July 29, 2007 - August 4, 2007 Archives

Denyse O’Leary notes some of the differences between creationists and Intelligent Design proponents:

Then the creationists in turn help the ID theorists by making clear what creationism is and what it is not. Creationism is about the BIBLE, see? It’s not about intelligent design theories like Behe’s* Edge of Evolution or Dembski’s design inference.

It’s extremely uncommon for me to find myself in agreement with Denyse on anything (and it’s not a comfortable feeling), but in this case I do think she’s got a good point. Creationism is certainly explicitly based on the Bible, and Intelligent Design certainly is not. In fact, that’s probably the Achilles’ Heel of the entire Intelligent Design movement.

Say what you will about the Young-Earth creationists, about Ken Ham and Kent “Prisoner #06452-017” Hovind, they are steadfast in their belief in the literal truth of the Bible, and steadfast in their refusal to lie about that belief. They believe that they are right, and they are not willing to publicly deny their faith. In that, they stand in stark contrast to Intelligent Design.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority, where comments can be left):

by Abbie Smith

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Abbie Smith, the blogger behind the Endogenous Retrovirus (ERV) blog (original post), who we marked early as having a special talent for this creationism-rebutting stuff. Abbie works in an HIV lab and has a few things to say about Behe’s argument in The Edge of Evolution that evolution hasn’t/can’t produced any novel adaptations, genes, or protein-protein binding sites during the evolution of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, unless you are one of the several Discovery Institute fellows who denies this along with denying evolution.

Oh, and speaking of the Discovery Institute and Behe, Behe is apparently going to be on the Colbert Report tonight. Colbert has been setting an excellent example by making a point of it to bring scientists on his show – Kenneth Miller, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Shubin I think. Hopefully Colbert knows that Behe isn’t quite like these other guys. I recall that Dembski claimed he was sick after he appeared on The Daily Show next to some weird new-ager in 2005.

Anyway, if Colbert doesn’t hit the appropriate snark mark tonight, you’ll get it from Abbie for sure. I thought I got Behe pretty good in Of Cilia and Silliness, but this really takes the cake.

—Nick Matzke

Michael Behe, please allow me to introduce myself…

I’m ERV. This is my dog, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And this is my friend, Vpu. I presume you and Vpu haven’t met, as you recently repeated in an interview with World magazine the same sentiment you gurgled ad nauseam in ‘Edge of Evolution’:

Allons enfants de la ID…

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Perhaps there are still true guardians of human rights and opponents of tyranny within the Council of Europe.

That’s great!, you are probably thinking, Finally the EU has decided to send troops to Darfur; to call for free elections in North Korea; to forcefully condemn human rights abuses in Guantanamo; or demand the right to vote for Saudi women; or to read Mugabe the riot act…

Ah, think again.

Today’s New York Times carries a profile of evolutionary theoretician, Martin Nowak, written by Carl Zimmer: In Games, an Insight Into the Rules of Evolution. Zimmer elaborates on the profile on his blog.

Nowak is the director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University. I first encountered his research in graduate school, when I was working on the evolution of language ability. In 2002, at the Evolution of Language: Fourth International Conference, I had the opportunity to have lunch with him.

He is an incredibly gifted scientist, and Zimmer’s article about him is well worth the read.

The Tangled Bank

It's a collision! Two great carnivals on the same day. Check out Carnival of the Spineless #23 from sodden Great Britain, where the molluscs are thriving, and also read Tangled Bank #85, the Reductionist's Tale at Migrations.


People are always arguing about whether primitive apes could have evolved into men, but that one seems obvious to me: of course they did! The resemblances are simply too close, so that questioning it always seems silly. One interesting and more difficult question is how oysters could be related to squid; one's a flat, sessile blob with a hard shell, and the other is a jet-propelled active predator with eyes and tentacles. Any family resemblance is almost completely lost in their long and divergent evolutionary history (although I do notice some unity of flavor among the various molluscs, which makes me wonder if gustatory sampling hasn't received its proper due as a biochemical assay in evaluating phylogeny.)

One way to puzzle out anatomical relationships and make phylogenetic inferences is to study the embryology of the animals. Early development is often fairly well conserved, and the various parts and organization are simpler; I would argue that what's important in the evolution of complex organisms anyway is the process of multicellular assembly, and it's the rules of construction that we have to determine to identify pathways of change. Now a recent paper by Shigeno et al. traces the development of Nautilus and works out how the body plan is established, and the evolutionary pattern becomes apparent.

Continue reading "Cephalopod development and evolution" (on Pharyngula)

Jacob Bronowski used to say that the greatest discovery of scientists was science itself. The scientific method, with its resolute search for causation, its refusal to cower before tradition and authoritarianism was responsible for the great advancement of humanity over the past centuries. Obviously scientists have not always lived up to these standards, but those who have took man to places he could only have imagined before (and not even imagined very well). Central to this accomplishment is science’s refusal to be satisfied with magical explanations of phenomena. Magic, after all, is not an answer—it’s the feeling of satisfaction without answers. It’s the willingness to tolerate a big blank spot in one’s understanding of the universe.

(Read the rest at Positive Liberty…)

I came across a reference to a law review note from last year in the Chapman Law Review. The note was by Stephen Trask, then a student at William Mitchell College of Law and, unsurprisingly, a graduate of Liberty University. It was entitled, Evolution, Science, and Ideology: Why the Establishment Clause Requires Neutrality in Science Classes. Since Chapman is Sandefur’s alma mater, I emailed him to see if he’d seen it and he said no, but he found it and sent me a copy of it. He described it as a “giant, steaming pile of crap”; he was being generous. He’s going to post a full fisking of the article soon, but I wanted to focus on one particular claim Trask makes.

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

Gert Korthof reviews Behe’s latest book “The Edge of Evolution” and shows a level of internal contradiction one has grown accustomed to from ID proponents

Common Descent is based on genetic continuity in the history of life on earth. Design, according to Michael Behe, is based on genetic discontinuities in the Tree of Life. Therefore, Design and Common Descent are not compatible. Make your choice: it is either Design or Common Descent. Contrary to Behe, both cannot be true.

Korthof shows how Behe’s book does little to explain ‘Intelligent Design’, leaving it once again scientifically vacuous.

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