Jonathan Wells gets everything wrong, again

| 81 Comments

I was just catching up on a few blogs, and noticed all this stuff I missed about Jonathan Wells' visit to Oklahoma. And then I read Wells' version of the event, and just about choked on my sweet mint tea.

The next person--apparently a professor of developmental biology--objected that the film ignored facts showing the unity of life, especially the universality of the genetic code, the remarkable similarity of about 500 housekeeping genes in all living things, the role of HOX genes in building animal body plans, and the similarity of HOX genes in all animal phyla, including sponges. 1Steve began by pointing out that the genetic code is not universal, but the questioner loudly complained that 2he was not answering her questions. I stepped up and pointed out that housekeeping genes are similar in all living things because without them life is not possible. I acknowledged that HOX gene mutations can be quite dramatic (causing a fly to sprout legs from its head in place of antennae, for example), but 3HOX genes become active midway through development, 4long after the body plan is already established. 5They are also remarkably non-specific; for example, if a fly lacks a particular HOX gene and a comparable mouse HOX gene is inserted in its place, the fly develops normal fly parts, not mouse parts. Furthermore, 6the similarity of HOX genes in so many animal phyla is actually a problem for neo-Darwinism: 7If evolutionary changes in body plans are due to changes in genes, and flies have HOX genes similar to those in a horse, why is a fly not a horse? Finally, 8the presence of HOX genes in sponges (which, everyone agrees, appeared in the pre-Cambrian) still leaves unanswered the question of how such complex specified genes evolved in the first place.

The questioner became agitated and shouted out something to the effect that HOX gene duplication explained the increase in information needed for the diversification of animal body plans. 9I replied that duplicating a gene doesn't increase information content any more than photocopying a paper increases its information content. She obviously wanted to continue the argument, but the moderator took the microphone to someone else.

It blows my mind, man, it blows my freakin' mind. How can this guy really be this stupid? He has a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in developmental biology, and he either really doesn't understand basic ideas in the field, or he's maliciously misrepresenting them…he's lying to the audience. He's describing how he so adroitly fielded questions from the audience, including this one from a professor of developmental biology, who was no doubt agitated by the fact that Wells was feeding the audience steaming balls of rancid horsepuckey. I can't blame her. That was an awesomely dishonest/ignorant performance, and Wells is proud of himself. People should be angry at that fraud.

I've just pulled out this small, two-paragraph fragment from his longer post, because it's about all I can bear. I've flagged a few things that I'll explain — the Meyer/Wells tag team really is a pair of smug incompetents.

1The genetic code is universal, and is one of the pieces of evidence for common descent. There are a few variants in the natural world, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule: they are slightly modified versions of the original code that are derived by evolutionary processes. For instance, we can find examples of stop codons in mitochondria that have acquired an amino acid translation. You can read more about natural variation in the genetic code here.

2That's right, he wasn't answering her questions. Meyer was apparently bidding for time until the big fat liar next to him could get up a good head of steam.

3This implication that Hox gene expression is irrelevant because it is "late" was a staple of Wells' book, Icons of Evolution and the Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. It's a sham. The phylotypic stage, when the Hox genes are exhibiting their standard patterns of expression, of humans is at 4-5 weeks (out of 40 weeks), and in zebrafish it's at 18-24 hours. These are relatively early events. The major landmarks before this period are gastrulation, when major tissue layers are established, and neurulation, when the neural tube forms. Embryos are like elongate slugs with the beginnings of a few tissues before this time.

4What? Patterned Hox gene expression is associated with the establishment of the body plan. Prior to this time, all the embryonic chordate has of a body plan is a couple of specified axes, a notochord, and a dorsal nerve tube. The pharyngula stage/phylotypic stage is the time when Hox gene expression is ordered and active, when organogenesis is ongoing, and when the hallmarks of chordate embryology, like segmental myotomes, a tailbud, and branchial arches are forming.

5Hox genes are not non-specific. They have very specific patterning roles; you can't substitute abdominal-B for labial, for instance. They can be artificially swapped between individuals of different phyla and still function, which ought, to a rational person, be regarded as evidence of common origin, but they definitely do instigate the assembly of different structures in different species, which is not at all surprising. When you put a mouse gene in a fly, you are transplanting one gene out of the many hundreds of developmental genes needed to build an eye; the eye that is assembled is built of 99% fly genes and 1% (and a very early, general 1%) mouse genes. If it did build a mouse eye in a fly, we'd have to throw out a lot of our understanding of molecular genetics and become Intelligent Design creationists.

Hox genes are initiators or selectors; they are not the embryonic structure itself. Think of it this way: the Hox genes just mark a region of the embryo and tell other genes to get to work. It's as if you are contracting out the building of a house, and you stand before your subcontractors and tell them to build a wall at some particular place. If you've got a team of carpenters, they'll build one kind of wall; masons will build a different kind.

6No, the similarity of Hox genes is not a problem. It's an indicator of common descent. It's evidence for evolution.

7Good god.

Why is a fly not a horse? Because Hox genes are not the blueprint, they are not the totality of developmental events that lead to the development of an organism. You might as well complain that the people building a tarpaper shack down by the railroad tracks are using hammers and nails, while the people building a MacMansion on the lakefront are also using hammers and nails, so shouldn't their buildings come out the same? Somebody who said that would be universally regarded as a clueless moron. Ditto for a supposed developmental biologist who thinks horses and flies should come out the same because they both have Hox genes.

8You can find homeobox-containing genes in plants. All that sequence is is a common motif that has the property of binding DNA at particular nucleotide sequences. What makes for a Hox gene, specifically, is its organization into a regulated cluster. How such genes and gene clusters could arise is simply trivial in principle, although working out the specific historical details of how it happened is more complex and interesting.

The case of sponges is enlightening, because they show us an early step in the formation of the Hox cluster. Current thinking is that sponges don't actually have a Hox cluster (the first true Hox genes evolved in cnidarians), they have a Hox-like cluster of what are called NK genes. Apparently, grouping a set of transcription factors into a complex isn't that uncommon in evolution.

9If you photocopy a paper, the paper doesn't acquire more information. But if you've got two identical twins, A who is holding one copy of the paper, and B who is holding two copies of the same paper, B has somewhat more information. Wells' analogy is a patent red herring.

The ancestral cnidarian proto-Hox cluster is thought to have contained four Hox genes. Humans have 39 Hox genes organized into four clusters. Which taxon contains more information in its Hox clusters? This is a trick question for Wells; people with normal intelligence, like most of you readers, would have no problem recognizing that 39 is a bigger number than 4. Jonathan Wells seems to have missed that day in his first grade arithmetic class.

It's appalling, but this is the Discovery Institute's style: to trot out a couple of crackpots with nice degrees, who then proceed to make crap up while pretending to be all sincere and informed and authoritative. It's an annoying trick, and I can understand entirely why a few intelligent people with actual knowledge in the audience might find the performance infuriating. I do, too.

81 Comments

As the originator of the above questions to Wells during his Q&A period at the University of Oklahoma, I found it amazing to learn that he mistook me for a developmental biologist. In fact, I’m a behavioral ecologist who also happens to teach undergraduate courses on evolution. This, I think, makes his ‘expertise’ in developmental biology all the more questionable. My point on gene duplication, which I was unable to explain because they took the microphone from me, is that if a gene is duplicated, the ‘extra copy’ is then free to evolve a slightly different function, at no fitness cost to the individual (i.e. the original function is covered by the original gene). Gene duplication is as common as many point mutations, and has occurred over and over again during evolution. Despite its frequency as a source of entirely new genes (as opposed to just new alleles), the ID folks keep saying that evolution cannot explain the source of new genetic information. They choose to simply ignore the data on this point, as with most others.

(9) I thought that the Kolomogorov complexity of two photocopies WAS greater, so there is more information in two copies ?

Obviously, he is not very stupid. Just very very dishonest.

It tells us that a professor of behavioral ecology knows immensely more about developmental biology than Jonathan Wells, which doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s a hack.

Re: (8) – Homeobox genes are even found in unicellular yeast like Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The mating type locus proteins MATa and MATα are homeobox genes, and obviously provide a very primitive developmental sort of function (directing what mating type the yeast will be, α or a).

I don’t know if anyone heard Micheal Medved interview Richard Dawkins last week but I thought Medved was a total A– H—. The first caller in was none other than Jonathan Wells. IDed as Jonathan who has a biology degree from Berkley. Richard was astounded than a person with a PhD in biology would doubt evolution. Apparently he didn’t spot the ringer. Medved also slipped in a few other IDers on him (Bruce Chapman?). Are there no depths of unethical behavior these people won’t stoop to?

Mary said:

Are there no depths of unethical behavior these people won’t stoop to?

They tend to hesitate at committing murder, otherwise, no.

Its interesting that they don’t even try to coverup that they’re just making propaganda to encourage personal incredulity in an uninformed audience. Anyone with a high school AP Bio background would come away insulted, but they’ve made the calculation that most people didn’t take AP Bio, and/or aren’t going to research the topic. Even if they are psychologically invested in their “alternate worldview” rejection of objective observation, there must still be times when they know they’re lying about the hard work of many people in whatever field they’re currently misrepresenting.

Why is a fly not a horse? Because Hox genes are not the blueprint, they are not the totality of developmental events that lead to the development of an organism.

To put it another way, if your schematic for a blinky LED circuit calls for the use of a 10K resistor, and your schematic for an AC-to-DC power supply ALSO calls for the use of a 10K resistor, why is your blinky LED not an AC/DC power supply?

why is a fly not a horse?

Genetically, they’re more similar than any sane designer would make them.

eric said:

why is a fly not a horse?

Genetically, they’re more similar than any sane designer would make them.

Genetically speaking, a fly and a horse are almost identical in comparison with, say, a ginkgo tree, and a fly, a horse and ginkgo are almost genetically identical in comparison with, say, a Staphlococcus aureus bacterium.

Mary said: …Micheal Medved interviewed Richard Dawkins last week… The first caller in was none other than Jonathan Wells.

A “challenging question” posed to Dawkins.

Medved also slipped in a few other IDers on him (Bruce Chapman?).

Did Medved identify himself as a Discotute Fellow? It’s not surprising he usher them in to carry the ball.

I think I know what he’s doing when he throws out these big, vapid questions. The mind has a number of defense mechanisms, things it does in order to relieve pain or shift its attention when uncomfortable realities seem to close in. This is the purpose of questions like this, the same way that a tennis player hits a lob to change the rhythm of a match when it’s not going well. I suspect that Wells also poses these questions to himself, and relies on not knowing the answers to such grand questions if ever he starts to realize that ID hasn’t produced anything of value.

In other words, I get a sense that Wells isn’t really arguing in favor of Intelligent Design so much as he’s just grasping at any straw to obfuscate the issue. This reminds me of another ID creationist I once knew–if you talked with him about any of this stuff what would come out was a lot of questions in a sort of “explain this… well then, explain THAT… well then, how?” sort of rhythm. This question of “why is a fly not a horse?” and Wells’s other arguments about DNA being somehow nonessential for life all seem cut from the same cloth: even if there were no answer available, it wouldn’t necessarily support the notion that anything was intelligently designed, but the questions are simple and grand enough that they can be interjected anytime to divert attention from the vacuity of ID. I suspect Wells has trained himself, whether consciously or not, to do this. The objective isn’t to demonstrate positively that something was designed, just to break the flow of a sane debate that would inevitably conclude that evolutionary biology has produced a fascinating and detailed story, whereas ID has done nothing.

Wells probably has no interest in hearing answers to these questions he poses. The answers are easy enough to come by, but I think this also speaks to the charges being made here about whether Wells is knowingly misleading his audience. Wells’s grandiose questions serve as a personal escape as much as they serve as rhetorical tools. Whenever Wells needs to talk about real science, he takes refuge in these big big questions, and it allows him to feel assured by putting his opponents on the defensive. But it also probably serves him whenever any voice of conscience enters his mind, because he can ask himself “Why is a fly not a horse?” or “How can it be that DNA is non-essential? What then is driving the development of life?” and be assured that the questions are so big that he can’t be faulted for not sorting them out on his own. Remember his “hypothesis” that centrioles are molecular jet engines, and his assertion that this was the basis of cancer? Again, it’s an escape–failing to answer a big big question is a lot more comfortable than getting an answer to a little question that disturbs his whole way of thinking. Were he to accept the available answers to these questions, he would have to face the reality that ID is unnecessary and devoid of explanatory power.

<defending turf>

I just want to point out that this event took place in Oklahoma - not in Kansas - as PZ’s post indicates.

</defending turf>

Creationist Newsletter:

Flash! Famous Evilutionis confuses Kansas with Oklahoma!

Details at Eleven

Johnny wrote:

“If evolutionary changes in body plans are due to changes in genes, and flies have HOX genes similar to those in a horse, why is a fly not a horse?”

I don’t know, why don’t you tell us? Does this mean that God really did design flies and horses? Was this a prediction of ID? How is this in any way shape or form incompatible with evolution? How does your ignorance of basic developmental biology somehow translate into evidence for your favorite pet crapola?

We are told that the similarities between chimps and humans are due to “common design”. Well, are the similarities between flies and horses due to “common design”? If yes, you have demonstrated that the “common design” hypothesis is so vague and nebulous as to be completely meaningless. If no, then you have conclusively invalidated the concept of “common design”. Either way you lose. Being too dense to realize this is no excuse.

Look, any average person can be forgiven for being this clueless. A guy claiming to have a PhD in the subject simply cannot be forgiven for this level of incompetence. He must be assumed to be completely dishonest until he presents evidence that he really is this stupid, that would be the only possible defense. Either way, why would anyone with two brain cell to rub together care what he says?

Great work. There really isn’t much to add.

Regarding the photocopying a piece of paper analogy, I wish I had the reference on top of my head but it can be found easily because I first learned about it here at PT.

A paper in Science this past January showed how extra copies of the salivary amylase gene were present in human populations with higher carbohydrate diets. Also that more gene copies was fairly strongly correlated with higher amylase production. It’s a fairly simplistic example, but it does show how gene duplication can give the extra “information” necessary to create an evolutionary adaptation within a species to a particular “environment.”

Why is scientific dishonesty so prevalent among conservatives? I was just smacking down similarly ludicrous arguments in the comment thread of my local rag (er, newspaper) for an article on a recent cold snap we had. Rubes arguing that climate change had been “debunked,” pointing me to all sorts of right wing websites claiming to provide access to the “truth” – “peer reviewed” science that is being “suppressed.” It makes me sad for the country.

Stanton said:

Mary said:

Are there no depths of unethical behavior these people won’t stoop to?

They tend to hesitate at committing murder, otherwise, no.

This is the basic M.O. of the general creationist. Attend a legitimate school, get a paper degree, wave it in your face, and come up with all kinds of jibberish that is “believable” to the average/lower end of the bell curve because they’re speaking from “authority.” You can see it wherever they flaunt their degrees on their inflated resumes and when introduced on e.g., Medved’s show or at primarily church talks.

Stanton said:

Mary said: Are there no depths of unethical behavior these people won’t stoop to?

They tend to hesitate at committing murder, otherwise, no.

While they are not - yet - committing actual corporeal murder, they are committing intellectual child abuse on a geological scale, murdering the full development of the minds of innocent children by willfully teaching them ignorance instead of biological and other sciences.

Yes, Mary - there are no limits to the unethical depths to which these people will stoop. And when the time comes to murder, their shock troops will be the legions of home-indoctrinated ignoramuses they have been raising the last few decades.

Stanton said:

Mary said:

Are there no depths of unethical behavior these people won’t stoop to?

They tend to hesitate at committing murder, otherwise, no.

Do they think that they are fooling anyone? What must it be like to know that you can lie to your supporters, run a bogus bait and switch scam on them and have them bend over and take the next scam from you? Do they expect their supporters to be as dishonest as they themselves are? What kind of people would do that?

It really is hard to believe that they still have creationist supporters. They didn’t sell ID to the science side. They sold it to the rubes stupid enough to believe them or dishonest enough to go along with the scam. When it all folded they had to run in a bogus switch scam that didn’t even mention that ID had ever existed, and they had guys like Medved sign up after the bait and switch was going down. No one can deny that they started running the bait and switch years before they lost in court, so what did they ever have?

All anyone sees is this type of nonsense. So what can their supporters be thinking?

Did anyone ever get any intelligent design science to teach to school kids? Who is running the switch scam that doesn’t even mention that ID/creationism ever existed, and that is just an obfuscation scam that can’t even claim that ID is part of the controversy that they want to teach?

I’d really like to see their explanation for their bogus behavior, but I’d settle for one of the rubes that bought into the scam and had the bait and switch run on them, just explain why they would still support the scam artists?

Why Is a Fly Not a Horse? is a whole little book published by Disco for a fellow traveler. It’s probably the source of this load from Wells.

Pete Dunkelberg said:

Why Is a Fly Not a Horse? is a whole little book published by Disco for a fellow traveler. It’s probably the source of this load from Wells.

Not only that, it seems Wells was the editor for the English edition. Furthermore, Sermonti took over the editorship of Rivista di Biologia, which publishes papers by… Jonathan Wells.

Richard said:

Creationist Newsletter:

Flash! Famous Evilutionis confuses Kansas with Oklahoma!

Details at Eleven

I just can’t imagine how that could happen by chance!

This book apparently implies that the differences between flies and horses are not due to genetic differences. Yea, right. and neither are the differences between humans and chimps. Great job by this italian nut case. All he has to do to defeat “darwinism” is to prove that all of genetics is a complete crock. Right. You let me know how that works out for you.

DS said:

This book apparently implies that the differences between flies and horses are not due to genetic differences. Yea, right. and neither are the differences between humans and chimps. Great job by this italian nut case. All he has to do to defeat “darwinism” is to prove that all of genetics is a complete crock. Right. You let me know how that works out for you.

It’s especially ironic because Sermonti is a retired geneticist. Kind of like Behe is a “retired” biochemist, only more official.

Epigenetics is a legitimate field of research. However, if you think that it means that you can grow a horse from a fly egg in the right environment, then maybe you should be politely asked to retire as a geneticist.

What? Oh, …never mind.

Evolutionary biologist: What’s the capital of Oklahoma?

Creationist: O

Think about it.

DS said:

Epigenetics is a legitimate field of research. However, if you think that it means that you can grow a horse from a fly egg in the right environment, then maybe you should be politely asked to retire as a geneticist.

What? Oh, …never mind.

Q: How do you make a horsefly?

A: Load the stallion onto a catapult!

Q: How do you make a horsefly?

A: Load the stallion onto a catapult!

Or alternately, keep a fly talking all night.

sylvilagus said:

I don’t think Chomsky’s argument, or others on the left, is simply that corporations are “honestly malevolent.”

Maybe so, but in other times and places I heard the “evil corporations” tape played so many times it is, shall we say, overly familiar.

sylvilagus said: As for GM food, how is that science denial? Sure, it reflects a suspicion of the limits of scientific understanding (and corporate motivations)but that is not the same as outright denial of science facts. It’s more an issue of the degree of consumer choice and govt regulation.

Hmm, sort of like fluoridation of water supplies, right?

When it comes to these types of tactics, I sometimes have to wonder who is borrowing from whom.

I think Lee Atwater and his protégé, Karl Rove, borrowed from the tactics of fundamentalist preachers.

However, when we watch Rush Limbaugh, Fox Noise, and the Limbaugh “Mini-Me”, Glen Beck, as well as the Birthers, the Tea Baggers, and the rest of the Right Wing nut-jobs, one gets the impression that the standard operating procedure these days is to lie so brazenly that people will doubt that anyone would dare to do such a thing; thus, there must be something to the ludicrous claims. The tactic seems to be primarily political; anyone, including fundamentalists, can drink from the same cesspool.

I’ve generally had the impression that these tactics have been learned from the charlatans who have developed them and have taken over fundamentalist religion. Here the lying is so blatant and brazen that the sectarian followers who immerse themselves in this type of chicanery no longer have any reliable reference points to judge honesty and truth; so they simply turn off their brains and go with the avuncular and jocular scripture-quoters, fearing that any other source will condemn them to hell.

Wells and the rest of the clowns at DI seem to be consciously employing these tactics. I even had the impression that Duane Gish and Henry Morris consciously employed these tactics back in the 1970s. Such tactics seemed at the time to be mostly confined to these sectarian groups. Nowadays, almost all Right-Wing political fanaticism seems like fundamentalism run amok. Not even the rantings of the far left have this particular stench.

Wile Coyote -

I think we are in almost complete agreement indeed, but I will point out that the “loony left”, which I agree could be said to exist (although may not always be “left” in terms of serious economic issues), does not control a major political party.

Neither the Democratic party, nor for that matter, in the most recent election, the Green party, nor independent candidate Ralph Nader, had a platform that opposed vaccination or fluridation of water, or that endorsed belief in the paranormal, astrology, healing crystals, or any such thing.

The Natural Law Party http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_Law_Party was only mildly loony, and not really on the “left” in many ways.

sylvilagus said:

What is your evidence that vaccine denialism is associated with the Left.

Not strong, it’s just that I associate it with Robert Kennedy, one of the biggest US antivaxer, and THE HUFFINGTON POST. Kennedy’s influential ROLLING STONE article tended to reinforce that notion. DEMOCRATIC.UNDERGROUND.COM also has its anti-vaxer component posting scare stories about thimerosol.

To be sure, they are definitely the Looney Left, and other posters energetically beat them over the head with big Nerf hammers. Also to be sure, chiropractors have been pushing anti-vax for a long time – but the recent “VACCINES == AUTISM” wave is something new.

I have not been able to find much, if anything, on the Right that demonstrates any similar interest in the subject. They’re too busy worrying about gun control and (Obama == Stalin) and stuff like that.

Wile Coyote -

This is my final post on this issue, but I think your replies to Sylvilagus were somewhat unfair.

He (she?) and I both made these points - 1) vaccine denial is not associated with the political left, and 2) controversy over GM foods is not, whichever side you take, grounded in science denial. It is controversy over level of regulatory oversight. Both sides accept the same science.

As for flouridation of water, the anti-flouridation crazies I am actually old enough to remember were not left wing.

I strongly agree with you that one not infrequently hears simplistic “corporations are bad” slogans, typically from those who don’t understand what a corporation actually is. I don’t agree that Chomsky makes such simplistic analyses. I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but he isn’t a conspiracy theorist, nut, or idiot.

harold said:

I think we are in almost complete agreement indeed, but I will point out that the “loony left”, which I agree could be said to exist (although may not always be “left” in terms of serious economic issues), does not control a major political party.

The wingnut Michael Moore Left has been marginalized more than the wingnut Ann Coulter Right. But I have a fear that polarization is continuing and that we may have national politics that look more and more like the legislature of the state of California.

Wile Coyote -

Oh, man, one more post…

Thank you for reminding of the Kennedy-vaccine connection; that is a case of an individual Democrat making anti-scientific statements. It doesn’t change my arguments, but it is good to be complete.

I don’t like either Ann Coulter or Michael Moore, but Ann Coulter is far more hateful, dangerous, and destructive.

I’m optimistic that the polarization we are seeing right now is frenzied wingnut versus the mainstream. Note that much of what wingnuts describe as the “far left” is already working successfully in Canada and Australia, let alone Europe and Japan.

harold said:

(1) vaccine denial is not associated with the political left

Oh, it’s not a strong association in my mind, I suppose the Robert Kennedy association planted that.

As for flouridation of water, the anti-flouridation crazies I am actually old enough to remember were not left wing.

No, General Jack D. Ripper was not a liberal. But the Left has found a similar cause.

I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but he isn’t a … nut …

I can’t say any more. I just bit my tongue out of my head.

harold said:

Thank you for reminding of the Kennedy-vaccine connection; that is a case of an individual Democrat making anti-scientific statements.

Exactly. I never claimed that most Democrats were crazies. I simply said that there was was a lunatic fringe there, and if the Right wingnuts seem more menacing now, I haven’t fogotten the Left wingnuts in the shadows.

It’s a personal sort of thing, really. When I was living in Oregon, most of the crazies I knew personally were on the Left. Down here in Colorado, they’re mostly on the Right. Which frightens me more? Take your pick.

Americans appear to associate a tax-funded basic universal health and medical scheme with actual socialism. Speaking as an Australian, there’s something about being the most constant ally of the US and being seen as wearing a Che Guevara beret with red star (while actually being from the conservative wing of the middle class here) that tickles my fancy.

Dave Luckett said:

Americans appear to associate a tax-funded basic universal health and medical scheme with actual socialism.

Only the hard right. I would be perfectly happy with a government-based universal health insurance scheme. It is very HARD to believe it would be worse than matters as they exist.

But it won’t happen, politically it’s can’t. The private insurers will do the job, with the government providing some sort of overall framework. HOWEVER … once the insurers are on the Federal leash, they may find it getting tighter over time.

I understand, if not in much detail, that Switzerland has a scheme along such lines and that it works pretty well.

In the USA, the “Looney Left” are the folks who would, say, claim the US government pulled off 911 to justify the war in Iraq. Now I’m not saying the government’s conduct relative to Iraq was, shall we say, praiseworthy, but this is definitely an extreme view on matters.

Basically the issue is that the “Loony Left” hasn’t taken over a major share of the Left-er of the two major parties, whereas radical “conservatives” have managed to do that with the Republicans in several ways.

As to Switzerland, their scheme works for several reasons that the Republicans would oppose. Among other things, the insurance industry is very tightly regulated compared to ours, citizens are mandated to get a health plan, and if they really can’t get one themselves the government will help out. Republicans are generally against all of those ideas these days, since the party has shifted so far to the radical end of the right. If I remember correctly, John McCain’s plan would have been somewhat similar except for the crucial part of more government oversight of the insurance industry, and that’s really central to making such a system work.

Wile Coyote -

Noam Chomsky has never overtly advocated violence against people who disagree with him.

He also isn’t a creationist, and in particular, he didn’t hire a couple of DI shills to feed him talking points and then use them to fill a couple of chapters of a hack book. (A hack book subsequently bought in bulk by right wing “think” “tanks”, no doubt to be stored in vast quantities in basement storerooms, I might add. Possibly the boxes are stacked on top of boxes of Dembski and Behe books.)

He also has a real job.

I believe that for those reasons alone, it is somewhat unfair to suggest equivalence between Noam Chomsky and Ann Coulter.

Also, based on my time in New Mexico, during which I met many people from Colorado, I find it hard to believe that you aren’t encountering any left wing nuts there. Are you living in Colorado Springs? Also, you must have been in western Oregon.

Is it just me, or do most think-tanks in the US lean to the right?

wile coyote said:

In the USA, the “Looney Left” are the folks who would, say, claim the US government pulled off 911 to justify the war in Iraq. Now I’m not saying the government’s conduct relative to Iraq was, shall we say, praiseworthy, but this is definitely an extreme view on matters.

Actually, there are a large number of Right-Wingers who make exactly that claim. Right-wing Anti-semites, holocaust deniers, etc. are all part of the 911 “Truth Movement.” Many others are Libertarian conservatives. Why call this the Looney “Left”?

wile coyote said:

In the USA, the “Looney Left” are the folks who would, say, claim the US government pulled off 911 to justify the war in Iraq. Now I’m not saying the government’s conduct relative to Iraq was, shall we say, praiseworthy, but this is definitely an extreme view on matters.

Actually, there are a large number of Right-Wingers who make exactly that claim. Right-wing Anti-semites, holocaust deniers, etc. are all part of the 911 “Truth Movement.” Many others are Libertarian conservatives. Why call this the Looney “Left”?

wile coyote said:

In the USA, the “Looney Left” are the folks who would, say, claim the US government pulled off 911 to justify the war in Iraq. Now I’m not saying the government’s conduct relative to Iraq was, shall we say, praiseworthy, but this is definitely an extreme view on matters.

Actually, there are a large number of Right-Wingers who make exactly that claim. Right-wing Anti-semites, holocaust deniers, etc. are all part of the 911 “Truth Movement.” Many others are Libertarian conservatives. Why call this the Looney “Left”?

Regarding corporations, I don’t know what Chomsky’s argument is, but corporations are amoral by design. Their stated purpose is to increase value for shareholders. If delivering ice cream and puppies at reasonable prices with little impact on the environemnt increases sharehold value, then that’s what they’ll do. But if bribing governments to let them exploit workers for little pay increases shareholder value, they’ll do that too. They make no secret of this and I can’t understand why it would be contraversial to state it as such.

“How such genes and gene clusters could arise is simply trivial in principle, although working out the specific historical details of how it happened is more complex and interesting.” How come asking where those gene clusters evolved is a trivial question in principle if they were actually evolved. It is the foundational question! Your being faithful to evolution does not mean other people raising doubts against it got it wrong or stupid. How complex were the “historical details”? Is it so complex that it “appears to be designed” as Dawkins put it? The “in principle” behind you is that those gene clusters were evolved not matter we have the evidence or not, not matter it was actually evolved or not? Therefore, every doubt against your evolution paradigm is wrong?

Oh, dear. Here we go again.

Reading comprehension: 0/10.

Persecuted minority schtick: 10/10

Jack, you got any evidence for your theory? Anything at all? Do you even have a working model? Besides GODDIDIT, I mean.

Seriously, man. You have doubts, go ahead, do some science. We’re waiting. So’s the Nobel prize.

Have at ‘er.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on October 16, 2009 11:03 AM.

An egregiously stupid remark by an IDiot (redux) was the previous entry in this blog.

Mismatch of the decade: Thornton vs. Behe is the next entry in this blog.

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