It would help if he read the actual book…

| 222 Comments

I’ve never heard of the Journal “Politics and the Life Sciences”, but it is quite eclectic. Recent articles include ,Thomas R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, Barriers to SCHIP enrollment, Marion Nestle, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Eisenhower’s 1955 heart attack and Organ trading in Jordan.

In September 2008, they they significantly broadened their eclecticism by publishing book reviews by Intelligent Design proponents. Of interest to me, they published a review by philosopher and dedicated anti-materialist Angus J. L. Menuge of “Why Intelligent Design Fails”. I’m interested of course, because I have a chapter in this book.

Now, why they would publish a review of a book published four years ago is not clear, but at least they could have got a reviewer who actually read the book.

Lets see how Dr. Menuge fares with my chapter as an example

Musgrave argues that the flagellum probably developed from a type III secretory system (TTSS), since they share a similar structure and function and contain homologous proteins. However, Scott Minnich, an expert on the flagellum, doubts this account, pointing out that 30 of the 40 or so proteins in the flagellum are not found in the TTSS, and that even if all the parts were available, their correct assembly depends on a complex control program that is arguably itself IC.

Well, not a good start.

  1. I don’t argue that the flagellum derives from a type 3 secretory system, I argue that the eubacterial flagellum and the TTSS share a common ancestor, a more primitive secretory system.
  2. Minnich’s “example” is just plain wrong, if the good Dr. had actually read my chapter, especially pages 77-79 and 81 he would have realised that.

Now point 1 may seem a little nit picky, but if the guy can’t even get that fairly clear point right, then there’s not much hope that the rest will be better. Which is amply demonstrated with the Minnich quote. If he had read those pages in my chapter, where I show that the whole “40 proteins” thing is a furphy, and that as of 2004, 80-88% of all the core flagella proteins have a homologue in either the TTSS or other associated systems (eg. the motor proteins of the flagella are homologous to other motor proteins that drive secretory systems) he wouldn’t have made that remark (or at the very least checked the research I quoted to make sure).

And that was back in 2004, since then evidence has steadily been accumulating of even more relatedness between the eubacterial flagellum and the TTSS. Nick Matzke and Mark Pallen published a pretty good paper in 2006 outlining the homologies found (nicks post on Pandas, showing the homology table is here), and Nick’s magisterial review of bacterial flagellar evolution is here.

Now, the review was published in 2008, from the evidence I cited in my chapter, it was clear Minnich’s assertions were wrong. And there has been a huge amount of work since then in the open literature (and on the web), especially by NicK Matzke and Mark Pallen, which comprehensively demolishes Minnich’s statement. Yet Menuge, in 2008, drags Minnich’s quote out without comment. Not exactly work of a high scholarly calibre.

And what about the archebacterial flagellum? Is that chopped liver? Here we have an example of a flagellar system with clear intermediates from secretory system, to gliding motility stsyem to swimming system. It’s as clear a refutation of Behe as you could want, but the ID proponets always ignore it. Completely.

Arche_Flagella.jpg

The archebacterial flagellum, this is clearly homologous to the type IV secretory system, which is also a gliding motility system, which in turn is clearly homologous to the type II secretory system.

While Musgrave does provide a broad three-step narrative for the appearance of the flagellum, he admits it is only a “possible scenario”(p. 82)

Yes, that’s because there is more than one possible way to build a flagellum. I suggested that there was a gliding motility stage in the evolution of the eubacterial flagellum, just like there was in the archebacterial flagellum and the syneccocus swimming system (how come IDers never mention the non-flagella swimming systems either, or comment on them?). But the flagellum could have gone straight from secretion to swimming as the motility of truncated flagella shows us is possible.

Still, the whole point of Behe’s claims is that there is no possible function, in principle, of isolated parts of the flagellum. The fact that you can indeed find, even in principle, functional intermediates, blows away his argument. Add to that we actually have examples of functioning intermediates, they very things Behe says can’t exist, and Behe’s argument is demolished. But Menuge doesn’t mention this (or the examples I document).

The rest of the review is like this, ignoring substantial arguments and missing the point. You get the very clear impression Menuge just flipped through the book, saw a key word and wrote down some ID boilerplate without actually going through the process of actually reading the book or thinking deeply about it (Flagella, okay write down Minnich’s stuff).

Still, if ID folks are reduced to writing reviews of four year old books that can only be published in obscure journals, you know the ID program is going badly. I wonder if they will cite this review as evidence that they publish in peer-reviewed journals?

222 Comments

The fact that Intelligent Design proponents have gone for over 2 decades without a half an iota of research suggests that the program is faring very badly.

Everything else, from slander, political redefinition of “science” and “education” to publishing obvious quotemines in crackpot journals no one outside of Podunk Science, New Jersey, is simply sauce and marinade.

A fair assessment Stanton, but you forget the childish - indeed, and virtually felonious - conduct from the “josef Goebbels of the ID movement”, my dear “buddy” Bill Dembski, whose “record” includes falsely accusing eminent ecologist Eric Pianka of being a “bioterrorist” to the Federal Department of Homeland Security and “borrowing” the Harvard University cell animation video produced by XVIVO (I know of at least one prominent biologist who would prefer seeing him shot for his conduct. As for myself, I wish we could feed him and the rest of the Dishonesty Institute to a hungry cloned T. rex.):

Stanton said:

The fact that Intelligent Design proponents have gone for over 2 decades without a half an iota of research suggests that the program is faring very badly.

Everything else, from slander, political redefinition of “science” and “education” to publishing obvious quotemines in crackpot journals no one outside of Podunk Science, New Jersey, is simply sauce and marinade.

Ian Musgrave Wrote:

You get the very clear impression Menuge just flipped through the book, saw a key word and wrote down some ID boilerplate without actually going through the process of actually reading the book or thinking deeply about it (Flagella, okay write down Minnich’s stuff).

Or he could have read it carefully, several times over the years, each time getting more ideas as to how best to represent it to his target audience. Now if he reads you review, reads the book again more carefully then retracts his review, I guess one could rule out my alternative possibility.

Ah, good old Angus. Made a fool of himself in Kansas during the Kangaroo Kourt.

Here’s his website.

Says it all.

I looked at this guy’s publication list and from the titles I would question that he is capable of doing any more than triggering off specific buzzwords and fetching the Same Old Tired Argument from the ID archive in response. People who are interested in technicalities don’t write articles with titles like that.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Doc Bill Wrote:

Says it all.

I thought that name sounded familiar. See especially the cross examination from his testimony at the Kangaroo Kourt about the age of the earth and common descent. I think we can forget about any retraction of the review.

Wow! Sorry about the off-topic post. I didn’t know where else to post it.

I just heard about this cache of ice age fossils find on National Public Radio.

It’s an entire ecosystem found under a parking garage on Wilshire Blvd in LA.

Doc Bill:

That’s not Menuge’s website, but one that’s critical of him and other anti-evolution activists. I thought it was odd that he would link to his embarrasing cross examination, but it was the title “Intellgent Design Apologist” that clinched it.

Mike Elzinga said:

Wow! Sorry about the off-topic post. I didn’t know where else to post it.

I just heard about this cache of ice age fossils find on National Public Radio.

It’s an entire ecosystem found under a parking garage on Wilshire Blvd in LA.

Here is the article in the LA Times.

It’s an entire ecosystem found under a parking garage on Wilshire Blvd in LA.

I’ve worked on-and-off in LA for years, and the tarpits museum is one of the most interesting spots in the whole city.

For those who have never been, imagine a block-wide park, in the middle of a very built up - and expensive - neighborhood, and wherever you dig, you pull up giant blocks of Pleistocene bones glued together in a mass of solidified tar.

Apparently, a large part of the surrounding area is pretty much the same, you can’t dig down without hitting tarry deposits. The only reason the pits area itself survived the building boom of the 20’s was that it was particularly unappetizing land to build on, and survived long enough to became a tourist attraction.

In the museum there’s a little section dedicated to the area’s history. Originally, it was basically unwanted land, and the original owner was a surveyor who received the area around Hancock Park as partial payment for settling a dispute over the boundaries of some of the original ranch grants. Now it’s some of the most expensive land in LA. Go figure.

Frank!

Ah, curse you Google!

They need a “This is what you’re REALLY looking for” button.

Good grief! The whole review is a pretentious piece of crap.

If there is any one sentence in this review that captures the essence of the argumentative tactics of the ID/Creationists, it would probably be this.

Menuge in his review of Young and Edis Wrote:

The authors also confuse information that is new to an agent (epistemic) with information new to the world (ontological).

I guess the only criterion for an argument by an ID/Creationist is that it makes ignorant rubes quiver and pee their pants with delight.

Airily dismiss the entire edifice of science with a line of complete gibberish that suggests “this is what the world is all about”, and one can pass one’s self off as profound. In the right crowd, it works every time.

Mike Elzinga said:

In the right crowd, it works every time.

He could not have reallyread the article because he had no idea of what the terms being used in it actually meant.

Cheers – MrG / httpe://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

mrg (iml8) said:

Mike Elzinga said:

In the right crowd, it works every time.

He could not have reallyread the article because he had no idea of what the terms being used in it actually meant.

Cheers – MrG / httpe://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Yeah, I think this is the standard shtick. FL does it also. It goes right back to Gish and his gallop. He didn’t listen, he didn’t hear, and nothing ever registered. He just kept on galloping and inventing words and games as he went.

Now it’s all on line and documented for everyone else to see; and these pretenders aren’t even embarrassed.

I would love to see a very large wall poster of this kind of crap that biology teachers could hang on the walls of their classrooms; two columns, what these ID/Creationists jabber, and right next to it, the truth. It could easily fill an entire wall.

Mike Elzinga said:

Now it’s all on line and documented for everyone else to see; and these pretenders aren’t even embarrassed.

He has no idea he doesn’t understand. I’m not a scientist, certainly not a biologist or biochemist, and when I get a formal research paper thrown in my face I don’t necessarily follow it all. The difference is that I know I don’t follow it. When the mindset is to collect an inventory of phrases and use them as an index to a cardfile of canned arguments, the issue of visualizing in one’s head how the machinery works is not just irrelevant – it doesn’t even exist. There’s no more cognizance there than there is in an ELIZA-type program.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

stevaroni said:

For those who have never been, imagine a block-wide park, in the middle of a very built up - and expensive - neighborhood, and wherever you dig, you pull up giant blocks of Pleistocene bones glued together in a mass of solidified tar.

And I remember all too well working at the Royal Ontario Museum as a curatorial assistant.…..cleaning bones from the tar deposits off various specimens(notably a Giant Ground Sloth for the late Dr. Gord Edmunds)

You should have heard the curses let out when when we put that same skeleton on display in the renovated Vertebrate Paleontolgy exhibit… AND COVERED THE BOTTOM HALF WITH TAR AGAIN!!!!

mrg (iml8) said:

When the mindset is to collect an inventory of phrases and use them as an index to a cardfile of canned arguments, the issue of visualizing in one’s head how the machinery works is not just irrelevant – it doesn’t even exist. There’s no more cognizance there than there is in an ELIZA-type program.

:-)

Great description. These creatures are almost at the level of rats and pigeons in their responsiveness to operant conditioning.

Mike Elzinga said:

Great description.

Thanks. But I can clearly remember when I was a teenager and simply parroting phrases and notions I didn’t honestly understand myself. When it comes time to actually put the lego blocks together and get something to work it doesn’t turn out to be quite so easy.

It’s kinda funny, I run an aviation site with profiles of aircraft, but I’ve never been at the controls of an aircraft in my life – strictly hobbyist stuff, like modeling. I talk to retired aircrew and groundcrew all the time on email and I’m plenty conversant with them, but every now and then I have to ask a question and sometimes I can see them reset: “You’ve never actually been there, have you?”

“I never said I had.” Can be fun talking with these guys: “I hear a 747 handles nice for a machine its size.”

“You can fly it with two fingers. It’s like flying a Piper Super Cub.”

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/indexav.html

John Kwok said:

A fair assessment Stanton, but you forget the childish - indeed, and virtually felonious - conduct…

Nuts in the sauce. Nothing more.

Yet another case of IDers not understanding what they are criticizing. Dog bites man.

Dave Wisker said:

Yet another case of IDers not understanding what they are criticizing. Dog bites man.

If they understood what they intended to criticize, they wouldn’t have a legitimate reason to criticize in the first place.

So sad, really.

His review is pretty helpful if you need to know how your writing fits in with scholasticism. One wonders why he didn’t choose a higher impact journal, e.g. Acta Proctologica Polonica.

Les Lane said:

His review is pretty helpful if you need to know how your writing fits in with scholasticism. One wonders why he didn’t choose a higher impact journal, e.g. Acta Proctologica Polonica.

:-)

It is also interesting how the ID/Creationist arguments combine scholasticism, post-modernism, implicit sectarian dogma, and new-age pseudo-science.

When hermeneutics, exegesis, and etymology are the only methods used for understanding the universe, anyone can drift just about anywhere and arrive at just about any conclusion that “answers” the immediate challenge.

If in this process one ends up with a whole pile of inconsistent garbage, one just plays the game on the garbage to “make it right”. Just babble incessently and put on confident airs as you go.

Stanton said:

Dave Wisker said:

Yet another case of IDers not understanding what they are criticizing. Dog bites man.

If they understood what they intended to criticize, they wouldn’t have a legitimate reason to criticize in the first place.

So sad, really.

But they’d have an illegitimate reason to criticize it. And they - known anti-evolution activists if not their truly clueless followers - all but admit that they do. Which makes me always suspicious that they understand much more than they let on. A better understanding would only help them misrepresent it better.

Frank J Wrote:

Which makes me always suspicious that they understand much more than they let on. A better understanding would only help them misrepresent it better.

I have certainly had this suspicion at times.

However, I think it is a very well-practiced shtick. Nearly every argumentative anti-evolutionist seems to be drawing on the same set of tactics.

For example “Pastor” Bob Enyart was pulling this routine on a topic about entropy and evolution a little while ago. He tried to lure some of us into his “discussion”.

I am more able to discern this trick with topics I know extremely well. There is no way Enyart could have such an extensive background in science that allows him to argue with anyone about nearly anything. He is faking it; as are all those ID/Creationists who aspire to impress the rubes in their churches.

I think mrg(iml8) put it quite well; they have a very large file of canned responses that is triggered by key words that allows them to appear to be erudite to their followers. I think they all aspire to be good at this routine and practice it at every opportunity. This is especially true of those wanna-be leaders in their sects. FL is trying to do this.

It looks ludicrous to anyone who knows the subject matter, but the poor rubes haven’t a chance of discerning who the fake is. So they go with the one who also quotes scripture.

Mike Elzinga Wrote:

He is faking it; as are all those ID/Creationists who aspire to impress the rubes in their churches.

Indeed I think that they fake it both ways - they know more than most critics think, but far less than nonscientist fans who are dazzled by their “sciency” language. I don’t think that Menuge understands flagella and secretory systems anywhere near as well as Musgrave does, but the question we must ask ourselves is “Would his review be any different if he did?” My guess is “no”.

The evidence suggests that reading the book (would have) helped him very little. The review would have been most appropriate for a journal entitled Scholasticism and the Pseudosciences

Mike Elzinga said: “It could easily fill an entire wall.”

I guess it depends on how big of a strawman you wanna hang on the wall and how many - because that’s all their arguments really boil down to, to be honest.

Frank J said:

- they know more than most critics think, …

That’s no longer what I think, although people unfamiliar with their shtick might easily think so. Back in the 1970s when I first started watching this stuff, I thought their arguments were honest misunderstandings that could be cleared up with some simple explanations.

It didn’t take long for me to realize these guys were faking it. After they received a rebuttal and an explanation of their “misunderstandings”, they would turn right around and reuse their crap in another venue as though it had never been explained to them.

It became very obvious to me in my own areas of expertise that they were spreading misconceptions deliberately. And when I started reading the explanations of creationist “misconceptions” by experts in other fields, I realized that these creationists were playing the same game in every area of science.

Now these clowns have a large, organized file of this crap that they can dip into at will. Thus many have taken up the shtick of sounding extremely knowledgeable and able to take on all comers. But it’s all an act, and it is now a stinking pile of debunked crap that identifies them as fakes when they use it.

MIke,

I’m not sure what you mean by “that’s no longer what I think,” because the rest of your comment seems to agree with my suspicion that they are hiding some of their understanding.

I too thought years ago that it was honest, correctable misunderstandings, but now it seems that they are silently doing what Jonathan Wells was foolish enough to admit publicly, i.e. learning as much as they can about evolution so they can misrepresent it better. That would make their nonscientist followers think that they know it better than they do. But it would also makes critics say (if not necessarily think) that they misunderstand it more than they actually do, because all the critics have to go by are the deliberately confused statements that the activists publish, and not any other information that they are privately aware of, but would not dare speak or write down.

stevaroni said:

The common denominator here is the tendency of mediocre minds to reflexively oppose stuff.

Violently.

Especially anything that requires the painful development of new neural interconnections in the brain.

Ouch!

Thanks Mike. Now my head hurts again.

Owie! Owie!

:-)

You’re welcome! (Puts me in mind of that movie of the “Little Shop of Horrors” with Steve Martin as the dentist and Bill Murray as the patient.)

eric said:

Robin said: Bingo! This is the point I was trying to get across. My apologies on poorly articulating it and I thank you Eric for addressing it better.

I would say ‘great minds think alike’ but you may not want to be brought down to my level. I’m a lowly chemist, stuck halfway between the ‘superior because its more fundamental’ physicists and the ‘superior because its more complicated’ biologists. :-)

Heh! Well, since I’m hardly in a position to look down on chemists or anyone practicing scientific work of any kind, I don’t think you need worry.

Besides, me mum was a “lowly chemist” for some 8 or so years working at NIH, so quite frankly I have great respect for such folk. :-)

Charlie Wagner said:

“And answer my question: is the 2nd Law time-dependent? Are there more ordered states in the past than in the future?

No. Time is an artifact

No.

There are more ordered states in the future than in the past.

In fact, the whole universe, and the life on it, is moving towards greater order. The increases in entropy that we see are local and illusory.

The cosmologists and physicists have it all backwards. It didn’t start in the “past”. It started in the “future”. And the universe is being inexorably drawn to that consequence.

We are on an incredible journey to an unknown conclusion.

I call Poe

I wonder what the expansion of space (due to Big Bang) does to the entropy of stuff in a finite volume of that expanding space.

Henry J said:

I wonder what the expansion of space (due to Big Bang) does to the entropy of stuff in a finite volume of that expanding space.

I was curious about that back when COBE results started coming in, back in the early ’90s. If I remember correctly (and I could be completely wrong on this), when local expansion is faster than the speed of light it can prevent the entropy of the universe from increasing, because even particles starting out next to each other can no longer interact. But the expansion would have to be VERY fast. Inflation fast.

I’ve never understood that “when local expansion is faster than the speed of light” thing. If the rate of expansion is proportional to distance, there’s going to be a distance short enough to be below c. Only way I can think to have particles unable to be closer together than that distance would be if it’s quantum length distance that’s expanding faster than c - is that what this was saying?

Henry

Robin said:

Charlie Wagner said:

“And answer my question: is the 2nd Law time-dependent? Are there more ordered states in the past than in the future?

No. Time is an artifact

No.

There are more ordered states in the future than in the past.

In fact, the whole universe, and the life on it, is moving towards greater order. The increases in entropy that we see are local and illusory.

The cosmologists and physicists have it all backwards. It didn’t start in the “past”. It started in the “future”. And the universe is being inexorably drawn to that consequence.

We are on an incredible journey to an unknown conclusion.

I call Poe

After his response to my questions about units and logarithms of probabilities, I became extremely skeptical of his claim of having spent 33 years teaching chemistry and physics.

I just don’t see how someone who has spent 33 years in a physics and chemistry classroom could not comprehend the significance of units and not know how to take a logarithm.

I’m inclined to believe he was faking everything he said about himself.

Methinks Charlie should acquaint himself better with the literature on entropy. Perhaps a read of Brain Greene’s “The Fabric of the Cosmos”. There’s a nice section on the probability of the number of ordered states in the past versus the future.

I’m inclined to believe he was faking everything he said about himself.

I’ve been wondering about this too.

Somehow this doesn’t feel like Charlie is a straight-up Poe. He’s been around too long and gone through too much trouble with the website and everything.

But there’s definitely some weird Baron Munchhausen thing that’s going on.

I can’t really believe that he spent time teaching physics and chemistry, the phraseology in his writing is all wrong.

Even if you don’t believe all the science, if you spend 33 years teaching it, you still have to understand the basic idea.

When we get on the chem/phys topics, I have to reach back two decades to a couple of semesters of undergrad classes, most of which involved some degree of hangover, and yet I seem to remember more background than Charlie displays after working with it for 33 years.

stevaroni Wrote:

Somehow this doesn’t feel like Charlie is a straight-up Poe. He’s been around too long and gone through too much trouble with the website and everything.

The other claim that immediately set off a red flag for me was his “get some sympathy” claim about prostate cancer getting into his spine and making him a paraplegic.

Think about that for a moment. If someone has an immediate life-threatening cancer with those kinds of consequences, why would they be pulling this kind of crap for weeks and weeks on the internet? And he claimed he just returned from harrassing someone else.

I would think an honest person would have more important things to be doing and thinking about at this point in the remainder of his life.

Either way, Charlie is one sick SOB.

Henry J said:

I’ve never understood that “when local expansion is faster than the speed of light” thing. If the rate of expansion is proportional to distance, there’s going to be a distance short enough to be below c. Only way I can think to have particles unable to be closer together than that distance would be if it’s quantum length distance that’s expanding faster than c - is that what this was saying?

Henry

One of the ways “forbidden” events can happen is if they take place within ranges where Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle still holds. Apparent violations can occur as long as they get “ironed out” in the “long run” (within a period of time such that these violations don’t propagate into large scales).

But frontier cosmology and astrophysics is pushing the boundaries of current knowledge with various hypotheses and theories about other dimensions, some of which are “hidden”, “rolled up” or “tiny” except under extraordinary circumstances. For example, perhaps certain particles can tunnel into and out of “short” extra dimensions and modify the effects of their resultant forces on short space-time scales.

Perhaps many of the forces we are familiar with, especially gravity, exist within higher dimensional spaces but what we experience are the effects “projected onto” the 4-dimensional space-time in which we “swim”.

Fun stuff, but it still has to go through peer-review and experimental testing.

And, taking a swipe at the ID/Creationists, there is still a lot of good stuff coming out of this theorizing even though the theories aren’t established science at this point. There are award-winning breakthroughs in mathematical techniques and understandings as well as the establishment and organization of ideas into clusters on which future research can be done.

On the other hand, absolutely nothing of scientific or mathematical value comes of ID/Creationism; only a cataloguing of political obstructionist techniques and propaganda. And even then, the scientific community has to do all the work.

Henry J said:

I’ve never understood that “when local expansion is faster than the speed of light” thing. Henry

I forgot to address this.

One way to address it is by using higher dimensions. Here is an analogy.

Suppose a huge 2-dimensional wall of gas spread out in 3-dimensional space. Suppose a star, off in a direction perpendicular to the wall, goes supernova and a spherical shell of high energy gamma rays expands and eventually intersects the wall of gas and excites the molecules of the gas to emit radiation.

If the supernova is at a considerable distance from the wall of gas, the spherical shell could have very little curvature by the time it reaches the wall.

The spherical shell intersects the wall of gas in a complete circle. If the curvature of the shell is small enough, the circle of intersection will expand within the wall of gas at a speed far exceeding the velocity of light. Creatures living within that wall of gas will see an expanding circle of glowing gas traveling faster than light.

Analogously, if the expansion of our 4-dimensional universe is a manifestation of an “explosion” taking place in a higher dimensional space on a dimension “perpendicular” to our 4-D space time, then the speed of that expansion as seen in our universe could be much faster than light.

That’s just one of a number of possible explanations.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on February 19, 2009 7:25 AM.

In What Sense is Evolution “True”? was the previous entry in this blog.

A few more words about Menuge’s review of WIDF is the next entry in this blog.

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