January 2009 Archives

Durston’s devious distortions

| 181 Comments

A few people (actually, a lot of people) have written to me asking me to address Kirk Durston’s probability argument that supposedly makes evolution impossible. I’d love to. I actually prepared extensively to deal with it, since it’s the argument he almost always trots out to debate for intelligent design, but — and this is a key point — Durston didn’t discuss this stuff at all! He brought out a few of the slides very late in the debate when there was no time for me to refute them, but otherwise, he was relying entirely on vague arguments about a first cause, accusations of corruption against atheists, and very silly biblical nonsense about Jesus. So this really isn’t about revisiting the debate at all — this is the stuff Durston sensibly avoided bringing up in a confrontation with somebody who’d be able to see through his smokescreen.

If you want to see Durston’s argument, it’s on YouTube. I notice the clowns on Uncommon Descent are crowing that this is a triumphant victory, but note again — Durston did not give this argument at our debate. In a chance to confront a biologist with his claims, Durston tucked his tail between his legs and ran away.

Mike Majerus passed away

| 24 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

I am shocked and very saddened to have just gotten the news that Michael E. N. Majerus, Cambridge lepidopterist and world expert on the peppered moth and the evolution of melanism (and many other topics, e.g. ladybirds), has unexpectedly died after a short illness. This is very hard to understand, as he was quite young and in the midst of a very productive career.

New Scientist ignores its own story.

| 71 Comments

The kerfuffle over New Scientist’s recent story – “Darwin was wrong about the tree of life” – has stirred the science blogosphere. The author of the article, Graham Lawton, has popped up on various critical blogs attempting to defend (sort of) the title and content of his article. (See John Pieret’s directory to the critical posts, and Bora’s similar directory and snark).

In that linked post Pieret points out that the New Scientist article has already apparently been cited by a creationist Texas Board of Education member in support of her proposal to weaken the Texas science standards (see here for the original story):

Barbara Cargill, a Republican who supported the weaknesses requirement, said there have been “significant challenges” to the theory of evolution and she cited a recent news article in which a European scientist disputed Darwin’s “tree of life” showing common ancestors for all living things.

What’s even more entrancing, Pieret notes that New Scientist reported on the same creationist proposal, but somehow neglected to mention Cargill’s implicit citation of Lawton’s “Darwin Was Wrong” story as support for her proposal.

Where is Graham Lawton these days? Busily showing that Galileo was wrong when he thought there were just four moons of Jupiter, or that the earth isn’t really round but is an oblate spheroid?

Added in edit: Reading Pieret’s post more carefully, I find that he borrowed the directory of critical posts from Adrian Thysse, to whose post and blog I commend your attention.

PSSpurpletix.jpg

Unfortunately, it was one of these tickets. Oh well…

Gorilla beringei

| 20 Comments

Photo courtesy of Kelly Lyon, http://kellylyonphotography.com.

GorillaThought.jpg

Gorilla beringei–Eastern lowland gorilla.

At the Christian Today website we learn how the Creationist in Texas have been defeated, although they did manage to get some amendments approved which undoubtably will be abused by some.

The scientists, apparently familiar with the Discovery Institute’s desperate attempts after the Dover failure, observed that

Over 800 scientists in Texas have signed a statement to “encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to ‘strengths and weaknesses’” of evolution - references, they say, that politicians “have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses.”

I rediscovered a 1995 article by creationist paleontologist Kurt Wise in response to a question I got this morning. I discovered to my surprise that the article is online, but, probably because almost no one reads creationist articles, no one had commented on it.

Wise basically gives away the whole game by conceding that the fossil record does contain numerous examples of transitional series bridging major transitions. His only qualm is in the very small species-to-species transitions where (like Gould, his PhD advisor) he says the fossil record has a more punctuated pattern. (As far as I’ve heard, scientific meta-analyses are about split 50-50 across various groups about whether the fossil record is punctuated or smooth at this level; at any rate, these small differences between species should be irrelevant to creationists, since this level of change is well within the “microevolution within a kind” (usually a taxonomic family or so) which creationists readily accept.)

A scanned PDF of the article is online here. Click the “Ape-men, bird-lizards, and walking whales” circle and a link to the article comes up. After reading the article, one can’t help saying, “Why don’t you just GIVE UP already!!” Of course, we know the reason why: Kurt Wise has forthrightly stated that his adherence to Biblical literalism comes first, and if the physical evidence is against creationism, so much the worse for the evidence. This is why Richard Dawkins dubbed Wise “an honest creationist.”

A passage from the article below the fold:

The Trouble With Science Journalism

One of the great frustrations of science journalism is its tendency to sensationalize every small advance into a worldview shattering revolution. As a case in point, consider this article, from the current issue of New Scientist magazine.

The magazine's cover depicts a plush, green tree bearing the words “Darwin Was Wrong.” As P.Z. Myers has noted, it is an annoying sign of creationist influence that revisions in a 150 year old theory are considered cover-worthy. Larry Moran makes a similar point in this post.

Things get worse, oh so much worse, when you read the awful article itself. Never have you seen a science writer try so hard to make so big a deal from such meager materials. It turns out the breathaking news is that horizontal gene transfer among single-celled organisms means that the tree metaphor of evolution does not work so well for the earliest stages of life's history. The article does point to a few reasons why the tree metaphor may be problematic for certain aspects of plant and animal evolution as well, but this too is mostly familiar stuff.

Over at EvolutionBlog I offer some further thoughts on all that is wrong with this article. Comments can be left there.

By Josh Rosenau

In November, the Texas Board of Education met to consider their new science standards. As I’ve mentioned a major point of contention is a reference in the current standards to “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific explanations, a concept only ever applied to evolution, and without any clear explanation of what it means.

In the course of 6 hours of testimony, witnesses constantly asked what these “weaknesses” were, and got no clarity. Finally, at an ungodly hour, Cynthia Dunbar (the one who thinks public schools are evil and that President Obama is a s3kr1t Mussulman) gave her explanation. In the course of doing so, she perpetuated blatant falsehoods about a Nobel Prize-winning doctor.

Mammillaria grahamii

| 30 Comments
BarrelCactus.jpg

Mammillaria grahamii — Superstition Mountains, Arizona.

I just got a notice from Michael Zimmerman of The Clergy Letter Project that the Project has developed a new Web page, Teach Them Science. The Web page was developed in conjunction with the Center for Inquiry Austin, and was released now “because the Texas State Board of Education is poised to vote on new science standards for the State of Texas.” Professor Zimmerman adds that the Web page contains “an enormous amount of information about the evolution/creation controversy on it.”

Professor Zimmerman continues,

Although a committee of teachers and scientists has written a K-12 curriculum of which all of us could be proud, the State Board of Education’s composition is such that just about half of the members hold a worldview incompatible with modern science. Our new web page explains the situation and provides ways for people to get involved. Something to keep in mind is that textbook publishers are well aware of what the State of Texas requires. Because of the huge Texas market, changes to the Texas curriculum are likely to have an effect throughout the country. In short, an anti-science vote in Texas may affect science teaching in local communities throughout the United States. Read more about the situation, and how you can get involved, on our Teach them Science (www.teachthemscience.org) web page and in a news report at the National Center for Science Education’s web page (www.ncseweb.org).

Freshwater Day 13: A Parade of Teachers & Staff

| 28 Comments

I was unable to attend Day 13 of the hearing. A water pipe froze overnight and I spent my day dealing with that. However, two spectators at the hearing were kind enough to send me their notes on the day’s testimony, and I’ve lightly edited them to produce this account. In addition, there are stories in Mt. Vernon News and in the Columbus Dispatch, both of which are quite detailed.

(I’ve done a little late editing to reflect feedback from one of the correspondents.)

Coding Help

| 23 Comments

I’m working on a little education project for this site that requires a good binomial random number generator written in javascript. I’m having a hard time finding a library written and would rather not write one myself. So I’m wondering if any of the tech-savvy people who read this blog are willing to port the code for generating a binomial random variable from GSL to javascript. You can depend on the jQuery library if it helps.

Any takers?

Freshwater Day 12: The Monitor

| 22 Comments

Today started late. R. Kelly Hamilton, John Freshwater’s attorney, had a commitment in Columbus in the morning and was late getting to Mt. Vernon for the scheduled 11:30 start. As a result some expensive people spent an hour waiting in and around the hearing room.

Testimony today was from Debra Strouse, an Achievement Counselor and administrator at the Middle School. Strouse was assigned to monitor Freshwater’s classes starting April 23 after the problems became apparent, and monitored the classes through the end of the school year.

More below the fold

Freshwater Day 11: Board’s case ends; Freshwater’s begins

| 43 Comments

Today saw the end of the Board of Education’s case and the beginning of the presentation of John Freshwater’s case. To start this morning, David Millstone, the Board’s attorney, moved the admission of the 60 Exhibits he had introduced during various parts of the Board’s case. Freshwater’s attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, told the referee that he planned to object to some of them, so action on the motion was deferred until some time in the future. That concluded the Board’s case.

Hamilton has subpoenaed 18 witnesses, and believes we can finish by Friday (I’ll believe that when I see it!). We heard three witnesses today: Jordan Freshwater, John Freshwater’s daughter and a leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2007-2008; Dino D’Ettorre, a 6th grade science teacher in the Middle School; and Barbara Spitzer, a special education teacher in the Middle School and a member of the 8th grade ‘team’ of which Freshwater was a part. (Also see the Columbus Dispatch story.)

More below the fold

Science Celebrates Darwin

| 8 Comments

Science Magazine is celebrating the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentenary of his publication of On the Origin of Species with the first of a monthly series of articles, beginning with an essay on the origin of life by Carl Zimmer. This essay (and presumably the rest of the series) is available at no cost. A February issue will feature an essay on art. The latest issue (January 9) also features an article, “Darwin’s Originality,” by Peter J. Bowler, but that article is available only by subscription. Finally, Science has initiated Origins, their new evolution blog, which is available without subscription. You may get links to Zimmer’s and Bowler’s articles, and Origins here.

Update, January 15: Mike Klymkowsky of the University of Colorado has just notified me of a special issue of The Lancet devoted to “Darwin’s Gifts.” I got the entire issue here, but I am on campus right now, so I do not know whether it is available free or whether I got it because our library has a subscription. Maybe some reader can elaborate. The Lancet is a proprietary journal, and articles are generally expensive.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

The intelligent design creationists are jubilant — a paper has been published that shows that organisms were front-loaded with genes for future function! It describes "'latent' or 'preexistent' evolutionary potential" in our history, they say.

One small problem. The paper says nothing of the kind. It does mention latent potential, but it means something entirely different from something that is 'front-loaded', which is a sneaky little elision on the part of the creationists. There isn't even the faintest whiff of a teleological proposal in the paper at all, which makes me wonder if they even read it, or if, as seems more likely, they're simply incapable of comprehending the scientific literature.

So let's take a look at what the paper is actually about, and you'll see that it in no way supports the self-serving cheering of the creationists.

The Freshwater Handouts: The Giraffe

| 67 Comments

A set of handouts used by John Freshwater in his 8th grade science class have featured in the testimony of several witnesses over the course of his termination hearing. As I reported a day ago, Dr. Patricia Princehouse critiqued those handouts on Friday, January 9. I thought it would be helpful for readers to have a clearer idea of just what kind of trash science Freshwater was purveying in them. I’ll reproduce excerpts from his “Giraffe” handout below and add some commentary of my own. Dr. Princehouse had more extensive commentary.

The Giraffe below the fold.

Freshwater Day 10: The History of Creationism

| 41 Comments

Day 10 of the Freshwater hearing was devoted entirely to direct and cross examination of Dr. Patricia Princehouse. Princehouse is a lecturer in philosophy and evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University. She has degrees in anthropology (B.S.) and biological anthropology (M.S.), and earned a doctorate in the history of science from Harvard. At Harvard she studied with (among others) Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, and she also did some field work with the Leakeys in Africa.

Princehouse’s testimony covered two main topics. First she provided a detailed analysis of several handouts and a video that have been entered into evidence and were allegedly used by Freshwater in his 8th grade science class. Second, she gave a substantial overview of the history of creationism.

This report will be relatively brief because parts of my notes are fragmentary; I watched Princehouse’s powerpoints too attentively and didn’t always take good notes. Fortunately, she was good enough to send me her ‘history of creationism’ slides. So I’ll be summarizing some stuff rather than giving a blow-by-blow description ot her testimony on direct examination. See also Pam Schehl’s story in the Mount Vernon News.

More below the fold

Panthera tigris sumatrae

| 20 Comments
tiger2.jpg

Panthera tigris sumatrae — Sumatran tiger, Sacramento Zoo

There are certain organisms that you hear about a lot in evolutionary biology. In some cases, like Drosophila flies or E. coli bacteria, that’s because the organisms are easy to use in experimental studies. Other organisms, like Hawaiian silversword plants or Galapagos finches, come up frequently because they’re fantastic examples of evolution happening out in the “real world”. And then there are those rare cases where an organism is both a fantastic example of evolution in the field, and a convenient organism to work with in more controlled circumstances. The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is one of those doubly-convenient organisms.

There are populations of three-spined sticklebacks in the ocean and in many freshwater streams and ponds. The oceanic populations have been around for a long time, but the freshwater populations are all relatively recent in evolutionary terms - they’re found in bodies of freshwater that were formed after the ice sheets retreated about 12,000 years ago. These populations appear to have evolved independently of each other, but they share a number of similar traits.

One of the more notable of the traits concerns the bony “armor” along the sides of the fish. The marine populations typically have a line of over 30 bony plates along their sides. The freshwater populations typically have only 6-9 of these plates. Why this is the case is a classic evolutionary biology question: do the freshwater populations lose the armor because there is a real advantage to losing the plates, or do they just lose them because there’s no real disadvantage to losing them.

Casey Luskin cites a news story about a recent scientific paper to support his view that the loss of the armor is just the result of the freshwater populations not facing the selective pressure seen in the oceans:

Freshwater Day 9: An Expert Witness and Two Teachers

| 14 Comments

Previous posts on the hearings: Days 1 & 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, and Day 8. Other relevant posts can be found by searching The Thumb on “Freshwater”.

On Day 9 we had testimony from Joseph E. Faber, a biology professor and former Ohio Department of Education science consultant; William Oxenford, long-time middle school science teacher and one-time Academic Achievement Coach for middle school science; and Charles Adkins, middle school science teacher and former ODE employee.

Day 10 saw testimony by Patricia Princehouse, a Lecturer in evolutionary biology and the history and philosophy of biology at Case Western Reserve University and a leader of the effort to prevent intelligent design creationism from being included in the Ohio State Science Standards for public schools. That summary will go up in a day or two.

More below the fold.

Our friend Law-Suit Larry has filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision in his lawsuit against the U.C. Berkeley Understanding Evolution website. (We’ve blogged about this case in the past.) He was assisted in this work by the Pacific Justice Institute, an organization that focuses largely on cases relating to religion issues. Caldwell is representing his wife as the petitioner, but the respondent coincidentally is also named Caldwell, meaning that the case is Caldwell v. Caldwell, with Caldwell as one of the lawyers, and they’re all different people.

I’ve read the petition (which is not online), and it’s an interesting piece of work. It urges the court to take the case on the grounds that the theory of “standing” needs to be clarified in the context of web pages. (Non-lawyers for whom these terms are confusing should start by reading this)

Freshwater Day 8: Investigator cross, and another former student

| 42 Comments

Note: Day 9 summary will be delayed: I’m going to watch some football!

Day 8 of the hearing saw the completion of cross examination of the independent investigator Thomas Herlevi and fairly brief testimony from Joe Barone, a former student in Freshwater’s class. This will be a brief summary identifying the main lines of questions and responses.

Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s lawyer, pursued several themes in his continuing cross examination of Herlevi. One main theme was the accuracy and completeness of the report HR On Call, Inc., submitted to the Board of Education.

More below the fold

In case you missed the NCSE news feed, Kevin Padian and I did a review of the Dover case and the status of evolution education. The editors were kind enough to put it online for the public, so spread the word!

Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke (2009). “Darwin, Dover, ‘Intelligent Design’ and textbooks.” Biochemical Journal, 209(417), 29-42.

I’ve just heard that the new third edition of But Is it Science, edited by Ruse & Pennock, is now available. Pennock has a great new chapter on the definition of science, methodological naturalism, and Larry Laudan’s anti-demarcationism and the uses creationists/ID advocates put it to. I have a (great new) chapter on the historical origins of the ID movement, focusing on the years 1981-1984, which were really key for developing the various weird features of ID ideology, although the actual term “intelligent design” was adopted later. My main conclusion is that creationists’ reactions to the McLean defeat in 1982, and especially their attempt to survive court challenge in the Edwards case, 1981-1984 (before appeals), were key in explaining the stripped down version of creationism that became ID.

Link to book

Freshwater Day 7: The Investigator

| 59 Comments

Today was the 7th day of the administrative hearing on John Freshwater’s appeal of the Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Board of Education’s decision to terminate him. You’ll recall that Freshwater is the 8th grade science teacher accused of burning crosses on students’ arms, teaching from creationist materials in science class, and inappropriately leading the Fellowship of Student Athletes, among other things.

Accounts of the first 6 days of the hearing are Days 1 & 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, and Day 6. Other relevant posts can be found by searching The Thumb on “Freshwater”. In addition, Lauri Lebo of The Devil in Dover fame just today published an article on the Freshwater affair.

In spite of two news articles, one in the Mt. Vernon News and one in the Columbus Dispatch foreshadowing the resumption of the hearing, the hearing room for the first time was not full – there were perhaps half a dozen empty seats, with two reporters and me occupying three of them and no other media present.

Today’s hearing was focused on just two witnesses, Dennis Turner, a youth pastor at New Life Community Church in Fredericktown, Ohio, a village north of Mt. Vernon, and Thomas J. Herlevi of HR On Call, Inc., the lead independent investigator who looked into the matter for the Board of Education, Assisted by his wife, co-owner of HR On Call, Herlevi conducted the investigation from April 29 to late May 2008.

More below the fold

In 1997 the first successful extraction of Neandertal DNA was announced to great fanfare (Krings et al. 1997). This DNA was not from the nuclear DNA (from cell nuclei) which determines most of our physical characteristics, but mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the small energy-producing organelles which are inside all of our cells 1. It so happens that mtDNA is easier to extract from ancient bones than is nuclear DNA. Krings et al reconstructed a 379 base sequence from the Neandertal mtDNA, out of the full mtDNA length of more than 16,000 bases. Since then, many other researchers have also extracted mtDNA sequences from Neandertal bones (and one team has even recovered some nuclear DNA).

Now, for the first time, a complete mtDNA sequence has been recovered, from a 38,000 year old Neandertal fossil from the Vindija cave in Croatia. The results were published in August 2008 in the journal Cell: A Complete Neandertal Mitochondrial Genome Sequence Determined by High-Throughput Sequencing (Green et al. 2008).

Here is one of the most important conclusions from the paper’s summary:

Green et al. 2008 Wrote:

Analysis of the assembled sequence unequivocally establishes that the Neandertal mtDNA falls outside the variation of extant human mtDNAs, and allows an estimate of the divergence date between the two mtDNA lineages of 660,000 ± 140,000 years.

The Neandertal mtDNA sequence was compared with mtDNA from chimpanzees and 53 modern humans. The human mtDNA sequences had between 2 and 118 differences from each other. The number of differences between the human mtDNAs and the Neandertal mtDNA varied from 201 to 234. This graph shows the differences between the human, Neandertal and chimp groups, and the human group:

JumpingCholla.jpg

Cylindropuntia bigelovii — Teddy Bear Cholla, Superstition Mountains, Arizona, with saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) in background.

Update, 7 January 2009: Reader Stephen Early points out in a comment below that the cactus is in fact a teddy bear cholla, C. bigelovii, not a jumping cholla, C. fulgida. I have changed the entry accordingly. By way of apology, all I can say is (a) I don’t really know from cactuses, and (b) I thought our guide called it a jumping cholla. The Wikipedia entry for jumping cholla notes that the term is often applied to chollas in general.

.. I might add a few brief notes. After Carl Zimmer’s Unicycle-bicycle transitional form, the detailed rebuttal by Keith Ken Miller (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), and Nick Matzke revealing that Behe wrote the Pandas’s clotting chapter that Luskin dismisses, there is not much left for me to add*.

I want to highlight two things though. One is a quote that keeps turning up in discussions of Behe’s concept of Irreducible Complexity.

Just as none of the parts of the Foghorn system is used for anything except controlling the fall of the telephone pole, so none of the cascade proteins are used for anything except controlling [he formation of a blood clot. Yet in the absence of any one of the components, blood does not clot, and the system fails. (Behe 1996, pp. 85-86)

Actually, the clotting cascade proteins do have functions other than clotting, indeed Casey’s so-called “Irreducible Core” proteins have other important functions. I go into greater detail in this post about how these functions may have pre-adapted the clotting proteins for their role in clotting. This exposes a major flaw in the concept of irreducible complexity (read the post for the full argument).

Casey also chides Miller for not doing any knock-out experiments on blood clotting systems. This is heavily ironic as no ID proponent, not even Behe, has done any experiments on the blood clotting system. As I point out in my post Behe vs Lampreys+, it’s the evolutionary biologists that have been doing all the heavy lifting in regard to understanding the clotting system. In fact I issued a challenge to the ID proponents, the Amphioxus genome had just been published at http://genome.jgi-psf.org/Brafl1/Brafl1.home.html. Amphioxus is a primitive chordate, more primitive than lampreys, that clot their haemolymph. I challenged the ID proponents to predict which coagulation factors are present in Amphioxus, search the Amphioxus genome database and report on whether the genes found match their predictions.

Since then, silence. I can tell you one thing for sure. The Amphioxus has no gene for fibrinogen, the final step in the modern clotting cascade, yet it still clots its haemolymph. So the very basis of the “Irreducible Core” that Casey goes on about is absent in these animals, and one of Behe’s iconic pathways is exposed as reducible.

Notes:
UPDATE: Yeah, yeah: I can’t spell when writing at 1 am in the morning. But the most embarrassing bit was I got Ken Miller’s name wrong (sorry Ken). Still, the science is right.
* I could have contributed sooner, but I could be playing frisbee on the beach with my kids or surfing the internet. Guess which one I chose.
+This post also has a very nice diagram of the reducibly complex clotting system that Ken Miller discusses (section 4, “An Irreducible Core”). This diagram looks eerily similar to the diagram that Casey uses, as he copied the diagram that I provided for Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross for “Biochemistry by design,” Trends in Biochemical Sciences, Vol. 32(7):301-310 (2007). He’s made a few minor modifications (hint Casey, the correct citation method is “diagram redrawn from” not “information obtained from”), but if he asked nicely, I could have given him the original diagram.

Happy New Years and Merry Belated Kitzmas!

Well, it’s 2009 and good ol’ Casey Luskin is still fighting battles the ID advocates lost 3 years ago during the Kitzmiller case. This time the topic is the evolution of the blood-clotting cascade. Here are his 3 posts:

How Kenneth Miller Used Smoke-and-Mirrors to Misrepresent Michael Behe on the Irreducible Complexity of the Blood-Clotting Cascade: Part 1Part 2Part 3

Kenneth Miller has already posted a 3-part reply (1, 2, 3) and stolen some of my thunder (see also previous PT discussion), but I will present my own replies on some of the detailed points which Luskin missed, which happen to particularly revealing (and hilarious).

Creationists think information theory poses a serious challenge to modern evolutionary biology – but that only goes to show that creationists are as ignorant of information theory as they are of biology.

Whenever a creationist brings up this argument, insist that they answer the following five questions. All five questions are based on the Kolmogorov interpretation of information theory. I like this version of information theory because (a) it does not depend on any hypothesized probability distribution (a frequent refuge of scoundrels) (b) the answers about how information can change when a string is changed are unambiguous and agreed upon by all mathematicians, allowing less wiggle room to weasel out of the inevitable conclusions, and (c ) it applies to discrete strings of symbols and hence corresponds well with DNA.

All five questions are completely elementary, and I ask these questions in an introduction to the theory of Kolmogorov information for undergraduates at Waterloo. My undergraduates can nearly always answer these questions correctly, but creationists usually cannot…

Ken Miller swats Casey Luskin

| 95 Comments

For the three people who don’t read Pharyngula, Ken Miller is guest-blogging on Carl Zimmer’s Loom, swatting Casey Luskin’s latest attempts to spin the Kitzmiller trial testimony on irreducible complexity.

PZ feels almost sorry for Luskin. I don’t: I saw him hovering outside the meeting room of the Ohio State Board of Education during our wars here. No sympathy at all on my part.

Added in edit: All three parts of Miller’s smack-down of Luskin are up on The Loom now: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Part 3 is particularly interesting, with Miller looking at why Luskin is attempting to rehabilitate the ID position in the light of its epic failure in Kitzmiller.

OT: Donald Westlake is dead at 75

| 12 Comments

This is way off topic for PT, but Donald E. Westlake was one of my favorite ‘light’ fiction authors so I’m going to indulge myself for a moment. He wrote under a number of pseudonyms, but a series under his real name, the Dortmunder books, are my favorites. John Archibald Dortmunder was an orphan raised by the Bleeding Heart Sisters of Eternal Misery (or perhaps the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Misery - I’ve forgotten) in Dead Indian, Illinois. He grew up to be a criminal mastermind in New York City whose plans, with one shining exception, never turned out quite the way they were supposed to. Dortmunder’s gang fumbled their way through New York for decades. Among other feats, Dortmunder, along with Andy Kelp (car thief and general handyman), Tiny Bulcher (strong arm man), Stan Murch (driver) and an assortment of lockmen, stole the same ruby emerald 5 times, stole a whole bank and then lost it in Long Island Sound, and (their one shining success) knocked over a major Las Vegas casino. His faithful companion May, a cashier at a supermarket, supported Dortmunder in the lean times between jobs. I’ll miss them and their meetings in the back room of the O.J.

Westlake died in Mexico (sub probably required) on New Year’s Eve.

John Lynch reviews the year in ID

| 42 Comments | 1 TrackBack

Here. The highlight:

[I]t does give me an excuse to post my (now annual) list of things we didn’t see from the main players of the ID movement:

* A peer-reviewed paper by Dembski, Wells, Nelson, Meyer …

* Or for that matter, a single peer-reviewed article offering either a) evidence for design, b) a method to unambiguously detect design, or c) a theory of how the Designer did the designing, by any fellow of the DI.

* An exposition of Nelson’s theory of “ontogenetic depth” (promised in March 2004)

* An article by Nelson & Dembski on problems with common descent (promised in April 2005).

* Nelson’s monograph on common descent (currently MIA since the late 90’s).

In addition to how the Designer did the designing, I’d like to see something about the manufacturing process too. How did the Designer manufacture the stuff that’s purportedly designed?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.38

Site Meter