December 2007 Archives

On Wired.com Brandon Keim reports that the “Members of a Florida county school board who last month wanted a classroom balance between evolution with intelligent design have quietly reversed their positions.”

Merry Christmas to everyone.

What happened? You can start with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The satirical religious Web site asserts that an omnipotent, airborne clump of spaghetti intelligently designed all life with the deft touch of its “noodly appendage.” Adherents call themselves Pastafarians. They deluged Polk school board members with e-mail demanding equal time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism’s version of intelligent design.

“They’ve made us the laughingstock of the world,” said Margaret Lofton, a school board member who supports intelligent design. She dismissed the e-mail as ridiculous and insulting.

Indeed, intelligent design does tend to do that to people.

Recently Judge Jones from Kitzmiller fame made the following remarks

Jones said that after he handed down the ruling, he was the target of severe criticism from various right-wing TV hosts and commentators, including Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter.

“Ann Coulter said that I was a ‘hack,’ and the worst judicial selection Bush made since he nominated Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Jones said, “It is alarming to me that the public is being fed this kind of misinformation about the role of the judiciary. Judges should not rule on the basis of who their political benefactors were or are, but on the basis of the law.” He added that the increased vitriolic attacks on judges for their rulings, such as when former Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas threatened to “hold federal judges accountable for their rulings” could have a chilling effect.

Source: Judge explains ‘intelligent design’ ruling BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS, St Louis Jewish Light

On November 19, 2007 a new book, The Design of Life, authored by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, was released. Almost immediately a stream of reviews, all giving the book 5 stars (the highest positive evaluation possible for readers’ reviews on Amazon) started appearing on the Amazon website. On December 20, 2007, Wesley Elsberry posted a brief survey of the exaggerated acclaims of the book in question posted on Amazon by a bunch of ID advocates – acclaims bearing unmistakable signs of orchestration.

Elsberry’s survey could have been written even before this book appeared: the behavior of ID advocates follows a predictable pattern. Each time a new book by Dembski or Wells (or Behe, or any other of the Discovery Institute denizens) appears, their cohorts immediately start creating a ruckus, proclaiming the book in question the “end of Darwinism,” a great event in the history of humankind, destined to become a shining achievement in science, philosophy, sock mending, and culinary art.

Continue reading Dembski’s and Wells’s shenanigans - just a reminder, on Talk Reason.

More on whale evolution Indohyus

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Nature has a cool mini-documentary which outlines why the researchers believe that indohyus is a missing link. As James Hrynyshyn points out, there is still much work to be done but it shows real scientists go about developing exciting new hypotheses which lead to more scientific inquiry. Also list to the Nature podcast or read the full text at Nature. We learn how through hard work and serendipity, the link between Indohyus and the cetaceans was uncovered. While cleaning the fossil which had been found 15 years ago, a researcher accidentally broke off an ear. Before gluing it back on, the researcher showed the ear to Thewissen and his team and they noticed how the inner ear was very whale-like.

You may ask yourself, what has Intelligent Design contributed to our scientific knowledge.

I could not have said it better

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Denyse O'Leary Wrote:

Tiktaalik, an early fossil fish with sturdy forefins, helps illustrate the difference between the approach of scientists who are convinced Darwinists and that of scientists who view the problems of evolution primarily in terms of information theory (intelligent design).

Indeed, the scientist provides testable predictions and hypotheses while the information theoretician is complaining at the lack of details while failing to explain how Intelligent Design explains the evolution of fish.

Of course, the gap approach by ID proponents was predicted by PZ Myers

So what has ID done for science when it comes to understanding Tiktaalik and other fossils? Nothing, and the fantastic reality is that when scientists come up with scientific hypotheses, ID remains fully irrelevant and unable to contribute its scientific hypotheses or provide the necessary probabilistic calculations which are necessary to ‘infer design’.

This was indeed an unexpected Christmas present from O’Leary.

The latest moves in Disco Dancing

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This is just a Christmas linky to show you a little two-step with the latest ID textbook,The Design of Life. Relax and let Miss Smith show you the moves.

In an Editorial piece, the St Petersburg Times explores the position of the Pinellas County School Board which insists that Intelligent Design should be taught.

Quoting extensively from Judge Jones’ ruling they observe that.

As the judge found, “every scientific association that has spoken on the matter” has rejected the challenge to evolution mounted by proponents of intelligent design. Darwin’s theory of natural selection has withstood the test of time because scientific testing has repeatedly affirmed its validity. Any science curriculum that doesn’t fully explore it, or puts it on a par with other claims of life’s origins, would be seriously flawed.

Pinellas School Board members and the state education commissioner might reflect on the judge’s comprehensive review and conclusions before they speak again about an accepted scientific theory they apparently know little about.

And when you hear the grand announcement
That their wings are made of tin.
Then you will know the Junior Birdmen
Have sent their box tops in.

flight_birdman.jpg

Human beings cannot fly.

It's simply impossible, and we've known it for centuries; there is, however, a conspiracy of committed, dogmatic aerodynamicists who have a vested interest in preserving the myth of Wilbur and Orville Wright, and despite the obvious impossibility of flight which is readily apparent to anyone with common sense, they persist in promoting their "theory."

flight_avion.jpg

There are honest engineers who can lay out in detail for you the impossibility of flight. The dogmatic Wrightists simply ignore weight-to-lift ratios, surface area, power output, and Reynolds numbers. Reynolds numbers prove that humans can't fly, but you will never, ever see that in any aerospace engineering textbook. There is a world-wide cover-up: they don't want to risk their cushy grants and their payola from the aerospace industry.

flight_multiwing.jpg

They hide the truth. That strange "flying machine" to the right? It never got off the ground! It fell apart on the first attempt to fly! Yet you still find it portrayed in the textbooks, intact and looking like it's about to leap into the air. This is a long-running and disgraceful fraud. And if you look at the history of the Wright brothers, you'll see that they relied on the prior work of people like Lilienthal and Maxim and Boeing and Curtis, all frauds and charlatans. How can you trust a theory built on failure and fakes?

You want to show me what?

flight_boeing.jpg

That proves my case.

flight_birdman.jpg

Look at this birdman. We can all agree that that guy never flew — it would be a joke to think otherwise. Yet you expect me to believe that you can add many tons of weight, millions of complicated parts, and make it all out of metal, and now it can fly? You've amplified all the problems in the original design a million-fold, and now you try to tell me it works? You silly Wrightists.



No, I haven't gone insane. I made the absurd argument above just to give you a sense of what I feel when I read the latest from the Discovery Institute. They have this ridiculous site, Judging PBS, that purports to be a rebuttal to the PBS documentary on the Dover trial. It's actually just another rehash of the dishonesty found in Wells' Icons of Evolution — a series of misrepresentations of the state of biological thought. I keep hammering on the lies in that dismal book, but the DI keeps using it. In this case, it's particularly egregious; the PBS documentary didn't say anything about the specific issues they're trying to rebut. It's as if they've got nothing else but the same old recycled garbage.

Continue reading "Junior Birdmen of the Discovery Institute" (on Pharyngula)

The Disco ‘Tute’s new man

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The Disco ‘Tute, famed for its big tent strategy, is stretching the tent to include still more folks. While its religious agenda has never been completely hidden – the Wedge made that clear 8 years ago – the Disco dancers are signing up new partners for their future pushes to corrupt science education. The latest recruit as a contributor to the Media Complaints Division is Martin Cothran of Kentucky.

Cothran is advertised thus:

Martin is a writer and educator who lives in Kentucky. He is the author of several logic and classical rhetoric textbooks, and is the editor of The Classical Teacher magazine. He is a frequent guest on radio and television on issues of public policy, and has spent over 15 years dealing with educational policy questions at the state level.

Just what the Disco ‘Tute needs: an expert on rhetoric!

Look a little closer at Cothran, though, and one finds a fairly garden variety ideologue, albeit with a better vocabulary than many such. Cothran is “a senior policy analyst” with the Family Foundation of Kentucky or so their site says. Like virtually every organization nowadays that has “family” in its name, the Family Foundation is a classical religio-conservative outfit, with the usual positions on a range of issues. Cothran has a blog, vere loqui (he’s a classicist), in which he posts on the usual range of religio-conservative issues: homosexuality (he’s against gay marriage and partner benefits), abortion (against it), replacing B.C. and A.D. with B.C.E. and C.E. (against it ), Gonzalez’s tenure (he’s for it), Dembski’s association with Baylor (he was for it), and of course evolution (he’s skeptical of it).

More below the fold.

The following letter followed the initial letter signed by over 150 scientists sent to Robert Scott to protest what happened to Comer. As people pointed out on the original thread, this letter is a well reasoned argument against teaching the controversy since there is no real controversy at least not at the level suggested by ID proponents

Notable quote

For example, the Discovery Institute’s recent publication Exploring Evolution: The Arguments for and against Neo-Darwinism, which was written to facilitate classroom discussions of “weaknesses,” is demonstrably full of factual errors and logical fallacies.

Enjou

Dear Mr. Scott,

Thank you for your reply to the biologists’ letter concerning the TEA’s “neutrality” regarding evolution and intelligent design. I have forwarded your response to my colleagues. I believe I can speak for most of the faculty who signed the letter (now over 150), when I say that the work that you and the TEA do to strengthen K–12 education in Texas is appreciated. It is precisely because we recognize your efforts that we felt it would be helpful to contact you with our concerns as professional educators and researchers in the biological sciences.

Science has named Human Genetic Variation and Global warming ‘breakthroughs of the year’

Quite appropriate that two areas in which there exist a small but vocal minority of people who claim persecution, censorship and more just because the scientific community has weighed the evidence and found their observations lacking in scientific validity and relevance.

Less surprisingly, Uncommon Descent continues to vocally support the ‘runner up’ concepts, in the hope that perhaps a miracle may happen

Online Extras on Human Genetic Variation

Online Extras on Global Warming

A bit late but never too late

Eight Baylor professors join peers voicing support for evolution education Waco Tribune Dec 12, 2007

More than 100 biology faculty members from universities across Texas signed a letter sent Monday to state Education Commissioner Robert Scott saying Texas Education Agency employees should not have to remain neutral on evolution.

The letter can be found here at the Texas Citizens for Science website.

Evolution of vertebrate eyes

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Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

A while back, I summarized a review of the evolution of eyes across the whole of the metazoa — it doesn't matter whether we're looking at flies or jellyfish or salmon or shrimp, when you get right down to the biochemistry and cell biology of photoreception, the common ancestry of the visual system is apparent. Vision evolved in the pre-Cambrian, and we have all inherited the same basic machinery — since then, we've mainly been elaborating, refining, and randomly varying the structures that add functionality to the eye.

Now there's a new and wonderfully comprehensive review of the evolution of eyes in one specific lineage, the vertebrates. The message is that, once again, all the heavy lifting, the evolution of a muscled eyeball with a lens and retinal circuitry, was accomplished early, between 550 and 500 million years ago. Most of what biology has been doing since is tweaking — significant tweaking, I'm sure, but the differences between a lamprey eye and our eyes are in the details, not the overall structure.

Continue reading "Evolution of vertebrate eyes" (on Pharyngula)

William Dembski and Jonathan Wells authored the successor to “Of Pandas and People”, titled “The Design of Life”. The Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) released the book on November 19th. Since then, Dembski has made a point of bragging about five-star reviews on the The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence In Biological Systems Amazon.com website.

But that’s not all that the IDC advocates are doing concerning Amazon. They managed, for a time, to suppress a critical review by a Top 50 Amazon.com reviewer, John Kwok. For those who gave credence to the notion that IDC advocates were serious when they said that they wished to foster discussion and “teach the controversy”, this should be a reminder that actions do sometimes speak louder than words. Abbie Smith at ERV wrote an entertaining treatment of a number of issues involved here.

I’ve published book reviews before, primarily concerning things in the evolution/creation socio-political controversy. My review of Dembski’s “The Design Inference” back in 1999 even got notice in some of the antievolution venues as a serious review.

So on December 6th, I emailed the contact address for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) and requested a review copy of the new book by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, “The Design of Life”. I provided my work address at Michigan State University for shipping. So far, neither a review copy of the book nor any correspondence concerning my request has appeared there, nor even a note in email.

But apparently FTE does have a message for those it believes will provide critical reviews of their book: ‘Buy it yourself.’

Of course, not all of the reviews posted in the first month have been as exuberant as those above; some are venomous. We are receiving numerous requests for review copies from people we know intend to try to destroy it. (We do not intentionally send complimentary review copies to these people.) But we are greatly encouraged and delighted by the extremely positive reviews and accolades coming in from highly respected research scientists and science teachers across the country and from overseas.

I will be discussing the book’s contents in the future, probably on a shorter time-frame than Michael Behe’s prospective perspective on being a co-author on the book (testifying to that effect in 2005). But for now, I will just take up the ethical dimension of FTE’s actions here.

The DI’s Persecution Chic

The Discovery Institute is passing the collection plate and needs your money. Apparently they base their plea for help on one of the most ridiculous exaggerations you are ever likely to see:

As a regular Evolution News & Views visitor, you have been continually informed of the ways in which leading Darwinists have unleashed an unprecedented wave of persecution, propaganda, and paranoia in an effort to strangle an idea that they insist is already dead.

I treat this claim with all the respect it is due at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

Tangled Bank #95

The Tangled Bank

The latest edition of the Tangled Bank is at Ouroboros. And if that isn't enough science blogging for you, this has also been a good week for these other excellent carnivals:

Over the the “After the Bar Closes” forum, “Amadan” has a timely update of a favorite bit of nonsense. I’ve added URLs here and there to the original.

In anticipation of a special anniversary tomorrow…

I Am the Very Model of a C-Design-Proponentsist

[Note: Malicious allegations have been made that this work somehow plagiarises something by W.S. Gilbert. Nothing could be further from the truth and I emphatically state that I have nothing to apologise for. And I’m really sorry. Comments on this subject are now closed.]

I am the very model of a c-design-proponentsist
The diametric opposite of all that is materialist
My engineering cert allows me call myself a scientist -
We won’t discuss those classes in Biology I might have missed

Continue reading at the Austringer

No Compromise. I agree

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On UcD BarryA writes

But science does not work that way. Scientific conclusions rarely run along a continuum. They are discrete functions. Yes/No True/False In other words, there can be no compromise between truth and error because there is no middle ground between them. Therefore, pleas for “compromise” in the ID/NDE debate don’t make sense to me.

Since there are no scientific conclusions, or contributions from ID, it seems that NDE has won by default. Of course, the challenger was overheard bragging how it would defeat NDE in the weeks leading up to the ‘match’ but when it came to actually defending ID, it decided to withdraw. Sounds like ID to me.

What has ID done for science lately?

Father of ID Phillip Johnson agrees that ID has failed so far

I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world.

One in the eye for intelligent design

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We are all familiar with the creationist argument about the eye, an argument which Darwin already addressed in his original work. And while creationists are still in much of a denial about eye evolution, science keeps on closing gaps.

In the Australian a second paper addressing eye evolution is discussed.

Openlab 2007 We are at the submission deadline for The Open Laboratory: The Best Writing on Science Blogs 2007, edited by Bora and myself. Go here to submit quality science blog posts from 2007 before the deadline, Thursday, Dec 20th. Bora has a list of the current submissions, so if you seen any good posts not represented go ahead and submit them.

We are also looking for a good poem and comic to go along with the anthology.

Judging is already underway and it is going to be a tight fit, but I think that we will get the book out before the 2008 Science Blogging Conference.

Not this again…

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In South Carolina, things were mostly quiet after last year’s election and defeat of creationist candidate for state superintendent of education Karen Floyd, and the defeat of the pro-creationism language that the Discovery Institute tried to worm into the curriculum standards.

But you knew they wouldn’t give up. Now a young-earth creationist named Kristin Maguire has been elected as the chairperson of the State Board of Education. Her qualifications? She home-schooled her four children. And that’s it.

The South Carolinians for Science Education blog has more on this, both about Maguire’s election and about a new assault on the textbook selection process. Best stock up on the headache medicine now. It’s going to be a long 2008.

The Year in ID - 2007 Edition.

Twelve months ago I offered a roundup of the "advances" made by the intelligent design movement in 2006, a month-by-month roundup which differed significantly from the assessment of John West. Come on over to Stranger Fruit (where you can leave a comment) to read this year's roundup. See the Amazing Dembski make predictions that actually come to pass! Gasp at what we did not see from the ID movement!

spine_tease.jpg
Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

Those of you who have been pregnant, or have been a partner to someone who has been pregnant, are familiar with one among many common consequences: lower back pain. It's not surprising—pregnant women are carrying this low-slung 7kg (15lb) weight, and the closest we males can come to the experience would be pressing a bowling ball to our bellybutton and hauling it around with us everywhere we go. This is the kind of load that can put someone seriously out of balance, and one way we compensate for a forward-projecting load is to increase the curvature of our spines (especially the lumbar spine, or lower back), and throw our shoulders back to move our center of mass (COM) back.

Here's the interesting part: women have changed the shape of individual vertebrae to better enable maintenance of this increased curvature, called lordosis, and fossil australopithecines show a similar variation.

Continue reading "Load-bearing adaptation of women's spines" (on Pharyngula)

Texas-sized liar

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Take a look at this interview with Lizzette Reynolds, the Bushite behind the resignation of Chris Comer. The unbelievable claims come out in the second question.

Were you surprised she resigned?

Yes, because I had asked her supervisor to look into the e-mail issue. But I wasn't kept in the loop. I was at a meeting some time later when someone mentioned, "By the way, she (Chris Comer) is resigning today."

Oh, she was surprised? Lizzette Reynolds is the person who wrote this in response to the email:

This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities.

They're getting burned on this, which is why they're trying to back away with a pretense of wide-eyed innocence now. Keep the pressure on these dishonest anti-scientific frauds, Texas!

Hector Avalos sent me his response to the Discovery Institute's 'shocking' revelation that people had been discussing Guillermo Gonzalez's affiliation with Intelligent Design creationism before they denied him tenure. It's a classic pointless objection: of course they were, and of course his openly expressed, unscientific beliefs which were stated as a representative of ISU were a serious consideration. It does not speak well of the Discovery Institute that they had to cobble together quote-mines from the email to try and make a non-case for a non-issue.

Continue reading "Never trust a creationist ellipsis — Hector Avalos on the Gonzalez emails" (on Pharyngula)

Released Gonzalez e-mails lack context

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The Iowa State Daily has published a letter by Joerg Schmailian, Professor of Physics and Astronomy arguing the lack of context surrounding the emails released by the Discovery Institute on the Gonzalez tenure case:

In November 2005, I was part of a discussion with colleagues in the department of physics and astronomy that was concerned with the question of whether we should make a public statement that intelligent design is, in our view, not a viable way to pursue scientific research. Parts of this discussion were carried out via e-mail and portions of those e-mails were recently made available to the public through a request by the Discovery Institute, based on the Iowa open records law. In its Dec. 4 issue, the Daily printed parts of these e-mails. I feel more background information is needed to clarify this issue.

The Iowa Citizens for Science have a great press release up concerning the Gonzalez tenure case at ISU.

Iowa Citizens for Science, a grassroots group dedicated to improving public education, feels that the Discovery Institute and Guillermo Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the creationist think tank, are circumventing the normal scientific process to promote their religious ideology. Gonzalez and the DI have announced plans to sue Iowa State University, asserting that ISU violated Dr. Gonzalez’ First Amendment rights in denying his tenure application.

The claim that his rights were violated seems odd to many observers. “How can Gonzalez complain if his work on ID was considered?” wonders Dr. Tara Smith, president of Iowa Citizens for Science and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa. “If intelligent design is scientific, his department is entitled judge his work in that field. If ID is not science, it’s fair to question why their faculty member is spending so much of his time and resources on it. The claims of persecution issuing from the Discovery Institute and Dr. Gonzalez require that intelligent design be both science and religion. This isn’t about science, it’s about politics.”

Dembski on Forrest

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Has Forrest ever debated or had a substantive exchange with any ID proponent?

and

Ironically, last year around this time she published an essay in which she called me a coward.

Let’s look at the context and see if we can answer Dembski’s question.

Science literacy is increasingly seen as important for people to be effective participants in a society where the pace of scientific discovery and translation to products and processes is increased. Effective engagement with GM crops, stem cell therapies, burgeoning healthcare costs and global warming require a reasonable degree of science literacy.

The need for science literacy is emphasised by a recent post at Uncommon Descent by commentator Gil Dodgen, who makes this remarkable statement:

In the meantime, medical doctors should prescribe multiple antibiotics for all infections, since this will decrease the likelihood that infectious agents can develop resistance through stochastic processes. Had the nature of the limits of Darwinian processes been understood at the outset, the medical community would not have replaced one antibiotic with another in a serial fashion, but would have prescribed them in parallel.

As I’ve said before in a different context, to paraphrase Mr. Babbage[1], I cannot apprehend the confusion of mind that would result in the above statement. One would have to be ignorant of 60 years of biomedical research and medical practice to say that. Both Humble Monkey and The Sandwalk have already commented on this post, and it’s got a big helping of Respectful Insolence, but I want to discuss this from a pharmacological perspective.

Young Earth Rising

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In the first half of the 20th century creationism, at least when it had any scientific pretensions, tended to be of the old earth variety. And many American Christians, even rather fundamental ones, felt no need for science denial at all as Bowler reminds us. Instead, progressivism (“Mankind ever upward and onward”) was the order of the day in popular culture and to some extent in scientific thinking. Evolution was thought, even by some scientists, to include an innate drive toward progress, and this could easily be seen as God’s method.

By mid century progressivism had suffered two major blows. There had been two world wars, the first insane and the second not only that but starkly demonstrating man’s capacity for evil. The idea of inevitable progress seemed ludicrous. At the same time, Fisher’s mathematical basis for what came to be known as the Modern Synthesis in biology removed any hope for innate progress in evolution and replaced it with chance and selection. But for many believers, it just didn’t seem like God would do it that way.

Oops, someone pointed out to me that this publication preceded the DI’s press tour.

Poor Discovery Institute, after spending much time and effort on trying, unsuccessfully, to generate some media interest on the Gonzalez tenure case, all they got was a cynical response from Mac Johnson at the conservative site Human Events.com.

So in light of the issue’s new prominence and with a desire to improve the mental hygiene of others, I would just like to say that Intelligent Design is a really, really bad idea –scientifically, politically, and theologically. I say this as a dedicated conservative, who has on many occasions defended and espoused religion and religious conservatism. I also say it as a professional molecular biologist, who has worked daily (or at least week-daily) for years with biological problems to which the theory of evolution has contributed significant understanding – and to which Intelligent Design is incapable of contributing any understanding at all.

I am so amused. A creationist lost his job at Woods Hole, and he was a zebrafish developmental biologist. Hey, I know a little bit about that!

The creationist, Nathaniel Abraham, briefly held a post-doctoral position under Mark Hahn at Woods Hole. Here's the creationist's side:

Nathaniel Abraham filed a lawsuit earlier this week in US District Court in Boston saying that the Cape Cod research center dismissed him in 2004 because of his Christian belief that the Bible presents a true account of human creation.

Abraham, who is seeking $500,000 in compensation for a violation of his civil rights, says in the suit that he lost his job as a postdoctoral researcher in a biology lab shortly after he told his superior that he did not accept evolution as scientific fact.

And here's the scientist's side:

But on Nov. 17, Hahn asked him to resign, pointing out in the letter that Abraham should have known of evolution's centrality to the project because it was evident from the job advertisement and grant proposal.

". . . You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work," Hahn wrote in the letter, which the commission provided to the Globe. "This position is incompatible with the work as proposed to NIH and with my own vision of how it should be carried out and interpreted."

The commission [the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination] dismissed his complaint earlier this year. The commission said Abraham was terminated because his request not to work on evolutionary aspects of the project would be challenging for Woods Hole because the research was based on evolutionary theories.

Continue reading "Slackjawed creationist surprised at his own incompetence at a scientific job" (at Pharyngula)

As a follow up to Ethan's post on Gonzalez's publication drop - and since a loyal reader requested it - here is Michael Behe's publication record drop. Behe's productivity has taken a severe hit since he first got involved with "design theory" in 1991. One would imagine that if it was indeed a fruitful paradigm for solving biological problems then his productivity should in fact have increased!

Intelligent Design is a career-killer. There’s just no two ways about it. And not because of how peers treat the ID supporter; they throw their own productivity under the bus, to use Casey Luskin’s overworked cliche. We saw the same thing with Behe and Dembski. Behe has published ONE peer-reviewed paper in the last decade. And Dembski… well, does anybody even know where he works these days?

All hyperbole aside, let’s look at Gonzalez’s publication track record…

Continue reading at Neurotopia

Tangled Bank #94

The Tangled Bank

For some reason, I have been having difficulty getting through to the latest edition, but at last I have succeeded, and it was worth the effort. Behold, it is Tangled Bank #94!

The recent unpleasant affair at the Texas Education Agency, in which the director of the science curriculum, Chris Comer, was pressured to resign, was triggered by Comer forwarding an email announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest. Forrest is a philosopher of science, and one of our leading advocates in the ongoing fight for better science education in the face of the nonsense the creationists are promoting. She's also one of their critics the creationists most fear, so it's not surprising that her name would elicit knee-jerk panic.

Forrest has now issued a formal statement on the termination of Chris Comer. You can download the pdf from NCSE, or read it on the web. She doesn't pull any punches. Here's a taste, but you really should read the whole thing.

The incident now involving Ms. Comer exemplifies perfectly the reason my co-author Paul R. Gross and I felt that our book, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, had to be written. (http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com) By forcing Ms. Comer to resign, the TEA seems to have confirmed our contention that the ID creationist movement — a religious movement with absolutely no standing in the scientific world — is being advanced by means of power politics.

Casey Luskin is quoted in the Iowa State Daily as saying,

“Dr. Gonzalez is not teaching intelligent design in classes. The majority of his research is based on astronomy and cosmology. He has stellar reputation as cosmologist and astrologer. Why wouldn’t you want a great scientist like that on your staff?” Luskin said.

Update: Just after I posted this, I wrote Kyle Miller, lead author on the article. Kyle wrote me back. He says it was their error, and that they will be running a correction tomorrow. So it’s actually Miller and Boettcher’s slip, and there were two errors: the quote was actually from Rob Crowther, not Casey Luskin, and the error in copy editing.

Yesterday the Discovery Institute held a press conference at the capitol building in Des Moines, to announce Guillermo Gonzalez’s plans to sue Iowa State University over their decision to deny him tenure. Supposedly the lawsuit will be filed pending the rejection of an appeal to the Board of Regents, which is virtually guaranteed simply for the fact that the Regents typically uphold tenure decisions. Joining Casey Luskin, Rob Crowther, Gonzalez’s attorneys, and a few other DI folk was state Senator David Hartsuch (R-District 41).

The core of the DI’s assertion is that there were “secret tenure deliberations” aka a plan to oust Dr. Gonzalez because of his ID views.

Continue reading at Neurotopia.

By Marshall Berman, Kim Johnson and Dave Thomas

rip401.JPG

After producing division and confusion for more than two years in Rio Rancho (New Mexico) science classes, the Rio Rancho School Board formally terminated the ill-fated experiment known as “Policy 401.” First passed in August of 2005, the policy did not mention “Intelligent Design” (ID) by name, but was perceived by the community and press as favorable to ID and creationism arguments, and as encouraging discussion of these “alternatives” to evolution.

The Discovery Institute is currently making hay (again) over Iowa State’s decision to deny tenure to Discovery Institute Fellow Guillermo Gonzalez. They’ve held a press conference and issued a press release claiming to have proof that Intelligent Design was “the” issue that resulted in Gonzalez not receiving tenure. I’ve read the release, and I’m unconvinced.

For starters, their release relies heavily on fragmentary quotes taken from emails that they obtained through an open records inquiry. Given the notorious track record of the entire anti-evolution movement when it comes to quoting scientists, I’m somewhat reluctant to accept the quotes provided at face value, particularly since the DI has not made the full text of the sources available for examination. Even if all of the quotes the DI uses do accurately capture the spirit of the full emails they are taken from (and does anyone want to offer me odds on that), I still don’t think they’ve made their point. At most, they’ve demonstrated that Intelligent Design was a factor in the decision. Since people who were involved in making the decision have already said as much publicly, that’s not exactly a shocking revelation.

But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Intelligent Design was the overriding factor in the tenure decision. Heck, let’s assume that it was the only factor that came into play in the tenure process. Let’s pretend, in short, that the Discovery Institute has actually provided overwhelming evidence to support their argument. Let’s set aside the facts and evidence that the Discovery Institute’s using to support their claims, and look instead at the truly strange nature of the claims themselves.

Read more at The Questionable Authority, where comments may be left:

By Brandon Haught, Communications Director of Florida Citizens for Science.

Before I begin, let me give a brief recap of what’s going on for anyone just joining us. Florida’s state science standards for public schools is currently going through a revision process. The current standards are a miserable mess, having been given a grade of F by the Fordham Institute. The standards don’t mention the word evolution, instead referring to this important biology concept as simply “changes over time.” The draft of the new standards feature evolution as one of the major concepts students must know. The draft standards are now going through a public review period. Anyone can go to the website and rate/comment on the standards. Of course, the inclusion of evolution is causing quite a stir. Several newspaper articles, editorials, letters to the editors, online forum posts, etc. have been keeping track of this. The public comment period closes about mid-December. Then the writing committee will make any needed revisions to the draft. Finally, the state board of education will vote on whether to accept the new standards.

That is just the short version of what’s going on. For more details, feel free to browse through this blog’s posts over the past few weeks. Of special note is the concern over the Polk County board of education expressing displeasure over evolution in the standards.

More on Gonzalez tenure denial

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The Des Moines Register has an article about emails received under the freedom of information act.

Intelligent design theory influenced ISU tenure vote by Lisa Rossi, December 1, 2007, The Des Moines Register

Iowa State University professor Guillermo Gonzalez’s support of the theory of intelligent design damaged his prospects for tenure long before his peers voted on the job promotion, according to e-mails from at least one professor in his department to those who decided Gonzalez’s tenure request.

Teach the controversy, except in Texas?

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The New York Times has an article on the firing of Comer

Why is it that ID is all in favor of teaching the controversy except when the controversy involves showing the history of ID, its demise at Dover, by one of the expert witnesses of the trial?

Will Ben Stein feature Comer in his upcoming movie “Expelled”?

Can biology do better than faith?

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In Can biology do better than faith? Edward O Wilson describes Intelligent Design quite accurately as

They support the alternative explanation of intelligent design. The reasoning they offer is not based on evidence but on the lack of it. The formulation of intelligent design is a default argument advanced in support of a non sequitur. It is in essence the following: there are some phenomena that have not yet been explained and that (most importantly) the critics personally cannot imagine being explained; therefore there must be a supernatural designer at work. The designer is seldom specified, but in the canon of intelligent design it is most certainly not Satan and his angels, nor any god or gods conspicuously different from those accepted in the believer’s faith.

Dembski is not amused by Wilson joining the ever growing group of people who have come to understand why Intelligent Design is scientifically infertile as it is at best a position of ignorance.

Eugenics and the Christian evangelicals

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For a more in depth background see Evangelical Engagements With Eugenics, 1900-1940 by Dennis L. Durst

But on the whole the evangelical mainstream in the decades following the turn of the century appeared apathetic, acquiescent, or at times downright supportive of the eugenics movement. In this article, I argue that the evangelicals often accepted eugenics as a part of a progressive, reformist vision that uncritically fused the Kingdom of God with modern civilization.

In Christianity Today, Amy Laura Hall has written an interesting article titled “For Shame? Why Christians should welcome, rather than stigmatize, unwed mothers and their children.”

Amy points out the attitude of Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood on charity toward the poor

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, had a way with words. In 1922, she wrote a book chapter titled “The Cruelty of Charity.” Charity toward the poor, especially toward poor immigrants, she opined, only “encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others, which brings with it … a dead weight of human waste.”

When everything else fails…

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The Discovery Institute, after having realized that Intelligent Design is doomed to remain scientifically infertile and vacuous and after their devastating loss at the Dover trial, seems to have retreated to their fundamental opposition to materialism. Hopelessly confused by Phil Johnson’s misunderstanding of methodological and philosophical naturalism, the DI seems to be intent to blame evil Darwinists for immoral behaviors such as eugenics.

Let me start of by pointing out that any such attempt is doomed from the beginning for the simple reason that the Discovery Institute and other ID Creationists have claimed that Darwinism cannot provide foundation for morality, or in other words, Darwinism cannot serve as a principle on which to build a decision of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’. This means that Eugenics cannot have a foundation in amoral scientific concepts lest there exists an external principle on which to base the decision as to what is good and bad for society.

People should therefor not be surprised that eugenics has been a principle which preceded Darwinism. Equally unsurprised will be the well informed readers who are familiar with the eugenic history of Christian evangelicals in the United States.

But I digress. The Discovery Institute, after having come to the inevitable conclusion that Intelligent Design is likely to remain without scientific relevance has changed its approach. While I predict that their attempts will become an ever greater disaster than their attempts to introduce the concept of Intelligent Design into schools, there is an even greater concern. Namely by violating St Augustine’s fair warnings about Christians saying foolish things (about science), an observer may easily come to reject the whole teaching of Christianity as a similarly foolish enterprise.

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