August 20, 2006 - August 26, 2006 Archives

A reflection on the ID movement

So where is the ID movement going now in this post-Dover, post-Kansas world?

Well, it seems to me that they are giving up on trying to seriously sell ID as science. Instead, they are forging full-steam ahead with their cultural “war of the worldviews” agenda, pitting materialism and atheism (as represented by science) against religious belief (as represented by their particular flavor of fundamentalist Christianity.)

Let’s take a quick look at what they are up to:

If you’re interested in biology and not reading Sandra Porter’s Discovering Biology in a Digital World, you should be. As she notes in her profile, her passion is “developing instructional materials for 21st century biology,” and it shows–she provides all kinds of little online experiments you can run yourself, even with minimal knowledge of molecular biology (she shows you how, step by step, and even discusses the results). She’s recently finished a 4-part series on HIV. The experiment in a nutshell, as she notes:

We are going to compare a protein sequence from a wild type, drug-sensitive, HIV virus with protein sequences from HIV samples that were isolated from patients who were taking an anti-viral drug (actually a protease inhibitor) called “Atazanavir.”

Part I. Today, I’ll introduce the experiment and give a link to a short flash movie on HIV. Part II. Instructions for the experiment. Part III. Look at the sequence results. Part IV. Look at protein structures and see if we can explain why the experiment worked the way it did.

You can do this all yourself by just checking out her website–or, even better, use it to show others how evolution works, and how it can be examined at the molecular level. She has tons of other resources on there as well, so be sure to browse around beyond just the HIV posts.

Coturnix over at Blog Around the Clock needs help. His friend Kevin is doing a survey of herps in China and can’t identify a frog. (Snakes are his speciality.) Can anyone here identify it? Pictures of the unidentified species, along with some known ones, can be found here.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

By titling his first chapter “Wars and Rumors”, Jonathan Wells invokes a snippet of scripture in which Jesus describes the end times

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Wells uses such dramatic quotations and general martial language because the struggle between “intelligent design” and science is very much a culture war, at least to him and other creationists. In order to advance his thesis, Wells has to convey the idea that “Darwinism” pits itself against traditional Christianity: to allow pupils to learn it is to give them up to atheism, decadence, liberalism and to lose the culture war.

Note that Wells does not wage war against evolution. In fact, he is at pains to make it (somewhat) clear that he wages war against “Darwinism”, which in context might sound like the sort of thing any sensible Christian would want to guard against. Unfortunately, Wells isn’t exactly clear what he means by Darwinism as opposed to evolution. In this chapter and chapter fifteen, “Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity”, we find many references to “Darwinism”. Assuming that even creationist words have meaning, let us set those invocations in series while adjusting the language only to merge them syntactically. Presumably there is consistency of meaning, and this will hopefully help us gain a greater understanding of what this nasty Darwinism thing is.

Fisking Seth Cooper Again

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Despite no longer working as legal counsel for the Discovery Institute, Seth Cooper has still been quite busy writing articles on their behalf slamming Judge Jones’ ruling in Kitzmiller. Not content with the whopper he told a few months ago in an article he wrote with Joe Manzari of the American Enterprise Institute, he’s now back with this article on the DI website. Wesley Elsberry has already handled the main charge that Cooper makes regarding the question of whether Judge Jones should have allowed the plaintiffs to subpeona draft versions of the next edition of Pandas; I’m going to deal with some of the other arguments he makes.

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

PT reader TW points to Sam Kean’s CHE update. In brief, Evolutionary Biology is a valid major.

There has also been a press release from the Dept. of Education:

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

Jonathan Wells is one of the most notorious activists of the political ad campaign known as “intelligent design”. He is most well known for his attacks on modern biology, specifically his 2000 book, Icons of Evolution, which was panned by the scientific community for its fraudulent presentation of modern biology.

Does Jonathan Wells, aiming once again at the popular market, restore his scientific and academic reputation with his latest book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, or is it just old trash in a new bag? To find out, you will need to read our multi-part review, which begins tomorrow.

One thing is for sure, Jonathan Wells is too modest. His recently published, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, is not only politically incorrect but incorrect in most other ways as well: scientifically, logically, historically, legally, academically, and morally.

Darwin's Deadly Legacy, the program that Coral Ridge Ministries is airing this weekend that supposedly links Hitler to Darwin, is beginning to look like a public relations catastrophe for the organization. First Francis Collins repudiated the show, then the ADL put the hammer down, and now another of the "featured guests" is distancing himself from the content. Andrew Arensburger wrote to Michael Behe to find out about his contribution, and got this reply:

I'm "associated" with it only in the sense that a clip of my appearance on a TV show of Dr. Kennedy's from years ago apparently is used in the film. I didn't know this program was in the works, have had no conversations with anyone from Coral Ridge about it, and had no input into it.

This looks more and more like a pastiche of generic creationist interviews slapped together to prop up a weak thesis.

With all the flap about D. James Kennedy and his “no Darwin, no Hitler” pseudo-documentary (see Pharyngula and Dispatches from the Culture Wars for the sordid details), I was reminded of some incidents that took place three years ago in New Mexico involving D. James Kennedy and the NM chapter of the Intelligent Design Network.

In 2003, when New Mexico was in the process of developing new science standards, Kennedy deployed his Center for Reclaiming America’s 1500 New Mexican “E-army” members to bombard the NM State Board of Education with letters opposing teaching “evolution only” in the schools.

This article fondly mentions the help of IDnet-NM’s leader Joe Renick in this effort.

The purpose of this post is to show that D. James Kennedy and Joe Renick are integrity-challenged “Birds of a Feather.” Since D. J. Kennedy is getting a lot of negative press this week, I’ll focus here on Joe Renick, who hired the Zogby Polling Firm for some extremely dubious research that purported to show New Mexican scientists were in favor of teaching ID in schools. A rather large flap ensued, and even the heads of Sandia and Los Alamos Labs entered the fray. When the dust settled, Renick promised to stop using the poll.

That was over three years ago. However, as of August 22nd, 2006, Renick’s group is still using those bogus Zogby polling results.

Three years of broken IDnet promises. I’m shocked - shocked!

So, you may or may not be aware of the latest “challenge” to evolutionary theory–DI Fellow Jonathan Wells’ new book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.” Following in the footsteps of Tom Bethell’s “Politically Incorrect Guide to Science” (whose terrible chapter on AIDS I reviewed here), the book is just all shades of terrible. (As has been pointed out by many others who’ve read books in the “Politically Incorrect” series, they should just drop the pretense of “Politically”–simply “Incorrect” sums them up much better). I’ll have a more comprehensive review of one of Wells’ chapters (discussing, essentially, how evolution plays no role in medicine, antibiotic resistance, etc.) next week some time, and you’ll be seeing others pop up as well (see this post for the collected links), but for today I want to focus on a small part of the final chapter (titled “Scientific Revolution”. Yeah, go ahead and snicker).

You probably remember Forest Mims III. He was the other party in the “Eric Pianka advocates genocide” saga. (See also here and here to remind yourself of the absurdity of the whole situation). Mims is a creationist and another Discovery Institute Fellow, and an amateur scientist. According to Wells, he’s made a bizarre claim: that the fact that influenza viruses haven’t evolved resistance to UV light is evidence for design. I thought that Casey Luskin’s piece on intelligent design and flu was as bad as it gets, but I think this is a toss-up; you just can’t make this stuff up.

(Continued at Aetiology)

Kennedy, Hitler, Weikart and the ADL

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There are many new developments in the controversy surrounding D. James Kennedy’s propaganda piece claiming that Darwin led directly to Hitler. The Anti-Defamation League has condemned the program, Kennedy has responded and there is much more to discuss. I’ve written up a long entry on the matter, including reviews from academic historians who reveal the shoddy reasoning behind the program’s primary source of information and a load of historical facts that prove the program’s central thesis to be utter nonsense.

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

New CSICOP Column

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My new essay for CSICOP's Creation and Intelligent Design Watch website is now available. The topic: how you can tell that creationist and ID arguments are wrong even if you know little about the underlying scientific issues. Comments can be left over at EvolutionBlog. Enjoy!

D. James Kennedy: BUSTED!

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The Anti-Defamation League has condemned Kennedy and Darwin's Deadly Legacy, and Francis Collins has announced that he is "appalled," calling the program "misguided and inflammatory." Whew. It looks like this bit of propaganda has blown up in their faces.

Continue reading "D. James Kennedy: BUSTED!" (on Pharyngula)

Over at Red State Rabble, Pat Hayes, has an interesting commentary on the Discovery Institute’s reaction to the apparent retirement of “intelligent design” creationism critic, Jesuit Father George V. Coyne, from the directorship of the Vatican Observatory.

If Discovery, as the main think tank championing intelligent design, doesn’t address metaphysical and religious questions then we have to ask: On what basis are they weighing in on theological questions such as Rev. Coyne’s alleged support for “Process Theology?”

If intelligent design, as its proponents claim, can tell us nothing about the nature of God, then why is Bruce Chapman – in his official capacity as Director and using Discovery’s Evolution News and Views blog to deliver the message – even addressing the question of whether or not “God is still learning and could not have known what his world was becoming.”

And finally, if intelligent design is truly a scientific theory as claimed, what is the scientific proof that provides the evidentiary basis for making a determination about the truth or falsity of what God knows and what he doesn’t.

Go read Pat Hayes’s Theological Deviations.

Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education has a news article by Sam Kean that describes more creationist shenanigans in the Federal Government. Kean reports that a new “SMART Grant” makes funds available to science, engineering and foreign language students – with the exception of students majoring in evolutionary biology.

The Education Department has a system of codes for undergraduate majors–the “CIP codes”– which includes evolutionary biology (code 26.1303). The list of majors eligible for the SMART grant omits only this code among all the biological disciplines.

Server Issues

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Hi All,

Wesley and I are working on fixing the server issues that this website has been having. We switched to a new connection a month or so ago and PT’s popularity is overwealming it. We’re working to optimize the server for short term solutions and looking at solutions for the long haul.

On his Evolution List blog, Allen MacNeill discusses a paper written by one of his students of the Cornell ‘Evolution and Design’ seminar. The paper, written by Elena Broaddus, discusses the topic of our ““innate” tendency to infer purpose in nature”.

The posting starts with some interesting pictures of ‘faces’ found in nature. We are all very familiar with detecting ‘design’ in clouds and there are countless instances where people see faces or other attributes in natural objects. Elena addresses this ‘innate tendency’ that leads us to infer purpose in nature. Faces.jpg

This morning I am doing a live online discussion/debate with Mustafa Akyol (of Kansas hearings fame) at Islamonline.net. It is starting in a few minutes.

They came for a contest that might someday be viewed as a pivotal moment in the eternal conflict between Darwin and Design.

On one side were the Intelligent Designers. They came from California and Alabama, New Mexico and England, Finland and the Netherlands, and from all around the world. They came from academia, and from industry, and from the armed services. They came armed with computer spreadsheets, home-made programs, graph paper and calculators. They applied trigonometry and calculus, intuition and insight, knowledge of minimal soap films and surface tension, database optimizing algorithms and random searches, and other techniques available only to Intelligent Designers. And they strived to answer the tricky question “What is the Steiner Tree (smallest possible network of straight line segments connecting six given points) for the network shown in “Take the Design Challenge!”

smalGrid.gif

On the other side were Evolutionary (or Genetic) Algorithms, in which herds of digital organisms were bred over many generations. Each organism was a string of numbers and letters, which were “transcribed” by fixed rules as representing some of the billions upon billions of possible candidate networks for the given problem. Those organisms whose lengths were smaller gained a slightly better chance at being a parent of one of the organisms of the next generation, and mutations of the strings were allowed to happen occasionally. In this process, no trigonometry or calculus was required. No information about characteristics of Steiner Trees was necessary. But, as the strings competed with each other, marvelous and unexpected designs began to appear.

critters.gif

Although most of the Intelligent Designers were not members of the “Intelligent Design” movement, which had been officially invited to respond, the ID community did indeed weigh in, via the efforts of Salvador Cordova, one of the IDers running the show at William Dembski’s blog Uncommon Descent.

So, what is the Answer? Did Salvador do better than Darwin? Did our team of Intelligent Designers find the True Steiner, or did they, like the evolutionary algorithm, find “MacGyver” (not-quite-perfect-but-extremely-functional) solutions also?

Readers, let’s enter the Design Room and meet our Winners!

A reader wrote to Francis Collins about the use of his name to promote D. James Kennedy's upcoming ahistorical anti-evolution program, and Collins wrote right back. He's doing exactly the right thing.

(Oops, no — Collins doesn't want to be quoted on this, so I've removed the email. He's unambiguous in stating that he was interviewed about his book, and that was then inserted into the video without his knowledge.)

Good for him, and that'll teach me: just when you think there are no further depths to which a creationist will sink, there they go, plumbing ever deeper. Kennedy and his crew are apparently putting together the video equivalent of a quote mine.

I apologize to Dr Collins for assuming he was a party to this creationist video, and I hope he sues those frauds.

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