG’s President and coauthor Mark Looy, lead off today’s daily devotional on their web site claiming that “[e]volutionary scientists throughout America are running scared.” Even to the most casual of readers, this has got to be one of the most obviously desperately penned quips from America’s leading “Humans Plowing Their Fields Behind Dinosaurs” advocate yet.

A book list for evolutionists


A while back, I presented a book list for evolutionists. Now I’ve updated it, adding a few recommendations and adding links so you can choose your favorite book vendor.

Tangled Bank #47

Dan Ely testifies in Ohio (and Kansas)


On Evolution News Casey Luskin reports on Dan Ely. Dan Ely had testified in Kansas and was objecting to the characterization of his position on the age of the earth

When advocating that the Board repeal the Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan, Board Member Martha K. Wise repeatedly emphasized the claim that authors of the Critical Analysis of Evolution Lesson Plan were creationists. Wise alleged that during the Kansas hearings, Dan Ely testified that he was “struggling with the age of the earth” and stated “He [Ely] thinks the earth is only Five-thousand years old. That’s not just ID. That’s young earth creationism.”

Ely’s testimony fully rebutted Wise’s misrepresentation of Ely’s viewpoint. Ely said that in Kansas, many of the witnesses were asked about their views on the age of the earth. “My answer was ‘We heard today anywhere from five-thousand years to five million years or five billion years,” and everybody laughed, “And most of the evidence looks like it’s very old.” Ely called Martha Wise’s alleged explanation of Ely’s views on the age of the earth “totally erroneous.”

The internet to the rescue (what a little resource can do for a story…): on Talkorigins we find the transcript of the Kansas hearings. In particular the cross examination by Mr Irigonegaray of Dr. Dan Ely. Dr. Ely is a Professor of Biology at the University of Akron, Ohio.

The Win in Ohio

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UPDATE 2: MP3 of Board debate on the motion

Update: Text of the motion is now below the fold

Ohio is no longer on the Disco Institute’s list of favorite states for pilgrimages. Late this afternoon, by an 11-4 vote, the Ohio State Board of Education stripped out the intelligent-design creationist “critical analysis of evolution” benchmark, indicator, and lesson plan from the 10th Grade Biology curriculum.

I do not yet have the exact text of the resolution – it was amended somewhat in flight, so I have to transcribe the recording to get the precise wording. But the resolution had four main parts: It’s below the fold.

1. Eliminate the “critical analysis of evolution” benchmark and indicator from the Science Standards.

2. Eliminate the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” model lesson plan from the Model Curriculum..

3. Instruct the Achievement Committee (formerly the Standards Committee) to consider whether the benchmark, indicator, and lesson plan should be replaced with something more acceptable.

4. Instruct the Ohio Department of Education to notify every school district in Ohio of these actions.

The press release of Ohio Citizens for Science, distributed immediately after the vote, is below the fold. Later tonight when I have transcribed the final form of the motion from the recording I’ll post that below the fold as well.

Ohio news

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School Board Kills Lesson Plan Criticizing Evolution

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The state school board has voted to eliminate a lesson plan and science standards that critics said opened the door to teaching intelligent design, a form of creationism.

Flock of Dodos


Update: Carl Zimmer reviews “Flock of Dodos”

Olson makes his point about the emptiness of Intelligent Design more effectively than a lot of scientists themselves have.

and additional links

Check out the Flock of Dodos website where filmmaker and marine biologist Randy Olson explores Intelligent Design versus evolution issues.

Various reviews are available online. And don’t miss the trailer which is quite funny.

Herbert Kroemer, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2000, was quite moved when he read physicist Marshall Berman’s essay “Intelligent Design: The New Creationism Threatens All of Science and Society” on the Back Page of the American Physical Society’s October 2005 issue of APS News.

He was so moved, he decided to “get engaged” with the issue, and sent a Letter to the Editor of the local Santa Barbara newspaper. This letter was printed, not as a simple Letter to the Editor, but rather as a Sunday guest commentary, in January 2006.

Dr. Kroemer has given his permission to have his complete article, not just the edited version printed in the Santa Barbara News-Press, reproduced here on the Thumb for posterity.

We recently interviewed Dr. Massimo Pigliucci for Darwin Day. Dr. Pigliucci is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolution at SUNY-Stony Brook and founded Darwin Day at the University of Tennessee. We at the thumb would like to thank Dr. Pigliucci for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

Can you tell us a little about your scientific background and current lab research?

I have a PhD in botany (University of Connecticut) and one in philosophy (University of Tennessee). My interests include research on gene-environment interactions (nature-nurture), as well as philosophy of science. My lab’s web page is www.genotypebyenvironment.org.

Can you tell us a little about the history of Darwin Day? Why did you start Darwin Day?

A good intro to the history of D-Day can be found in the Wikipedia. I started one of the first versions at the University of Tennessee in 1997, in response to a misguided (and fortunately failed) attempt of the Tennessee legislature to pass an anti-evolution law demanding equal teaching time for creationism.

Evolution Sunday: The Day After


The initial reports are starting to trickle in about classes, sermons and other activities related to Evolution Sunday.

Mutation, selection and complexity


A while ago on ASA, Glenn Morton referenced the work by Boraas. I have always been fascinated by this reference but unable to find much relevant literature. Until recently, when I accidentally ran across more recent reearch in this area. I would like to share what I learned and how these findings may help understand evolution of multicellularity.

The original references was to a paper published in EOS called “Predator-mediated algal evolution in Chemostat culture”. In 1998, Boraas published another paper titled “Phagotrophy by a flagellate selects for colonial prey: A possible origin of multicellularity” in Evolutionary Ecology 1998, 12, 153-164

Darwin and Lincoln Day

Darwin Day

Today is the 197th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. In honor of this, I’ve tried to pull together a mini-blog carnival of posts related to Darwin and evolution. It’s available over at The Questionable Authority.

Evolution Sunday/Darwin Day


The Rev. Richard E. Edwards will not mince words in his sermon today about God and Charles Darwin, the 19th century naturalist whose theory of evolution rocked the world.

“I want to reaffirm the compatibility of Biblical tradition and modern science,” said Edwards, pastor of Stony Brook Community Church, a small, Methodist congregation that draws members from the nearby university and medical center. “This is a community where science counts, and where folks really need to hear that.”

Source Compromise between Darwin and God

See also Google Related Stories for more newspaper articles and links on Evolution Sunday

Evolution Sunday is part of a broader campaign begun a year ago called the Clergy Letter Project. Through e-mail and word-of-mouth, 10,266 clergy have now signed an online letter backing evolution as “a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests.”

Confessions of a Darwinist


To celebrate Darwin Day, The Virginia Quarterly Review has released Niles Eldredge’s essay “Confessions of a Darwinist”. It will be published as part of a special on Darwin, evolution, and ID in the spring issue.

Read “Confessions of a Darwinist” by Niles Eldredge.

Those pathetic pesky details again


Dembski has once again shown the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design.

On UncommonDescent Dembski has a posting titled Just say NO to Darwinian just-so stories

Dembski Wrote:

I guess that’s what happens when you assume that sequence similarity automatically means a common ancestry (of the gene). A more likely scenario is that both cells require a protein with the same function so they have a similar sequence by design.

Once again, an ID perspective seems much closer to reality than the Darwinian (Lamarckian?) just-so stories.

I am not going to argue whether or not the proposed hypothesis is accurate, what I am going to do is compare the science hypothesis with Dembski’s claim

Bad Philip Johnson Quote


There is a quote that I’ve seen all over the place, and I believe even used myself over the years, from the founder of the ID movement, Philip Johnson. Here is the quote as it is usually given:

“The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to ‘the truth’ of the Bible and then ‘the question of sin’ and finally ‘introduced to Jesus.’”

The quote appears on over 400 webpages according to Google, and the source cited is the April 1999 edition of Church and State magazine. That magazine is published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and this article was written by Rob Boston. The problem is that this is not a quote from Philip Johnson, it’s a quote about Philip Johnson, and as it has gotten passed around it has often been attributed to Johnson himself. For the full text of the article, go here. Given how often we have criticized the creationists about inaccurate and out of context quotations, it is imperative that we avoid using this quotation ourselves.

Update: This is a good example, I think, of how our side handles such situations compared to the other side. I emailed Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic, last night because he had recently used the quote in an article, and I informed him that it was a paraphrase, not a quote. His immediate response was to say thank you for the correction and to call his publisher because the quote also appears in his forthcoming book and he wanted to make sure it got taken out so it wouldn’t get disseminated any further. Kudos to Shermer.

The Wisdom of Parasites


On “the Loom”, Carl Zimmer presents a fascinating story about the Ampulex Compressa, a parasitic wasp who basically performs ‘brain surgery’ on her victim to provide for a food source for her off-spring.

Let’s explore this example of Intelligent Design

Is it specified? Yes, the wasp performs what seems to be ‘brain surgeon’ when carefully injecting a particular part of the brain with toxins.

Is it Complex? Yes, science is so far ignorance about how Ampulex manages to do these

Scientists don’t yet understand how Ampulex manages either of these feats. Part of the reason for their ignorance is the fact that scientists have much left to learn about nervous systems and metabolism. But millions of years of natural selection has allowed Ampulex to reverse engineer its host. We would do well to follow its lead, and gain the wisdom of parasites.

in fact human scientists have been unable to recreate this feat:

The Israeli researchers found that they could also drop oxygen consumption in cockroaches by injecting paralyzing drugs or by removing the neurons that the wasps disable with their sting. But they can manage only a crude imitation; the manipulated cockroaches quickly dehydrated and were dead within six days. The wasp venom somehow puts the roaches into suspended animation while keeping them in good health, even as a wasp larva is devouring it from the inside

Seem the Ampulex makes for a better showcase of intelligent design than the Bacterial Flagella, although if ID activists are to believed, the Intelligent Designer somehow created what would later evolve into the Type III secretory system used by such pest as the bubonic plague. Talking about Divine retribution…

Oh yes the original paper

Gal R, Rosenberg LA, Libersat F. Parasitoid wasp uses a venom cocktail injected into the brain to manipulate the behavior and metabolism of its cockroach prey. Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 2005 Dec;60(4):198-208. Other relevant papers can also be found at the Libersat’s site

On December 1, 2005, Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman delivered the 2005 Romanes Lecture at the University of Oxford. Her lecture was entitled “Strange Bedfellows: Science, Politics and Religion”, and addressed both evolution and intelligent design. You can read the full lecture here, but I’ll also provide some excerpts.

False Fear?


Casey Luskin (remember him?)

“The course content expectations for science shall include using the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories and using relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories.”

(A Challenge to Evolution: Bill may stir Darwin issue, Detroit Free Press, January 28, 2006, by Chris Christoff and Lori Higgins)

Clearly this language has nothing to do with intelligent design and would simply bring scientific critique of theories taught in the classroom, and makes absolutely no mention of teaching intelligent design or any form of a “replacement theory” for those currently-taught theories that are being critiqued.

Clearly?… Perhaps Luskin forgot to read the rest of the article?

The ‘rest of the story’


On Evolutionnews.org Casey Luskin can be observed making the following comments about a statement made by Ken Miller in a November 19, 2004 NPR program “Talk of the Nation”

Casey Luskin Wrote:

Will this role model inspire student interest in science?:

Ken Miller Wrote:

“I think the most destructive part of the disclaimer that’s on the textbooks in Georgia, is the last sentence. And it says something to the effect that students are urged to study this material carefully, critically examine it and consider it with an open mind.”

Biologist Dr. Kenneth Miller, star Darwinist expert biology witness in the Dover and Cobb County trials, on NPR, November 19, 2004

MIller’s statements and similar Darwinist policies lead to dogmatism in evolution education. This will not inspire enthusiasm for science in students. But teaching students about views which both support, and question, evolution, and then allowing them to evaluate and investigate this issue for themselves, will increase their interest in science!

Let me add some context that was omitted by Luskin to the claim by Miller.

Do the Kansas Science standards say “teach ID?”

The Discovery Institute and the Kansas state BOE say “no”.

I say “yes”.

Casey Luskin “challenges the Darwinists” - which I presume includes me, to back up our claim that the Kansas standards do say “teach ID”.

Well, here you go, Casey. Read on.

On evolutionnews.org various ID activists show a certain lack of logic. For instance, Bruce Chapman who argues that:

Chapman Wrote:

“Evolution Sunday is the height of hypocrisy,” says Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute the nation’s leading think tank researching scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution. “Why do Darwinists think it is not okay for people to criticize Darwin on religious grounds, but it is just fine to defend him on religious grounds?

“Sunday marks the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin and to celebrate 400 ministers have announced they will deliver pro-evolution sermons in conjunction with “Evolution Sunday.”

“Our view is not that pastors should speak out against evolution, but that the Darwinists are hypocrites for claiming–falsely–that opposition to Darwinism is merely faith based, and then turning around and trying to make the case that Darwinism itself is faith based,” added Chapman.

The issue is not whether or not Darwinian theory is faith based, it obviously isn’t but whether or not Darwinian theory necessarily conflicts with religious faith. A small but important distinction often overlooked by ID activists who have insisted on portraying Darwinian theory as necessarily anti-religious.

Read for instance the Mercury News which gets the issue correct

Also Sunday, ministers of more than 400 churches are scheduled to preach on the compatibility of evolution and religion.

Seems that the DI is threatened by science and religion exposing the flaws in the arguments of Intelligent Design activists. This Darwin Day Website provides links to the many events.

Here we find the original announcement, too bad the DI forgot to link to it

On 12 February 2006 hundreds of Christian churches from all portions of the country and a host of denominations will come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. For far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. More than 10,000 Christian clergy have already signed The Clergy Letter demonstrating that this is a false dichotomy. Now, on the 197th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, many of these leaders will bring this message to their congregations through sermons and/or discussion groups. Together, participating religious leaders will be making the statement that religion and science are not adversaries. And, together, they will be elevating the quality of the national debate on this topic.

If your church would like to join this national event, please send a note to [Enable javascript to see this email address.]. We welcome your participation.

To examine some of the sermons members of The Clergy Letter Project have delivered on this topic and to view some of the resources they have found useful, click here.

441 Congregations from 49 states and the District of Columbia are participating as of 9 February 2006

Rather than objecting, the DI should embrace the effort to improve people’s understanding of evolutionary theory and the claims that evolutionary theory is incompatible with religious faith. I guess, teaching the controversy is a one way street…

PT readers - if you are in New Mexico this Sunday, come on over to the Darwin Day meeting. It’s free! Details follow.

Cheers, Dave Thomas

New Mexicans for Science & Reason (NMSR), along with the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math (CESE) and the New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS), will hear Pedro Irigonegaray, Kansas attorney, on “Darwin Day 2006.”

The meeting is free, open to the public, and will be held at 2:00 PM on SUNDAY, February 12th, at the Anthropology Lecture Hall, Room 163, on the UNM Campus in Albuquerque (from I-25, east on M.L. King Jr. thru University, immediate left, north a couple blocks to the Anthro Hall on the right).

Purpose, specification and function


Two threads combine in this posting. First my comments on the Beckwith thread where I show how Dembski and Behe use the term specification or purpose to refer to “function”, and secondly a thread on strings in which the concept of purpose arose again.

First let’s revisit Dembski’s and Behe’s position on function which shows that their use of the term specification or purpose clearly refers to function.

van Till Wrote:

However, when it comes time for Dembski to support his conviction that the bacterial flagellum is specified, the procedure becomes considerably more casual, almost facile. Speaking on the specification of biological systems in general, Dembski simply asserts that, “Biological specification always refers to function. An organism is a functional system comprising many functional subsystems. In virtue of their function, these systems embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specification criterion.”NFL, p. 148.In these four brief sentences the foundation of Dembski’s entire strategy for certifying the specification of biotic systems is laid.

Or in Behe’s terms “a purposeful arrangement of parts” where purpose and function are interchangeable.

Behe Wrote:

Q The whole positive argument for intelligent design as you ve described it, Professor Behe, is look at this system, look at these parts, they appear designed correct?

A Well, I think I filled that out a little bit more. I said that intelligent design is perceived as the purposeful arrangement of parts, yes. So when we not only see different parts, but we also see that they are ordered to perform some function, yes, that is how we perceived design.

Page 44 of Behe’s cross examination on Day 11 of the Kitzmiller trial. See also Analysis of Behe’s Testimony, Part 1: Purpose and Function at “Dispatches from the Culture Wars”

Beckwith, ID and science


Francis Beckwith, author of various papers on the constitutionality of Intelligent Design recently visited the comments section of PT. Since Beckwith’s legal arguments are based on the premise that intelligent design is science, I will comment.

Francis Beckwith Wrote:

Dear Lenny:

First off, how’s Squiggy? Second, and more seriously, I’ve addressed your question in several of my works, including my book Law, Darwinism, and Public Education. The short answer is that there are no necessary and sufficient conditions to distinguish science from non-science on which philosophers of science agree. So, for me, the issue of what counts as “science” is not relevant. What is relevant is whether the argument offered for the point of view, ID or something like it, is reasonable or not obviously irrational and it does not rely on sacred scripture or religious authority.

Let’s for the sake of furthering the discussion point out that ID is scientifically vacuous. In other words, skip the issue of whether or not it is science, since this presents ID actvists with an opportunity to argue philosophy rather than addressing the issue at hand. That ID is religiously motivated and that ID’s designer is supernatural is self evident. So the question becomes: Can ID be reformulated in a manner which would make it non-religious and still scientifically relevant? The simple answer is no.

Does ID Get a Pass?

On Friday, Feb. 3rd, I was able to pose a question to Greer-Heard Forum headliners Michael Ruse and William Dembski. Here’s a transcript of that segment:

WRE:Actually I’m interested in a public policy aspect of this whole thing. Last month, I got on the Web of Science database search and looked up the term “cold fusion” and it came up with 900 papers there. “Cold fusion” is the poster child for the “not-ready-for-prime-time” physics theory, something that is not ready for going into 9th grade biology, no, physics textbooks. We see the process of science in things like plate tectonics, and the endosymbiotic theory, the neutral theory, and punctuated equilibria, these are things that have earned a place in the textbooks, because the people put in the work, they convinced the scientific community that they had a point, and that’s why they’re in the textbooks. So, what I’d like to hear from both of you is, is there a justification for giving intelligent design a pass on this process?

For the answers, visit The Austringer. Comments may be left there.

As many of you know, I’m a graduate student in a zoology department. When I tell kids that, most of them think I’m studying to become a zookeeper. They also usually think that’s something pretty cool. When I explain that I’m really studying to be a scientist who studies how animals change, it usually turns out to be a letdown. For some reason, kids are usually happier thinking that I might get eaten by the lion or stepped on by an elephant.

Anyway, what I actually study is speciation mechanisms. What that means is that I’m trying to look at the DNA of closely related species in order to figure out why they wound up as different species. There are a lot of questions left to answer, and lots of scientists are working in this area.

I’m guessing that right about now at least some of you are thinking something along the lines of, “Hey, wait a minute! Haven’t you guys been telling us that Darwin figured that out way back when?”

Read More (at The Questionable Authority):

Intelligent Design and String Theory


On the Science and theology blog, Matt Donnelly describes better than I could ever, the difference between Intelligent Design and String theory. While some ID activists have claimed that ID is as ‘scientific’ as String theory (or multiverses or …), they miss a few points. Matt Donnelly’s posting is based on an Editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “A scientific leap, but without the faith”written by Amanda Gefter.

In my own words:

1. ID is an ad hoc argument to explain something we do not understand. String theory or multiverses follow logically or mathematically from observations.

2. ID is in principle unfalsifiable, string theory and mutliverses are just hard to falsify

3. String theory and multiverses fall into a category which is best described as

But the real danger is not string theory’s lack of experiments — it is the misrepresentation of what scientific theories are all about. Sure, falsifiability is a key component of the scientific method. But there is something that matters more: the power of explanation. History reveals that the structure of a theory itself — its internal mathematical consistency, its scope, and its beauty — often determines whether it is accepted as science.

Answering Sal Cordova’s Questions

Over at Dembski’s blogosphere home for wayward followers, Sal Cordova has been crowing lately about what he apparently thinks is a real stumper for those who oppose ID. Twice now he has smugly declared that two PT contributors, Nick Matzke and Jack Krebs, are “reluctant” to answer his conundrum and that, any way it’s answered, our side is “hosed”. So excited about this “vise strategy” that he can’t wait to get us in court to ask us, apparently thinking that he has devised some sort of Perry Mason moment. The problem for him is that his question cum argument by implication is in fact trivially easy to answer.

Continue Reading at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

One of the main defenses of ID creationists on the Ohio State Board of Education is that in their “process”, the drafting of standards, benchmarks, and model lesson plans was vetted by several committees composed of scientists and educators. Father Michael Cochran brandished that argument during the January OBOE meeting, as did Jennifer Sheets, who was Board President during the development of standards and lesson plan. But processes can be subverted, Ms. Sheets, and this process was completely subverted. ODE packed the lesson plan writing committee with creationists and ignored its internal and external advisors and reviewers. And now we learn that ODE ignored the advice from members of its Science Content Standards Advisory Committee. And both sides on the Board claim they never heard about any of that!

In its addition of the “critical analysis” standard and benchmark the Board violated its own process. The benchmark at issue, H23 in the 10th grade life sciences standards, was inserted by the Board itself, not by the writing committee that was advised by the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee.

We know already that internal and external consultants to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) repeatedly warned that the “critical analysis” model lesson plan was a rehash of old and oft-discredited creationist canards. Now we know that ODE was also warned about the “critical analysis” standard early in the process. There was no lack of forewarning to ODE; one wonders why those warnings did not get to the Board from ODE.

Yesterday in an open letter to Governor Taft (see below), 75% (24 of 32) of the members of the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee, composed of scientists and educators, agreed that the standard is flawed.

The Ohio Board of Education accepted those standards in December 2002. The Board, however, added an indicator-benchmark singling out biological evolution from the rest of science by requiring students to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”.

Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the Board sent the message that it “believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.” This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically. We also noted that such wording created an opportunity to teach creationist misrepresentations of science to Ohio’s students. Indeed, such a lesson tied to this indicator was prepared and accepted by the Ohio Board of Education in March 2004. (Bolding added)

Moreover, at the January 2006 Board meeting, several creationist Board members argued that the model lesson plan and standard could be reviewed in future during the normal course of the “process” in ODE. However, when pressed, ODE senior management admitted that there is no such review process in place.

So there was a subverted writing process and there is no review process in place. Now only the Board can rectify its mistake. Governor Taft is to be commended for his recent stand, described here, on the undesirability of ID in Ohio public schools. Now he must follow through. His appointees were the main support for the creationist benchmark and lesson plan. They must rethink that support.

The full letter to Governor Taft is below the fold.

Evolution of a polyphenism


Here's some very cool news: scientists have directly observed the evolution of a complex, polygenic, polyphenic trait by genetic assimilation and accommodation in the laboratory. This is important, because it is simultaneously yet another demonstration of the fact of evolution, and an exploration of mechanisms of evolution—showing that evolution is more sophisticated than changes in the coding sequences of individual genes spreading through a population, but is also a consequence of the accumulation of masked variation, synergistic interactions between different alleles and the environment, and perhaps most importantly, changes in gene regulation.

Unfortunately, it's also an example of some extremely rarefied terminology that is very precisely used in genetic and developmental labs everywhere, but probably makes most people's eyes glaze over and wonder what the fuss is all about. I'll try to give a simple introduction to those peculiar words, and explain why the evolution of a polyphenic pigment pattern in a caterpillar is a fascinating and significant result.

Continue reading "Evolution of a polyphenism" (on Pharyngula)

Science, Just Science


Some of our readers, concerned about science education in the UK, have started a forum on the issue:

Science, Just Science.

Check it out.

Another ID martyr?


A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA New York Times - 9 hours ago George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

NY Times

In an earlier email sent by Deutsch to Flint Wild, a Nasa contractor Deutsch stated:

Deutsch Wrote:

The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.”

Last week the NY Times reported that a young political appointee, George C. Deutsch, with no science background was interfering with the scientific mission at NASA. Specifically he was trying to ensure that scientists at NASA didn’t release information that conflicted with the policies of the White House. (He was not alone in this.) This was covered on many blogs. (Pharyngula has a list.)

The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the “war room” of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word “theory” needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.”

Today the NY Times is reporting that Deutsch has resigned from his political position at NASA because Nick Anthis at Scientific Activist discovered that Deutsch was a college drop out, lying on his resume.

Through my own investigations I have just discovered that George Deutsch, the Bush political appointee at the heart of administration efforts to censor NASA scientists (most notably to prevent James Hansen from speaking out about global warming), did not actually graduate from Texas A&M University. This should come as a surprise, since the media has implied otherwise, with even The New York Times describing the 24-year-old NASA public affairs officer, as “a 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M.” Although Deutsch did attend Texas A&M University, where he majored in journalism and was scheduled to graduate in 2003, he left in 2004 without a degree, a revelation that I was tipped off to by one of his former coworkers at A&M’s student newspaper The Battalion. I later confirmed this discovery through the records department of the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students.

Deutsch’s former coworker informed me that in the summer of 2004, when Deutsch was the Opinion Editor for The Battalion, he was offered a position in George W. Bush’s presidential reelection campaign. The position was apparently too good to turn down, so Deutsch not only left his editorial post, but he also left A&M completely. Deutsch’s coworker was not aware of him returning to A&M to complete his education. I investigated this further, and through the Association of Former Students, I learned that George Deutsch never graduated from Texas A&M, and the last record of him was from June 9, 2004, when he withdrew.

I’m still wondering why a 24-year-old college dropout with no scientific experience was appointed to a position at NASA and encouraged to substitute his own opinion for NASA science.

I bet he gets a job working for the Discovery Institute.

Wisconsin Bill to Ban Teaching of ID


There is a bill in the Wisconsin state legislature that would ban the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public school science classrooms there. I have a brief analysis available at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Update: I’ve also got the full text of the bill, which reads as follows:

SECTION 1. 118.018 of the statutes is created to read:

118.018 Science instruction. The school board shall ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following:

(1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes.

(2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

Can you hear me NOW?


I have a confession: although I am convinced that, at this stage of the game, the vast majority of ID’s claims are either consciously or unconsciously fraudulent, I sometimes find it hard not to feel empathy for some of its proponents. Perhaps because of his legitimate scientific training and past accomplishments, Behe in particular strikes me as worthy of compassion, someone who is often more deceived (by his fellow ID advocates, his Creationist groupies and adulators, and his own ego) than deceiver.

Although I was not there to see him, the transcripts of his appearance at the Kitzmiller trial make for compelling, almost tragic reading, transpiring with steadfast quasi-delusional self-assurance as the testimony unfolded into a progressively more predictable humiliating fiasco. This impression was reinforced when Behe confidently stated, on the ID-the-Future weblog, that as far as he was concerned his testimony was pretty much a smashing success (the need for such an act of unequivocal public reassurance, with the verdict still unknown and in the works, is in itself puzzling to me). I can just barely imagine what reading Judge Jones’ ruling must have felt like for Behe. Very clearly, his own claims were the centerpiece of the decision, and their surgical, at times merciless dismantling was the main motivation for the final decision that ID “science” is essentially a sham.

It took Behe some time to answer Judge Jones’s verdict, but his reply is surprisingly weak, at times almost whiny. Behe directly takes on 20 statements from the central, and crucial, part of Judge Jones’s decision, supporting its conclusion that ID is not science. Most often, Behe’s answers consist of simply repeating the arguments he made at trial, as if the Judge was just hard-of-hearing instead of utterly unconvinced by them. And when Behe does try to explain himself, the outcome is often worse.

The Georgia Journal of Science has published several articles about Intelligent Design presented during a 2005 Symposium titled titled “Teaching Evolution and the Challenge of Intelligent Design”

Teaching Evolution and the Challenge of Intelligent Design: A Symposium by John V Aliff Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse: A Closer Look at Intelligent Design by Barbara Carroll Forrest Countering Public Misconceptions About the Nature of Evolutionary Science by Keith B Miller Why “Intelligent Design” is More Interesting than Old-Fashioned Creationism by Taner Edis

In his introduction, John V Aliff, quickly settles the matter

Aliff Wrote:

Intelligent Design theory is not a valid scientific theory for these reasons: 1.) Its hypothetical, intuitive and religious assumption of the intelligent design of complex systems is not testable or falsifiable using the scientific method, 2.) ID “theory” cannot develop hypotheses, and 3.) ID theory does not predict new discoveries as a true scientific theory does. More simply put, ID cannot explain natural phenomena beyond the intuitive and religious assumption that “God did it.”

Evolution Sunday

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Feb. 12, 1809 was the day on which both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born. Though we now celebrate Lincoln’s birthday on President’s Day, Feb. 12th is still referred to as Darwin Day and celebrated around the world. This Sunday, it will be celebrated in churches as well. The same folks who put together the Clergy Letter Project, a letter supporting evolution signed by over 10,000 clergy, have organized over 400 churches to celebrate Darwin Day by teaching on the subject in church this Sunday. This is a very valuable project for reaching out to people who have been taught all their lives that evolution equals atheism. For information on Evolution Sunday, go here.

Interested in Being a Science Teacher?

I was contacted this afternoon by Scott Hechinger, a recruiter for the New York City Teaching Fellows program. New York City has a chronic shortage of math and science teachers and they developed this program to help alleviate that shortage. In the last five years, this program has helped 7500 people go through a subsidized Master’s Degree program and become math and science teachers, but they need many more. If any of you out there have a bachelor’s degree in a math or science related subject and are interested in becoming a teacher, they are taking applications for the June 2006 class right now. You can get grad school almost entirely paid for and have a job guaranteed when you finish. Not a bad deal. So if anyone is interested, click on over and contact them for more information.

Rothschild and Kitzmiller in Ohio: February 12


Eric Rothschild, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, et al. and Tammy Kitzmiller, the lead plaintiff, will speak in Columbus, Ohio, on February 12.

Rothschild, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Pepper Hamilton LLP, will speak on “An Inside Look at the Dover Intelligent Design Case and What it Means for Ohio.” Kitzmiller will describe her experiences as lead plaintiff in the case.

In addition to Rothschild and Kitzmiller, Dr. Hillel Chiel, Professor of Biology, Neurosciences, and Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, will speak on “Religion vs Evolution: An Unnecessary Struggle for Survival”. Dr. Chiel, an orthodox Jew, studies brain-behavior relationships as they affect survival and reproductive success in biological populations.

Rothschild, Kitzmiller and Chiel will speak at Congregation Tifereth Israel, 1354 East Broad Street in Columbus, at 3:00 pm on Sunday, February 12. The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the talks.

The event is sponsored by Ohio Citizens for Science.

Judge John E. Jones III, who heard the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in Federal Court in Harrisburg, PA, found that intelligent design is no more than traditional creationism with a new name, and thus is unconstitutional to teach in public schools. Judge Jones’ decision, a model of judicial clarity, described a number of points that have direct parallels in the actions of the Ohio State Board of Education over the last three years. As I put it in the Columbus Dispatch, “The State Board of Education’s retention of the intelligent-design based model lesson plan has set a “Dover trap” for every school district in Ohio” (Letter, Jan 27, 2006).


Creationists win support of FedEx


So, I watched the SuperBowl last night (mandatory, I think, ‘cause the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger is from my tiny little hometown) and saw this FedEx commercial, which has humans living amongst T. rexes and pterodactyls. Can’t wait to see this posted on Answers in Genesis as more proof that people are increasingly being swayed to the “truth” of their message–and during the biggest television event of the year, no less! They’re probably being showered with donations to their Creation museum even as I write.

Tara Smith Speaks


Thumb contributor and blogger Tara Smith interviewd on UTI.

Despite the lip service paid to making this country “safer” in the aftermath of 9/11, the measures put in place show that protection of our health has become almost exclusively a political issue, and the science is again being ignored.


On January 28, 2006 Kansas Citizens for Science and the National Center for Science Education sponsored “Intelligent Design, Kansas Science Education, and the Law” at the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, Kansas.

Featured speakers were three of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case: Eric Rothschild and Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton LLP and Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Other speakers were Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, Dr. Steve Case, co-chair of the Kansas science standards writing committee, and moderator Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center of Science Education. Special guest Pedro Irigonegarary, representative for mainstream science at the Kansas Board of Education “Science Hearings” in May 2005, also spoke.

There were two themes of the forum. One was that the decision in the Dover case clearly showed that the Intelligent Design movement was the latest incarnation of creationism: Intelligent Design is not science but rather a disguise for religiously-based creationist beliefs. Thus the Dover school district policy was declared unconstitutional.

The second theme was that if the Kansas science standards were held to the same criteria and scrutiny as the Dover policy, the Kansas science standards would also be unconstitutional. ID movement leaders claim that the Dover criteria would not apply to the Kansas science standards because the standards merely “teach the controversy” without teaching ID. However, if the history and context of the standards are examined, this claim is shown to be false.

The presentations were educational, engaging, and consistently to the point . You can now listen yourself to all or part of the speeches and the question and answers session with the panelists. Audio files in mp3 format as well as other information can be found *** here *** at “ID, Science Education and the Law” on the Kansas Citizens for Science discussion forums.

This was a very interesting, timely, and relevant event, and we invite you all to share it with us. We look forward to your comments, either here or on our discussion forum.


Jack Krebs President, Kansas Citizens for Science

Calling all Brits


UPDATE: I just found out this event has been cancelled at the last minute. So don’t come. I will, however, still be around all week and attending other Darwin Day events until the 11th.

I just wanted to let PT readers across the pond in England know that I am zipping over there for a Darwin Day talk this coming Sunday, February 5th, in Shrewsbury. The details are here, and used to be here but have been dropped for some reason. Actually, I am speaking a week before Darwin Day, and they appear to have a whole series of events planned.

Naturally, I will be talking about the Kitzmiller case and in particular how we discovered the “smoking gun” tying ID to creation science. Following my talk will be a, um, unique musical event (see description).

Ohio Governor Taft Now Opposes ID


Cleveland Plain Dealer Story Update

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story now, and has a stronger quote from Governor Taft:

“I think we ought to be teaching evolution,” Taft said. “I think intelligent design should not be part of the standards and should not be tested. I want to know what their views are before I decide whether to reappoint them.”

Taft also said he was chagrined by the tone of the January board meeting, which included personal attacks between board members.

In one instance, two board members read the newspaper as members of the public testified about the science standards.

“That’s not a good way to do business,” Taft said.

The money phrase here is “… intelligent design should not be part of the standards …”. It is the “critically analyze” standard that is the gateway through which the intelligent design creationist pseudo-science was wedged into the model curriculum.


Original Entry

In an exclusive story in the February 3, 2006, Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Governor Bob Taft is reported to have said that he doesn’t think intelligent design should be taught in Ohio schools. According to the story, Taft doesn’t think the standards include intelligent design, but he called for “… a legal review of the companion lesson plan to ensure that Ohio is not vulnerable to a lawsuit”.

Taft also said he would question potential appointees to the Board more closely on the issue.

“There were cases in which I didn’t ask the right questions, in some cases where I supported someone for election or appointment,” Taft said this week when asked about the issue during a meeting with Dispatch editors and reporters.

“I’ll be asking that question now, I can assure you.”

Unfortunately, Taft wouldn’t elaborate on what he would consider a satisfactory answer. Taft will appoint four members to the Ohio State Board of Education before his term expires in early 2007. The four current occupants of those appointments all voted in favor of the ID-originated standard for 10th grade biology and for inclusion of the ID creationist model lesson plan when a motion to delete it was defeated in 2004. One changed his vote in the recent narrow vote (9-8) to retain it.

This is a reversal for a Governor whose chief of staff when the science standards were being considered, Brian Hicks, lobbied the Governor’s appointees on the Ohio Board of Education to support an ID-based science standard, benchmark, and model lesson plan. (Hicks’ emails were made public during another scandal in Ohio, “Coingate”.) In every OBOE vote on the standards, benchmarks and model curriculum, the Governor’s appointees obediently voted as a block to support the ID-based material with the recent exception noted above.

Ohio ID supporters publicly boasted about the Governor’s role in the process of developing tainted standards. In November 2003, Robert Lattimer, a prominent Ohio ID creationist, described the background for Taft’s earlier support

Our Governor is a moderate Republican. He was up for election last fall. He had done a couple of things that angered conservative voters, and he knew he needed conservative voters to win the election.

Witness for the Defense


Steve Fuller was one of the witnesses for the defense and many may have wondered why he was included. Fuller’s opinions on Intelligent Design seem quite straightforward

Fuller Wrote:

Trials over the teaching of creationism — and now intelligent design theory — can draw on two different criteria for defining science: one based on motive and the other based on method. The difference matters, even though so far creationism and ID have largely failed to meet either of them.

In other words, it seems that Fuller agrees that ID has failed to meet the criteria for science whether based on motive or method.

Michael Ruse on Intelligent Design


Could Ruse be any clearer about his position on Intelligent Design?

Ruse Wrote:

Do you think there is anything at all to the intelligent design argument from irreducible complexity?

No. I think it’s “creationism lite” tarted up to look like science to get around the constitutional separation of church and state.

Leading ID theorists say that all they want to do is teach science, not philosophy or theology. Do you take them at their word?

Not really, but the point is, I just don’t think you can teach ID just as science. I don’t think it is science. It would be like saying, “All I want to do is look at naked women. There’s nothing to do with sex about it, understand?” Yeah, right.

Michael Ruse: Darwinist talks with Points about ID and evolution in the classroom

Tangled Bank #46

The Tangled Bank

The Tangled Bank has grown so huge that apparently we now need a whole polytechnic university to handle it. Appropriately enough, I'm not on the academic faculty—I'm down in the health services clinic, checking out genitals.

The True History of the Wedge

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Here's a fascinating glimpse of history for those involved in the creation wars: the Seattle Weekly has published scans of the original Wedge document from the Discovery Institute. Now you too can see it in it's original cheap-ass photocopied glory, and also learn who leaked the documents…two people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.

Continue reading "The True History of the Wedge" (on Pharyngula)

I much prefer reading these things as pdfs, so I've converted it. Here you go, download your very own copy of the Wedge document (540KB pdf).

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