October 22, 2006 - October 28, 2006 Archives

In Iowa’s ongoing saga, yesterday’s Ames Tribune, the paper that originally carried Republican lieutenant governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats’ comments supporting the teaching of intelligent design in schools, contained an article noting Republican governor candidate Jim Nussle’s dismissal of Vander Plaats’ idea:

(Continued at Aetiology)…

Yet another false positive for ID

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Remember how Dembski, despite common sense, argued that the design inference was free of false positives. And yet, history has shown countless examples of false positives. Nevertheless, IDers seem to get a lot of mileage from their Mount Rushmore example. So here is a another example of ‘design’


The feature can be studied in more details on Google Maps

Perhaps ID activists can explain why this example would not count as yet another false positive? Hat tip to Jim Armstrong on the ASA Reflector. Also noticeable is how the ‘Indian’ seems to be listening to what may very well have been the world’s first iPod….

Iowa/Vander Plaats update

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I mentioned the situation with Lieutenant Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats and his support of intelligent design last week (posts here and here). A group of us have put together an editorial discussing Vander Plaats’ position and why it matters to Iowa voters (letter and signatories can be found here at the Iowa Citizens for Science site). Yesterday, a columnist for the Des Moines register also wrote up the story, and our response to it:

(Continued at Aetiology).

UPDATE: Ken Miller will be on Ohio Public Radio tomorrow, on 90.3 WCPN, 9 a.m. eastern. The program will also feature a face-off between Ohio State Board of Education candidates Deborah Owens-Fink and Tom Sawyer. The program, “Evolution’s Effect on Voters,” will start at 9 am Eastern Time on Thursday, and the station has live streaming. Questions can be asked at (216) 578-0903, or the show email, [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

Ken Miller speaking in Ohio: An announcement from Patricia Princehouse of Ohio is below. Kenneth Miller is evidently trying to break some sort of record – he is speaking seven times in three days, starting Thursday at Case Western Reserve University, in a talk which will be webcast.

Ken Miller in Ohio! Oct 26-28 Science, God, & Intelligent-Design: Why all three matter in the 2006 Ohio elections

As seen on the Colbert Report & YouTube!!!

Akron, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Kent, and Oberlin.

**FREE & OPEN to the PUBLIC** Details at http://ohiohope.homestead.com/miller.html

Webcast Thurs 11:30 am!

Over on the hopefully-named “ID the Future” podcast website run by the Discovery Institute, Casey Luskin has posted a short interview with Michael Behe – evidently recorded in-studio rather than over the phone, although, for some reason, Behe sounds like he is sitting in a cave.

Anyway, the topic of the interview is Behe’s response to the Pallen and Matzke (2006) article on flagellum evolution in Nature Reviews Microbiology. As I pointed out on PT last month, among other things, the NRM article showed that the ID advocates didn’t know what they were talking about on the topics of (1) number of required flagellum parts, and (2) number of “unique”, i.e. non-homologous, flagellum parts. These points are obviously important, since the ID advocates themselves have emphasized them repeatedly – almost in hypnotically repetitious fashion, actually – as major reasons that the flagellum could not have evolved gradually.

Obama for President!

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OK, maybe I’m jumping the gun, and The Panda’s Thumb is not a politics blog.

But it is really refreshing to hear a national politician say forthrightly that “Evolution is more grounded in my experience than angels.”

For more about Barack Obama, visit here.


There is a treasure trove in China: the well-preserved phosphatized embryos of the Doushantuo formation, a sampling of the developmental events in ancient metazoans between 551 and 635 million years ago. These are splendid specimens that give us a peek at some awesomely fragile organisms, and modern technology helps by giving us new tools, like x-ray computed tomography (CT), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), thin-section petrography, synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM), and computer-aided visualization, that allow us to dig into the fine detail inside these delicate specimens and display and manipulate the data. A new paper in Science describes a survey of a large collection of these embryos, probed with these new techniques, and rendered for our viewing pleasure…that is, we've got pretty pictures!

Continue reading "Dissecting embryos from half a billion years ago" (on Pharyngula)

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Thank God for Kent Hovind. Otherwise, the USA might have to relinquish its title as home of the world’s looniest creationist crazybags.

Neanderthal man walks among us, Poland’s far-right says

Poland’s far-right League of Polish Families (LPR), which is part of the coalition government, claims Darwin’s theory of evolution is all wrong, that humans lived alongside dinosaurs and that Neanderthal man is still among us.

Last week, Poland’s deputy education minister Miroslaw Orzechowski, a member of the LPR, bluntly rejected British naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and his postulate that man is descended from apes. […]

This weekend, Orzechowski was given some high-level support when European lawmaker for the far-right party, Maciej Giertych – the father of LPR leader Roman Giertych – told a seminar that Neanderthal man still roams the planet, notably in the United States where examples can be spotted in a boxing ring.

”A scientist showed me a picture of an American boxer. He had all the traits of Neanderthal man. These people are among us. They are part of the human race, probably more prevalent once upon a time, but who still exist,” Giertych, who has a doctorate in biology, told the seminar.

Taking up the mantra of creationists – who have a strong following among Christian fundamentalists in the United States, but whose theory that God created all living creatures at the same time has not won a huge following in Europe – Giertych also propounded that man and dinosaurs roamed the earth together.

”Research shows that dinosaurs and man were contemporaries. In every culture, there are indications that we remember (dinosaurs). The Scots have Loch Ness, we Poles have Wawel dragon (in Krakow), Marco Polo spoke of an imperial carriage in China which was pulled by a dragon,” Giertych said.

I… just don’t know what to say.

Server Changes


We’re making some changes to the server to increase performance and decrease downtime. We’ve migrated from Apache to Lighty. We’re still tuning things so expect random behavior of the server for a bit.

Long term goals involve getting a more powerful server and getting a fatter connection to the internet.

If you are motivated to donate, there is a link on the sidebar.

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

Read the entire series.

In chapter eight Wells recapitulates the standard “intelligent design” mantra that design can be established via an eliminative process. That is, if it can be established that a particular phenomenon is not the result either of natural laws or chance, then design emerges as the only remaining possibility. Readers familiar with ID will recognize this as the same, tired argument that “intelligent design” activists have been offering for more than a decade. Indeed, Wells merely parrots the assertions of William Dembski, giving neither acknowledgement of nor consideration to any of the numerous refutations of Dembski’s work produced over the years.

The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at the Indiana University in Bloomington has a whitepaper on Intelligent Design titled Intelligent Design, Science Education, and Public Reason

Crouch, Miller and Sideris express their concerns with “growing challenges to science and science education across the United States over the past several years”. They point out that:

Many of these efforts have been driven by religious believers and express theological convictions about the origins and development of human and non-human life. Whatever the ultimate outcome of these antievolution measures, the mere fact that such efforts are so frequent across so much of the United States is something that has engendered a legitimate worry among educators at both the secondary school and university levels. We write to address educators, policy makers, and the interested public with an eye to clarifying basic concerns regarding the scientific, religious, educational, and legal dimensions of this recent challenge.

The authors continue to give a good overview of the roots of Intelligent Design, the vacuity of its claims and address the often heard claim “teach the controversy”. As the authors observe “But describing the “teach the controversy” slogan in this way distorts what is at issue.”

This is a guest appearance by Peter Olofsson. I have not contributed anything to this essay and am posting it as a courtesy to Peter. Professor of mathematics Olofsson is the author of two excellent books on probability and related subjects, of which one is a textbook used by universities.

Here starts Peter’s text:

William Demsbki’s “explanatory filter” is a proposed method to infer intelligent design in nature. While it has been criticized from many points of view, there seems to have not yet been a comprehensive treatment within the framework of mathematical statistics. In this article I argue that even if many of Dembski’s assumptions are accepted, the filter still runs into serious trouble when it comes to biological applications.

Continue reading A troubled alliance at Talk Reason

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