December 2008 Archives

A Quick Court Note

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A little something to start the New Year off. Via TaxProf we learn that Kent and Jo Hovind’s appeal of their convictions on a range of charges associated with their handling of his ministry’s money and tax evasion has been denied by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. On a fast scan of the ruling (pdf), it appears that the appeal failed on all the grounds it alleged.

Hat tip to Glenn Branch, veteran creationist spotter.

Draconivis metallorum

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Photo by Derek Wilson

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Draconivis metallorum–Snow Dragon of Mines, Golden, Colorado. Latin courtesy of Reed Cartwright. Sculptor unknown.

Luskin pwned, again!

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At the Loom, Carl Zimmer exposes yet another hilarious example of vacuity behind the statements of Casey Luskin.

What a way to end a great 2008

Casey Luskin Wrote:

“Bicycles have two wheels. Unicycles, having only one wheel, are missing an obvious component found on bicycles. Does this imply that you can remove one wheel from a bicycle and it will still function? Of course not. Try removing a wheel from a bike and you’ll quickly see that it requires two wheels to function. The fact that a unicycle lacks certain components of a bicycle does not mean that the bicycle is therefore not irreducibly complex.”

It took Zimmer a few seconds of searching on Google to find why we should not take Luskin’s ‘arguments’ too seriously (and why Intelligent Design is doomed to remain scientifically vacuous).

Enjoy reading yet another reason why we should all pray for continued employment of Casey Luskin

Eumorpha fasciatus

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Eumorpha fasciatus on Mikania scandens, central Florida

Congratulations to Jeff McKee, recently elected AAAS Fellow

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Jeff McKee, professor of anthropology at the Ohio State University, was recently elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the anthropology section. According to the linked press release, the honor was “For distinguished contributions to paleoanthropology, evolutionary biology, and science education.”

That last, “science education,” has to refer at least in part to Jeff’s leading role in the intelligent design creationism wars at the Ohio State Board of Education from 2002 to 2006. Jeff was one of the stalwarts in that battle, standing firm in the face of unflattering comments from creationist former members Deborah Owens-Fink and Father Michael Cochran. Jeff was also a central figure in exposing the attempted subversion of the Ohio State University’s degree granting process by packing a creationist’s doctoral committee (see here and here for accounts).

Jeff is a distinguished paleoanthropologist specializing in human evolution, and has made significant contributions to both the academic discipline and to science education. And he’s a very nice guy, to boot. Many thanks, Jeff! And kudos to AAAS for recognizing a man who has been a strong defender of honest science in the public schools.

It’s not just General Motors

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While this may seem off-topic for PT, it’s an important issue that is directly relevant to science education and research. In the midst of the current severe economic downturn, all segments of our society are feeling knock-on effects. College and university endowments have taken substantial hits. We hear about the big ones: Harvard’s $36 billion endowment taking a 25% (at least) hit, and Yale taking (at least) a similar loss. I say “at least” because a significant proportion of those endowments are invested in illiquid instruments for which pricing is at best chancy and at worst blind guesswork. The “Yale model” of endowment portfolio management has been adopted by a number of institutions, and they have to be in similar trouble.

Smaller private institutions whose operating budgets are more heavily dependent on tuition are also having significant problems. Beloit College has axed 40 positions because of a 36-student enrollment shortfall. My own institution, Kenyon College in Ohio, has suspended construction on several projects and has frozen hiring. More pain is likely to come as donors retrench and parents redirect their childrens’ college choices based more on cost and less on perceived educational advantage. And while public universities have a temporary economic advantage, that will not last as state aid is inevitably cut as a consequence of decreasing tax revenues.

The problems extend beyond that. Nature News reports that the Chicago Field Museum’s endowment has fallen by at least 36%, and it is cutting positions and reducing research support. Its unrestricted operating budget is being cut 15% and early retirement packages are being offered to 68 people, including 15% of its scientists. Neil Shubin’s position as provost has been eliminated. The same is happening elsewhere, I’m sure.

It’s tempting to imagine that with the massive amounts of federal bailout money already poured into financial institutions and the prospect of even more massive amounts being spent in an economic stimulus package under the incoming Obama administration, there will be a return to the good old days of the 1990s and early 2000s sometime in the not-too-far-distant future. I think that’s a fool’s hope. Recent U.S. economic growth has been built on a string of bubbles over the last two decades, the most recent the real estate and mortgage debt bubble, and I do not believe that there is the prospect of another stretch of bubble-based growth in the foreseeable future. If the last two decades are interpreted as “normality,” we will not return to normality for years, if not decades. The good times will not roll again in my lifetime.

As a consequence we need to carefully think through how we will fund both science education and basic scientific research in a considerably straitened economic context. It is not clear to me when we will have once again have the resources that we have had for the last several decades. Nor is it clear how our research and educational institutions will adapt without cutting to the bone. But we need to think about it and talk about it, and scientists and science supporters must be actively and effectively involved in that conversation. We can’t sit back and passively hope for better times.

Oh, and Happy Monkey to all.

Happy Saint Stephen’s Day!

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santa

Happy Saint Stephen’s Day!

The IDEA obituary

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On the Evolution List, Allen MacNeill announces that The “Intelligent Design” Movement on College and University Campuses is Dead

How did he establish the untimely passing away of an IDEA? By checking on the status of the 30+ IDEA chapters at various universities, colleges and high schools. While absence of activity is no evidence of its passing away, I encourage PT readers to do the research to determine the status of these IDEA chapters using independent methods.

Schlumbergera bridgesii

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Schlumbergera bridgesii–Christmas cactus. Cactus courtesy of Sturtz and Copeland Florists and Garden Center, Boulder, Colorado.

The “fine-tuning” argument is a version of the creationist interpretation of the antropic coincidences argument. Its essence is an asseveration that the physical constants must have values within extremely narrow limits in order for life to exist. Since the constants indeed have such values as is necessary for life existence, those values, according to creationists, point to the intelligent design of the universe. Many counter-arguments have been suggested refuting the “fine-tuning” argument. Mathematician Mark Frank suggests one more counter-argument from an angle somehow differing from those suggested hitherto. The full text of Frank’s essay can be seen here.

As everyone knows by now, President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen his “friend” Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Mr. Warren is not just opposed to marriage between homosexuals, but is also an evolution denier. According to The New York Times, Mr. Obama defended his choice with these words:

That’s part of the magic of this country, is [sic] that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated [sic]. That’s hopefully going to be a spirit that carries over into my administration.

Mr. Warren’s position on marriage between homosexuals is now widely known, but according to Sarah Posner, writing in The Nation magazine, Warren is also a creationist:

Warren, a creationist, believes that homosexuality disproves evolution; he told CNN’s Larry King in 2005, “If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest[,] then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn’t reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that [sic] homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool.”

Sic, sic, sic. I’ll grant that appointing a creationist to give the invocation is not exactly the same as appointing him science adviser, but if it represents the “spirit” of Mr. Obama’s administration, then I am not, shall we say, optimistic that Mr. Obama is truly the agent for change that he purports to be. His science appointments, I thought, have mostly been good ones, but I am utterly appalled by his inviting a homophobic creationist to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

Three Years Already? Merry Kitzmas!

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Can you believe it’s been three years since Judge Jones issued a devastating anti-“Intelligent Design” ruling?

Ah, the memories of Kitzmas past. Remember “Waterloo in Dover”? “Cdesign proponentsists.”? The “breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision”?

Even though the Creationist Choir says that Kitzmiller v. Dover is “No big deal”, it’s obvious they’re still smarting over their wounds.

Anyway, “Intelligent Design” is so yesterday. Everyone knows Strengths and Weaknesses is the Big New Thing.

Merry Kitzmas, everyone!

On Deltoid, Tim Lambert explores the similarities between the Discovery Institute’s list of ‘dissenting scientists’ and Inhofe’s list of ‘global warming deniers’.

Inhofe’s list of 650 scientists that supposedly dispute the consensus on AGW reminded me of another list: The Discovery Institute’s list of scientists who dissent from Darwinism, so I thought I’d compare the two lists.

First, numbers. The Discovery Institute’s list has 751 names, while Inhofe’s has only 604. (Not “More Than 650” as he claims – there are many names appearing more than once.)

Second, how do you get on the list? Well, you have to sign up to get on the Discovery Institute’s list, but Inhofe will add you to his list if he thinks you’re disputing the global warming consensus and he won’t take you off, even if you tell him to do so. Yes, there is someone less honest than the Discovery Institute.

Third, what sort of scientists are on the lists? Well, the Discovery Institute list has a distinct shortage of biologists, while Inhofe’s is lacking in climate scientists. It does have a lot of meteorologists, but these are people who present weather forecasts on TV, not scientists who study climate.

There are 5 ‘scientists’ who show up on both list, one of them is…

Carnegiea gigantea

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Carnegiea gigantea — Saguaro cactus, Superstition Mountains, Arizona.

Tik Tik Tik Tik Tiktaalik

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Texas Op-Ed: Ain’t no religion here

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John Pieret calls attention to an Op-Ed piece in the San Antonio Express-News. It’s by a representative of the San Antonio Bible Based Sciences Association, and argues that teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution is perfectly appropriate.

The Op-Ed then lists some of the so-called “scientific weaknesses of evolution,” and they are a litany of the worst creationist arguments, including these old chestnuts:

We stand ready to go to any venue you invite us to, and can present several hours of scientific evidence which supports creation. Included in these will be the fact that evolution violates the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics, as well as the Law of Biogenesis.

It goes on

We can show you creation evidence in the fields of microbiology, genetics, probability, biochemistry, biology, geology and physics which support creation and undermine evolution.

In simpler terms, all of modern science is bunkum.

In an earlier essay, I argued that the process(es) by which symbionts become organelles constitute macroevolutionary change. While this was discussed largely in the context of a fascinating long-term experiment begun by K. W. Jeon and colleagues in the 1960’s, it is also relevant to the origins of more identifiable organelles such as mitochondria and chloroplasts. Which brings me to another matter, a line of experimentation that shows yet another case whereby macroevolutionary change can be studied by direct experimentation, almost in real time.

The progression from symbiont to organelle involves many steps or processes. Among these is a migration of genes from the symbiont genome to the host genome. The end results of such migrations may be seen in the genomes of modern eukaryotes; thus, nuclear genomes are “littered” with genes that are derived from prokaryotic ancestors, but are expressed as eukaryotic genes and whose protein products end up in the organelle. Attendant with such migrations have been a number a number of changes, modifications that would permit the new nuclear gene to be expressed, and its protein product to be transported from the cytoplasm into the organelle.

Until recently, studies of these migrations have been matters of sequence comparisons and analyses. These approaches are very informative, and have told us about the ancestry of the relevant genes. However, for the most part, matters of mechanism have been harder nuts to crack, largely because it had been assumed that migratory events occur on an evolutionary time scale, and thus that they would be unlikely to be caught “in the act”. Recent studies reveal that this is not the case. Briefly, it is now known that gene migration from organelle to nucleus can be observed and studied in real time, and that questions pertaining to the “activation” of organellar genes after migration to the nucleus can be asked (and answered). In other words, this sort of macroevolutionary change can be studied as it occurs.

There is more to this story, some of which may be found here, where comments may also be left. (As a further teaser, I would note that this phenomenon impacts the field of biotechnology and GMOs.) The bottom line is simple, though - macroevolutionary changes involving gene migration can be studied in real time, once again putting the lie to the ID/antievolutionist assertion that macroevolution cannot be addressed experimentally.

Beavers of the Gaps

There’s a very interesting article over at Uncommon Descent about beavers, and the things that they do. I’m not entirely sure why they posted the article - Barry seems to be trying to make the point that because Beavers clearly can commit criminal acts but just as clearly can’t form criminal intent, their brains are different from humans, and there’s therefore something “non-materialist” and special about the human brain. I’d like to take a look at the same story, but with a slightly different focus.

Here’s the story:

Green campaigners called in police after discovering an illegal logging site in a nature reserve - and rounded up a gang of beavers.

Environmentalists found 20 neatly stacked tree trunks and others marked for felling with notches at the beauty-spot at Subkowy in northern Poland.

But police followed a trail left where one tree had been dragged away - and found a beaver dam right in the middle of the river. A police spokesman said: “The campaigners are feeling pretty stupid. There’s nothing more natural than a beaver.”

Let’s look at this story from the perspective of detecting design. That’s a topic that’s particularly relevant right now, given that Dembski himself has recently abandoned, then abandoned his abandonment of, the explanatory filter.

ZooBorns

Want a little pick me up for the holidays? Check out ZooBorns, a weblog devoted entirely to unbearably cute pictures of newborn animals at zoos.

Amylase and human evolution

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Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

I made a mistake that was quickly corrected by a correspondent. Yesterday, in writing about copy number variants in human genes, I used the example of the amylase gene on chromosome 1, which exists in variable numbers of copies in human populations, and my offhand remark was that the effect is "nothing that we can detect", but that maybe people with extra copies would be "especially good at breaking down french fries". Well, it turns out that we can detect this, that there was even a very cool study of this enzyme published last year, and that the ability to break down complex starches rapidly may have been a significant factor in human evolution.

So of course I have to tell you all about this now.

Evolution Education: Evolution of the Eye Special Issue

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One of our strategies in the defense of science and the Enlightenment (yes, Ken Miller’s Only a Theory is having an effect on me) has to be to increase the level of scientific knowledge among educators, especially secondary school teachers, and to show how much we actually know about how evolution works to produce complicated organs. One of the canonical complicated organs, the vertebrate eye, is a long-time favorite of creationists and IDists. They happily quote Darwin’s notorious introductory sentence about it:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.

But then they ignore his answer to the problem in the next sentence:

Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.

Now an outstanding resource to support evolutionary claims about eye evolution is available. A special issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, which is under the general editorship of Gregory and Niles Eldredge, is available free online. The special issue was edited by T. Ryan Gregory, who also wrote the Introduction to the issue. It includes 11 articles of original research and reviews, three on curriculum possibilities, and a book review. All told it is an excellent resource.

I’ve been dealing with creationists for a long time now, and I thought that I’d gotten over being surprised by dishonest behavior in their ranks. In fact, I thought I’d gotten over it even when I’m on the receiving end of the false witness, and when the person dishing it out is someone who really should know better. As it turns out, I might not have quite as far over it as I thought.

As regular readers know, Dr. Michael Egnor is one of the more impressively credentialed denizens of the Discovery Institute’s media complaints blog. He has decades of experience as a neurosurgeon. He’s on the faculty at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, where he serves as a professor of neurosurgery. And, based on the level of intellectual integrity that he just demonstrated, he’s not someone I would trust to train a dog, much less a doctor.

That’s a harsh statement, I know, but I just got through reading his response to my recent critique of some of his Discovery Institute ramblings. Or, rather, his response to what he says was my recent critique. It was actually an interesting experience. He managed to take what I wrote so far out of context, and distort it so thoroughly, that I actually had problems recognizing some of the quotes as being my own work.

I may (or may not) deal with the nonexistent scientific merit of Dr. Egnor’s reply later on. I’m not even going to try and catalogue all of the cases where Egnor was less than honest in his characterization of my writing. Instead, I’m simply going to highlight the most egregious case of flat-out, nose-growing, pants-on-fire lying.

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

Hemaris diffinis

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Hemaris diffinis — Snowberry Clearwing moth feeding on milkweed flowers, Ohio

Civil War

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I snapped this on my cell phone camera while I was home in Oregon for Thanksgiving. This doesn’t seem to happen in Berkeley for some reason (perhaps we’re hopeless), but in several other places when I have been to large football games, several groups of protestors/preachers will be standing near the entrances with signs and megaphones yelling at people that the end is coming, repent or go to hell, homosexuality is a sin, etc.

In this case I was attending the Civil War game between the Oregon State University Beavers and the University of Oregon Ducks. The Beavers, from Corvallis, my home town, were poised to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 44 years if they could just beat the arch-nemesis Ducks. Many people carried roses into the game.

Anyway, on the way in, this girl and her father were holding signs (not shouting for once) and passing out literature. I asked permission from the father (and the girl) to take the photo; the father agreed as long as I took some of the literature. It’s a great photo for anyone wondering why creationism continues to persist in the culture.

I did not repent of evolution, and the Beavers and their Rose Bowl hopes were mercilessly crushed, at home, 65-38. Correlation or causation? We report, you decide.

Some of you may remember that several years ago that Britten (2002) argued that human-chimp divergence was 5% not ~1.2%. (See this press release for a refresher.) Of course, creationists jumped on this research and began harping that the more scientists looked, the more distant humans and chimps were. This is important to them because the number one rule of creationism is “no matter what, humans are not related to any other living creatures,” which is so difficult to maintain in our age of science and education.—Amusingly, humans and chimps are so similar to one another that creationists cannot create a consistent definition of “created kinds” that makes humans special and lumps all the boring animals together.

Britten (2002) derived his 5% divergence metric by considering the lengths of insertions and deletions (indels) along with point substitutions between human and chimp genomes. This is unlike other estimates that just consider the number of point substitutions that have occurred between the two species and find ~1.2% divergence. At the time I commented that these two numbers—1.2% and 5%—could not be compared because they are different metrics. Additionally, Britten’s metric is probably unfairly upweighting the contribution of indels because a single event can add or remove multiple residues at a time.

A recent study of mine, which was not directed at Bitten’s work, has found that it is actually worse than that. Simply put, the total length of indels separating humans and chimps is unrelated to the evolutionary divergence between them. This arises because the variance of indel length is “nearly-infinite”, which causes nonconservation of average indel length. Therefore, two pairs of species, equally divergent evolutionarily, can and probably will have very different proportions of nucleotides belonging to indels. One pair might be 5% divergent and the other 1.5% divergent, including indels, without any underlying change in the evolutionary process or time since speciation.

The upside is that traditional substitution based evolutionary distances are unaffected and can still be used to properly estimate the evolutionary divergence between species.

Vindication

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I’ve been saying that there were problems in William Dembski’s “explanatory filter” for a long, long time. Dembski has finally admitted that was the case.

(Original post at the Austringer.)

Readers from waaaay back may recall an event I helped out with a few years ago, bringing together scientists, philosophers, and our resident IDist to discuss evolution and intelligent design. One of the speakers was University of Iowa professor Mark Blumberg, a colleague in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Blumberg also happens to be a prolific author, and has just released his third book in 4 years: “Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell us About Development and Evolution.”

As if that wasn’t enough (and all of this while maintaining a very active laboratory, serving as Editor-in-Chief of Behavioral Neuroscience, and as President of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology–and presumably sleeping at some point), he’s also now getting his feet wet as a blogger, discussing the legacy of Richard Goldschmidt, and the “bridgeless gaps” between species–and between evolutionary biologists. Stop by and welcome him to the author side of the blogosphere (he’s been a reader for awhile), and look for a review of “Freaks of Nature” here at some point in the future.

Roger Ebert on Expelled

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Two thumbs way, way up. That’s my review of the review, of course. Not Ebert’s review of the movie. Here’s a nice quote for you:

This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion.

Someone should probably swing by Disco with a mop and clean up all the exploded head debris.

(HT: Bad Astronomy)

Dmanisi and Answers in Genesis

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Recently, I blogged about the newly discovered skeletal bones of the Dmanisi hominids (Lordkipanidze et al. 2007, Gibbons 2007, Lieberman 2007), and the Discovery Institute’s response to them. (In a nutshell, Casey Luskin of the DI attempted to argue that the Dmanisi hominids were apes, an argument that is untenable for any number of reasons).

I know of only one other creationist discussion of the Dmanisi skeletons, in an article by Answers in Genesis (AIG) (scroll down to the 2nd item). It is fascinating to observe that AIG has decided that the Dmanisi hominids are humans, in contrast to Luskin’s opinion that they were probably apes. If either side is right, the other must be hopelessly incompetent (not excluding, of course, the possibility that both are incompetent).

It’s worth noting that AIG also disagrees with their own “expert” on human evolution, Marvin Lubenow. Lubenow is the author of Bones of Contention (2nd edition, 2004), the leading creationist book on human evolution. It is enthusiastically praised by creationists, and sold and recommended by AIG, who call it “the leading creationist work in fossil study today”. Lubenow’s book doesn’t have any discussion of the Dmanisi skulls (the skeletal bones were not then known), but he does put the largest of the 3 Dmanisi skulls in his list of H. erectus fossils (which he considers human, p.350), and the smaller 2 Dmanisi skulls in his list of H. habilis fossils (p.352), which he considers to be apes.

So I have a question for Answers in Genesis. Why do they say that the smaller Dmanisi skulls belong to H. erectus and are human, if the man they recognize as the creationist expert on human evolution thinks they are apes?

In justifying their diagnosis, AIG quotes one of their other articles on human evolution, which claims:

Creationist Evolution in Texas: Updated

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Update above the fold

The Texas Freedom Network sent a memo to journalists and bloggers today with some additional information (original TFN blog post about the creationist claims). TFN identifies specific instances where Don McElroy McLeroy, Chair ot the Texas State Board of Education, claimed that neither he nor any member of the Board supported the teaching of intelligent design creationism and that their machinations over the science standards has nothing to do with religion. For example, McElroy McLeroy claimed

I don’t know of a single board member that has ever advocated teaching creationism, teaching ‘intelligent design’ or teaching supernatural explanations in the science classroom.

(Audio of the November 19 hearing, Committee of the Full Board Part D, at around 1 hour 45 minutes.) That’s flatly contradicted by the “Strongly Favor” responses McElroy McLeroy and the other creationist Board members gave to the Free Market Foundation’s questionnaire.

More incredible given McElroy McLeroy’s claim above, as recently as August of this year McElroy McLeroy himself explicitly argued for the inclusion of supernatural explanations in science. In an opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman on August 2. 2008, McElroy McLeroy argued (pdf):

For the supernaturalist, the phrase ‘natural explanations’ does not just undermine his view of science but actually excludes it by definition. If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth–not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.

Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.

And so it has: McElroy McLeroy seems not to have noticed that the testable claims of supernaturalism have been uniformly contradicted by the evidence. For example, creationist claims about the age of the earth are false (McElroy McLeroy is a young earth creationist).

I can’t decide if McElroy McLeroy knows he’s lying or is simply incapable of remembering his own claim made in writing just a few months ago. But then, is anyone surprised? Lying in the service of what is perceived as a higher purpose is evident in the circles he frequents, and I suppose that after a while it becomes so routine as to be unnoticeable to oneself.

Late edit In a comment below Joshua Zelinsky notes that he blogged on another more recent McLeroy example.

Original Post below the fold

Boisea trivittata

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BoxElderBug.jpg

Boisea trivittata – Box elder bug, Boulder, Colorado.

The radiation of deep sea octopuses

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Last week’s Friday Cephalopod actually has an interesting story behind it. It was taken from a paper that describes the evolutionary radiation of deep-sea cephalopods.

First, a little background in geological history. Antarctica is a special case, in which a major shift in its climate occurred in the last 50 million years. If you look at a map, you’ll notice that Antarctica comes very close to the southern tip of South America; 50 million years ago, they were fully connected, and they only separated relatively recently due to continental drift.

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