August 27, 2006 - September 2, 2006 Archives

As promised, hot off the presses, here is a little tutorial I’ve decided to call Genetic Algorithms for Uncommonly Dense Software Engineers. Given some of the bizarre commentary issuing from the ID community over at Uncommon Descent regarding my past posts on Genetic Algorithms, I’ve developed this guide to help the folks over there figure out if the Genetic Algorithms (GAs) they are working on employ a “fixed-target” approach (like Dawkins’s Weasel), or if they are instead un-targeted, like most GAs used in research and industry are.


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

Read the entire series.

Jonathan Wells has recently written The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Wells’s book is stuffed full of misrepresentations, distortions, and plain falsehoods. My Thumb colleagues are reviewing whole chapters, but my purpose here is to focus in some detail on just one of Wells’s claims to illustrate his scurrilous tactics.

The claim I focus on is from Chapter 16, “American Lysenkoism”. Mark Perakh has already documented how Wells manipulated partial quotations from Perakh’s earlier essay on Lysenkoism to create misrepresentations of what Perakh actually wrote. Here I will describe Wells’s dishonesty about a specific episode in Ohio last year.

Tangled Bank #61

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The Tangled Bank

The latest edition of the biweekly compendium of science blogging, the Tangled Bank, is now available for your reading enjoyment at Epigenetics News.

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

Read the entire series.

Chapter 15 is entitled “Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity”. For much of this chapter, the reader will find Wells on his soapbox about this or that aspect of, you guessed it, “Traditional Christianity”. And, like “Darwinism” in the first chapter, Wells struggles to find a definition for his term. Wells chooses a current version of the Nicene Creed as the sort of “creedal affirmations that” traditionally unite Christians. (Apparently the litmus suggested by Jesus was inadequate.) Wells almost approaches clarity when he implies that if one doesn’t adhere to the tenets of the (current?) Nicene Creed, one cannot seriously consider him or herself as a Christian. (No word yet on the apparently non-Christians who affirmed a prior version of the Nicene Creed.)

There are two important things to say about Wells’s definition of a “Traditional Christian”. First, the commitment to the tenets of the Nicene Creed is hardly a universal litmus for determining who is and who is not a Christian. A Protestant, even one who subscribes to every tenet of the Nicene Creed, who thinks that Wells is right is encouraged to try to obtain the sacramental elements from a Catholic communion and see how far he gets. (According to Catholic tradition, Protestants cannot receive Catholic communion.)

The second important thing to note is that Jonathan Wells is styling himself as a defender of “Traditional Christianity.”

Read that again: Jonathan Wells, Traditional Christianity. Not to be impolite, but to us here at the Thumb Wells defending “Traditional Christianity” reads as queer as Ann Coulter defending “traditional values”.

This is a report on the summer institute, “Exploring the Borderlands: Science and Religion in the 21st Century,” held by the Jefferson Center for Science and Religion. In the words of the Center, the conference featured workshops on “such ‘hot’ issues as the stem cell controversy, the evolution vs. Intelligent Design squabble, whether homosexuality is a ‘chosen lifestyle,’ … whether Buddhism speaks to neuroscience, how does a Muslim scientist look at religion and freedom, [and] is our universe simply ‘accidental’ ….”

The Jefferson Center,, was founded a few years ago in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. According to its Website, the Center is concerned with, among other things, “dogmatic and tyrannical religious groups opposed to change, freedom, and human rights.” Thus, they “seek a humanistic and naturalistic alternative to dogmatic, supernatural, and fundamentalist religious thought and the values that come with them” and promote “progressive, rational, and critical thinking, … caring for our planet and all humanity, … [and] working to end all forms of oppression and discrimination in both society and especially in religion.”

To further some or all of these ends, the Center organized its second summer institute, a 2.5-day affair held over the weekend of August 4-6 at the Unitarian Center in Ashland. For a summary by Nigel Leaves, go to their Website and click on “Current Newsletter,” or “Newsletter Archive,” as appropriate.

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

Read the entire series.

I’ll address in this article chapter sixteen, “American Lysenkoism”, in Jonathan Wells’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. As Wells (1994) explained, he went to study biology at the behest of his spiritual “father” the Reverend Sun-Myung Moon, with an explicit goal to devote his life to “destroying Darwinism”. Since he set out to destroy “Darwinism” before having sufficiently familiarized himself with it, this immediately points to his lack of impartiality when dealing with “Darwinism.” Wells’s goal was not to evaluate “Darwinism” on its merits but to search for any arguments, regardless of their merits, which would serve his goal set in advance. This alone is a strong warning to the consumers of Wells’s literary output: take Wells’s arguments with a good dose of salt; he is not an unbiased judge of evidence, but a partisan of an anti-evolution effort whose goal is not to find the truth but to prove his viewpoint regardless of means.

In a box in the margin of chapter sixteen Wells writes: “Lysenkoism is now rearing its ugly head in the US, as Darwinists use their government positions to destroy the careers of their critics.”

Really? Thousands of biologists in the USSR at the time of Lysenko’s reign were arrested, exiled to Siberia, and many of them shot in the basements of the notorious Lubyanka prison, while intelligent design advocates in the US thrive on lavish donations from ultra-religious sources, have their own publishing outlets, lecture all over the country without any interference from genuine scientists, endlessly appear on TV and radio shows, and enjoy support from the extreme right-wing pundits and commentators?

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

Read the entire series.

Chapter 9 in Wells’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Evolution and Intelligent Design, “The Secret of Life”, is like previous chapters, a rehash of well-known creationist arguments. This time the topics are DNA, the genetic code, and the origin of biological information. In addition, Wells uses up a third of the chapter with some excuse-making for the lack of peer-reviewed papers supporting “intelligent design”, and with a completely misleading account of the purported “persecution” of an ID-friendly scientist by the “Darwinist orthodoxy”.

As far as the scientific arguments go, after giving an overview of DNA structure and function, Wells presents three main objections to the current scientific understanding of evolution at the DNA level, which in a nutshell go like this:

According to Red State Rabble, Father Coyne is undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. This would seem to shed light on the reasons for his recent resignation.

The PIGs keep coming

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Oh, no. Our work is never going to end. You should take a look at the new Politically Incorrect Guides that will be coming out after Wells'.

At least the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Holocaust looks like it will be very short.

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